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

Number 589 •June 28, 2012 | Past Issues













1) We Interrupt This Fire for a Word from Our Sponsor (and Other Creative Ways to Fund Emergency Response)

With slash-and-burn budgeting becoming the norm across the United States, you don’t have to look far to find a firehouse or police station fallen on hard times. The trend has some departments getting creative when it comes to securing funding—including one gambit that would use Baltimore’s pumpers for ad space.

The city recently discussed the idea—which may not be profitable enough to gain traction—in the wake of being forced to disband three of the city’s fire companies because of lack of funds, according to an article in the New York Times. While such a ploy might not garner enough funds to save the fire companies, it’s indicative of the lengths municipalities are willing to go to in order to provide services in lean times.

“As I’ve looked at budgets, they get bigger with less support from the federal and state governments,” Baltimore City Council member William Welch, who suggested the plan, told the Times. “And we can’t tax people out of existence…. So you have to create alternatives.”

The advertising alternative isn’t really a new option in stretching government dollars. As the Times points out, public transit has long provided moving billboards and lately even transit stations and fare cards are open to branding. Is a fire truck or a police car all that different than a bus? Many say yes.

“We are bombarded by ads everywhere we go, and these are public spaces meant to be reflective of the values of our society, co-opted by the private sector,” Elizabeth Ben Ishai, the campaign coordinator for Public Citizen’s Commercial Alert project, told the Times.

Even advertising pundits shuddered in 2002, when news agencies reported a new program that would sell $1 cruisers to police departments in exchange for ongoing ad space (whether the program was ever actually implemented is undetermined).

“American society has really gone beyond the pale in turning every part of the environment into ad space,” Michael Maynard, a Temple University journalism, advertising, and PR professor, told the Christian Science Monitor at the time. “There should be some things that are off limits.”

Conflict of interest looms large among the reasons for emergency vehicles to remain ad-free, said Tyngsboro, Massachusetts Police Chief William Mulligan, who opposed a recent maneuver to advertise on his department’s cars.

“People believe law enforcement, when they arrive, should be neutral and detached,” he told Public Radio International. “They should not represent the interests of any one group, whether a business or a social group.”

Regardless of the palatability of ad-sponsored responders, for many municipalities there are precious few options to avoid the dangerous cuts in manpower and equipment demanded by lack of revenue—and many of those are just as unpalatable.

Places like Trenton, New Jersey, and Detroit are threatening to cut jobs so they can then turn around and "save" them using federal SAFER grants. The grants, designed to ensure emergency services are adequately staffed, can’t be used to save jobs, only to shore up gaps in service.

“We would have to put them into layoff status to show distress to qualify for the upcoming SAFER grant,” Trenton Business Administrator Sam Hutchinson told the Times of Trenton. “If we don’t get the grant, we’re in a disastrous situation.”

The same goes for Detroit, which announced the impending layoffs of 164 firefighters—about 20 percent of the force—this week. The city has issued an emergency services cost recovery ordinance that will allow it to recoup the cost of providing services where a responsible party can be identified, such as dealing with downed power lines or extricating people from car crashes.

Still, the uncertainty of grants and the long process of reclaiming emergency costs are enough to make a steady ad revenue stream look like a good, if gaudy, option. And for some advertisers, it might not even be all that gauche, said Jody Berg, of Baltimore-based communication agency, MediaWorks.

“It just has to be the right client, and there are a number of industries—education, insurance, healthcare—that could be a perfect fit,” she told Public Radio International. "If you can do it at the same time as helping your community save jobs and save lives, it could be a win-win situation for everybody.”

Back to Top

2) The Sea Also Rises: U.S. Surrounded by Swelling Oceans

It’s high tide for America’s coastal communities and the water is just going to keep rising, according to a trio of reports on sea level rise released this month. The reports— produced independently—predict higher water this century from sea to shining sea, with several areas of the East and West coasts already rising at higher than average rates.

