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Number 535 • November 5, 2009 | Past Issues













1) Recovery Roundup: New Initiatives Aim to Ramp Up Response, Rebuilding

As the air turns brisk and the leaves begin to change, a young administration’s thoughts turn, apparently, to long-term catastrophic disaster recovery. A flurry of efforts aimed at getting disaster-affected areas back on their feet faster emerged in October, including an opinion-gathering Web site, stakeholder forums, and a new report on transportation systems recovery.

At least some of the activities are in direct response to President Barack Obama’s September charge to the Departments of Homeland Security and Housing and Urban Development to improve disaster recovery efforts nationwide. That initiative, expected to take about six months, involves reviewing past disaster response for lessons learned, finding opportunities for collaboration with state and local government, and gauging the efficiency of existing programs.

The measure, headed by DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano and HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, kicked off in October with a planned two months of information gathering. A Web site, has been created to allow citizens, officials, volunteer organizations, and businesses to weigh in on the future of long-term recovery planning. At the site, interested parties can fill out a 16-question survey and keep tabs on the progress of the working group, which is made up of more than 20 federal departments.

A series of forums, the first of which was held in New Orleans Tuesday, have been planned as a companion to the online survey. Future forums will be held in New York, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, and Memphis and are meant to give those interested in recovery a chance to discuss their ideas face-to-face.

“It is vital to our success that disaster recovery professionals and stakeholders provide their input…” Donovan stated in a press release. “These forums aim to give everyone involved in disaster recovery a voice in shaping how we respond, and then rebuild and revitalize communities in the wake of disaster.”

Perhaps serendipitously, the Department of Transportation also launched a recovery Web site last month, based on its newly released National Transportation Recovery Strategy. Both the site and the report focus on helping communities plan and find funding to restore transportation systems after a disaster. The site features links to research reports, funding sources, and guides for planning and recovery.

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2) It’s Not Nice to Fool Mother Nature: Missteps in Weather Modification

While wacky schemes to control the weather might seem more like comic book fodder than the stuff of headlines, weather modification plots have been making the news a lot lately. Take the case of the uncharacteristic snowfall in Beijing Monday.

The city was blanketed with its earliest snowfall in a decade, closing roads, delaying planes, and hampering shipping, according to one wire report. Residents later learned the winter wonderland may have been courtesy of the Beijing Weather Modification Office, which had coaxed the precipitation from existing cloud cover using silver iodide, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“We won’t miss any opportunity of artificial precipitation since Beijing is suffering from the lingering drought,” Zhang Qiang, head of the modification office, told China’s Xinhua news agency. Zhang estimated the seeding created 16 million metric tons of snow, according to Xinhua.

Although the cloud seeding—a practice whose effectiveness is disputed by many scientists—was lauded as bringing much-needed moisture to the drought stricken city, it may have done so at the cost of other areas in the region, according to the Journal. The effect of weather modification in one location on surrounding locales is an ongoing ethical dilemma of messing with Mother Nature.

A less-than-neighborly plan by the Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov to keep his city snow free presents the flip side of the Beijing problem. Luzhkov’s plan to intercept clouds and make them dump their snow before they reach the city has drawn the ire of those on the receiving end of the “gift,” according to the Moscow Times.

“We’ll need additional money for removing the snow, where will we get it?” Pavel Lykov, who works in the region’s public utilities and transport department, is quoted as saying. “When they prevent clouds in Moscow in the summer, the cucumbers turn yellow. The question is: is it safe?”

Luzhkov, however, remained sanguine about the effects the plan would have on the city’s suburbs.

“What if we force this snow to fall beyond Moscow?” he is quoted as asking. “The Moscow region will have more water, bigger harvests, while we will have less snow.”

But weather control intrigues don’t stop at snow. This summer, Bill Gates filed another in a long line of patents to squash hurricanes, and the National Academies of Science looked at staving off climate change with a cooling layer of sulfur dust. Many scientists agree, however, that weather wrangling is neither an easy fix, nor one that should be taken lightly. Considering our technological capabilities in the context of the potential consequences, one climate researcher indicated fear might be a more appropriate response.

"Frankly, I'm a little ambivalent about all this," Stanford Researcher Ken Caldeira told National Public Radio in June. "I've been pushing very hard for a research program, but it's a little scary to me as it becomes more of a reality that we might be able to toy with our environment, or our whole climate system at a planetary scale."

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3) Latest Quick Response Report Gives a Glimpse of L’Aquila Vulnerability

The Natural Hazards Center is pleased to announce the release of its latest Quick Response Report, Vulnerability of Reinforced Concrete Frame Buildings and their
Occupants in the 2009 L’aquila, Italy Earthquake.

