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Number 615 • October 3, 2013 | Past Issues













The Pregnant Pause in Federal Services: What to Expect When You're Expecting (a Disaster during a Government Shutdown)

Across the nation, citizens are learning the hard way what the impact of a federal government shutdown means to them. When disasters occur, though, those quandaries become imperatives. Will disaster aid be available? Will recovery continue? What happens if a hurricane slams into the Gulf Coast?

Unfortunately—because agency policies vary and because disasters fall under the purview of many different departments—it’s difficult to determine exactly what the answers to those questions are. Still, there are some indications.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, for instance, is still in business—mostly. With Hurricane Sandy recovery continuing, Colorado beginning flood cleanup, and Hurricane Karen ramping up to strike the Gulf Coast on Saturday, the disposition of FEMA is a hot topic.

The good news is that many FEMA response and recovery activities, funded by the Disaster Relief Fund rather than the congressional budget resolution, can continue. The agency has begun recalling furloughed personnel to prepare for Hurricane Karen and reactivated a response team at the National Hurricane Center, according to National Journal. Disaster assistance and actions necessary for people’s safety or the protection of property will also continue, according to a notice on the FEMA Web site.

But FEMA is only one slice of the emergency management pie. Its continued operation doesn’t necessarily mean smooth sailing for affected communities. In Colorado, for instance, FEMA will continue to provide disaster assistance to flood victims, but the state has tapped emergency funds to make sure the National Guard can continue to repair the estimated 200 miles of damaged roads.

Limited services at other agencies—such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Small Business Administration, and the U.S. Geological Survey—will also affect how disasters are identified and responded to—especially if the shutdown drags on.

The exact nature of those effects, though, is where the greatest uncertainty lies. Some government offices are operating while they still have money in their coffers, but others are closed. The impacts of other closures, such as climate and research activities, won’t be felt until much later when gaps in data appear. Vital, yet not immediately essential efforts—such as preparedness and mitigation—will also suffer.

It should also be noted, though, that we are already living with the effects of budgets that were cut in preparation for the shutdown. As we reported in DR 566, those cuts decimated first responder staffing, preparedness activities, mitigation funds, flood mapping, and a bevy of other programs that helped keep the nation resilient in the face of disasters.

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Disaster as Usual in Pakistan? Security Threats Thwart Earthquake Aid

While there isn’t really good place to have a disaster, in recent years Pakistan’s political climate has made it worst than most.

Concerns about terrorism and government mismanagement of aid hampered recovery from debilitating flooding in 2010. Successive annual floods since then have seen a similar lack of response, according to OxFam International. Now, insurgents are keeping rescuers from assisting victims of a 7.7 magnitude quake that struck the Awaran region last week.

“The truth is we are scared and won’t be going in,” the head of an unidentified Karachi NGO told IRIN News. “This is bad for affected people.” 

Aid workers have reason to be fearful. The area most affected is a stronghold for Baloch nationalists, an ethnic group that has been fighting for independence from Pakistan for years, according to IRIN. While the nationalists have mainly focused attacks on Pakistani military helicopters attempting to deliver aid, at least one group of doctors and paramedics were fired on, according to a September 25 Islamic Relief update. Experts say any non-Baloch individuals can be at risk.

“The security situation is always unpredictable anywhere in Pakistan,” Haseeb Khalid, of Islamic Relief’s office in Pakistan, told IRIN. “In Awaran, there may be some security threats for relief and aid workers, especially for those who are non-Baloch.”

Adding to the immediate threat of nationalist attack is the lack of infrastructure in the area, some of which has resulted from the years of insurgent occupation. There are no medical facilities, roads are pitted and perilous, and many of the homes in the district were made of unbaked mud bricks—about 90 percent of which were destroyed, according to IRIN. Rugged terrain was also an issue.

The cumulative effect has kept survivors waiting for days in the heat without shelter or medical care. As of September 28, the official number killed by the earthquake and a 6.8 magnitude aftershock had reached 515, but could grow to more than a 1,000 according to Reuters.

“For the first 24 hours no one could reach the [worst affected] areas. Even now most of the aid is stuck in Quetta [the capital city of the province], because security is a concern,” Siddiq Baloch, editor of Balochistan Express, told the Christian Science Monitor. “If the government had paid any attention to these areas from before and built health and medical facilities there, which are currently nonexistent, things would have not been so bad. Many of the critically injured continue to die since they are receiving no help.”

