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Number 512• October 23, 2008 | Past Issues











1) Anthrax Infection? The Antiobiotic Is in the Mail

Residents in some cities could be getting a very special delivery from their letter carrier in the event of a bioterrorist attack. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt this month put in motion a plan that would allow U.S. Postal Service workers to deliver anthrax antibiotics to homes on their routes, according to an October 2 article in the Washington Post.

"We have found letter carriers to be the federal government's quickest and surest way of getting pills to whole communities," Leavitt told the Post.

In a Philadelphia test run of the plan, 50 postal workers and accompanying police officers were able to reach 55,000 households in under eight hours, according to the article.

The plan received a thumbs up from Stanford management science professor Lawrence M. Wein in an October 13 New York Times op-ed. Wein said postal delivery would be faster than alternative “point of distribution” pick up and would reach people who wouldn’t or couldn’t make it to distribution points. He warned, however, that while the mail carrier approach is a good start, bulking up the Strategic National Strategic Stockpile of antibiotics is necessary to make it to the finish line.

The postal delivery plan—available to any of the 72 Cities Readiness Initiative cities that choose to participate—can’t be put into place until the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves the distribution, according to the Post article.

For more about the Cities Readiness Initiative, including other proposed plans for dispensing antibiotics in a public health emergency, visit the Web site.

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2) Commission on Children and Disasters Finally Meets

Nearly a year after being created by Congress, the National Commission on Children and Disasters held its inaugural meeting last week. The 10-member commission was formed to assess children’s needs in disaster and emergency preparedness, response, and recovery.

Although it has two years to complete the work and present a report of its findings and recommendations, results could come as early as April 2009, according to an October 16 statement by Save the Children. The group’s vice-president of U.S. programs, Mark Shriver, will serve as commission chairman.

"With the number of Presidential disaster declarations rising over the past two decades, and continued accounts and images of children in need, this Commission simply cannot take two years to develop recommendations," Shriver stated. "I'm fully confident that…we will cut through red tape and turf battles."

The meeting comes weeks after national media reported a lack of child-friendly facilities and dangerous conditions for Hurricane Ike’s “littlest evacuees." Editorials in the Washington Post drew attention to the fact that, despite a bevy of measures put into place in recent years for pets, there was a “stunning lack of forethought about or preparation for” evacuating families with children.

Other commission members include Dr. Michael Anderson of Case Western Reserve University, Gregg Lord of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University, and Irwin Redlener, Director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness. For a full list of commission members, see the press release.

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3) Taking Preparedness to Infinity and Beyond

There’s nothing like a Buick-sized asteroid hurtling straight towards earth to make you wonder about the robustness of your mitigation and planning efforts have been. Earlier this month, scientists had a unique opportunity to mull that very scenario when an automobile-sized meteoroid dubbed 2008 TC3 exploded in the atmosphere over Sudan.

The meteoroid, which exploded October 7 with an impact equivalent of one to two kilotons of TNT, was discovered October 6 by astronomers using Arizona’s Mt. Lemmon telescope, according to Spaceweather. The sighting was part of a routine NASA-funded search for near-Earth objects at the Catalina Sky Survey projects. It is thought to be the first time an asteroid of its size has ever been discovered before it hit, the Web site stated.

The fact that the meteoroid was found and tracked before impact is a baby step in the direction of what a group of former NASA astronauts and other scientists have been seeking for years—a plan to mitigate a possible collision of Earth and a really big space rock.  

The B612 Foundation (named after the asteroid in Saint-Exupery's The Little Prince) was established in 2002, aims to “significantly alter the orbit of an asteroid in a controlled manner by 2015.”  Proponents of one of the more distinctive hazard mitigation proposals, the Foundation is interested in learning exactly what that would take before the planet is faced with a bigger, deadlier version of 2008 TC3.

In September, the Foundation released promising results from an independent evaluation of a gravity tractor’s ability to determine the orbit of and tow an asteroid. Read the full report and learn more at the Foundation Web site.

