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Number 540 • February 11, 2010 | Past Issues













1) Sichuan Quake Activist’s Questions Are Answered with Jail Time

When it comes to the earthquake-collapsed schools in Sichuan, it seems as if asking for answers is asking for trouble. China sentenced Tan Zuoren, an activist who called attention to poorly constructed schools, to five years in prison Tuesday, according to news reports.

Tan was ostensibly charged with subversion for comments he made 2007, but Amnesty International’s Rosann Rife told the Christian Science Monitor the sentence was “a warning to others” not to get too involved in government issues. Although Tan’s lawyer, Pu Zhiqiang, tried to cite his activism as a possible reason for the charges, all mention was removed from the verdict “because they are afraid of referring to it,” he told the Guardian.

“Tan’s earthquake work was not mentioned in the verdict because of concern he would have too much public support on this issue,” Rife is quoted as saying in the Christian Science Monitor article. “The message is that civil society can participate, if at all, only under the government’s guidance and with its permission.”

Although an official count has never been released, thousands of school children are thought to have died when shoddily built schools collapsed during the Sichuan earthquake last May. Many protested openly, claiming the lack of safety was the result of corrupt officials and lackadaisical building practices. In some places, such as Dujiangyan, schools completely collapsed while surrounding buildings were unharmed.

Demonstrations by grieving parents were continually quashed by police, especially as China prepared for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, according to multiple news reports (New York Times, National Public Radio, The Guardian, among others). In some cases, parents were offered the equivalent of nearly $9,000 if they agreed not to speak about the condition of the schools.

Since then, activists such as Tan have been jailed and their supporters detained and beaten, according to multiple reports. Another man who investigated the school construction, Huang Qi, was sentenced in November to three years for possessing state secrets, according to a related Guardian article.

Both Tan and Huang are well known for their activism in environmental issues and have spoken out in opposition to the government response to the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. Still, supporters feel it was their recent work with the school collapse that has led to their imprisonment.

“Tan Zuoren received such a serious punishment only for believing or writing in his [online] diaries that there were problems with the earthquake,” activist and supporter Ai Weiwei told the Guardian. “It is ridiculous. Though China claims to the world that it is a major country, the case just shows how fragile and lacking in confidence it is."

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2) The DHS Quadrennial Review: Looking Local to See the Big Picture

After several months of collecting feedback, the Department of Homeland Security delivered its first quadrennial review to Congress last week. The 108-page Quadrennial Homeland Security Review Report: A Strategic Framework for a Secure Homeland represents the department’s goals for the next four years, as well as ideas for partnering with other agencies and organizations to keep the country “safe, secure, and resilient against terrorism and other hazards.”

Not surprisingly, DHS identified terrorism, border security, immigration, cybersecurity, and disaster resilience as focus areas, with a series of related goals outlined in each category. The department’s next step will be to align its current practices with the missions set out in the report and budget accordingly.

While the report is far-reaching and largely business-as-usual, there are some areas that point to an interest in local capacity building, according to a brief overview by Center for Strategic and International Studies Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Program Director Rick “Ozzie” Nelson.

“The first is the emphasis on enhancing ‘community resilience,’ or the ability of cities, towns, and neighborhoods to respond to terrorist attacks, natural disasters, and other perturbations,” he writes. “The rationale behind this initiative makes sense: local officials—like fire and police—along with citizens are the inevitable first responders in the event of a catastrophe; therefore, they should be appropriately equipped to administer relief. DHS envisions its role as enhancing the capacity of these first responders to act in major crises.”

This, along with a renewed commitment to the troubled fusion center concept (fully staffed operations centers that collect and analyze information from law enforcement, public safety officials, and private entities), is an indication that DHS is “marshaling America’s collective capacities for domestic security,” Nelson wrote. “But the most effective assets ultimately will be well-resourced local officials and well-educated citizens.”

According to DHS, more than 20,000 people participated in the series of three dialogues held before the review. Archives of these comment periods, held from July to October 2009, are available on the Quadrennial Review Web site.

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3) Apply Now for the Mary Fran Myers Scholarship

The Mary Fran Myers Scholarship Committee is now accepting applications for 2010 scholarship awards. Scholarship recipients will receive financial support allowing them to attend the 2010 Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop in Broomfield, Colorado, July 10-13. Scholarships can cover part or all of transportation, meals, and Workshop registration costs.

The Mary Fran Myers Scholarship is awarded annually to at least one potential Workshop participant. Recipients are recognized at the Workshop and may be asked to serve as panelists, where they can highlight their research or practical experiences with hazards and disasters.

As the longtime co-director of the Natural Hazards Center, Myers recognized that many of the people and organizations that could benefit from and contribute to the workshop—including local practitioners, students, and international professionals—were among those least likely to afford it. The scholarship was established in 2003 to fulfill Myers’ request that qualified and talented individuals receive support to attend.

