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Number 557 • November 18, 2010 | Past Issues













1) Hate in the Time of Cholera: Anger Threatens Haiti’s Response to Deadly Illness

Less than a year after being leveled by a 7.0-magnitude earthquake, a still-ravaged Haiti is suffering another blight—cholera. This time, however, the catastrophe can be traced directly to a human source.

Although health workers have yet to confirm the origin of the disease—previously unknown in Haiti—there have been rumors it was introduced by UN peacekeepers from Nepal. Those suspicions have brought a backlash that has left several dead and, paradoxically, slowed efforts to treat the sick and keep the illness from spreading, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

“In Haiti most people believe it came from the Nepalese and that the UN will do its best to hide it,” Haiti’s Christian Aid Director Prospery Raymond told the Sydney Morning Herald Wednesday, after a riot in Port Au Prince. “If it is confirmed to be from them this will be damaging for the UN and their peacekeeping all over the world.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has narrowed the Haitian cholera bacteria to one strain, indicating it was likely introduced by a single source, according to the Wall Street Journal (subscription may be required). Still, there are no firm indications that the Nepalese unit brought the disease to the county.

Independent samples from near the battalion have not tested positive for cholera, the United Nations told the Journal. The Nepalese unit was suspected because the battalion is located in the Artibonite region where the cholera originated and the strain matches one found in South Asia, including Nepal. The United Nations has also acknowledged sanitation problems at the base, according to the Associated Press.

Regardless of any evidence they might find, though, researchers say it’s unlikely they’ll pinpoint the exact locus of the contamination.

“We may never know where this came from,” CDC head of Haiti response Scott Dowell told the Journal. “People from other countries have come to Haiti for decades.”

In the meantime, humanitarian agencies are begging for an end to rioting in Cap Haitien, Gonaives, and other cities so they can attempt to stanch the cholera spread.

“We call upon all involved in these clearly orchestrated demonstrations to stop immediately…” UN Humanitarian Coordinator Nigel Fisher stated in a press release. “Every day we lose means hospitals go without supplies, patients go untreated and people remain ignorant of the danger they are facing. It is vital that everything possible is done to contain this outbreak in Cap Haitien while we still can—but this is very difficult in the current environment.”

The United Nations has stopped flights carrying soap, medical supplies, and aid workers to Cap Haitien, according to the statement. Similarly, Oxfam suspended a water chlorination project in the area and the World Health Organization stopped medical training after a food warehouse was looted and burned.

Even when humanitarian organizations are able to resume their work, though, there’s reason to believe cholera in Haiti will be persistent for years to come, according to The Guardian. The inability of most people to take the simplest of precautions against the disease—hand washing with soap and drinking only treated water—are among the reasons health officials expect a prolonged battle. Lack of sanitation facilities and a pure dearth of manpower also factor in.

“Simply put, other actors need to get more involved because the needs are far too great to be covered solely by the organizations currently working to prevent and treat cholera,” Stefano Zannini of Doctors Without Borders told the Monitor. “Both the short-term and long-term forecasts indicate that this situation will get worse, possibly far worse, before it gets better.”

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2) Colorado Scores One for Flood Resilience

Colorado can now be counted among the handful of states committed to limiting flood damage by strengthening statewide floodplain rules. The state’s new rules, passed by the Colorado Water Conservation Board Monday, aim to protect property and increase public safety by making existing Colorado standards more robust.

“Right now we have a system that rewards negative behavior,” said legal expert Ed Thomas, who testified on behalf of the Natural Hazards Center, the Association of State Floodplain Managers, and the Natural Hazard Mitigation Association. “This is very much a step in the right direction.”

Among the changes are freeboard rules for new or substantially changed structures in the 100-year floodplain. Critical facilities must now be flood proofed or elevated to two feet above the 100-year flood; most other construction must meet a one-foot freeboard requirement.

The most controversial of the changes, however, was a move to base mapping of the "regulatory floodway" on a more restrictive six-inch-rise standard. Present Federal Emergency Management Agency standards define the floodway as the area that must be kept free of obstructions so that 100-year floodwaters will not rise by more than 1 foot anywhere in the community.

Although the rule will only apply to future physical map revisions and doesn’t prohibit building in floodplains, some municipalities and industry associations saw it as too restrictive for development. They also feared that limiting development in the floodplain could leave them open to lawsuits claiming an unconstitutional “taking” of the property’s value without compensation (an analysis of the likelihood of these claims by Thomas can be found here).

“Although the rules say you can build there, you really can’t without breaking the rules,” said Greeley Mayor Tom Norton. “Greeley is going to pay for this and get no benefit.”

Other Colorado cities, such as Boulder and Fort Collins, supported the changes, saying stricter standards they’ve already adopted haven’t been litigated and leave the community safer. The creation of a statewide standard also eliminates confusion about differences between FEMA and municipal standards and could garner National Flood Insurance Program discounts for residents.

“Statewide standards would be really helpful because we could get FEMA to map to them,” said Monica Bortolini, an Southeast Metro Stormwater Authority flood official who spoke during public comment. “The minimum standards really are minimum.”

