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Number 590 •July 12, 2012 | Past Issues













1) Recipe for Disaster: Report Finds All the Ingredients at Fukushima

The most recent helping of far-reaching techno-disaster—the complete meltdown of nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant—can be credited to the Tokyo Electric Power Company, Japan’s Nuclear Safety Commission, and its Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, according to an independent report released last week. While a massive earthquake and tsunami last March supplied the final ingredient, the report commission found the extent of the disaster to be “profoundly man-made.”

“The TEPCO Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant accident was the result of collusion between the government, the regulators and TEPCO, and the lack of governance by said parties,” the report states. “They effectively betrayed the nation’s right to be safe from nuclear accidents.”

While independent reports might be a dish best served cold, the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission didn’t hesitate to turn up the heat, contradicting TEPCO claims that the reactor failure was caused by the tsunami (not the earthquake, for which the site should have been prepared), and that the one-time event couldn’t have been anticipated.

“It is impossible to limit the direct cause of the accident to the tsunami without substantive evidence,” the report states. “The Commission believes that this is an attempt to avoid responsibility by putting all the blame on the unexpected (the tsunami), as they wrote in their midterm report, and not on the more foreseeable earthquake.”

Lax regulation and failure to enforce existing rules also played a key role, the commission found.

“There were many opportunities for NISA, NSC and TEPCO to take measures that would have prevented the accident, but they did not do so,” the report states. “They either intentionally postponed putting safety measures in place, or made decisions based on their organization’s self interest—not in the interest of public safety.”

In the end, few escaped the commission's bite—including the Japanese themselves, whose qualities of “reflexive obedience” and “reluctance to question authority” created a disaster “made in Japan,” according to the report.

The first-of-its-kind commission—similar to congressionally mandated commissions in the United States—based its report on 900 hours of hearings and interviews with 1,167 people, according to the New York Times. TEPCO and NISA only grudgingly assisted in the investigation, forcing the commission to invoke their legislative mandate on several occasions, according to the Atlantic Wire.

While the commission and unflinching report might be unusual for the Japanese, the inclusion of cultural factors as contributors to culpability is perhaps more interesting. But is it a main ingredient in the disaster?

After all, a British company and U.S. regulatory agencies managed to cook up a remarkably similar situation in the Gulf of Mexico not long ago. Despite the decidedly different cultures, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill had many of the same hallmarks as Fukushima—an outsized corporation concerned with its bottom line, cozy relationships between regulators and operators, and enough hubris to shrug off enormous environmental risks.

From the first evasive communications about the status of the disaster to the scathing independent commission wrap-ups, the disasters played out pretty much the same way. And they continue on parallel paths—victims receive what corporations spin as largesse, but still struggle; criminal investigations may or may not find individuals at fault; governments and industry vow they’ll learn from the lessons of catastrophe.

Unfortunately, Japan seems to be far from cornering the market on cultural traits that lead to the sort of large-scale technological disasters we’ve seen in the past few years. But the Japanese may be unique in their self-awareness of society as the culprit.

“The consequences of negligence at Fukushima stand out as catastrophic, but the mindset that supported it can be found across Japan,” the report states. “In recognizing that fact, each of us should reflect on our responsibility as individuals in a democratic society.”

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2) Hazards, Actually: What the Hazards Workshop Offers Real World Emergency Managers

This year, the 37th Annual Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop is offering something new—disasters in our own backyard. And while the wildfires smoldering around the Natural Hazards Center weren’t exactly our choice, they are a reminder of how the Workshop is more relevant than ever.

The immediate threat of post-fire flash flooding—and the longer-term threats of drought, vegetation changes from a spruce bark beetle outbreak, and unknown climate change impacts—highlight the acute need for communication among researchers and practitioners from many disciplines. And this year's Hazards Workshop program makes an extra effort to bring emergency managers into the conversation about, help navigate, and maybe even alter the tide of research and national programs rushing toward them.

The most recent additions to our program are Western wildfire related. Our traditional barbecue on the patio of the NCAR Mesa Lab, with its stunning view of the Flatirons and plains below, will be enhanced by interpretive tours by local experts in warning systems, emergency management, wildfire, and post-fire flood hazards. A new evening session will feature academic and fire department wildfire experts from Colorado Springs, some of whom were personally impacted by the Waldo Canyon blaze. Stepping back a bit, there are also sessions discussing national and local programs to change risky behavior in the wildland-urban interface.

Then there are sessions that ask if emergency managers are getting the information they need from scientists to make good decisions, whether that's to keep a business operating in severe weather, to sustain drinking water in a community enduring prolonged drought, to evacuate people who don't have cars, or, of course, to fend off zombie attack. And there are sessions that ask hard questions about national policies that might change the emergency management game, like Presidential Policy Directive 8 and the National Disaster Recovery Framework.

While there is no substitute for being a part of the conversation at the Workshop, there are a few ways to get a taste of what goes on without being here. We and the other Workshop participants will be twittering away next week, followed by Workshop reporting in the July 26 DR and the September Observer.