Hazards practitioners, students, and researchers with a strong commitment to disaster management and mitigation and who reside in North America or the Caribbean are eligible to enter. Applicants do not need to be citizens of these areas to qualify. Applicants from other world regions will be eligible for the scholarship in 2011.

Previous attendees of the Natural Hazards Workshop are not eligible for the 2010 Mary Fran Myers Scholarship. Preference is given to those who can demonstrate financial need.

For more information on past scholarship winners and how to apply, visit the Mary Fran Myers Scholarship page at the Natural Hazards Center Web site. Applications must be received by March 29.

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4) Nominations Now Open for Mary Fran Myers Award

Nominations are now being accepted for the 2010 Mary Fran Myers Award. The award recognizes disaster professionals who continue Myers’ goal of promoting research on gender issues in disasters and emergency management.

Individuals eligible for the award will have added to the body of knowledge on gender and disasters or furthered opportunities for women to succeed in the field. The selection committee is especially interested in soliciting nominations from outside the United States. Previously nominated individuals who have not won the Mary Fran Myers award are still eligible.

The award winner will be invited to participate the Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop in Broomfield, Colorado on July 10-13 and will be acknowledged in the Workshop program. Workshop fees will be covered. Travel to and accommodations at the Workshop are the winner's responsibility.

To make a nomination, submit the following:

  • Your full name, mailing and e-mail addresses, telephone and fax numbers, and those of the nominee
  • The nominee’s current resume or curriculum vitae
  • A nomination letter detailing specifically how the nominee’s work fits the award criteria described above
  • An optional one-page letter of support from another person or organization

Nominations should be submitted to by April 16, 2010.

Questions can be directed to Elaine Enarson at or to Kristinne Sanz. For more information, visit the award page on the Natural Hazards Center Web Site.

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5) Library Comes to Life While Research Digest Rests

After decades of housing our unique collection of hazards and disasters resources the old fashioned way, the Natural Hazards Center Library is turning a page. In order to provide users with greater access to content, our non-lending library has begun the lengthy process of upgrading its technology and offerings.

Although this is a positive change, we’re sorry to announce it will temporarily affect our ability to publish Research Digest, our quarterly compilation of the latest disaster research abstracts. Previous issues will still be available on the Natural Hazards Center Web site. Look for Research Digest to return with a new look and even more online accessibility in early 2011.

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

Call for Responses
National Institutes of Health Research Priority Survey
NIH Basic Behavioral and Social Science Opportunity Network
Deadline: February 19, 2010
The National Institutes of Health Basic Behavioral and Social Science Opportunity Network is looking for feedback on what priorities in basic behavioral and social sciences research are needed to increase the nation’s health and well-being. Respondents are asked to identify what they see as the most critical, health-related challenges and offer research goals that will lead to solutions. The network is especially interested in addressing public health challenges. More information on the network and how to respond is available online.


Call for Comments
Draft National Disaster Recovery Framework
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Deadline: February 26, 2010
The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Long-Term Disaster Recovery Working Group will accept comments on the recently released National Disaster Recovery Framework Draft. The draft, which aims to provide a model for governments to better coordinate recovery and rebuilding after disasters, was created based on the input from federal and state agencies, nonprofits, and local stakeholders. Read the draft, submit comments, and learn more about the working group on the group’s 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]

NOAA Climate Services
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced this week that it would reorganize its existing resources related to climate into a new Climate Services division. Along with that change, it unveiled its Climate Services Web portal, which provides resources for education, climate data, and access to NOAA’s ClimateWatch Magazine.


Earthquake widgets and Web sites are great for keeping up with quakes, but why stop there. SeisMac let’s you use your Mac’s sudden motion sensor to collect and graph seismic waves. Created with the support of the National Science Foundation and Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology, SeisMac is available for free download.


Ready or Not?
Public health and emergency preparedness in the United States are suffering from chronic underfunding, according to Ready or Not? Protecting the Public's Health from Diseases, Disasters, and Bioterrorism.  The seventh annual report by Trust for America’s Health found that, while investments in pandemic preparedness paid off in increasing H1N1 awareness, many states didn’t have the resources to deal with an actual outbreak. The full report, which ranks emergency preparedness capacity by state, is available online.


R4Resilience Blog
In between political meanderings, R4Resilience consultant Mark Chubb offers some thoughtful views of applied resilience. With an emphasis on multiple perspectives and the bigger picture, recent posts on Haitian recovery efforts are especially interesting.  

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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]

March 24-26, 2010
International Drought Symposium
University of California
Riverside, California
Cost and Registration: $125 before March 1, open until filled
This symposium will look at drought impact and mitigation through physical, economic, and institutional lenses and encourage an out-of-the-box approach addressing issues. Experts from Spain, Australia, South Africa, Mexico, and California will share drought science and policy. Topics include economics, hydrology, ecology, and water management.


