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Number 539 • January 28, 2010 | Past Issues













1) Village Project Will Offer Short Term Shelter, Long-Term Living

In Port-au-Prince and elsewhere in Haiti, thousands displaced by the January 12 earthquake are living in crowded tent cities with little more than blankets between them and the sky. Miles away in New Orleans, there are people that know just how they feel.

“While we can’t imagine the epic scale of devastation and death, we’ve learned some painful lessons in our own struggle to recover from the floods that followed Katrina,” Louisiana Justice Institute Co-director Jacques Morial was quoted as saying in an Institute blog post. “And it’s our spiritual responsibility and moral obligation to offer the benefit of our experience, understanding and capacity to help the Haitian people in any way they find useful and appropriate.”

The Justice Institute is one of nearly 40 organizations that have come together to form the Haiti Emergency Village Project. The project aims at using the long-term disaster recovery expertise gained from Hurricane Katrina to help rebuild homes, water, power, telecommunications, and other infrastructure in several Haitian communities.

The first step in the long-term process will begin in a few days when project workers will arrive in Cayes-Jacmel, about 25 miles south of Port-au-Prince. From there, they will deploy to nearby communities to begin distributing sturdy house-like tents, assess local needs, and clear rubble to make way for rebuilding.

Dr. Liesel Ritchie, the Natural Hazards Center’s assistant director for research, will be among the project members rolling up their sleeves for recovery efforts, but she’ll be wearing a research hat, as well. Ritchie will examine how project members come together with community members, but also what the community used to be like before the quake.

“If we can understand what it used to be like, then we can better facilitate recovery,” Ritchie said. “What’s unique about this project is that it’s looking to the long-term from the beginning.”

Although the project focus initially will be on providing temporary shelter and infrastructure, the groundwork is being laid for continued partnerships that will overcome the tendency for temporary shelters to become permanent after the organizations that provided them walk away.

“There’s the possibility that this project could advance these local groups to far beyond where they were in the first place, “ Ritchie said. “Sometimes what we think of as temporary is as good or better than what they had before.”

The project will aim for community-driven rebuilding that respects local customs, culture, and political systems and also takes into account engineering to keep residents safe from earthquakes, hurricanes, and other possible hazards.

For more information on how to support the project financially, visit project partner Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation. Those who wish to support this and other Natural Hazards Center research in Haiti should contact Office Manager Diane Smith.

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2) Bioterrorism Fail? Commission Says World Still at Risk

Government agencies aren’t making the grade when it comes to protecting the country from threats of bioterrorism, according to a congressional commission report released this week. The report—which issued grades in categories such as biological risk, nuclear risk, preparedness, and government reform—also admonished Congress for poor oversight of national security and failing to provide security education and training.

"Nearly a decade after September 11, 2001, one year after our original report, and one month after the Christmas Day bombing attempt, the United States is failing to address several urgent threats, especially bioterrorism," Bob Graham, former senator and commission chairman, stated in a press release.

The nine-member Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism was established to assess the effectiveness of efforts to stanch terrorism. A 2008 report, World at Risk, offered strategies and recommendations to reach that goal. This year’s report looked at the progress made in implementing those recommendations.

Although many of the grades were good, the failures can be seen as troubling—especially concerning bioterrorism, a threat that the 2008 report determined was preeminent yet lagging in preparedness initiatives.

"H1N1 came with months of warning," CNN quoted the most recent report as stating. "But even with time to prepare, the epidemic peaked before most Americans had access to vaccine. A bioattack will come with no such warning."

Congress’s ability to address security and intelligence issues was also seen as a problem, with the machinery clogged by excessive bureaucracy.

“We are also enormously frustrated about the failure of Congress to reform homeland security oversight,” stated commission member and former Sen. Jim Talent.  “The Department can’t do its job if it is responding to more than 80 congressional committees and sub-committees.  This fragmentation guarantees that much of what Congress does is duplicative and disjointed.”

High grades were given for strategies that advance bioforensic capabilities, review of a program to secure dangerous pathogens, and the integration of the National Security and Homeland Security Councils.