You'll also see us use what we learned from everyone who visited us in Broomfield through the entire year, including in the planning of the 2013 Workshop. (If you'd like to join us next time, but can't foot the bill, think about applying the Mary Fran Myers Scholarship.)

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3) Hard Copy: The July Natural Hazards Observer is Online—and in Print!

For several years now, Natural Hazards Observer readers have had no choice but to pine for print. Although the august and once-free journal was still available online, the Natural Hazards Center couldn’t afford the expanding costs of mailing.

For many, though, online wasn’t good enough. Some missed their hard copy so much they even said they'd even be willing to pay for it! Well, now those readers (and anyone else who's interested) can put their money where their mouth is.

We're offering readers the option of a printed Observer for only $15 per year. That nominal and not-for-profit cost includes bimonthly delivery to your desk via First Class mail—and that’s not all.

You’ll also get a copy of The Disaster Years, a new book of cartoons by Observer artist Rob Pudim that spans his 36 years of limpid cartooning in the realm of hazards and disasters. This book is not for sale and is available only to subscribers to the Observer print edition.

Those interested in subscribing can sign up on our subscription page using a credit card or be invoiced later. Of course, the Observer is still available as a free PDF download.

You’ll find the July issue available now, with stories on wildfires, climate change in the American mind, and creating recovery in New York since 9/11. So whether you get it for cheap or get it for free, go ahead and get it!

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

Call for Applications
Sewell Stipend
Medical Library Association
Deadline: July 27, 2012
The Public Health/Health Administration Section of the Medical Library Association is accepting applications for the 2012 Sewell Stipend, which helps librarians and other information professionals to offset the cost of attending the American Public Health Association Meeting, to be held October 27-31 in San Francisco. Applicants must have an interest or involvement in public health and a master of library science degree or extensive experience in information services. For full details, visit the Sewell Stipend announcement on the Medical Library Association Web site.


Call for Applications
Senior International Science Visiting Professorships
Integrated Research on Disaster Risk
Deadline: July 30, 2012
The Integrated Research on Disaster Risk Science Committee, in partnership with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, is accepting applications for 2013 visiting professorships. Eligible applicants should be established scholars in disciplines related to disaster risk research or practice, hold a PhD, be a professor or associate professor, and have a good understanding of English or Chinese. For full details, see the IRDR call for applications.


Call for Applications
Individual and Community Preparedness Awards

Federal Emergency Management Agency
Deadline: July 31, 2012
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is accepting applications for its 2012 Individual and Community Preparedness Awards. Awards recognize outstanding individuals, organizations, Citizen Corps Councils, and other programs that work to build communities that are safer and better prepared for emergencies. Programs and actions taken between January 1, 2011, and June 1, 2012, are eligible to be recognized. For full details, including submission instructions, frequently asked questions, and award details, visit the FEMA Web site.

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5) 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]

Waldo Canyon Fire Timelapse Video
This striking timelapse video packs five days of fire into fifteen minutes, letting viewers see the extent of the Waldo Canyon fire that began blazing in the Colorado Springs area on June 23, eventually burning into the city itself. Dubbed with dramatic music and news updates that correlate with onscreen action, the video is a dramatic visualization of the fires that have plagued the Southwest this year. As of Monday, the Waldo Canyon fire was 98 percent contained. With a total of nearly 350 homes burned and severe impacts on tourism, it’s considered the most destructive fire in Colorado history.


OnTheMap for Emergency Management
When there’s an emergency on your map, you might find this newly updated tool from the U.S. Census Bureau comes in handy. The customizable mapping interface allows users to access population and workforce statistics in real time for areas that are experiencing emergencies such as storms, floods, or wildfire. Other documents, such as presidential disaster declarations, are also linked.


Climate Change: Lines of Evidence
Getting a grasp on climate change—and how we came to an understanding of our role in it—can be daunting even for those with a background in the subject. Now, the National Research Council has released a video series that will make the twists and turns of current climate knowledge easier for the layperson to understand. Released late last month with a corresponding booklet, the series touches on topics such as solar influence, natural cycles, increased emissions, and greenhouse gases.


Climate Communication
While you’re studying up on climate change, you might as well take a gander at the Climate Communication Web site, a climate outreach project of the Aspen Global Change Institute. Climate Communication helps simplify those burning climate questions with an easy-to-navigate site that doles out plain-language answers to what’s happening to our climate, how it will affect us, and what we can do about it. 


Storm Surge Viewer
This budding project provides mapped data for storm surges, high water marks, and storm paths using the unique storm surge database created by the Western Carolina University Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines. The viewer incorporates information from the database—expected to eventually become the central location for all storm surge and high water mark data—with NOAA storm track data to get a full picture of storm effects.

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6) 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 31, 2012
Global Risk Forum Davos Business Continuity Conference
International Disaster and Risk Conferences
Davos, Switzerland
Cost and Registration: $378, open until filled
This conference, which discusses business continuity during local and international crises, follows the five-day Global Risk Forum in Davos. Topics include supply chain management, effective communication with shareholders and the public, reputation management, and lessons learned from recent large-scale disasters.


