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Number 614 • September 19, 2013 | Past Issues













After the Floods: A Message From the Director

Dear Hazards Community:

The Natural Hazards Center sends messages of greetings and encouragement to all those who have been affected by the historic flooding in Colorado.  We also thank the emergency management community, first responders, and community residents for their rapid and compassionate response to this flood disaster.

I would like to thank everyone for their kindness and concern as the Natural Hazards Center staff has been recovering from the recent flooding in Boulder and the surrounding areas. We have been very fortunate. Our staff is safe and our building is unharmed. While some of us are dealing with personal losses, none have been overwhelming and we want to let you know that Center operations are beginning to return to (the new) normal.

While we may now be disaster survivors, we are first and foremost disaster researchers and professionals. With that in mind, I want to share with you what you can expect from us in the upcoming months as we begin to dig into the wealth of flood research waiting to be done. Although we can only speak very broadly at the moment, I’m sure you’ll be interested in this information:

Natural Hazards Center Research: Students and faculty from both within and outside the Center are beginning to develop research projects. There is also considerable interest across the university community in developing new research and identifying lessons learned for Boulder and beyond.

Research Facilitation: Our host institution, the Institute of Behavioral Science, is offering space to researchers coming from other universities to conduct research.  Some individuals have already reached out to us to let us know they’ll be conducting research on this event. We’re currently tracking many activities and compiling a list of those seeking to collaborate. If we can be of assistance, please send us an information request.

Natural Hazards Center Library: Our Natural Hazards Library has been collecting resources on the flooding since day one. From social media postings to press releases to documentation of rainfall and news stories, our archive is growing quickly. You can look for this information to be available on our Web site in the coming weeks, but until then, please contact Librarian Wanda Headley with any information needs.

Quick Response Grant Program: Our Quick Response Grant Program stands ready to assist researchers in collecting perishable data by providing small grants to defray the cost of travel. We’ve just issued a special call for research proposals related to the floods (see below) and we’re looking forward to seeing promising proposals roll in.  

Social Media and Information Requests: As might be expected, we’ve been responding to requests for interviews and information and we expect that to continue for some time. We’ve also been keeping the information flowing via our Twitter feed and our brand new Facebook page. While our efforts have been constrained by the events, you can look to these sources—and contact us by email—for Colorado flood information.

Obviously these are early days, and the difficult recovery process is just beginning. We hope you’ll be patient with us as we begin to gain footing. But please know that we’re here to assist the hazard community in any way we can as we all begin to move forward in learning the many things there are to learn from this disaster.


Kathleen Tierney
Natural Hazards Center

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Something in the Water: As Floods Recede, Colorado Could Be Awash in Contamination

Although the sun is finally shining, much of Colorado is still up to its knees in water and muck from the 100-year flood damage. No doubt it will be for some time. But as images of flooded fields begin to give way to pictures of people dumping water-soiled rugs and furniture from their homes, and of children happily up to their waists in mud, it’s worth asking, what exactly are we swimming in?

The answer is that we don’t exactly know, but there’s plenty cause for concern. From extensive damage to oil fields in Colorado’s Denver-Julesberg basin to the more common hazards of household and agricultural waste, the recent historical flooding has created a stew of contamination that has yet to be fully understood.

Top on the list of environmentalist concerns is damage to many of Northern Colorado’s oil and gas wells. More than 23,000 operations in the area could have been affected, according to a Sept. 16 article in the Denver Post. While industry officials assure the public that many of the wells have been shut down and that experts are working to map and evaluate damaged operations, some contamination is inevitable given the extent of flooding.

“The scale is unprecedented,” Mike King, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, told the Post. “We will have to deal with environmental contamination from whatever source.”

The likelihood of contamination has further fueled an already vocal anti-fracking contingent, which has been concerned about the long-term effects of the chemicals, many of them undisclosed, that are used in the fracking process.

“What we immediately need to know is what is leaking and we need a full detailed report of what that is,” activist Cliff Willmeng told the Daily Camera in a Sept. 16 article. “This is washing across agricultural land and into the waterways. Now we have to discuss what type of exposure the human population is going to have to suffer through.”

The impact from flooded well fields may remain unknown until floodwaters recede. Many wells are still inaccessible and some are likely to remain so for some time, according to a Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission statement in the Daily Camera. Until resources are freed up and the weather cooperates, the status of many wells will remain a mystery.

The state of some other operations in the flood zones is more clear, however. Releases from 10 different sites were being tracked by state and federal regulators as of Thursday afternoon, including more than 5,000 gallons of an oil and water mixture, called condensate, into the South Platte River near Milliken, and about 13,500 into the St. Vrain River in nearby Firestone. Oil booms could be seen from the air, according to the Denver Post, but it’s unclear what type of clean up will be possible in the fast moving water.

