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

Number 564 • March 10, 2011 | Past Issues













1) No Bang for No Buck: UK Claims No Value Added; Pulls Paltry UNISDR Contribution

When it comes to getting the most for your international development dollar (or pound, as the case may be), the United Kingdom doesn’t think the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction is much of a bargain. The feeling could be mutual, considering the trifling amount—less than US$900,000 in 2010—that the UK contributes.

The UK Department for International Development (DFID) announced last week that it would end UNISDR funding after a review process found that the UN agency “performed poorly or failed to demonstrate relevance to Britain’s development objectives.” Three other groups—the UN Industrial Development Organization, UN HABITAT, and the International Labour Organisation—and 16 countries will also get the funding ax.

“Aid can perform miracles but it must be well spent and properly targeted,” DFID Secretary Andrew Mitchell told the House of Commons on March 1. “The UK's development program has now been reshaped and refocused so that it can meet that challenge.”

It’s unclear what kind of miracles an extra $900,000 is expected to garner, but Mitchell said making the UNISDR and other cuts would allow the UK to focus on schooling and vaccinating children, providing safe drinking water, reducing infant mortality, and planning fair elections. Disaster risk reduction measures weren’t listed.

The DFID based its restructuring decisions on an extensive Multilateral Aid Review, according to Mitchell. The review considered if the UK was getting “value for money” in funding more than 40 international programs, using criteria such as control of costs, delivery of outcomes, focus on poor countries, and accountability and transparency.

Some agencies—UNICEF, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, the Private Infrastructure Development Group, and others—made high marks and will keep their funding. Others, such as the UN Development Programme and the World Health Organization, were put on notice and will have to step up their British game if they want to stay on the money rolls. Still a third “special measures” category, which includes UNESCO and the Food and Agriculture Organization, performed poorly but will keep their funding because they fill a special aid niche.

Although Secretary Andrew Mitchell assured the House of Commons that the review had been “thorough, rigorous,” and “evidence-based,” a thoughtful analysis by Tom Mitchell of the Overseas Development Institute on an AlertNet blog indicated the UNISDR review was not a fair comparison.

“The MAR assessment methodology included country visits, surveys, questionnaires and external evaluations,” he writes. “I would argue that the MAR was comparing apples and oranges—very different types of agencies—where a bottom-up evaluation of ‘value for money’ will never favor an international inter-agency coordination mechanism.”

The UNISDR said much the same thing in its expectedly amenable response, adding that the review had mischaracterized it as a humanitarian organization, rather than one situated in the field of sustainable development—and in doing so DFID had mischaracterized Disaster Risk Reduction as a humanitarian issue.

“DRR requires the concerted action of a variety of governmental and non-governmental actors across humanitarian, developmental and environmental fields,” the response states. “The interdisciplinary nature of DRR initiatives is still to be fully captured by national and international cooperation frameworks, plans and actions.”

Time will tell whether the UK’s snip of UNISDR purse strings turns out to be a sweet savings or penny wise and pound foolish. Although it would be a shame to see, with the average contribution coming in under $2 million and countries like the United States and China contributing as little as $300,000 a year, it seems as if nations might need a reminder that you get what you pay for.

“While many in the disasters community would agree UNISDR has considerable shortcomings and has suffered from mission creep,” Tom Mitchell writes, “its aim to guide and co-ordinate the efforts of a wide range of partners to achieve substantive reduction in disaster losses remains vital.”

Back to Top

2) EMS Still Wandering the Nation's Capital Homeless

Emergency Medical Services had a rough upbringing. The product of a tense coupling between public safety and medicine, EMS bounced back and forth between fickle foster parents—federal agencies that enabled its development but whose support has waxed and waned with the federal budget. Since it was a teenager (about the past 30 years now), EMS has been camped out on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's couch eating leftovers.

Now several groups have intervened; determined to somehow create a loving home for EMS in Washington.

Most recently, the International Association of EMS Chiefs and the EMS Labor Alliance released the whitepaper Consolidated Federal Leadership for Emergency Medical Services: An Essential Step to Improve National Preparedness. They say it's time for the Department of Homeland Security to step up and take EMS in.

