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Number 549 • June 17, 2010 | Past Issues













1) FCC and First Responders Set to Tussle Over Newest Piece of Communication Pie

Contentiousness is in the air today as groups representing emergency responders and the Federal Communications Commission prepare to tell Congress why the other shouldn’t control of a key piece of the wireless broadband spectrum.   

At issue is a new block of the spectrum—often referred to as the D Block—that the FCC is attempting to auction to private communication companies, according to a New York Times article. The FCC is hoping to capitalize on wireless providers looking for bandwidth to support the next generation of mobile technology. Public safety officials, however, were hoping to expand into the D Block—right next door to their existing spectrum space—and create a network dedicated to public safety use.

Although the pressing need to create an interoperable network for emergency response is generally agreed upon, the FCC holds that dedicating the D Block to public safety isn’t necessarily the answer. A white paper issued by the Commission this month states there is already more than enough bandwidth dedicated to public safety for daily operations and the boost given by the block would do little to meet responder needs in worst-case scenarios. The paper goes on to indicate response agencies could make more efficient use of their existing spectrum.

The Commission supports auctioning the D Block—the proceeds of which would go towards the estimated $6.5 billion cost of building the block—and allowing emergency communications to supersede other uses when necessary, according to a Politico article. A bill before the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet today will discuss setting aside funds for a private bidder to eventually build and operate the dedicated network elsewhere on the spectrum.

“This plan is like providing public safety with its own expandable, high speed lane, and it is a cost-effective investment in a national asset,” the article quoted FCC Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau Chief Jamie Barnett as saying. “Merely allocating an additional 10 MHz to public safety would be like building a separate, stand-alone highway system, and one so expensive that it would not even reach every community in America for years.”

Still public safety officials say they need that stand-alone highway to make sure they don’t caught in traffic while trying to respond to emergencies and disasters, according to the Public Safety Alliance, a group formed specifically to address matters related to building a dedicated wireless response network. They contend that responders will face holes in coverage, even when given priority on the network, and that public safety experts need to be in control of their communications.

“It’s got to be a system that is run by public safety,” former FEMA director and Alliance founder R. David Paulison told Politico. “We’re selling our souls and the future of our first responders.”

The push and pull between the two groups might not be the only issue driving the debate, however. There are indications that large telecommunications companies might be trying to throw the match, according Bloomberg Businessweek. By throwing their hats and wallets into the ring with the Public Safety Alliance—whose membership is made up of organizations such as the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the National Sheriffs' Association, the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials, and others—AT&T and Verizon Wireless could be trying to remove the new spectrum from the auction block, leaving smaller competitors at a disadvantage.

“This is all about AT&T and Verizon trying to keep their spectrum advantage,” the magazine quoted Public Knowledge legal director Harold Feld as saying.

While not denying the affinity, Verizon spokesman Jeffrey Nelson pointed out that the groups are naturally allied by a common frustration—communication break down, especially when it’s needed most.

“We’re saying what public safety says,” Nelson said. “This has been a mess for far too long.”

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2) Ecosystems Out of Work? Where's the Fund for That?

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is emphasizing the sometimes veiled link between ecosystems and natural hazards. The ProAct Network has released a briefing paper that argues “healthy ecosystems contribute positively to community and environmental resilience.”

Though not specifically a reaction to the Gulf spill, the paper points out a couple of ecosystem services provided by the environment that are relevant to the cleanup and disaster response. “Wetlands and other ecosystems can be managed to reduce the impact of floods and regulate water flow,” the paper says.

And, “Natural geological systems such as sedimentation and long-shore drift can be harnessed to facilitate the development of barrier islands, providing protection to vulnerable coastal communities.”

While most hazards experts recognize a link between environmental protection and natural disasters, it is not always a direct connection. A degraded environment in Haiti, for instance, has increased the long-term vulnerability of the population, but was not directly responsible for the deaths and injuries from the quake there.

