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Number 588 •June 14, 2012 | Past Issues













1) The NFIP: Short on Authorization, Long on Program Improvements

Things just might be looking up for the National Flood Insurance Program. Even though Congress reauthorized the program for a mere 60 days last month, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is taking the next step on the long but steady course of program improvements.

FEMA’s stride comes in the form of a notice that it will prepare an environmental impact statement considering the potential effects of various program changes on the “human environment,” including environmental planning, historic preservation, and threatened species and habitats.

“This effort will result in a comprehensive series of policy recommendations designed to transition the NFIP toward a more resilient, sustainable, and comprehensive approach to flood risk management,” the notice, published in the May 16 Federal Register, states.

The elimination of subsidies and cross subsidies for insurance policies will also be considered, according to the notice. Increased elevation standards for new construction, floodplain management standards for critical facilities, and restrictions on floodway development are also on the table, according to Northeast-Midwest Institute's Mississippi River Basin Blog.

Recommendations for the scope of the EIS come from a lengthy effort to reform the NFIP that began in 2009 and included extensive input from the public and stakeholders. While FEMA plans to engage other federal agencies in crafting the scope of the EIS, no public scoping meetings will be held. The EIS notice is open for comments until July 16, 2012.

The latest improvement efforts aren’t the only bright spot on the NFIP horizon, though. Even the quality of the latest reauthorization holds promise of a more functional and longer approved program.

While Congress has been issuing short-term program authorizations since 2010 like most people use the snooze buttons on their alarm clocks, the latest re-up—which extends the NFIP until July 31—also comes alongside plans to discuss a longer extension through 2016, according to Insurance Journal.

Those planned discussions are in part thanks to a provision in the short-term authorization that ends NFIP payouts for second homes and vacation properties. While the provision is indicative of new levels of cooperation regarding the fraught program, those familiar with NFIP don’t seem to be holding their breath.

“We are pleased that the House voted to concur with the Senate’s 60-day NFIP extension,” Ben McKay of Property Casualty Insurers Association told Insurance Journal. “However, this only delays the fundamental debate over the future of the flood insurance program. We remain hopeful that the Senate will schedule floor time for their long-term NFIP reauthorization and reform bill in June.”

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2) Cohesive Wildfire Management: Fighting Fire with Strategy

Forget fighting fire with fire—coordination and communication are key to keeping blazes at bay. So says the latest phase of the national wildfire management strategy, released last week by U.S. Departments of Agriculture and the Interior.

The report, A National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy, is the second of a three-phase initiative aimed at taking the sting out of wildland burns by limiting the damage they cause and collaborating on response. The first phase, completed in 2011, created a national framework and identified goals. Phase II condenses those goals to regional levels that consider the resources, challenges, and capacities of three distinct regions—the Northeast, the Southeast, and the West. 

“Phase II sets a strong foundation for the type of diverse interests and activities involved when wildfire strikes,” Butch Blazer, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment, said in a press release.

Among the drivers of the initiative is the ever-escalating cost of fighting wildfires, especially in the face of prime burn conditions caused by climate change. Often local and even state agencies don’t have the equipment or manpower to address the type of disastrous fire that can develop in current conditions.

“It’s not going away,” USDA Under Secretary Harris Sherman told the Associated Press June 7. “We’re going to have to be more comprehensive and smarter in how we deal with these issues in the future.”

As if to underscore that statement, several significant fires raged in the West this week, including the 59 square-mile Little Bear fire near Ruidoso, New Mexico, and the 73 square-mile High Park fire near Fort Collins, Colorado.  With fires already burning in Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, and new ones cropping up daily, resources are in high demand.

"You have to look at the big picture all the time and make sure there are adequate numbers to respond to the next fire," Jim Fletcher, who coordinates ground crews, smoke jumpers, and air tankers for the Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center, told the Denver Post.