Among the most dramatic of the findings are those of a U.S. Geological Survey report that found that a swath along the Atlantic coast was rising at rates three to four times faster than other coasts. The 600-mile “hotspot” from Cape Hatteras to north of Boston includes Norfolk, Virginia, New York City, and lots of other pieces of what NOAA Coastal Services Director Margret Davidson called “bodaciously expensive property.”

"Cities in the hotspot, like Norfolk, New York, and Boston already experience damaging floods during relatively low intensity storms," USGS oceanographer and project lead Asbury (Abby) Sallenger stated in a press release. "Ongoing accelerated sea level rise in the hotspot will make coastal cities and surrounding areas increasingly vulnerable to flooding by adding to the height that storm surge and breaking waves reach on the coast."

Sallenger’s research—which reaches back to the 1950s—has shown a total sea level increase since 1990 of 4.8 inches in Norfolk, 3.7 inches in Philadelphia, and 2.8 inches in New York City, according to the Associated Press. The hotspot could see 8 to 11.4 more inches of rise by 2100, the report states.

On the other side of the nation, a National Research Council report finds a similar dynamic at play on the West Coast, where sea levels rose 7 inches during the 20th century. That pace will pick up, according to the report, which predicts a wide-ranging 2 to 12-inch rise before 2030.

Much like the Atlantic hotspot, only areas of the Pacific coast south of Cape Mendocino, California, are expected to experience significant rise, according to an NRC press release. Levels to the north will actually fall 2 to 9 inches thanks to a shifting landmass over the continental plate.

A third report examining the broad effects of climate change on industries in the Gulf Coast also tackled sea level rise, finding that in some Gulf areas the sea level was increasing by more than ten times the global rate, according to a press release. In the Gulf, the combination of sea level rise and strengthening hurricanes caused by warmer waters presages increasingly serious storm surges, the report stated.

Although the reports don’t have total buy in—at least one scientist said the Atlantic data could be explained by a cyclical rise—the takeaway from all three is that coastal communities need to prepare for more flooding and storm impacts.

“Sea level rise isn't a political question, it's a scientific reality,” Gary Griggs, director of the Institute of Marine Sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a member of the NRC report committee, told McClatchy Tribune News Service. “In the short term it's these severe storms in low-lying areas that are most problematic. So we have to plan for that.”

Back to Top

3) Closer But Still No Cigar for Manhattan, Kansas Bio Lab

The National Research Council has again called into question the wisdom of building a 500,000-square-foot research lab to test animal diseases in the heart of the United States. The latest NRC report—which evaluates a recent Department of Homeland Security risk assessment for the proposed lab in Manhattan, Kansas—found the new assessment an improvement in some ways, but didn’t buy low estimates of accidental pathogen release.

The most recent DHS assessment veered sharply from an earlier assessment which found a 70 percent chance that outside infection would occur over the 50-year lifespan of the planned National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF), according to a NRC news release. Instead, the new analysis estimates a less than one percent chance per year, and shifts the most likely cause of such a release from human error to natural disasters.

“The committee noted that some of the risk reduction may be explained by improvements to the latest design plans for the facility, but despite improvements, the updated assessment underestimates the risk of an accidental pathogen release and inadequately characterizes the uncertainties in those risks,” the news release stated.  “Moreover, the committee found that the updated probabilities of releases are based on overly optimistic and unsupported estimates of human-error rates; low estimates of infectious material available for release; and inappropriate treatment of dependencies, uncertainties, and sensitivities in calculating release probabilities.”

The NBAF—which would research contagious animal diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease, African swine fever, and Japanese encephalitis—has been embattled since its inception. Early on, the Government Accountability Office had concerns about the disease research being moved to the U.S. mainland. (The NBAF would replace New York’s Plum Island center, located on a federally-owned island off the northern tip of Long Island).

