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Number 538 • January 20, 2010 | Past Issues













Like many in the hazards community, we at the Natural Hazards Center have been scurrying to provide information to the public, assist news media, and get researchers into the field in the wake of last week’s 7.0 Haitian earthquake. We’ll resume our regular publication schedule with DR 539 on January 28.

1) Don’t Look Away: Haitian Catastrophe Could Be a Chance to See the Dimensions of Resilience

It’s no overstatement to say that all eyes have been on Haiti since the nation was rocked by a shallow, 7.0 magnitude earthquake on January 12. The nature of those gazes, however, has varied distinctly.

In the beginning, there were the furtive, train-wreck glances of social media and the frustratingly slow, only slightly more in-depth views from breaking news reports. Now, even while the delivery of aid is spotty, some look ahead to the coming days of immediate recovery and others look to past events that exacerbated the losses in what was already a devastating disaster.

And more than likely, the world will soon look away.

It wouldn’t, after all, be the first time. Haiti has been battered by disaster—natural, political, social, and economic—for centuries. In the last decade, especially, we’ve had good reason to focus on the beleaguered nation, but somehow couldn’t maintain eye contact, as former Clinton politico David Rothkopf pointed out in a post on the National Public Radio Web site Wednesday. 

“We have watched repeatedly as hurricanes have battered Haiti and left it staggered because just a few hundred miles away from the richest country on earth was one so deprived that it was ill-equipped even for the predictable weather that came with so many autumns,” he wrote. “We knew all this and yet with every failure to act or to follow through on a good intention, we assured yesterday's outcomes.”

More good intentions will undoubtedly rise from the rubble of the Haitian quake; the question is how can they be manifested into a resilient nation once the media spotlight winks out.

“We are all very aware of the ‘CNN effect’ in disasters,” said Natural Hazards Center Director Kathleen Tierney.  “While the cameras are there to highlight the plight of disaster victims, the whole world is watching.  

“But what happens when the media leave and the drama of lives being saved transitions into the gritty business of providing for the daily survival needs of hundreds of thousands of victims?  Aid workers and agencies converge to provide assistance to disaster-stricken communities, but what happens when they leave and move on to the next disaster? What will it take to meet the challenges of recovery in a devastated nation?”

While much of the discussion is shortsighted, some have begun to speculate on those questions—and perhaps even provide a glimmer of the answers.

“First we must care for the injured, take care of the dead, and sustain those who are homeless, jobless and hungry,” Bill Clinton, former president and the United Nation’s special envoy for Haiti, wrote in the Washington Post last week. “As we clear the rubble, we will create better tomorrows by building Haiti back better: with stronger buildings, better schools and health care; with more manufacturing and less deforestation; with more sustainable agriculture and clean energy.”

But promises to build back better aren’t enough, writes GeoHazards International Founder Brian Tucker in a Guardian editorial. Locals need to be trained to construct buildings that are resistant to disaster, they need to be educated on disaster preparedness, and laws and infrastructure must be put in place to assure disaster mitigation.

“I would call for agencies soliciting funds for the response to and recovery from the Haitian earthquake to commit 10 percent of the amount that they collect to mitigating future earthquakes…” he writes. “Why 10 percent? Because the rule of thumb is that each dollar invested in preventing natural disasters saves 10 dollars in future damage.”

While those overarching efforts are certainly necessary, others see a bottom-up approach as potentially more valuable when brick meets mortar. A recent New York Times article highlighted the need for smaller, localized efforts to get the most staying power out of paradigm shifts.

“You can’t just sweep in from outside and drop something in and say, ‘This is exactly what you need,’ ” Laura Sampath, manager of the International Development Initiative at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is quoted as saying. “It has to be almost driven from the community.”

Whatever the outlook for Haiti in the months and years ahead, the most important challenge for pragmatists and visionaries alike will be not to look away from the destruction. Haiti, so often overlooked, will deserve more than a second glance and  the type of scrutiny that’s been denied to it thus far.

“Good intentions and a pregnant moment were overtaken by events ... and in a way, that's when [the] tragedy began,” Rothkopf wrote. “With every dollar withheld, with every program withdrawn, with every aid worker shifted to a different front in a more politically pressing development initiative, somebody's death was foretold.”

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2) 2010 Quick Response Research Grantees Announced

The Natural Hazards Center is pleased to announce Quick Response Research grantees for the 2010 program year. The Center received many outstanding proposals, and 21 were chosen to receive possible funding to conduct quick response research based on our weighted evaluation criteria. For a full list of approved proposals and authors, visit our 2010 Program Grantees page.

