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

Number 570 • July 28, 2011 | Past Issues













1) Workin’ the Workshop: Another Year of Hazards Examined

Those familiar with the Natural Hazards Center know our year revolves around the planning and execution of our Annual Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop, which is known for its lively exchanges about current hazards research and practice.

This, our 36th year, was no different—we examined earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand and looked at the ongoing recovery in Haiti. We took on topics of resilience (whatever that is), risk and responsibility, and institutional change. We delved into matters of planning and recovery and learned how the latest research is being applied in practice.

If you weren’t one of the nearly 400 people from 14 countries that attended, this issue of DR is for you. It showcases some of the ideas and resources that rose from the three-day gathering of researchers, practitioners, government officials, and nonprofit organizers. Our regular fare of hazards news, resources, conferences, and jobs will be back on August 11.

Back to Top

2) More than Buildings: Elizabeth Hausler Shares the Success Secrets of Build Change

Housing vulnerable people in developing countries takes more than putting hammer to nail. If you want build a lasting change so that poor people susceptible to natural hazards house themselves more safely, you need a sophisticated, multi-tiered approach that considers technical, educational, and cultural issues. That’s the house that Elizabeth built.

Elizabeth Hausler founded Build Change in response to the persistent yet avoidable loss of life caused by building collapses in earthquakes. Build Change is a nonprofit that works to improve the safety of local building practices and empower communities to continue those practices in culturally appropriate ways.

“We work with people on the ground to design and build better buildings,” Hausler recently told attendees at the opening keynote of the 36th Annual Natural Hazards Workshop. “If you don’t get the architecture right, you’re not going to achieve a long term change in design practice.”

Build Change has trained more than a thousand builders, 2,400 homeowners, and worked with policy makers to provide guidance on earthquake resistant housing that is affordable and accessible to home owners. The group works primarily in Haiti, Indonesia, and China.

Build Change has an innovative six-step process for motivating people to build earthquake resistant housing.

“The first is learn,” Hausler said. “Try to understand why houses collapse and why they didn’t. Do technical and market research to understand how people want to rebuild.”

The next step is to design disaster resistant houses that are appropriate to the culture, followed by improving local capacity by training local engineers to design sound structures. Fourth, stimulate local demand.

“Again, someone’s got to want the house to be earthquake resistant,” she said. “So we have to engage people in this process, and enable them to understand what they need to look for in order to build safely.”

The fifth step is to facilitate access to capital. Build Change does not provide funds itself, but it does work with other organizations to get money to homeowners. If there isn’t enough funding available, the houses are unlikely to be completed properly or completed at all.

Finally, Build Change measures the change both during the reconstruction and beyond.

Although some challenges to earthquake resistant construction are technical, many are cultural, financial, or some combination of factors. Hausler raised the issue of concrete block construction in Haiti as an example.

Poor concrete block construction of Haitian buildings was blamed for many of the deaths in the 2010 earthquake. Some of the block issues are technical, Hausler told the audience, but there are also business and financial issues. For instance, many block manufacturers did not have enough space to store the blocks until they were properly cured, so they were sold before they were ready. In addition, block is sometimes sold quickly because the manufacturer needs the cash flow to buy new materials.

Because the material is so firmly embedded in the Haitian economy, it’s impossible to simply prohibit the use of block construction, Hausler said. The prevalence and familiarity also means homeowners will turn to it anyway, so a better option is teaching residents to work with what they have.

“It’s so much easier to work with people to make a small change to an existing way of building than to bring in something completely new,” Hausler said.

Back to Top

3) Switching It Up at USGS: Applegate Explains How a Staid Institution is Finding a New Groove

For more than a century, the U.S. Geological Survey has delivered the straight-up science needed to navigate natural hazards—but not anymore. When it comes to dispatching science in and ahead of a crisis, the times are a-changin’.

“We’re increasingly moving—in order to make the information the most useful and usable that it can be—moving from a sort of traditional area of hazard assessment into more risk based information,” USGS Associate Director for Natural Hazards
David Applegate recently said in his keynote speech at the 36th Annual Natural Hazards Workshop. “The bureaucracy of the USGS is changing and it’s changing in a way that has the potential to be beneficial for our ability to be effective in the hazards arena.”

