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Number 558 • December 2, 2010 | Past Issues













1) Yet Another Missing Pakistan Story?

Flooding in Pakistan has consistently failed to attract the media spotlight (see DR 552), and it's clear from recent "news" that the media situation has not improved.

U.S. military airlifts of aid to flood survivors ended Tuesday at Pakistan's request, according to reports by the Pakistani and U.S. governments. This is in spite of 6.8 million people left homeless on the cusp of winter by still-receding floodwaters, according to an isolated AFP story in the Sydney Morning Herald. The Pakistani report indicates that U.S. civilian aid agencies will be taking over, but doesn’t address whether that aid can be effectively delivered to such a large area with so much damaged infrastructure.

Based on the U.S. military report, it's apparent that the U.S. aircraft and crews were doing something significant—in four months of operations, the total relief they delivered included 436,000 halal meals, 26 million pounds of supplies, and the rescue of 40,000 people.

Meanwhile, the AFP reports that even though foreign donors have given about half of the $1.93 billion requested by the United Nations, Pakistan's prime minister has not distributed almost $60 million of reconstruction funds received. The World Bank estimates the cost of recovery to be closer to $10 billion, but refuses to participate in the Pakistani government's current aid distribution system because it distributes cash to survivors via ATMs without ensuring homes get rebuilt. These reservations were echoed by the director of Pakistan's National Disaster Management Authority, and the U.S. Agency for International Development expressed its concerns to Pakistani officials last week, according to the AFP.

In one of the only English-language news reports on the implications of ending U.S. military airlifts, the BBC gave a voice to residents of Utror in mountainous Northwest Pakistan, where many roads and bridges have not been rebuilt. According to one woman interviewed, "Whatever food they're giving us, we eat straightaway because it's all we have…. When they stop the helicopters, I don't know how we're going to get food. All we can do is hope that God will help us."

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2) Anger at Haiti’s Health Status Spreads Beyond Street Protesters

When long suffering Haitians took to the streets last month to voice their anger at the cholera epidemic sweeping the country, they weren’t the only ones getting mad. The state of the country nearly one year after being leveled is of international concern as well—especially for the millions who donated to relief efforts.

“The leadership of the major disaster relief and aid organizations operating in Haiti allowed cholera to become a threat because they did not do their jobs,” according to a recent statement by the Disaster Accountability Project (DAP). “The international community and Haitian government failed to sufficiently invest in clean water and sanitation after the quake. Now, living conditions are so deplorable and infrastructure so poor, the situation is ripe for a cholera epidemic.”

The conditions led DAP, a watchdog organization that has closely followed charitable spending since the earthquake, to circulate a petition denouncing humanitarian groups working on Haitian water and sanitation for neither doing enough nor spending all at their disposal. The petition calls for more transparency, detailed public accounting of expenditures, and regular updates on spending, “not just aggregate figures, anecdotes, blog stories, and Facebook and Twitter updates.”

“It is the individual aid workers on the ground that deserve our gratitude for doing the back-breaking work to help those in need,” DAP stated. “Meanwhile, the headquarters of these major relief/aid organizations raised billions of dollars … and apparently chose to spend less than half. Potentially billions of post-earthquake relief dollars, intended for the Haitian people, are just sitting in U.S. and foreign banks.”

While that’s frustrating in the face of current conditions, experts say there are reasons for not putting all aid in one basket. Among those reasons is a need to balance donations—the bulk of which are received immediately after an incident—along a longer arc that includes both relief and recovery.

Although the dynamics differ for each disaster, often organizations have to make the donations received in the first two months last throughout the process, Center on Philanthropy Research Director Una Osili told USA Today. And in some cases, organizations might be spending their money as quickly as the situation allows, Saundra Schimmelpfennig, Good Intentions Are Not Enough blog author and the creator of Charity Rater, told the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

“Just because money was spent quickly does not mean it was spent well…. Conversely, just because an organization has not spent all their money does not mean they were not operating at top efficiency given the realities on the ground.”

That’s consistently been the case in Haiti, where organizations are thwarted from making progress by everything from the debris clogging streets to politics clogging the bureaucracy. Those building shelters can’t get land ownership records, those working to prevent floods can’t remove canal debris fast enough, and those offering healthcare can’t get workers to operate modern medical equipment.

"You ask: Why are people still in camps?” Nigel Fisher, chief of the UN humanitarian mission, told the Washington Post. “You might as well ask: Why are Haitians poor? It is not rebuilding in Haiti. It is building.”

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3) Bio Lab Buy-In Still Lacking for Manhattan, Kansas Project

A plan to build a 500,000-square-foot research lab in Manhattan, Kansas has again hit the skids, as yet another report finds the risks of testing contagious diseases in the nation’s heartland hasn't been properly assessed.

The report, released last month by the National Research Council, is the third in a series of reproving examinations of the proposed National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) for research on animal diseases. Reports by the U.S. Government Accountability office in 2008 and 2009 had similar concerns about introducing animal contagion—such as foot-and-mouth disease—into the middle of cattle country.