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4) Project Pretty Much What FEMA Had H.O.P.E.d

Florida’s much-criticized Project H.O.P.E. (Helping Our People in Emergencies) gave the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) its $22 million worth, according to a recent report from Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General. Inquiry into the now-defunct project, which was charged with providing crisis counseling to victims of Hurricanes Wilma and Katrina, was sparked by a series of Florida Sun-Sentinel reports claiming project counselors were unqualified, counseling techniques were unorthodox and wasteful, and program workers violated federal fundraising restrictions. 

Despite the 2006 articles, the Inspector General report found the project “provided a wide range of crisis counseling services, reached a substantial portion of the Florida survivors of Hurricanes Wilma and Katrina, and used a variety of accepted, long standing and professionally approved methods….”

In conjunction with the investigation into possible mismanagement of the program, funded by a FEMA Crisis Counseling Training and Assistance Program grant, the report also examined the overall performance of the Crisis Counseling program. Recommendations for FEMA included:

  • Work with grant recipients and government agencies to exchange survivor information, publicize available services, and identify those in need of counseling;
  • Increase oversight by requiring on-site observation of counseling services; and
  • Develop measurements of project effectiveness and requiring recipients to provide a strategy to measure behavioral and emotional progress.

For the full text of the 40-page report, visit the Department of Homeland Security Web site.

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5) WHO’s Not on First With Flu Scientists

Proprietary virus information information-sharing practices has caused bad blood between The World Health Organization (WHO) and scientists seeking more open access to data, according to an October Associated Press report.

The standoff could affect the ability to monitor disease and develop vaccines worldwide, according to the AP report published in the International Herald Tribune. Scientists are becoming increasingly disillusioned with the WHO virus-sharing system, which for 55 years has required countries to give up intellectual property rights to the genetic virus data they contribute, while the WHO then shares the information with just 15 laboratories, the article stated.

The limited access to information can significantly slow vaccine development and allows a handful of drug manufacturers to create medicines that impoverished countries often can’t afford, the article stated. That dynamic has been cited as the reason countries such as Russia and China have withheld contributions to the WHO database.

But the availability of a free research database—the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data, or GISAID—that went online in March allows for a level of collaboration research sharing not available before. The nonprofit consortium’s database is even used by the WHO “almost exclusively,” including its identification of influenza strains for the annual flu shot, according to the AP.

While the implementation of the site seems to promise a new era of information sharing, the report cites critics who say the WHO is sabotaging the effort by withholding $450 million dollars granted by the U.S. Centers of Disease Control (CDC) meant for the GISAID. The WHO’s David Heymann told AP the money had been earmarked for a database, but not specifically for GISAID.

For more on the GISAID project visit the Web site.

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6) The Natural Hazard Center's Research Digest Available Online

The latest issue of Research Digest is now available online. The Natural Hazards Center has compiled more than 100 pages of the most recent resource references and abstracts, conveniently categorized into 24 topic areas. Visit the Natural Hazards Center Web site at for the issue.

Most articles listed in Research Digest are part of the Natural Hazards Center’s library holdings. The library will copy difficult to obtain material for the cost of reproduction and shipping (subject to copyright restrictions). For inquiries e-mail

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

Call for Papers
19th World Conference on Disaster Management
The Canadian Centre for Emergency Preparedness
Abstracts of 250 words or less are now being accepted for presentation at the 19th World Conference on Disaster Management. The deadline to submit an abstract is December 5.

Abstracts should, when applicable, address issues affecting a particular aspect of disaster management, include case studies highlighting lessons learned or not learned, and provide proven and potential disaster management solutions. Presentations should fit into one of the conference’s six themes: real events/lessons learned, emerging trends in disaster management, the human element, technical issues and threats, disaster management principals and practices, and research and development.

For more information on presentation formats, selection criteria, compensation and how to submit an abstract, visit the conference Web site.


