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Number 526 • June 4, 2009 | Past Issues













1) FEMA Will Stay In the Housing Game a Little Longer

Hurricane victims still relying on the wobbly benevolence of the Federal Emergency Management Agency for housing received a familiar—although far-from-assured—reprieve Wednesday. This time, however, the stay of eviction was accompanied by an Obama administration strategy to rectify the situation by this summer, according to an article in the New York Times.

The plan would allow those living in eligible FEMA trailers and mobile homes—those that pass safety and formaldehyde inspections—to buy their units for $1 to $5 and would provide $50 million in HUD housing vouchers to residents whose units don’t qualify or who are now in alternate FEMA housing, such as hotels or temporary rentals. Arrangements will be made to reimburse trailer residents who bought their mobile homes for much higher amounts in anticipation of the program’s end.

The administration said federal Recovery Act funds earmarked for homelessness prevention—$26.1 million in Louisiana and Mississippi—should be used to help with security deposits and utility bills, according to a Times-Picayune report.

Thousands of residents had been told they would be on their own after the agency shut down its long-extended housing program May 31. But the agency—which has kept the program running more than two years past its usual 18-month disaster aid period—said it would hold off on evictions while Obama put his plan into play, according to the Washington Post. An estimated 3,400 victims of Hurricane Katrina still depend on government-provided housing, the article stated.

Even while those mired in the situation are heartened by the promise of action, many are still leery of getting their hopes up.

Many have decried the mismanagement of housing vouchers and other funds meant to help those displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Years later, housing stock along the Gulf Coast is still woefully lacking and thousands of previously-approved housing vouchers are undistributed, according to multiple media reports.

In Jackson, Mississippi, $570 million set aside for Hurricane Katrina recovery housing has been diverted to a port project, according to the Sun Herald. It’s easy to understand why, even with the promise of a different administration and renewed efforts, doubters remain.

“It’s been such a long history of FEMA making announcements in the media,” Martha Kegel, the director of Unity of Greater New Orleans told the New York Times, “and nothing much in the way of assistance has ever trickled down….”

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2) Merger Aims to Streamline Security, Improve Local Government Access

President Barak Obama last week merged Homeland Security Council staff with that of the National Security Council; opening the door for what his administration hopes will be swifter and savvier policy decisions on security matters. Two new directorates were formed along with the merger, one of which will emphasize disaster resilience and another that focuses on cybersecurity.

The administration has been mulling the merger since February, when it issued Presidential Security Directive 1 to examine the effectiveness of homeland security and counterterrorism efforts. There has been debate about whether the mission of the Homeland Security Council—created by the Bush Administration after the events of Sept. 11, 2001—overlapped with that of the National Security Council, muddying security policy. Another criticism was that the Homeland Security Council never met one of its primary objectives—giving state and local governments a voice in matters of security.

The merger will quell both concerns by maintaining the Homeland Security Council as the go-to agency for terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, natural disasters and pandemics, enhancing state and local government access to the White House, according to a Washington Post article.

"The idea that somehow counterterrorism is a homeland security issue doesn't make sense when you recognize the fact that terror around the world doesn't recognize borders," National Security Advisor James L. Jones told reporters in a briefing. "There is no right-hand, left-hand anymore. There's a single vector."

Jones will remain in charge of the reorganized National Security Council. John Brennan, Obama’s assistant security advisor who co-chaired the security review with Jones, will serve as a deputy and retain direct presidential access, according to the Post.

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3) Sci-Fi Writers Get Security Officials Thinking

Truth was stranger than fiction at a recent homeland security conference where police commanders looked into computer capabilities à la the Star Trek Enterprise and information officers considered the merits of telepathy. More mythic than the subject matter, though, were the consultants—an elite squad of science fiction writers that proffer their imaginations to security officials “in the national interest,” according to their motto.

It’s not the first time the Sci-Fi set—which operate under the name Sigma—have hobnobbed in high-level government circles, according to an article in the Washington Post. The group, which formed about 15 years ago, has consulted with the Department of Energy, Army, Air Force, NATO and other agencies. Their latest gig at the 2009 Homeland Security Science and Technology Stakeholders Conference was an effort to help security officials think outside the box.

