University of Colorado at Boulder CU-Boulder Home CU-Boulder Search CU-Boulder A to Z Campus Map

Number 550 • July 22, 2010 | Past Issues













1) We Interrupt This Regularly Scheduled Hiatus for “DR—the Workshop Edition”

When we last left the Natural Hazards Center's motley crew, they were in the throes of pulling off one of their biggest capers yet—the 35th Annual Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop. With that mission accomplished, we’re coming out of hiatus to give you the scoop.

This special issue of DR will be focused on all things Workshop, showcasing some of the ideas and resources that rose from the three-day gathering of researchers, practitioners, government officials, and nonprofit organizers.

Although we couldn’t wait to bring you Workshop news, we still have some antics up our sleeves before we return to our regular publication schedule. We’ll back with our regular fare of hazards news, resources, conferences, and jobs on August 12.

Back to Top

2) Talk, Talk: Communication Never Stops Being Key

Put 400 big thinkers in one room and there’s bound to be talk. Gabbing and nattering, to be sure, but also dialogue, parleys, and powwows. Definitely some hearty discourse and discussion. Probably even a little bombast and braggadocio. So what’s with the reticence beyond those walls?

Every year at the Natural Hazards Workshop, one issue arises again and again—the need to break ideas free of the academic, political, or industry silos holding them incommunicado. The 35th Annual Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop was no exception.

While calls for increased communication usually work their way into sessions on various topics in numerous ways, the matter was brought front and center early in the Workshop by our first keynote speaker, New York Times journalist Andrew Revkin.

A day earlier, Revkin had posted an article on his Dot Earth blog detailing outrageous advice given to members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change by its chairman—keep a distance from the media. That, along with a backgrounder listing words to avoid using if a scientist were to speak to the media (including uncertainty and risk), provided a good jumping off point for discussions about the need to share information, how we now communicate, and who ultimately has the authority—and responsibility—to speak.

“This is the 21st Century” Revkin said. “Anyone trying to shrink away from the media; that’s not the right reflex.”

But for many, keeping quiet is a reflex, often out of fear of being misrepresented. The problem is that we live in an age of a constant information hum, so refusal to speak doesn’t mean there will be silence, it only means there will be conversation with one less learned voice. Revkin likened the phenomenon to a buffet of choices where consumers hungry for information gorged themselves on whatever noshes looked tasty versus the “information comfort food” dished out in the past.

When it comes to such smorgasbords, many don’t stop to think who’s bringing the food to the table—and sometimes it’s hard to tell. One such instance that Revkin highlighted was the Deepwater Horizon Response site, introduced within days of the first oil spilled in the Gulf. While the site showed the government’s ability to provide the type of information flow that the public demands, it blurred the line between information provided by federal sources and that from BP.

On its face, the new information free-for-all seems to provide more reasons to shy away from communicating than it does for participation, but it also provides opportunities. For those that want to speak their piece, there are blogs, Twitter, personal Web sites, on-demand publishing and a number of other ways to speak directly to the public. And as Revkin pointed out (via the Global Warming’s Six Americas 2009 report), the public is more likely to trust expert voices than the media—at least on the topic of climate change.

Whether the topic is climate change, or community preparedness, or any of the hundreds of others linked to hazards or disaster, perhaps the top reason to be communicative is because it’s why we do the work. Like the proverbial tree falling in the forest, knowledge that isn’t communicated doesn’t make a sound.

Back to Top

3) Sometimes, Recovery Is the Real Disaster

Many insular communities—whether they be tribal, extremely rural, or otherwise on the periphery of mainstream society—suffer from the application of one-size-fits-all disaster response  frameworks. Although the assistance those regimes offer might be necessary in the short term, their long-term homogenizing effect can reach far beyond the initial response to threaten a way of life. 

“Any damn fool can get power restored or get a Wal-Mart reopened,” Mervyn Tano, president of the International Institute for Indigenous Resource Management, told an audience gathered at a Natural Hazards Workshop session on rural and tribal vulnerability. “The hard part is reinvigorating traditional tribal practices.”

