He’s Going to Hit Me – Is This an Event, Incident, Situation, or an Accident?

Have you ever watched a movie where the government agent calls his boss and says,

“Sir, we have a situation here.”

Why isn’t it called an incident or an event? Well, there are differences in meaning between these terms. Let’s look at the differences according to Teacher Lee.

Event – This is any happening or occurrence, any action that occurs at a certain place at a certain time. It may be good or bad, but usually it has a GOOD or HAPPY connotation. Retail stores always have scheduled events, such as sales, celebration, or grand opening events where everyone is invited to attend (and spend their money).

Advertisement: Come to the biggest sales event of the year! Deep discounts!

Grand Opening Event: New restaurant opens today!

Anniversary Event: Join us for our 100th year in business!

Accident – This is an UNPLANNED event that happened by accident, unintentionally, by chance, by coincidence.

Wife: Well, I was entering the intersection and then there was this other car that was also entering the intersection, and, well, ….

Husband: Don’t tell me. You had an accident.

Wife: Well, on the bright side, we’ve been wanting to buy a new car!

Incident – This can be UNPLANNED but usually it is PLANNED or DELIBERATE, such as an act of terrorism or violence.

There’s been an incident, sir. Two men are dead, and one is missing. We may have a spy in our midst.

Situation – This is a developing event that has NOT happened yet, but when it does, it’s likely to be VERY BAD.

What’s the situation, Lieutenant? Give me a SITREP (situation report)!

Sir, we have a situation developing. It could get ugly if we don’t head it off.

Hey, bro, what’s the sitch!
(“What’s the situation?”, “What’s going on?”, “How’s it hanging, man?” — slang between close friends; neutral usage here)

Okay, quiz time.

Mark each of these circumstances as E(vent), I(ncident), A(ccident), or S(ituation):

  1. Chernobyl (nuclear reactor melt-down in the Ukraine)
  2. Drunken man hits a police officer and is arrested.
  3. Fifty unhappy workers are in front of their boss’s house and are threatening to burn his house down. The boss has called the police. A news van has arrived and is parked in the street and is setting up a TV camera.
  4. A worker climbed up a ladder, fell down, and broke his leg.
  5. McDonald’s restaurant is offering free coffee Saturday morning at 10:00 am to celebrate Labor Day.
  6. A school shooting has occurred in the USA (or in China, a school knifing has occurred).
  7. A forest fire is burning out of control and is approaching the Los Angeles downtown area.
  8. A man drops a loaded gun. It fires a bullet and hits a boy walking down the street.
  9. A car dealer is offering interest-free loans for new cars, but only if you come to their business on Saturday between 8:00 am and 4:00 pm.
  10. A tsunami has just flooded the island country of Indonesia, killing 100,000 people.

Bonus Question: Which events above might also be called a disaster?

Peek here to see answers for 1 through 10.

Peek here to see which ones could be called disasters.

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