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

Number 580 • December 15, 2011 | Past Issues













1) Cutting Out the Middleman: FEMA Supports Tribes' Right to Seek Emergency Funds

When disaster strikes in Indian Country, that’s when the waiting begins. Unlike state emergency officials, tribal leaders have to wait on another bureaucracy before they can request and distribute federal funds to disaster survivors—the wait for a state governor to request a presidential disaster declaration.

There is hope, though, that tribes may soon have a more direct line to federal emergency funds. The Federal Emergency Management Agency last week released a statement in strong support of amending the Stafford Act to allow tribal governments to make federal disaster declaration requests directly.

FEMA regulations already allow tribal governments to be direct grantees of its Public Assistance and Hazard Mitigation Grant programs. But without the legislative change, they can't apply for those grants until a state governor has obtained a federal disaster declaration which includes their area.

The agency’s endorsement was first delivered at the 2011 Tribal Nations Conference, held December 2.

“Amending the law would enhance FEMA’s working relationship with tribal governments and improve emergency and disaster responsiveness throughout Indian Country,” FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate stated.

Tribal leaders have pressed for change for at least a decade, saying the present system wastes valuable response time, according to an article from the Indian Country Today Media Network. Even in best-case scenarios, the system is cumbersome. And in some cases, there might not be much political interest for a state governor to help a tribe.

“We don't really have treaties with the state of Montana,” Bum Stiffarm, chief administrator for the Fort Belknap Indian Community, told the Great Falls Tribune. “Our trust responsibilities lie with the federal government.”

Earlier this year, the Fort Belknap community had to wait more than three weeks after flooding that destroyed roads, bridges, and homes to receive a federal disaster declaration, Stiffarm told the Tribune. Although FEMA liaisons were on the reservation within a week, they weren’t able to help immediately.

“The state was very slow in declaring a disaster area,” he said. “We had to wait and wait until the governor did that in order for FEMA to come back. Once this legislation goes through, we won't have to wait for the state of Montana, and FEMA can work directly with us.”

The key to achieving that happy state will be when the legislation goes through. Although the bill has the support of several states' Representatives, the National Congress of American Indians, and at least one Senator, it’s seen very little action in the last seven months. H.R. 1953 was introduced in the House on May 24th and referred to the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management on May 25th. Since then, it hasn’t moved. There is no corresponding bill in the Senate.

“We’ve got work to do,” Fugate told Indian Country Today. “We don’t have an immediate timeframe on this, but it is something that we would like to work with Congress—and if there is an ability…we would like to see this done soonest.”

Back to Top

2) Down and Durban: How the Climate Convention Played Out

Last issue, we left delegates at the Durban UN Framework Convention on Climate Change conference struggling to make meaningful progress toward addressing the world’s climate woes. Those talks wrapped up Sunday, days behind schedule and with some tough decisions delayed. Here's how a few major items played out in overtime.

Unbelievably, the bedraggled Kyoto Protocol—which has done little to stanch carbon emissions since taking effect in 2008—managed to stagger out with agreement on a “second commitment period,” according to Reuters.

The European Union had asked for a binding extension of Kyoto until 2015, according to the Guardian. Nonparticipants in the Protocol—the United States, China, and India—and nations unhappy with their participation in Kyoto, such as Canada, Russia, and Japan, had proposed beginning negotiations on a different sort of solution, but not until 2015.

In the end, delegates approved a second commitment to the protocol through 2012. Round Two of Kyoto is slated to run from 2013 to 2017, although legal details still need to be hammered out, according to Reuters. Meanwhile, Canada announced that it would withdraw from its first-round participation in the Protocol, effectively relieving it from having to purchase carbon credits for missed emission targets and highlighting the agreement’s overall ineffectiveness.

While Kyoto will see another round, Kyoto critics will also get their way…eventually. The Durban Platform for Enhanced Action will attempt to forge something like a new Kyoto Protocol, but one that will somehow bind all Framework Convention parties.

This work is set to begin immediately and be completed by 2015, with implementation delayed until 2020. Perhaps that's a realistic time for reaching consensus, but by then the point may be moot, seeing as some climate experts believe we’re already stuck on the path to dangerous and irreversible climate change. The Durban Platform does seem to recognize that some nations just don't seem to be motivated by the present existential crisis, and sets goals for closing the greenhouse gas emission mitigation “ambition gap.”

On a somewhat more practical note, small progress was made on structuring the Green Climate Fund, a pot of money that would provide about $1 billion a year to help developing nations mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.

While delegates were able to agree that a UN body would manage the fund, most other important details—including where the money would come from and how climate mitigation and adaptation activities will be overseen—are yet to be established, according to Reuters.

The failure to reach a conclusion—and resulting delay in access to funds—frustrated many, including ActionAid's International Climate Justice Coordinator Harjeet Singh, who called the fund “an empty shell.”