The report, by University of Colorado (CU) Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering researchers Abbie Liel and Kathryn Lynch, is the result of a field study following the April 6 L’Aquila, Italy, earthquake. The authors collected information on more than 450 reinforced concrete structures. By examining that information along with census and other social data, they found 38 percent of L’Aquila residents living in reinforced concrete structures experienced moderate or heavy damage to their homes. The damage led to significant disruption of the community and social fabric, including the closure of government offices, churches, restaurants, and schools.

The fieldwork, funded by the Natural Hazards Center Quick Response Grant Program, will be the basis for a National Science Foundation RAPID research project on progress and priorities in L’Aquila’s recovery and reconstruction. The original research team will work with CU Engineering Professor Ross Corotis, CU Institute of Behavioral Science Research Associate Jeannette Sutton, and University of Chieti-Pescara Professors Guido Camata and Enrico Spacone to study decision making and recovery progress over the next nine months.

The Italian government’s new approach to disaster recovery—and probable resulting changes in decision making and organizations—makes the study particularly compelling. Interviews with reconstruction and building industry leaders, government officials, and community leaders are expected to wrap up in Spring 2010.

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4) Deadline for 2010 Quick Response Proposals is Approaching

Just a reminder that the deadline for submitting proposals for the 2010 Quick Response Grant Program is less than two weeks away. The program provides funds for researchers to quickly travel to disaster-affected areas to capture perishable data.
Researchers interested in applying for these small grants to defray the high cost of travel to disaster areas have until November 15, 2009, to apply. Find more information about the program and application process on the program guidelines page.

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5) Natural Hazards Observer and Research Digest Available Online

The latest editions of two of the Natural Hazards Center’s popular publications—the Natural Hazards Observer and Research Digest—are available online.

Featured articles from the November 2009 Observer include:

—Preventing Human-Caused Disasters
—Evaluating the Australia Fire Report
—FEMA, Fugate, and the Future
—Saving the Earth from Asteroids

Visit the Natural Hazards Center Web site to read the November and past Observers. Research Digest, our quarterly compilation of research abstracts, can also be accessed online.

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

Call for Participation
Environment and Human Migration Expert Opinion Survey
United Nations University, Stockholm Environment Institute, and University of Arizona
Deadline: November 16, 2009
Expert opinions are needed on links between the environment and human migration. Those with expertise or interest in environmentally driven migration are invited to complete a 42-question survey on their level of agreement with statements taken from current literature. The online survey can be completed in about 20 minutes and can be taken anonymously. Questions can be directed to Lezlie Morinière.


Call for Applications
Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grants
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Deadline: December 18, 2009
Applications for SAFER Grants will be accepted beginning November 16. Grants are available to help fire departments and volunteer firefighter organizations hire, recruit, and retain trained firefighters. For more information on the grant and how to apply, visit FEMA’s SAFER Grant Program site.


Call for Papers
Geoinformatics Forum
Salzberg University Centre for Geoinformatics
Deadline: February 1, 2010
Salzberg University is now accepting papers for presentation at the Geoinformatics Forum to be held July 6-9 in Salzberg, Austria. Papers on urban sustainability, monitoring and modeling global change, spatial assessment and analysis of vulnerability, and learning using geoinformation are preferred. For guidelines and online submission, visit the forum 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]

Exposed: Social Vulnerability and Climate Change in the U.S. Southeast
This Oxfam report uses the Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI), recently developed by University of South Carolina’s Susan Cutter and Christopher Emrich, to examine social and climate-change-related vulnerability in a 13-state region in the southeastern United States. The report includes a series of layered data maps and makes recommendations on how policy makers can address disproportionate impacts.  


HMS Mobile Swine Flu Center
Need swine flu information on the go? There are a few apps for that, but only one from Harvard Medical School. The recently released iPhone application offers videos about swine flu spread and prevention, a map that tracks outbreaks, and a feature that lets users check to see if their symptoms match H1N1. An add-on developed with the Harvard Business School helps business owners prepare for company-wide epidemic.


London Science Museum Climate Change Map
In 50 years, 90 could be the new 83—a seven-degree Fahrenheit shift scientists have said would be disastrous. This interactive map, created as part of the museum’s Prove It exhibit, shows the impact such a temperature rise would have on natural hazards, water availability, agriculture, and other environmental systems.


Kids Get A Plan
When it comes to extreme weather, is making sure kids get a plan. This Web site features interactive stories, audio books, coloring pages, and fun screensavers with one goal in mind—making sure children know what to do when they see scary weather on the horizon. With separate entry points for students in kindergarten through fifth grade and those in sixth grade and above, there’s good lessons for all levels of learning.


