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Number 632 • September 4, 2014 | Past Issues













And Now, For Some Good News on the Infectious Disease Front

Since the world has been focused on the bad news about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, folks can be forgiven for missing some good news about epidemic diseases.

The British medical journal Lancet reports that new HIV infections have dropped by one-third from their epidemic peak; sub-Saharan Africa has seen a 31 percent decline in children’s deaths from malaria; and tuberculosis deaths declined by 3.7 percent since 2000.

At the global level, upward trends for malaria and HIV deaths have been reversed and declines in tuberculosis deaths have accelerated. More than 100 countries (74 of which are developing) still have increasing HIV incidence, however. “Substantial progress since the Millennium Declaration is an encouraging sign of the effect of global action,” the Lancet authors stated.

Most malaria cases occur in sub-Saharan Africa. Even there, the problem is concentrated in two countries—Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Outside of Africa, “Malaria mortality has been steadily declining since 1990 as well, but Yemen, India, Myanmar, and Papua New Guinea all have malaria death rates over 7.5 per 100,000,” a news release about the study stated. “By contrast, certain countries in Southeast Asia (Thailand and Malaysia) have achieved very low death rates.”

“Great progress has been made in reducing malaria deaths and infections, but we need more success stories throughout Africa in particular for us to eliminate malaria,” Corine Karema, of Rwanda Ministry of Health stated in the release. “Malaria is notoriously difficult to early diagnose, treat promptly using efficacious drugs, and track, and part of the strategy in fighting it is to invest in gathering better evidence through a robust surveillance system.”

For TB, death rates declined mostly among people who are HIV-negative.

“Men and boys make up the majority of TB cases among people who are HIV-negative and die at higher rates (64.7 percent) than HIV-negative women and girls with TB. In 2013, 83.2 percent of cases and 58.8 percent of deaths in HIV-negative people with TB occurred under age 60,” the release states.

Dealing with the global HIV epidemic has been notably successful. Antiretroviral therapy, prevention of mother-to-child transmission, and prophylaxis have all slowed the disease.

“Researchers note that the comparatively low price per year of life saved is one of the major achievements in global health in the past decade,” the Lancet report states.

“Comparison of the total amount invested in HIV prevention and treatment to the years of life saved during 2000–2011 yields in developing countries a ratio of $4,498 per life-year saved. In 2011, all donors combined spent $7.7 billion on HIV/AIDS.”

—Dan Whipple, excerpted from The Natural Hazards Observer

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Disaster News Redux: Court Finds BP Grossly Negligent in Deepwater Horizon Spill

The Long Legal Road: On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, killing 11 people and spilling hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The three companies involved—BP, Halliburton, and TransOcean—were named as codefendants in a federal lawsuit in September 2010. 

The three have long pointed fingers at each other as being culpable for the explosion. In particular, BP blamed Halliburton for using shoddy concrete to seal the well in to place. In an internal report that is no longer available on the Internet, BP took full credit for only one of eight factors it determined caused the blowout. Both TransOcean and Halliburton responded indignantly to BP’s claims of their wrongdoing.

The companies have been embroiled in legal battles on varied fronts since the spill, with BP pleading guilty to criminal charges for manslaughter and 14 other federal counts in 2013. Halliburton paid the maximum penalty for one count of destroying evidence in July 2013, and all three companies have settled multiple civil suits with government and private plaintiffs.

The legal implications are so vast, that the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana created a Web siteto help those interested follow the more than 200 cases related to the spill.

A Major Juncture: A federal judge on Thursday placed the blame solidly on BP, ruling that the company’s conduct was reckless, while Transocean and Halliburton were found to be negligent, according to the New York Times.

In a 153-page ruling, Judge Carl Barbier listed nine acts by BP that amounted to “extreme deviation from the standard of care and a conscious disregard of known risks.” He also found that BP actions contributed to Transocean and Halliburton’s ability to act responsibly. Barbier assigned 67 percent of the blame to BP, 30 percent to Transocean, and 3 percent to Halliburton.

