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Number 610 • May 30, 2013 | Past Issues













Shelter from Shelters: Should Governments Force People to Stay Safe?

A giant EF5 tornado that barreled through Moore, Oklahoma, last week has reignited a big debate: should policy makers regulate safety from disasters? The oft-asked question is being raised again as city officials plan to weigh requiring  safe rooms and shelters in new construction.

While the mile-wide tornado, which killed 24 people and damaged 13,000 homes, seems to make a strong good argument for legislation, many people still come down on the opposing side. The schism between them can be chalked up to cost and human psychology.

In a tough economy lawmakers are reluctant to impose onerous demands on new development, and especially in tornado-prone communities, warning fatigue can make the danger seem less ominous than it actually is. The city of Moore, which has experienced two EF5 tornadoes since 1999, might just be the testing ground to overcome those obstacles, however.

“Who thought we'd would have an EF5 tornado happen in same place twice?” Mayor Glenn Lewis told CBS News two days after the tornado hit. “We're just hoping it doesn't happen again.”

Some might think that one EF5 would be plenty to justify imposing new development policies. But the fear that government intervention will rob residents of what many see as a matter of individual choice has kept similar measures at bay, even in such hard-hit locales as Joplin, Missouri, which lost about 160 people to a EF5 tornado in 2011.

“Any time a governmental entity says ‘thou shalt’ and tries to take an individual decision into the public domain, it’s going to get pushback, and you’re also going to raise the cost of things,” Ernst Kiesling, executive director of the National Storm Shelter Association, told the Joplin Globe recently.

Sometimes those choices might not be up to individuals. As a Norman, Oklahoma, resident recently pointed out on NPR’s Talk of the Nation, renters and residents in condo complexes and assisted living facilities must rely on others to do the right thing to keep occupants safe.

“ I know a lot of homes that are rented that don't have shelters, and the landlords are not really very [receptive] because of the cost of installing the shelter,” said the resident. “But it puts a lot of families who don't own their homes, you know, in danger…. A lot of public facilities here in Oklahoma also don't have underground shelters.”

Although many local and state governments balk at passing legislation that would require shelters—and there are many—it doesn’t mean they’ve ignored taking measures altogether. After the first Moore tornado in 1999 the city of Moore launched a program that used federal money to reimburse residents for installing shelters, according to the Christian Science Monitor. A similar statewide program in Oklahoma, SoonerSafe, does the same, but its funds are so scarce that reimbursements are determined by lottery.

Other states such as Missouri and Kansas are taking measures to ensure that schools and stadiums have safe areas to shelter, but they are stopping short of Lewis’ plan to require them in private residences. And still, throughout the Midwest, stoicism remains entrenched.

“You can’t run every time you hear a warning,” Moore resident Larry Harjo told the New York Times. “You’ll be scared your whole life.”

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Disaster News Redux: Flood Risk Mapping

Improving Data Flow: In 2009, the Federal Emergency Management program began to transition from the earlier map modernization program to Risk MAP. Both programs aimed to provide improved data for the purposes of risk assessment, floodplain management, and hazard mitigation. A five-year plan was developed for updating flood risk information across the United States. The plan aimed to provide updated flood hazard data 80 percent of the nation, including all coastal areas.

Funding Slow to a Trickle: Since 2010, Congress has slashed the $221 million per year allotted to the program by more than half, and plans to make even more cuts, according to a recent report by ProPublica. If the requested funding is approved, the program would receive just $84 million and be forced to put off planned updates. Larry Larson, former director of the Association of State Floodplain Managers said that amount is far beneath what’s necessary.

“To get the mapping done, you need probably $400 million a year for 10 years,” he told ProPublica.

The Next Wave: The program does have supporters in Congress. Rep. David Price of North Carolina has said he’ll push for at least a $10 million increase in the currently requested funding. In the meantime, some homeowners—in particular those affected by Hurricane Sandy—will remain in limbo while they wait for FEMA data to inform the National Flood Insurance Program guidelines that could significantly increase their premiums, according to ProPublica.           

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Student Paper Competition Winners Announced

TThe Natural Hazards Center is pleased to announce the winners of the 2013 Hazards and Disasters Student Paper Competition. The competition was established in 2004 to recognize undergraduate and graduate students who conduct research on interdisciplinary hazards and disaster.

The 19 papers submitted this year showcased promising research on topics such as earthquake prevention, framing of disasters in news media and children's literature, social capital in disasters, risk conceptualization, and climate change. Winning papers, however, displayed outstanding originality and data collection and analysis, as well as a well-organized thesis and argument.

The graduate student winner is: 

Stacia Sydoriak, Colorado State University
Women, Men, and the Face of a Colorado Frack Disaster: From Gender-Specific Risks to Gender-Inclusive Solutions 

The undergradute student winner is:

Alison McIntosh, University of Alberta
Vulnerability of Older Adult Populations to Climate-Related Heat Events

First-place winners will each receive $100, publication on the Natural Hazards Center Web site, and an invitation to the 2013 Annual Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop in Broomfield, Colorado.