In 2008 and 2009 reports, the GAO concluded that the DHS hadn’t provided sufficient evidence that foot-and-mouth disease research could be conducted safely on the mainland and hadn’t adequately estimated the impacts of an outbreak. In 2010, the NRC released a stern report that came to a similar conclusion.

The project has been highly sought after by state and local government officials for its economic benefits, despite public resistance. Even after another round of questionable assessments, Kansas and Missouri lawmakers are clamoring for the Obama administration to release funds so they can start building, according to the Kansas City Star.

“Delays to the timeline only result in increased costs for contracts, labor and materials,” the senators wrote, according to the Star. “More importantly, delays result in an increased risk on our nation’s security."

Back to Top

4) Mary Fran Myers Scholarship Winners Announced

As Co-Director of the Natural Hazards Center, Mary Fran Myers inspired and supported many researchers to do excellent work on gender issues and reducing disaster losses. Myers passed away in 2004, but the Mary Fran Myers Scholarship continues to honor those who share Myers' vision.

The scholarship selection committee chose four recipients to receive the 2012 Scholarship, which recognizes outstanding individuals who share Myers' passion for disaster loss reduction nationally and internationally. The Scholarship provides financial support to recipients who otherwise could not attend the Annual Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop.

Hsien-Ho (Ray) Chang is a PhD student in Disaster Science and Management at the University of Delaware. Before he began his doctoral studies, Chang spent six years as a captain in the Taipei County, Taiwan, Fire Department. Chang earned his master’s degree from Arizona State University and spent a year working with the Phoenix Fire Department developing technology to locate new fire stations and collecting and analyzing data from major disaster drills.

Mike Kline is the manager of the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation's Rivers and Floodplain Program. For 24 years, Kline has worked to combine flood and erosion hazard mitigation with other aspects of watershed management. He has developed a river corridor planning program to help Vermont communities improve water quality, restore river ecosystems, and mitigate floods and erosion.

Justin Moresco is a project manager at GeoHazards International, where he promotes earthquake risk reduction through preparedness and mitigation projects, with an emphasis on developing countries. Most recently, he’s managed an 18-month project for the Global Earthquake Model Foundation that investigates seismic risk reduction in 11 cities worldwide.

Judy Sears will complete her master’s degree at Humboldt State University in Environment and Community this summer. She has researched adapting the Community Emergency Response Team training model to mitigate losses in rural coastal settings, which can be isolated from first responders after disasters. Sears has been the administrator of U.S. Servas, operations manager for World Shelters, and is now community liaison for the fledgling Regional Training Institute—Community Disaster Preparedness, which provides preparedness training in five Northern California counties.

For full bios of the 2012 and past Mary Fran Myers Scholarship Winners, please visit the Natural Hazards Center Web site.

Back to Top

Clarification: A June 14 DR article on the National Flood Insurance Program stated that the most recent authorization “ends NFIP payouts for second homes and vacation properties.” It is an important distinction that "payouts" are claims, and will be paid, while premium subsidies for second home and vacation properties will be phased out over four years.

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

Call for Applications
Continuing Training Grants
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Deadline: July 3, 2012
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is now accepting grants for its Continuing Training Grant program, which provides funds to develop and deliver training needed to further the National Preparedness Goal. The 2012 training focus areas include whole-community planning, cybersecurity, and terrorist attacks on multiple targets. Training must target a national audience. Government agencies, nonprofit and faith-based organizations, and nonprofit higher education institutions are eligible. For complete details, including how to apply, visit the grant Web site.


Call for Applications
Assistance to Firefighters Grant
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Deadline: July 6, 2012
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is accepting applications for its Assistance to Firefighters Grant program. AFG grants are available to help firefighters and other first responders purchase equipment, vehicles, training, and other needed resources. For full grant information, application guidance, and a list of items eligible to be purchased using grant funds, visit the FEMA grant Web site.