The Quick Response Research Program provides funds for researchers to quickly travel to disaster-affected areas to capture perishable data. The program promotes innovation in disaster research by favoring students, new researchers, and novel areas of study. Learn more on the program Web page.

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3) Students, Get More Than Satisfaction From Your Research Paper

You’ve written the paper, now receive the reward! Your research paper could net $100 and free entry into this summer’s Natural Hazards Workshop if chosen as one of the two winners of our Fifth Annual Hazards and Disasters Student Paper Competition. The deadline for submission is April 15.

Papers may present current research, literature reviews, theoretical arguments, or case studies on social or behavioral aspects of hazards or disasters.

The competition is open to students enrolled in graduate or undergraduate classes for at least one term of the 2009-2010 academic year. For more information and application instructions, visit the competition page on the Natural Hazards Center Web site.

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4) Natural Hazards Observer Now Online

The latest edition of the Natural Hazards Observer is now available online. Featured articles from the January 2010 Observer include:

— Should Nations Force Aid on Others?
— Casualties from Terrorist Nuclear Device May Be Overestimated
— Thar's Gold in Them Thar Swamps
— Green Disaster Housing

Visit the Natural Hazards Center Web site to read the January and past Observers.

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

Call for Entries
Tell Us Your Story Essay Contest
Deadline: March 8, 2010
Rescue vehicle manufacturer E-One is offering fire departments a chance to win a Tradition ES commercial pumper by submitting a 500-word essay about why their department should win a new pumper. Each station/firehouse is allowed one entry. Winners will be selected through an online vote held from April 23-27. Full guidelines and pumper specifications are available online.


Call for Papers
Returning to Katrina Research Summit
University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast
Deadline: March 15, 2010
The Center for Policy and Resilience at the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast is accepting abstracts of post-Katrina research to be presented at the Returning to Katrina Research Summit to be held June 4-5 in Long Beach, Mississippi. Abstracts should be between 250 and 500 words and cover community resilience issues. Research from any academic discipline is welcome. Submission information is available online.


Call for Nominations
Senator Paul S. Sarbanes Fire Service Safety Leadership Award
National Fallen Firefighters Foundation and Congressional Fire Service Institute
Deadline: March 26, 2010
The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation and Congressional Fire Service Institute are accepting nominations for the Senator Paul S. Sarbanes Fire Service Safety Leadership Award recognizing organizations that improve firefighter health and safety. Eligibility information and nomination instructions are available online.

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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]

Ushahidi Haiti
Created to chart political unrest in Kenya, Ushahidi collects crisis information sent from cell phones, e-mails, or other web-based technologies, aggregates it, and maps it. This page, customized for the 2010 Haitian Earthquake, has been a work in progress since the early hours of the event.


Crisis Commons Haiti Earthquake Wiki
Crisis Commons, an international project that provides technological tools for disaster response and mitigation, has been holding Crisis Camps—crisis-specific brainstorming/production sessions—across the nation. This wiki shows what’s come of the camps so far and is a wealth of links to further resources.


Haiti Supersite
This supersite—which aggregates geological hazards information from NASA, Group on Earth Observations, and the NSF—is now hot off the presses for Haiti, featuring fresh Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery, as well as seismological, topographical, and GPS data. Those interested in studying the January 12 earthquake from an earth science perspective will find everything from the earth’s surface deformation to resource links.


A Guide to Nongovernmental Organizations for the Military
This guide, subtitled A Primer for the Military About Private, Voluntary, and Nongovernmental Organizations Operating in Humanitarian Emergencies Globally, is an update of a 2002 publication aimed at helping military organizations understand the capacities and limitations of humanitarian organizations so that crisis aid can be better coordinated.


Surviving the Tsunami
This site combines firsthand accounts the 2004 Indian Ocean survivors with damage maps and a multimedia play-by-play of the event, for a complete look at crippling tsunami that killed more than 225,000 people. A comprehensive list of resources and early warning advancements finishes the site, which is a collaboration between Thomson Reuters and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.   

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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]

February 2-4, 2010
Basic Technical Seminar on Soil Mechanics for Dam Safety
Association of State Dam Safety Officials and FEMA
New Orleans, Louisiana
Cost and Registration: $600, open until filled
This seminar covers the principles, concepts, and analysis of embankment dam soil mechanics. Dam safety issues, case histories, and the analysis of real issues will be emphasized.


