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Number 607 • April 18, 2013 | Past Issues













Hurricanes, Ho! Weather Experts Focus on Warnings as a Hectic Season Approaches

Meteorological terminology has long been at odds with plain language in storm warnings and the resulting gaps in understanding—the connotation of “storm” versus “hurricane,” for instance—can be dangerous.

“It boils down to what the common person thinks, you have to put in terms your grandmother can understand,” U.S. Army Lt. General Russel Honore is quoted as telling audiences at the National Hurricane Conference last month. “If you tell her a storm is coming ashore, she may not do a thing. If you tell her a hurricane is coming, she'll react differently. That key word—hurricane—causes people to act.”

That’s not necessarily a problem when a hurricane can be called a hurricane. But sometimes—as we saw recently when Sandy struck the East coast—a storm might lose the characteristics that allowed it to be termed a hurricane. Or perhaps, as with Hurricane Isaac last year, a hurricane’s Saffir-Simpson category is a poor indicator of the damage it can wreak.

“We need a storm surge warning,” National Hurricane Center Director Rick Knabb is quoted as saying in The Advocate. “The thing with storm surge is the public doesn’t understand their risk very well. We want to move toward calling out each of these hazards individually.” 

The good news is that weather experts are working on it. The NHC expects to be able to introduce storm surge warnings by 2015 and is rolling out more immediate changes, as well. Those include five-day tropical weather outlooks and some definitional changes that would address transitioning storms, like Sandy. (For more information on these upcoming changes, tune in to EMForum’s talk with NHC Senior Hurricane Specialist Daniel Brown next week).

The timing is fortuitous, considering longtime Colorado State University storm oracles Philip Klotzbach and William Gray have predicted yet another season of above average hurricane activity, with 9 hurricanes and 18 named storms.

“I expect we're going to come out with a busy forecast for this year,” Gray told the Herald-Tribune in March.

The forecasts are based on statistical analyses of 60 years worth of storm data and do not predict landfall. The Landfalling Hurricane Probability Project, a related effort by Klotzbach, allows users to access information about possible landfalls by state and county.

While the upcoming hurricane warning and forecast improvements are welcome, they’re part of a longstanding struggle to adequately characterize hazards of all kinds for the public. From earthquakes to tornadoes to storm surges, emergency officials are likely to struggle with communicating possible impacts for some time to come. And, as Federal Emergency Administration Manager Craig Fugate recently told the audience at the National Hurricane Conference, that’s what really matters.

“It’s hurricane season, what more can you say,” Fugate is quoted as saying by The Advocate. “It doesn’t tell the story. It is the impacts we have to plan for.”

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Disaster News Redux: Homelessness in Haiti

A Nation in Camps: In 2011, a year after a devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, an estimated one million people were still living in tents and makeshift structures, despite an outpouring of aid from around the globe. Only an estimated 5 percent of the debris littering the country had been removed and the country had received little more than 10 percent of the $11 billion of aid it had been promised, according to a Time article.

Deplorable social conditions existing before the earthquake, a cholera epidemic, and a shady election process that generated civil unrest further hampered the nation’s ability to rebound from the disaster. Experts predicted it would be at least a decade before the country was able to recover.

“I think this is going to take many more decades than only 10 years and this is an enormous backwards step in Haiti's development,” Edmond Mulet, acting head of the UN Haiti mission, told the BBC in January 2010. “We will not have to start from zero but from below zero.”

Rising (Slowly) from the Rubble: About 75 percent of the 385 camps that once housed displaced Haitians are now closed, according to a recent report released by the International Organization for Migration, an organization that has been tracking displaced families since the quake. More than half the debris has been removed and a 10-year, $2 billion plan to address cholera is now underway.

Although the news is heartening, about 320,000 people—more than 81,000 households—still live in temporary conditions, according to the report. Of that amount, 67,000 households have no prospect of finding permanent homes and nearly 22,000 of them face eviction as landowners regain their property, the IOM said in a statement.

The Long Road to Homes: Reconstruction in Haiti continues, albeit at a glacial pace. An exhaustive investigation into aid and new development in Haiti by the New York Times earlier this year found that only $215 million of an estimated $7.5 billion in aid was spent on building permanent housing.

While some money went to infrastructure projects such as building highways, schools, and water systems, much of it has been disbursed into slow-moving bureaucracies that are only just now contracting the much-needed building.

“It’s not a problem of the availability of money but of the capacity to spend it,” Rafael Ruipérez Palmero, a Spanish development official in Haiti, told the Times.

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Student Paper Competition Deadline Approaching

The clock is ticking on the chance to win $100 and free entry into this summer’s Natural Hazards Workshop. We’ll be choosing the winners for our annual Hazards and Disasters Student Paper Competition soon. Graduate and undergraduate students have until April 29 to brush up that research and send it in!