Call for Entries
IAEM Global Awards Competition
International Association of Emergency Managers
Deadline: August 15, 2012
The International Association of Emergency Managers is accepting entries into its 2012 Global Awards Competition. Awards will be given in four categories—Business and Industry Preparedness, Public/Private Partnerships in Preparedness, Public Awareness, and Technology and Innovation. More on each category, entry guidelines, and an entry form can be downloaded from the competition Web site.

Back to Top

6) Some New Web Resources

Virtual Operations Support Group
So, you’ve acknowledged that social media use in disasters is here to stay—that doesn’t mean you have any added resources to sift through the mounds of information generated by an emergency. That’s why you should make friends at the Virtual Operations Support Group. This Web site can connect you to teams that will help you figure out a social media plan before a disaster and give you virtual bodies to deal with data overload during. Visit the site for to make connections, join online teams, or just learn more about how different folks are muddling through the social media phenomenon.


Critical Facilities Flood Exposure Tool
This tool from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration can help coastal and emergency managers quickly assess which of their critical facilities—hospitals, fires stations, police stations, electric facilities, hazardous material sites, etc.—are in danger of flooding. Roads and schools are also included. Armed with the knowledge of what’s at stake when water rises, officials can plan, raise awareness, and help others be prepared.


Envision Sustainable Rating System
Envision is a rating system that attempts to gauge the community, environmental, and economic benefits of infrastructure projects. Created by Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure, the rating system can be applied by all levels of government or community and nonprofit groups to ascertain whether a proposed project is right for their area. Tools include resources for cost assessments, environmental evaluations, and outcome-based objectives.


Ever find yourself wondering exactly when it was you had that last tetanus shot? Well, VaxNation can help. You can use VaxNation to track and record your immunizations for easy record keeping, stay abreast on the latest recommendations for updating vaccinations, or to find the nearest clinic when you are due. The free service, which also includes a social networking piece to improve awareness, was the winner of the Institute of Medicine and National Academy of Engineering’s Go Viral to Improve Health challenge.


Speaking of challenges, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response recently announced the winner of their Lifeline Application Challenge—bReddi, a Facebook application that keeps you connected to your friends and family during emergencies. Using the app, you can assign someone “lifeline” status so they know where to meet you, how to contact you, and what you’ll need in an emergency—and bReddi’s central hub helps you keep tabs on threats happening in the area of your friends and family.

Back to Top

7) Conferences, Training, and Events

[For a comprehensive list of upcoming hazards-related meetings, visit our Web site at]

July 23-25, 2012
Pandemics, Bioterrorism, and International Security
George Mason University
Fairfax, Virginia
Cost and Registration: $1,500, open until filled
This course discusses national biodefense and public health challenges. Topics include lessons learned from SARS and the avian flu, decision-making lessons from the 1976 swine flu scare, impediments to organizational change, the lack of law enforcement training in the identification of biological agents, the unique features of biological weapons, and political obstacles to developing medical countermeasures for bioterrorist and pandemic threats.


August 19-24, 2012
33rd General Assembly
European Seismological Commission
Moscow, Russia
Cost and Registration: $687, open until filled
This conference will discuss recent significant earthquakes and seismological research. Topics include surface wave tomography for upper mantle studies, human-caused earthquakes, the earthquake history of Europe, earthquake forecasting and prediction, natural seismicity patterns, non-instrumental seismology, and artificial intelligence in geophysical data studies.


August 21-22, 2012
Sixth Australasian Hazards Management Conference
GNS Science, Massey University, and University of Canterbury
Christchurch, New Zealand
Cost and Registration: $359, open until filled
This conference will discuss using up-to-date hazard information in risk management decisions. Topics include developing effective warning systems, improving response and recovery timelines, reducing risk by using land use planning, the role of social media in disasters, rapid evaluation of damaged buildings, planning pet evacuations, and forensic investigations of disasters.