The need to pool response resources, though, is the worst-case scenario. The national strategy is more focused on protecting property and infrastructure from fire before it starts. The hope is that, by creating resilient landscapes, reducing hazardous fuels, and helping communities adapt to their fire risk, there will be less fallout even when fire is widespread.

“The cost of dealing with the aftermath of [the 2002 Hayman Fire in Colorado] far exceeded what proactive steps might have been taken at the outset to prevent those types of things from happening,” Sherman said.

The third phase of the initiative will create national and regional risk analyses and action plans based on the potential fire consequences and benefits. Action plans are expected to be completed next spring.

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3) Student Paper Competition Winners Announced

The Natural Hazards Center is pleased to announce the winners of the 2012 Hazards and Disasters Student Paper Competition. The competition was established in 2004 as a way to recognize undergraduate and graduate student efforts at interdisciplinary hazards and disaster research.

The 25 papers submitted this year showcased promising research on topics such as disaster mitigation and preparedness, social vulnerability, postdisaster housing, mass fatalities management, and emergency management. Winning papers, however, displayed outstanding originality and data collection and analysis, as well as a strong thesis and organization of their argument.

The graduate student winner is:

Eric Best, University of Delaware
Collective Models of Disaster: Making a Case for Using Collective Mobile Phone Location Data in Disaster Science 

The undergraduate student winner is:

Audrey Matusich, Colorado State University
Vulnerable Victims: Media Constructions of Children After the BP Oil Spill

First-place winners each receive $100, publication on the Natural Hazards Center Web site, and an invitation to the 2012 Annual Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop in Broomfield, Colorado.

The 2013 call for papers will be announced in December of 2012. Full text of winning papers and more information on the contest can be found on the Natural Hazards Center Web Site.

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4) Damairia (Damai) Pakpahan: 2012 Mary Fran Myers Award Winner

The Mary Fran Myers Award was established in 2002 to recognize disaster professionals who continue Myers’ goal of promoting research on gender issues, disasters, emergency management, and higher education. The Gender and Disaster Network have named Damairia (Damai) Pakpahan as the 2012 Mary Fran Myers Award winner.

Pakpahan has worked for decades in the areas of gender justice and development, including work related to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and issues of climate change and earthquakes. She has personally trained more 500 civil servants on issues of gender, development, and disasters.  Her work for the Aceh Tsunami Programme has significantly increased understanding of gender issues. Pakpahan's passion and advocacy for women and children in disaster clearly distinguished her as this year's winner of the Mary Fran Myers Award.

For a full bio of Pakpahan and past award winners, visit the Mary Fran Myers Award Winners page on the Natural Hazards Center Web site.

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

Call for Comments
Building and Sustaining National Preparedness Efforts
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Deadline: June 18, 2012
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is collecting comments and ideas on how to best launch its upcoming national preparedness campaign. The feedback will inform a workshop on how to best communicate personal preparedness. The agency is specifically looking for suggestions on how to best motivate people to act to prepare themselves and others for disaster situations.


Call for Abstracts
National Weather Association Annual Meeting
National Weather Association
Deadline: June 29, 2012
The National Weather Association is accepting abstracts for oral and poster presentation at its annual meeting to be held October 6-11 in Madison, Wisconsin. Abstracts on emerging weather technologies, numerical weather prediction, remote sensing, and societal impact are favored. For more information on the conference and to submit an abstract, visit the NWA abstract submission page.


Call for Contributors
Issues in Disaster Science and Management: A Critical Dialogue
University of Delaware Disaster Research Center

Deadline: July 31, 2012The University of Delaware Disaster Research Center will be accepting contributions to a unique textbook that will use teams of researchers and practitioners to examine topics of disaster and emergency management. Researchers will focus on the scientific findings, while practitioners will discuss patterns in national policies and the state of practice. The project hopes to facilitate an exchange of ideas between the two communities. For a list of topic areas, compensation details, and other information, visit the call for contributors page. Contributors will be selected on a rolling basis with all contributors chosen by July 31.