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3) National Hurricane Center Gives a Half-day Jump on Notification

Hurricane and tropical storm warnings and watches will be coming—slightly earlier—to a coastline near you. The National Hurricane Center will begin issuing the alerts about 12 hours before it previously did thanks to advances in forecasting, according to a statement by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"It's really just the result of the accumulated improvements over time — the track forecasts have been getting better incrementally year after year," Chief Hurricane Specialist James Franklin told the Associated Press. "And there's been enough of an improvement now that we can feel comfortable increasing it."

NOAA has said the changes, which will go into effect May 15, will give emergency officials and residents more time to prepare for storms or evacuate. But at least one emergency manager doesn’t think the 12-hour lead will make much difference.

"The watches and warnings, they're great for public perception, but for emergency managers they're not terribly important for decision-making because we're on top of it already," Clayton Scott, chief hurricane planner for Savannah and surrounding Chatham County on the Georgia coast, told the AP.

Early alerts aren’t the only tricks NOAA has up its sleeve. Last year, the administration began experimenting with new ways to communicate hurricane intensity. An experimental version of the traditional Saffir-Simpson scale, known as the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, would assess only wind speed, avoiding the underestimation of storm surge factors. For more information on the experimental scale, visit the National Hurricane Center Web site.

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4) Got Weekend Plans? PERISHIP Dissertation Fellowship Applications Due Monday

PhD students that haven’t yet submitted their 2010 PERISHIP applications, should clear their slate this weekend. The deadline to apply for the Dissertation Fellowship Program in Hazards, Risks, and Disasters is Monday, February 1, at 5 p.m. EST.

PhD students will receive up to $10,000 to support interdisciplinary dissertation work courtesy of the program, which assists top scholars in completing 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. For more information on the program and application guidelines, visit the PERISHIP Web site.

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

Call for Abstracts
Dam Safety 2010
Association of State Dam Safety Officials
Deadline: February 15, 2010
Abstracts are now being accepted for paper presentations at Dam Safety 2010, which will be held September 19-23 in Seattle. Papers can cover a variety of dam issues including failure, emergency preparedness, levee safety, and much more. Abstracts should not be longer than 350 words. More information and a submission form are available online.


Call for Applications
Graduate Assistantship for Hurricane-Related Research
Louisiana State University
Deadline: February 22, 2010
The Donald W. Clayton Graduate Program in Engineering Science is now accepting applications for research assistantships. Assistantships are available to students pursuing hurricane-related research, including hurricane modeling, building and community resilience, remote sensing assessments, and more. Assistantships come with a renewable $18,000 stipend and tuition waiver. Visit the program Web site more information and an application packet.

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6) 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]

We Have We Need
We Have We Need takes the simple concept of matching relief organizations in need with those that have resources and wraps it in an easy-to-use Web site. Created by a group of self-described “geeky do-gooders,” the beta version of the site is devoted to the 2010 Haiti Earthquake relief efforts.


Disaster and Society Blog
Inspired by the recent earthquake in Haiti and media coverage of the event, North Carolina State University’s Thomas Birkland has created a blog that addresses the social, political, and policy aspects of disaster. With nearly 20 years of experience to draw on and a plan to include guest authors, Birkland’s newly minted Disaster and Society is could soon be a favorite on hazard blog rolls.


Tweak the Tweet
Although Twitter has proven useful in disasters and emergencies, large-scale events can quickly turn those innocuous tweets into a senseless cacophony. The Tweak the Tweet project uses formulized hashtags to restructure tweets so computers can make sense of the noise. With Haiti aid requests and welfare inquiries still filling up the Twitterverse, now is a great time to learn more about the project and even try your own hand at tweet tweaking.


Resilient American Communities: Progress in Practice and Policy
This conference summary report gives a synopsis of the December 10, 2009 meeting organized by the Center for Biosecurity, START, and the Natural Hazards Center. Attendees discussed the indications of field experience in improving community resilience and ways the federal government could help. Speaker bios, videos, and background readings also are included on the site.


School District Collaboration and Emergency Planning:  A New Dataset
This recently released dataset assesses disaster preparedness and collaborative practices for educational institutions. The data, compiled by Texas A&M University researchers, was gathered from a 2007 survey of Texas school districts that included questions related to emergency preparedness, coordination, and disaster experiences.

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7) 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]

April 26-29, 2010
Second Human Dimensions of Wildland Fire Conference
International Association of Wildland Fire
San Antonio, Texas
Cost and Registration: $385, open until filled
This conference will focus on the social elements of wildland fire management, such as effectively communicating with public and land and fire officials, identifying knowledge gaps, and encouraging innovation in the field. Topics include firefighter safety, homeowner fire protection and mitigation, and public response during fires.