Papers may present current research, literature reviews, theoretical arguments, or case studies on social or behavioral aspects of hazards or disasters. Students must be enrolled for at least one term of the 2012-2013 academic year. For more information and application instructions, visit the competition page on the Natural Hazards Center Web site.

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

Call for Applications
Service Learning Grants

State Farm Insurance
Deadline: May 3, 2013
The State Farm Insurance Youth Advisory Board is accepting applications for service-learning projects that address a variety of topics, including natural disaster preparedness, social health and wellness, and environmental responsibility. Grants of $25,000 to $100,000 will be awarded to applicants involved in public education, including nonprofits, higher education institutions, and elementary schools. For more information, to view a sample application, or to submit an online application, visit the Youth Advisory Board Web site.


Call for Applications
Research Grants Related to Hurricane Sandy Recovery
Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response
Deadline: May 20, 2013
The Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response is accepting applications for research grants to study lessons learned during Hurricane Sandy recovery. State and local governments, schools, nonprofits, and higher education institutions are eligible for grants of up to $500,000. Topics of research could include community resilience, long-term recovery, health system response, and social media use. For more information or to apply, visit the grant Web site.


Call for Papers
National Conference on Earthquake Engineering
Earthquake Engineering Research Institute
Deadline: June 15, 2013
The Earthquake Engineering Research Institute is accepting abstracts for presentation at the 10th National Conference on Earthquake Engineering, to be held July 21-25, 2014, in Anchorage, Alaska. Papers can relate to wide variety of conference topics, including bridges, engineering in extreme environments, fire following earthquakes, risk and loss assessment, socio-economic and policy issues, and resilient communities. Final papers will be due November 1. A $200 deposit must accompany each paper. For complete information, a full list of topics, or to submit an abstract, visit the conference Web site.

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Some New Web Resources

Resilience through Learning—Explosions in Boston
In the wake of Mondays Boston Marathon bombings, the National Center for Disaster Medicine and Public Health has put together useful resources for healthcare workers. The links cover topics such as blast and bomb injuries, medicine for mass gatherings, traumatic stress, surge capacity for terrorist bombings, and talking to children about bombings.


Another useful tool in bomb threat situations is FiRST App. The app—which stands for First Responder Support Tools—can be downloaded in multiple mobile platforms and combines map-based resources to help manage explosives and hazmat situations. Among the applications features are evacuation and shelter-in-place zones based on bomb size, downwind protection zones and the ability to retrieve current wind conditions, and points of interest such as schools, hospitals, etc.


Chemical Reactivity Worksheet
It may sound more like homework than help, but the Chemical Reactivity Worksheet is a tool that can quickly tell safety managers what hazards might ensue from when chemicals are mixed in a spill or an explosion such as the one in West, Texas, on Wednesday. Created by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and newly updated, the software can be customized based on commonly used or proprietary chemicals. Case histories and references are also included.


Mobile Alert Messaging Application
Afraid of tornadoes, hurricanes, and fire? Cry for MAMA—the National Weather Service’s Mobile Alert Messaging Application. The latest in alert offerings, MAMA is no frills and easy to use—just text your zip code and you’ll be notified the next time there’s severe weather in your area. Alerts include winter storms, marine, coastal and tropical weather, hydrological events, and fire-related weather.


National Fire Academy Off-Campus Courses
It doesn’t matter where you are, if you wish upon a National Fire Academy course, you’ll find one in your area. The Academy offers free fire and EMS training in all fifty states and this list will give you an idea of what’s coming up in your neighborhood. Class topics include executive development, hazardous materials, arson, incident management, and responder health and safety. CEUs are available in some instances.

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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]

April 22-26, 2013
Iterative Risk Management for Climate Change Adaptation Policy and Practice
Regional Integrated Multihazard Early Warning System for Africa and Asia
Bangkok, Thailand
Cost and Registration: $1,500, open until filled
This training will help participants design flexible risk management plans that can be adjusted to changes in climate research. Topics include risk-based climate change adaptation, iterative risk management, integrating climate change and risk management plans, and identifying critical climate risks and hazards.


April 23-25, 2013
11th Annual Climate Prediction Applications Science Workshop
Utah Climate Center and the National Weather Service Climate Services Division
Logan, Utah
Cost and Registration: $300, open until filled
This conference will focus on climate prediction applications and research that help decision makers. Topics include strategic climate change partnerships, economic evaluations of municipal drought plans, projected changes in surface air temperatures and precipitation, and adaptation to climate-related hazards in Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah.


