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Number 527 • June 18, 2009 | Past Issues













1) Craig Fugate Headlining at the Natural Hazards Workshop

We've got lots of exciting news about the Natural Hazards Workshop, not the least of which is that we've confirmed two great keynote speakers:

Craig Fugate, the new FEMA administrator, will speak on the first morning of the Workshop, Thursday, July 16.

James Lopez, from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, will speak on the morning of July 17.

Our list of confirmed panelists and great sessions is also growing rapidly. Check our main Workshop Schedule for links to sessions such as “The Stafford Act 20 Years Later,” which will explore what changes are needed for our 20-year-old emergency act to come of age, or “Great Southern California ShakeOut,” which will reveal lessons learned from one of the most comprehensive earthquake scenarios ever held.

You’ll also find other useful information—speaker and panelist biographies, poster and workshop abstracts, and a lot more. Registrations are filling fast, so visit the site and register (or request an invitation) before it’s too late. 

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2) Keeping the Home Fires Burning: Fuel Reduction in the Wildland Urban Interface

When it comes to mitigating wildfire damage in the wildland urban interface, federal mitigation efforts aren’t exactly blazing a trail to safety. In fact, only 11 percent of federal fuel reduction measures in the past five years have occurred in the areas where community meets forest, according to a recent University of Colorado press release.

The dearth of mitigation was uncovered in a just released study led by CU researcher Tania Schoennagel. Schoennagel and a team of scientists that included geographers and ecologists examined 44,000 federally-funded wildfire mitigation projects in 11 western states between 2004 and 2008, according to the release.

“We were very surprised by our results,” Schoennagel told the Los Angeles Times. “It's a problem.”

The problem, however, isn’t all federal. According to the research, 70 percent of wildland urban interface land is privately owned, making it difficult and costly to undertake large fuel reduction projects—a dynamic that led researchers to call for a “significant shift in fire policy emphasis from federal to private lands.”

But the disconnect between federal authority and local land use could make it difficult for that shift to materialize, Schoenagel said in an Associated Press story.

“Fire suppression is doing an outstanding job, but there is only so much they can do," she told the AP. "So we are probably going to continue to have more home losses unless we have communities more adapted to fire.”

With a bloom of housing springing up in the interface—68 percent growth since 1990, according to the CU release—the time is right to lay the groundwork for more substantial adaptation requirements. But before that can happen, people will need to develop a more defensive attitude about the risks of building in fire-prone areas. 

“With crime, we lock our doors and we get a security system,” Schoenagel said in the AP article. “With earthquakes, quake-proof construction is required in earthquake zones. We are not allowed to build in 100-year flood plains. But with wildfire, it's different. We don't lock our homes down to fire.”

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3) Audit Finds NIMS Could Have Covered TVA’s Ash

An internal audit released this week found the Tennessee Valley Authority’s response to a massive coal ash spill lacked both emergency prowess and integrity in communicating with the public. The December spill, which resulted from the rupture of a temporary storage area, dumped more than 1 billion gallons of fly and bottom ash over 300 acres in Kingston, Tennessee.

Auditors for the TVA “sharply criticized the agency's 11 coal-fired power plants for failing to adopt Homeland Security's National Incident Management System protocols for emergency communications,” according to an Associated Press article. Ignorance of NIMS caused communications issues between authority officials and emergency responders, delayed distribution of public health information, and prolonged stability assessments for what remained of the storage pond, the article stated.

Three days after the December 22 spill, O'Brien's Response Management was hired to help the TVA comply with federal rules, according to a Chattanooga Times Free Press article. The company cost the TVA “$510,000 to help comply with rules TVA should have known already,” according to the report.

In addition to emergency communication issues, the Inspector General of TVA—which is a federal authority—faulted public communications officials for making false statements to the press, including misstating the size of the spill, the environmental impact, and the health implications.

“In a ‘talking point’ paper prepared for the news media, TVA personnel changed ‘catastrophic’ to ‘sudden accidental release’ and reworked the description of fly ash to call it simply an ‘inert material not harmful to the environment,’ according to the Times Free Press. Fly ash contains toxic metals including arsenic, cadmium, chromium, and lead and can be harmful if touched, inhaled, or ingested, according to a Tennessee Department of Health fact sheet.

In general, TVA agreed with the audit’s assessment—although it disputes misrepresenting the situation to media—and will work to implement its recommendations, according to news reports. Alongside the audit, the authority also released Report to Our Roane County Neighbors, an update on recovery, environmental impact, and health information.

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4) Experimental Hurricane Wind Scale Debuts This Season

NOAA officials are experimenting with the traditional Saffir-Simspon Hurricane scale—used since 1975 to label hurricane impacts—by removing its storm surge ranges and flooding. NOAA hopes removing the surge information could make categories less confusing for the public.

