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Number 511• October 9, 2008 | Past Issues











1) October Hurricanes Could Continue 2008 Stream of Storms

October might not bring much relief for U.S. coasts, which this year have played host to the most landfalling storms—six in all—since 1851. Now hurricane experts are predicting another month of above-average storm activity, including the possibility of more major hurricanes.

Longtime Colorado State University storm oracles Philip Klotzbach and William Gray predicted a “well above average” number of Atlantic storms for October based on the barrage of activity so far, according to their monthly forecast.

Three named storms, two hurricanes, and a major hurricane could form this month based on Klotzbach’s and Gray’s statistical analyses and above-average surface temperatures in the Atlantic, the report stated. In June 2008, the scientists predicted a seasonal total of 15 named storms, eight hurricanes, and four intense hurricanes. Through October 1, 2008, those numbers were 12, six, and three, respectively.

The forecasts are based on statistical analyses of 60 years worth of storm data and do not predict landfall. The Landfalling Hurricane Probability Project, a related effort by Klotzbach, allows users to access information about possible landfalls by state and county.

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2) The Natural Hazards Center Is Now Accepting Quick Response Grant Proposals

The Natural Hazards Center will accept proposals for the 2009 Quick Response Grant Program until November 16, 2008. The program provides funds for researchers to quickly travel to disaster-affected areas to capture perishable data.

In addition to contributing to academic knowledge, the research results in reports that make rapid analyses of recent events available to the Hazards Center's multidisciplinary network of researchers, practitioners, and educators. The program promotes innovation in disaster research by favoring students, new researchers, and novel areas of study.

Researchers interested in applying for these small grants to defray the high cost of travel to disaster areas can find more information about the program and application process on the program guideline page. And please feel free to post or distribute a printable version of our program flyer available.

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3) Hurricane Ike Takes the Wind Out of Public-Backed Insurance Sails in Texas

Taxpayers will be responsible for at least $6 million in Hurricane Ike-related claims made to a Texas-subsidized insurance program. The so-called windpool insurance provider is still swimming through unprocessed claims, according to a Wednesday article in the Houston Chronicle.

Although the Texas Windstorm Insurance Agency (TWIA) lowered its claim assessments from $4.2 billion to $2.7 billion this week, the revised assessment was based on less than 10 percent of the Ike claims made so far, the Chronicle reported.  The Association has received about 77,000 of an expected 92,000 claims. The program—which provides coverage for wind damage to those who would otherwise be uninsured—covers claims up to $2.1 billion; the state is responsible for the rest.

Although the program and others like it along the Southern U.S. coast have been touted for helping homeowners who might not be able to afford insurance, others decry what they see as publicly subsidized encouragement to build in areas threatened by extreme weather.

"We're engineering increased vulnerability to storms," Seth Chandler, a University of Houston insurance law specialist told ClimateWire last month. "By having low insurance rates, we are supporting coastal development."

Program mismanagement, political manipulation of rates, overuse, and an inability to adequately hedge risk plague the plans in many states, according to the ClimateWire report. Yet encouraging coastal development can also provide much-needed tourism revenue and fund infrastructure.

Regardless of the system’s merits, the Texas program will have to navigate some troubled waters, according to the Chronicle report. That includes payouts of more than 70,000 known Ike claims at an average of $30,000 each and another $5.3 million the Texas Department of Insurance wants the program to pay for the building inspections the Association requires from its policyholders.  Those woes, along with earlier losses from Hurricane Dolly, could leave the program adrift, according to comments by Association Director Jim Oliver in both articles.

"It's too early to tell what the losses will really be," he told the Chronicle.

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4) Seven New Centers Created to Study Preparedness and Emergency Response

Seven new research centers will be created to study the intersection of public health, preparedness, and emergency response. The centers, funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will be located at universities across the United States, including John Hopkins University, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Harvard School of Public Health, and Emory University in Atlanta.

CDC awarded each school between $1.2 to $1.5 million—$10.9 million total—to conduct research that evaluates the “structure, capabilities, and performance of public health systems for preparedness and emergency response activities,” according to a press release. The Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act of 2006 required the centers to be established to support research that improves public health preparedness and response.