May 16-17, 2013
Build it Better Leadership Forum
Risk Mitigation Leadership Forum
Charlotte, North Carolina

Cost and Registration: Free, closes May 3
This forum will look at improving construction practices to better weather extreme storms. Topics include the unforeseen consequences of Hurricane Sandy, the effects of wind and water on community infrastructure, levels of severe weather preparedness by community, low-income communities and natural disasters, and best practices in natural hazards mitigation following Hurricane Sandy.


June 3-6, 2013
Biennial Training Conference
National Hydrologic Warning Council
Ponte Vedra, Florida
Cost and Registration: $625, open until filled
This conference will discuss hydrologic warning systems and forecasting for floods, droughts, hurricanes, and tsunamis. Topics include hydrologic and hydraulic ArcGIS modeling, reducing flood risk with hydrologic warning systems, collecting and mapping high water marks, real-time inundation mapping for Nashville tributaries, risk communication in rural areas, social capital in early warning and drought risk reduction, real-time emergency notifications for small dams, and flood risk perception near levees.


June 4-7, 2013
National Homeland Security Conference
National Homeland Security Association
Los Angeles, California
Cost and Registration: $450 before May 1, open until filled
This conference will discuss threats to homeland security from natural and manmade sources and what can be done to mitigate them. Topics include new challenges in cyber warfare, implementation of the 2012 London Olympics Security Plan, the ongoing needs of terrorism victims, the responsibility of private industries to protect high value targets, and Department of Defense support for emergency managers.


July 8-10, 2013
Ninth International Conference on Earthquake Resistant Engineering Structures
Wessex Institute of Technology
A Coruña, Spain
Cost and Registration: $1,275, open until filled
This conference will discuss basic and applied research for designing earthquake resistant structures. Topics include earthquake prediction, tsunamis, seismic hazards and vulnerability, building performance during earthquakes, performance-based design, material mechanics and characterization, and microzoning and seismic codes.

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Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

Fire Captain
Orange County Fire Authority
Irvine, California
Salary: $80,575 to $108,617
Closing Date: May 6, 2013
This position will supervise firefighters and fire apparatus engineers. Responsibilities include planning and assigning work, training fire crews, conducting performance evaluations, managing the fire station, supervising fire defense improvements, and participating in emergency and rescue activities. Five years of experience as a firefighter and fire apparatus engineer is required. Emergency Medical Technician I certification is preferred.  


Hinsdale Wave Research Laboratory
Corvallis, Oregon
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: May 30, 2013
This position will lead the Hinsdale Wave Research Laboratory. Responsibilities include participating in the ongoing development of the laboratory’s business model, overseeing day-to-day facility operations, recruiting academic, government, and industrial clients, and growing the lab’s research, education, and testing facilities. A master’s degree and ten years of experience in coastal or ocean engineering or oceanography is required. Please refer to posting number 0010357.  


Disaster Response Senior Manager
Humane Society of the United States
Gaithersburg, Maryland
Salary: $60,000
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position will drive the development and implementation of the Humane Society Disaster Program. Responsibilities include developing preparedness and response plans, coordinating training and table-top exercises, and supporting legislative changes to ensure disaster support for animals. A bachelor’s degree in a related field and knowledge of the National Incident Management System is required. Knowledge of animal protection issues is preferred.


Mitigation Officer
Texas Department of Emergency Management
Houston, Texas
Salary: $40,815 to $53,061
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position will coordinate federal grants in Texas. Responsibilities include conducting applicant briefings and outreach, ensuring timely processing of applications, monitoring grant projects, coordinating post-disaster assistance, and writing state administration plans and internal operating procedures. A bachelor’s degree and at least three years of experience in emergency management or public administration is required.


Risk Management Coordinator
Texas Children’s Hospital
Houston, Texas
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position will provide administrative and evaluation support to the Emergency Management Program. Responsibilities include evaluating and editing emergency management policies and procedures, maintaining confidential data and files, and maintaining working relationships with community organizations and task forces. A high school diploma and at least five years of office administrative experience is required. Shorthand and transcription skills are preferred.


Emergency Management Coordinator
City of North Richland Hills
North Richland Hills, Texas
Salary: $52,805 to $66,007
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position works with city administrators, businesses, and schools to develop emergency management plans for the city. Responsibilities include determining best practices and procedures, serving on boards and committees, ensuring that emergency procedures and guidelines meet federal and state laws, maintaining radio operations and evacuation plans, and reviewing and approving expenditures. A bachelor’s degree and five years of experience in emergency management is required. 


Research Scientist
Air Worldwide
Boston, Massachusetts
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position will develop risk models for natural hazards, man-made catastrophes, severe weather, infectious diseases, tropical cyclones, thunderstorms, agriculture risk, and more. Responsibilities include managing data collection and analysis, assessing agriculture risks such as precipitation and crop damage, and applying risk models to a variety of client applications. A master’s degree in natural science or engineering, and experience with mathematical modeling is required. GIS skills and a background in meteorology is preferred.

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