Contamination from gas and oil fields is hardly Colorado’s only environmental concern. Other potential dangers include heavy metal releases from mining operations in the Four-Mile Canyon burn scar area, spent nuclear fuel stored near Platteville, and fly ash runoff near Valmont Butte, according to the Boulder Weekly.

It’s also unclear if a dam breach on Sept. 12 at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge—considered one of the nation’s most contaminated superfund sites—will have any far-reaching impact. Neither the EPA, the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment, nor the U.S. Army, which owns the refuge, have released statements regarding possible contamination. 

Even short of the most critical threats, many Coloradoans are likely to come into contact with more perennial toxins in the flood’s aftermath. For instance, chemical fertilizer and pesticides from agricultural runoff, as well as raw sewage overflows, mold, and infectious diseases are all risks, according to the CDPHE. Risk of disease is especially high in communities whose water treatment and sewage centers have been flooded. Some towns have issued water boil advisories.

Although the extent of contamination remains to be seen, the bottom line for now is that people should steer clear of floodwaters whenever possible. And, needless to say, keep kids out of the mud—inside or out.

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A Flood of Research Opportunities: Special Call for NHC Quick Response Proposals

In the past week our hometown of Boulder and much of the surrounding area have suffered catastrophic flooding. These record-breaking events have claimed lives, destroyed infrastructure, and brought day-to-day life to a standstill. Even as our staff strives to recover we can’t help but see the research opportunities that have emerged in our backyard.

To that end, we’re issuing a special call for Colorado flood-related Quick Response Grant proposals. Proposals submitted between now and October 7, will carry extra weight in our blind, weighted scoring process. If you have ambitions to study an aspect of disaster present in these floods, now is an excellent time to submit your proposal.

And as a reminder, if your work substantially engages one or more of our preferred topic areas, you will have even more of an advantage.

Even though we're excited to learn more from this event, please remember that all the regular rules still apply: research must directly support fieldwork that captures perishable data, funds can only be used to reimburse travel-related expenses, and you must have IRB acceptance or waivers in hand before entering the field.

Take a close look at the program guidelines and how to submit a proposal. Then let us know when you're ready to get started!

Note: The above notice was sent to our Quick Response Grant Program mailing list on Friday, September 13. If you’d like to stay abreast of Quick Response-related news and updates, consider adding yourself to the list
. Current mailing list subscribers only need to enter their name and email address and click “Send QR Info” to update their preferences.

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

Call for Abstracts
Research Committee on Sociology of Disasters
International Sociological Association World Congress
Deadline: September 30, 2013

The International Sociological Association’s Research Committee on the Sociology of Disasters (RC39) is accepting abstracts for presentation at the World Congress of Sociology to be held July 13-19, 2014, in Yokohama, Japan. Abstracts should address topics in one of the many proposed sessions, including cultural memory and preservation in a disaster context, disaster and development, disaster capitalism, resilience building and social marginalism, and disaster and family. For a full description of proposed sessions and to submit an abstract online, see the conference committee page.


Call for Participation

Housing Recovery Post-Disaster Survey
Alicia Flores Salas, University of Manchester
Deadline: October 1, 2013
Alicia Flores Salas, a graduate student at the University of Manchester School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering, is requesting participation in a survey that explores how communities affected by tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes and floods participate (or are kept from participating) in their own housing recovery. Housing researchers and practitioners are asked to give their opinions in the brief survey. For more information on topics and to participate, visit the survey Web page.


Call for Abstracts

IRDR Conference 2014
Integrated Research on Disaster Risk
Deadline: October 4, 2013
The Integrated Research on Disaster Risk Conference is accepting abstracts for presentation at the event, to be held June 7-9 in Bejing, China. Abstracts should consider ways to better integrate disaster risk science into policy, practice and sustainability. Topics can include water and disasters; risk reduction in science, politics, or the media; empowering local officials with science; assessing risks; and collaborating with the private sector. For more topics and details on how to submit, visit the IRDR call for abstracts web page. 

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Some New Web Resources

The SAFFR Tsunami Scenario Summary and Introduction
If California was to be hit by a monster tsunami, would it be ready? That’s the scene imagined in the SAFFR (Science Application for Risk Reduction) Tsunami scenario created by the U.S. Geological Survey and its partners. This executive summary outlines the scenario in which an earthquake off the shores of Alaska creates a tsunami affecting the California coast and presents likely inundation areas, physical damage and repair costs, economic and environmental impacts, social vulnerability, and evacuation challenges. An evaluation component is forthcoming.


National Child Traumatic Stress Network Flood Resources for Kids

Here in Boulder, we’ve been thinking a lot about flood lately. So have our kids. That’s why it’s good to have a list of resources available to help ease the stress of watching familiar landscapes suddenly disappear under the deluge. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network has compiled a wide range of information that can help parents and teachers identify and address trauma reactions, talk about media coverage, and help kids heal after loss.