Often, overarching plans fail to understand that a concept as simple as a housing—shelter from the elements—can be very different from one group to another. For instance, Native families are configured differently thanl suburban families, and disaster plans need to take that into account, Tano said. A structure’s use and what it means to people should be considered alongside its more basic functions. Tano pointed to the Cold Climate Housing Research Center in Alaska as an example of how community identity can be incorporated when working with traditional communities. The group understands that a house is more than a dwelling, he said; it is part of an identity.

Understanding that identity can be difficult for planners that aren’t part of the community—often a culture can’t be defined from the outside looking in. Rosina Philippe, a spokesperson for Grand Bayou Families United, commented on the way Native people are seen by broader society. According to Philippe, her people understand themselves in context of their history and attachment to place, not by the vulnerabilities attached to them since Hurricane Katrina.

A strong sense of place—another concept cherished by traditional societies, but dismissed by modern ones—can help make a society resistant to disaster. One of the biggest problems facing indigenous people today is being relocated from traditional lands, said Juan Pablo Sarmiento of Florida International University.

The Latin American communities Sarmiento works with have strong ties to environment and good mechanisms to cope with local weather conditions. This has allowed them to exist naturally where they are, but encroaching ideas of mainstream society can threaten that.

“Many minority rural populations are losing cultural and historical disaster management knowledge because they are adopting knowledge of the majority,” he said.

As Sarmiento sees it, one contributor to vulnerability is people who have been moved from their ancestral land and relocated to areas that are less productive. People have been marginalized and labeled as a minority. In the short term, this status may also provide opportunities, but in the long term can cause a uniform mentality that degrades a group’s customs, values, and attitudes.

To overcome this, disaster planners and others that aid indigenous people must work with groups beforehand to create plans that fit the needs and beliefs of members. As a community planner for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Diana Coho works directly with U.S. tribes to create multi-hazard mitigation plans. In her experience, she said, there is no one approach to planning that works for all groups. Instead, each group's cultural and societal needs must be considered.

“You have to be committed to respecting cultures,” she said, adding that it makes for a much more time-consuming and labor-intensive process.

Unfortunately, there is still a tendency to view various cultures with a Western lens. Once a group’s identity and knowledge have been altered, it’s often too late for even
tribal members to see things any other way. 

“It’s very much like the French trying to fend off Hollywood,” Tano said. “The pervasiveness of Western culture is difficult to overcome.”

Back to Top

4) PERISHIP Award Furthers Six Disaster Dissertations

Six Ph.D. students will receive a $10,000 grant to support interdisciplinary dissertation work courtesy of the 2010 PERISHIP Dissertation Fellowship Program in Hazards, Risks, and Disasters. The winners were announced during the opening ceremony of Natural Hazards Workshop.

The program assists top scholars in the completion of hazards dissertation work in natural and physical sciences, social and behavioral sciences, 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.

The 2010 PERISHIP Fellows and their dissertations are:

Ryan Alaniz, University of Minnesota, Department of Sociology
A Tale of Three Cities: Long-term Development in Post-Disaster Honduras

Daina Harvey, Rutgers University, Department of Sociology
Moving on From Hurricane Katrina

Owen Kulemeka, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, College of Media
Disasters, Individuals with Disabilities, and the Transportation Disadvantaged: A Study of Preparedness Programs in Post-Disaster

Sizheng Li, University of Delaware, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Modeling Post-Earthquake Fire Spread and Suppression

Kristin O'Donovan, North Carolina State University, Department of Public and International Affairs
Variation in Flood Mitigation Plans and Effects of Experience in Alteration

Christopher Uejio, University of Wisconsin-Madison Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies
Environmental Influences on Neglected Public Health Problems

For more information on the fellowship and program winners, visit the PERISHIP Web site.

Back to Top

5) All this Workshop Talk Making You Feel Like You're Missing Out?

Then don't! Plan now on joining us for the 36th Annual Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop from Saturday, July 9, through Tuesday, July 12, 2011.

The Workshop will again be held at the Omni Interlocken Resort in Broomfield, Colorado, and will be immediately followed by the IRCD Researchers and NHMA add-on meetings, both of which will run though Wednesday, July 13.