A restructuring of the organization by strategic areas, rather than areas of scientific expertise, is among those changes, Applegate said.

“For 130 years the survey was organized by where you got your degree,” he told attendees. “We had a geology discipline, a mapping discipline, a water resources discipline. Now we’re organized in these mission areas … natural hazards being one of those.”

Now that the Survey is “undisciplined,” more attention can be paid to strategic areas: climate and land use change; core science systems; ecosystems; energy and minerals and environmental health; water; and of course, natural hazards.

The natural hazards mission area is responsible for coastal and marine geology, earthquake hazards, geomagnetism, global seismographic networks, landslides, and volcanoes. It also coordinates information across all hazards and facilitates USGS response activities after an event.

The natural hazards mission includes advancing hazards understanding, developing monitoring and communications infrastructure, characterizing hazards, assessing risk, and improving forecasting. The USGS already has statutory responsibility for keeping citizens informed of earthquakes, landslides, and volcanic eruptions, and provides support that allows other programs—such NOAA’s tsunami alert system—to meet their responsibilities as well.

Even with so much on its plate, the natural hazards mission of the USGS has taken a new approach to providing “richer information that will be actionable by the emergency responders,” Applegate said.

A suite of products fits that goal, including ShakeMaps, the newly improved PAGER earthquake assessment system, and the Volcano Disaster Assistance Program. But even as these do a better job giving people the resources they need than ever before, it’s the recent spate of demonstration products—the Great ShakeOut scenarios and ARkStorm— that really embody the new approach, Applegate said.

 “This whole notion is about trying to do a better job of delivering our information in such a way that we can help people improve resilience in communities,” he said.
“Trying to take hazard information and then build upon that to make the hazards real enough to be able to think about the possible, not just the probable, and play it all out to be able to look at the consequences. When we asked at the outset of this project what do emergency managers want, this was the top thing that they wanted”

The scenario approach has been wildly successful in bringing together a lot of people of differing expertise—from the man on the street to first responders to transportation and utility crews—to examine what’s going to happen in their area of responsibility when disaster strikes. The end result is hopefully a bigger, clearer picture than any one discipline could have provided alone.

“We have a lot of geoscientists in our midst but we do also have capabilities beyond that, but we particularly need to reach out and that’s what this has been about,” Applegate said. “Getting the earth science information, the engineering information, the social science information and putting together the building blocks of a scenario like this.”
More scenarios, including a tsunami and a wildfire scenario, are in the works. And as the USGS begins creating 10-year science strategies for each mission area, it looks like there’s no going back to the your-father’s-geological survey way of thinking. After all, Applegate said, the risk reduction approach just makes sense.

“We know that in science and crisis the best thing you can do is what you do ahead of the crisis,” he said. “The interest here is can we do that outside the crisis, because after all to do it within the crisis is about the worst possible time.”

Back to Top

4) 2011 PERISHIP Award Winners Announced at the Natural Hazards Workshop

Seven PhD students will receive a $10,000 grant to support interdisciplinary dissertation work courtesy of the 2011 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 2011 PERISHIP Fellows and their dissertations are:

Christian S. Chan, University of Massachusetts Boston, Department of Psychology
Measuring Exposure in Natural Disaster: A Meta-Analysis and a Multi-Wave Longitudinal Study

Albert J. Faas, University of South Florida, Department of Anthropology
Reciprocity and Political Power in Disaster-Induced Resettlements in Andean Ecuador

Michelle Lueck, Colorado State University, Department of Sociology
Community Disaster Resilience: The Role of Collective Efficacy and Social Capital

Ward Lyles, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Department of Planning
Stakeholder Network Influences on Local-Level Hazard Mitigation Planning Outputs

Julie K. Maldonado, American University, Department of Anthropology
Transforming Environments: The Lived Experience of Facing Displacement in the Louisiana Bayou

Trevor Maynard, University of California, Department of Mechanical Engineering
The Effect of Spot Fire Ignition Spacing on Prescribed and Wildland Fire Behavior

Lauren Patterson, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Department of Geography
Interconnections between Drought and Water Policy in the South Atlantic, USA

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

Back to Top

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

Call for Comments
Dissemination Re-Architecture
National Weather Service
Deadline: July 31, 2011
The National Weather Service is accepting comments as it begins the process of revamping its system for delivering weather information to end users. Among the programs under review are NOAA Weather Radio, NWSChat, Emergency Managers Weather Information Network System, and various social media efforts. Those who would like to make suggestions or vote on previously made suggestions can do so online.


