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Number 575 • October 6, 2011 | Past Issues













1) FEMA: Lots of Small Change, No Credit

It ain’t easy being FEMA. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has had more than its share of the limelight lately, thanks to a rash of federally declared disasters converging with political posturing over budget cuts. Much less attention has been paid to the agency's recent headway in building a more disaster resilient nation.

Last month, FEMA announced two major accomplishments: the release of the first edition of the National Preparedness Goal and of the final National Disaster Recovery Framework. The two documents are first steps in fulfilling this March's Presidential Policy Directive 8, which is meant to identify a system that will strengthen national preparedness overall.

While the preparedness goal outlines “core capabilities” needed to prevent, respond to, and recover from disaster, the recovery framework defines processes by which federal actors and local governments and organizations can work together to rebuild communities after disaster strikes.

The long-awaited recovery framework addresses longstanding complaints that FEMA assistance doesn’t consider local needs, doling out aid with a clumsy bureaucratic hand wrapped in red tape.

“If I add up all the phone calls and all the work I've had to do with all the agencies of government, FEMA has caused more problems than all the rest put together,” said outspoken FEMA critic Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tx.) recently on NPR. “And most of the time it's the fact that when FEMA comes in and there's a disaster they interfere with the local people. The local people, the landowners can't do what they want.”

The recovery framework will hopefully counter that perception by laying the groundwork for more collaboration. It’s designed to unify various groups—from FEMA responders down to neighborhood churches—as they attempt to create jobs, reopen schools, restock businesses, and accomplish the many other tasks of starting over after a disaster.

At the heart of the recovery framework, which syncs with the National Response Framework, are nine core recovery principles: individual and family empowerment, local primacy, pre-disaster recovery planning, partnerships and inclusiveness, public information, unified efforts, timeliness and flexibility, resilience, and emotional and psychological recovery.

“The National Disaster Recovery Framework recognizes that local, state, tribal and territorial governments have primary responsibility for the recovery of their communities,” writes Elizabeth Zimmerman, FEMA deputy associate administrator for response and recovery, on the White House Blog. “It identifies core principles to ensure all community members have equal opportunities to participate in recovery efforts in a meaningful way.”

But for those still dissatisfied with the rate of progress—and presidential commitments —there's always Stafford Act reform.

Reform legislation was introduced by Senators Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) on September 23—the same day the National Disaster Recovery Framework was released.

According to a Landrieu press release, the bill creates state and local incentives to adopt and enforce building codes, allows for pre-negotiated response contracts, streamlines regulations to start recovery projects more quickly, addresses children’s disaster needs, encourages the use of local businesses in recovery, and establishes a credentialing requirement for FEMA employees.

“I have witnessed numerous systemic failures, misguided policies and squandered opportunities in the way we go about facilitating community recovery after a disaster," Landrieu stated. "This legislation would ensure the federal government has the right tools in its toolbox to help communities recover from disasters in a smarter and more efficient way.”

Landrieu praised the recovery framework, according to the Times-Picayune, but sees the reform legislation as much further reaching. Some, however, stand by the agency and the president's path to reform.

"There needs to be changes in the system," Jack Harrald, former chairman of the National Academies Disasters Roundtable, told the Shreveport Times in reference to the work being done under PPD-8. "Those changes are slowly being made."

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2) 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Enters Second Round

First responders and others who got sick as a result of their service at ground zero following the September 11 terrorist attacks will get a second chance at getting financial help.

The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund was back in business Monday, with nearly 200 claimants coming forward in the first day, according to Newsday. For those unable to take advantage of the first round of funding, the newly replenished fund represents an opportunity for recompense. The original fund operated until 2004 and covered mainly those who died or were injured in the attacks.

This round will begin to address people injured or sickened by working at ground zero following the attacks. Up to 50,000 responders, workers, and some residents could be eligible for the fund, according to a January New York Times. Congress passed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which provides funding for the program, in January.

