University of Colorado at Boulder CU-Boulder Home CU-Boulder Search CU-Boulder A to Z Campus Map

Number 518 • January 29, 2009 | Past Issues













1) Committee Issues Urgent Call to Shore Up Safety in the “Stark” Reality of U.S. Levees

If the United States wants to avoid future catastrophes caused by breached and broken levees, it must act immediately to implement a national safety program, according to a recently released report from the National Committee on Levee Safety.

The committee stated that it could not “overemphasize the urgency” with which action needs to be taken on the 20 recommendations contained in the draft report presented to Congress on January 15.  Among the actions the committee wants to see in the first phase of the safety plan are a complete inspection and inventory of all U.S. levees and mandatory purchase of flood insurance in levee areas. Other suggestions include developing a nationwide safety training program, classifying levee hazard potential, establishing a national levee safety commission and standards, conducting public awareness and education campaigns, and creating a grant program to help smaller communities pay for their share of the overhaul.

The 104-page report is the result of a year of technical, regulatory and policy evaluation by the committee, which is made up of 23 members that include representatives from the Army Corps of Engineers, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Association of State Floodplain Managers, and government and private sector representatives. For more on the committee and the making of the report, including minutes of committee meetings, visit the National Committee on Levee Safety Web site.

Back to Top

2) 2008 Disaster Deaths Spike to Three Times the Yearly Average

Disasters such as Cyclone Nargis and the Sichuan earthquake helped drive disaster deaths to three times the normal yearly rate and doubled disaster costs for the year, according to a U.N. International Strategy for Disaster Reduction report released January 22 . The report, which used Centre for Research on Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) data from 2000-2008, found nearly 234,000 died as the result of 321 disasters last year.

The annual average number of deaths for the previous seven years is 66,812. Missing and dead Nargis victims number 138,366 and another 87,476 were lost to the Sichuan quake, according to the report.

“The dramatic increase in human and economic losses from disasters in 2008 is alarming,” UNISDR Director Salvano Briceño stated. “Sadly, these losses could have been substantially reduced if buildings in China, particularly schools and hospitals, had been built to be more earthquake-resilient. An effective early warning system with good community preparedness could have also saved many lives in Myanmar if it had been implemented before Cyclone Nargis.”

Oppositionally, both the number of disasters and the number of people affected by disasters were lower than average for the same time period. CRED data can be accessed in a number of ways on the EM-DAT Emergency Events Database Web site.

Back to Top

3) Rockefeller Foundation Rocks Out Climate Change Resilience in Asia

Six cities in India and Vietnam are set to start a $50 million ball rolling in the direction of Asian cities that are prepared to weather the impacts of climate change. The cities—Surat, Indore, and Gorakphur in India and Danang, Quy Nhon, and Can Tho in Vietnam—are to be the first members of the Rockefeller Foundation’s Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network, according to a Reuters report Wednesday.

The network, which will eventually expand to cities in Indonesia and Thailand, is meant to help the cities analyze their particular vulnerability to climate change-induced disaster and create plans to prepare and recover.  

"While there is much discussion focused on mitigating future climate change, we must also address the impact of impending climate change, which is irreversible and will continue to accelerate in the coming decades," Foundation President Judith Rodin told reporters Tuesday.

The six cities, chosen because they have no existing major infrastructures to retrofit, will have access to climate scientists and civil and technical experts as they move forward, according to the Reuters report. Their progress will be used as a model for other cities in the initiative, which are expected to be on board by June of 2009.

Rockefeller officials hope to see network projects become a reality by 2012 through the use of their own funding and partners such as the World Bank. For more information on the initiative’s phasing and other aspects of the program, visit the Rockefeller Climate Change Initiative site.

Back to Top

4) FEMA’s New “Sim City” Open for Business

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has stretched its exercise capacities with the opening of the National Exercise Simulation Center on January 12. The center, which was mandated as part of the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act, will offer virtual and live all-hazard preparedness and response simulations.

The center is key to creating a Federal Coordination Center at FEMA headquarters, according to a FEMA press release. Other pieces of the effort include the Disaster Operations Directorate and National Response Coordination Center. When fully functional, FEMA will provide coordinated planning, training, and operational support to emergency officials at the local, state, regional, and federal levels.

