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Number 603 • February 21, 2013 | Past Issues

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

Messages From Above: Near Earth Objects Finally Land on Public's Radar

The stars aligned last week to increase interest in a subject that has long been treated as somewhat of a trifle—the threat posed by Near Earth Objects. Several NEOs—a term that encompasses asteroids, meteors, comets, and the like—made headlines, including a close shave with an asteroid and the spectacular appearance of a meteor over Russia on the same day. Similar (if less sensational) events also occurred over California and Cuba.

The barrage of heavenly bodies isn’t connected, or even all that rare, but it could serve as some cosmic PR for groups that work to track NEOs and mitigate the risks of impacts—an often unsung and underfinanced endeavor.

“Wouldn’t it be silly if we got wiped out because we weren’t looking?” Edward Lu, a former astronaut and pioneer in asteroid deflection, told the New York Times. “This is a wake-up call from space. We’ve got to pay attention to what’s out there.”

Data from a NASA program called NEOWISE indicates there are about 20,500 asteroids near Earth, with 4,700 close enough to be hazardous (check out this visual if that doesn’t sound alarming). All those rocks whizzing around our planetary head, however, have failed to drum up much in the way of funds for tracking or defense. That’s largely due to the nebulous nature of the threat, according to some experts.

“I think the governments of the world are very good at confronting a threat that is quantified: real time, date, place,” Popular Science quotes Lu as saying. “When things are probabilistic? We’re just not good at that.”

In the United States, that dynamic has resulted in lackluster government support for programs that track NEOs—only 0.05 percent of NASA’s budget is dedicated to its Near Earth Object program, according to Wired, and a 2005 congressional mandate to discover 90 percent of larger NEOs by 2020 is woefully underfunded and behind schedule. Despite the fact that we could probably deflect a doomsday asteroid if we knew it was coming, there’s been little political will to move programs along.

“It’s not officially on anybody’s to-do list in terms of legal requirements,” former astronaut Russell Schweickart, told the New York Times’ Andy Revkin in a Skype interview. “NASA does have a legal requirement to discover asteroids and to do certain research work, track them and catalog them, etc., but NASA does not have responsibility nor does anyone else, to protect the Earth from potential impacts. This is really public safety. This is not science or exploration.”

Schweickart, along with Lu and several other colleagues, established the B612 Foundation (named after the asteroid in Saint-Exupery's The Little Prince) in 2002 with the goal of changing an asteroid’s orbit. While the group proved this was possible, they also realized it needed to be done decades before impact, according to their Web site.  With the realization that early detection is key, the nonprofit foundation began a campaign to raise $450 million to build a space-based, infrared telescope capable of fulfilling the mandate originally issued to NASA.

“It’s one of the nice things about being a private entity,” Schweickart said. “We can focus on something that’s of very great importance and we can see it through, notwithstanding the rapidly changing political environment.”

The B612 Foundation isn’t the only organization trying to shore up the gaps in government spacewatching. At least one other group has its eyes on the sky in a significant way and investors of all ilk have shown an interest in similar projects. Unfortunately, publicity and entrepreneurship can only take us so far to prevention. Ultimately, we’ll need to find worldwide accord on the topic, Schweickart said.

The United Nations is on the case, but considering the intricacies of international negotiations, any type of agreement might be light years away.

“The easiest way to state it is that you can’t deflect an asteroid without putting temporarily at risk other nations and people who were not initially threatened,” Schweickart said. “Ultimately we may watch ourselves get hit with the first one that threatens, hopefully in the ocean, while everybody is still debating at the UN But hopefully that will only happen once.”

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Disaster News Redux: More Compounding Pharmacies Under Scrutiny

A Prescription for Problems: In October, a series of meningitis deaths caused by tainted steroids highlighted erratic oversight of the compounding pharmacy industry, as well as the unscrupulous practices of some compounders.

The outbreak, which to date has infected more than 700 people and killed 47, was linked to steroids manufactured by the New England Compounding Center, a state-licensed pharmacy allowed to create drugs in response to an individual prescription using FDA-approved materials when a commercial version isn’t available. 

Unlike commercial manufacturers, compounding pharmacies like the NECC don’t have to adhere to Food and Drug Administration testing and regulation and only need to abide by state laws that regulate pharmacists. Attempts by the FDA to bring compounding pharmacies under its regulatory jurisdiction were shut down by a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found a portion of the legislation unconstitutional, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Increased Dosage of Ills: A recent investigation by the Washington Post found that at least three other large-scale compounders had similarly serious problems reaching back long before the NECC case.

