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Number 628 • May 1, 2014 | Past Issues













Where to Go After Hyogo? Lend Your Voice to the U.S. National Platform at this Public Listening Session

The U.S National Platform for the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction will host this listening session on the development of UNISDR’s successor strategy to the Hyogo Framework for Action. The new strategy, known as HFA2, will be launched in 2015.

This session is a valuable opportunity for the White House National Science and Technology Council Subcommittee on Disaster Reduction, which facilitates the platform, to hear multi-sectoral perspectives from non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, local and state officials, and private corporations. SDR aims to facilitate science- and technology-based strategies for reducing disaster risks and losses, develop opportunities for collaboration, and formulate guidance on managing disaster risk for the U.S. policy community.

This event, which will be held at the 39th Annual Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop in Broomfield, Colorado, is free and open to the public. The session will be held Sunday, June 22, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.

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Disaster Drills in School: A Kid's Eye View

As a middle school student with a long history of performing obligatory emergency drills, my daughter has occasionally offered me her opinion on disaster preparedness in school. So, this year, when Take Your Child to Work Day rolled around, I thought I’d give her the opportunity to share it with DR readers, as well. Please read on to hear what Sage Nye, age 12, has to say about the efficacy of how we prepare students for the unexpected. —Jolie Breeden, Editor, DR

Kids are taught to trust the adults around us. But what do we do when the decisions they make aren’t always the best? When it comes to a natural or manmade disaster, it’s very important to know what’s happening and what to do. The problem is, the people we rely on to supply us with that information don’t always know it themselves.
In the event of a tornado or an earthquake, students turn to their teachers to tell them what’s happening and where they need to be. But can they actually do that? And if so, are they doing it right? The mission of every school should be to protect their children, but if we can’t do that, how can we start?

We’re very spread out as far as nationwide safety requirements go. Based on the security drill requirements from Long Branch Public Schools, some schools in New Jersey aren’t even required to do tornado or hurricane drills. They only need to do fire drills. Whereas, according to Team Safe-T, places like California tend to have better disaster drill routines than areas that don’t have to worry about earthquakes or similar disasters.

This just shows how disconnected we are. If we were all on the same page, our system would be more powerful. For instance, during tornado drills, my school makes us sit in the hallway under our glass skylight. If a tornado actually ripped through the school, we wouldn’t be safe—just ask Joplin schools about that!

Considering it’s my safety at risk, I’d like to know who decides where we go in an emergency, and what qualifies them to do so. But when I researched it, it was fairly hard to find out. As far as nationwide requirements, I didn't find much more than all schools have to do fire drills. I think kids should know who makes these decisions. We have a right to know whose hands our safety is in. Even after a lot of looking, I don't totally know.

Another problem is that we’ve been drilled to death. The drill routine is so important, but to us it’s the same old drill. In my experience, almost no one takes it seriously. They think that because it's just a drill, they don't need to be on top of it. Everyone just talks until it's over. 

As teachers, parents, and students, we must know exactly where to be, and what to be doing. Students need to be aware of the seriousness that goes into a drill. Right now, its just practice, but the next time it may not be. And stressing that to kids is the teachers’ job.

Making kids part of a drill could help. It’s in our nature to want to be well informed. We need to know what’s going on and we want to ask questions—but we’re often told no “what if” questions. Those can easily be the most important ones! One of these days, the “what if” is going to happen and no one is going to know how to respond.

If students had a genuine understanding of what happens during a disaster, we might be able to have more involvement on what to do when it strikes. We might need to make our own decisions and we need the information to make the right ones if the disaster doesn’t match the drill.

Although there are some problems, at least we’re heading in the right direction. Thirty years ago, lockdown drills didn’t exist (but then again, neither did mass school shootings). The point is, just because we’re not there yet, doesn’t mean we never will be. We’ll get there, one tornado drill at a time!

—Sage Nye is a sixth grader in the St. Vrain Valley School District. Although hazards and disasters aren’t her primary interests, she’s studied them by osmosis from a very young age.