What does this mean? Understanding that requires delving into the federal government's relationship with EMS. As Consolidated Federal Leadership for EMS details, NHTSA became the lead federal agency driving U.S. EMS development following the National Academies' 1966 Accidental Death and Disability: The Neglected Disease of Modern Society, which focused on unnecessary highway deaths. Both NHTSA and the then-Department of Health, Education and Welfare backed EMS with direct grant funding through the 1970s. In the early 1980s, the federal government moved EMS funding into state health block grants. According to the IAEMSC and EMSLA, this move led to states prioritizing other services above EMS, the dissolution of the Department of Health and Human Service's Office of EMS, NHTSA trying to nurture EMS without dedicated funding, and ultimately very inconsistent EMS care across the nation.

In its 2007 Emergency Medical Services at the Crossroads, the National Academies reported that EMS “is more fragmented than ever, and the lack of effective coordination and accountability stands in the way of further progress and improved quality of care." The report claimed that Congress establishing a federal lead agency for EMS, in HHS, within two years was essential to fixing these problems. Unsurprisingly, the report also recommended that Congress allocate substantial funds to improving EMS—recommendations that have received little congressional action.

Advocates for EMS, another coalition of EMS organizations, did succeed in provoking action—sort of—when Representatives Tim Walz (D-Mn.) and Sue Myrick (R-N.C.) introduced the Field EMS Quality, Innovation and Cost-Effectiveness Improvement Act on December 16. The Advocates for EMS bill would recognize NHTSA as the primary federal agency for field (outside the hospital) EMS, create a tax check-off funding mechanism, and appropriate about $70 million in startup funds. The Field Act promptly died at the end of the last Congress, although Advocates for EMS hopes for its resuscitation this year, according to EMS Insider.

Tired of waiting, the IAEMSC and EMSLA think they might have found a solution. In Consolidated Federal Leadership for EMS, they argue that existing 2002 Homeland Security Act authorities would allow the “Under Secretary for Emergency Preparedness and Response” to create “a federal EMS administration within the existing DHS Directorate of Emergency Preparedness and Response,” which among other things, would include a new National EMS Academy. In fact, the whitepaper implies that DHS may have a duty to do something about the fragmented state of national EMS if it’s to fulfill its statutory mandate to "ensure the effectiveness of emergency response providers to terrorist attacks, major disasters, and other emergencies."

“Our white paper looks at existing statutory authority to accomplish the fundamental goal of designating a lead federal agency with responsibility for EMS through existing legislation that's already on the books,” IAEMSC President Lawrence Tan told EMS Insider. “That being the case, it may be a faster way to accomplish the same goal and get thing[s] started.”

However, there are a couple of problems with the plan. First, it's not clear who in DHS possesses the legal authorities the IAEMSC and EMSLA plan relies upon after the 2006 Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act DHS reorganization. In other words, who would establish the new agency and where in the DHS organizational hierarchy would it go?

And then there's that much bigger problem that plagues all the plans—funding. Practically speaking, the federal EMS administration proposed by Consolidated Federal Leadership for EMS would logically sit next to the U.S. Fire Administration (which includes the National Fire Academy) in the Federal Emergency Management Agency organization chart. But even if FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate were to claim the mandate—he is a paramedic, after all—where would he get the resources?

Firefighters are already alarmed about President Obama's proposed FY 2012 budget, which includes more cuts to the U.S. Fire Administration. According to a recent Congressional Research Service report, “debate over the USFA budget has focused on whether the USFA is receiving an appropriate level of funding to accomplish its mission, given that appropriations for USFA have consistently been well below the agency's authorized level. An ongoing issue is the viability of the USFA and National Fire Academy within the Department of Homeland Security.”

The CRS notes that one of the many services the National Fire Academy may have to cut is wireless Internet in its dorms. Sounds like it might not be the best time for EMS to move to FEMA's couch.

Back to Top

3) Time to Update Your Clocks, Smoke Detector Batteries, and NHC Contact Info

What, you've never heard of the last one?