There has been considerable interest in recent years among economists and environmentalists to value the services that ecosystems provide outside of traditional economic valuation—or, as we sometimes say, “for free.” According to these new valuations, wetlands provide the most valuable services. This was made abundantly clear in the Hurricane Katrina disaster. Over the last century, 5,000 square miles of Southern Louisiana wetlands have been lost to development. Research indicates that the loss of these wetlands is directly tied to increased storm impacts.

There are about 105.5 million acres of wetlands in the United States working away “for free” on our behalf. An estimate by the Ecoinformatics Collaboratory at the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont values them at $6,960 per acre per year. This would make all U.S. wetlands worth about $734 billion every year.

Louisiana alone has three million acres of wetlands, making them worth $20.1 billion a year by the Gund estimates. There are an additional 1.2 million acres of wetlands in neighboring Mississippi ($8.1 billion per year). Alabama has an additional two million acres at risk ($13.9 billion annually).

British Petroleum has agreed to set aside $20 billion—one time—for spill claims. If you include the value of ecosystem services, BP’s  set-aside won’t even cover a full year of potential damages to the coastline.

On May 27, President Obama ordered the construction of five barrier islands to protect the Louisiana coast at an anticipated cost of $360 million. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal does not seem impressed.

"It's been almost a week and BP hasn't done anything on that first segment…,” he said in a press conference televised by the Associated Press. “I'd much rather fight this oil on the sand than in our wetlands.”

Not everyone is thrilled with the idea of five new mountains of sand in the Gulf. The Christian Science Monitor quoted Louisiana State University Professor Gregory Stone as saying, “The governor has not been open about sharing details. This is a mammoth engineering project, and it can be done, but it’s being done willy-nilly. It’s foolish to embark on a project of this scale without establishing potential negative impacts on currents, on coastal erosion, on wildlife habitat, on a whole range of environmental issues.”

Earth Economics has released its own report on the value of lost ecosystem services, saying the BP spill threatens a “net value of $330 billion to $1.3 trillion in natural system goods and services.” The group’s valuation included the “free services” of protecting against hurricanes, buffering climate instability, providing water, and several other environmental goods, according to a press release. The Earth Economics report gave lump sum rather than annual values for lost ecosystem services, but however you value it, that's a lot of clams.

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3) DR Takes a Break

As the Natural Hazards Center gears up for its 35th Annual Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop, DR will take a hiatus. Although we hate to make you wait for your next dose of DR, we’ll be too busy making disaster research news to compile it.

Look for DR to return July 22 with an issue devoted to Workshop insights, observations, and happenings. Remember, though, you can always get daily news and Hazards Center updates on our Twitter feed (even if you don’t tweet).

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4) 2010 Mary Fran Myers Scholarship Winners Announced

The Mary Fran Myers Scholarship selection committee chose three recipients to receive the 2009 Scholarship, which recognizes outstanding individuals who share the vision of former Natural Hazards Center Co-Director Mary Fran Myers. Myers, who passed away in 2004, was committed to reducing disaster losses nationally and internationally.

The Mary Fran Myers Scholarship provides financial support to recipients who otherwise would be unable to attend the Annual Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop. This scholarship covers all or part of the costs of transportation, hotel accommodations, meals, and Workshop registration fees.

While all the applicants were outstanding, the committee chose the following individuals to receive scholarships:

Deborah Colburn is the Director of the Animal Emergency Management Program at the Colorado Veterinary Medical Foundation, co-chair of a national best-practice working group on animal preparedness, and a former New Hampshire state representative. She has held leadership positions in for-profit and non-profit organizations and advised a variety of organizations on strategic planning, program management, government affairs, employee relations, and community outreach.

Scott Cotton is a long-time disaster educator with first-hand response experience. He is constantly working toward better disaster preparedness, especially for agricultural and rural communities. With a research and education emphasis on determining the most effective training for and implementation of preparedness, Cotton has taught disaster readiness to over 3,000 people in 100 counties.

