Number 510• September 25, 2008 | Past Issues










1) Rebuilding Might Not Be an Option for Some Ike Victims

Some Texas residents who didn’t lose their homes to Hurricane Ike might end up loosing them to the state thanks to a law that declares land between average high- and low-tide lines public property. Homeowners whose property falls into beach lines newly rearranged by the hurricane could wait up to a year to learn if the state will appropriate their homes, possibly without compensation, according to an September 18 Associated Press article.

While the Texas Open Beaches Act, or OBA , appears to offer a deterrent to building in unsafe coastal habitats, the 1959 law actually has roots in local culture and oil development, according to A Line in the Sand: Balancing the Texas Open Beaches Act and Coastal Development. Drafted at a time when beaches were uncluttered by homes and other construction, the law was intended to ensure public access easements to privately owned beaches—allowing Texans to continue a tradition of driving and parking along the beach.

The law, which has been revamped to address growing coastal development and attempts to circumvent the legislation, was last enforced against multiple homeowners following the 1983 strike of Hurricane Alicia, according to the AP report. Homeowners are made aware of the act when they purchase their homes, the report said.

See the full article at

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2)Glantz lands at CU, NCAR Still in Budget Freefall

The National Center for Atmospheric Research’s (NCAR) loss will be the University of Colorado’s gain when it comes to research on capacity building. The university today announced it had received a $1 million grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to establish a worldwide consortium linking decisionmakers with institutes, governments, and individuals to share climate-, water-, and weather-related knowledge.

Former head of NCAR’s now-defunct Center for Capacity Building (CCB) Michael “Mickey” Glantz was tapped to direct the consortium. Glantz was left out in the cold in August after budget issues forced NCAR to close the CCB—a center known for bridging the gap between climate science, policy, and society, and for emphasizing developing countries’ needs in climate change response and adaptation.

"A central feature of the consortium is to foster the notion of climate affairs, which encompasses climate science, climate impacts, politics, policy and law, economics and ethics, and equity," Glantz stated in a CU press release. "I'm really excited to be able to continue this work."

Meanwhile, the stinted budget that killed the CCB is once again rearing its head at NCAR as scientists struggle to deliver climate data while coping with a shortage of experienced staff, according to a recent article in Science magazine.

The article chronicles the edgy atmosphere at NCAR since it’s budget woes began about five years ago thanks to expensive restructuring and Congress reneging on a plan that would have doubled its funding. The latest crunch could cause NCAR to miss an October 1 deadline for completing a critical piece of their Community Climate System Model (CCSM), according to the magazine. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change uses CCSM data in its reports.

Among the difficulties threatening the model’s completion is a steady stream of weathered scientists leaving for greener pastures—scientists who have been replaced with less-experience colleagues or not at all, according to the article. The young modelers have talent, but “lack valuable experience taming new parts of an unpredictable code,” CCSM Advisory Board Member Richard Rood told Science.

Despite the attrition and budget issues, NCAR officials are hopeful proposed additions to the model will provide better information in the long run and say that the CCSM program hasn’t felt the full blow of the shortages yet.

For full text of the Science article, including a podcast interview with author Eli Kintisch, visit Science online.

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3) Politics and Preparedness Pair Up in Fight Against the Flu

There’s sure to be a lot of shots fired this election season, including some that will keep voters healthy. A project called Vote & Vax is cocked and ready to stump for a prevention platform by offering flu shots at polling places across the country.

Vote & Vax—a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and Sickness Prevention Achieved through Regional Collaboration—hopes the convenience of getting dosed while doing civic duty will win support for both efforts.

“By thinking in new ways about our approach to the delivery of flu shots—especially the use of non-traditional settings—we can have a tremendous positive effect on a community’s health,” said RWJF representative Jane Isaacs Lowe in a press release.

Nearly 100 clinics have signed up for the effort nationwide, according to the project. For more information, including how to hold a Vote & Vax clinic in your area, visit the Web site.

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4)Emergency Managers Fear FEMA Rule Change Will Leave Them Scrambling

A rough season of flooding, hurricanes, and other disasters haven’t distracted emergency managers across the country from worries that they may soon have less federal money to spend on rebuilding roads, removing debris, and paying overtime for first responders.

The fears stem from an October 2007 change in how the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will disburse money from the Public Assistance Grants Program, according to an article in Government Technology’s Emergency Management. The change, which would pay a flat rate versus the previous sliding scale, has managers concerned that not only will they have less money to work with, but that there will be a scramble between state and local governments for the funds.