February 5, 2010
16th Annual Earthquakes Mean Business Seminar
Gateway Citizens Corps Coalition, St. Louis University
St. Louis, Missouri
Cost and Registration: Free, open until filled
This seminar will communicate earthquake hazards and risk in the central United States from a geological, engineering, and emergency management viewpoint. Ways to better prepare for earthquakes will also be discussed.


February 9-10, 2010
Technical Seminar on Emergency Action Planning
Association of State Dam Safety Officials and Natural Resources Conservation Service
Atlanta, Georgia
Cost and Registration: $250 before January 25, open until filled
This seminar provides dam safety planners with skills to develop and improve emergency action plans. Seminar topics include basic elements of action plan preparation, implementation, and review.


February 21-27, 2010
Fourth International Conference on Community-Based Adaptation
World Bank
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Cost and Registration: $1,622, open until filled
This conference will share the latest developments in African community-based adaptation planning and practice. Experience and knowledge that help those vulnerable to climate change will be highlighted.


March 8-10, 2010
Fifth International Conference on Pedestrian and Evacuation Dynamics
National Institute of Standards and Technology
Gaithersburg, Maryland
Cost and Registration: $650, open until filled
This conference will address the changing dynamics of pedestrianism and evacuation. Changes in pedestrian activity, development, and human behavior mean policy makers, designers, and emergency managers must be better prepared to respond to emergency events. Topics will include vertical egress systems, behavioral theory, and engineering guidance.


March 29 to April 2, 2010
2010 National Hurricane Conference
National Hurricane Conference
Orlando, Florida
Cost and Registration: $300 before February 26, open until filled
This conference is a forum where national officials can exchange ideas and recommend policies to improve emergency management. Hurricane preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation will also be covered.


April 6-7, 2010
Partners in Emergency Preparedness Conference
Washington State University
Tacoma, Washington
Cost and Registration: $250 before February 12, 2010, Closed April 2, 2010
This conference boosts emergency preparedness efforts through outreach. Topics include earthquake research, contingency planning, school safety, public health preparedness, homeland security, and public information.


April 17-20, 2010
Fourth Forum on Domestic Disaster Ministry
Church World Service Emergency Response Program
New Windsor, Maryland
Cost and Registration: $650, open until filled
This forum examines ways in which religious communities respond to disasters in the midst of economic and social change. New research approaches and disaster preparedness case studies will be discussed.

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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.]

Seismic Risk Analyst
WeatherPredict Consulting Inc.
Raleigh, North Carolina
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position reviews seismic risk models for consistency with property exposure science for the financial sector, develops analytical tools, and prepares reports on seismic risk and events. A master’s degree in geophysical or engineering science, three years of related industry experience, and solid computational and statistical skills are required.


Postgraduate Scientist
University Center for Atmospheric Research
Boulder, Colorado
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: February 7, 2010
This position integrates social and atmospheric science research, with an emphasis on the socioeconomic impacts of weather, as well as weather forcast communication, interpretation, use, and value. A PhD in a social science or interdisciplinary field, qualitative or quantitative research expertise, and interdisciplinary data collection methods and analysis skills are required.


Flood Plain Manager
Jefferson Parish
Jefferson County, Louisiana
Salary: $37,885
Closing Date: January 22, 2010
This position coordinates National Flood Insurance Program activities, updates the Federal Emergency Management Agency repetitive loss database, maintains flood insurance rate maps, and oversees special hazard maps. Knowledge of FEMA flood mitigation regulations, the National Flood Insurance Program, and the Community Rating System are required, along with a bachelor’s degree or two years of FEMA flood mitigation and National Flood Insurance Program experience.


Regional Planner
Virginia Department of Emergency Management
Fairfax County, Virginia
Salary: $62,738 to $83,651
Closing Date: January 22, 2010
This position develops and maintains local emergency operations plans and coordinates disaster planning with local and state agencies. Knowledge of government roles in emergency response, an understanding of emergency services, and the ability to direct planning, safety, and field operations activities are required.


Urban Climate Risk Management Specialist
Asian Disaster Preparedness Center
Bangkok, Thailand
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: January 22, 2010
This position analyzes observational data for historical and current climate variability patterns, makes climate change projections, develops adaptation strategies, and examines socioeconomic risks in urban areas. A master’s degree in climatology, urban climate risk management, or a related field and ten years experience in climate risk analysis and field implementation are required.


Mitigation Planner
Multiple locations
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position assists clients in developing hazard mitigation plans, ensures plans are consistent with Federal Emergency Management Agency and state guidelines, and represents emergency management and homeland security needs on IEM projects. A bachelor’s degree in emergency management or a related field, three years experience related to mitigation, and knowledge of regulatory programs are required.

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