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Number 600 • December 13, 2012 | Past Issues













Some Thing Old, Something New: DR Turns 600

Long ago, when computers were new and typewriters still roamed the earth, a breakthrough in communicating hazard information was born. That innovation was a small listserv known as Disaster Research.

Now, 600 issues later, what began as the pet project of University of Delaware graduate student has morphed into the publication you know today—and my, how things have changed!

While the original listserv started with an audience of about 100 people sharing updates and information about hazards and disaster research, today’s newsletter reaches about 6,000 people across the globe from a variety of fields and disciplines. From first responders to business continuity managers to disaster volunteers, DR has reached beyond its original research emphasis to engage the broader hazards community.

The evolution was reflected in our 2010 name change—to DR, with the tagline of “Disaster Research News You Can Use”—to made it clear the publication is all about distilling the most useful disaster research and news for you from the daily deluge. Now, in honor of another 100 issues of condensing the issues, we’re pleased to add a new feature called Disaster News Redux.

In the quickly changing world of hazards and disasters, it can be easy to lose track of the many tendrils of an interesting story. The Redux will quickly glance at a past DR article in the rearview, check current road conditions, and peek at what’s on the horizon—all so you can get back up to speed without getting distracted. We’re including our first spin in this issue, so be sure to check it out below!

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Stirred, But Not Yet Shaken: Community Resistance to Fracking Doesn't Focus on Earthquake Risk

Natural gas has been touted as a cleaner alternative to other fossil fuels, but it seems the recent boom in hydraulic fracturing is striking nerves instead of oil.

The technique—known as fracking—has sparked debates over possible air and groundwater contamination. Those threats have led at least one community to put its foot down about the well next door.

The city of Longmont, Colorado, is in a tooth-and-nail fight to turn the tables on the oil and gas industry. Voters recently passed a ban on fracking and wastewater disposal within city limits, despite ongoing lawsuits and $500,000 spent by opponents at the polls, according to the New York Times.

The ban was a big win for public opinion, but city leaders are already bracing for a slew of lawsuits from a cast of characters that ranges from the State to individual lease holders. And lost in that back and forth is a point yet to be fully realized in Colorado—earthquake risk.

Although contaminated air and ground water are likely good enough reasons to fear fracking, a U.S. Geological Survey study last week added the Mountain States to the many regions that can link disposal of fracking waste to seismic activity.

The study, presented at the 2012 American Geophysical Union conference last week, indicated a connection between disposal wells and earthquakes in the Raton Basin of Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico.

“The majority, if not all of the earthquakes [which have occurred in the Raton Basin] since August 2001 have been triggered by the deep injection of wastewater related to the production of natural gas from the coal-bed methane,” the report stated, according to MSNBC.

The study found that from 1970 to July 2001, the region recorded just five magnitude-3 or higher earthquakes. Between August 2001 and December 2011, that number jumped to 95.

These recent findings fall in line with similar studies linking injection wells to earthquakes in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Ohio, and internationally. Even so, Colorado officials aren’t convinced the USGS report has much merit.

“I don't think they're nuts. I just think it is premature,” Colorado Geologic Survey chief Vince Matthews told The Denver Post. “We're gathering data that is going to help us understand what is going on down there.”

While studies linking earthquakes and wastewater injection are relatively new, the phenomenon isn’t. The link was identified as early as the 1920s and gained visibility in the 1960s when the Army dumped contaminated water at Rocky Mountain Arsenal east of Denver. But since earthquakes that can be definitively tied to injection wells are rare and of a relatively small magnitude, uneasiness remains. Even a recent National Academies report seems to come down on the side of a tenuous connection.

“About 35,000 hydraulically fractured shale gas wells exist in the United States; only one case of felt seismicity (Oklahoma) has been described in which hydraulic fracturing for shale gas development is suspected but not confirmed as the cause," the report stated.

The idea that industry pipe dreams could turn to nightmares isn’t lost on all U.S. decision makers, though. Growing concern over earthquake swarms led the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission to not only shut down wastewater wells, but also ban the drilling of any new disposal wells. In Colorado, regulators are incorporating seismic risk into the disposal well permit review process—even while they say more study is needed, according to the Associated Press.

Some might call those measures a start, but USGS report author Justin Rubinstein would take the same better-safe-than-sorry approach as Longmont voters.

“I don't think blowing this off is a good idea,” he told the Post. “It's a problem we need to understand. There's been millions of dollars of damage. If you trigger bigger earthquakes, there's a possibility of worse outcomes.”
Stacia Sydoriak, Contributing Writer

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Disaster News Redux: Tsunami of Debris on U.S. Shores

Sailing Away: The approximately 1.5 million tons of marine debris from the 2011 Japanese tsunami began washing up on U.S. shores this spring. Although the wreckage from far away struck the whimsy of many, it was a reality check for states and municipalities charged with removing it from public beaches.