Call for Proposals
Quick Response Grants
Natural Hazards Center
The Natural Hazards Center is accepting 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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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]

If Clark Kent was a mild mannered public health official instead of a reporter, he might have created Supercourse, a Web site able to leap interdisciplinary gaps in a single bound.  Instead, a team at the University of Pittsburgh’s World Health Organization Collaborating Center did the job, compiling more than 3,500 lectures on health and epidemiology, including many on pandemics, mass casualties, and other issues related to public health during disasters.

Nominations for Leadership in the Next Administration
Some high-level jobs will soon be opening in government departments affecting scientists and hazards experts and they might as well put in their two cents on who the successors should be. The National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE) has made it easy with an online form where stakeholders can nominate the best man or woman for the job and let NCSE pass the nominations on to the appropriate transition teams. The only catch—nominees have to be down with avoiding the catastrophic effects of climate change.

Grand Challenges for Engineering
While the past century has brought lots of life changing technology, the National Academy of Engineering wants to ensure the next century produces life-sustaining innovations. It’s started by compiling a list of 14 challenges—from making solar energy economical to improving urban infrastructure to reverse engineering the brain—that will make a real difference. This Web site devoted to the challenges provides information and links lets others comment on what could become the next 14 on the list.

Social Dimensions of Climate Change Videos
All right, Mr. DeMille, the social consequences of climate change are ready for their close ups. The World Bank has spotlighted the issue as the topic of its micro-documentary contest featuring two- to five-minute digital films from around the world. Visitors to the site can view videos and vote for finalists. Winners in two categories—youth and general entry—will be chosen by a multidisciplinary panel of judges and invited to Washington, D.C., to screen their film. New videos will be posted until Friday; public votes will be tallied after Monday.

Changes in 2009 NSF Grant Proposal Guide
The National Science Foundation has released its 2009 Grant Proposal Guide and, along with it, a listing of significant changes in this year’s proposal process. Among them are a new NSF Identification system, changed requirements for delineating post-doctoral researcher support, and a “major revision” of allowable salary reimbursements. In addition, Small Grants for Exploratory Research (SGER) have been replaced with two other programs—Rapid Response Research (RAPID) and Early Concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER).

Global Warming Kids
It won’t be difficult to get kids interested in climate change with this one-stop candy shop of fun and educational links to help children learn more about the condition of our climate. The site not only links to multilingual games, movies, books and magazines, music, and other climate resources, it features real kids making a difference in the field.

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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 27-28, 2008
EUR-OPA International Workshop
Council of Europe and EUR-OPA Major Hazards Agreement
Istanbul, Turkey
Cost and Registration: Free, open until filled
The workshop, titled “For a New Governance of Natural Risks,” encourages authorities and those living in at-risk areas to better anticipate and respond to natural disasters. Risk management challenges, the role of local and regional authorities, and European best practices in awareness, emergency planning, early warning procedures, and emergency response will be discussed. The September registration deadline has been extended.


October 27-31, 2008
24th Conference on Severe Local Storms
American Meteorological Society
Savannah, Georgia
Cost and Registration: $532 non-member, open until filled
This conference will address severe storms, including sessions on climate change and severe weather, convection initiation, theory of deep moist convection, and non-convective severe local storms.


November 5-8, 2008
Evaluation 2008
American Evaluation Association
Denver, Colorado
Cost and Registration: $295 non-member, open until filled
This conference will facilitate communication and evaluation activities that enhance disaster and emergency preparedness, response, and recovery by sharing international approaches, theories.


November 12-13, 2008
Morse-Arctic Coast Initiative User Consultation Workshop
Canadian Space Agency and European Space Agency
Newfoundland, Canada
Cost and Registration: Free
The goal of this workshop is to gain an understanding of Morse Initiative user needs regarding mapping, characterization of arctic coastal areas, environmental monitoring, sustainable economic development of natural resources, and safety and emergency response.