There is a 70 percent chance that outside infection will occur over the 50-year lifespan of the facility, according to a news releaseon the report. The 2008 risk assessment commissioned by the Department of Homeland Security fails to adequately account for the spread of disease among animals or the lack of medical resources to address human impacts in such a situation, the report states.

The grand scale of the new facility, which is meant to replace the Plum Island Animal Disease Center off the coast of Long Island, is also problematic, according to University of Louisville Center for Health Preparedness Co-Director Ronald Atlas, who chaired the report committee.

“Building a facility that is capable of large animal work on a scale greater than other high-containment laboratories presents new and unknown risks that could not be accounted for in the DHS risk assessment because of a lack of data and experience,” he stated.

NBAF has been plagued by public opposition and rumors of political misdealings since its inception. Building the facility in an area known for tornadoes and floods was also a concern. The 2009 GAO report stated that plans to build the $700 million facility were based on a “rushed, flawed study” and not “scientifically defensible.”

Even so, the NBAF was highly sought after by state and local government officials for its economic benefits. Manhattan, home of Kansas State University, beat four other finalists to garner the facility, which is expected to add about $3.5 billion to the local economy, according to the Washington Post.

Those riches aren't off the table yet. Despite the issues raised in the report, the committee concluded that more data and mitigation strategies are needed before Congress either releases the funds to build the NBAF or quashes the project.

“We need a facility like the proposed NBAF,” Atlas said. “The report makes no judgment on whether the Kansas location is an appropriate site for the proposed facility or on what risk is acceptable to society. Those questions are left to policymakers and future risk assessments.”

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

Call for Posters
2011 EERI Annual Meeting
Earthquake Engineering Research Institute
Deadline: December 8, 2010
The Earthquake Engineering Research Institute is accepting poster abstracts for presentation at its 2011 annual meeting February 9-12 in La Jolla, California. The two-page abstract should describe posters that address tsunami research, border issues, Southern California quake risk, emergency response, or policy issues and focus on communicating research to practitioners. Travel scholarships for presenters may be available.


Call for Submissions
2011 Collegiate Student Paper Competition
Association of State Floodplain Managers
Deadline: December 10, 2010 (Deadline Extended)
The Association of State Floodplain Managers is accepting papers on floodplain or stormwater management for its annual student paper contest. Undergraduate and graduate students will compete for an opportunity to present their papers at the 2011 ASPFM Conference, May 15-20, in Louisville, Kentucky. Three semi-finalists will receive $1,000 in travel expenses to attend the conference and the chance to win scholarships ranging from $250 to $1,000. Full submission and eligibility criteria is available on the ASFPM Web site.

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5) 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]

Hospital Surge Model
This updated Web tool from the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality allows a user to enter the initial number and severity of casualties from 13 different chemical or biological "attack types," ranging from a dirty bomb to anthrax (although pandemic flu somehow made it onto the list). The model then creates tables and graphs projecting daily counts of patients arriving at the hospital and the number of inpatients in emergency department, floor, and ICU beds until all patients are either dead or discharged. The instructions are clear about the assumptions used in modeling each scenario, but they don't say whether the model is intended to estimate demand immediately after an incident or just for morbid time-killing on a slow hospital night shift.


International Best Practice Case Studies on Climate Change Adaptation
GRaBS—the European Green and Blue Space Adaptation for Urban Towns and Eco Towns project—has collected 15 in-depth case studies emphasizing the public processes different cities have used to gain support for and implement their climate change adaptation plans. The existing case studies cover diverse topics and places, from "using vegetation to limit the hazards of landslides" in Seattle to "financial contributions of planning applications for prevention of heathland fires" in Dorset. However, if the Web site wants to continue to bill itself as a "database of case studies," it needs to include at least one example from the global South.


The Day the Earth Shook
In this new disaster preparedness game, where your avatar wears a virtual reality headset (provided by helpful space aliens who prophesize an impending earthquake), kids walk around looking for items to stock their disaster kit and practice what to do once the shaking begins. The Illinois Emergency Management Agency, Illinois Terrorism Task Force, and University of Illinois created the game "to demonstrate a new educational approach for children to learn effective disaster preparedness and response strategies." Despite the strange premise, 1980s keyboard navigation, and a Max-and-Ruby-esque lack of parents, the game is mesmerizing. But there no word on the Web site about how that translates into changing children's behavior, so you'll have to download the game and decide for yourself.


A Governor's Guide to Homeland Security 2010
Just three years after it published the first edition, the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices has updated its Governors Guide to Homeland Security. The revised guide has five additional chapters and has been reorganized into major sections addressing preparedness, prevention, response, and—new in this edition—recovery. The guide continues to be noteworthy for its concise explanation of federalism and disaster response authority from a state governor's perspective. A 75-page PDF version can be downloaded from the Web site linked above.