May 2-5, 2010
Seventh International Conference on Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management
International Community on Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management
Seattle, Washington
Cost and Registration: $650 before March 21, open until filled
This conference will provide a multidisciplinary forum to define crisis management, with an emphasis on how rapidly changing socio-technical environments affect crisis response. Conference tracks will include social networking, geo-information support, humanitarian challenges, and others.


May 3-7, 2010
Fifth Global Conference on Oceans, Coasts, and Islands
United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization
Paris, France
Cost and Registration: Not posted, open until filled
This conference addresses the ability of coastal and island communities to respond to climate change through the use of adaptation, mitigation, financing, and technology. Innovative private-sector solutions and improving governance will be discussed.


May 25-29, 2010
BALWOIS 2010: Water Observation and Information System for Decision Support
Balkan Institute for Water and Environment, the Macedonian Association of Meteorology, and others
Ohrid, Republic of Macedonia
Cost and Registration: $368 before April 15, open until filled
This conference provides a solution-based examination of climate and environment in relations to floods, droughts, environmental degradation, and risk. The meeting will emphasize improving the quantity and quality of water, water engineering, and state and federal policies.


May 30 to June 3, 2010
International Disaster and Risk Conference
Global Risk Forum
Davos, Switzerland
Cost and Registration: $751 before March 31, open until filled
This conference examines risk management from many perspectives to create safer, more resilient, and sustainable societies. Topics include risk reduction and disaster management, environment, resources, climate change, and more. A series of conference-related trainings, workshops, and special sessions determined by participants will be offered.


June 7-11, 2010
Third U.S. Geological Survey Modeling Conference
United States Geological Survey
Denver, Colorado
Cost and Registration: Free, open until filled
Participants will gain understanding of the analytical and theoretical models that support resources and protect property. Themes include climate change, natural hazards, risk, and resilience assessment programs.

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8) 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.]

Principal Planner
Richmond Regional Planning District Commission
Richmond, Virginia
Salary: $55,000
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position coordinates emergency management planning projects under the Urban Areas Security Initiative. A master’s of degree in planning or related field, three years of planning experience, supervisory experience, and understanding of local emergency operations and government planning are required.


Disaster Risk Reduction Specialist
International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development
Kathmandu, Nepal
Salary: Commensurate with experience
Closing Date: February 5, 2010
This position oversees disaster risk reduction projects, develops regional disaster risk reduction agendas, maintains dialogue with regional stakeholders, and performs disaster risk reduction research. A post-graduate degree in disaster risk reduction or natural resource management, five years disaster risk reduction experience, research and publication experience, and a strong management background are required.


Head of Disaster Management
British Red Cross
London, United Kingdom
Salary: $80,920
Closing Date: January 31, 2010
This position develops capacity for relief and recovery programs, leads international relief and recovery operation response, and represents the British Red Cross in building stakeholder relationships. A degree in humanitarian assistance, development studies, or a relevant field; qualifications in international disaster management; and experience in disaster assessment, planning, and response to natural disasters are required.


Emergency Management Program Manager
King County
Renton, Washington
Salary: $70,761 to $89,710
Closing Date: February 5, 2010
This position manages readiness activities associated with mass care and sheltering, serves as a lead point of contact during emergency activations, is primary project manager for regional mitigation planning, and leads various emergency management committees. Three years management and operational readiness activity experience are required.


Emergency Management Director
Brunswick County
Shallotte, North Carolina
Salary: $64,623 to $103,397
Closing Date: February 5, 2010
This position oversees the county emergency management, medical services, and communications departments, serves as emergency operations center manager during disasters, and provides expertise in emergency preparedness, disaster recovery, emergency medical services, hazardous material response, fire prevention, and other public safety areas. A bachelor’s degree in emergency management or a related field and five years of emergency supervisory experience are required.


Operations Manager
Mercy Corps
Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: March 19, 2010
This position provides logistical support for Mercy Corps programs in Haiti, manages field office operations, and provides training to program staff. A bachelor’s degree in international studies or related field, three years experience in managing administrative or operational support, and a demonstrated understanding of complex emergencies, related security concerns, and appropriate response are required.

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