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Number 562 • February 10, 2011 | Past Issues













1) Homemade Earthquakes: Could Drilling Be Fracking a Swarm in Arkansas?

February might be Earthquake Awareness Month for much of the Midwest, but in one tiny Arkansas town, the consciousness-raising started months ago.

Residents of Guy, Arkansas, have been weathering a swarm of low-magnitude earthquakes since early fall. While the phenomenon has done wonders to increase quake safety knowledge, there are no firm answers as to what’s behind the shake-up.

Some see the mini-quakes as nothing more than an oddity of nature, citing a history of nearby swarms, according to the New York Times. Others are betting it’s caused by increased drilling for natural gas in the area. The safe money might be on both.

“What you could be looking at is a case where the strain was already there,” Arkansas Geological Survey’s Scott Ausbrooks told the Times, explaining why natural swarms don’t rule out a drilling link. “You’d be fast-forwarding the clock.”

The AGS has been keeping an eye on earthquake data since two local drilling sites opened last summer, according to the Times. Although Ausbrooks doesn't suspect the drilling caused the earthquakes, the AGS hasn’t “ruled out a connection to…salt water disposal wells, ” he said in a statement to CNN.

Drilling operations use a technique known as using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to get at the good stuff in the ground. That means injecting water, sand, and chemicals deep into the earth to create fractures that free trapped gas. Waste from the process is often re-injected into deep disposal wells. Both injections can stress Earth’s crust and, over time, create small man-made earthquakes, according to the United States Geological Survey.

Drilling has been implicated in atypical earthquakes from Texas to Australia. Still, the industries that send water deep beneath Earth’s surface—including geothermal energy production, coal mining, and proposed carbon sequestration schemes—are skeptical they're behind the shaking. This is understandable in the case of Guy, where at least two similar local swarms occurred before drilling was prevalent, according to the Times.

“We’ve found no causal connection,” Charles Morgan, a lawyer representing Poseidon Energy Services, told the Times. “The evidence is anecdotal at best.”

The question comes down to how the story will end. Perhaps there’s no harm in the small, barely-felt quakes shivering through Guy, even if they are human-induced. A Department of Energy Workshop on Induced Seismicity seemed to come to the conclusion that the public just needs to be reassured so that earthquake-causing technologies can fulfill their “full potential.” But others fear that if smaller swarm quakes go unheeded, they’ll eventually lead to bigger quakes—often in areas where both people and the built environment are unprepared for them. The folks in Guy are just as divided, sometimes within families.

"My wife wants to buy earthquake insurance,” Mayor Sam Higdon told CNN. “I'm trying to talk her out of it."

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2) President Enters the Rumble in D Block

The latest tide has turned in the tumultuous sea of emergency communications. This time it looks like lawmakers might catch a wave in favor of expanding emergency responder bandwidth into the "D Block."

As we reported in the June 17 DR, public safety officials and the Federal Communications Commission have long scuffled over a key piece of the wireless broadband spectrum referred to as the D Block. An FCC plan would auction the spectrum to private communication companies looking for bandwidth to support the next generation of mobile technology.

Public safety officials, however, want to expand into the D Block—right next door to their existing spectrum space—and create a network dedicated to public safety use.

Until late last month, the FCC had Obama administration support for its plan, but no longer, according to a New York Times article. After months of being lobbied by public-safety interest groups, the president is ready to get behind their expansion idea, the article stated.

“We’re absolutely thrilled that the administration is now supporting us on this,” New York City Deputy Police Chief Charles F. Dowd, a leading advocate for public safety officials, told the Times.

It’s not smooth sailing yet. Giving the spectrum to public safety officials means that the cost of building out the spectrum will no longer be supported by auction revenues. In fact, Congress mandated the commercial auction to raise money for a dedicated emergency response network following the communication breakdowns of 9/11.

“The FCC might as well start tomorrow…and just say, ‘We're going to start planning for a commercial auction,’ because that's the current law," former FCC official Blair Levin told The Hill.

FCC action could be a good thing for public safety officials because it might spark Congress to act more quickly, Levin said. But that fire doesn’t need to be lit, according to House Homeland Security Chairman Pete King. He told The Hill this week that his legislation to hand the spectrum over to first responders would be floated in congressional chambers shortly.

“In any event, we're going to move forward as quickly as possible with legislation to reallocate the D Block to public safety,” he said.

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3) Flu the Coop: Vaccine Could Cause Epidemics to Disappear

A new flu vaccine could make epidemics and the drudgery of yearly shots take wing, according to a team of Oxford scientists who recently tested the panacea on humans with good results.

The team lead by Dr. Sarah Gilbert was able to use a new technique that targets the core of the influenza virus, which is more consistent from strain to strain, according to the Guardian. Current vaccines attack the constantly changing proteins on the outside of the virus, meaning a made-to-order drug must be manufactured—and administered—continually. Gilbert’s vaccine could change all that.