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6) 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]

January 8-10, 2011
Third International Conference on Water and Flood Management
Institute of Water and Flood Management and Bangladesh University
Dhaka, Bangladesh
Cost and Registration: $300, open until filled
This conference will look at water management issues ranging from flooding to water scarcity and create guidance on sustainable development. Conference topics include management of river basins and coastal areas, urban and agricultural water management, communication and policy making, and the impacts of climate change on management practices.


February 9-11, 2011
Extreme Weather Conference
Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society and the Meteorological Society of New Zealand
Wellington, New Zealand
Cost and Registration: $386, open until filled
This conference will examine extreme weather and the climate changes that drive it, with an emphasis on Australasian region. Session topics include the use of high-resolution models in local meteorology, regional oceanography, and the impacts of natural disasters.


March 2-3, 2011
Mitigating Disaster through Design and Construction
Engineering News-Record, American Society of Civil Engineers, and others
Washington, D.C.
Cost and Registration: $350 before February 11, open until filled
This conference will discuss ways to limit risks posed by the built environment during disasters, to raise awareness of the need for disaster mitigation, and to create more resilient infrastructure. Session topics include creating standard risk assessment methods, incentives for incorporating mitigation measures, and insurers’ role in mitigation planning.


March 7-8, 2011
Fifth International Symposium on Wind Effects on Buildings and Urban Environments
Tokyo Polytechnic University
Tokyo, Japan
Cost and Registration: $120, open until filled
This symposium will address risks from wind hazards such as typhoons and tornadoes, how wind damage can be limited, and how cities can be made more resilient to impacts such as pollution. Sessions topics include urban wind hazards, wind and climate change, damage recognition, and gust fronts.


March 12-14, 2011
Disaster, Risk, and Vulnerability Conference 2011
Mahatma Gandhi University School of Environmental Sciences
Kottayam, India
Cost and Registration: $ 150
This conference will cover disaster management, risk and vulnerability reduction, strategies for resiliency, and new disaster management techniques. Topics include the science of disaster, disaster management and public administration, disaster education and community participation, and gender and social issues stemming from disaster.


March 29-30, 2011
Disaster Information Outreach Symposium
National Library of Medicine
Bethesda, Maryland
Cost and Registration: Free, open until filled

This symposium will provide tools that help librarians, public information officers, and other communicators better educate the public about disasters and health emergencies. Topics include how to meet the information needs of emergency managers and responders, using libraries to support response and recovery, and the Medical Library Association's new disaster information specialization.

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7) 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.]

United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Kobe, Japan
Salary: None
Closing Date: December 7, 2010
This position will support urban risk reduction efforts by the Asia Regional Taskforce, especially those related to the UNISDR Making Cities Resilient campaign. The intern will identify land use and development resources that reduce risk, collect information from and communicate with cities participating in the campaign, report on cities’ campaign activities and progress, and help analyze resilient city standards and benchmarks. Applicants should be enrolled in postgraduate studies in urban or environmental planning, natural science, or a related field. Fluency in English is required; some French is preferred.


Fire Program Specialist, GS 9
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Washington, D.C.
Salary: $51,630 to $67,114
Closing Date: December 9, 2010
This position assists in managing FEMA’s Assistance to Firefighter’s Grant program, evaluates and recommends grant funding, and provides technical direction to grant recipients. Experience in program monitoring and analysis and one year of experience at GS-8 or above are required.


South Asian Urban, Water, and Disaster Risk Extended Term Consultant
The World Bank
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Salary:  Not Posted
Closing Date: December 19, 2010
This position will work to strengthen disaster risk management partnerships, coordinate daily Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery risk management operations, analyze strategic priorities for the sector, and prepare the World Bank’s disaster risk management portfolio for Sri Lanka. A master’s degree in engineering, economics, public policy or a related field; five years of experience in climate change, natural disasters, flood management, or disaster reduction; and development project management experience are required.


Gender-Based Violence Emergency Response Specialist
International Rescue Committee
Salary: Not Posted
Closing Date: December 22, 2010
This position will organize global and online Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies training, document case studies of applied GBV in Emergencies techniques, and coordinate with other IRC units on resource development and program recommendations. A master’s degree in social work, the humanities, or a related field, five years of program management experience, and fluency in French are required.


Community-Based Health Outreach Coordinator
International Medical Corps
Salary: Not Posted
Closing Date: December 24, 2010
This position oversees the Cholera Emergency Response Program in Haiti, identifying key stakeholders in prevention activities, coordinating prevention and communication training for community groups, and planning for outbreak preparedness. A master’s degree in public health, three years of program management experience in a developing country, and experience with international donor agencies or NGOs are preferred.


Hazardous Materials Specialist
Amazon Fulfillment Services
Seattle, Washington
Salary: Not Posted
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position maintains policies for hazardous materials sold on, ensures products are stored and shipped according to government regulations, and is responsible for safety audits and incident management. A bachelor’s degree and three years of hazardous materials compliance experience are required. Experience running a retail hazardous mat

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