When the official reports and agreements from Durban are finally published, they’ll be available on the COP 17 Web page.

Back to Top

3) DR Takes a Holiday

‘Tis the season for taking a break—even from DR. The newsletter will be on a hiatus during the holiday season, so look for DR 581 to return January 26. We’ll start the new year with the same great disaster news you can use, and you’ll start with one less thing to catch up on in your inbox.

Back to Top

4) One Last Reminder This Year: Workshop Session Suggestions Due December 31

Since we’ll be on hiatus, this is our last opportunity to remind you that we’re still looking for your suggestions for session topics and speakers for our 2012 Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop—but only until New Year’s Eve.

The Workshop exists so researchers, policy makers, practitioners, and students from far-flung corners of the hazards and disasters community can meet and discuss the latest developments in their fields and how society might best respond. We need your help figuring out who needs to be there and what they should talk about.

Please take a moment to fill out our online form—as many times as you like—before December 31. We'll take your ideas, fuse them together, and look forward to a new set of lively conversations in July.

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

Call for Proposals
RISK Award
Munich Re Foundation, Global Risk Forum Davos, and UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Deadline: December 31, 2011
Proposals are being accepted for the 2012 RISK award. The award will provide $134,000 to implement a disaster early warning project, especially a project that would aid developing countries. Applications will be accepted from individuals, teams, or governments. Projects currently under development and upgrades of existing systems are acceptable. For full details and a proposal form, visit the Munich Re Foundation Web site.


Call for Submissions
Shelters for All Competition
University of Notre Dame
Deadline: January 15, 2012
A University of Notre Dame research team is accepting design submissions for a combined contest and research project. Participants from any discipline are invited to submit their ideas for addressing the lack of resilient and affordable urban housing problems in developing nations. Winning designs could garner up to $10,000. Participants must also complete two surveys and are requested to complete a peer review of two other entries. Full details are available on line.


Call for Applications
Young Scientists Summer Program
International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis
Deadline: January 16, 2012
The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis is accepting applications for participation in their Young Scientists Summer Program to be held June 1 to August 31 in Laxenburg, Austria. The program is aimed at broadening the research of students who are about two years from receiving their PhD. Research interests should be applicable to IIASA problem areas, which include energy and climate change, food and water, and poverty and equity. Full details and sample application materials are available online.


Call for Abstracts
Student Paper Competition
Association of State Dam Safety Officials
Deadline: February 2012
The Association of State Dam Safety Officials is accepting abstracts to be considered in its fourth annual student paper competition. Students pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree are invited to submit papers on dam-related topics such as levee safety, hydrology, environmental protection, risk management, hazard mitigation, emergency management, floodplain management or critical infrastructure security. Winning paper authors will receive a cash prize and a travel stipend to accept their award at the Dam Safety Conference, September 16-20, in Denver.

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]

Macondo Well-Deepwater Horizon Blowout: Lessons for Offshore Drilling Safety
The oil industry and regulators need to put more emphasis on safety at all stages of drilling, according to this report by the National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council. The report, released this week, looked at the Deepwater Horizon disaster to identify industry practices that lead to catastrophic accidents. They found the industry put too much trust in technology that had known problems, ignored signs of impending blowout, and failed to hire properly trained and educated staff. The report recommends establishing guidelines based on risk and implementing a safety systems approach to emergency planning.


Geospatial Platform
Whether you’re a GIS expert or just like to geek out with maps, Geospatial Platform has something for you. The platform marries data sets from government agencies like NOAA and the EPA with a Web-based mapping tool, so you can map anything from weather systems worldwide to Superfund sites along your vacation route. Upload and share your maps, and even join groups of users with similar mapping interests.


The Natural Hazards Collection
Need to know how an earthquake might affect a mountain slope? Or how a hurricane can wreak havoc on a wastewater system? Heck, this collection of journal articles from Routledge can even lead you to resources on how Katrina cleanup compares to post-World War II Europe. Regardless of the type of disaster article you’re looking for, this is a good place to start, with a wealth of information on how disaster affects the economy and environment. A subscription may be required to access some articles.


Cement Trust
In the United States, it’s easy to trust cement in everything from sidewalks to sewage systems, but in the developing world, concrete building blocks can be much shakier. Cement Trust makes a case for changing that—and helping to rebuild disaster stricken communities in the process. The group aims to improve concrete quality and the economy in Haiti by strengthening the concrete supply chain. Visit the Web site to learn more about their plan and as well as some nifty cement facts.


Changing Perception of Avian Influenza Risk, Hong Kong, 2006–2010
Hong Kong residents worry less about contracting avian flu, although they believe the likelihood of catching the disease remains the same, according to this study recently published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention journal Emerging Infectious Diseases. Among the findings was that decreased risk of exposure seemed to stem from limited availability of live poultry rather than health education efforts such as hand-washing campaigns.