“This is the No. 1 regulatory issue in emergency management right now,” Kristin Robinson of the National Emergency Manager’s Association (NEMA) told the magazine. “This is the heart attack issue.”

FEMA denied the change will cause the type of mayhem managers predict, saying many of the costs incurred by local and state collaboration will fall outside the rule change, according to the magazine. Read the article online.

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5)Hot Opportunities Available for Fire Mitigation Funding

 While fire service professionals gear up for Fire Prevention Week October 5-11, two new opportunities for mitigating fires are being made available, according to the Firewise Communities Program.

The first will be offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is soliciting proposals for programs that use woody biomass residue from forest restoration. At least $4 million in grants will be available, with individual grants ranging from $50,000 to $250,000, according to a Firewise statement. Proposals should promote using or creating markets for low-value trees and other hazardous fuel, handling insect and diseased conditions, or treating forestlands impacted by severe weather. Pre-applications must be postmarked by November 7. For more information, contact Jesse Caputo by e-mail or at (202) 262-1882.

Money will be made available by a new Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) policy, as well, according to Firewise. The policy will support grants for mitigation activities, including creating defensible space by reducing vegetation, using ignition-resistant materials and retrofitting structures, and reducing hazardous fuels through vegetation management. More information is available about the FEMA programs—the post-disaster Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) and the Pre-Disaster Mitigation grant program (PDM)—from FEMA Regional Mitigation staff.

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6) Spanish Flu Victim Could Hold Answers to Bird Flu Questions

Scientists plan to exhume the body of an English aristocrat in hopes of digging up a breakthrough in the struggle to stanch the spread of avian influenza, or bird flu, according to a story in London’s Telegraph.

A team of scientists from St. Bartholomew’s and the London Royal Hospital led by virologist John Oxford will exhume the body of Sir Mark Sykes, who died of the Spanish flu in 1919. They believe Sykes’ body, which was buried in a lead coffin, could provide “a genetic footprint” of the Spanish flu virus in its final throes and ultimately unearth clues about the spread of modern-day bird flu.  

The body will be examined in an airtight laboratory to prevent any chance of contamination, according to the report. More about Sykes and how he contracted the flu can be found online. Video of a BBC feature on the project is also availabe.

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7) Call Outs: Calls for Abstracts, Papers, Proposals, and More

Call for Information
National Conference of State Legislatures
Nicholas Farber of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) is requesting information from disaster practitioners and researchers on state practices regarding residents without disaster insurance coverage. What, if anything, do states do for those residents and are there provisions in place to aid that population with financial, in-kind, or other assistance?

The information is being collected for the New Hampshire legislature and will also be included in a guide NCSL is writing on how legislatures can assist with disaster preparedness and response.

To share what you know, contact Farber by e-mail or at (303) 364-7700 Ext. 1433.


Call for Papers
2009 Meeting of the Midwest Sociological Society
Deadline: October 27, 2008
The Midwest Sociological Society is calling for papers for two sessions—"Social Climate Change: Exposing Inequality and Vulnerability in Disasters" and "What Floods Teach Us: Floods, Resource Management and Resilience." Both sessions will be presented at the group’s annual meeting in Des Moines, Iowa, April 2-5, 2009.  

Social Climate Change papers should highlight differences and changes in preparedness, disaster response, recovery, and mitigation efforts that reflect concern for vulnerable populations. Preference will be given to papers that help generate an understanding of these issues within the classroom and the community. Papers for the flood session, which will be a roundtable discussion, should focus on understanding resilience and successful mitigation efforts to improve the social and physical environment in a way that reduces future events. Preference will be given to papers whose findings link these areas and integrate knowledge benefitting researchers and practitioners.

All papers should be submitted online at the Meeting Savvy Web site. Detailed instructions and meeting information are available. Questions can be directed to session co-organizers Christine Bevc and Lee Miller; however e-mailed papers will not be accepted.

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8) Some New Web Resources

[Below are some new or updated Internet resources we have discovered. For an extensive list of useful Web sites dealing with hazards, see]

Hurricane Master: Rule the Storm
If the recent string of hurricanes and tropical storms has left you feeling a bit ineffectual, then this Duracell-sponsored timewaster should restore some of your omnipotent. A quick visit to the site allows users to create their own animated hurricane with complete control over wind velocity, rain, and even the amount airborne debris. When you’re ready to return to a world of storms that are out of your control, you can check out tips for staying safe during real hurricanes.