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Disaster News Redux: DHS Looks Beyond BioWatch

Last Watch: A program meant to keep Americans safe from airborne threats came under congressional scrutiny in 2012 due to fears that the next generation of technology wouldn’t be able to produce useable results. Lawmakers questioned whether the BioWatch program, a network that collects airborne particles and conducts daily tests for pathogens, should move forward after two generations of tepid results, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Department of Homeland Security pushed ahead with a $3.1 billion draft request for proposals for the next generation of BioWatch in February 2013, even while the House Energy and Commerce Committee struggled to view key documents related to the performance of existing generations.The committee was particularly concerned about information that indicated the program had produced false positives, according to the Times. BioWatch officials have repeatedly disputed claims of false positives.

Latest Vision: Plans for the third generation of the biosurveillance technology were scrapped last week, according to an April 25 Los Angeles Times article. The reason for the cancellation wasn’t clear in the article, which cites a memorandum “circulated” by BioWatch program manager Michael V. Walter. But the article includes a statement by U.S. Department of Homeland Security spokesman, S.Y. Lee, that the decision was in support of a "cost-effective acquisition without compromising our security."

Looking Ahead: A study by the U.S. Government Office of Accountability remains ongoing. The September 2012 study recommended that DHS reevaluate BioWatch mission needs and systematically determine alternatives before pursuing acquisition of third-generation technology. It also recommended updating the performance, cost, and schedule in relation to the suggested analysis. According to the latest GAO updates on March 14, no progress had been made on the second recommendation, but DHS had completed an analysis of alternatives. That analysis is currently under review. Updates will be posted to the report as available.

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The Return of the Avian Flu: Lethal Edition

Avian flu is back, and this is proving that it also can be lethal to humans.

In early February, Chinese scientists reported the first human death associated with a new bird flu virus, H10N8. The virus showed a disturbing ability to replicate in humans. The infected person, a woman from Nanchang City in China, died nine days after contacting the virus, despite antibiotic and antiviral treatment.

Dr. Yuelong Shu from the Chinese Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Beijing, said the following:"A genetic analysis of the H10N8 virus shows a virus that is distinct from previously reported H10N8 viruses having evolved some genetic characteristics that may allow it to replicate efficiently in humans. Notably, H9N2 virus provided the internal genes not only for the H10N8 virus, but also for H7N9 and H5N1 viruses.”

 “The pandemic potential of this novel virus should not be underestimated,” the medical team wrote in The Lancet.

The patient had visited a live poultry market, but stayed only for about five minutes and didn’t handle any birds herself. The birds in the market were examined, and no flu virus was found. Analysis in the Lancet paper showed a genetic similarity of haemagglutinin genes in wild birds.

A group of scientists publishing in early March in the online journal PLoS One identified 116 avian flu strains in wild birds. “This is roughly twice the number that were found in domestic birds, and more than 10 times the number found in humans,” according to a news release on the report.

Last year an H7N9 avian flu strain caused a deadly human outbreak in China. The strain had never before caused disease in humans. So far there have been more than 300 clinical cases of H7N9, and 33 percent of people who contracted the virus died. To date, more than 380 people have died from the H5N1 strain, which first wreaked havoc in 2003. 

When avian flu jumps from its bird hosts to humans it can usually be traced to contact with domestic poultry. Although avian flu often originates in wild birds, “it is the mixing of viruses among poultry, pigs, and people that substantially heightens the disease risk in humans,” the PLoS One press release says.

“Mallards carry the highest number of strains at 89 and ruddy turnstones were second with 45. The more a strain was shared across wild bird types, the more likely it was to be found in domestic birds, a risk factor for spillover events,” the scientists found.

Another report published in mid-March in The Lancet shows how critical it is to begin treatment early. The researchers found that the antiviral drug Tamiflu reduced the risk of death in adults who had contracted the H1N1 flu virus. People treated with neuraminidase inhibitors (NAIs) like Tamiflu were 25 percent less likely to die from the disease.

The authors of The Lancet study suggested that to maximize survival, ideally NAIs should be started within two days of symptoms developing. They noted that the risk of death was halved when victims started treatment within 48 hours of symptom onset compared with later treatment, or no antiviral treatment. Conversely, each day that a victim delayed starting antiviral treatment after two days from illness onset the risk of death rose roughly 20 percent, compared with starting treatment within two days of onset.