Call for Abstracts
Tsunami Inundation, Risk and Vulnerability Assessment Session
American Geophysical Union
Deadline: August 4, 2011
The American Geophysical Union is accepting abstracts for the Tsunami Inundation, Risk and Vulnerability Assessment session at its fall meeting to be held December 5-9 in San Francisco. Abstracts related to tsunami damage, inundation impact evaluations, and assessments that enable mitigation, response, recovery, and risk reduction are welcome.


Call for Entries
Communicating Concepts With John and Jane Q. Public: Transportation during Emergency Situations Competition
Transportation Research Board
Deadline: August 5, 2011

The Transportation Research Board Committee on Public Involvement is accepting entries into its fifth annual competition honoring transportation officials who communicate effectively with the public during emergencies. Examples of clear communication techniques that help non-technical audiences understand complex transportation concepts will be considered. Full details and prize winner information is available on the competition Web page.

Back to Top

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]

The following resources are just a few featured by presenters and panelists at the 2011 Hazards Workshop. Some are hot off the presses, others have been around for a while, but all come highly recommended.

Haiti in Distress: The Impact of the 2010 Earthquake on Citizen Lives and Perceptions
This study incorporates a wide array of subject matter in an effort to glimpse the comprehensive and continued human impact of the 2010 Haitian earthquake on its survivors. Conducted by Vanderbilt University’s Latin American Public Opinion Project with the support of USAID, the face-to-face survey garnered information on citizen security, political behavior, and socioeconomic conditions before and after the quake. A post-earthquake look at the economy and services being provided is also included.


UNDP Human Development Reports
The United Nations Development Programme has collected a wealth of useful human development indicator tools, including graphics of development trends, profiles of UN member nations, and a new education indicator. Also available on the site are UN Human Development Reports from 1990 to present, development indices and resources, searchable data sets, and a tool that lets you create your own index.


International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Code of Conduct
“Ethics aren’t static, they’re always changing,” said Roberto Barrios, of Southern Illinois University in a Workshop session on disaster management ethics. “You can do harm to others while being ethical within your own framework.” Perhaps someday there will be a standard that allows the many people involved in disaster response to assist the often culturally diverse victims of disaster. Until then, the IFRC Code of Conduct for NGOs in Disaster Relief might be a start. The voluntary code attempts to maintain a high standard of behavior in delivering humanitarian aid without limiting the effectiveness of response efforts.


USGS Start with Science
When it comes to making decisions about health and safety, national security, and quality of life, the U.S. Geological Survey intends to start with science—and it wants your help. The Start with Science site serves as an entry point to learn more about USGS science strategy planning, including the creation of 10-year strategies for each of the survey’s new mission areas. So stop by, read up, and weigh in.


Informed Decisions on Catastrophe Risk
The National Flood Insurance Program has long been questioned in Congress, but you have to wonder if homeowners take the coverage seriously either. This Summer 2011 Wharton Center for Risk Management Issue Brief analyzed how long homeowners keep NFIP insurance. The analysis of more than 40 million policies purchased from 2001-2009 found the median time for maintaining insurance was two to four years and more than 80 percent of homeowners opted for the lowest possible coverage.

Back to Top

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]

August 21-24, 2011
Conference on Coastal Engineering Practice
Coasts, Oceans, Ports, and Rivers Institute
San Diego, California
Cost and Registration: $795 before August 2, open until filled
This conference will focus on solving coastal engineering problems and ensuring sustainable coastal development using case histories and current projects as examples. Topics include global warming and the acceleration of sea rise, coastal modeling, coastal structures and sustainability, and the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami.