Peter Hanink is Director of Programs at the Disaster Accountability Project, a graduate of Brooklyn Law School, and currently attends the Wagner School of Public Service at New York University, where he is working on a Master’s in Public Administration. During law school, Hanink worked with the Legal Aid Society’s Criminal Defense Division, focusing on promoting the rights of indigent defendants. He became acquainted with DAP while serving as co-president of the Brooklyn Law Student Hurricane Network.

Terri Turner is a founding member and outgoing Chair of the Georgia Association of Floodplain Management, the Association of State Floodplain Managers' No Adverse Impact Committee liaison, and Chair of the Central Savannah River Area Planners Group. She has served as the Assistant Zoning and Development Administrator of the Augusta-Richmond County Planning Commission for more than 12 years.

Visit the Mary Fran Myers Scholarship page for full bios and a list of previous winners.

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5) Alliance Fosters Alliance: NHC and NHMA Partner for Mitigation Collaboration

The Natural Hazards Center is pleased to announce a partnership with the Natural Hazard Mitigation Association that will result in a new add-on meeting at our annual Workshop in July. The NHMA Meeting on Forming a National Mitigation Collaborative Alliance will be held July 13-14, following the main Hazards Workshop.

Last year, the National Emergency Management Association released "Recommendations for an Effective National Mitigation Effort," which the NHMA recently endorsed. The NHMA is now calling on practitioners to meet to discuss how to best implement NEMA's recommendations, especially the recommendation to "Form a National Mitigation Collaborative Alliance."

All Natural Hazards Workshop invitees are welcome to participate in the meeting and can register for the NHMA add-on meeting using the main Workshop online registration. A preliminary schedule is available at the meeting page linked above. A continental breakfast and a lunch of sandwiches and deli salads are included in the registration cost.

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

Call for Abstracts
National Flood Workshop           
Weather Research Center
Deadline: June 30, 2010
Abstracts are now being accepted for presentation at the National Flood Workshop in Houston, October 24-26. Poster abstracts are also being accepted. Abstracts of 350 words or less related to workshop topics should be sent by e-mail before the deadline. Visit the workshop Web site for information on preferred topics and submission and presentation guidelines.


Call for Applications
Hazard Mitigation Assistance Grants
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Deadline: December 3, 2010
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is now accepting applications for 2011 Hazard Mitigation Assistance Grants. The Hazard Mitigation Assistance Program helps state and local governments institute long-term mitigation measures as part of the recovery from major disasters. Guidance, application materials, and a list of frequently asked questions are available at the Web site above.

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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]

Seismological Society of America’s Earthquake Debates
You might have missed the 2010 SSA Annual Meeting, but a visit to the group’s Earthquake Debates page is the next best thing to being there—especially since they’ve posted video of three ground-shaking debates … or at least three debates on ground shaking. Experts address both sides of issues such as earthquake recurrence, Richter scaling vs. characteristic distribution, and the value of seismicity simulators. A synopsis of each argument is available.


Texas State University June 2010 Flood Page
The International Flash Flood Laboratory at Texas State University has compiled an archive documenting the June flooding in Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and West Virginia, as well as in France. The archive contains news reports and has been updated daily. Links to other flash flood resources are included.


Gulf Oil Spill Resources from UC Berkeley Law Library
As the legal implications of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico slowly move to the fore, the University of California Berkeley Law Library has compiled a list of resources for judging its present and future impacts. The lengthy list includes key documents, books, articles, and Web sites.


Changing Lives: Red Cross NY Blog
Changing Lives is an engaging blog set up by the American Red Cross in Greater New York to allow people to share their experiences with the organization. From tales of those helped after neighborhood fires, to those of response teams deployed out of state, the Changing Lives blog is a great example of how nonprofits can use social media to demonstrate their reach and relevance.

