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Number 513• November 6, 2008 | Past Issues













1) Seven-Year State of Emergency Limits Liability of Anthrax Drug Makers

A seven-year state of anthrax emergency declared last month has been blasted by critics as a ploy to give immunity to the makers of antibiotics and a controversial vaccine. The declaration was issued October 1 in the absence of an actual emergency or risk of attack.

“Not a single case of human anthrax has been reported in the United States this year, but the nation is now officially in a state of anthrax emergency,” wrote Brandon Keim in a Wired Science brief. “Whether it will protect public health is debatable, but it will certainly protect makers of faulty anthrax vaccines.”

The protection comes in the form of the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act, which shields manufacturers, distributors, medical professionals, emergency program planners, and others involved in instituting anthrax countermeasures from litigation for any role they play in providing anthrax countermeasures.

“Providing liability protection to all involved in such efforts will help ensure their full participation and bolster response efforts,” according to an October 1 Health and Human Services press release announcing the PREP declaration. The majority of the release was devoted to a more widely publicized bid to have postal workers deliver antibiotics door to door in an anthrax-related public health emergency.

Some see the hushed announcement as an indication of less than savory politics and pointed to the timing of the release. A day earlier, the agency posted notice of a $404 million contract with Emergent Biosolutions to stockpile the vaccine. The company is the sole manufacturer of the vaccine named in the PREP declaration. In addition, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advisory group was scheduled to issue advice October 22 regarding whether first responders should routinely take the vaccine or not.

"There are people still getting ill from side effects and from the vaccine," John Michels, an attorney litigating the Pentagon's inoculation program, told Global Security Newswire. "When they expand this vaccine from the military population to a civilian population, they're going to have people who sue."

The CDC group later recommended voluntary inoculation for first responders who might be exposed in an attack, according to a subsequent Newswire report.

Correction: A news item in the October 23 issue of Disaster Research incorrectly stated U.S. Postal Service workers might soon be cleared to deliver anthrax vaccine during a public health emergency. Anthrax antibiotics were under consideration for postal delivery in an emergency.

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2) Stronger Army Corps Requirements Break Levee-Building Banks

Strengthened standards for constructing Louisiana levees could make residents safer in a hurricane—if they don’t keep the needed embankments from being built altogether.

Some members of the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority have said recent changes to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ requirements for building levees need to be relaxed or levees won’t get built, according to an October 30 article in the Times-Picayune. The authority last week asked the state to do its own independent storm surge modeling as part of negotiations with the corps to reduce costs.

Although the new standards, which call for higher levees and higher-grade construction materials, are based on examinations of Hurricane Katrina levee failures and future storm expectations, they might not be necessary in every case, according to some on the authority.

“You have to remember that there was no (earthen) levee in the entire Katrina incident that failed before it was overtopped,” Authority Member Windell Curole told the Picyune.

Curole argued that lesser-quality levees can still “dramatically improve” safety in some areas, the article stated. Some, however, believe the state will get what it pays for when it comes to investing in high standards.

“It would be a huge mistake for New Orleans to once again allow concern for costs to drive levee designs too close to the margin of safety,” wrote David E. Daniel, former chairman of the American Society of Civil Engineers' Hurricane Katrina External Review Panel, in a November 4 letter to the editor.  “Relaxing design standards can result in deficient levees that give residents a false sense of security, which can cost people their lives when a major hurricane strikes.”

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3) Social Media Buzzes Past Most Emergency Management Agencies

In today’s wired world, social media—from the Internet to Twitter to text messaging—can be an effective communication tool for those ready to use it. But while most emergency management agencies are adept at getting the word out via traditional broadcast methods, a recent study found many are missing out on communication opportunities afforded by social media.

Untapped Potential: Evaluating State Emergency Management Agency Web Sites 2008 examined 51 agency Web sites and surveyed agency public information officers (PIOs) to determine use and attitudes regarding the role of the Internet in crisis communication. The study found emergency planners need to recognize the value of social media as a communication tool—especially during a crisis—and that PIOs need to become more Web savvy.