“Fifty years ago, science-fiction writers told us about flying cars and a wireless handheld communicator,” Homeland Security's Science and Technology division spokesman Christopher Kelly told USA Today. “Although flying cars haven't evolved, cell phones today are a way of life. We need to look everywhere for ideas, and science-fiction writers clearly inform the debate.”

The writers also have a healthy dose of sci with their fi—a majority of the 40 or so Sigma members have PhDs in the physical sciences.

"We're well-qualified nuts," Sigma’s Jerry Pournelle told USA Today.

Chatting about improbable scenarios might seem like a pleasantly diverting way to stimulate original thinking, but one might wonder, can anything really come of it? Although the answer could be unknowable, scoffers might want to check out an unrelated—or is it?—Homeland Security Science and Technology news release.

Titled Triage Technology with a Star Trek Twist, the release hails the early prototype of a device that can give first responders vital readings on a patient—pulse, body temperature, and respiration—quickly and from a distance. For those not up on Star Trek minutiae, the machine mirrors the Tricorder used by Doctors Bones and Crusher to determine the ills of Enterprise crewmembers.

Although the new technology, called the Standoff Patient Triage Tool, doesn’t have the subtlety of a Tricorder, developer see great potential for increasing triage evaluation times and accuracy.

Now if they could only perfect that transporter, evacuations would be a breeze.

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4) Chaman Pincha: 2009 Mary Fran Myers Award Winner

The Natural Hazards Center and the Gender and Disaster Network are happy to name Chaman Pincha as the 2009 Mary Fran Myers Award winner. The Mary Fran Myers award recognizes disaster professionals who continue Myers’ goal of promoting research on gender issues in disasters and emergency management.

Pincha’s independent research has played a vital role in integrating gender concerns with disaster management in humanitarian organizations in India. Her belief that research should support policy change and assist communities at risk has led her to use her talents and resources to bring free education to the public.

Pincha, who has a Master of Philosophy in English literature from Madras University and studied political science and economics as an undergraduate, has been able to translate voices from the field into platforms useful to academics, policymakers, practitioners, and the community. She is an active, contributing member of the Gender and Disaster Network community of practice.

For a more detailed description of Pincha’s work, visit the Mary Fran Myers Award winner page at the Natural Hazards Center Web site.

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5) PERISHIP Award Will Further Five Disaster Dissertations

Five PhD students will receive a $10,000 grant to support interdisciplinary dissertation work courtesy of the 2009 PERISHIP Dissertation Fellowship Program in Hazards, Risks, and Disasters. The program assists top scholars in the completion of hazards dissertation work in natural and physical sciences, social and behavioral sciences, and engineering, and in interdisciplinary programs such as environmental studies.

The PERISHIP Fellowship is administered by a partnership between the Natural Hazards Center and the Public Entity Risk Institute (PERI) with funding from Swiss Re and the National Science Foundation.

The 2009 PERISHIP Fellows and their dissertations are:

James Jeffers, Rutgers University, Department of Geography
Confronting Climate Impacts: Local Decision-making, Adaptation and Vulnerability to Climate Change in Ireland’s Coastal Cities

Megan Reid, University of Texas at Austin, Department of Sociology
Shelter and Housing Issues Faced by Hurricane Katrina Evacuees

Bahadir Sahin, University of Central Florida, Department of Public Administration
Factors Influencing Effectiveness of Interorganizational Networks among Crisis Management Organizations: A Comparative Perspective

Kanako Iuchi, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Department of Urban and Regional Planning
Toward a Better Resettlement Planning for Disaster Affected Communities: Comparative Case Study of Two Districts in Chuetsu Region, Niigata, Japan

Andrew Rumbach, Cornell University, Department of City and Regional Planning
Urban Disasters in Developing Cities: A Case Study of Koldata, West Bengal, India

For more information on the fellowship and program winners, visit the PERISHIP Web site.

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

Call for Submissions
Rising Tides Design Competition
The San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission
Deadline: June 29, 2009

The San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission is hosting an international design competition for ideas that address sea level rise in San Francisco Bay and other areas. Designs can address a number of challenges posed by sea level rise, including building new communities to be less susceptible to inundation, retrofitting shoreline infrastructure, protecting communities and wetlands, or anticipating changing shorelines. First prize is $10,000. There is a $75 entry fee. For more information and submission guidelines, visit the Rising Tides Competition Web site.