The enhanced rules are the result of an exhaustive two-year process that included regional workshops, numerous public meetings, and an advisory and focus committee, according to CWCB Senior Engineer Kevin Houck. The CWCB started down the long road to new rules after years of hearing residents' concerns ranging from worries about catastrophic flooding to complaints about taxpayer bailouts of those who had built irresponsibly in floodplains, Houck said. Monetary losses—an average of $57 million a year in Colorado—also highlighted the need.

“In a state the size of Colorado, we have 100-year events every year in our state,” Houck said. “It’s unbelievable what a natural disaster can do to an economy.”

Although the CWCB recognized the need to make the changes, the new rules allow officials to gradually put them into effect. Local governments will have up to three years to make ordinance changes, new mapping is not required, and a variance process—to be initiated at the local level with Board oversight—allows for a case-by-case analysis when needed. Communities may also grandfather un-built projects they've already approved.

The final result is a far-reaching program that should result in a safer public and less financial loss, but the return on investment won’t be immediate, said CWCB Flood Protection Section Chief Tom Browning.

“These rules are meant to be a long term solution,” Browning said. “This is not an overnight fix.”

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3) Natural Hazards Observer Now Online

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

  • The Memories Remain: Chernobyl 24 Years Later
  • Heat and Death in France
  • Helping the "Naturally Risk Averse" Avoid Risk
  • The Insurance Industry Grapples with Climate Risk

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

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4) Ready to Propose? Workshop Session Ideas Must Be Submitted Sunday

The Natural Hazards Center would love to hear your ideas for session topics and speakers for our 2011 Annual Workshop, but time is running out. The deadline to submit proposals is this Sunday, November 21.

Researchers, policy makers, practitioners, and students from the hazards and disasters community meet at the Workshop to discuss the latest developments in their fields and how society might best respond. We want your feedback on who needs to be there and what they should talk about.

Please take a moment to fill out our online form—as many times as you like—before the deadline. We'll take your ideas, fuse them together, and start planning the next set of lively conversations to take place at the 36th Annual Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop, Saturday, July 9 through Tuesday, July 12, 2011, at the Omni Interlocken Hotel in Broomfield, Colorado.

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

Call for Applications
Mendenhall Research Fellowship Program
U.S. Geological Survey
Deadline: December 30, 2010
The U.S. Geological Survey is accepting applications for a research fellowship examining the vulnerability of human-environmental systems to natural hazards. Postdoctoral researchers accepted into the program will develop methods to characterize impacts on human-environmental systems, address a broad range of hazards, and support decision making. Full information on eligibility, qualifications, and how to apply are available on the program Web site.


Call for Poster Abstracts
Integrated Medical, Public Health, Preparedness, and Response Training Summit
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Deadline: February 1, 2011
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is accepting abstracts of posters to display at its Integrated Medical, Public Health, Preparedness, and Response Training Summit to be held May 1-5 in Grapevine, Texas. Posters should be related to summit topics such as the relationship between public health organizations and response workers, all-hazards approaches to public health, and public health preparedness.

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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]

CAKE: The Climate Adaptation Knowledge Exchange
Climate adaptation might be the last situation you could expect to have your cake and eat it too, but maybe this new Web site will help. CAKE is working to make useable, vetted information on climate change easily available and easy to understand. The site features case studies of how communities are addressing adaptation needs, a virtual library of resources, tools to help in making climate decisions, and a directory of members interested in making a difference. Stop by the site today and see what it has to offer you—or vice versa.


The Sphere Project
The Sphere Project has long worked to create guidelines on how humanitarian groups can respond to disasters effectively and with tact and respect. This guidance, the Sphere Handbook, is undergoing a revision for the first time in seven years.  Although the new handbook isn’t expected to be released for a few months, visitors can get a peek at coming changes, download training materials, or watch humanitarian videos on the project Web site.


Virtual Community Reception Center
In real life, community reception centers  monitor community members for radiation contamination and exposure following a nuclear incident, tracking health impacts and arranging for medical care. This virtual version will help prepare public health officials to run a reception center when they need to. Using avatars to set the scene, the Virtual Community Reception Center walks the user through a decision-making flow chart that provides informative videos, staging descriptions, and resources along the way.


Emergency Preparedness Calculator
Whether you need to know how many beans it will take to get your family through 72 hours or are thinking of setting up your own prep calculator, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has an excellent example of how residents can easily individualize their preparedness kits. Site visitors simple enter the number of family members by age range and the calculator tells them how much food and water to store—and gives them a check list of other needs as a bonus.


EPA Local Climate and Energy Webcasts
The Environmental Protection Agency is offering a series of webcasts for local officials trying to get a handle on adapting to climate change and related issues. The webcasts, which will offer practical action plans, begin today and can be downloaded as podcasts. For more information, visit the EPA Web site linked above or check out the excellent synopsis of upcoming broadcasts by our friends at StormSmart Coasts.


Ask a Firefighter
Kids can be a powerful ally in making homes fire safe, and kids are often fascinated by firefighters. Ask A Firefighter works both those angles by letting children pose their fire related questions to real firefighters Kevin, Ashleigh, and Bill. Kids will get a reply—possibly even a video reply if their question is really important—and teachers will get students enthusiastic about fire safety.