The factors hindering aid to the area have had little effect on novelty seekers traveling to see a newly formed island that was created by the earthquake. The mud and rock formation, which is about 250 miles from Awaran, is spewing flammable gas but has drawn crowds of locals and scientists undaunted by the prospect of a walk on its hellish surface.

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Diaster News Redux: IPCC Climate Change Report

Reports Past: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had released four assessment reports on the state of the climate as of 2007. The reports, which are the results of several UN-appointed scientific working groups, provide a comprehensive analysis of available climate research and suggestions for actions that might be taken to mitigate the impacts of a warming climate.

Despite the so-called climate debates about whether climate change is attributable to manmade causes, the reports have increasingly pointed to human activity as a major player in climate issues. In 2011, a special report was issued that strongly stated human-caused climate change would result in a warmer climate and more catastrophic weather events.

That report, Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (known as SREX), found that the earth’s warming trajectory would likely manifest itself in hotter days and more heat waves, storms, and floods, and possibly lead to droughts and to more frequent and intense cyclones and tropical storms.

“It also underlines the complexity and the diversity of factors that are shaping human vulnerability to extremes—why for some communities and countries these can become disasters whereas for others they can be less severe,” IPCC Chair Rajendra Pachauri said in a 2011 press release announcing the report.

The Present Report: The Fifth Assessment Report from Working Group I, which addresses the physical science of climate change, was released Monday along with a summary for policymakers.

The report makes the strongest assertion to date that humans are the driving climate change, saying that it’s 95 percent certain (up from 90 percent stated in the previous report) that “human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”

The report also contains ominous warnings about what to expect if the world’s nations are unable to curb greenhouse gas emissions, including sea level rise of up to 39 inches by the end of the century and global surface temperature increases of up 8.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

The report also includes a hard-negotiated worldwide carbon budget of less than 1,000 gigatons that could keep warming at the 2 degrees Celsius mark. According to the Guardian, the inclusion of the budget—more than half of which has already been expended—was the subject of heated discussions and fraught with political concerns.

Future Reporting: Monday’s report is the first of four to be released by the IPCC. The Working Group II report, which tackles issues of climate change impacts and adaptation, is slated to be released in March of 2014 and the Working Group III report, on matters of mitigation, is expected in April of 2014. A Synthesis Report will be delivered in late October 2014.

The reports will inform negotiations to create a legal framework for climate change action in 2015. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has urged world leaders to start working toward goals immediately.

“The goal is to generate the political commitment to keep global temperature rise below the agreed 2-degree Celsius threshold,” he said in a statement. “The heat is on. Now we must act.”

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

Call for Abstracts
Preparedness Summit
National Association of County and City Health Officials
Deadline: October 11, 2013

The Preparedness Summit planning committee is accepting abstracts for presentation at the 2014 Preparedness Summit to be held April 1-4 in Atlanta, Georgia. Abstracts must be related to the summit theme of aligning public health and healthcare preparedness capabilities. The committee is especially interested in abstracts that explore evidence-based practices, scalable resources and tools that can be applied to local health issues, and practices that build and sustain public health preparedness. For full details and submission instructions, see the abstract submission page.


Call for Submissions

Ideation Healthcare Challenge
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Deadline: October 20, 2013
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has issued an Ideation Challenge for a system that can locate people who use electricity-dependent medical equipment during public health emergencies. The system would help public health officials ensure that people with electric-dependent devices have adequate access to power sources during events with prolonged power outages. Up to $10,000 in prizes are available. For full contest information and submit ideas, visit the challenge Web site.

Note: This challenge is offered through America COMPETES and may be unavailable for submissions during the government shutdown.

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Some New Web Resources

Federal Agency Contingency Plans
It’s 2 a.m., do you know where your federal agency is? With the entire government gone AWOL, this White House list of contingency plans is useful in determining exactly what will and won’t be getting done during the shutdown. For those who don’t have the inclination to read through a long list of government documents, however, this handy synopsis by CNN might be more palatable.


Children and Disasters Bulletin

When disasters strike, children are among the most vulnerable of victims, but it can be difficult to identify and incorporate specific needs of children in emergency planning. Now the National Center for Disaster Preparedness has created a publication to help disaster professionals keep abreast of the latest trends and research on what kids need in disaster. The Children and Disasters Bulletin will provide a monthly dose of science, news, tools, and resources that can help make sure a community’s smallest members can deal with weather hazards as well as everyone else.


Twitter Emergency Alerts

Emergency agencies that use Twitter can get important information to their followers faster than ever thanks to new Twitter emergency alerts. The social media outlet has made it possible for public institutions and NGOs to send emergency alerts as text messages and push notifications to user phones in times of crisis. Users must sign up to receive alerts from your account, so enroll your agency today. Just want to get alerts? Twitter users can sign up to receive the alerts on their setup page.