Copenhagen Center for Disaster Research (COPE
This research center gives a new twist on what it means to cope with disaster. Standing for comprehensiveness, openness, partnerships, and education, COPE has come together to promote collaborative, multidisciplinary disaster research and share the results of those efforts. An educational component combining aspects of business, law, and disaster management is also included. Visit the Web site to learn more about their projects, conferences, and educational offerings.


CCAPS Climate Dashboard

This dashboard, created by Strauss Center's Climate Change and African Political Stability (CCAPS), allows users to look at how a variety of factors contribute to the overall vulnerability of African regions to climate change. By manipulating elements such as physical exposure to climate, resilience, population density, and political structure, dashboard users can examine how changes might strengthen or weaken an area’s response to changing climate.

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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]

October 8-10, 2013
Future Cities Conference
City of Dubai, Environmental Center for Arab Towns, and others
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Cost and Registration: $695 before October 8, open until filled

This conference will discuss how to create resilient and sustainable cities that can withstand future climate change and disasters. Topics include water management, forecasting future water needs, structural preparation for natural disasters, risk assessments, large-scale response systems, emergency services technology, and integrating community organizations in disaster response.


October 18-19, 2013
First International Conference: (Dis)Memory of Disaster
University of Madeira
Madeira, Portugal
Cost and Registration: $20, open until filled

This conference will focus the role memory plays in perceiving danger and how it relates to risk management. Topics include how scientific investigation influences memory, how art can help the public capture memories of natural hazards, and how schools can use the memory of natural disasters to involve students.


October 24, 2013
Global Conference on Disaster Management
Global Conference, Inc.
Los Angeles, California
Cost and Registration: $595, open until filled

This conference provides information for businesses and individuals on how to effectively prepare for natural disasters. Topics include disaster management, minimizing the effects of disasters on organizations, risk assessment, emergency communications, and resilience tactics.


October 25-30, 2013
IAEM Annual Conference
International Association of Emergency Managers
Reno, Nevada
Cost and Registration: $630, open until filled

This conference will discuss new and upcoming challenges in homeland security and emergency management. Topics include warning coordination, planning for the needs of children in natural disasters, managing disaster volunteers, tools for conducting damage assessments, and hazard planning for schools and communities.


Feb 2-6, 2014
94th Annual Meeting
American Meteorological Society
Atlanta, Georgia
Cost and Registration: $575, open until filled

This meeting will explore extreme weather, climate and the built environment with a focus on public awareness, technological advances, and societal implications. Topics include strategies for better communication, adaptation and mitigation, emergency response, public perceptions and behavior, and advances in modeling and observations.


April 30-May 3, 2014
50th Anniversary Workshop
University of Delaware Disaster Research Center
Newark, Delaware
Cost and Registration: $100, closes October 31

This workshop will focus on the ways in which urbanization, the economy, aging infrastructure, and growing populations are creating new challenges in disaster research and management. Topics include climate change, technological failures, new research directives and methodology, integrating findings with policy needs, and basic disaster science research.

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Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

Natural Hazards Program Specialist, GS7-11
Department of Homeland Security
Bothell, Washington
Salary: $50,628 to $95,444
Closing Date: September 30, 2013

This position helps manage regional National Flood Insurance Program activities, implements loss prevention strategies, assists state and local governments and provide technical program guidance, and conducts meetings and training sessions. Knowledge of floodplain management, the NFIP, digital map software and tools, and one full year of specialized experience at the GS-6 level or above are required.


Business Continuity Analyst

Fiserv, Inc.
King of Prussia, Pennsylvania
Salary: Not listed
Closing Date: September 30, 2013
This position is responsible for coordinating business continuity planning, including conducting research and assessments and implementing plans and training. Duties include overseeing development of incident management plans, coordinating strategies during disasters, participating in risk and compliance projects, and providing business continuity guidance to managers. Project management skills, a bachelor’s degree, and two years experience in disaster recovery are required. Business continuity certifications are preferred.


Public Health Advisor, GS 9-11

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Multiple Locations
Salary: $41,563.00 to $65,371.00
Closing Date: October 31, 2013
This position serves as public health advisor and provides guidance to state and local governments on improving public health programs. Duties include collecting and analyzing data, developing program interventions, supporting public health investigations and addressing public health program needs. One year of experience at the level of GS-9 level or above is required.


Program Officer

UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Geneva, Switzerland
Closing Date: November 3, 2013

This position develops, implements, and evaluates UNISDR projects, aids in disaster risk reduction advocacy and outreach, assists with DRR gender mainstreaming initiatives, and guides policy development. Problem resolution skills, familiarity with data collection methods, fluency in French and English, and a master’s degree in business administration, economics, or a related field is required.

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