Call for Nominations
Science Prize for Online Resources in Education
Deadline: June 30, 2009
Science is accepting nominations for the Science Prize for Online Resources in Education (SPORE), which recognizes excellence in online science education resources. To be eligible, projects must focus on science education for students, teachers, or the public; be freely available on the Internet; and be written in English or include an English translation. Winning projects will incorporate National Academies standards for science education, as well as American Association for the Advancement of Science benchmarks for science literacy. For more on those standards or how to nominate an online resource, see the SPORE Web site.


Call for Comments
Coastal Barrier Resources System Digital Mapping Pilot Project
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Deadline: July 6, 2009
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is accepting comments on its congressional report, John H. Chafee Coastal Barrier Resources System Digital Mapping Pilot Project. The report looks at the benefits of updating Coastal Barrier Resources System maps with more accurate and precise digital maps. The report and draft maps are available online. Comments can be mailed or delivered to Coastal Barriers Coordinator, Division of Habitat and Resource Conservation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Room 860A, Arlington, VA 22203 or sent by e-mail.

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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]

You don’t have to be a techno-cartographer to create fun and useful interactive maps. All you need is UMapper software to overlay a variety of information onto a map of your building, your county, or any other location. Create educational games, visualize emergency exit routes, map residents with special needs, or anything else you dream up. Once your map is created, UMapper writes it in universal code so it can be easily embedded on your Web site.


Office of Science and Technology Policy Blog
The Office of Science and Technology Policy is now hosting a blog where members of the science community and the public can learn more about emerging issues and have a more active voice in crafting science policy. The site was inspired by President Barak Obama’s pledge to find new ways of incorporate the expertise of ordinary Americans into government decision making.


Data.Gov is going to be huge—literally a gargantuan collection of what could eventually encompass the majority of all data ever collected by the U.S. government. But for now, it’s 47 data sets arranged to give you a feel for how for how users can download info, analyze data, and even create fun widgets for your Web site. Check it out—you’ll be able to say you knew it when…


Extension Disaster Education Network
The Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) was created to help extension educators provide quality online resources and networking connections on disaster preparedness, recovery, response, and mitigation. Visitors to the site can join EDEN or access information organized by state or category.


Prince William Sound Regional Citizen's Advisory Council
Those interested in efforts to ensure the environmental integrity of Prince William Sound—the site of the tragic 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill—will find a wealth of information about past and present work, as well as resources on the spill and subsequent restoration. Projects include oil spill response and prevention, environmental monitoring, and maritime practices. Community outreach and resources are also available.


Insurance for my Nonprofit
Insurance for my Nonprofit, the latest offering from the Public Entity Risk Institute (PERI), helps nonprofits assess insurance needs and connects organizations with nonprofit insurance providers. Small to medium groups can receive a free, customized assessment of their insurance needs. Additional subscription services are also available.


Emergency Preparedness for Persons with Disabilities and Special Needs
This final workshop report offers recommendations for creating a standards-based approach to assisting those with special needs during emergencies and natural disasters. Suggestions include incorporating the special needs population in training and disaster exercises, making the public understand that even temporary injury or illness can make them a person with special needs, developing standards for emergency evacuation equipment, and more.

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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]

June 12-14, 2009
Crisis Camp
BSA, Corner Alliance, Google
Washington, D.C.
Cost and Registration: $100, closes June 13
This workshop will examine best practices for using social media in public health and crisis response, data aggregation during crisis, lessons learned from disasters such as 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, and other technology-driven crisis issues. The workshop is formatted in a barcamp style, which allows attendees to drive dialogue without a preset agenda.


June 21-24, 2009
2009 National Conference on Community Preparedness
International Association of Emergency Managers and the Department of Homeland Security
Alexandria, Virginia
Cost and Registration: $325 before June 15, open until filled
This conference will help create communities that are safer and better prepared for all hazards. Attendees will share best practices in emergency planning, discuss preparedness outreach and education, discover innovative funding approaches, and get updates on preparedness research.