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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]

Fire Adapted Communities
More frequent and costlier wildfires are putting the agencies that prepare for and fight them in the hot seat lately, but ultimately, it’s the communities threatened by fire that feel the burn. Now there’s a resource that lets everyone from community members to land managers to civic leaders play a part in keeping fires at bay. Fire Adapted Communities is an education initiative aimed at informing all the players on the best way to protect their community based on their region, their role, and what matters most to them. With resources like ready-to-go public service announcements, grant opportunities, and preparedness tips, adaptation is made easy.


The Handbook for EMS Medical Directors
This recently released handbook is a comprehensive guide that touches on everything from becoming an EMS Medical Director to becoming the best EMS Medical Director you can be. Compiled by the U.S. Fire Administration and the DHS Office of Health Affairs, the handbook explains different agency design and staffing models, types of response services, best ways to deploy resources, liability issues, education needs, and fiscal considerations.


Chances are you have at least a few silly-but-fun apps taking up space on your iPad or iPhone. Now you can download one that’s serious but fun. Stormstruck is an addictive little game that lets players ratchet up home preparedness before they loose a storm of their own making. Unlike real life, users have the chance to see just what mitigation efforts worked and what didn’t in storms of varying degree. It’s free, so download it (in acknowledgement of hurricane season, maybe) today.


Ocean Community
Anyone with a coast (or other marine resources) under their care will appreciate the planning and decision making tools available at Ocean Community, the National Ocean Council’s information portal. The newly launched site is filled with federal data sets related to oceans, coasts, and the Great Lakes, as well as tools to help visualize, map, and create scenarios from the information. Check out the many tools and technologies available and be sure to stop by the forums— sites are participatory by design, so the more you use it the more useful it will become.


Surging Seas Sea Level Rise Analysis
While we’re on the topic of coastal concerns, data can be great, but sometimes you just want the bottom line. Enter the Surging Seas sea level rise analysis created by Climate Central. With a click of the mouse, visitors can see risks posed by sea level rise at a state, county, or community level.  A few more clicks will lead users to plans and resources, more on how maps were compiled, and yes, even the data. Users are also able to share their thoughts and experiences regarding sea-level rise in their area.

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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]

June 19-20, 2012
Seminar on EU Warning and Disaster and Crisis Management Topics
Bulgarian Cartographic Association
Albena, Bulgaria
Cost and Registration: $311, open until filled
This seminar will discuss European concepts for crisis management and early warning, sensor mapping and visualization of geodata in warning and crisis management, early warning and disaster management policy making using scientific and Web support during emergencies. The seminar is part of the Fourth International Conference on Cartography and GIS, which will be held from June 18-22, 2012.


June 21, 2012
Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction Annual Conference
University College London
London, England
Cost and Registration: Free, open until filled
This conference will discuss risk communication and the resilience of critical infrastructure to natural hazards. The risk communication session will discuss reasons for communicating risk, what information should be communicated to the public and why, and what would make risk information more understandable or useful. Critical infrastructure topics include seismic hazard impacts on infrastructure, natural hazards and the nuclear power industry, and postdisaster recovery and reconstruction programs.


June 25-28, 2012
7th International Conference on Interdisciplinary Social Sciences
Common Ground Publishing
Barcelona, Spain

Cost and Registration: $500 before December 25, open until filled
This conference will discuss social science research and its practical applications. Topics include post-earthquake hardships in Haiti, the role of social networks in climate change discussions, increased drought risk in eastern New Zealand, religious values in dealing with global warming, disaster preparedness in Bangladesh, and deforestation, erosion, and watershed degradation in northeast India.


June 28, 2012
Global Conference on Disaster Management
Global Conference, Inc.
San Antonio, Texas
Cost and Registration: $595, open until filled
This conference will discuss emergency preparedness strategies for businesses. Topics include contingency planning challenges, simple business continuity planning strategies, essential disaster preparedness exercises, strategies for finding weaknesses in disaster response plans, and the Emergency Leadership Program, which places trained civilians in a natural disaster site within 48 hours.