“We don’t leave our dead on the battlefield,” Uniformed Fire Officers Association President Al Hagen told the Times, “and we certainly shouldn’t leave our injured and ill in hospital beds with no funding.”

Unfortunately, some will likely still end up hospitalized without funding. The fund allocates $2.8 billion to compensation and $1.5 billion to medical expenses, according to the Associated Press. Although a long list of physical ailments and some psychological treatment will be covered, cancer isn’t on that list because the scientific evidence linking it to ground zero exposure is too tenuous.

“I feel the sorriest for the people that are still alive suffering from cancer and they get no benefit,” David McCormick, the father of a volunteer firefighter who died at age 34 of Hodgkin's disease, told the Express-Times. “The important thing is the people that are still alive and need our help now, get the help they need.”

For those whose ailments are eligible, there could still be difficulties. They will have to prove that they were in the blast area ten years ago and that they were damaged by being there. Proof can include housing records, rescue and recovery area admittance badges, and employment records or affidavits from witnesses, according to an October New York Times article.

“There is a list of documents that people are going to need that are listed on the Web site, so people can start putting materials together that they’re going to need in order to attach to their applications,” Special Master of the fund Sheila Birnbaum told the Times.

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3) Tsunami Approaching? Have a Ball

What’s round, yellow, and tsunami-proof? Why, a personal floating disaster shelter, of course.

The bizarre-looking invention—dubbed Noah, but touted in the media as everything from a disaster capsule to a mini-ark—is little more than a four-foot diameter fiberglass ball that manufacturers claim will provide safety during an earthquake, tsunami, or hurricane. Painted bright yellow for ease of rescue, the pod is allegedly water-tight and can hold up to four adults.

“This is the only shelter that guarantees protection from any natural disaster,” Shoji Tanaka, president of shelter maker Cosmo Power, told the Associated Press according to an ABC News article. “The more people know about it, the more they will be able to obtain this product according to their needs.”

People are finally beginning to take notice after being oblivious to the capsules for the first four years of their existence, according to ABC. That’s how long the high-priced shelters (from $2,500 to $4,000 according to various reports) were available without a single order. However, following the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in March, the company has 600 orders, according to the Daily Mail.

While the shelter balls are rolling slowly off the production line—two have been delivered, according to the Mail—there doesn’t seem to be much indication of whether they’ll actually work. Although Slate and others have reported that the shelters have been crash tested and guaranteed disaster proof, the company’s all-Japanese Web site makes it hard to determine the capsule’s safety record.

Even if it's less than sound, all is not lost. Cosmo Power notes that when you’re not using the Noah capsule to escape with your life, it makes an excellent playhouse for the kids.

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4) Don't Be Scared: This EERI Offer Won't Give You the Creeps

While October is known for eerie celebrations, there’s nothing strange or frightening about this EERI offer (and to be fair, it’s not eerie, but E-E-R-I). Still, this month is the perfect time to become a member of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute—especially for DR subscribers.

You don’t have to be an engineer to take advantage of the earthquake information, professional awards, and career resources that come with a membership in the EERI. The nationally known association is made up of members from a variety of disciplines who are interested in furthering understanding of the physical, social, economic, and political impacts of earthquakes.

For a limited time, when you buy a 2012 membership, you’ll receive the following benefits:

--Special issues of the EERI’s journal, Earthquake Spectra,
featuring the 2010 Haiti earthquake and the 2008 Great Southern California ShakeOut;

--The November 2011 issue of Earthquake Spectra, plus online access to all past issues; and,

--Special upcoming Earthquake Spectra issues on the 2010 Chile earthquake and the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.

In addition to these great publications, DR subscribers who join before October 14 will get a printed copy of pioneering sociologist Bill Anderson's oral history, which was featured in DR 572.

Dues are $270 for regular membership, $135 for young professionals, and $55 for students. To join, visit the EERI Membership page.