August 21-27, 2011
World Water Week
Stockholm International Water Institute
Stockholm, Sweden
Cost and Registration: $1,103 before August 19, open until filled
This conference examines water issues from a variety of angles to develop a long-term understanding of water and development. This year’s focus will look at how water management and policies are responding to global changes. Topics include water and food security, gender in urban water and sanitation utilities, creating a water secure future, challenges in accessing drinking water, and water and climate.


August 30 to September 1, 2011
Technologies for Critical Incident Preparedness
U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of Defense, and U.S. Department of Justice
National Harbor, Maryland
Cost and Registration: Free, open until filled
This event showcases technology that improves the ability to prepare for and respond to critical incidents, as well as providing those interested in critical incident response an opportunity to network and discuss their technology needs. Topics include geospatial technology in emergency response, first responder use of social media, federal resources for emergency response, and technological advances since September 11, 2001.


September 8, 2011
Risk Crisis Communications Seminar
Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health
Little Rock, Arkansas
Cost and Registration: $250, open until filled
The seminar is designed to help first responders, state and local agencies, and medical personnel effectively communicate emergency information to the public, as well as internally. Topics include new media strategies, best practices for communicating in high stress situations, perspectives on transparency, and case studies from real life crises.


September 19-21, 2011
Mountain Hazards 2011
United Nations Development Programme
Dushanbe, Tajikistan
Cost and Registration: $260 before August 31, open until filled
This conference is part of an ongoing effort to collect data, build international cooperation, and develop future projects that address the increasing mountain hazards created by climate change. Topics will include Central Asia geohazards, climate risk management, international climate change collaboration, and natural hazard research.


October 3-9, 2011
Second World Landslide Forum
International Program on Landslides
Rome, Italy
Cost and Registration: $430, open until filled
This forum continues a conversation that started with the 2008 Landslide Forum in Tokoyo. Attendees will focus on how to better expand landslide research, technology, education, and decision making. Topics to be discussed include, landslides and global change, advancements in hazards and mapping assessments, and landslide awareness.

Back to Top

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.]

Structural Engineering Team Leader
Build Change
Petionville, Haiti
Salary: Not Listed
Closing Date: July 31, 2011
This position will represent Build Change in design and building standard discussions with local government, oversee structural and architectural drawings, and recruit local engineers, architects, and drafters. Five years of structural engineering experience, familiarity with earthquake-resistant design, project management skills, and a professional engineering license are required.


Natural Hazards Scientist
Aga Khan Development Network
Dushanbe, Tajikistan
Salary: Not listed
Closing Date: July 31, 2011
This position will manage the Network’s Risk Assessment Programme and build its capacity to map seismic risk in Pakistan, Tajikistan, India, and Afghanistan. A graduate degree in seismology, geology, engineering or natural hazards management; ten years related experience in the region, and effective collaboration skills are required.


Archeologist, GS-11
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Biloxi, Mississippi
Salary: $ 57,408 to $74,628
Closing Date: August 8, 2011
This position will coordinate recovery, response, and reviews in accordance with the National Historic Preservation Act and the Environmental Historic Preservation Section 106. Duties include monitoring and evaluating Section 106 reviews, providing archeological research, interpretation, and lab analysis, and determining historic preservation needs. At least one year of experience at the GS-10 level are required, as well as a degree or work experience that emphasizes archeological study.


Disaster Preparedness Technical Advisor
International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
Delhi, India
Salary: Not listed
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position will provide technical advice to regional Red Cross/Red Crescent societies, identify obstacles to effective disaster response, implement plans to overcome obstacles, and integrate disaster risk reduction policies. Experience managing disaster operations, training and facilitation skills, and an advanced degree in disaster management, international development, or a related subject is required.


Research and Knowledge Mobilization Project Manager
Dalhousie University Resilience Research Centre
Halifax, Nova Scotia

Salary: Not listed
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position will coordinate national and international conferences, synthesize and share best practices related to risk and resilience among children, disseminate project materials including co-authoring publications, and assist with grant writing. The ability to work cross culturally, an understanding of risk and resilience issues related to youth, and a PhD in a related field (ABD acceptable) is 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