The Workshop is still an invitation-only event, so if you're not already on the list and think you've got something to contribute, please request an invitation by e-mailing Diane Smith.  Also, keep an eye on DR—we'll be opening our session suggestion page for next year's Workshop before you know it.

Back to Top

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

Call for Project Monitors
Jackson County Operation Full Access Project         
Disaster Resistant Communities Group
Deadline: Open
Florida’s Jackson County Emergency Management Department is accepting volunteers to monitor Operation Full Access, a disaster plan aimed at preparing disabled, elderly, and transportation-challenged residents in emergencies. Monitors will follow the project’s development and revisions and make recommendations.


Call for Abstracts
International LIDAR Mapping Forum
International LIDAR Mapping Forum Technical Committee
Deadline: September 15, 2010
The International LIDAR Mapping Forum Technical Committee is seeking abstracts for presentation at the 2011 Forum, to be held in New Orleans February 7-9. The committee is interested in emergency response data acquisition, GIS and data modeling, and industry issues such as state and federal initiatives. Abstract should be 250 words or less and submitted online.

Back to Top

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]

The following resources are just a few featured by presenters and panelists at the 2010 Hazards Workshop. Some are hot off the presses, others have been around for a while, but all come highly recommended.

When it comes to examining event-specific data at the micro-level, you can’t beat the power of the Spatial Hazards Events and Losses Database for the United States, or SHELDUS. SHELDUS has loss and injury information in 18 different hazard categories broken out by county, and the project is adding more information all the time. The database, created by the Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute at the University of South Carolina, was cobbled together from a series of existing databases and includes events costing more than $50,000 in two timeframes—1960 to 1975 and 1995 to present. HVRI is now working to fill the gaps in time and economic impact.


Report on the Transparency of Relief Organizations Responding to the 2010 Haiti Earthquake
This study by the Disaster Accountability Project asked nearly 200 nonprofit organizations about the extent of information they've made available about their Haiti earthquake aid work. The results weren’t heartening. Less than 10 groups made regular reports on their activities accessible to the public. Most did not; instead offering personal blog posts, provocative images of damage and victims, and further appeals for donations as evidence of their projects' progression. The report showcases the lack of openness, coordination, and oversight with which many groups in Haiti operate. 


International Program on Climate Change and Variability Risk Reduction
With climate change, larger disasters, and increasing urbanization threatening to put a triple whammy on human environments, the Pacific Disaster Research Center has created the International Program on Climate Change and Variability Risk Reduction, abbreviated IP-CVR, as a way to get people talking. The IP-CVR Web site has a variety of tools meant to help scientists, planners, economists, activists, and numerous others wrap their heads the growing problem. The site is just getting on its feet, but visit the forums, blogs, and other site offerings to have your voice heard.


Red Cross Ready Rating Program
Want to take your school, business, or organization from unprimed to prepared for anything? The Red Cross is there to hold your hand while you cross that street. The Ready Rating program is a membership-based project that allows those who join to get a customized “readiness rating,” a step-by-step guide to improvement, and personalized support along the way.


The Geospatial Platform is an effort by the Federal Geographic Data Committee to provide applications and information to the public (and “geo-enable the business of government”) by compiling data from multiple agencies. Early results of the project, which launched in April, can be seen in an interactive tool for the Gulf Oil Spill that maps spill trajectory, research ship location, shipping closures, and other data.


Ecological Building Network
The Ecological Building Network is a nonprofit organization working to transform wasteful, toxic building practices into sustainable designs that are suited to their environment and use clean energy and natural materials. Stop by the Web site to learn more about sustainable building or see what the group is doing to address Haiti’s housing issues since the January earthquake.

Back to Top

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]

September 1-4, 2010
Conference of the International Society for Integrated Disaster Risk Management
University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences
Vienna, Austria
Cost and Registration: $516, open until filled
This conference will help develop integrated disaster risk management, with an emphasis on shared experiences from varied cultural and socio-economic settings. Conference themes include global change and vulnerability, disaster impacts in different cultural contexts, industrial risk management, and disaster safety nets.