For more on the program and how winners were chosen, visit the CDC Web site.

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5) Grant Promises to Take the Roof Off Future Hurricane Destruction

Shingles are sure to fly now that the State of Florida has committed more than $10 million to develop a facility for full-scale testing of the impact of hurricane-force winds on buildings.

The grant makes it possible for researchers at Florida International University (FIU) to create the Center of Excellence for Hurricane Damage Mitigation and Product Development (HDMPD), which will include a 10-fan Wall of Wind hurricane simulator to physically test structures and computer modeling that will predict the success of mitigation measures and retrofitting.

Although researchers believe the testing at HDMPD will lead to better construction practices and innovation in building design, the center is also expected to fuel education efforts by demonstrating what really happens to a home in a hurricane. The full-scale destructive testing will “change the public’s perception of building safety” and develop a “culture of preparedness,” according to a recent grant announcement.  Stephen Leatherman of FIU’s International Hurricane Research Center and Laboratory for Coastal Research will lead the four-year project.

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6) Natural Hazards Observer Available Online

The September 2008 Natural Hazards Observer is now available online. Featured articles include:

--Pandemic Influenza in Asia: Potential Risk and Possible Mitigation Strategies
--Modeling Earthquakes in Real Time
--Exploring the Cell Phone's Role in Disaster
--Flash Flood Research—Past, Present, and Future

Regular features include Contracts and Grants, Resources, and Conferences and Training. Visit the Natural Hazards Center Web site to read the September and past Observers.

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

Call for Applications
Enabling the Next Generation of Hazards and Disasters Researchers
Applications are now being accepted for Enabling the Next Generation of Hazards and Disasters Researchers, a National Science Foundation-funded program that supports junior faculty members building careers in the area of hazards and disasters through mentoring and training.

Up to 16 fellows will be selected for the two-year program. Fellows will be introduced to methods and theoretical perspectives in disasters and hazards research, have the opportunity to meet with leading researchers in the field, and work closely with project mentors to plan and develop their careers. Activities include writing scholarly articles, book proposals, and grant proposals.

Fellows will be selected through a competitive application process. Tenure-track faculty members who have not attained tenure and promotion are eligible to apply. Applications from underrepresented groups such as women, racial, and ethnic minorities are especially encouraged.

Applications are due by February 15, 2009. The fellowship covers travel expenses and offers a modest stipend.  Application materials and other information is available at the
project Web site. Questions can be directed to Tom Birkland at 919-513-7799 or


Call for Abstracts
Association of State Floodplain Managers
Annual Conference: Green Works to Reduce Flood Losses

The Association of State Floodplain Managers (ASFPM) is now accepting abstracts for presentation at its 33rd national conference, June 7-12, 2009, in Orlando, Florida.

The ASFPM seeks a broad range of professionals to address issues associated with reducing flood damage, making communities sustainable, and managing floodplains and natural resources. Papers should focus on coasts and shorelines, green works and environmental matters, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), flood loss mitigation, levee issues, “no adverse impact” floodplain management success stories and community engagement, floodplain mapping technology, and floodplain mapping applications.

Abstracts are due Oct. 31, 2008. For more information and instructions on submitting an abstract for review, visit the conference site.

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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]

StormStruck: The Tale of Two Homes
Visitors to Disney World’s Epcot Center now have a chance to play Mother Nature, creating storms and learning about their impact on lives and property at the StormStruck exhibit. While the exhibit, which opened in late August, is a groundbreaking educational opportunity, kids at home also have a chance to mouse around via the StormStruck Web site.  Games like Storm Hero and information about how to survive weather dangers in each state turn children into preparedness advocates.


FEMA on YouTube
Anyone wondering what those crazy kids at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are up to these days doesn’t have to look far—FEMA now has its own YouTube channel where the agency has been posting videos ranging from David Paulison’s personal preparedness efforts to c footage of debris clearing after Gustav. Surprisingly, the group doesn’t have any friends listed yet, but maybe they’re all hanging out at the agency’s MySpace page….  