July 11-13, 2012

SPCC and Stormwater Compliance Workshop
EPA Alliance Training Group
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Cost and Registration: $895, open until filled
This workshop will discuss oil SPCC (Spill, Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure) regulations. Topics include facility inspections, stormwater pollution prevention plan development, SPCC inspections, the Clean Water Act, the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, contingency planning, and minimum control measures and best management practices.


July 24-25, 2012

Gulf Coast Forum
Risk Mitigation Leadership Forum Series
New Orleans, Louisiana
Cost and Registration: Free, closes July 6
This forum will help Gulf Coast communities prepare for extreme weather and the upcoming hurricane season. Topics include forecasting, evacuation protocols, land use and building practices, socioeconomic and environmental impacts, mitigation successes, and ways in which the insurance industry can promote effective mitigation.


August 1-3, 2012

Disaster Interventions, Climate Change, Community Resilience and Humanitarian Aid when Empowering Local Communities
Durham University
Durham, England
Cost and Registration: $543, open until filled
This conference will discuss ways in which humanitarian aid should be delivered. Topics include the appropriateness of postdisaster rebuilding efforts, cultural challenges in partnering with disaster survivors, examples of successful disaster interventions which included regulation and thorough evaluation, and the contribution of local knowledge, values, rituals, and religious belief systems in helping survivors cope with disaster recovery.

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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.]

Regional Administrator
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Denton, Texas
Salary: $119,554 to $179,700
Closing Date: July 1, 2012
This position administers regional comprehensive emergency management programs, as well as the National Flood insurance Program, Hazardous Materials program, Regional Radiological Emergency Preparedness program, and the Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness program. Responsibilities include coordinating regional disaster response and recovery efforts, and serving as the point of contact to members of Congress, governors, and federal, state, and local officials. Experience at or above the GS-15 level and evidence of progressively responsible leadership are required.


Disaster Recovery Planner
ManTech International Corporation
Vienna, Virginia
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position ensures that the organization can respond to a disaster and quickly resume critical business functions. Responsibilities include designing and testing a disaster recovery plan, participating in disaster recovery efforts, identifying vulnerabilities and risk reduction strategies, determining acceptable recovery timeframes, and establishing resources to successfully resume business operations. A bachelor’s degree and at least sixteen years of experience in disaster recovery planning are required. Certified business continuity planners are preferred.


Disaster and Emergency Response Coordinator
Mental Health Partners
Boulder, Colorado
Salary: $35,318 to $49,442
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position coordinates all activities related to providing mental health support in emergencies and disasters. Responsibilities include establishing emergency response procedures, defining Mental Health Partners role in supporting community response activities, coordinating daily operations of the MHP Disaster Response Program, preparing program progress reports, determining disaster response training needs, and attending statewide disaster recovery coordination meetings. A bachelor’s degree in psychology, social work, or counseling, and at least three years of emergency response experience are required. Experience working with mentally ill populations is preferred.


Research Associate
University of Minnesota Department of Forest Resources
Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota
Salary: Not Posted
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position will assist with two existing research projects. The first project looks at relationships between forest attributes and plant invasion. The second project looks at plant and ecosystem responses to manipulated CO2 levels, water, temperature, windstorms, and wildfires. A PhD in forest ecology, forestry, or ecosystem ecology is required, as well as experience with plant identification, invasive species biology, or ecophysiology.


Regional Fire Coordinator
Texas A&M AgriLife
Uvalde, Texas
Salary: $34,000
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position will lead incident response programs across the state. Responsibilities include delivering capacity building programs to volunteer and municipal fire departments, increasing local and statewide response capabilities, and serving on an incident management team. A bachelor’s degree and wildland firefighting experience is required. Firefighter training certification from the National Wildfire Coordinating Group and firefighter instructor certification from the State Firemen’s & Fire Marshals’ Association of Texas are preferred.

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