September 19-22, 2010
Association of Minnesota Emergency Managers 50th Annual Conference
Association of Minnesota Emergency Managers
Breezy Point, Minnesota
Cost and Registration: $180, open until filled
This conference will develop emergency operations plans and provide disaster preparedness, response, and recovery instruction. Sessions topics include using of the incident command system in search and rescue, caring for responders and survivors, and the next generation 911 system.


September 27-29, 2010
ConSec ’10: A New Decade of Information Security
Texas Association of Contingency Planners, Texas Department of Information Resources, and others
Austin, Texas

Cost and Registration: $335 before September 9, open until filled
This conference will address information technology risks and solutions related to business continuity and disasters. A risk management track includes sessions on emergency management, completing risk assessments in five days or less, and tying business risk to security initiatives.


October 4-6, 2010
International Symposium on Benefiting from Earth Observation
International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development
Kathmandu, Nepal
Cost and Registration: $250, open until filled
This symposium will encourage regional and international cooperation on using earth observation to improve climate change adaptation. Symposium topics include using space-based information for disaster management and spatial data infrastructure for climate change adaptation.


October 8-9, 2010
Berlin Conference on the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change
Environmental Policy and Research Centre and Freie Universität Berlin
Berlin, Germany
Cost and Registration: $284 before August 31, open until filled
This conference will discuss ways to bridge the gap between mainstream economic analysis and efforts to conceptualize, analyze, and measure the social dimensions of environmental change.


October 24-26, 2010
National Flood Workshop
Weather Research Center, National Weather Service, and others
Houston, Texas
Cost and Registration: $250 before September 1, open until filled
This workshop will encourage dialogue on meteorological and hydrological conditions before, during, and after flood events, as well as technological advancements, flood mitigation regulations, and floodplain management.

Back to Top

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.]

Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction Team Manager
Oxfam UK
Oxford, United Kingdom
Salary: $51,520 to $63,766
Closing Date: August 2, 2010
This position develops program policies and manages team members, integrates program approaches with other Oxfam campaigns, and collaborates internally to improve adaptation and risk reduction strategies. Proven knowledge of climate change adaptation in developing countries and significant operational and financial management experience are required.


Program Specialist
United Nations Development Program
Suva, Fiji
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: July 30, 2010
This position supports the development of crisis prevention and recovery documents, implements the Pacific Framework for Action, and identifies synergies between climate change and disaster risk management. A master’s degree in social science or a relevant field, five years in international development, and project design experience are required.


Resources and Preparedness Specialist
Kootenai County Office of Emergency Management
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
Salary: $25,300 to $29,600
Closing Date: July 30, 2010
This position serves as the public information officer for the office of emergency management, maintains the emergency resource database, coordinates county training and community preparedness programs, and provides logistical support to the emergency operations center. A high school diploma and two years related experience are required.


Training and Exercise Program Manager
City of Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Salary: $60,000
Closing Date: July 30, 2010
This position plans and operates disaster exercises, assesses the needs of local emergency response organizations, and develops long-term disaster training goals. A bachelor’s degree in public safety or a related field, experience in emergency management, and two years maintaining emergency management training and exercise programs are required.


Disaster Recovery Manager
Brentwood, Tennessee
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position ensures integrity of data systems and networks, including designing disaster recovery procedures for servers, databases, and other networks and analyzing disaster simulations. A bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field and five years of system experience, including disaster recovery planning and IT operation management, are required.


Emergency Preparedness Educator
Boston Public Health Commission
Boston, Massachusetts
Salary: $39,000 to $56,800
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position delivers planning and preparedness education and training to city agencies and community organizations, develops exercises to support public health preparedness and response, and evaluates training effectiveness. A bachelor’s degree in public health or a related field, two years in a related position, and experience designing and delivering public health, safety, and emergency preparedness and response training are required.

Back to Top

Contributions of jobs, conferences, and other content to this newsletter can be sent to Please include “for Disaster Research” in the subject line.

To subscribe, visit or e-mail
University of Colorado at Boulder

Natural Hazards Center
483 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309-0483
Contact Us: | (303) 492-6818

A Center in the Institute of Behavioral Science

© Regents of the University of Colorado