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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]

August 23-27, 2010
Watershed Management Conference 2010
Environmental and Water Resources Institute
Madison, Wisconsin
Cost and Registration: $650 before July 26, open until filled
This conference will evaluate the design, operation, and regulation of water resource facilities and resource management practices. Approaches for managing water resources in the face of climate change and land use challenges will also be discussed. Conference topics include hydrologic measurements and modeling, adaptive water management, risk-based designs, and the use of regional climate change predictions.


September 1-4, 2010
Twelfth Plinius Conference on Mediterranean Storms
European Geosciences Union
Corfu Island, Greece
Cost and Registration: $382 before July 15, open until filled
This conference will discuss Mediterranean storms and their societal impacts. Conference topics include climate-related changes in storm behavior, advanced storm forecasting techniques, and the socioeconomic implications of hazardous storms.


September 13-17, 2010
Storm Surges Conference 2010
GKSS Research Centre and Land-Ocean Interactions in the Coastal Zone
Hamburg, Germany
Cost and Registration: $503, open until filled
This event will examine storm surge impacts and assess risk levels for and responses to changing conditions. Conference topics include what drives storm surges, storm surge scales, history and intercultural perception, dealing with uncertainty, and building with nature in mind.


September 21-23, 2010
International Conference on Emergency Preparedness
Aston Centre for Research into Safety and Security
Birmingham, United Kingdom
Cost and Registration: $441, open until filled
This conference will examine current research in and best practices for mass evacuations and emergency preparedness. Conference topics include preparing the public for emergencies, shelter management, and emergency preparedness computer models.


October 1-3, 2010
Second International Conference on Crisis Mapping
International Network of Crisis Mappers
Boston, Massachusetts
Cost and Registration: $100 before August 1, open until filled
This conference will examine the 2010 Haiti Earthquake, including the role of crisis mapping and humanitarian technology in response, lessons learned, and technological best practices. Session topics include map sourcing (including natural language processing, mobile phones, and satellite imagery), crisis response and evaluation, and future research and technology.


October 5-7, 2010
Wildland Fire Canada 2010
Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and the Canadian Forest Service
Ontario, Canada
Cost and Registration: $200 before July 31, open until filled
This conference will address best practices, emerging issues, and new research in wildland fire management. Session topics include fuel and fire behavior, fire weather forecasting, building community and public engagement, and understanding risk and uncertainty.

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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.]

Postdoctoral Researcher
Wharton Risk Management and Decision Processes Center
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position will work on National Science Foundation-funded projects related to catastrophic risk, psychological studies of risk perception, adaptation to natural hazards, and the economic management of disasters. Researchers from a range of disciplines, including experimental psychology, economics, geography, and environmental science are encouraged to apply.


Regional Disaster Preparedness Senior Program Manager
City of Portland
Portland, Oregon
Salary: $74,208 to $98,856
Closing Date: June 28, 2010
This position coordinates improvements to the regional all-hazards preparedness program structure and manages financial and grant programs. Advanced knowledge of public administration, budget management, public outreach, and organizational analysis are required.


WASH Emergency Specialist
Multiple Locations
Salary: $30,000 to $40,000
Closing Date: June 27, 2010
This position will coordinate external Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) activities, develop emergency shelter plans, establish a system to monitor program activity, and manage urban preparedness and response strategies. A bachelor’s degree or equivalent professional experience in public health or a related field is required. Experience in urban humanitarian preparedness and response and in coordinating large-scale water sanitation programs is also necessary.


Mitigation Planner
IEM, Inc.
Various U.S. locations
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position helps develop hazard mitigation plans and communicates client emergency management needs during IEM product development. A bachelor’s degree in emergency management or a related field, three years mitigation experience, and special knowledge of mitigation planning are required.


Deputy Director
City of Norfolk Office of Emergency Preparedness and Response
Norfolk, Virginia
Salary: $54,063 to $95,153
Closing Date: June 23, 2010
This position manages the city emergency preparedness program, coordinates the emergency operations center during emergencies, assists in negotiating Federal Emergency Management Agency issues, and administers training programs. A bachelor’s degree in emergency management or a related field and experience in local government preparedness are 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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