The ruling could lead to BP being fined a possible $18 billion under the Environmental Protection Agency Clean Water Act. The company has already paid an estimated $28 billion in damages and cleanup costs and $4 billion in federal criminal penalties, the New York Times reported Friday.

Down the Path: Unsurprisingly, BP disagreed with the ruling, saying that the evidence does not prove gross negligence and it will appeal the case.

“BP believes that the finding that it was grossly negligent with respect to the accident and that its activities at the Macondo well amounted to willful misconduct is not supported by the evidence at trial,” Bloomberg News quotes a company statement as saying. “The law is clear that proving gross negligence is a very high bar that was not met in this case.”

Two days before the ruling, Halliburton settled with the government for $1.1 billion, a move that experts said was calculated to limit liability, according to a September 2 New York Times article. Transocean reached a $1.4 billion settlement, but still faces additional charges in Barbier’s court, according to the article.

There are still two parts left of the case for the court to rule on—one determining the size of the spill and another to determine Clean Water Act and other fines, according to the Washington Post.

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One Year Later: See Our Updated Colorado Flood Resources

As we approach the one-year anniversary of the 2013 Colorado flooding, the Natural Hazards Center continues to collect resources related to the event and the ongoing recovery. Check out our Colorado Flood Website for a wealth of great information. Recent additions include:

The Colorado Flood of Sept 11, 2013: A Tour of Impact Areas
—This film, commissioned by the Hazards Center, gives a visual representation of areas affected by the flood event and the magnitude of the event.

The Record Front Range and Eastern Colorado Floods of September 11–17, 2013
— This report assesses the National Weather Service’s performance before and during the flooding and will guide future NWS education and flooding awareness efforts.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency Initial Response to the Colorado Flood
—This report from the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General examines FEMA’s response to the floods and details the many aspects of the response.

Quick Response Reports from the Colorado Flood
—These reports, funded by the Natural Hazards Center, pertain directly to the Colorado flooding and are part of a larger Center program that enables researchers to enter the field quickly to collect perishable data.

Differential Vulnerability and Environmental Justice: A Preliminary Report on the 2013 Boulder Floods
—This group report is the result of a University of Colorado Environmental Justice course that examined vulnerability and social justice in the context of the record flooding.

And that’s not all. There’s numerous new media, maps, and links to recovery information from the affected communities. We add more information regularly, so be sure to check back often.

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The Latest Natural Hazards Observer Is Online

The latest edition of the Natural Hazards Observer is now available online. Featured articles from the September 2014 Observer include:

--The Role of Risk Perception in Natural Disasters
--The Uneasiness of Public-Private Partnerships
--Lessons from the 2011 Joplin Tornado

And don’t forget, for those of you who would rather get the print edition, we’re now able to offer readers an Observer subscription for only $15 per year. Those interested in subscribing can sign up on our subscription page using a credit card, or be invoiced later.

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

Call for Researchers/Interns
Sandy Storyline
Superstorm Research Lab
Deadline: Not listed

The Sandy Storyline project at the Superstorm Research Lab is seeking a research volunteer or intern to help research press, reports, data and other information as part of the ongoing post-Sandy recovery. The volunteer will synthesize a variety of diverse information used to develop informational content for our social media, web platform, events and installations, short films, and more. For more information or to submit an application, visit the Superstorm Research Lab Web site.


Call for Participants
Web Site Usability Study
Natural Hazards Center
Deadline: September 30, 2014
The Natural Hazards Center is looking for volunteers to conduct usability testing on our Web site. Testing will take about 30 minutes and consist of completing a few short activities that will give us insight on how useful our Web site is for disseminating information. Volunteers can participate from anywhere that has a computer with a microphone, speakers/headphones, and a reasonably low level of ambient noise. Those interested will need to use a Google Plus account to access our testing platform. Participants that do not have Google Plus can use a generic account provided by the Center. Those interested in participating should e-mail Hazards Center librarian Ed Hill at the address linked above.