Storm surge information is “scientifically inaccurate,” according to NOAA officials, and values assigned to storm surge within each category of the Saffir-Simpson scale are often incorrect. For example, Hurricane Ike made landfall in 2008 as a Category 2 storm (based on wind speed), yet the storm surge witnessed in Galveston, Texas, was equivalent to that seen in a Category 4 or 5 storm. Many people chose not to evacuate because they were told it was only a Category 2 storm approaching their homes.

The experimental scale, known as the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, maintains the Category 1-5 range, assesses only wind speed, and does not include other potential impacts, such as storm surge, floods, and tornadoes.

More information on the experimental change to the Saffir-Simpson scale is available at the National Hurricane Center Web site. NOAA is accepting e-mail comments on the changes until November 30, 2009.

And those attending the Natural Hazards Workshop won’t want to miss our session titled, “Are We Ready for a Hurricane Impact Index?,”where NOAA’s John Gaynor and Margaret Davidson will join other panelists in discussing how an index could boost safety and warning comprehension of those on the coast.

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5) FEMA Announces Availability of $1.8 Billion in Preparedness Grants

The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced it will distribute $1.8 billion in preparedness grants to help states, urban areas, tribal governments, and non-profit agencies enhance their readiness for disaster.

The grants, to be used for preparedness, prevention, response, and recovery capabilities, are broken into four categories:

— Homeland Security Grant Program ($1.7 billion available)
— State Homeland Security Program Tribal ($1.7 million available)
— Nonprofit Security Grant Program ($15 million available)
— Regional Catastrophic Preparedness Grant Program ($34 million available)

More information on the grants, including application instructions (which will vary by grant program), is available on the FEMA Grant and Assistance Web site.

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6) Disaster Research Takes a Break

As the Natural Hazards Center gears up for its 34th Annual Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop, Disaster Research will take a hiatus. Although we hate to make you wait for your next dose of DR, we’ll be too busy making disaster research news to compile it.

Look for Disaster Research 528 to return July 29 with updates on Workshop happenings and all the same great news items, resources, conferences, and job postings. And if that’s too long to wait, remember you can get daily news and Hazards Center updates on our Twitter feed (even if you don’t Twitter).

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7) New Issue of Research Digest Now Online

The latest issue of Research Digest, our quarterly publication that compiles recent hazards and disaster research in an easily-accessible format, is now available online. Research Digest includes complete references to and abstracts of current research in 24 different topic areas.

Most articles are cataloged as part of the Natural Hazards Center Library holdings, so check with your local institution for article availability or our library will copy (subject to copyright restrictions) difficult to obtain material for the cost of reproduction and shipping.

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

Call for Applications
Assistance to Firefighters Fire Station Construction Grants
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Deadline: July 10, 2009
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is offering Fire Station Construction Grants (SCG) that will allow fire departments to build or modify fire stations to improve response capability. This grant program is a result of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. A total of $210 million is available. For more information, visit the SCG overview.


Call for Comments
Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Final Technical Report
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Deadline: July 24, 2009
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has released the final technical report of the congressionally mandated examination of protection and restoration options along the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts. The report contains plans for hurricane risk reduction and coastal restoration following the devastating 2005 hurricane season. Five areas on were assessed, and the report presents flood control, coastal restoration, and hurricane protection measures specific to each area. The report is available on the USACE Web site, where comments are also accepted.


Call for Papers
Communication and Crisis
Special Issue of the Journal of the Northwest Communication Association
Deadline: September 15, 2009
The editors of this special edition are requesting papers relating to communication in a crisis. Submissions related to communication in all phases of the disaster lifecycle are welcome; submissions on preparedness, response, messages, sociology of disaster, underserved populations, and media coverage are encouraged. E-mail Patric R. Spence of Western Michigan University for more information.


Call for Authors and Review Editors
Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Deadline: July 10, 2009
This report will require the contributions of experts who can integrate findings from experts in climate change science; vulnerability, impacts, and adaptation to extreme events; and disaster risk management. Authors and editors should have extensive expertise in disasters and climate change and generally will be recognized in their field of expertise. More information, including on how to nominate someone to serve as an author or editor, is available on the IPCC Web site.

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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]

Global Warming Art
Enough with the polar bears! Now there are choices for those looking to illustrate their climate change-related reports, Web sites, or blogs. Global Warming Art has collected a wide variety of free-use photos, graphics, and other maps to help those communicating important climate change issues. Galleries include sea level rise maps, past temperatures, projected change, and a variety of other images.


StormSmart Coasts
Although still in the building phases, the StormSmart Coasts Web site is worth a look. The site will eventually be a hub of information on coastal hazards such as flooding, storms, sea level rise, and climate change. Each state will have a network of customized resources—including categories such as Before the Storm, After the Storm, and Funding—as well as links to local and national forums. Massachusetts and Mississippi are now live.


Wildfire Map Mashup
This interactive wildfire map, created by Geo-Spatial Training Services, allows users to view information about live wildfires in North America, visualize historic data on the 2007 San Diego Witch Fire, view years worth of California heat maps and more. Links provide easy access to data feeds that supply map information.