The report authors, David W. Guth and Gordon A. Alloway of the University of Kansas, make six recommendations based on the research, including better defining the purpose and audience of agency Web sites, giving PIOs with direct access to top management the responsibility for making site content decisions, making staff contact information more easily accessible, creating more easily remembered web addresses, and generally improving staff technology knowledge.

The full text of the report, including feedback journalism, public relations, and emergency preparedness experts, is available online.

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4) Projected Tokyo Disaster Could Leave Thousands with Nowhere to “Go”

When you gotta go, you gotta go, and if you’re the victim of a 7.3-magnitude temblor that rocks Tokyo, you could be out of luck.

A recent study by Japan’s disaster prevention panel estimated that within hours of a major earthquake more than 800,000 people would be in need of a bathroom and unable to find one, according to an Associated Press report.  The estimate was based on a scenario in which Tokyo’s 12 million-person workforce would attempt to walk home following a quake. After factoring needed bathroom breaks every two hours and estimating about half of public restrooms would be functioning, the simulation projected some earthquake victims would go 17 hours without finding usable facilities.

Although unconventional, Japanese officials said a focus on providing bathrooms during disasters could stanch “unnecessary panic” caused by limited toilet access, according to the report. The panel has recommended the city do more to ensure available restrooms after a quake.

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5) New Patent Proposes to Take the Heft out of Hurricanes

Israeli and U.S. scientists have a plan to take the wind from a hurricane’s sails by using smoke particles to cool the heat cycling effects of the storms, according to an October report in New Scientist. The “hurricane decelerator” would attempt to smoke out some of a storm’s strength by causing water vapor to condense at lower altitudes, moving energy to the edges of the hurricane and knocking it off kilter.

If the displaced energy resulted in even a small reduction in wind speed, it might enough to alleviate some of the destructive force lurking at the storm’s center, the report said.

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, along with inventors Daniel Rosenfeld, Alexander Khain, and William Woodley filed a World Intellectual Property Organization patent on the process they developed using computer simulations.  Read the New Scientist article and commentary on the concept and access the patent.

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6) Many U.S. States Can’t or Won’t Reveal Federally Mandated Emergency Plans

Communication is sorely lacking when it comes to emergency operations plans, according to a recent George Mason University study of 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The study, Using Sense-Making and Co-Orientation to Rank Strategic Public Communication in State Emergency Operations Plans, has found 22 states either can’t or won’t reveal their emergency operations plan and others haven’t made provisions for including the public in planning dialogues. The plans are required to receive federal funding under the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act.

"It's very important that these plans are available to the public,” Carl Botan, the communication professor who led the study, stated in a press release ( “Otherwise residents can't be confident their needs have been thought of and aren't sure who they can count on."

The study ranked the state plans on communication criteria, including two-way communication components, addressing vulnerable populations’ communication needs, and the importance of public communication to the plan. The report will be presented at the National Communication Conference this month, according to the press release.

To receive a copy of the study, contact Tara Laskowski at

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7) November Issue of Natural Hazards Observer Now Online

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

--Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Mitigation and Community Resilience
--Social Media and the Democratic Convention
--Austin, Texas, and the Spanish Influenza of 1918
--Extreme Weather, Rapid Warming, and Public Water Systems

Regular features include Contracts and Grants, Resources, and Conferences and Training. Visit the Natural Hazards Center Web site to read the November issue, as well as past editions of the Observer.

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

Call for Applications
National PERISHIP Award
The Public Entity Risk Institute and the Natural Hazards Center
Deadline: February 1, 2009

Applications are now being accepted for PERISHIP dissertation fellowships supporting work in natural and human-made hazards, risk, and disasters in all disciplines.