GAO Report on Applying Lessons Learned to Ike and Gustav Recovery
State and local capacity building, strategies for business recovery, and fighting fraud and waste are among the top lessons past disasters can teach hurricane-tattered communities as they begin to rebuild, according to a recent report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). Instituting a “clear, implementable, and timely” recovery plan rounded out the findings of Disaster Recovery: Past Experiences Offer Insights for Recovering from Hurricanes Ike and Gustav and Other Recent Natural Disasters. To create the report, the GAO interviewed officials and reviewed policies related to six disasters, including the Loma Prieta Earthquake, the Grand Forks-Red River flooding, and Hurricane Katrina. 


Robust Resilience
Business continuity doesn’t have to be costly with this bevy of free online trainings—complete with follow-up exams—at your fingertips. Robust Resilience, a coalition of contingency planning companies and the UK government, offers quick tutorials on subjects such as disaster recovery, information technology resilience, pandemic planning, and more. Although sometimes UK-specific, there’s plenty of tips for users abroad as well.


Survivors’ Pantry
Finally the unblinking eye of American consumerism has come to rest on emergency preparedness. While that sounds like a bad thing—and probably is—the latest trend in “party marketing” (think Tupperware, only with food rations) is likely to garner the type of exposure for preparedness efforts that only mainstream marketing can provide.  From freeze-dried food and solar-powered radios to hot pink tasers and articles on safely weathering hazards, Survivors’ pantry’s female-targeted premise promises to spread the preparedness word and deliver some nice hostess gifts, too.


StormSmart Coasts
Massachusetts isn’t playing dumb when it comes to managing coastal hazards—it’s created the StormSmart Coasts Web site to aggregate information and tools for coastal floodplain management. A wealth of information on storms, floods, climate change, and sea level rise is arranged into categories of planning, emergency services, legal and regulatory issues, infrastructure, and grants and funding. Even smarter, healthcare workers, building and public works officials, planning managers, and other stakeholders can browse the site in sections dedicated to their occupational needs.  


Community Wildfire Protection Plan Resources
Resources that promote wildfire mitigation, forest stewardship, and planning are hot commodities in communities that could flare up at a moments notice. This site has them all, from case studies to community preparedness guides to best practices. The site, which is a section of the U.S. Forest Service-National Forest Foundation Partnership Resource Center, aims to build collaboration on the community level to reduce wildfire risk and restore forests.

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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 22, 2008
Business Continuity Planning Conference
Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association
New York, New York
Cost and Registration: $895 members, $1095 non-member before October 21
This Conference brings together professionals in business continuity, disaster recovery, emergency management, security, and law to address business continuity issues. Topics include the latest continuity management techniques, emergency notification systems, and strategies for measuring resilience


November 12-14, 2008
2008 From Planning to Management Conference
Contingency Planning and Management East
Orlando, Florida
Cost and Registration: $995 before October 11, $1195 before October 24, $1295 after
This conference brings together continuity planners from leading corporations for risk management training and networking. Participants will learn to integrate continuity practices and risk management into corporate culture through the use of case studies and workshops. Tracks include business continuity, emergency management, and security.


November 16-20, 2008
Fourth National Floodproofing Conference and Exposition
Association of State Floodplain Managers
New Orleans, Louisiana
Cost and Registration: $275 before October 17, $350 after
The theme of this year’s conference is sustainable, nonstructural flood protection for buildings and communities. The conference focuses on floodproofing techniques, materials, issues, and programs. Measures to remove structures from flood-prone areas will be discussed.


November 20, 2008
National Communication Association 94th Annual Convention
NCA and the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism & Responses to Terrorism (START)
San Diego, California
Cost and Registration: $130 before October 10, $195 after
This conference brings communication researchers together with emergency management practitioners to discuss pre-event communication research and practice. Issues to be addressed include comparisons of communication needs before terrorist threats with those before natural hazards; stakeholders challenges in communicating imminent attacks, and the role of the public in pre-event planning and problem-solving.