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]

January 22-25, 2012
Seventh Gulf Seismic Forum
Saudi Geological Survey
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Cost and Registration: Free, open until filled
This conference will address earthquake risk in Saudi Arabia where increased infrastructure and development in quake zones are issues. Cooperation in monitoring and mitigation strategies will also be discussed. Topics include seismological data management, earthquake engineering, induced seismicity, volcanic hazards, and seismic zoning.


February 6-8, 2012
WaterWorld Middle East
PennWell Corporation
Doha, Qatar
Cost and Registration: $1,166 before January 26, open until filled
This conference will discuss strategies to address growing water demands in the Middle East, and how water and power markets are responding. Topics include trends in desalination, integrated water management, industrial water processing, water reuse, private sector development of water resources, and emergency water supplies.


February 21-24, 2012
52nd Floodplain Management Association Conference
Floodplain Management Association
New South Wales, Australia
Cost and Registration: $1,045, open until filled
This conference examines flood management practices in a changing climate and the need to balance risk management and growth. Topics include amphibious construction as an alternative floodproofing strategy, using social media during floods, rebuilding housing after a disaster, and improving forecasting accuracy.


February 27-29, 2012
Sustainable Water Supply and Sanitation Conference
Holding Company for Water and Wastewater
Cairo, Egypt
Cost and Registration: $500, open until filled
This conference will look at sustainable solutions to water scarcity, increased water demand, and competition among different water uses. Topics include potable water, sustainable wastewater treatment systems, innovative wastewater treatment technologies, desalination, and wastewater reuse.


March 1-3, 2012
National Severe Weather Workshop
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association
Norman, Oklahoma
Cost and Registration: $90, open until filled
This conference will discuss effective risk communication strategies for weather hazards such as tornadoes and wildfires. Topics include lessons learned from past disasters, factors contributing to fatalities, community preparedness strategies, weather forecasting technology, accurate reporting, and the future of severe weather information collection.


April 22-25, 2012
Ninth International Conference on Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management
International Community on Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management
Vancouver, Canada
Cost and Registration: $650 before March 16, open until filled
This conference looks at integrative approaches to emergency management information systems. Topics include planning and risk analysis, GIS technology for crisis response, healthcare crisis management systems, social media and collaborative systems, inter-organizational exercises, and wireless connectivity management.

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.]

Emergency Response Specialist
Houston, Texas
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position assists in developing, maintaining, and testing emergency preparedness systems. Responsibilities include reporting for all refinery emergencies, conducting emergency drills, regularly inspecting emergency response equipment, providing emergency medical and minor first-aid treatment, and conducting fire brigade training. Experience in loss prevention, fire protection, and emergency response is required. An associate’s degree in fire protection engineering is preferred.


Assistant Professor of Geology
Western Washington University
Bellingham, Washington
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position teaches undergraduate classes in introductory and structural geology, as well as specialized courses. Responsibilities include advising students, developing department curriculum, establishing externally funded research programs, and advising graduate student research. A PhD in earth sciences with a focus in tectonics and surface processes is required. Post-doctoral teaching experience, and the ability to teach GIS, engineering geology, or geophysics are preferred.


Disaster Recovery Operations Specialist, GS-11
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Chicago, Illinois
Salary: $62,909 to $98,022
Closing Date: December 19, 2011
This position reviews Region V mitigation plans and projects. Responsibilities include providing technical assistance to state, tribal, and local governments; assisting in establishing mitigation priorities; and providing postdisaster mitigation support. A PhD or three years of graduate education in hazards mitigation planning, and one year of specialized experience equivalent to the GS-10 level are required.


Hazardous Materials Specialist
University of Colorado Denver
Denver, Colorado
Salary: $50,000 to $53,000
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position ensures safe management and disposal of hazardous materials. Responsibilities include performing chemical analyses to characterize unknown compounds, handling regulated waste streams, maintaining records of waste generation, neutralizing corrosive materials, and safely consolidating hazardous chemicals. A bachelor’s degree in chemistry and two years of experience in hazardous materials management are required. Previous experience at a higher education institution is preferred.


Emergency Response Officer
International Medical Corps
Washington, D.C.
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position provides operational and strategic support to international emergency response staff. Responsibilities include deploying emergency personnel, communicating with partners and donors, writing proposals, monitoring weather alerts and global emergencies, and staying informed of emergency plan regulations. A master’s degree in disaster management and two years of emergency management experience are required.


Senior Wind Engineer
AIR Worldwide
Boston, Massachusetts
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position develops models of extreme catastrophic events, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, storm surge, and flooding. Responsibilities include assessing building vulnerability, analyzing historical damage and insurance claims, and conducting probabilistic loss assessments. A master’s degree in civil engineering and two years of experience in computer programming or hazard risk modeling 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