March 26-28, 2010
Disaster Response Challenge
British Red Cross
London, England
Cost and Registration: $79, open until filled
This two-day hypothetical disaster will provide firsthand knowledge of the issues and decisions experienced by Red Cross units when responding to a major incident. Each team will act as independent emergency response unit and develop their own disaster response plan as the scenario unfolds in real time. Specific modules dealing with logistics, communications, first aid evacuation, and security will be included.


March 31, 2010
Third Annual Pacific Preparedness Conference
Pacific Emprints
Honolulu, Hawaii
Cost and Registration: $100 before March 8, open until filled
This conference will address at-risk populations, offer sessions to improve community preparedness and response, and create vulnerability mitigation strategies. Session topics include emergency preparedness for special needs children, cultural considerations in disaster recovery, social media and disasters, and mapping vulnerable populations using geospatial technology.


April 9, 2010
After the Cameras Have Gone: Rebuilding Sustainable Communities in Haiti
The Center for Rebuilding Sustainable Communities after Disasters
Boston, Massachusetts
Cost and Registration: Free, open until filled
This workshop will look at what’s needed to rebuild sustainable communities in Haiti in the wake of the January 12 earthquake. Participants will be expected to brainstorm on long-term reconstruction strategies, policies, and programs related to building, reconstruction funds, planning and development, earthquake-resistant design, and best practices.


May 2-7, 2010
European Geosciences Union General Assembly
European Geosciences Union
Vienna, Austria
Cost and Registration: $602 before March 31, open until filled
This event examines current issues and research from earth, planetary, and space sciences. Hazard-related sessions include hydrometeorology, the societal impacts of natural hazards, and the influences of climate change on wildfire.


May 16-21, 2010
ASFPM 34th Annual Conference
Association of State Floodplain Managers
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Cost and Registration: $575 before April 4, open until filled
This conference discusses techniques, programs, and resources to reduce flood risk and improve mitigation and watershed management. Topics include FEMA digital flood mapping products, floodplain management, adapting to climate change, mapping and engineering standards, coastal concerns, and building public support for floodplain management.


May 27-29, 2010
First International Conference on Sustainable Built Environment
Islamic University of Indonesia
Jogjakarta, Indonesia
Cost and Registration: $250, open until filled
This conference will examine research and applications for preventing and mitigating disasters through planning. Conference objectives include sharing built-environment knowledge and experience, understanding prevention and post-disaster rehabilitation theories, and developing tools and methods that promote responsible approaches to risk reduction and rehabilitation policy.

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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 Management Coordinator
Kenai Peninsula Borough
Soldotna, Alaska
Salary: $69,494 to $93,817
Closing Date:  March 1, 2010
This position operates disaster management programs and serves as a liaison to the mayor, emergency services boards, the Emergency Planning Committee, and the 9-1-1 Advisory Committee.  A bachelor’s degree in emergency management or emergency manager certification and five years of experience are required.


Emergency Management Technical Specialist
Kenai Peninsula Borough
Soldotna, Alaska
Salary:  $60,580 to $81,782
Closing Date:  Open Until Filled
This position performs a variety of duties related to the design, implementation, and maintenance of borough emergency management technologies.  A bachelor’s degree and four years relative experience are required.


Recovery Program Coordinator
Canadian Red Cross
Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position coordinates recovery support with the Haiti Red Cross, the Canadian Red Cross, and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). Duties include establishing partnerships in post-disaster recovery; helping plan, implement, and monitor relief and recovery programs; and assessing recovery needs for inclusion in strategic plans. A post-graduate degree in a related field, previous IFRC experience, and seven years experience in post disaster-recovery programs are required.


Program Specialist (Disaster Risk Management)
United Nations Development Program
Kathmandu, Nepal
Salary: Not Posted
Closing Date: February 17, 2010
This position supervises disaster and climate risk reduction programming and advises stakeholders in substantive disaster management policy and risk reduction initiatives. Duties include analyzing risk management issues and identifying effective reduction opportunities. A master’s in disaster management or a related field and seven years experience in disaster management or vulnerability reduction are required. At least three years in program management and coordination are also necessary.


National Incident Management System Compliance Officer
Department of Fire-Rescue and Emergency Management
Loudoun County, Virginia
Salary: $42,650 to $58,643
Closing Date: February 19, 2010
This position represents the county office of emergency management on all committees and workgroups in the Capitol region, collaborates on compliance strategies and initiatives, and manages the local NIMS compliance committee. A bachelor’s degree in emergency management or a related field and two years experience in emergency preparedness, training and exercise, or response are required.


Emergency Preparedness Specialist, GS-12/13
Department of Agriculture
Riverdale, Maryland
Salary: $74,872 to $115,742
Closing Date: February 22, 2010
This position establishes policies for Animal Plant Health Inspection Services emergency operations centers, develops annual department goals, activates emergency operation centers, and allocates space to incident commanders during multiple emergency situations. One year of experience at GS-11 or above is required.

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