It's a good time of year to make sure you've sent the Natural Hazards Center your most recent contact info and e-mail subscription preferences. In the next few weeks, we'll be sending e-mail invitations to our 36th Annual Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop and updates to our Quick Response Grant Program, as well as the next issues of DR and the Natural Hazards Observer.

We'd hate to have you miss out, and all it takes is one trip to our handy Web form.

And if you think you're already so up to date, try getting up to the minute with our Twitter feed. That's where we post the stuff that can't even wait for the next issue of DR.

Back to Top

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

Call for Participation
Gulf Spill Restoration Public Meetings
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Deadline: March 16 to April 6, 2011
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will seek public input on restoration efforts needed to counteract impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Citizens are invited to attend a series of public meetings in Gulf Coast states and Washington, D.C., or can submit their comments online.


Call for Proposals
Evaluation 2011
American Evaluation Association
Deadline: March 18, 2011
The American Evaluation Association is accepting proposals for presentation at its annual meeting to be held November 2-5 in Anaheim, California. A special topic interest group will focus on evaluation practices, challenges, and theories related to disasters and emergency management. More information on the interest group, submission categories, and how to submit a proposal is available online.


Call for Applications
Weather and Society Integrated Studies
National Center for Atmospheric Research
Deadline: March 25, 2011
The National Center for Atmospheric Research Societal Impacts Program is accepting applications for its Weather and Society Integrated Studies (WAS*IS) workshop to be held August 4-12 in Boulder, Colorado. The workshop integrates social science and meteorological research and practice, and explores methods for effective socioeconomic application and evaluation of weather products. Students, professors, practitioners, and scientists are encouraged to apply. About 25 people will be chosen to attend.

Back to Top

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]

Global Design Village
It’s time to put your thinking cap on: Global Design Village is calling for students, professionals, and the public to take disaster risk reduction into their own hands byproposing creative solutions to reduce disaster impacts. The group’s first international design competition challenges designers worldwide to submit innovative ideas on hazard mitigation or hazard intelligence. Winners will be chosen from every continent and honored in Helsinki on the International Day for Disaster Reduction, October 10, 2012.


U.S. Cyber Challenge
This nationwide talent search seeks America’s best—like American Idol, but with hackers instead of singers. The U.S. Cyber Challenge asks Americans to put their computer skills to work protecting the country. Challenge competitions will identify the top guns of cybersecurity in a variety of interest and skill sets. With 1.8 billion cyber attacks each month, the challenge comes at a time when “cyber defenders” are needed most.


Living With Levees: Know Your Flood Risk
You know your social security number, your mother’s birthday, and your shoe size; but do you know your flood risk? The California Department of Water Resources Web site aims to answer that question while raising awareness of flood risk in California. With fact sheets, brochures, and links providing information on flood mitigation, the site is a useful flood resource for those in any state.


The Deepwater Horizon oil spill's environmental and economic impacts dominated the headlines after the catastrophe. Now the National Institutes of Health is looking at a different aspect of the oil spill—its impact on the health of the clean up workers. The GuLF STUDY, conducted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, will look at the effect of crude oil and dispersants on the physical and mental health of oil spill workers and volunteers over the long term. More information on the study—the largest ever on oil-spill health impacts—and how to participate is included on the site.


Traditional Knowledge and Red Cross Disaster Preparedness in the Pacific
Better together—that’s the conclusion of this recently releasedAustralian Red Cross report on incorporating local knowledge into disaster preparedness planning. The report touts the benefits of combining traditional and scientific knowledge to reduce disaster impacts—a combination that can lead to increased understanding about risks, empowerment of the local population, and increased community engagement with preparedness. Case studies from the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea further illustrate the power of indigenous knowledge in preparing for disasters.

--Allison V. Taylor contributed to these reports

Back to Top

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]

April 26-29, 2011
Space Weather Workshop
NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center
Boulder, Colorado
Cost and Registration: $275, closes April 1
This workshop will highlight the impact of space weather on communication, navigation, spacecraft, and electric power grids and identify needed research and operational capacities. Topics include space weather effects on satellites, the national space weather plan, and space weather prediction modeling.