Up to four grants of as much as $10,000 each will be awarded in 2009 to support doctoral student dissertation work. Grants can be used for data collection, travel, software purchase, data entry assistance, statistical analysis services, or similar purposes. Eligible candidates must be “all but dissertation” at a U.S. educational institution by the application deadline and have an approved dissertation proposal. Non-U.S. citizens may apply if their doctoral degree will be granted by a U.S. institution.

For complete information and application instructions, visit the award Web site.


Call for Authors
Encyclopedia of Disaster Relief
Sage Publications
Deadline: Not listed

Sage Publications is soliciting academic contributions for the Encyclopedia of Disaster Relief, a two-volume set scheduled for release in 2010. The encyclopedia will cover disaster relief and related social science aspects, including terms and practices, profiles of relief organizations, biographies, and descriptions of past relief efforts.

Payment for the 800 to 4,000-word entries will be honoraria ranging from a $50 book credit at SAGE Publications to a free set of the finished volumes. Editors K. Bradley Penuel and Mathew Statler of New York University will review articles for editorial content and academic consistency.

For more information, including a list of articles being sought and style guidelines, e-mail Sue Moskowitz at


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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9) 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]

Wildfire Information Portal
Firewatchers will soon have the best of the Web at their fingertips, thanks to an upcoming site that promises to aggregate information from social networking sites such as YouTube and Flicker, as well as wildfire reports from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the InciWeb wildfire incident information site, and Geospatial Multi-Agency Coordination (GeoMac) wildfire support. This beta version gives a glimpse of how the NASA-funded effort will flow together to provide easy access to wildfire data.

NOAA’s Arctic Report Card 2008
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s yearly report card continues to provide information on the effects of climate change in the Arctic. This year’s report shows evidence of warming in three areas—atmosphere, sea ice, and Greenland’s surface melt—and mixed evidence in the areas of biology, ocean, and land.  A summary of each area and links to related essays are included.

Climate and Disaster Governance
The Climate and Disaster Governance program was created to allow collaboration and information sharing that will help communities be more resilient to climate change and disasters. The site has areas for downloading research, news and events, and will offer scholarships (application deadline is December 19) of up to $1,000.

Drop! Cover! Hold On!
This Great Southern California Shakeout-related site links to important information on how to participate in what’s been billed as the largest earthquake drill in U.S. history, but even more fun is the site’s interactive Beat the Quake game. The game gives players the responsibility for securing items in a room and seeing where they fall after a quake strikes. Information on how to beat real quakes is also provided.

Delinquent Mortgages, Swimming Pools, and West Nile Virus
The U.S. financial crisis seems to be spawning more than panicked investors and fiscal angst. According to this report in Emerging Infectious Diseases, it’s also partly responsible for a 276 percent increase of human West Nile Virus cases in the Bakersfield, California, area. The area’s failing housing market—with delinquencies up 300 percent this year—is credited for creating a new mosquito-friendly habitat in the untended swimming pools of foreclosed homes.

Emergency Management Network
Emergency preparedness junkies might soon be able to leave MySpace and LinkedIn behind, now that there’s a social networking site devoted to them. The Emergency Management Network community is just getting off the ground, but the site has areas for news, discussion forums, sharing photos and videos, blogging, and live chat.

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10) 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]

November 12-14, 2008
Digital Earth Summit on Geoinformatics: Tools for Global Change Research
Society for Geoinformatics and International Society for Digital Earth
Potsdam, Germany
Cost and Registration: $195, open until filled
This summit will bring together scientists interested in geoinformatics and global change research to exchange ideas, increase cooperation between disciplines, and provide a platform for in-depth discussion. Session topics include environmental, socio-economic, and political impacts of global change; urbanization and impact analysis; extreme events; and natural hazards.


November 17-20, 2008
Disaster Risk Management Workshop
Torqaid and HealthConsult Associates
Dhaka, Bangladesh
Cost and Registration: $848, closes November 12
This workshop will look at best practices in disaster risk management and development of risk management plans. Lessons learned from Cyclone Sidr, the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, Cyclone Nargis, and other major hazards will be examined in an effort to provide practical skills for humanitarian aid and relief workers involved in risk reduction, emergency response, and recovery.