—Dan Whipple, Natural Hazards Observer

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

Call for Abstracts
Third International Conference on Urban Risk Reduction
Earthquake Engineering Research Institute
Deadline: May 15, 2014

The Earthquake Engineering Research Institute is accepting abstracts for presentation at the Third International Conference on Urban Risk Reduction to be held September 28 to October 1 in Boulder, Colorado. Abstracts should take bold steps in finding new strategies and ways to think about disaster recovery and urban disaster reduction. Visit the Web site to learn more about abstract requirements and access the online submission system.


Call for Nominations

Gilbert F. White Distinguished Lecture Award
American Geophysical Union
Deadline: May 25, 2014
The Natural Hazards Focus Group of the American Geophysical Union is accepting nominations for the newly established Gilbert F. White Lecture Award. The award will be given annually to an individual who has greatly contributed to the basic knowledge of hazards and disaster risks. Visit the Web site for more information on eligibility and how to submit a nomination.


Call for Applications

Individual and Community Preparedness Awards
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Deadline: May 30, 2014
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is accepting application for its 2014 Individual and Community Preparedness Awards. The awards recognize outstanding contributions toward safer, better prepared communities at a local level. For more information on eligibility and to submit an application, visit the award Web site.

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Some New Web Resources

Flood Risk Information System
If you’re mapping flood risk in North Carolina, you’re in luck—the Flood Risk Information System has a wealth of information, including flood hazard data, models, maps, and risk assessments. Geospatial map data, imagery, LiDAR data, and hydraulic and hydrologic models are also available. And if you’re not in North Carolina? Sit tight. Other states are on the way, with Alabama and Virginia now in beta.


An Economic Analysis of Corporate Demand for Terrorism Insurance in the U.S.

Fifteen minutes might save you fifteen percent on car insurance, but when it comes to terrorism insurance there’s not a lot of options. This Wharton Risk Center brief examines the state of the U.S. Terrorism Insurance Act, a public-private venture set to expire this year, and found that a gradual price increase wouldn’t have much effect on how many corporations purchase the insurance—a ten percent increase in premiums would result in a little over one percent decrease in coverage, in fact. The report also looks at coverage disparities between large and small firms and the link between property and terrorism coverage.



HaitiData is a one of (hopefully) many sites to come that are making disaster data transparent and shareable. The site is still in the process of reaching critical collection mass, but there’s already a lot of useful geospatial information to share. View political boundaries, environmental info, planning resources, and learn more about the site’s mission to share info and better inform decision makers.


Red Cross Mobile Apps

If you’ve got an emergency, the Red Cross has an app for that. Check out this page and get your hazards preparedness on with multiplatform apps for everything from finding shelters to weathering hurricanes to giving your pet first aid. And it’s not all disasters—you’ll find fun stuff like swimming apps and volunteering for the Red Cross, too.

Responding to Oil Spills in the U.S. Arctic Marine Environment

All oil spills are not created equal and oil spills in the arctic can be especially challenging. The National Academies report examines oil spill response and environmental assessments north of the Bering Strait and makes recommendations for effective response. 

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Conferences 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]

May 13-15, 2014
National VOAD Conference
Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster
Indianapolis, Indiana
Cost and Registration: $380 before April 11, open until filled

This conference will address issues relevant to disaster volunteer organizations and those who work closely with them in emergencies. Topics include disaster case management, donation management, drought tools, emotional and spiritual care, trends in health emergencies, and long-term recovery


June 1-6, 2014
ASPFM Conference: Making Room for Fish and Floods
Association of State Floodplain Managers
Seattle, Washington
Cost and Registration: $625 before May 3, open until filled

This conference presents state-of-the-art techniques, programs, training and resources to better improve flood mitigation, watershed management, and other community goals. Topics include legislative updates, the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, levees and dams, flood loss mitigation, and water resource management.


June 15-18, 2014
Geohazards 6
Canadian Geotechnical Society
Kingston, Canada
Cost and Registration: $650 before May 12, open until filled

This conference will discuss the need to assess, mitigate, and communicate the risks of geohazards in Canada. Topics include tsunami risk in Canada, pipeline lifecycles, glacier failure and outburst floods, and slide complexes in the St. Lawrence Estuary.