“If we were using the same vaccine year in, year out, it would be more like vaccinating against other diseases like tetanus,” Gilbert told the Guardian. “It would become a routine vaccination that would be manufactured and used all the time at a steady level. We wouldn't have these sudden demands or shortages—all that would stop.”

If avoiding the panicky stockpiling and safety concerns of hastily constructed vaccines isn’t enough, there’s also evidence that the new vaccine might double current efficacy in the elderly, Gilbert said. Because the newly developed vaccine is able to boost T-cell response, rather than forcing older immune systems to produce antibodies, oldsters will have a better chance.

"This study represents some potentially very exciting findings with positive implications not only for influenza but possibly for infectious disease in a wider context,” Kingston University microbiologist Mark Fielder told the Guardian, cautioning that a larger trial was still necessary.

The Oxford team’s original test group was 22 people. Gilbert has sent her results to a medical journal, but they’ve yet to be published, according to the Guardian.

Widespread use of the drug is still at least five years away, Gilbert told Bloomberg Businessweek, but the Utopian ideal of a flu-free world should be worth the wait.

"I think this [new vaccine] is very exciting," New York University flu expert Marc Siegel told Bloomberg. "It's the flu vaccine of the future."

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4)Nominations Now Open for Mary Fran Myers Award

Nominations are now being accepted for the 2011 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 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 in the Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop in Broomfield, Colorado, on July 9-12 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 18, 2011.

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

Call for Abstracts
20th John K. Friesen Conference: Growing Old in a Changing Climate
Simon Fraser University
Deadline: February 15, 2011
Abstracts are now being accepted for presentation at the 20th John K. Friesen Conference to be held May 25-26 in Vancouver, Canada. Papers should address the effects of climate change on the elderly, risk reduction strategies, or other climate and aging issues. Attendees are welcome to submit abstracts in several categories, including papers, individual presentations, and symposia presentations.


Call for Applications
Florida Governor’s Hurricane Conference Student Scholarships
Center for Disaster Risk Policy
Deadline: February 15, 2011
The Florida State University Center for Disaster Risk Policy is accepting scholarship applications from students wishing to attend the 25th Annual Governor’s Hurricane Conference, to be held May 12-20 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Scholarships can cover a variety of expenses, including registration, lodging, parking, and meals. Scholarship winners are expected to volunteer 12 hours during the conference.


Call for Comments
National Incident Management System Training Plan
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Deadline: February 22, 2011
The Federal Emergency Management Agency will be accepting comments and questions on its recently updated draft of the National Incident Management System Training Plan. The draft plan will define NIMS curriculum, establish core competencies that guide learning objectives, and update directions for hosting NIMS training courses.


Call for Nominations
2011 Sasakawa Award for Disaster Reduction
UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Deadline: February 28, 2011
The International Strategy for Disaster Reduction is accepting nominations of individuals or institutions that have improved disaster resilience on levels ranging from national to community. Candidate achievements should be in the same vein as the Making Cities Resilient—My City is Getting Readycampaign. Former Sasakawa laureates, ISDR System members, and those representing disaster reductions institutions may submit nominations.

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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]

That Weather Show: Duel Polarization Technology
The second episode of NOAA Weather Partners’ engaging video series That Weather Show not only shows NOAA’s quirky, fun side (who knew) but also explains duel polarization to the non-meteorologist. Using a combination of nifty videography, commercial spoofs, and easy-to-understand narration, NOAA makes weather fun in a way it hasn’t been since second-grade snow days.


Global Humanitarian Assistance
Global Humanitarian Assistance is the latest in a series of Web sites that help users track where aid dollars go. But this polished, well-organized site doesn’t stop at the money trail. GHA offers tools to navigate the murky waters of the humanitarian aid game, whether it be delivering immediate aid in disaster or investing in long-term preparedness. With data, guides, graphs, and commentary, visitors are sure to leave the site with a better understanding of how assistance happens.


Public Response to Warnings on Mobile Devices
This book, in prepublication from National Academies Press, presents ideas from a recent National Research Council workshop on how people respond to emergency warnings, especially those received via mobile devices. The book, available free online, covers the planned Commercial Mobile Alert System, communicating during a crisis, public education and training, and communicating with at-risk populations. Research gaps and opportunities are also explored.


Malaria Atlas Project
The Malaria Atlas Project, or MAP, offers a spatial database of information linking malaria spread and climate change to aid in reducing disease transmission. In addition to a trove of data, the MAP site has animations that depict malaria's impact, publications and public engagement materials, and, well, lots of maps.