The 2014 call for papers will be announced early next year. Full text of winning papers and more information will be posted soon on the Natural Hazards Center Web Site.

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Workshop Trumps DR At Least For a Little While

It’s fast approaching that time of year when the Natural Hazards Center begins to gear up for its Annual Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop. Unfortunately, that means DR—Disaster Research News You Can Use will need to take a hiatus while our editorial staff gets the Workshop program ready for the printer.

Look for DR 611 to return July 25 with all the same great news items, resources, conferences and job postings. And don’t forget, you can always get the latest disaster news if you follow us on Twitter.

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

Call for Abstracts
National Conference on Earthquake Engineering
Earthquake Engineering Research Institute
Deadline: June 15, 2013

The Earthquake Engineering Institute is accepting abstracts for presentation at its 10th annual National Conference on Earthquake Engineering to be held July 21-25 in Anchorage, Alaska. Abstracts will be chosen based on a variety of criteria, including clarity of concepts, significance of the technical material, and treatment of subject matter. For a full list of criteria and topic areas or to submit your abstract online, visit the EERI conference Web site.


Call for Abstracts
Sixth International Conference on Flood Management
Brazilian Water Resource Association
Deadline: September 15, 2013
The Brazilian Water Resource Association is accepting abstracts for presentation at its International Conference on Flood Management to be held September 16-18 in São Paulo, Brazil. Papers should address one of the conferences themes, which include urban flooding, climate change-related floods, flood risk, flood forecasting and early warning systems, and flood resilient societies. For more information or to submit your abstract online, visit the conference Web site.


Call for Papers
Drought in the Life, Cultures, and Landscapes of the Great Plains
Center for Great Plains Studies
Deadline: November 1, 2013
The Center for Great Plains Studies is accepting papers for presentation at it’s annual symposium to be held April 1-4, 2014, in Lincoln, Nebraska. Papers from any discipline that examine the causes, impacts, projections, social and cultural consequences, and ramifications of drought are welcome. For more information on the symposium and how to submit an abstract, visit the Web site above.

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Some New Web Resources

2013 National Preparedness Report
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has released its annual National Preparedness report and the outlook is sunny. The report, which is mandated byPresidential Policy Directive 8, recounts progress made on the core capabilities outlined the in the directive’s National Preparedness goal. According to the report, the nation’s ability to respond to disaster is improving, although challenges such as cybersecurity and resilient infrastructure still need to be addressed.


Open for Business EZ
The Institute for Business and Home Safety is making it even easier than ever to stay open for business following a disaster. The group has taken its Open for Business program, designed to help small businesses implement business continuity planning, and made it even simpler to use. The free tool kit allows business owners to evaluate eight business areas that, once completed, will form the basis of a continuity plan that can help make their companies more resilient to disasters.


Killer Tornado Map
Disasters such as the recent EF5 tornado that struck Moore, Oklahoma, last week always draw the inevitable question: can it happen here? Now Slate has created a visual representation of the answer. Using National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data, the magazine mapped all the U.S. tornadoes since 1950 that have killed one person or more, including representations of each tornado’s size and start and ending coordinates. It’s a sobering (and crowded) map.


Acts of Witness—Natural Disasters Issue
As disaster researchers, practitioners, and humanitarians, we are often forced to see the havoc wreaked by natural hazards, but this issue of the Ochberg Society for Trauma Journalism’s journal is different. Focused on stories of survival and resilience, it gathers tales of the many silver linings that can be found in clouds of disaster.


Severe Thunderstorms and Tornadoes in the United States
The Congressional Research tackles issues of improvements needed to reduce U.S. vulnerability to thunderstorms and tornadoes. The report outlines possible strategies for mitigation, forecasts and warning improvements, as well as the role of the National Weather Service. It also ponders links between severe weather and climate change, as well as what measures to mitigate climate change might reduce future losses from hazards such as tornadoes. 

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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]

June 4-5, 2013
Search and Rescue Conference
Maritime and Coastguard Agency and Her Majesty’s Coastguard
Brighton, United Kingdom
Cost and Registration: $825, open until filled
This conference will identify and address international requirements for airborne and maritime search and rescue. Topics include sea, mountain, combat, and urban search and rescue operations, mass rescue of whole communities, rescue coordination, the United Kingdom’s new search and rescue helicopter program, and future coastguard modernization projects.


June 4-6, 2013
Australasian Business Continuity Summit
Continuity Forum and the Business Continuity Institute
Sydney, Australia
Cost and Registration: $4,800
This workshop will discuss the business continuity life cycle, business continuity management in action, business continuity in the public sector, and leadership. Topics include risks and opportunities for Australia in next decade, techniques to enhance decision-making under extreme stress, practical advice for completing business impact analyses, and risk management for universities. 


