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Number 533 • October 8, 2009 | Past Issues













1) Seasonal or Swine? The Latest Vaccination Quandary

As if there wasn’t already enough resistance to public health officials’ entreaties to vaccinate against the H1N1 virus, an unreleased Canadian study has now cast doubt on whether it’s safe to get the seasonal flu vaccine .

The study indicated taking seasonal vaccine could double the likelihood of contracting H1N1, leading all but one Canadian province to curtail seasonal flu vaccinations. However, the rest of the world has been skeptical of the results, which researchers in Britain, the United States, and Australia have not been able to reproduce.

“Most people are still looking at this as some sort of undetected confounding in the data, that for some reason is giving the results that are there,” David Wood of the World Health Organization told CBC News Friday.

The Canadian authors combined other studies for a total sample size of around 12 million people that included a total of about 2,000 confirmed H1N1 cases from British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec, according to reports in the Wall Street Journal and Toronto Globe and Mail. They found those who had gotten seasonal flu vaccine last year were about twice as likely to contract H1N1. Although an independent panel and WHO experts found no methodological errors in the study, the lack of replication in other countries means planned side-by-side vaccinations are likely to continue outside Canada.

“WHO is not issuing any general warning about seasonal-flu vaccine,” spokeswoman Aphaluck Bhatiasevi told the Wall Street Journal after WHO reviewed the findings last week.

Adding to the study’s controversy is a cloak of secrecy surrounding the report, which is under peer review by an unnamed journal. The publication process has kept the study’s researchers, Danuta Skowronski of the British Columbia Center for Disease Control and Gaston De Serres of Laval University, from commenting openly, although they were part of the WHO review, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The study was initially met with doubt in Canada, but the credibility of the researchers caused cautious provincial health officials to delay seasonal flu vaccination for people under 65, according to the Toronto Globe and Mail.

Because H1N1 is likely to be this winter’s predominant flu strain and because seasonal flu vaccine can be given once H1N1 vaccinations are complete, there wasn’t a lot of reason to take chances, British Columbia Health Officer Perry Kendall told the Wall Street Journal.

“[It] wasn't something we felt we could ignore,” he said. “Why would you want to run the risk of doubling peoples' risk of getting H1N1?”

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2) Station Fire Legacy: Looming Landslides and Official Inquiries

There’s been a lot of ash sifting, both literal and figurative, in the wake of California’s Station Fire. Along with information about how the fire and firefighting methods affected humans and animals, two more serious issues have emerged—the specter of landslides almost certain to come and the U.S. Forest Service’s possible role in leaving large swathes of land prone to such danger.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates a greater than 80 percent chance of debris flows in five regions burned by the Station Fire, according to an emergency assessment released Tuesday. The assessment is based on models of how 678 drainage basins in the burned area would react to a three- and a 12-hour rainstorm this winter.

Not only are mudslides likely , they could also be extremely large—up to 100,000 cubic yards—or enough cover a football field with mud and rock to about 60 feet deep—in each region, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times.

“Some of the areas burned by the Station Fire show the highest likelihood for big debris flows that I’ve ever seen,” USGS geologist and assessment author Susan Cannon told the Times.

The Station Fire, which raged in the Angeles National Forest during late August and early September, blackened nearly 250 square miles before it was contained. Now, federal officials are looking into accusations that the U.S. Forest Service might have let the fire grow out of control while trying to save on costs, according to another Los Angeles Times article.

The internal inquiry was sparked by residents’ complaints after a Times story indicating that Forest Service officials toned down firefighting efforts in the first days of the Station Fire. That, coupled with a Forest Service memo calling for limiting overtime and the use of contractors (i.e., state and local firefighters) , was interpreted as neglect, according to the article.

Both Angeles Forest Fire Chief David Conklin and Los Angeles County fire officials—who have been criticized for withholding equipment requested by the Forest Service—have defended their actions, saying the nature of the fire, not budget concerns, affected their decisions.

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3) Think Quick: Quick Response Grant Proposals Now Being Accepted

The Natural Hazards Center will accept proposals for the 2010 Quick Response Grant Program until November 15, 2009 . 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 guidelines page. And please feel free to post or distribute a printable version of our program flyer .

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4) Flurry of Far-Flung Disasters Thwart Aid Agencies

Last week’s barrage of disasters in Southeast Asia and Samoa have proven especially difficult for aid workers, who are striving to provide manpower, materials, and funds to a throng of struggling nations.

