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Number 520 • February 26, 2009 | Past Issues













1) Lights, Camera, Action! DHS Starring Janet Napolitano

The Department of Homeland Security better be ready for its close-up, because new secretary Janet Napolitano is looking to shine some light on everything from the handling of Hurricane Katrina recovery to future National Planning Scenarios—and calling for action to boot.

In testimony before the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security Wednesday, Napolitano laid out more than a dozen “action directives” she’s issued since taking her post in January. The directives call for reassessing current practices to increase communication and transparency, save money, and eliminate duplicated efforts.

“We have to dedicate ourselves to doing what works, and frequently reassess the department to make sure that we are responding to threats as best as possible and making the kind of progress that Americans expect and deserve,” Napolitano told the committee. “To me, the process of producing results begins with a prompt assessment of the state of DHS’s programs.”

Those assessments include a far-reaching efficiency review of the entire agency, a close look at increasing agency coordination—particularly FEMA—with state and local agencies, and an evaluation of the DHS role in building healthcare surge capacity. Transportation, cybersecurity, and immigration enforcement will also share the stage.

Napolitano—who saved Arizona more than $1 billion with a similar scheme—hopes to use the bevy of reviews to identify priorities to move the agency forward. She already has a few bullet points on her list, including expanding the use of science and technology and building a better rapport with emergency leaders.

“Already in my time as Secretary, I have traveled to four different states and met with state, local and community leaders in each of them about how DHS will continue to work with them,” Napolitano testified. “The range of topics we met about—disaster response, community assistance, the development of new technological capabilities for DHS, and preparedness—speaks to the extent to which DHS must partner with state and local governments to work effectively on any front.”

Apart from saying that DHS must “build a ‘one-DHS’ culture among the different components of the Department, Napolitano’s testimony gave no clue as to what might happen in the mystery of FEMA’s future in the department. Although a recent report by the DHS Office of the Inspector General advises leaving the emergency agency where it is—at least for now—Napolitano isn’t going to debut her thoughts on the matter anytime soon, according to a DHS spokesperson quoted in the Washington Times.

“She has been asked this before, and her answer has been that she has an opinion but she will share her opinion with the president before discussing it publicly,” according to the article.

She might get a chance to speak up on the matter sooner than expected—a bill to free FEMA from the department was introduced today, according to a press release from the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The Committee’s Chairman, Rep. James Oberstar, is a co-sponsor of the bill. Similar legislation has been introduced in the Senate, as well.

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2) Promising Antibodies Could Make Even H5N1 Fly the Coop

A one-size-fits-all flu cure might not be far away if newly discovered antibodies can be shown safe for use in humans. The antibodies, which attack influenza viruses differently from current drugs, would eliminate the need for yearly vaccine overhauls by attacking a wide variety of flu strains.

Test on mice have proven promising in attacking Influenza A strains, including H5N1, better known as avian or bird flu. And because of the way the antibodies operate—attacking the static “neck” of the virus instead of the more easily reached and constantly mutating outer spikes—they could provide protection on the frontlines of a high risk or pandemic situation, according to a Rueters article.

"We were surprised and actually delighted to find that these antibodies neutralized a majority of other influenza viruses, including the regular seasonal (H1N1 strain of) flu," Researcher Robert Liddington of the Burnham Institute for Medical Research is quoted as saying in the Rueters article.

The group of researchers, funded by the National Institutes of Health, published their findings in the journal Nature Structure & Molecular Biology this week.

Despite a positive reception by many in the medical research community, the new study is not without detractors, the New York Times reports. At least one biochemist countered that human immune systems would have discovered the viral weakness long ago. He also pointed out that “huge doses of antibodies, which are expensive and cumbersome to infuse” were needed to protect the mice.

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3) Stimulating Science: Second and Improved Chances at NSF

The next 120 days might have scientists feeling a little over-stimulated—especially if they have a research proposal on file with the National Science Foundation.

According to a report in the New York Times, NSF plans to hand out nearly all of its $2 billion stimulus package funds earmarked for research grants in the next four months. That money—equal to nearly a third of last year’s NSF budget—will be used to fund a larger proportion of proposals now under review and offer reprieves to deserving projects from previous years that were nixed because of a lack of funds. The Foundation will release more details on how it will spend its stimulus funds in the next week, according to the report.

Along with the research funds, NSF will also receive $1 million for education programs and $4 million for research equipment and facility construction, according to a list of who’s getting what out of the stimulus package at ProPublica.

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4) Searching for Meaning in Climate Change Projections

It’s the existential question of our time—what is the meaning of climate change? A group of Tufts University-based researchers has taken on one aspect of that question and found, perhaps not surprisingly, that when it comes to climate change, meaning is a commodity in short supply.

A recent Feinstein International Center report on how climate change might affect humanitarian spending—with projected increases in the staggering range of between 32 and 1,600 percent—has lead Director Peter Walker, to call for more “meaningful data” to help close the gap, according to an IRIN news report. At the low end of the scale, only increased frequency of disasters was taken into account. The high end factors in changes in intensity, as well.