August 28-24, 2014
International Disaster and Risk Conference
Global Risk Forum Davos
Davos, Switzerland
Cost and Registration: $1085, open until filled

This conference will approach risk management issues from a multidisciplinary, multisectoral perspective and present models for sustainable public-private partnerships. Topics include urban risks, country-level risk management, megacatastrophes, environmental risk, and gender and inequality.


September 9-12, 2014
Learning in Disaster Health Workshop
National Center for Disaster Medicine and Public Health
Fort Meyer, Virginia
Cost and Registration: Free, open until filled
This workshop will focus on disaster health education and training with an emphasis on research, collaboration, and future education needs. Topics include interprofessional disaster education practices, disaster behavioral health, enhancing recovery through learning, expanding the workforce with volunteers, and learning to build resilience at the neighborhood level.

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Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

Disaster Management Coordinator
World Relief
Baltimore, Maryland
Salary: Not Listed
Deadline: May 8, 2014
This position provides operational and technical support for the World Relief Disaster and Disaster Risk Reduction Programs. Duties include strengthening community disaster risk reduction internationally, training country offices in vulnerability assessments and other risk reduction tools, writing and editing proposals, tracking spending and contracts, and developing training curriculums. Experience in humanitarian disaster response and a related degree are required.


Federal Preparedness Coordinator, GS-15

Federal Emergency Management Agency
Denton, Texas
Salary: $121,423 to $157,100
Deadline: May 9, 2014

This position will strengthen and integrate regional preparedness operations. Duties include managing large operational transformations, implementing national preparedness goals, and advising state and local agencies on preparedness issues. One year of experience and the GS14 level are required.


Supervisory Health Scientist, GS-15

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Washington, D.C.
Salary: $124,995 to $157,100
Deadline: May 9, 2014

This position provides leadership and direction to the National Healthcare Preparedness Program of the Office of Emergency Management. Duties include providing strategic, analytical, and methodological advice; providing guidance on the Hospital Preparedness and other programs; and presenting papers and reports at agency briefings. A bachelor’s degree in health sciences or a related field and one year of experience and the GS14 level are required.


Postdoctoral Researcher

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency Office of Water and Air Quality
Silver Spring, Maryland
Salary: Not listed
Deadline: May 23, 2014

This position conducts research and makes recommendations on how social sciences can be integrated into meteorological policies and products in support of the Weather Ready Nation initiative. Duties include serving as a liaison between the meteorological community and disaster risk communication working groups, conducting interdisciplinary research to support the use of social sciences for a Weather Ready Nation, and providing recommendations on strengthening public policy. A PhD in a social science field, experience working in the context of high impact weather events, and public policy or risk communication background are required.


Floodplain Risk Communication Planner

Michael Baker International
Norwood, Massachusetts
Salary: Not listed
Deadline: Open until filled

This position will develop and manage plans that increase flood risk awareness at a community level. Duties include building stakeholder relationships, implementing new tools and practices, and executing community engagement and outreach. A bachelor’s degree in planning, communication, geography, or a related field; five years experience, and knowledge of FEMA mitigation plans are required.

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Webinars, Training, and Education

May 8, 2014, 2:00-3:00 p.m. EDT
Water for Energy and Energy for Water
Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, Water Security Network, and others
Cost and Registration: Free, register online in advance of the event
This webinar will present findings from a recent U.S. Department of Energy report on the connection between water, energy and sustainability. Topics to be discussed will include issues and risks faced by water and electric utilities and water-energy challenges on the horizon.


August 11-14, 2014
National Flood Insurance Program Community Rating System
Emergency Management Institute
Emmitsburg, Maryland
Cost and Registration: Free, closes July 14
This course will discuss the Community Rating System initiative, with an emphasis changes found in the updated CRS manual. Topics include CRS classifications, earning CRS point by reducing flood damage and creating comprehensive floodplain management, and using CRS in support of the National Flood Insurance Program. Continuing education credits are available for this course.


Online Training
Disaster Risk Management
National Institute of Disaster Management
Cost and Registration: $25, open until filled
This ongoing training series will help user advance their skills in disaster risk management and mitigation. Created in collaboration with the UN Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, it offers four- and six-week courses on varied topics such as risk analysis, financial impacts of disaster, climate change and disaster risk, earthquake risk reduction, and many more.

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

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