May 9-12, 2011
National Hydrologic Warning Council Training Conference and Exposition
National Hydrologic Warning Council
San Diego, California
Cost and Registration: $500 before April 1, open until filled
This conference will address how to improve warnings for all types of hydrologic hazards with an emphasis on changing environments and technology. Session topics include the future of flood hazards in California, Washington, and Oregon; a nationwide comprehensive water management system; and predicting flash floods and debris flows in fire burned areas. Training, workshops, and listening sessions will also be offered.

May 10-11, 2011
International Crisis and Risk Communication Conference
University of Central Florida
Orlando, Florida
Cost and Registration: $645 before May 9, open until filled
This conference will focus on communicating risk and crisis information in an age of many communication technologies. Session topics will include social media's impact on crisis communication, communications during the Gulf oil spill and H1N1 outbreak, social media’s role in disaster scandals, and federal crisis communications.


May 11-13, 2011
Second International Conference on Disaster Management and Human Health
Wessex Institute of Technology
Orlando, Florida
Cost and Registration: $1450, open until filled
This conference will address global risk, strategies to prepare for disruptive events, and methods of prevention in disaster management and public health. Conference topics include risk mitigation; surveillance and early warning systems; pandemic and biological threats; service sustainability; and public health preparedness.


May 15-20, 2011
ASFPM 35th Annual Conference
Association of State Floodplain Managers
Louisville, Kentucky
Cost and Registration: $580 before April 3, closes May 11
This conference will cover flood mitigation, watershed management, and community flood safety, and use Kentucky flood and water issues as a learning tool. National Flood Insurance Program compliance, green infrastructure and stormwater management, levee safety, and dam assessment are among the topics to be covered. Grant writing workshops, training sessions, and a chance to check out ASFPM’s new FloodManager interactive scenario will also be offered.


June 6-9, 2011
14th Annual Emergency Management Higher Education Conference
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Emmitsburg, Maryland
Cost and Registration: Free for accepted applicants, application period closes May 13
This conference allows emergency management educators and academic program administrators to meet with practitioners and discuss curricula, creating new programs, accreditation, and other issues involved in emergency management education. Topics will include NIMS training, integrating geospatial technology, and administrating emergency management educational departments.

Back to Top

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.]

Emergency Management Coordinator
Bellevue Fire Department
Bellevue, Washington
Salary: $55,188 to $76,152
Closing Date: March 17, 2011
This position will develop and maintain emergency management programs and policies for the City of Bellevue and its schools and community groups. Duties include writing and coordinating disaster plans, developing emergency project initiatives, holding public meetings, and conducting research and data analysis. A degree in communications, emergency management, or public administration and knowledge of emergency management planning and the incident command system are required.


Environmental Protection Specialist, GS-12
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Atlanta, Georgia
Salary: $71,901 to $93,470
Closing Date: March 18, 2011
This position provides guidance to the FEMA Hazard Mitigation Assistance Program on archeological, historic preservation, and environmental planning laws and regulations. Duties include data gathering and analysis, crafting and reviewing environmental and historic preservation documents, and training agency personnel in the application of such documents. One year of experience in archeological and historic preservation at the GS-11 level is required.


Chief Mitigation Officer
California Earthquake Authority
Sacramento, California
Salary: $110,000 to $135,000
Closing Date: Not listed
This position is responsible for the California Earthquake Authority’s educational outreach program, research collaborations, managing residential retrofit programs statewide, and developing financial incentive programs. Ten years of experience in construction or building, knowledge of state and federal hazard mitigation programs, and experience implementing complex programs are required.


Disaster Reduction Advisor
United Nations Development Programme
Yerevan, Armenia
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: March 15, 2011
This position advises UNDP staff on disaster reduction and climate risk, including the integration of risk reduction strategies into existing programs. Duties include analyzing and drafting policies, collecting information on country-specific hazards, distilling and documenting lessons learned and best practices, and promoting risk reduction awareness. A master’s degree in social science or a disaster-related field, five years of disaster reduction advocacy experience, and policy experience 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