Rather than predicting the future, the point of the report was to say “Stop making wild and sensationalist predictions and admit the real problem is that we have been negligent in the data we collect, and so have placed ourselves in a situation where we are hard-pressed to say anything meaningful about what the future will look like," IRIN quoted Walker as saying.

The report, which used several methods to determine what type of stress climate change-related disasters could put on humanitarian aid budgets in the next 20 years, found a need for a “more rigorous and systematic collection of disaster-related data and more constructive interaction between the humanitarian and climate change communities on future research, planning, and action.”

Part of the problem is miscellany of data prediction ranges, means and methods of collecting data, data uses and extrapolation, and ultimately what question the data is being applied to. Because of the all the wild cards involved, researchers should be "be more concerned with the rigorous and systematic gathering of data," according to the IRIN report.

“The future is ‘inherently unpredictable,’ and aid agencies have ‘to let go of their old comfortable linear models of change’ and become ‘adaptive, flexible, and open to acting upon feedback,’ said Walker.”

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

Call for Applications
Fire Prevention and Safety Grants
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Deadline: March 6
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is accepting applications for Fire Prevention and Safety Grants. Grants are awarded for projects that enhance fire safety and mitigate related hazards. High-risk populations and projects that limit high numbers of death and injuries are of special interest. Examples of past projects include fire prevention and public safety education campaigns, juvenile firesetter interventions, media outreach, and arson prevention and awareness programs. For full information, including an applicant tutorial, visit the Firefighters Grant Program page.


Call For Applications
WAS*IS Workshop
NCAR Societal Impacts Program
Deadline: March 27
The National Center for Atmospheric Research is accepting applications to attend its 2009 WAS*IS Workshop, to be held August 6-14 in Boulder, Colorado. The WAS*IS (Weather and Society Integrated Studies) program combines social science with meteorological research and practice.

Twenty-five people will be chosen to attend the workshop. U.S.-based graduate students, scientists, practitioners, professors, and others are encouraged to apply. Applicants must have a degree or commensurate experience in anthropology, communication, economics, emergency management, environmental science, geography, hydrology, meteorology, psychology, public administration, public health, sociology, or another related field. For more information and to apply visit the WAS*IS Web site.


Call for Papers
Ghosts of Katrina: Natural Disasters and Community Resilience
Community and Regional Resilience Institute
Deadline: April 15
Paper proposals on disaster resilience and its applications to communities are now being accepted for the Ghosts of Katrina Conference, June 4-5 in Gulfport, Mississippi. Papers are encouraged to address topics that include disaster mitigation and economic, political, and social resilience. For more information, or to submit your proposal, e-mail Jack Covarrubias.

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6) 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]

Whether it’s navigating newer technology or preparing for climate change-related disasters, there’s a whole lot of adaptation going on at WikiAdapt. The growing wiki, which collects research related to climate change adaptation, recently launched the Frontline Knowledge Explorer project to create an area of the site focused on disaster risk reduction. Researchers can search through more than 300 articles, get a lesson in writing their own wiki, and add their work to the burgeoning database.


Home Station Blog
A new Twitter stream and a YouTube channel are among a few of the offerings that are making the Home Station blog home, sweet home for wired homeland security junkies. Add a seasoned radio program, an audio newsletter, and a wealth of information from the Integrative Center for Homeland Security at Texas A&M, and you have a blog you won’t want to leave home without.


JMLC Geographic Resources: Publication Listing
The geography-minded among us will appreciate this collection of journals that cover everything from tourism research to disaster prevention to society and culture. The list, compiled by the James and Marilyn Lovell Center for Environmental Geography and Hazards Research at Texas State University, is part of the center’s effort to improve understanding of hazards and the environment. Parts of the site are under construction, so proceed with patience.


CDC Healthcare Preparedness Resources
Dealing with pandemics, weapons of mass destruction, bioterrorism, and good old-fashioned mass casualties are among the many topics addressed in this collection of resources. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has tracked down journal articles, regulatory guides, Web sites, and classes and arranged them in an easy-to-use format sorted by healthcare facility type. Subscribe to RSS feeds or e-mail updates to keep up with the site’s latest additions.


Research and Applications Needs in Flood Hydrology Science
In October, the National Research Council’s Committee on Hydrologic Science held a workshop to examine topics related to extreme hydrological events—especially flooding—with a focus on the planning issues involved. This report summarizes the workshop, which tackled issues ranging from what questions should be asked in the “new science of hydrological extremes” to ways in which new technology might be used to improve the estimation of future floods.


Sustaining the State Workforce: Strategies for Effective Pandemic Planning
A pandemic could prove deadly to more than just those infected with a virus—with 40 percent of the workforce estimated to be sick or caring for loved ones, it could be the death of government services, as well. That’s why the National Governor’s Association Center for Best Practices examined what a pandemic might mean to the continuity of government in 55 states, territories, and the District of Columbia. This report identifies challenges, policies, and best practices that impact the continuation of essential services during an outbreak.