Alternative Medical Treatment Sites
The Florida Department of Health’s Beta Fish Exercise—which tested plans for the alternative medical treatment sites (AMTS) that would be used in mass casualty situations to care for less critical patients—went so swimmingly that their partners at Florida State University’s Center for Disaster Risk Policy created a Web site so others could access information and tools used in the effort. Click on the fish for details of the exercises held in three Florida counties, as well as scenarios, victim and evaluator briefings, and even a certificate generator for those who participate in the exercise.

Pandemic Influenza Storybook
Personal narratives are being recognized more and more often as an effective tool in spreading awareness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have capitalized on that dynamic by collecting the sagas of those affected by past flu epidemics. The eloquently written tales are arranged in categories ranging from courage to loss to resourcefulness and include biographies of leaders during epidemics and links to modern-day resources. While the information is plentiful, it’s not “a closed book,” a CDC statement said—visitors to the site can submit their own family stories for pandemic posterity.

GAO Report on Voluntary Organizations
A recent report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found the nation’s top volunteer disaster response organizations would likely be unable to meet expected needs for services in the event of “worst-case, large-scale disaster.” The report is based on interviews with officials from the American Red Cross, The Salvation Army, the Southern Baptist Convention, Catholic Charities USA, and the United Way, as well as officials from large metro areas and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The report recommends FEMA clarify the role of the Red Cross under the 2008 National Response Framework, incorporate other organizations in its assessments, and detail disaster preparedness grant funding.

Department of Homeland Security’s Strategic Plan 2008-2013
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has released its strategic plan for fiscal years 2008-2013. With an emphasis on risk management-based resource allocation, the plan lists five objectives ranging from protect the nation from “dangerous people” to strengthening preparedness and response capabilities. The plan is a “living document” and will be revised to address changing requirements, according to a DHS statement. Citizens can sign up to be notified of changes.

EIIP Forum Stafford Act Discussion
The talk-provoking Stafford Act provided fodder for the most recent Emergency Information Infrastructure Project (EIIP) virtual forum—this time questioning whether the act was robust enough to handle “catastrophic disasters” or if it should be modified to address extremely large-scale events. The transcript of the discussion, led by Drew Sachs of James Lee Witt Associates, is one of many that can be found on the forum Web site. Search the database or take part in an upcoming discussion, including a talk on crisis informatics with Natural Hazards Center researcher Jeannette Sutton on October 8.

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9) Conferences, Training, and Events

[Below are some recent announcements received by the Natural Hazards Center. For a comprehensive list of upcoming hazards-related meetings, visit our Web site at]

October 8-9, 2008
Emergency Preparedness, Response and Recovery Conference
Homeland Defense Journal
New Orleans, Louisiana
Cost and Registration: $449 government, $499 small business, and $549 industry
This conference covers aspects of emergency management planning and response for communities, agencies, and organizations. National, state, and local experts can come together to discuss disasters impacts on their communities and organizations.


 October 19-22, 2008
CZAP Conference 2008: Sustainable Coast and Better Life
Coastal Zone Asia Pacific Association (CZAP)
Qingdao, China
Cost and Registration: $240 pre-registration, $300 at event
Sustainable development of coastal resources and how to manage coasts while coping with climate change and expanding populations will be emphasized.


October 21-22, 2008
Aerial Firefighting Conference 2008
International Association of Wildland Fire, UNISDR, and others
Athens, Greece
Cost and Registration: Not posted
This event examines fixed- and rotary-winged aerial technology, as well as techniques for fighting forest fires in low-populated areas, agricultural wildfires, and fires in highly populated urban and high-rise environments. 


October 21-24, 2008
First World Conference on Disaster Management
Disaster Management, Infrastructure, and Control Society
Andhra Pradesh, India
Cost and Registration: $200 before September 30, $225 at event
This conference provides a platform for disaster prevention discussion and planning and disseminates information to a wide section of society. Conference topics include creating awareness among vulnerable communities and disseminating warnings to first responders in at-risk communities , particularly in developing countries.


November 5-9, 2008
Fifth Annual Canadian Risk and Hazards Network Symposium
Memorial University of Newfoundland
Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
Cost and Registration: $710 non-member
This multisector, multidisciplinary conference of Canadian academics, government scientists, and practitioners evaluates hazard and disaster knowledge in Canada and recommends ways to reduce vulnerability.


November 6-8, 2008
Backyards and Beyond 2008
Firewise Communities
Tampa, Florida
Cost and Registration: $225 before October 10, $225 after; $275 at the event
This conference shares best practices used in wildland/urban interfaces, provides opportunities to learn from those in the field, and encourages networking between local and international fire communities.