November 11-15, 2008
Management of Landslide Hazard in the Asia-Pacific Region
The Japan Landslide Society
Sendai, Japan
Cost and Registration: $148.77, open until filled
This conference provides a forum for geoscientists, engineers, and other decision makers concerned with landslide hazard management. Landslide researchers in the international community will exchange ideas on landslide hazard assessment, movement prediction, management, and mitigation.


December 2-5, 2008
Crisis Management Training Workshops
Homeland Defense Journals
Arlington, Virginia
Cost and Registration: $679 to $849 each, open until filled
This meeting offers two workshops—one providing knowledge and skills needed for crisis teams to work together effectively and another that will teach participants to organize and consolidate policies, procedures, and protocols into a crisis management plan. 


December 9-12, 2008
Arctic Change 2008
ArcticNet Network of Centres of Excellence of Canada
Quebec City, Canada
Cost and Registration: $550
This conference will address global challenges and opportunities related to climate change in the circum-Arctic. Tracks on monitoring socioeconomic and cultural change in the Arctic, as well as community adaptation and vulnerability, will be offered.


February 19-22, 2009
2009 International Disaster Management Conference
Emergency Medicine Learning and Resource Center
Orlando, Florida
Cost and Registration: $390 before January 23
This conference highlights the role first responders and response agencies play in disaster planning, response, and mitigation. Emergency management challenges and lessons from the past year will provide the basis for many of the conference sessions.

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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.]

Floodplain Management Specialist, GS-0301-11
Federal Emergency Management Agency
New Orleans, Louisiana
Salary: $54,494 to $70,843
Closing date: October 31, 2008
This position develops strategy for National Flood Insurance Program coordination, compliance, and community outreach and synchronizes federal and state long-term recovery efforts relating to floodplain management.


Director of Emergency Preparedness
Tidewater Community College
Norfolk, Virginia
Salary: Not posted
Closing date: November 10, 2008
The Director of Emergency Preparedness provides leadership and coordination in crisis and emergency planning, risk assessment, mitigation, response, recovery, and training using an all-hazards approach to preparedness efforts. A master’s degree, experience administering grants and contracts, and an ability to develop emergency drills and educational programs are required.


Technical Advisor
Catholic Relief Services
Salary: Not Posted
Closing date: October 26, 2008
The Technical Advisor develops the agency's monitoring, evaluation, and learning resources and provides technical assistance to field staff. A master’s degree or equivalent in international development or a related field and at least five years experience in emergency programming, monitoring, and evaluation are required.


United Nations Development Programme
Malé, Maldives
Salary: Not posted
Closing date: October 26, 2008
This position will develop a comprehensive review of the Maldives national building code, enhance existing codes, revise implementation and inspection procedures, and create new inspection guidelines when needed. At least five years of experience with government consultancy, United Nations organizations, and other institutions is needed, as well as the ability to organize experts and integrate disaster risk reduction and climate change.


Assistant Exercise Coordinator
Lockheed Martin
Atlanta, Georgia
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: Not posted
This position coordinates with different agencies to design, develop, and execute emergency exercises in support of Strategic National Stockpile Program and provides guidance and lessons learned from those events. A master’s degree and four years of professional experience, or a bachelor’s degree and six years experience, is required.


Senior Emergency Planner
Innovative Emergency Management
Arlington, Virginia
Salary: Not posted
Closing date: Not posted
This position assists clients in developing or updating emergency plans and procedures consistent with the National Incident Management System and other state and federal requirements. A master’s degree is preferred. Six years emergency planning experience is required.


Emergency Coordinator
Virginia Department of Emergency Management
Richmond, Virginia
Salary: $26,500 to $29,000
Closing Date: October 31, 2008
This position operates emergency communications, initiates response activities, and allocates state resources during emergencies and disasters. Required skills include knowledge of basic electronics, extensive knowledge of communication standards and equipment, state geographical knowledge, and an understanding of relevant laws, codes and regulations.

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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

Questions for the readership and contributions to this e-newsletter are encouraged. Questions and messages should be indicated as such and sent to

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