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7) 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 26-27, 2009
Fourth Annual Homeland Security Law Institute
American Bar Association
Washington, D.C.
Cost and Registration: $329, open until filled
This conference gathers experts in homeland security to examine past activities, new regulations, chemical and hazardous material security issues, and public health and safety.


March 4-7, 2009
Lessons from Continuity and Change in the Fourth International Polar Year
University of Alaska Fairbanks and the Inland Northwest Research Alliance
Fairbanks, Alaska
Cost and Registration: $200, open until filled
This conference highlights important changes in the North, including historic climate and environmental shifts and the effect of rapid change on populations and cultures. An examination of adaptive practices, vulnerability analyses, and innovative policies will be held to create an interdisciplinary dialogue on response to the changing environment.


March 31, 2009
First Annual Disaster Medicine Symposium
Oklahoma Institute for Disaster and Emergency Medicine
Tulsa, Oklahoma
Cost and Registration: Free, RSVP by March 24
This symposium will focus on creating emergency plans for Oklahoma health care facilities in the event of a tornado. Experts in tornado damage, weather patterns, and disaster medicine will examine mitigation of and response to tornado outbreaks.


March 31 to April 3, 2009
2009 Virginia Emergency Management Conference
Virginia Emergency Management Association
Hampton, Virginia
Cost and Registration: $225, open until filled
This conference is designed for professionals interested in emergency and disaster prevention, preparation, response, and recovery. Public safety and emergency management experts will recount recent disasters and provide insights on lessons learned.


April 14-15, 2009
Fifth Annual Emergency Preparedness Conference
The Yale New Haven Center for Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Response
Washington, D.C
Cost and Registration: Not posted
This conference provides best practices for emergency management planning, response, and recovery. Topics include hospital incident command systems, surge capacity, drills and exercises, and topical issues such as pandemics, evacuations, and fatality management.


April 16-17, 2009
Western Australia Emergency Management Conference 2009
Fire and Emergency Services Authority of Western Australia and the Australian Government
Perth, Australia
Cost and Registration: $750, open until filled
This conference will bring emergency managers and practitioners together to prepare for the future using past events as a model. Trends and best practices and a focus on enhancing partnerships to improve emergency management capabilities will be showcased.


May 5-7, 2009
Great Lakes Homeland Security Training Conference and Expo
Michigan State Police
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Cost and Registration: $350 before April 10, closes April 24

This annual workshop gathers local, state, and federal emergency management and homeland security officials to focus on public health, critical infrastructure protection, communications, school safety, response, preparedness, and technology. A wide range of topics will be discussed, including health intelligence, a national triage system, and crisis communications.

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8) 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.]

Assistant Professor/Fire Science Career Program Facilitator
Johnson County Community College
Overland Park, Kansas
Salary: Not listed
Closing Date: March 13, 2009

In addition to teaching, this position will prepare International Fire Service Accreditation Congress (IFSAC) programs, conduct student activities, and facilitate resource sharing. A bachelor’s degree, three to five years teaching experience, and five years of professional experience are required.


Supervisory Program Specialist, GS-0301-13
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Biloxi, Mississippi
Salary: $80,402 to $104,525
Closing Date: March 4, 2009

This National Flood Insurance Program supervisor position coordinates mitigation response activities and identifies mitigation opportunities, requirements, and programs. Applicants must have one year of specialized experience at or equivalent to GS-12.


Emergency Preparedness Manager
Owens Community College
Toledo, Ohio
Salary: $40,185 to $47,402
Closing Date: Open until filled

This position develops training programs, manages daily operations, supervises training scenarios, and provides support for instructors and students. Experience developing training programs, emergency services training, and an associate’s degree are required.


Emergency Management Faculty
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
New York, New York
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: March 3, 2009

This tenure track position will design a viable program of research consistent with department goals and teach graduate-level emergency management classes. A strong background in emergency management or related field and a PhD are required.


Emergency Management Program Specialist, GS-0301-09/11/12
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Hermiston, Oregon
Salary: $46,625 to $87,893
Closing Date: March 4, 2009

This position manages emergency preparation for chemical weapons and supports federal, state, and local emergency planning, preparedness, and response. Applicants must have one year of specialized experience at or equivalent to GS-8.


Supervisory Policy Analyst
Office of the Secretary for Homeland Security
Washington, D.C.
Salary: $120,839 to 153,200
Closing Date: March 9, 2009

This position conducts complex strategic planning research for developing documents, provides assessment of strategic initiatives, and develops plans for a wide range of threats. Qualification requirement are outlined in the Office of Personnel Management Qualifications Standards Handbook.


All-Hazards Emergency Response Unit Chief
New York City Department of Health
New York, New York
Salary: $73,498 to $95,330
Closing Date: April 14, 2009

This position provides guidance on environmental and public health mitigation, assists in developing citywide disaster plans, and directs department field response. A PhD, extensive research experience, and one year of supervisory, administrative, or research experience are required.

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