December 15-17, 2008
2008 Caribbean All-Hazards Conference
Caribbean All-Hazards Association
Montego Bay, Jamaica
Cost and Registration: $75 before November 3,  $95 after
This conference brings together government agencies, academic institutions, and the private sector to exchange information and develop ways to reduce the impacts of hazards and disasters in the Caribbean. Presentations of case studies and other discussions will foster interaction among participants in sessions ranging from tourism issues to warning systems to building codes.

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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.]

Fire Program Specialist GS-0301-14
Emmitsburg, Maryland
Salary: $98,033 to $127,442
Closing date: October 16, 2008
The lead program manager for the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) is responsible for NFIRS' day to day operations, coordinating data collection and analysis within the Department of Homeland Security, other federal agencies, the national fire service organizations, and state, metro, and local authorities. Applicants must have one year of specialized experience at or equivalent to the next lower grade and experience using complex relational database systems to collect statistical information and perform analysis.


Disaster Risk Reduction Coordinator
Save the Children UK
London, England
Salary: $64,990
Closing Date: October 19, 2008
Build, support, and oversee a disaster risk reduction strategy for Save the Children UK that ensures program quality, accountability, and effective reduction of vulnerabilities for those affected by disasters. This position requires a masters degree, or equivalent experience, in international development or social/political science and excellent analytical and strategic planning skills.


Associate Program Officer
United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR)
Bangkok, Thailand
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: October 17, 2008
Job responsibilities include assisting in implementing a regional strategy for knowledge activities and working with key clients and team members to develop and evaluate ISDR regional projects and programs. Applicants must have at least a bachelors degree in the areas of development, environment, political affairs, engineering, or a related field and two years of professional experience in a related field.


Community Recovery Manager GS-0301-12
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Biloxi, Mississippi
Salary: $65,315 to $84,913
Closing Date: October 15, 2008
This position provides special project support involving the analysis, development, and evaluation of regional policies and strategies to achieve long-term recovery objectives in the state of Mississippi and the assigned county by coordinating with local, state, and federal contacts in accordance with the Stafford Act.


Project Manager
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Hazards Center
Raleigh, North Carolina
Salary: Depends on qualifications
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position is responsible for managing special projects, multi-institutional research, and educational training and outreach collaborations in support of the Center for the Study of Natural Hazards and Disasters. The project manager assists in coordinating workshops and conferences, oversees the writing of the center newsletter, and aids in the translation of research findings to digestible information for individuals, communities, and practitioners. A master’s degree plus five years of writing grant proposals, training materials, and published materials in the field of hazards and disasters is required.


Director of Emergency Management
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
Washington, DC
Salary: $102,222 to $153,276
Closing Date: October 17, 2008
The Director's primary responsibility is to manage and improve the Authority's emergency preparedness efforts and supervise assigned personnel. An MBA or other masters degree and a minimum of ten years of large-scale-organization program management and five years of working with transportation or transit organizations with an emphasis on emergency management, is preferred.


Emergency Planner and Exercise Coordinator
Integrated Solutions Consulting
Positions open in Chicago, Texas, Louisiana, Iowa, and Missouri.
Salary: Depends on experience
Closing date: Not posted
This position supports various projects including emergency planning, mitigation planning, public health planning, and the development and implementation of testing, training, and exercise programs. Ideal candidates will have a minimum of five years experience or possess advanced degrees in emergency management or public health. Candidates with advanced computer skills are encouraged to apply.


Emergency Management Program Officer GS-0301-14
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Salary: $97,425 to $126,652
Closing date: October 21, 2008
This position manages all open disaster contracts, disaster response planning activities, and supervises and coordinates the activities of federal, state, and local technical personnel following a disaster. One year of specialized experience, equivalent to GS-13, managing public assistance activities under the Disaster Relief Act of 1974 is required. In depth knowledge of public assistance programs is also required.


Technological Hazards Program Specialist
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Positions open in Atlanta, Georgia; New York, New York; and Chicago, Illinois
Salary: $46,680 to $88,004
Closing Date: October 14, 2008
This position develops emergency response plans and policy to support federal, state, and local governments during radiological emergencies. One year of specialized experience equivalent to GS-7, a masters or equivalent graduate degree, or an equivalent combination is required.

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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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