The new simulation center now supports basic training and exercises. Eventually, the center will offer realistic incident scenarios, 24-hour simulation exercises, modeling and planning support, mock-media capabilities, and real world coordination activities.

Back to Top

5) Hazards and Disasters Student Paper Competition Now Open

Your research paper could net $100 and free entry into this summer’s Natural Hazards Workshop if chosen as one of the two winners of our Fifth Annual Hazards and Disasters Student Paper Competition.

Papers may present current research, literature reviews, theoretical arguments, or case studies on social or behavioral aspects of hazards or disasters.

The competition is open to graduate or undergraduate students enrolled for at least one term of the 2008-2009 academic year. Papers must be March 27, 2009. For more information and application instructions, visit the competition page on the Natural Hazards Center Web site.

Back to Top

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

Call for Papers
Conference on Earthquake Engineering: Reaching Beyond Borders
Earthquake Engineering Research Institute and the Canadian Association for Earthquake Engineering
Deadline: March 31, 2009

Papers are now being accepted for the Conference on Earthquake Engineering to be held in Toronto July 25-29, 2010. Primary topic areas include ground motion, seismic hazard assessment, and seismic risk; post-earthquake response, damage assessment, and recovery; and lessons learned from recent earthquakes, among others. Papers will also be accepted for special sessions.

Abstracts will be selected based on clarity, objectivity, originality, technical material significance and other factors. For more information and to submit an abstract online, visit the conference Web site.


Call for Nominations
Dr. B. Wayne Blanchard Award for Academic Excellence in Emergency Management Higher Education
North Dakota State University
Deadline: February 15, 2009

North Dakota State University is accepting nominations for the Dr. B. Wayne Blanchard Award. The award honors individuals whose work has advanced emergency management education at higher education institutions.

To nominate yourself or someone else, submit a one-page summary of the nominee’s contributions, along with their curriculum vita to before February 15. For more information on the award and past winners, visit the award Web page.

Back to Top

7) 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]

Global Network of Civil Society Organisations for Disaster Reduction
The Global Network of Civil Society Organisations for Disaster Reduction is putting its money where its mouth is with a new Web site meant to step up communication on disaster risk reduction policy. The group, which was formed in 2007 to facilitate global communication between groups concerned with disaster risk reduction, is now online collecting local-level viewpoints for its Views from the Frontline program. Visit the site to learn more about the program and how it will support the U.N. disaster reduction plan and the Hyogo Framework for Action.


Emergency response just got a lot wiser, thanks to the latest release of the National Library of Medicine’s lookup tool for responding to hazardous material incidents. WISER, which stands for Wireless Information System for Emergency Responders, has just added a bevy of new features to its standalone and web-based hazmat information tool. Overlaying protective distances on a map of the incident, identifying chemicals by placard or transport type, and displaying images of biological agents at work are among a few of the new WISER 4.2 features.


The Alert Rabbit
Saving yourself from a Tsunami isn’t the only lesson to be found in The Alert Rabbit, a cute cautionary tale created by the children of a Thai village ravaged by the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. It’s also an example of how kids can promote preparedness when they’re involved in disaster risk reduction strategies. The book, along with what went into its making, is available as a PDF download.


Between Bulls and Mosquitoes
This site, along with the documentary of the same name, aims to spread awareness of the need for earthquake preparedness education in Central Asia. The interdisciplinary effort includes project links and 12 lessons plans ranging from plate tectonics to earthquake drills, plans, and supplies. Created for teachers and others with little or no existing knowledge, the lessons are ripe for easy implementation.


Organizations might dare to dream when it comes to financing disaster mitigation and response, thanks to the Disaster Reconstruction and Mitigation Information System. The new site—a collaboration of the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery—aggregates and analyzes past disaster information, looks at methodologies and lessons learned, and tracks expenditures to help increase the efficiency of disaster response by governments and aid organizations. Although some parts of the searchable database are still under construction, information on damage and loss—accessible by country, region, disaster, and other terms—can be accessed now.

From wind generators to handheld water purifiers, has sorted a wealth of gadgetry into handy categories that will help you gear up for an emergency. Along with “solutions” for biohazards and terrorism; pets, kids, and schools; and communication and transportation—just to name a few—visitors can also read up on a new emergency preparedness topic monthly.