The Blog@Homeland Security
Homeland Security is latest department to join the ranks of buttoned-up government blogs. Promising to give an “inside-out view of what we do every day,” the blog is a collection of press release-like posts and DHS-in-the-news updates. Aside from a useful daily listing of public events and some funny posts by belligerent visitors, there’s not much here that you couldn’t find on their press page.


U.S. Global Change Research Program
The U.S. Global Change Research Program Web site has a wealth of integrated climate change information from a number of U.S. agencies—all in a slick package that provides context and easy access (check out their climate information by region or sector). While you’re visiting, you can also get access to the full-text of the USGCRP’s just-released report on climate change in the United States and other publications.


National Weather Service’s Lightning Safety
Lightning Safety Awareness Week is June 21-27, so check out the bevy of safety tips at the National Weather Service site. There’s printable brochures, survivor stories, a lightning IQ quiz, teaching tools, photos, and lots more to help spread the word about how to avoid lightning strikes.

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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]

July 13-17, 2009
International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium
Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society
Cape Town, South Africa
Cost and Registration: $930, open until filled
This conference will address geoscience and remote sensing issues related to disaster preparedness and response, global climate change, good governance, and the role of remote sensing in health and disease monitoring.


July 19-23, 2009
Coastal Zone 2009
NOAA, FEMA, Massachusetts Partnership, and others
Boston, Massachusetts
Cost and Registration: $475, open until filled
This conference explores changing coastal landscapes and provides information on coastal and ocean resource management. Three central tracks will be presented: coastal communities adapting to changing conditions, conservation in the face of change, and planning for the changing uses of the ocean and Great Lakes.


August 9-12, 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 is aimed at those seeking to create safer, stronger, and better-prepared communities, regardless of the hazards faced. Attendees will share best practices in collaborative emergency planning, discuss preparedness outreach and education, discover innovative funding approaches, and receive updates on preparedness research.


August 10-12, 2009
Third Annual HAZUS Conference: Connecting the Pieces for Mitigation
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Raleigh, North Carolina
Cost and Registration: See Web site for details
This conference will outline effective approaches for making decisions using HAZUS. Session topics include HAZUS in risk identification and communication, applying HAZUS to estimations and mitigation planning, and HAZUS and man-made hazards.


September 7-11, 2009
11th Plinius Conference on Mediterranean Storms
University of Barcelona
Barcelona, Spain
Cost and Registration: $445 before July 20, open until filled
This conference provides an interdisciplinary forum to improve the understanding of hazardous storms in the Mediterranean. Session topics include the nature and physical processes of extreme events, possible changes in storm behavior resulting from anticipated changes in climate, advanced techniques to track and predict storms, and relationships between atmospheric and surface processes.


September 8-11, 2009
Investing in Floodplains for Future Generations
Floodplain Management Association
San Jose, California
Cost and Registration: $465 before August 31, open until filled
This conference addresses critical issues in floodplain management including new floodplain infrastructure, leveraging local, state, and federal resources, floodplain mapping tools, and improving relationships with community based organizations.

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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.]

Research Fellowships
Social Science Research Council

New York, New York
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: Not posted
A SSRC research fellow conducts research, writes, and assists in organizing projects in SSRC priority areas that include emergencies, disaster response, social factors of environmental change, migration, and others. A PhD in social science or a related field, research experience, and interest in interdisciplinary collaboration are required.


Emergency Coordinator
World Health Organization (WHO)

Gaza, Palestine
Salary: $63,048 to $67,704
Closing Date: June 19, 2009
This position contributes to work plans for the WHO’s emergency response, supports response operations, and provides technical assistance to area health. Position requirements include a degree in medicine, public health, or a related field and an ability to foster integrated teamwork.


Adviser on Enterprise Risk Manager
United Nations Population Fund

New York, New York
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: July 10, 2009
This position develops and executes an enterprise risk management corporate model and supports daily implementation of corporate risk management strategy under UN Population Fund guidelines. Position requirements include a graduate degree in business or a related field and 10 years experience, including five years in enterprise risk management.


Emergency Preparedness Marketing Manager
SRA International, Inc.

Arlington, Virginia
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position supports project managers with federal sector marketing leads by tracking leads, supporting proposal efforts, and responding to requests for marketing support. A bachelor’s degree and knowledge of Department of Homeland Security and Defense organization are required.


Public Health Emergency Preparedness Medical Director
Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH)

Chicago, Illinois
Salary: $148,283
Closing Date: June 22, 2009
This position provides medical direction and policy development for the CDPH Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) Program, directs all medical planning for the PHEP, and acts as a liaison to the organization. Applicant must be a medical doctor and have two years experience creating public health administration policies and procedures.


Emergency Management Coordinator
Fairfax County Office of Emergency Management

Fairfax, Virginia
Salary: $87,719 to $146,198
Closing Date: July 3, 2009
This position manages the Fairfax County All Hazards Emergency Management Program, overseeing programs, organizational changes, and partnership building with internal and external agencies. A bachelor’s degree in emergency management or related field and seven years experience, including two years of management in emergency services, are 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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