June 14, 2013
IRDR Annual Conference
London, United Kingdom
University College London Institute for Risk & Disaster Reduction
Cost and Registration: Free, open until filled
This conference will encourage and inform university research in risk and disaster reduction. Topics include the economic value of disaster preparedness, the role of media in determining disaster response activities, national resilience development strategies, as well as human rights, fairness, and equity in a disaster context.


June 18-19, 2013
Managing Catastrophe Risk
London, United Kingdom
Cost and Registration: $3,250
This conference will discuss methodologies for managing non-modeled risks and lessons learned from the latest catastrophic events. Topics include practical guidance and techniques for understanding natural hazards, modeling European Union regulatory insurance requirements, and the value of uncertainty in interpreting catastrophic modeling results.


August 19-21, 2013
Maritime Security 2013 West
Homeland Security Outlook
Long Beach, California
Cost and Registration: $445 before June 19, open until filled
This conference will discuss using technology to mitigate maritime security threats. Topics include radiological and nuclear detection, waterborne terrorism, drug smuggling, submersible threats, sonar technology advances in port security, new types of coastal surveillance, the future of maritime security, maritime law enforcement training programs, and continuity of port operations.


September 8-12, 2013
Dam Safety 2013
Association of State Dam Safety Officials
Providence, Rhode Island
Cost and Registration: $800 before August 12, open until filled
This conference will explore dam safety engineering and technology. Topics include effective response to dam failures, new policies and guidelines for levee safety, the flood protection structure accreditation task force, blast damage experiments and simulations, tools for estimating flood impacts, and modernizing emergency action plans for dams.

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Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

Emergency Management Coordinator
City and County of Denver
Denver, Colorado
Salary: $49,603 to $79,365
Closing Date: June 3, 2013
This position will develop emergency response plans for hazardous material releases, food safety incidents, water quality, and other environmental public health emergencies. Responsibilities include conducting risk assessments, advising city officials on disaster mitigation, developing educational and community outreach programs, and performing operational duties during local emergencies. A bachelor’s degree in emergency management or public health and at least three years of experience in emergency management is required.


Federal Coordinating Officer, GS-15
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Denver, Colorado
Salary: $122,064 to $155,500
Closing Date: June 11, 2013
This position will coordinate federal post-disaster response and recovery operations. Responsibilities include serving as a principal staff advisor to FEMA administrators, establishing a federal presence at disaster operation sites, advising the governor on the status of federal response, establishing a site to administer relief services, and communicating with the media and other external relations about post-disaster assistance. Specialized experience equivalent to GS-14 requirements and knowledge and experience in emergency management programs and disaster operations are required.


Casual Loss Analysis Expert
Center for Disaster Management and Risk Reduction

Potsdam, Germany
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: June 30, 2013
This position will create a methodology to analyze socioeconomic factors that exacerbate losses in large-scale natural disasters, primarily earthquakes and hydrological events. Responsibilities include matching patterns between disaster events, projecting historic events to present conditions, and developing a standard relationship between the intensity of impact  and corresponding losses. A PhD and experience in disaster-loss modeling is required. 


Disaster Recovery and Continuity of Operations Expert
Fairfax, Virginia
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position will provide recommendations to ensure continuous client operations should an event cause partial or complete loss of capability. Responsibilities include developing system contingency plans and continuity of operations exercises, reviewing and analyzing new business requirements, and providing administrative support for network personnel. A bachelor’s degree, experience developing contingency plans, and strong project management skills are required. Knowledge of the Federal Aviation Administration operating environment is preferred.


Regulatory Program Manager
Virginia Mason Medical Center
Seattle, Washington
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position will coordinate emergency management regulatory compliance across the organization. Responsibilities include monitoring federal regulatory changes, preparing for regulatory visits, developing emergency management training tools, assisting with staff training on emergency management tools, following up on emergency management compliance issues, and facilitating meetings. A bachelor’s degree in a healthcare field and at least five years of experience in healthcare emergency management is required.


Executive Director, Emergency Services
Union County Emergency Services Group
Monroe, North Carolina
Salary: $78,128 to $117,192
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position will oversee implementation of county disaster response plans. Responsibilities include coordinating post-disaster emergency communication, coordinating disaster plan exercises, establishing strategic plan goals and objectives, developing disaster response policy and department budgets, assisting the county manager with long- and short-range emergency management projects, and assisting organizations such as hospitals, schools, and special needs facilities in developing individualized response plans. A bachelor’s degree in public administration and six years of supervisory experience in emergency management is required. A master’s degree in public administration or business administration is preferred.


Assistant Professor of Homeland Security and Emergency Management
Ashford University
Denver, Colorado
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position will lead the homeland security and emergency management degree program. Responsibilities include online teaching of 24 credit hours per year, participating in peer review and mentoring, contributing to program review and accreditation activities, participating in curriculum development, and engaging in research, publication, and presentation. A PhD in homeland security, emergency management, or criminal justice is required.

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