The Preparedness Brief

Local health departments looking to partner with federal programs and increase resilience will appreciate this new journal from the National Association of City and County Health Officials. The monthly update taps into NACCHO’s preparedness portfolio to provide tips on recovering from disasters, partnering with local health groups and volunteers, and developing tools for advocacy and communication.


Northeast Climate Change Adaptation

As evidenced by Hurricane Sandy, extreme coastal events can be the death knell for unprepared municipalities. Luckily for those in the Gulf of Maine, though, this Web site has a wealth of innovative ideas and case studies that can be used to help cities weather the watery effects of a warming climate. Read about how coastal towns have created adaptation strategies, refer your favorite reporter to the “journalist’s room,” or snuggle up with a series of reports on coastal resilience. The site is part of the StormSmart Coast Network, so you know it’s watertight.

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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]

November 6-8, 2013
Cultures of Disasters
Copenhagen Center for Disaster Research
Oslo, Norway
Cost and Registration: Free, open until filled

This conference will focus on disaster experience with a focus on historical perspectives and cultural understanding. Topics include disaster ethnology, the rhetoric of weather extremes, cultural heritage and mitigation, apocalyptic disaster stories, disaster memory, and visual representations of disaster.


November 7-8, 2013
Disaster Governance: The Urban Transition in Asia
Asia Research Institute
Cost and Registration: Free, open until filled

This conference will discuss ways in which urban populations in Asia deal with disaster using social decision-making that involves government, civil society, and business. Topics include impediments to preparedness, cultural contributions disaster readiness, priorities that shape disaster governance, the role of communities in disaster prevention, and collaborations between cities.


November 11-13, 2013
2013 SPAR Europe and European LiDAR Mapping Forum
SPAR Point Group
Amsterdam, Netherlands

Cost and Registration: $670, open until filled
This conference will focus on measurement gathering, data analysis and delivery of 3D images and mapping. Topics include technology for oil and gas “mega projects,” LiDAR data acquisition, offshore and coastal measurements, new technologies, LiDar tools for forestry, laser scanning in railway monitoring, and digital documentation of heritage sites.


December 2-6, 2013
Eighth Annual Caribbean Conference on Comprehensive Disaster Management
Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency
Montego Bay, Jamaica
Cost and Registration: $400, open until filled

This conference will examine the disaster risk management in the Caribbean and the role comprehensive disaster management plays. Topics include public-private partnerships, insurance, resilient infrastructure, recovery, economic development, and reducing agriculture losses.


December 16-17, 2013
International Conference on Environment and Energy
International Center for Research and Development
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Cost and Registration: $450, Open until filled

This conference will discuss environmental sustainability, ecosystem management, wastewater, air pollution, and ecological restoration. Topics include climate change, carbon capture and storage, habitat management, deforestation, groundwater remediation, bioengineering, environmental risk, and resource management.

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Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

CERT Program Manager
New York Office of Emergency Management
New York, New York
Salary: $60,000.00 to $ 75,000
Closing Date: October 10, 2013

This position organizes, develops, and supports teams of community volunteers that promote emergency preparedness, response, and recovery. Duties include developing strategies to grow the CERT program citywide, manages the CERT post-training program, assists with Ready New York presentations, and provides team building and needs assessments, especially in the areas of Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island. A master’s degree in emergency management, public administration, or urban planning; 18 months of supervisory experience; and volunteer management experience are required. Reference Job ID #131865.


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.


Regional Disaster Program Officer
American Red Cross
Las Vegas, Nevada
Salary: Not Posted
Closing Date: Open until filled

This position will implement disaster services program at the location needing assistance, assign specific responsibilities with key emergency staff to employees and volunteers and will support disaster services, will mobilize communities to prepare and recover from disasters. Degree in emergency management preferred, must be familiar with program guidance and standards and be available to travel on short notice.


Assistant Professor, Environmental Planning and Disaster Risk Reduction

University of Hawaii at Manoa
Honolulu, Hawaii
Salary: Commensurate with experience
Closing Date: Open until filled

This tenure-track position will teach graduate courses in urban planning and disaster risk reduction, conduct research on urban resilience in the Asia-Pacific region, and advise graduate students. Duties include seeking funding, developing practitioner partnerships, and participating in university and professional activities. A PhD in urban and regional planning or a related field, hazard mitigation knowledge, and experience with GIS and mapping tools is required.

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