November 17-28, 2008
Second Regional Training Course on Climate Risk Management: Science, Institutions, and Society
Asian Disaster Preparedness Center
Bangkok, Thailand
Cost and Registration: $2,000, open until filled
The focus of this conference is on increasing risk management capacity associated with climate variability, change, and extremes. Participants will learn community-based climate risk management, climate forecast applications, and how to design early warning systems for climate-related risks.


November 26-28, 2008
Conference on Natural Disaster Risk Reduction
French Ministry for the Environment, Energy, Sustainable Development and Regional Planning (MEEDDAT)
Paris, France
Cost and Registration: Not posted
This conference examines how the experiences and collective memory of natural disasters can benefit European Union countries in future disasters and discusses the impact of regional culture regarding climate change challenges. Positioning European states and their national platforms for disaster risk reduction in the Hyogo framework will also be a focus.


February 6, 2009
15th Annual Earthquakes Mean Business Seminar
Gateway Citizens Coalition
St. Louis, Missouri
Cost and Registration: Free, open until filled
This outreach event is presented by members of the geoscience, engineering, and emergency planning communities to provide better understanding of earthquake risk in the central United States. The seminar also includes exhibits and resources about disaster preparation and business continuity planning. 

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11) 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.]

Senior Program Manager for Exercise Coordination
Delvalle Institute for Emergency Preparedness
Boston, Massachusetts
Salary: $55,000 to $70,000
Closing Date: Not posted
This position develops and administers federally approved training courses, assists with implementation of exercises integrating private and nongovernmental partners, and responds to public health emergencies. A bachelor’s degree in public health or related field and five years experience in public safety is required.


Supervisory Emergency Management Specialist, GS-0301-13/14
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Salary: $77,670 to $119,314
Closing Date: November 14, 2008
This lead field officer position provides administrative oversight and direction for the field office and oversees daily operations. See posting for minimum professional and educational requirements.


Assistant Professor
Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences
Boulder, Colorado
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: Open until filled
This tenure-track position in science or technology policy research with environmental emphasis will be located in a relevant academic department decided upon by the candidate and department. Applicants must have an established interest in interdisciplinary research and teaching, a record of funded research, and teach undergraduate and graduate classes. A PhD in a relevant field is required.


Recovery/Livelihood Delegate
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)
Dhaka, Bangladesh
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: November 9, 2008
This position supports the recovery of people affected by Cyclone Sidr, with the aim of restoring and improving pre-disaster living conditions and reducing vulnerability to future disasters. Delegates support IFRC in recovery and coordinate and monitor the livelihood program. A relevant degree, competence in strategic planning, and experience in cross-sectoral analysis and humanitarian work is required.


Chief, Policy Analysis and Capacity Development for Disaster Risk Reduction
United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)
Bangkok, Thailand
Salary: Not Posted
Closing Date: December 20, 2008
The chief will develop ESCAP’s disaster risk reduction strategy, identify emerging regional risk reduction challenges, and coordinate policy supporting multidisciplinary approaches to studying risk reduction in the region. An advanced degree and 10 years experience in humanitarian assistance, social and economic program development, and policy analysis is required.


Emergency Preparedness Coordinator
Adjutant General’s Office
Richland County, South Carolina
Salary: $30,274 to $ 56,015
Closing Date: November 10, 2008
This position administers off-site radiological emergency preparedness planning, training, and operations for a commercial nuclear facility, develops state radiological response plans, and coordinates with local government organizations regarding response plans. A bachelor’s degree and two years radiological operation or planning experience is required.


Mobilization Ops Officer
New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Salary: $13.30 to $23.64 per hour
Closing Date: November 13, 2008
This position develops logistics and mobilization center operations that enhance New Mexico’s ability to respond to emergencies and is responsible for purchasing, maintaining, and mobilizing emergency equipment. A bachelor degree in emergency management or public administration or related field 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

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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