June 23-25, 2009
Research and Innovation Conference 2009
National Science Foundation Civil Mechanical, and Manufacturing Innovation Division
Honolulu, Hawaii
Cost and Registration: $560, open until filled
This forum for research and education spans civil, mechanical, and industrial engineering; engineering design; and manufacturing. Sessions topics include creating resilient and sustainable infrastructures, Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulations (NEES) in a multi-hazard world, and emerging frontiers in earthquake engineering and multi-hazard experiments.


July 1-3, 2009
Third International Conference on Safety and Security Engineering
Wessex Institute of Technology
Rome, Italy
Cost and Registration: $1,930, open until filled
This conference focuses on recent developments in safety and security engineering theory and practice, with a special emphasis on multifactor risk impacts. Conference topics include crisis management, natural and manmade emergencies and hazards, risk management, and mitigation and protection issues.


July 8-9, 2009
2009 Regional Workshop
Pacific Public Health Training Center and California Centers for Public Health Preparedness
El Dorado Hills, California
Cost and Registration: $118, open until filled
Workshop topics include social determinants of health, GIS and health for improved emergency preparedness and response, and using science to prepare vulnerable populations.


July 9-14, 2009
Participatory Vulnerability and Risk Analysis Training
Development Associates
Jessore, Bangladesh
Cost and Registration: $400, open until filled
This training will analyze vulnerability and risk assessments so that disaster management programs can better develop and understand the relevance of disaster risk reduction. Course offerings include information on the impacts and consequences of disasters, the Hyogo Framework for Action, stakeholder participation, and disaster mitigation case studies.


July 10-13, 2009
Fifth International Symposium on Management, Engineering, and Informatics
International Institute of Informatics and Systemics and others
Orlando, Florida
Cost and Registration: $640, open until filled
This conference allows those in engineering, management, and informatics to share their research and experience and focus on building interdisciplinary relationships. Session topics include risk management, supply chain management, communications, and informatics.


July 13-15, 2009
International Disaster and Risk Conference
Global Risk Forum Davos
Chengdu, China
Cost and Registration: $550, Open until filled
This year’s conference will examine the Wenchuan earthquake as an entry into a larger conversation about capacity building in integrated disaster and risk management and sustainable development.

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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.]

Technical Officer
World Health Organization
Geneva, Switzerland
Salary: $34,760 to $36,849
Closing Date: June 18, 2009
This position manages the World Health Organization (WHO) Measles Aerosol Project. The technical officer will coordinate planning, liaise with WHO teams, and ensure the project adheres to WHO Initiative for Vaccine Research guidelines. A bachelor’s degree in public health, epidemiology, or related methodologies and knowledge of communicable disease epidemiology are required


Post-Doctoral Research Fellow
Dartmouth College Climate Justice Research Project
Hanover, New Hampshire
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position will use current data to examine the emergence of U.S. carbon markets and their potential effects on low-income and marginalized communities. Duties include teaching and fundraising. A PhD in environmental policy, geography, or a related discipline is required.


Disaster Risk Reduction Specialist
Lilongwe, Malawi
Salary: $16,080 living allowance
Closing Date: June 7, 2009
This position will help strengthen the Episcopal Conference of Malawi’s capacity for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. Requirements include a bachelor’s degree in developmental studies, environmental studies, or a related field and at least three years of disaster risk reduction management experience.


Interdisciplinary Administrator (Civil Engineer/Physical Scientist), GS-12
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Atlanta, Georgia
Salary: $70,399 to $91,513
Closing date: June 26, 2009
This position advises senior engineers on a wide range of technical issues related to the Flood Hazard Mitigation Program, reviews coastal and riverine flood hazard studies, and is responsible for communicating coastal and riverine technical issues. A background in civil engineering or physical science equivalent to GS-11 is required.


Geologist IV
Alaska Geological and Geophysical Surveys
Fairbanks, Alaska
Salary: $64,512
Closing Date: June 9, 2009
This position manages an applied climate change hazards research program, conducts geological hazards studies, and manages project teams across Alaska. A bachelor’s degree in geology or a related field and three years of professional geology experience are required.


Training Specialist, GS-13
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Emmitsburg, Maryland
Salary: $86,927 to $113,007
Closing date: June 17, 2009

This position supports the National Fire Academy by implementing and directing fire prevention activities and technical training programs. At least one year of specialized experience in fire protection and building technology equivalent to GS-12 is required.

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

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