The host of disasters began September 26, when Typhoon Ketsana struck the Philippines, causing widespread flooding and landslides. On September 29, underwater earthquakes sent a series of tsunamis crashing into Samoa and Tonga, followed the next day by a 7.6 earthquake in Sumatra, which killed more than 1,000 people. Aftershocks continued to rock the area, new tsunami alerts have terrorized Tonga, and two other typhoons—Melor and Parma—have wreaked lesser but still substantial havoc from the Philippines to Japan.

Added to the sheer need for aid, there are access issues. American Samoa, while receiving the full benefit of disaster relief from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is 4,500 miles from the West Coast and 2,300 miles from Hawaii, according to a Washington Post article.

“This will not be a short-term response based on reports of damage,” FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said in a press briefing on October 1. “Our focus is on life safety, life sustainment and getting resources in there to support the governor and his team.”

While miles separate Samoa from its disaster resources, in Indonesia much shorter but equally frustratingly gaps left by crumbled roads and broken bridges kept aid away—including much-needed earth moving equipment that could have freed survivors. As of Tuesday, human rescuers were sent home and heavy machines were limited to knocking down unstable buildings and extracting bodies from the rubble, according to an article in the New York Times.

The double whammy of distance coupled with a barrage of disasters has made responding to countries in need more difficult than ever.

“It's very hard to make decisions and commitments about your level of response without really knowing the level of the need,” Chris Webster of World Vision told AlertNet.

“When you've got multiple disasters and unclear information it's very difficult. We would love to over-respond rather than under-respond but we have finite resources so that information is vital.”

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5) Natural Hazards Center Says Goodbye to Longtime Researcher

The Natural Hazards Center will soon bid a fond farewell to Research Associate Jeannette Sutton. Sutton has spent nearly a decade at the Center, beginning her career as a graduate research assistant in 2000. After completing her sociology PhD in 2004, she continued as a member of the Center’s professional research staff. Sutton’s PhD dissertation examined therapeutic religion in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attack. Her recent work has focused on the use of social media in disaster, an area she will continue to explore as an independent researcher and blogger. Good luck, Jeannette

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

Call for Presenters
34th Annual Conference: Building Blocks of Floodplain Management
Association of State Floodplain Managers
Deadline: October 31, 2009
The Association of State Floodplain Managers is seeking a broad range of professionals to serve as concurrent session presenters at its annual conference in Oklahoma City, May 16-21 . Presentations will address reducing flood damage and risk, making communities more sustainable, and managing floodplains and natural resources. Proposals can be submitted online at the Conference Web site.


Call for Abstracts
Human Dimensions of Wildland Fire Conference
International Association of Wildland Fire
Deadline: December 1, 2009
The International Association of Wildland Fire is accepting abstracts for its Second Human Dimensions of Wildland Fire Conference to be held in San Antonio, Texas, April 26-29. The conference will explore the social aspects of fire management, including attitudes about protection and mitigation programs, fire communication and education, social and economic impacts of fire and fire suppression, and public response during fire. More information on conference topics and submissions can be found at the IAWF Web site.

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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]

1906 San Francisco Earthquake Aftermath Footage
This original video will transport viewers back to 1906 and the havoc wreaked by the San Francisco Earthquake and subsequent fires. The 23-minute film features 360-degree pans, dazed crowds milling through the damage, and the amazing swathe of destruction caused by the 7.8-magnitude quake.


Disaster Preparedness Central
Because disasters don’t discriminate, the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities has compiled nearly 100 useful emergency resources for those with special needs . The well-organized listings are searchable by disability, hazard, resource format, and audience.


Ready Boston Family Preparedness Planner
Regardless of where you live, the Ready Boston Family Preparedness Planner makes it easy to create a personal preparedness plan for everyone from kids to pets. The interactive planner lets you fill in information for each family member, set neighborhood and out-of-town meeting places, and offers suggestions for your family preparedness kit. When complete, print a copy for each family member and rest easy.


Tsunamis: Know What to Do!
Do tsunamis make you crabby? Then join this class of colorful crustaceans as they learn what causes tsunamis, how waves form, and what to do if one comes their way—and sum it all up with a song. Created for children by the San Diego County Office of Emergency Services, this five-minute film could teach adults a thing or two about the giant waves and how we watch for them.

Avalanches, with their remote locations and relatively low death tolls, could easily be seen as the forgotten hazard., though, won’t let that happen. With a wealth of information such as where to find avalanche centers, online avalanche education, accident reports, and professional resources, this polished Web site will keep snow flow front and center.


2009 Annual Report on 9/11 Health
The events of September 11, 2001, still conjure up many heart-wrenching memories, but for many rescue and recovery workers, there are also physical reminders . This annual report analyzed 48 peer-reviewed studies conducted in response the 2007 report, Addressing the Health Impacts of 9/11. Findings include the existence of chronic physical and mental illness, including asthma and post-traumatic stress.