The companies—Central Admixture Pharmacy Services, PharMEDium, and ApotheCure—have histories of shoddy practices and unsanitary conditions that have been linked to deaths and illnesses for the past decade, according to the article. Central Admixture is currently under FDA investigation that was sparked by the NECC investigation.

Compounding Issues: Compounding pharmacies continue to operate under a state-by-state patchwork of regulations, although lawmakers have vowed to continue trying to bring the drugmakers under FDA oversight.

In the meantime, the FDA hosted a meeting in December to brainstorm ways in which states could bridge gaps in regulations. The meeting, which was attended by representatives of state pharmacy boards and departments of health, addressed issues of authority and enforcement, according to the Tennessean. While officials grappled with how to balance federal and state concerns, the biggest issues seem to stem from pharmacies with intrastate shipments.

“We feel great about what we’re doing in our states,” Jay Campbell, executive director of the North Carolina Board of Pharmacy, told the Tennessean,but gosh, we don’t know what those other guys are doing.”

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Dirty Beach: Sandy's Litter Could Lay Waste to Coastal Tourism

There was a time when talking trash in New York or New Jersey wasn’t such a literal endeavor. But now, since Hurricane Sandy has washed tons of debris into the ocean, trash—and its possible effect on tourism, boating, and other beach activities—has become a topic of intense conversation.

“We have everything from floating oil barrels, gasoline tanks, household hazardous waste products, buckets, tires, bathtubs, you name it,” Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment on Long Island told the Associated Press. “Come the spring, this stuff is going to be submerged partially or totally, but the boats are going to have some very serious issues.”

Those issues extend to swimmers, too, and together that could spell double whammy for beach business from Connecticut to New Jersey.

“Someone goes out crabbing; they buy gas for the boat, maybe they have to rent the boat in the first place. They buy bait, they buy lunch," Brick, New Jersey, Mayor Stephan Acropolis told the AP. "It's a big economic impact. People live here because they want to be on the water, out on a boat. If we don't get this cleaned up, we're going to have a problem."

Cleanup, however, isn’t so easy. Although efforts are underway to sift detritus from beach sand, debris removed from the water tends to get replaced with other debris.

“We did a cleanup three weeks ago. Then when we went back the other day, you could still see junk coming up in the wash,” New Jersey resident Paul Harris told the AP. “They go and clean it again, and two days later, you have the same thing again. There's nothing you can do about it; you can't vacuum the ocean.”

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Apply Now for the Mary Fran Myers Scholarship

The Mary Fran Myers Scholarship Committee is now accepting applications. Recipients will receive financial support allowing them to attend the 2013 Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop in Broomfield, Colorado, July 13-16. Recipients may also stay through July 17 to attend either the International Research Committee on Disasters or the Natural Hazard Mitigation Association add-on events for researchers and practitioners, respectively. Scholarships can cover part or all of transportation, meals, and registration costs.

The Mary Fran Myers Scholarship is awarded annually to at least one potential Workshop participant. Recipients are recognized at the Workshop and may be asked to serve as panelists, where they can highlight their research or practical experiences with hazards and disasters.

As the longtime co-director of the Natural Hazards Center, Myers recognized that many of the people and organizations that could benefit from and contribute to the Workshop—including local practitioners, students, and international professionals—were among those least likely to afford it. The scholarship was established in 2003 to fulfill Myers’ request that qualified and talented individuals receive support to attend.

Hazards practitioners, students, and researchers with a strong commitment to disaster management and mitigation and who reside outside North America or the Caribbean are eligible to enter. Eligibility is based on current place of residence, not citizenship.

Applicants from North America and the Caribbean will be eligible for the scholarship in 2014. Previous attendees of the Natural Hazards Workshop are not eligible for the 2013 Mary Fran Myers Scholarship. Preference is given to those who can demonstrate financial need.

For more information on past scholarship winners and how to apply, visit the Mary Fran Myers Scholarship page at the Natural Hazards Center Web site. Applications must be received by April 1.