Public Safety Broadband
Having a hard time staying abreast of the complex world of public safety communications? Now you don’t need to worry, because the consultants at Corner Alliance have you covered. The company is keeping track of the many-pronged efforts to build an interoperable public safety communication network and has listed news, upcoming meetings, and FCC actions on a no-frills Wordpress blog. It just might be the simplest thing in public safety communications yet.

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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]

March 2-3, 2011
Mitigating Disaster through Design and Construction
Engineering News-Record
Washington, D.C.
Cost and Registration: $450, open until filled
This conference will explore issues in building natural-disaster-resilient communities. Session topics include risk assessment, incentive and disincentive programs, inspections, funding priorities, and federal partnerships.


March 21-25, 2011
Community Recovery From Disaster Symposium
Public Entity Risk Institute
Cost and Registration: Free, open until filled
This free, online symposium will make it easy for practitioners and public officials to access the latest research on the economic, social, physical, and institutional aspects of disaster recovery. Participants will learn how disasters can affect their community and what can be done to prepare.


March 23-24, 2011
Volunteer Disaster Chaplain Training
Florida Crisis Consortium and FIND
Orlando, Florida
Cost and Registration: $195, closes March 7
This training will prepare faith leaders and chaplains to provide spiritual and psychological care during disaster. The training will be specific to chaplaincy functions within the Incident Command System and focus on working as a member of the ICS team, providing mental health assessments and referrals, and self-care during disaster. The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s online ICS training must be completed before the event.


April 3-8, 2011
European Geosciences Union General Assembly
European Geosciences Union
Vienna, Austria
Cost and Registration: $530 before February 28, open until filled
This event examines current issues and research from earth, planetary, and space sciences. The assembly will host a hazard-related program group including sessions on hydrological extremes, societal impacts, flash flood modeling, weather-related risks and agribusiness, and many more.


April 8-10, 2011
Disaster Response Challenge
British Red Cross
London, England
Cost and Registration: $80, open until filled
This two-day hypothetical disaster will provide firsthand exposure to the issues and decisions experienced by Red Cross units when responding to a major incident. Each team will act as an 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.


April 10-12, 2011
Partnering with the Media
Emergency Media and Public Affairs
Canberra, Australia
Cost and Registration: $965 before February 15, open until filled
This conference focuses on communicating with the public during emergencies and will emphasize the importance of building relationships with the media to better inform community decision making before and during the event. Conference activities will include small group discussion with members of the media, collaboration opportunities, and a role-playing session.

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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.]

Senior Climate Change Specialist
International Finance Corporation
Dhaka, Bangladesh
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: February 14, 2011
This position will lead the International Finance Corporation’s Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience strategy for South Asia, with a focus on Bangladesh and Nepal. Responsibilities include monitoring climate change projects, forecasting vulnerability, identifying environmental risk and forming mitigation strategies, and creating a repository of climate change information. A master’s in a climate change-related field, ten years of experience, and a strong understanding of climate adaptation and mitigation are required.


Homeland Security Grants Manager
State of Colorado
Centennial, Colorado
Salary: $50,000
Closing Date: February 14, 2011
This position will oversee the financial and operational aspects of federal homeland security grants issued to state agencies and local governments. Duties include providing technical assistance and monitoring grant compliance. A bachelor’s degree, one year of grant management experience, and the ability to travel are required. Experience with the Homeland Security Grant Program is preferred.


Planning Supervisor
Maricopa County Office of Preparedness and Response
Phoenix, Arizona
Salary: $47,902 to $61,027
Closing Date: February 28, 2011
This position will manage grants and oversee programs in several areas including hospital coordination, training and exercises, healthcare communication, and incident command center activation. Responsibilities include program management, contractor oversight, and integrating community-based organizations into preparedness and response efforts. A bachelor’s degree in emergency management, health services administration, or a related field; one year of experience managing public health emergencies; and disaster planning and risk communication knowledge and certifications are required.


Associate Director of Operations
Association of State Floodplain Managers
Madison, Wisconsin
Salary: Not posted
Closing date: March 3, 2011
This position assists the executive director of the Association of State Floodplain Managers with administration, project management, certification programs, and other ASFPM activities. Duties include managing day-to-day operations, overseeing financial management, and supervising publications and professional certifications. A bachelor’s in floodplain management or a related field; five years management experience; and financial and project management experience are required.


Emergency Management Coordinator
URS Corporation
Miami, Florida
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position is responsible for providing clients with a range of services within the four phases of emergency management. Duties include training and exercise development, writing emergency plans, researching best practices, meeting with clients, and directing workshops. Two years of experience in emergency management, five years working for the State of Florida, and Incident Command System certification are required.


Disaster Response Director
World Relief
Baltimore, Maryland
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position oversees World Relief disaster response worldwide, including budget management, relationship development, media campaigns, and creating a continuing education program for disaster response staff. A master’s degree in a disaster-related field, logistical and organizational disaster response skills, and experience training and mobilizing disaster staff overseas 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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