November 16-19, 2008
Rebuilding Sustainable Communities for Children and Their Families After Disasters
Center for Rebuilding Sustainable Communities After Disasters
Boston, Massachusetts
Cost and Registration: $225 until filled
This conference aims to bring specialists from various disciplines to explore ways to reconstruct sustainable communities that are safe for children and their families following disaster. Experts will make recommendations for increasing safe, sustainable reconstruction. 


November 19-20, 2008
Geomatics Atlantic 2008: Discovering the Way to Sustainable Future
Canadian Institute of Geomatics New Brunswick Branch
New Brunswick, Canada
Cost and Registration: $300 non-member price until September 30th, $350 after This conference focuses on sustainable community planning, including a track examining coastal and river flood mapping u sing LiDAR. Academics, practitioners, vendors, and policy makers are encouraged to attend.


November 21, 2008
2008 COSMOS Technical Session
Consortium of Organizations for Strong Motion Observation Systems
Oakland, California
Cost and Registration: $240 non-member price until filled

This year’s technical session addresses ground motion selection and scaling site analysis, as well as geotechnical evaluations. Presentations will include ground motion time histories and how site-specific response analysis links to structural design in building codes.


December 11, 2008
RUSI Workshop: Emergency Response 2008
Royal United Services Institute
London, England
Cost and Registration: Not yet booking, see Web site
This workshop looks at organizations involved in emergency response, training and preparation and ways lessons learned can be used to inform future response.

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10) Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

[The following job postings provided an overview of some selected openings in hazards-related fields. For more information on a particular job, please follow the links provided.]

Shelter and Reconstruction Advisor
CARE International
London, England
Salary: $50,000
Closing Date: September 29, 2008
This position helps set the policies, strategies, best practices, and guidelines of CARE International. A thorough understanding of the humanitarian shelter and emergency reconstruction fields and a successful record of designing emergency shelters using SPHERE standards are required. 


Regional Technical Advisor
Catholic Relief Services
Salary: Not Posted
Closing Date: November 18, 2008
This position works closely with Catholic Relief Services programs to create stronger community risk reduction, provide rapid response in emergencies, and establish security standards for management and learning. A graduate degree in international development, or related field, and at least three years of experience in emergency settings are required.


Director of Disaster Response
World Concern
Seattle, Washington
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position directs disaster response operations including preparation, mitigation, and implementation of World Concern’s external projects. Experience in international relief management and working with the UN, USAID, and other World Concern donors is required.


Humanitarian and Climate Change Researcher
Massachusetts, USA
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: September 30, 2008
This position contributes to Oxfam's climate change advocacy campaigns to reform climate change policy, particularly in the area of adaptation strategies for developing countries. A doctorate in a relevant field, or equivalent research experience, and five years of progressively complex research/policy analysis work are required.


Climate Leadership Initiative Program Director
The Resource Innovation Group
Eugene, Oregon
Salary: $45,000 to $55,000
Closing Date: December 15, 2008
The director oversees the Climate Preparation/Adaptation Program and is responsible for assisting governments, businesses, and community groups in implementing strategies and to help natural, built, and economic systems withstand and adapt to climate change. Policy development background and the ability to integrate biophysical and social science policy and programs are required.


All-Hazards Trainer
New York City Department of Health
New York, New York
Salary: $75,439 to $109,650
Closing Date: September 30, 2008
This position plans, develops, and implements an all-hazards training program for hospital, commercial, and private labs. A doctorate, at least five years of experience in clinical laboratory procedures, and all-hazards response training and planning experience is required. Knowledge of infectious diseases is a plus.


Office of Emergency Services Specialist
Health and Human Services Agency
Visalia, California
Salary: $54,688 to $66,647
Closing Date: October 7, 2008
Responsibilities include gathering and analyzing data on county emergency program quality, assisting in the design and conveyance of program test exercises, identifying deficiencies, and implementing recommendations. A combination of education and experience that provide the necessary skills and abilities to function in the position is acceptable.


Security and Emergency Management Faculty
Franklin University
Columbus, Ohio
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: Open until filled
Responsibilities include overseeing program-wide courses, as well as hiring, mentoring, and managing adjunct faculty. Scheduling and staffing of courses and university service/committee work are also required. Applicant must have a doctorate in public administration, emergency management, or related field. Candidates with prior experience in related fields or who are nearing the completion of their doctorate may also be considered.

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If you or your organization would like to add a job posting in the DR, please feel free to e-mail the information to

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