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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]

October 19-23, 2009
2009 Virginia Hazardous Materials Conference
Virginia Association of Hazardous Materials Response Specialists and the
Virginia Department of Emergency Management
Hampton, Virginia
Cost and Registration: $165 until October 18, open until filled
This conference will address hazardous materials planning and preparedness, teamwork and training issues, and the latest technology. Workshops and tabletop exercises will provide practical information on incident command systems, railroad incidents, and response to ethanol, propane, and other hazmat spills.


November 4-6, 2009
Second Indian Disaster Management Congress
National Institute of Disaster Management
Vigyan Bhavan, New Delhi
Cost and Registration: $20, open until filled
This conference covers different aspects of disaster risk management. Session topics include social and economic issues, disaster response, emergency health management, and geological, hydrometeorological, and man-made disasters.


December 5-6, 2009
International Conference on Corporate Social Responsibility and Industrial Disasters
National Law Institute and the National Institute of Disaster Management
Bhopal, India
Cost and Registration: $300, open until filled
This conference examines issues of corporate social responsibility and industrial disasters. Session topics will include law and the Bhopal disaster, disaster management policy and legislation, human rights, and the impact of industrial disasters on human health.


December 7-10, 2009
2009 Annual Meeting
National Institute of Building Sciences
Washington, D.C.
Cost and Registration: $495 until October 31, open until filled
This conference addresses new ideas for improving the built environment through sustainable practices, smart buildings, and high-performance building design. Session topics include disaster resilience in sustainable design.


December 9-11, 2009
Conference on Improving the Seismic Performance of Existing Buildings and Other Structures
Applied Technology Council and the Structural Engineering Institute
San Francisco, California
Cost and Registration: $745 until November 15, open until filled
This conference presents new information on seismic evaluation and rehabilitation of existing buildings. Case studies, new discoveries, innovative technologies, and new materials will be highlighted.


December 14-18, 2009
American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting
American Geophysical Union
San Francisco, California
Cost and Registration: $410 until November 12
This meeting examines the latest issues in earth, planetary, and space science. A special session on desertification will provide an understanding of the role of human-ecological systems in desertification, dryland research, and achieving sustainable management.

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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.]

Lead Hazards Mitigation Community Planner, GS-12
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Urbandale, Iowa
Salary: $67,613 to $87,893
Closing Date: October 12, 2009
This position manages the Local Jurisdiction Multi-Hazard Mitigation Planning Program, reviews local mitigation plans, and provides technical assistance and training to state and local governments developing mitigation plans. One year of experience at GS-11 or above is required.


Post-Doctoral Researcher
University of South Carolina Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute
Columbia, South Carolina
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: October 30, 2009
This position assists with ongoing research and development examining disaster recovery along the Mississippi coast, advances vulnerability science, and examines community resilience indicators. A social science PhD and a working knowledge of GIS, statistics, and qualitative methods as applied to hazards and disasters are required.


Sub-regional Emergency Coordinator
United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization
Johannesburg, South Africa
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: October 16, 2009
This position promotes the Food and Agriculture Organization’s emergency and rehabilitation program, provides interagency coordination, supports forums and working groups on disaster risk management, organizes Emergency and Rehabilitation Coordination Unit training, and provides technical assistance to emergency projects. A master’s degree in agriculture, food, and nutrition safety or a related field, ten years experience in the humanitarian and agricultural/ rural development sectors, and working knowledge of English, French, or Spanish are required.


Crisis Management Planner
Security Management Resources, Inc.
Los Angeles, California
Salary: Not Posted
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position develops facility programs that ensure the safety of employees and visitors, surveys emergency hazards and preparedness programs, trains emergency response and life safety coordinators, and facilitates after-action evaluations of emergencies and exercises. Emergency manager certification or demonstrated experience and knowledge are required.


Emergency Preparedness Manager
City of Bellevue
Bellevue, Washington
Salary: $78,108 to $107,772
Closing Date: October 12, 2009
This position manages the City of Bellevue’s emergency preparedness efforts, oversees the fire department’s emergency preparedness division, ensures that the all-hazards emergency management program requirements for development, maintenance, and testing are met, and directs community emergency preparedness activities. A bachelor’s degree in public administration or a related field and five years experience in emergency management and community outreach, including supervisory experience, are required.


Disaster Risk Reduction Consultant, School Documentation Project
Action Aid
Home Based, with travel to assigned countries
Salary: Not Posted
Closing Date: October 12, 2009
The person in this position will write a report consolidating disaster risk reduction information from and analyzing project impacts in seven countries participating in the Disaster Risk Reduction Through Schools Project.

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