Although the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA is the federal agency responsible for marine debris removal) offered $250,000 in debris removal grants, it was impossible to estimate actual U.S. clean up costs because the type of debris to be removed, the amount washing ashore at a given time, and the type of shoreline to be cleaned all affect costs. That said, the agency tentatively put a $4,300 per ton price tag on cleanup.

Waiting at Anchor: Although not obligated to contribute to cleanup, Japan announced November 30 that it has set aside $5 million to assist with debris in the United States. The funds will be used for “removal of debris, disposal fees, cleanup supplies, detection and monitoring,” according to a NOAA statement.

“We are extremely grateful to Japan for its generous support to the American people, NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco stated. “The tragedy set in motion by the earthquake and tsunami continues to be tangible, but it brought our nations together. This gift is a powerful reminder of the goodwill, friendship and spirit of mutual support between our people.”

Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon and California, as well as portions of the Canadian coastline, were all affected by tsunami debris. Another $1 million in cleanup funds has been promised to Canada, according to the Japan Daily Press.

Murky Waters Ahead: The Japanese funds will be distributed by NOAA based on need, according to the statement. In the meantime, winter is expected to see even more debris come ashore on the West Coast, and NOAA projects tsunami debris could continue arriving for the next year.

Those interested in following the debris trail can keep up with the trash at the Marine Debris Monitoring and Assessment Web site.

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DR Settles In for a Long Winter's Nap

Twas two weeks before Christmas and all through the house, creatures were bustling and too busy to keep up with e-mail and other reading. And while that’s not as poetic as A Visit from St. Nicholas, it’s one of the reasons we put DR snug in its bed this time of year. So relax, enjoy the season, and know we’ll be one less thing to catch up on when you return.

Never fear though, we’ll be back to make a clatter with DR 601 on January 24. Of course, if you need a little hazards in your holidays, you can always follow us on Twitter. Until then, to all a goodnight!

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

Call for Applications
Jefferson Science Fellowship
U.S. Department of State
Deadline: January 14, 2013
The U.S. State Department is accepting applications for its Jefferson Science Fellows Program. The program hosts up to fifteen fellows who will assist in formulating foreign policies related to science, technology, and engineering. Eligible applicants will be tenured or similarly ranked faculty from U.S. institutions and hold American citizenship. For more information on the program and how to apply, visit the Jefferson Fellowship web page.


Call for Proposals
Fire Behavior and Fuels Conference
International Association of Wildland Fire
Deadline: February 1, 2013
The International Association of Wildland Fire is accepting workshop proposals for its Fourth Fire Behavior and Fuels Conference, to be held July 1-4 in St. Petersburg, Russia. Proposals should emphasize the conference theme of the influence of a changing environment on fire behavior, and include a one-paragraph description of the workshop and a brief instructor bio. Full requirements and submission information are available on the IAWF Web site.


Call for Presentations
2013 Backyards and Beyond
National Fire Protection Association
Deadline: February 15, 2013
The National Fire Protection Association is accepting proposals for educational presentations to be given at its Backyards and Beyond conference, to be held November 14-16, 2013, in Salt Lake City. Presentations will focus on wildfire mitigation tools, community preparedness, and other key wildfire issues. For more information, visit the association’s Firewise Web site.

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Some New Web Resources

NOAA Space Weather Forecasts
Ever wonder how the weather is up there? We mean WAY up there. Now there’s less guessing with these two newly released products from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center. The new, no-frills reports—The Three-Day Forecast and Forecast Discussion—provide information about geomagnetic activity, solar radiation, radio blackouts, energetic particles, solar wind, and more. The agency is accepting feedback on the new reports until January 11, so check them out today.


Addressing Loss and Damage in the Context of Social Vulnerability and Resilience
This report looks at how societies respond to climate change-induced hazards and disasters and how policy and science frameworks can work toward addressing loss and risk. The report, published by the UN University Institute for Environment and Human Security, is based on knowledge gleaned from the Keystone Conference on social vulnerability in the context of climate adaptation, held in Bonn, Germany, in October. Report recommendations include considering loss and damage as part of a system where climate change shapes social processes, including social vulnerability and resilience in loss discussions, and realizing the solutions to vulnerability can also be found in climate-social interactions.


NIMS ICS Guide for the iPhone
This handy dandy app will let you keep your National Incident Management System Incident Command System Guide in your pocket and your head in the game. With customizable features such as dynamic checklists, incident-specific contacts and addresses, and the ability to bookmark oft-used sections, this app is perfect for training or the field. Not into NIMS? Check out this Mission Mode list of disaster and crisis apps (sorry Android users, they’re all iSpecific).


Survey on Emergency Communications and People with Disabilities
This survey will collect data about how people with disabilities use 911 services and emergency alerts. The effort, conducted by the Wireless Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center, will be shared with emergency response professionals with the aim of improving emergency communication for the disabled (and if that’s not enough incentive, survey takers can also qualify to win a $100 Amazon gift certificate).