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

Call for Entries
Business Continuity Paper of the Year Competition
Continuity Central and the Business Continuity and Resiliency Journal
Deadline: February 28, 2013
Continuity Central and the Business Continuity and Resiliency Journal are now accepting papers and articles to be considered for their Business Continuity Paper of the Year Competition. Submissions should be unpublished, between 2,000 to 5,000 words long, and related to business continuity, disaster recovery, resiliency, emergency management, crisis management, or similar topics. Winning entries will receive $800 and be published in the Business Continuity and Resiliency Journal. For more information on how to submit your entry, visit the competition Web site.

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Call for Participation
Local Governments and Cities Feedback Survey
UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Deadline: March 5, 2013
The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction is seeking feedback from representatives of cities and local governments on the Post 2015 Disaster Risk Reduction Framework. Responses to the 10-minute survey will be used to better incorporate the needs of cities and local governments into national and global priorities. Visit the survey Web site to participate.

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Call for Feedback
Review of New Standards for Flood Hazard Mapping
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Deadline: March 8, 2013
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is accepting reviews of its new standards for flood hazard mapping. The new standards were written to more clearly delineate mandatory standards from recommended guidance. Visit the review page on the FEMA Web site to read the standards draft or submit comments.

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Some New Web Resources

Solve the Outbreak
Whether it’s thinking back to who might have given you the flu or noting symptoms of sick coworkers, everyone play disease detective sometimes. Now you can put your sick-solving skills to the test. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have created a fun little app that lets you step into the role of contagion killer. Learn how diseases start, quarantine villages, and interview the sick—your actions can stop illness from spreading, so think quickly and download it today.

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The Cochrane Library Resources for Earthquakes
Disease sleuthing games aside, healthcare professionals in real-life disaster situations can find a wealth of information at the Cochrane Library, a collection of six evidence-based databases. The library has recently made a selection of resources available to assist healthcare official after an earthquake. The free-access articles cover topics such as diarrhea prevention and treatment, wound management, fracture management, physical trauma, and anesthesia.
           
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Evacuteer.org
Evacuteer isn’t exactly a new resource, but its singular mission makes it a site worth revisiting. The organization, which trains about 500 people each year to help with disaster efforts, is charged with helping people leave Louisiana if they’re forced to evacuate. But that’s not all. The group has a bevy of projects it maintains including preparedness research, social media campaigns, and even public art installations (which will double as evacuation pick up points). Evacuteer hopes to one day take their concept nationwide, so stop by the Web site and see what might work for your community.

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Emergency 2.0 Wiki
Don’t let the name fool you—Emergency 2.0 is so much more than just anther pretty wiki. This Web site aims to give the emergency management community a resource to integrate social media and other technologies into their emergency repertoire, and hopefully build more resilient communities while doing so. In addition to the Wiki—arranged in a handy pre-, during, and post-disaster format—visitors to the site will find tips, guides, apps, mapping tools, and videos.

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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 www.colorado.edu/hazards/resources/conferences.html.]

February 27-28, 2013
Emergency Action Planning for Dam Safety
Association of State Dam Safety Officials
Kansas City, Missouri
Cost and Registration: $325, open until filled
This workshop will teach dam safety professionals how to develop and improve emergency action plans. Topics include emergency action plan elements, developing notification flow charts, creating inundation maps, determining action items, conducting tabletop exercises, and an overview of the Incident Command System. 

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February 28, 2013
Social Media and Response Management Interface Event
Metropolitan College of New York and the Association of Contingency Planners
New York, New York
Cost and Registration: Free, open until filled
This conference will discuss the benefits of social media in emergency response. Topics include crowd mapping and social media analysis, how to take advantage of expanding networks, crowd-sourced disaster relief efforts, analysis of social media text, and incorporating social media into local emergency response plans.

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March 25-26, 2013
Fourth Annual VEMEC Conference
The Veterans Emergency Management Evaluation Center
Washington, D.C.
Cost and Registration: $375, open until filled
This conference will discuss the importance of multi-sector partnerships in community resilience. Topics include public-private partnerships in disaster response, lessons learned from Hurricane Sandy, business continuity during disasters, and global perspectives on disaster management. In addition, a workshop focused on including homeless populations in disaster preparedness and response will be held following the conference.