Pandemic Influenza Disaster Assistance Fact Sheet
Now that H1N1 has been formally declared a disaster, organizations might need help determining how and if they qualify for federal assistance. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has issued these pandemic-flu-specific guidelines, including qualifications for receiving funds and covered costs.

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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]

November 10, 2009
Strengthening Disaster Recovery for the Nation
Federal Emergency Management Agency
New York, New York
Cost and Registration: Not posted
This meeting is one of five forums taking place across the country to help shape the White House Working Group Report on improving the National Disaster Recovery Framework and disaster recovery assistance. Participants will communicate perceptions of disaster recovery, articulate what future recovery assistance should look like, identify best practices, address challenges, and share lessons learned.


November 11-14, 2009
Fifth Congress on Forensic Engineering
American Society of Civil Engineers
Washington, D.C.
Cost and Registration: $650 before November 9, open until filled
This meeting will examine primary causes of structural failure during natural and man-made disasters, as well as poor design, lack of maintenance, and poor construction practices. Session topics include roof failure due to snow load, assessing residential storm damage to roofs, and using the enhanced Fujita Scale for more than tornadoes.


November 14-15, 2009
Basic Animal Emergency Services Training
American Humane Association
Gainesville, Florida
Cost and Registration: $125, open until filled
This workshop will train responders to properly care for and shelter animals after a disaster. Topics include national disaster response and relief, animal first aid, personal preparedness, mock shelter set up and response, and small and large animal handling.


November 18-21, 2009
Climate Change Workshop II
Native Peoples Native Homelands, NASA, and others
Prior Lake, Minnesota
Cost and Registration: Federal employees $200, all others free
This workshop will identify and share strategies for climate change mitigation and adaptation in tribal communities. Session topics include a look at lessons learned in past decades, the state of climate change science, and coping and adaptation strategies.


November 23-27, 2009
East Asian Seas Congress 2009
PEMSEA, United Nations Development Program, and others
Manila, Philippines
Cost and Registration: $300, open until filled
This conference will address coastal and ocean management issues, policies, and technology. Session topics include disaster management, impacts of climate change, and land-sea zoning.


January 17-21, 2009
90th American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting
American Meteorological Society
Atlanta, Georgia
Cost and Registration: $505 before December 1, open until filled
The theme of this year’s meeting, “Weather, Climate, and Society: New Demands on Science and Services,” will address ecosystem adaptation and socioeconomic services affected by climate and weather extremes.


February 9-11, 2010
Cat Modeling 2010: Probabilities and Possibilities
Reinsurance Association of America
Orlando, Florida
Cost and Registration: $1650, open until filled
This conference examines catastrophe models and their impact on risk management. The strengths and weaknesses of modeling concepts, the impact of variability on decision processes, and alternate understandings of the relationship between models and risk management will be examined.

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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.]

Emergency Preparedness and Response Advisor
World Health Organization
Panama City, Panama
Salary: $88,200
Closing Date: November 26, 2009
This position develops disaster management plans emphasizing response and rehabilitation, coordinates health activities following disasters, and provides disaster policy and technical advice. A master’s degree in disaster-prevention-related field and nine years of international experience in public health, social services, community organization, or planning are required. Three years of experience should be directly related to reducing the impacts of disaster on vulnerable populations.


University of Delaware Disaster Research Center
Newark, Delaware
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position manages center operations, seeks external research support, and coordinates the interdisciplinary disaster graduate program. The director also has the option to teach disaster-related courses. A commitment to collaborative work in academia and the community, an interdisciplinary perspective, an exemplary record of disaster scholarship, and administrative and grants management experience are required.


Disaster Management Delegate
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
Suva, Fiji
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: November 12, 2009
This position supports earthquake and tsunami disaster management operations in Samoa, assists in identifying and implementing projects throughout the Pacific, facilitates disaster management training, and provides operational support during response. A bachelor’s degree in disaster management or a related field, five years of international disaster experience, and three years experience with the Red Cross/Red Crescent are required.


Emergency Management Faculty Member
Massachusetts Maritime Academy
Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts
Salary: Commensurate with experience
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position advises students and teaches emergency management and other courses. A master’s degree in emergency management or a related field and field experience are required.


Mitigation Specialist
Raleigh, North Carolina
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position develops Federal Emergency Management Agency mitigation grant applications and trains and assists local governments in mitigation program management. A bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience in emergency management or a related field, two years experience managing federal grants, and experience administering hazard mitigation grant programs are required.


Disaster Reporting Media Consultant
United Nations Development Program
Islamabad, Pakistan
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: November 10, 2009
This position will review existing literature and outline a guidebook on disaster reporting, write the first draft, and identify key experts to review the book. The final draft will be completed in Urdu and accompanied by a three-day training course facilitated by the consultant. A master’s degree in mass communication or journalism 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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