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Some New Web Resources

Ebola Outbreak 2014: Information Resources
The recent Ebola crisis continues to make headlines, but there’s now a better way to get information on the unprecedented outbreak. Visit this Web site compiled by the Disaster Information Management Resource Center at the National Library of Medicine and you’ll connect to an array of resources that range from international organizations to biomedical journals to maps and social media. Whether you’re already in the know or not quite sure what’s going on, you’ll increase your knowledge in no time.


Nature Toolbox

For scientists building on the latest in research, the right tool can make all the difference. These days, those tools are more likely to be found on the digital front, which is why the journal Nature has created a digital toolbox. The toolbox will collect Nature articles on software and Web sites that make it easier for scientists to do their job in one handy location and—even better—let users weigh in on what works and what doesn’t.


Save the Children 2014 Disaster Report Card

It’s 2014. Do you know how safe your kids are? The Save the Children Disaster Report Card will tell, but don’t expect to feel better. The report includes some disheartening information—including 21 states don’t require schools or childcare providers to have even basic disaster plans and only one cent of every $10 in federal preparedness grants target kid safety. Check out the report card to get the stats and see where your state falls on the spectrum of keeping kids safe.


TsunamiEvac Northwest

Northwesterners can now stay ahead of tsunamis, thanks to this app for iPhone or iPad. The tool allows folks along the Oregon or Washington coast to map their location for tsunami threat, plan evacuation routes, and find the latest information on impending tsunami hazards fast. Whether you live there or are just visiting, it’s a good app to have.


Natural Disaster Mitigation Video

Know the difference between natural disaster mitigation and natural hazard mitigation? You will after you watch this video—and you’ll also understand why it’s an important concept. Created by Western Washington University’s Resilience Institute, this 20-minute presentation will provide a good background in disaster research for general audiences.

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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]

October 21-22, 2014
Pacific Northwest Advanced Flood Warning System Workshop
National Hydrologic Warning Council
Grand Mound, Washington
Cost and Registration: $195, open until filled

This workshop will explore advances in weather and precipitation forecasting, hydrologic modeling, and instrumentation with emphasis on enhancing the flood warning infrastructure.  Topics include risk perception and human behavior, crowdsourcing hydrology, flood warning system sustainability, tribal experience with warning systems and dam safety, and social media and hydrology.


November 17-18, 2014
Risk Information Management, Risk Models, and Applications
Berlin, Germany
Cost and Registration: $263 before October 24, open until filled

This workshop will discuss methodological problems in modeling disaster risk from an information systems point of view. Topics will include cartographic issues, risk modeling for infrastructure, urban neighborhood risk modeling, risk communication, risk-related databases, and risk information processes and applications.


November 25-28, 2014
INTERPRAEVENT International Symposium
INTERPRAEVENT International Research Society
Nara, Japan
Cost and Registration: $240, open until filled

This symposium will examine the increase in the intensity and frequency of sediment-related disaster caused by floods, climate change, typhoons, and earthquakes. Topics include field observation and modeling of natural disasters, catastrophic disaster triggers, crisis management, socioeconomic impacts of recovery, and sustainable landuse management.


November 28-29, 2014
Reframing Disasters
Arts & Humanities Research Council
Leeds, England
Cost and Registration: $80, open until filled

This conference will explore how postcolonial disasters such as the Bhopal Gas Disaster, Rwandan genocide, and the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami have been defined and represented following the event and examine the challenges of different forms of disaster. Topics include challenges of recovery, reconstruction, remediation, and justice; ethnographic and diasporic perspectives on disasters; charity and humanitarian perspectives; and global justice campaigns.