Back to Top

8) 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]

February 26, 2009
Cascading Disasters: How Disasters Unfold
The National Academies Disasters Roundtable
Irvine, California
Cost and Registration: Free, open until filled
This workshop aims to communicate a working understanding of cascading disasters, how people are impacted as a disaster cascade unfolds, and coping strategies to prepare for or mitigate impacts.


March 5-7, 2009
2009 National Severe Weather Workshop
National Weather Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Norman, Oklahoma
Cost and Registration: $120 before February 22, open until filled
This workshop will bring weather enthusiasts, from meteorologists to amateur weather watchers, together to discuss topics such as understanding at-risk communities, tools for hazardous weather assessment, communications technology, and the StormReady and SKYWARN programs.


March 22-26, 2009
Wildland Urban Interface 2009
International Association of Fire Chiefs and Firewise
Reno, Nevada
Cost and Registration: $325 before February 1, open until filled
This meeting will present best practices and innovations in preparedness and response and discuss topics such as firefighter safety, engaging community stakeholders, and new technology to address wildland-urban interface issues.


March 30 to April 3, 2009
Earthquake Disasters: From Rapid Response Toward Mitigation
University of Geneva
Geneva, Switzerland
Cost and Registration: $654 before March 20, open until filled
This meeting focuses on reducing the impacts after a crisis and identifying communities that need assistance to avoid future impacts. Objectives include resolving rapid response and reconstruction issues in seismic contexts and integrating mitigation into response plans.


April 12-14, 2009
International Symposium on Disaster Management
Saudi Arabia Ministry of the Interior
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Cost and Registration: Not listed
This symposium uses the experience of local and international disaster managers to improve disaster management skills. Topics include monitoring domestic and international disaster efforts, reviewing threats and risks, mobilizing volunteers, and developing local, regional, and international cooperation.

Back to Top

9) 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.]

Program Analyst, GS-0343-15
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Washington, D.C.
Salary: $120,830 to $153,200
Closing Date: February 10, 2009
This position is the principal liaison to the Gulf Coast Recovery Office, manages critical Hurricane Katrina and Rita assistance issues, and recommends new approaches and improvements to recovery service operations. Applicants must have one year of specialized experience at or equivalent to GS-14.


Emergency Planning Specialist
Springfield-Greene County Office of Emergency Management
Greene, Missouri
Salary: $32,614
Closing Date: January 30, 2009
This position develops and maintains the county emergency response, disaster recovery, and mitigation plans in accordance with state and federal guidelines and analyzes risk assessment changes in the community. A bachelor’s degree in emergency management or a related field and three years experience responding to hazardous materials or weapons of mass of destruction threats are required.


Technical Advisor on Methodology for Adaptation
United Nations Development Program
New York, New York
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: January 31, 2009
This position oversees the development of adaptation programs, including methods, indicators, and tools for decision making and recommends ways to incorporate climate change risk management into development policies. A master’s degree in climate change, development, environmental economics, or management and 10 years of professional experience relevant to climate change and development are required.


Emergency Preparedness and Response Advisor
Pan American Health Organization
Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Salary: $63,052 to $67,709
Closing Date: February 2, 2009
This position makes policy recommendations on and coordinates disaster and emergency preparedness and response, as well as develops a project strategy and disaster management action plan for Haiti. A master’s degree in public health or a related discipline and a minimum of nine years of combined national and international experience in disaster or humanitarian action are required.


Science and Society Director
National Science Foundation
Arlington, Virginia
Salary: $102,721 to $160,078
Closing Date: February 3, 2009
This position coordinates the proposal review and evaluation process, performs scientific and technical analysis of proposals, and contributes to the selection of reviewers. A PhD or equivalent experience in science and social fields and at least six years of research experience are required.


Program Administrator
City and County of Denver
Denver, Colorado
Salary: $49,038 to $78,265
Closing date: February 18, 2009
This position administrates and develops the Denver Urban Area Security Initiative program and provides technical expertise to staff and other program stakeholders. A bachelor’s degree in public administration or a related field and three years experience in the financial management of large federal grant programs are required.

Back to Top

Contributions of jobs, conferences, and other content to this newsletter can be sent to Please include “for Disaster Research” in the subject line.

To subscribe, visit or e-mail
University of Colorado at Boulder

Natural Hazards Center
483 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309-0483
Contact Us: | (303) 492-6818

A Center in the Institute of Behavioral Science

© Regents of the University of Colorado