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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]

November 30 to December 2, 2010
International Symposium on Societal Resilience
Homeland Security Institute, U.S. Department of Homeland Security and others
Fairfax, Virginia
Cost and Registration: Free, open until filled
This symposium will discuss societal resilience to both human-caused and natural disasters. Topics will include historical perspectives on resilience, resilience in the face of ecological impacts, economic and political aspects of resilience, and approaches to building resilience. Symposium registration is limited to 150 people.


December 18-20, 2010
11th International Symposium on Structural Engineering
Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong Polytechnic Universities
Guangzhou, China
Cost and Registration: $264, open until filled
This symposium will present recent structural engineering research and development; offer information on structural analysis, design, and hazard mitigation; and discuss new tools for creating safe and sustainable infrastructure. Topics include disaster prevention and hazard mitigation for infrastructure, wind engineering and observation, and structural damage detection.


January 10-13, 2011
Fifth International Conference on Earthquake Geotechnical Engineering
International Society of Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering and the Chilean Geotechnical Society
Santiago, Chile
Cost and Registration: $650 before November 10, open until filled
This conference will cover a wide range of earthquake-related geotechnical problems, including engineering challenges, soil dynamics, structure vulnerability, and slope failure. Session topics include earthquake-induced landslides, defending monuments against seismic threats, and lifeline engineering in earthquakes.


January 17-20, 2011
Climate and River Basin Management Symposium
Oulu, Finland
Cost and Registration: $193, open until filled
This symposium will examine European Union water policies with an emphasis on the multiple impacts caused by climate change. Topics include the effects of climate change on hydrology and water availability, land use and groundwater-dependent ecosystems, and socioeconomic analysis for assessing climate change adaptation.


January 26-28, 2011
12th East Asia-Pacific Conference on Structural Engineering and Construction
City University of Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Cost and Registration: $550 before September 30, open until filled
This conference will examine recent progress in structural engineering and the practical applications of recently developed tools and technology. Conference topics include earthquake engineering, forensic engineering, building safety and reliability, fire resistant design, and disaster prevention.


February 9-12, 2011
EERI Annual Meeting: Earthquakes Without Borders
Earthquake Engineering Research Institute
La Jolla, California
Cost and Registration: Not listed, open until filled
This meeting will address issues that arise when earthquake and tsunami disasters span national borders. A panel discussion of the recent El Mayor-Cucapah earthquake, the San Diego wildfires, and border challenges since the events of September 11, 2001, will kick off the meeting. Session topics include regional earthquake response planning and policy, mitigating tsunami risk, and structural engineering innovations.

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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.]

Disaster Risk Reduction Advisor
United Nations
Chisinau, Moldova
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: November 25, 2010
This position advises on disaster risk reduction and climate risk management, collects country-specific hazard information to guide UN Development Programme initiatives, and monitors programs and training. A degree in the social sciences or a field related to disaster risk, published or practical contributions to the disaster risk reduction field, and international program management skills are required.


Program Management Advisor
Pan American Health Organization
Washington, D.C.
Salary: $66,480 to $71,390
Closing Date: November 26, 2010
This position is responsible for regional disaster reduction strategies, including mobilizing disaster relief, improving preparedness, writing grant proposals and other program documents, and coordinating with international relief agencies. A master's degree in public administration, public health, social science, or a related field; strategic and financial planning skills; and consensus-building ability are required.


Emergency Management Program Specialist, GS 9/12
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Salary: $50,628 to $95,444
Bothell, Washington
Closing Date: November 28, 2010
This position will coordinate the Risk Mapping Assessment and Planning (MAP) program, evaluating MAP activities for conformance, providing technical and advisory assistance, assessing flood hazards and community growth, and reviewing plans for regulatory compliance. Applicants should have knowledge of floodplain mapping and GIS, management skills, and the ability to analyze operation budgets. One year of experience at GS-8 or above is required.


Public Health Researcher
Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters
Brussels, Belgium
Closing Date: December 1, 2010
This position will conduct field research on mortality, malnutrition, and disease monitoring; manage the center's Complex Emergency Database team and technical reporting; and conduct training on epidemiological techniques used in humanitarian emergencies. A PhD in health sciences or an MD with skills in public health, and knowledge of French and Dutch, are required.


Executive Director
International Rescue Committee
Boise, Idaho
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position is responsible for IRC Boise’s general and financial management, as well as community outreach, external relations, and resource development. A bachelor’s degree in social work, international relations, or a related field; at least six years of humanitarian assistance experience and three years of management experience; and fundraising and grant writing abilities are required. 


Fire Protection Engineer
National Fire Protection Association

Quincy, Massachusetts
Salary: Not posted

Closing Date: Open until filled
This position promotes fire protection system engineering standards and provides technical assistance to committees working to implement such standards. Job requirements include preparing documents, developing content, assisting in fire investigations, and maintaining a budget. A bachelor’s degree and three years of fire protection engineering experience are required; knowledge of the NFPA Codes and Standards Making process is preferred.

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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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