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

Call for Abstracts
AMOS Annual Conference
Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society
Deadline: October 14, 2011
The Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society is accepting abstracts for presentation at its annual conference to be held January 31 to February 3 in Sydney, Australia. Papers should adhere to the conference theme of connections in climate science, including spatial, biophysical, and socioeconomic connections.


Call for Comments
Ecosystem Restoration Strategy
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force
Deadline: October 26, 2011
The EPA Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force has published its preliminary strategy for restoring ecosystems affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and is accepting comments. Comments can be submitted online or by e-mail, fax, or U.S. Mail. For more information, including text of the strategy, visit the task force Web site.


Call for Papers
Planning and Foresight Methodologies in Emergency Preparedness and Management Special Issue
Journal of Technological Forecasting and Social Change
Deadline: December 1, 2011
The Journal of Technological Forecasting and Social Change is accepting papers for a special issue on Planning and Foresight Methodologies in Emergency Preparedness and Management. Papers on mitigation, risk assessment, resiliency of organizations, training, detection, preparation, response, recovery, and evaluation are welcome, but those examining integrated planning and foresight across different functions are especially needed.

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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]

Private Sector Resource Catalog 3.0
The Department of Homeland Security has just completed an update of its Private Sector Resource Catalog, making it even easier for businesses to find everything they need to keep their organizations safe from terrorism, cyber crimes, and natural disasters. This list of brochures, exercises, and training courses has something for businesses of every size.


BrainPOP Natural Hazards
BrainPOP is meant for children, but with videos as fun and engaging as these, you might find it useful too. Kids (or you) can learn about hurricane formation, flood mitigation, and the different kinds of seismic waves. Or explore a bit further and find related topics such as erosion, climate change, and the earth’s atmosphere. You can access the grade-appropriate movies, activities, and quizzes through a free trial, but eventually you’ll need a subscription.


The Programme of Research on Climate Change Vulnerability, Impacts and Adaptation, or PROVIA, is a UN initiative to give world leaders credible science on climate change and offer international direction on climate change research. A growing network of scientists, practitioners, and decision makers around the world are supporting PROVIA. The website offers an online communication portal and descriptions of relevant conferences; resources and publications will be available soon.

If you’re mourning the loss of all those great books that went away when the Public Entity Risk Institute reorganized, don’t shed another tear. just opened, so you may experience some hiccups, but be patient and you’ll soon be ordering from PERI’s wide-ranging collection of disaster risk tomes.


Ready Georgia Mobile App
You can have preparedness in your pocket with the Ready Georgia mobile app. Whether on iPhone or Android, you can get real-time alerts, information on how to prepare for impending threats, and data on past disasters. Got some downtime in the disaster department? The app also lets you make a preparedness plan or create a supply checklist. Sure, this app is for Georgia, but check it out so you can beg your state to create one like it.


Proceedings of the Third Session of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction
The UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction has released the proceedings of its most recent Global Platform meeting. While DR was able to give you a glimpse of what happened in May, the proceedings give a full account of the sessions, roundtables, and events of the platform, which is held every two years in Geneva, Switzerland. Charters, statements, and other ancillary materials are also included.

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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]

October 25, 2011
Water Resources Summit
The Horinko Group
College Park, Maryland
Cost and Registration: $200, open until filled
This conference will look at issues of water quality and supply in the face of climate change and population growth, and consider input from the public, advocacy, and business sectors on how communities can cooperate and conserve water. Topics include water governance, water advocacy, and the business of water.


October 29-30, 2011
The Constructed Environment
Common Ground Publishing
Chicago, Illinois
Cost and Registration: $450, open until filled
This conference will discuss the future of the built environment from a multidisciplinary perspective. Topics include nonstructural earthquake damages, public space in the construction of resilient urban environments, and the optimization of storm sewer pipe design. Conference attendees will participate in “talking circles” to facilitate conversation and collaboration.