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April 9-11, 2013
Third International Conference on Physical Coastal Processes, Management, and Engineering
Wessex Institute of Technology
Gran Canaria, Spain
Cost and Registration: $1,322, open until filled
This conference will discuss coastal vulnerability to storm surges, wind, tidal changes, and pollutants. Topics include wave modeling, coastal defense, the effects of climate change in coastal zones, tsunami impact and recovery, the impact of storms and extreme events, and socio-environmental issues.

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April 10-13, 2013
Western Wildfire Conference
Western Silvicultural Contractors’ Association
Kelowna, British Columbia
Cost and Registration: $519, open until filled
This conference will discuss the increasing wildfire hazard in Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest. Topics include home defense in the wildland urban interface, insurance industry and wildland fire risk, fuel treatment effectiveness, using forest fuels for bioenergy, and the politics of increasing community resilience to wildfires.

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April 29 to May 3, 2013
Natural Disturbance Conference
Bavarian Forest National Park
Neuschönau, Germany
Cost and Registration: $403, open until filled
This conference will look at the role of catastrophes in natural regeneration, biodiversity, and landscape restructuring. Topics include the design and management of natural reserves, ecosystem response to flooding, the importance of fire in conservation, impacts of logging on below-ground fauna, and large-scale bark beetle outbreaks.

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Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

Wildland Fire Supervisor
Oregon Department of Forestry
Tillamook, Oregon
Salary: $45,372 to $63,648
Closing Date: February 24, 2013
This position supervises forest crew coordinators for an inmate work program and plans administrative and field projects. Responsibilities include assisting with permanent and seasonal recruitment, training employees, monitoring crews for efficiency and effectiveness, and determining fire response capacity on a weekly basis. Five years of experience with wildland fire suppression is required. Excellent communication skills and experience coordinating projects is preferred.

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Building Science Branch Risk Reduction Advisor, GS-13
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Washington, D.C.
Salary: $89,033 to $136,771
Closing Date: March 8, 2013
This position will manage a forensic engineering team that determines the causes of post-disaster structural failures and successes. Responsibilities include developing projects to reduce exposure of the built environment to natural hazards, providing input on National Flood Insurance Program building codes and standards, and selecting guidelines for FEMA Emergency Management Institute training courses. A degree in architecture or civil engineering and at least one full year of specialized experience at the GS-12 level is required.

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All Hazard Instructor
Texas A&M Forest Service
Various Locations, Texas
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position will teach basic wildland firefighting courses and may serve as a unit level instructor for Incident Command System courses. Responsibilities include staying current with the National Incident Management System Incident Command System, attending professional association meetings, and responding to fires and all-hazards incidents when not engaged in training. A high school diploma, at least eight years of emergency response experience, and three years of experience teaching emergency response is required. Refer to NOV number 06701.

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Senior Business Continuity Analyst
OCLC Cooperative
Dublin, Ohio
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position will develop and maintain disaster recovery and business continuity plans. Responsibilities include conducting risk analyses, leading project recovery teams, updating incident response and disaster declaration guidelines, and mitigating risks by creating system redundancy. Fifteen years of experience with information systems, ten years of disaster recovery planning experience, and Disaster Recovery Institute board certification are required. A master’s degree in computer science is preferred.

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Director of Emergency Preparedness
Miami Dade College
Miami, Florida
Salary: $77,875 to $97,343
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position will manage the college’s emergency management and preparedness. Responsibilities include coordinating emergency simulations, identifying emergency management training needs, conducting vulnerability assessments, serving on the college’s emergency response team, applying for homeland security and emergency preparedness grants, and advising in the development of college policies relating to emergency preparedness. A master’s degree in business or public relations, and five years of experience in a related field is required. Knowledge of the National Incident Management System and business continuity is preferred.

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Readiness Initiative Coordinator
Orange County Health Disaster Management
Santa Ana, California
Salary: $56,700 to $76,419
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position will update written plans, conduct training, and lead exercises related to the security of Orange County health and medical assets. Responsibilities include serving as a technical advisor on disasters, revising the county medical countermeasures plan, establishing distribution for mass prophylaxis, conducting full-scale medical distribution and dispensing exercises, and overseeing mass vaccinations. A bachelor’s degree in public health and at least four years of related experience are required.

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Contributions of jobs, conferences, and other content to this newsletter can be sent to jolie.breeden@colorado.edu. Please include “for Disaster Research” in the subject line.

To subscribe, visit http://www.colorado.edu/hazards/dr/ or e-mail jolie.breeden@colorado.edu.
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