September 1-7, 2012
World Urban Forum
UN Human Settlements Programme
Naples, Italy
Cost and Registration: Free, open until filled
This conference will discuss rapid urbanization and its impact on communities, economies, and climate change. Topics include reducing risks from natural hazards, minimizing the costs of maintaining infrastructure, mitigating adverse effects of climate change, managing urban waste, and reducing natural hazard risk by retrofitting existing infrastructure. 


September 7-9, 2012
From Surprise to Rationality: Managing Unprecedented Large-Scale Disasters
International Society for Integrated Disaster Risk Management
Beijing, China
Cost and Registration: $400 before July 30, open until filled
This conference will discuss scientific, technical, economic, financial, and educational aspects of large-scale disasters. Topics include theory and methodology in disaster risk science, recovery and reconstruction, economic impacts and financial management of large-scale disasters, managing unprecedented extreme events, and risk assessment modeling.


September 16-21, 2012
Dam Safety 2012
Association of State Dam Safety Officials
Denver, Colorado
Cost and Registration: $750 before August 26, open until filled
This conference will discuss emergency planning for dam safety and geotechnical, structural, seismological, and hydraulic threats to dam security. Topics include emergency action planning, hydraulic dam failure analysis, safety evaluations of existing dams, plant and animal impacts on embankment dams, earthquake engineering for dam safety, and stability analysis of concrete dams.


September 20-21, 2012
International Conference on Hazards and Disasters
International Center for Research and Development
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Cost and Registration: $375, open until filled
This conference will present a broad range of research, promote networking opportunities, and generate new ideas about hazard risk reduction. Session themes include risk management, the economic impact of disasters, environmental and ecological risks, critical infrastructure, emergency medicine, climate change and natural disasters, transportation systems, technological disasters, and traditional knowledge about risk reduction.


September 19-21, 2012
Eighth International Conference on Risk Analysis and Hazard Mitigation
Wessex Institute of Technology
Island of Brac, Croatia
Cost and Registration: $1,739, open until filled
This conference will discuss new methods for estimating the effects of potential natural and human-caused disasters. Topics include risk mapping, natural hazards and climate change, security and public safety, financial risk assessment, political instability and economic vulnerability, health risk, early warning systems, hazard prevention, and the design and simulation of evacuation procedures. 

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7) Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

Deputy Emergency Coordinator
City of Victoria
Victoria, British Columbia
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: July 16, 2012
This position will assist in developing the city’s emergency management strategic and operational plans. Responsibilities include developing training and exercise plans; assisting with the coordination and management of volunteers; training staff, volunteers, and community members; and consulting with organizations and businesses about plan content. A bachelor’s degree in emergency management and at least two years of emergency management experience are required.


Earthquake Research Affiliates Program Coordinator
Berkeley Seismological Laboratory
Berkeley, California
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: July 20, 2012
This position will develop the Laboratory’s Earthquake Research Affiliates Program, which will develop alert services and new seismological measurement technologies. Responsibilities include serving as a public spokesperson, generating revenue, establishing relationships with local companies and institutions, giving research presentations to local partners, and participating in the research and development of real-time earthquake products. A PhD in seismology or a related science is preferred.


Federal Coordinating Officer, GS-15
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Kansas City, Missouri
Salary: $113,735 to $147,857
Closing Date: July 24, 2012
This position will lead disaster field operations during response and recovery. Responsibilities include serving as the principal staff advisor to the administrator in coordinating disaster assistance to state and local governments, serving as the president’s representative at disaster sites, advising the governor on the status of federal response, establishing a disaster assistance site to administer relief services, and communicating the availability of assistance to the general public and elected officials. One year of experience at or above the GS-14 level is required.


Senior Research Fellow
Stockholm Environmental Institute
Bangkok, Thailand
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: July 31, 2012
This position will lead research projects in the Asia-Pacific region, with a focus on climate change adaptation and disaster risk management. Responsibilities include securing funding for new projects, managing and mentoring junior research staff, publicizing research findings, and building relationships with key funders such as the Thai government and Chulalongkorn University. Excellent cross-cultural communication skills, a PhD in environmental or political science, at least 5 years of experience in Southeast Asia, and 10 years of experience in project management are required.


Disaster Planning Specialist
American Red Cross
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position will support disaster planning in northwestern Pennsylvania. Responsibilities include maintaining shelter agreements, coordinating disaster training, supporting regional disaster exercises, engaging community partners in disaster planning, and managing placement of mass care resources. A bachelor’s degree and at least 3 years of experience implementing social service programs are required. At least six months of supervisory experience is preferred.


Emergency Preparedness Manager
Northwestern University
Evanston, Illinois
Salary: $63,920 to $79,900
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position will develop campus emergency management plans. Responsibilities include assisting with community disaster response training classes; supervising the university police communications center; planning and facilitating meetings, exercises, and presentations; and coordinating communication between local emergency management organizations, the university, and state and federal authorities. A bachelor’s degree in emergency planning and at least five years of program management experience are required.

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