October 30 to November 4, 2011
12th International Workshop on Wave Hindcasting and Forecasting and 3rd Coastal Hazards Symposium
Environment Canada, U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, and others
Waikoloa, Hawaii
Cost and Registration: $450, open until filled
This conference will discuss forecasting methodologies for coastal hazards with a focus on wave surge predictions. Topics include the climatic characteristics of storms, coastal hazard mitigation techniques, and field studies of wind, wave, and surge phenomena. An optional pre-conference volcano field trip is planned as well.


November 7-8, 2011
Nuclear Safety Forum
Paris, France
Cost and Registration: $886, closes October 14
This conference will present recent advances in nuclear safety and radiation protection, with an emphasis on challenges and far-reaching impacts of the Fukushima nuclear incident. Topics include aging nuclear facilities, nuclear waste management, extreme natural hazards, and lessons learned from nuclear accidents.


November 14-17, 2011
Exploring the Mega-Fire Reality 2011
Tallahassee, Florida
Cost and Registration: $700, open until filled
This conference discusses the growing number and intensity of wildfires and how those changes affect fire protection strategies. Topics include ecosystems at risk, changing fire patterns in the boreal forest, predictions and preparations, and managing ecological recovery.


November 23-26, 2011
Cities in Transition
Cisco Systems, Inc.
Porto Alegre, Brazil
Cost and Registration: $545, open until filled
This conference looks at cities becoming more resilient in the face of climate change. Local movements that mitigate future disasters will be highlighted. Topics include food access, redefining metropolitan governance and leadership, peri-urban agriculture and renewable energies, and urban growth and planning.

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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.]

Federal Coordinating Officer, GS-15
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Chicago, Illinois
Salary: $124,635 to $155,500
Closing Date: October 11, 2011
This position will lead disaster field operations and coordinate regional federal response and recovery efforts. Responsibilities include coordinating federal disaster assistance delivery, advising governors on federal response status, and establishing disaster assistance sites to administer relief services. Specialized experience in managing complex disaster response and at least one year of experience at the GS-14 level are required.


Disaster Response Program Development Manager
Habitat for Humanity International
Atlanta, Georgia
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: October 22, 2011
This position will develop funding proposals for disaster response projects and initiatives, and serve as the organization’s disaster response grants expert. Responsibilities include strategic development of the disaster response department, facilitating Habitat affiliates' disaster response and disaster risk reduction work, and managing and developing training materials. A bachelor’s degree and at least ten years of disaster risk management experience are required.


Adjunct Instructor
University of Maryland University College
Adelphi, Maryland
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position will teach emergency management courses on preparedness, response, recovery, mitigation, planning, program management, and disaster research. A master’s degree is required. A PhD and professional teaching experience are preferred. 


Emergency Management Specialist
Town of Flower Mound
Flower Mound, Texas
Salary: $22,900
Closing Date: October 23, 2011
This part-time position plans and coordinates all emergency management efforts, including developing a master emergency operations plan, developing community emergency preparedness training, conducting emergency response exercises, and coordinating Community Emergency Response Team volunteers. Knowledge of emergency preparedness is required. A bachelor’s degree in public administration or emergency management is preferred.


Emergency Management Consultant
Science Applications International Corporation
Salt Lake City, Utah
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position will serve as a technical resource for implementing large projects and might serve as a project manager on smaller tasks. Responsibilities include conducting research, designing and developing emergency management plans, implementing team training and exercises, and developing proposals and marketing materials. A bachelor’s degree, state and local emergency management agency support experience, and experience with planning, training, and implementing response are required. 


Emergency Relief Manager
International Fund for Animal Welfare
Yarmouthport, Massachusetts
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position oversees international emergency relief projects and provides leadership at disaster response sites. Responsibilities include conducting classes, developing strategic relationships, and incorporating animal welfare into emergency response plans worldwide. At least five years of experience in animal welfare or disaster relief is required. A veterinary degree 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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