August 26-30, 2012 
International Disaster and Risk Conference
Global Risk Forum
Davos, Switzerland
Cost and Registration: $1,061, open until filled
This conference will discuss integrative risk management approaches for mega-catastrophes, country risk management, environmental and ecological risk, urban risk, societal and political risk, and health risk. Topics include disaster recovery and reconstruction, ecosystem services, land use planning, and critical infrastructure protection.


August 29-31, 2012
Second Nordic International Conference on Climate Change Adaptation
Nordic Climate Change Adaptation Research Network and Nordic Network on Adaptive Management in Relation to Climate Change
Helsinki, Finland
Cost and Registration: $325 before June 29, open until filled
This conference will discuss adaptation to climate change-related weather events, such as record heat waves, heavy precipitation, and high winds. Topics include severe weather impacts on ecosystem services, regional economic impacts, technical and social adaptation strategies, limits to adaptation and poor adaptation, links between adaptation and mitigation, and the legal, institutional, and financial aspects of adaptation. 


September 12-13, 2012
Disaster Risk Reduction
Disaster Management Institute of Southern Africa
Limpopo, South Africa
Cost and Registration: $617 before August 6, open until filled
This conference will discuss natural hazard mitigation and response strategies. Topics include reducing the risk of fires in vulnerable settlements, addressing the effects of climate change, protecting communities from hazardous materials, educating communities about flood risk reduction and response, and providing humanitarian relief in Somalia and Sudan.

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.]

Watch Analyst, GS-11
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Atlanta, Georgia
Salary: $59,987 to $93,470
Closing Date: July 3, 2012
This position monitors potential and emerging natural disasters. Responsibilities include being on-call in an emergency, monitoring worldwide disasters, preparing content for the daily situational awareness report, and collecting information from news sources. One year of experience at or above the GS-9 level, knowledge of analytical techniques, computer mapping skills, and an understanding of the National Response Framework is required.


Lead Wildland Firefighter, GS-06
National Park Service
Saint Joe, Arizona
Salary: $34,798
Closing Date: July 6, 2012
This position directs and participates in fire line construction, monitors fire behavior, drives a wildland fire engine, leads helicopter fire suppression efforts, assures necessary equipment is available for firefighting, and trains crew members. Education and experience at or above the GS-5 level and National Wildfire Coordinating Group incident management qualifications are required.


County Executive, Emergency Services
Travis County, Texas
Austin, Texas
Salary: $117,037 to $152,148
Closing Date: July 27, 2012
This position develops county emergency services policies, interprets them for county officials and the public, and oversees the $24.8 million annual budget. A bachelor’s degree in business management or public administration and eight years of experience with emergency services programs are required.


Assistant Professor of Emergency Management
North Dakota State University
Fargo, North Dakota
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position teaches graduate and undergraduate Emergency Management courses, as well as disaster and emergency preparedness courses in the new Master of Public Health program. A PhD in emergency managemen tor related degree (Sociology, Community and Regional Planning, Geography, etc) and the ability to teach one or more of the disaster phases are required. Effective teaching skills, recent publications, and the ability to obtain external funding are preferred.


Project Tsunami Seismologist/Engineer
URS Corporation
Los Angeles, California
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position develops models of tsunamis generated by earthquakes or landslides. Responsibilities include calculating tsunami wave propagation, developing scenario risk assessments, and describing the impact of tsunamis on city buildings. A master’s degree in geophysics or hydraulic engineering with a specialization in tsunami modeling is required.


Emergency Management Program Director
University of Colorado, Colorado Springs
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position oversees the university’s Environmental Health and Safety division, the Emergency Preparedness division, and the Risk Management division. Responsibilities include educating staff about personal preparedness and occupational safety; managing the ongoing development of emergency, business continuity, and business recovery plans; serving as chair of the Emergency Preparedness Advisory and Infectious Diseases Committees; and administering the campus emergency notification system. A bachelor’s degree, one year of experience managing emergency preparedness programs, and supervisory 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