December 10-11, 2014
Advancing and Redefining Communities for Emergency Management Conference
Emergency Management Community Collaborative, Veterans Emergency Management Evaluation Center, and others
Los Angeles, California
Cost and Registration: $275 before November 1, open until filled

This conference will look at evidence-based approaches that address challenges to public health preparedness and emergency management. Topics include hospitals and health systems, global health preparedness, children and families, and workplace readiness.

January 15-17, 2015
Water and Sustainable Development: From Vision to Action
United Nations Water
Zaragoza, Spain
Cost and Registration: Free, request invitation by November 31

This conference will focus on determining the best tools to implement the post-2015 international agenda for water. Necessary transformations and the institutional change, technology, and capacity development needed will be discussed. Topics include goals to be reached by 2030, such as achieving affordable drinking water for all, improving water quality, integrating water management on multiple levels, and increasing water-use efficiency and cooperation. Attendance is open to experts, the business community, governmental and non-governmental organizations, but an invitation is required.

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Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

Emergency and Safety Coordinator
City of Thornton
Thornton, Colorado
Salary: $62,523 to $86,282
Deadline: September 12, 2014

This position assists with the management and coordination of all emergency management program activities, including the implementation of emergency operations procedures, continuity plans, and hazard mitigation and recovery plans. Duties include coordinating emergency communications among city departments, implementing preparedness and education programs, testing procedures, and training employees in emergency and evacuation plans. A bachelor’s degree in emergency management or a related field (or at least five years work experience) is required.


Locum Associate Editor

Nature Climate Change
London, England
Salary: Not listed
Deadline: September 15, 2014
This position will serve as a member of the Nature Climate Change editorial team for one year. Duties include manuscript selection, managing the peer review process, editing submissions, and writing for the journal. A background in social science, familiarity with quantitative methods, a strong research record, and postdoctoral experience are required.


Response and Resilience Team Gender Specialist

Location Open
Salary: $41,798 to $56,529
Deadline: September 26, 2014
This position will coordinate gender justice change objectives, ensure of program goals, and communicate overall response direction in gender justice. Duties include management of specific gender equality projects, research, providing remote support to country-based colleagues, and fundraising. Emergency deployment is possible. Five years experience managing a gender equality program, humanitarian development experience, and strategic planning and program design skills are required. Fluency in French, Spanish, Arabic, or Portuguese is desired.


Disaster Services Analyst

Pacific Disaster Center
Kihei, Hawaii
Salary: $29,508
Deadline: October 2, 2014
This position leads daily monitoring and assessments for worldwide hazards and manually integrated them into Center platforms. Duties include creating the weekly Hazard Highlight Report, developing situational awareness templates and analytical products, supporting disaster services and GIS teams, and assisting with special projects related to disaster management, risk, and vulnerability. A bachelor’s degree in disaster management, geography, or a related field and one year of GIS experience are required.


Assistant Professor

York University
Toronto, Canada
Salary: Not listed
Deadline: October 31, 2014
This tenure track position will teach graduate and undergraduate courses in disaster and emergency management. A PhD in a related field and demonstrated excellence in scholarly research is required.

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Webinars, Training, and Education

Public Health Emergency Law: Emergency Use of Property and Supplies
September 18, 2014, 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. EDT
The Network for Public Health Law
Cost and Registration: Free, register in advance

This webinar will provide an overview of the legal issues health department personnel could face regarding the protection of property and supplies during a public health emergency, including commandeering or closing facilities, limiting price gouging, procuring and reallocating supplies, and authorizing emergency countermeasures. Speakers from the New York State Department of Health will discuss experiences related to the H1N1 Flu Pandemic and Hurricane Sandy.


Twitter Chat
Emergency Preparedness for Little Ones
September 17, 2014, 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. EDT
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Cost and Registration: Free, registration not required
This chat will discuss how parents and caregivers can prepare children before, during and after disaster strikes, including recognizing how children’s needs impact family preparedness plans, coordinating with caregivers, recognizing stress and the mental health needs of children, and considerations for children with special needs. Follow @PHEgov on Twitter to participate or monitor #Prep4kids.

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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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