Regional Risk Analysis Reports for Wildfire Management
The U.S. government's interagency Forests and Rangelands effort has just released a series of risk analysis reports designed to support decision making when fighting wildfires. The reports, which were created in response to the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy, can help fire management organizations integrate key elements of the management strategy into operations; balance federal, state, and local interests; and better leverage funds.

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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 6-10, 2013
American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting
American Meteorological Society
Austin, Texas
Cost and Registration: $325, open until filled
This conference will focus on expanding weather forecasting and projections beyond current capabilities. Topics include Fukushima contaminant diffusion, climate variability and change, weather modification, aviation and aerospace meteorology, space weather, coastal environments, hydrology, and environmental satellite systems.


January 23-24, 2013
Coastal Futures
Communications and Management for Sustainability
London, England
Cost and Registration: $234, open until filled
This conference will examine the challenges facing coastal sustainability, environmental changes, and trends in coastal management from a multidisciplinary perspective. Topics include coastal economy, offshore wind industry impacts, hydro-environmental impact studies, marine debris, marine spatial planning, and ecosystem management.


February 1, 2013
Earthquakes: Mean Business
Parks College of Engineering, Aviation and Technology
Saint Louis, Missouri
Cost and Registration: $105, open until filled
This conference will raise earthquake awareness and teach preparedness in a business context. Topics will include infrastructure engineering, business continuity and risk, earthquake policy, building code issues, and the St. Louis Area Earthquake Mapping Project.


February 19-24, 2013
12th World Congress on Stress, Trauma, and Coping
International Critical Incident Stress Foundation
Baltimore, Maryland
Cost and Registration: $570 before January 27, open until filled
This conference will focus on helping crisis intervention and disaster mental health personnel navigate the next era of disaster response with lessons learned, innovations, and evidence-based applications. Topics include transportation disasters, resilience in healthcare, critical incident stress management in aviation, children and trauma, post-action staff support, and ethics-based leadership.


March 13-15, 2013
Asia Water Week
Asian Development Bank
Manila, Philippines
Cost and Registration: free, open until filled
This conference will look at ways to strengthen and reform Asia’s water sector in ways that will result in sustainability, private sector investment, and increased expertise. Topics include climate change; the intersection of water, food, and energy; disaster management; water supply and sanitation; water resources and environment; and agriculture and irrigation.


March 25-28, 2013
National Hurricane Conference
National Hurricane Conference
Orlando, Florida
Cost and Registration: $350 before February 8, open until filled
This conference is focused on strengthening hurricane preparedness and response in the United States and Caribbean by exploring new ideas and lessons learned, as well as the basics. Topics include evacuation decision making, amateur radio communication, healthcare accessibility, fostering resilient communities, debris management, and utility damage assessments.

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Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

Hazardous Materials Program Specialist
City of Huntington Beach Fire Department
Huntington Beach, California
Salary: $69,768 to $86,424
Closing Date: December 17, 2012
This position is responsible for inspecting the storage, use, and disposal of hazardous materials, as well as managing city-owned oil wells. Duties included working with business owners who handle hazardous materials, ensuring hazardous materials inventories and emergency response plans are filed with the city, administering the permitting process, and conducting inspections. Two years of hazardous materials experience, knowledge of basic chemistry, and familiarity with federal, state, and local hazmat codes are required.


Research Associate in Statistics for Volcanic Ash Hazards
University of Reading
Reading, United Kingdom
Salary: $36,108 to $38,295
Closing Date: January 5, 2013
This position will develop new quantitative methods for forecasting volcanic ash hazards as part of the Robust Assessment and Communication of Environmental Risk (RACER) project. A PhD in statistics or meteorology, research and publishing experience, and understanding of complex atmospheric models are required.


Business Continuity Program Manager
Yale University
New Haven, Connecticut
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position coordinates continuity of operations and business continuity planning for the university. Duties include developing all-hazards risk assessments, planning mitigation strategies, assisting with departmental continuity planning, and conducting continuity and preparedness outreach. A bachelor’s degree in a related field, four years of experience, and skills in project management and disaster planning are required.


Assistant Professor of Sociology
University of Louisiana
Lafayette, Louisiana
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: Open until filled
This tenure track position will teach in one or more area of expertise, including environmental sociology, environmental justice, climate change impacts, and energy studies. A strong record of securing grants and outside funding and an emphasis in interdisciplinary collaboration are preferred. A PhD in sociology is required.


Senior Health Coordinator, Emergency Response Team
International Rescue Committee
Multiple Locations
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position is responsible for managing effective and timely emergency health response deployments and coordinating emergency health response components, including primary health, reproductive health, and nutrition. Responsibilities include identifying emergency program health staffing needs, ensuring rapid recruitment and training of new staff, delivering timely health assessments of humanitarian needs in large-scale emergencies, identifying strategies and response plans for areas of geographic intervention, and developing technical proposals and budgets. A medical degree, three years of experience working in emergency or conflict areas, and health emergency mobilization knowledge are required. A master’s in public health 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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