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Number 636 • November 6, 2014 | Past Issues













Science Funding: Not Black and White When the Senate is Red All Over

Election day has come and gone and with it went the Democratic majority that once held sway in the U.S. Senate. While political analysts are quick to warn that the shift lacks the Republican supermajority need to make sweeping changes, there is no doubt changes are on the way—and some of those will affect how science is funded.

The most impactful aspect of the shift will likely be seen as Republicans take over key committee appointments and, by extension, have a greater say in what—or if—science gets funded. That is a sobering prospect, especially considering the recent I’m-not-a-scientist mantra of leading party members and their longstanding refusal to accept the realities of climate change.

More alarming is that political pundits are predicting some of the most vocal science bumblers and climate skeptics will soon be in charge of the committees with the most scientific funding clout. Those picks include Ted Cruz of Texas, who could lead the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee and James Inhofe of Oklahoma, who is expected to head up the Environment and Public Works Committee.

Shortly before the elections, Cruz extolled the need to push through the Keystone pipeline, increase hydraulic fracturing operations, and end the Environmental Protection Agency’s “war on coal,” so it’s not hard to imagine what his leadership on a committee charged with promoting green technology might look like. It’s less clear what direction he might push the committee’s decisions on atmospheric science and science research, but as a staunch climate change denier, it’s probably not too hard to guess.

Although Cruz isn’t likely to be the most science-friendly committee chair, his appointment would be nothing compared to giving Inhofe power over the committee that make climate decisions. Joshua Krisch, writing for Scientific American, called the appointment “disastrous for science.”

“If Inhofe gains control of the Senate committee in charge of climate change legislation, that’s probably the end of climate change legislation…” he writes. “And, global warming aside, it’s probably not a good idea to put someone who calls scientific consensus a “hoax” in charge of a Senate committee that holds the purse strings for scientific funding.”

Despite the ominous clouds looming on the Senate committees horizon, the news isn’t all bad. The powerful Committee on Appropriations—which weighs in on science funding that includes NASA, the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug administration, and the National Science Foundation—could continue to see leadership supportive of science. The lead runner for that committee chair is Thad Cochran of Mississippi, a NASA-friendly legislator known to champion flood control, water infrastructure investment, and coastal ecosystem protection.

It’s also important to point out that even though a Republican-heavy Senate could have a chilling effect on some science funding, the days of Democratic majority haven’t exactly been halcyon either. As Krisch points out, little progress has been made in climate legislation in the seven years Democrats reigned. And there is no shortage of criticism for the far-reaching effects sequestration has wrought on scientific research.

Worries for the future of funding and angst about past decisions point to the larger problem of politicizing scientific issue. And, as Frank Bruni points out in an opinion piece for the New York Times, that leaves our nation vulnerable on a large scale.

“If they had proper regard for science,” he writes, “politicians in both parties would fight harder against the devastating cuts to federal research that have happened under sequestration, endangering medical progress and jeopardizing our global leadership.”

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Believe: Those with Faith in Protective Spirits Take Fewer Risks

Believing in a guardian angel—leaving aside the issue of whether angels exist or not—might make you safer. Or you might believe in angels because of a heighted awareness of peril.

Either way, a study in SAGE Open by four Canadian researchers found that people who believe that guardian angels are watching over them are less likely to take risks.
When asked to provide their opinion about risky driving, most guardian angels disbelievers gave driving 12 mph over the speed limit two on a one-to-five scale of riskiness. The majority of those who believe in guardian angels, however, thought it was a three.

“It may be that people who have a tendency to view the world as being risky or potentially dangerous are more inclined to have a belief in personal guardian spirits,” the researchers said.

The researchers interviewed 198 people—77 using online tools, and the rest in person. Forty-five percent of those interviewed said they believe in a “personal spirit or supernatural power that watches over and protects you.”

—Dan Whipple, Former Editor, Natural Hazards Observer

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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 November 2014 Observer include:

--Cognitive Dissonance at the 9/11 Museum
--Fear and the Ebola Outbreak
--Why It’s So Hard to Focus on Climate Change
--Ebola in Comparison to the Spanish Flu

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.

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

Call for Presentations
Human Dimensions of Wildland Fire and Wildland Fire Safety Summit
International Association of Wildland Fire
Deadline: December 1, 2014

The International Association of Wildland Fire is accepting abstracts for presentation at the Human Dimensions of Wildland Fire conference and International Wildland Fire Safety Summit to be held April 20-24 in Boise, Idaho. Submission of oral and poster presentations on topics such as managing uncertainty, mitigating fire risk, firefighter wellness, and crew dynamics will be accepted. For a full list of topics and to submit your presentation online, visit the call for presentations page.


Call for Applications

Assistance to Firefighters Grants
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Deadline: December 5, 2014
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is accepting applications for its Assistance to Firefighters Grant program. AFG grants are available to help firefighters and other first responders purchase equipment, vehicles, training, and other needed resources. For full grant information, application guidance, and a list of items eligible to be purchased using grant funds, visit the FEMA grant Web site.


Call for Articles

Climate Change, Disasters, and Displacement
Forced Migration Review
Deadline: January 12, 2015
The editors of Forced Migration Review are accepting are accepting practice-oriented articles of 2,500 words or less that discuss the linkages between climate change, disasters, and displacement. Accepted articles will appear in the May 2015 issue of the review. For more detailed information on what the editors are looking for and submission guidelines, visit the publication Web site.

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Some New Web Resources

Federal and State Quarantine and Isolation Authority
Overly cautious responses to the recent Ebola epidemic have led many to ask exactly what authority to governments have to restrict the movements of those who might have been exposed. This report from the Congressional Research Service outlines state and federal public health laws related to quarantine and gives a roundup of the constitutional implications of restricting individual liberty.


Emergency Preparedness and Response Resources for Childcare Programs

All businesses should have emergency plans, but for those that care for children, knowing what to do in a disaster is especially important. Daycare facilities large and small will benefit from this newly released guide from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Childcare. The guide, which is available in English or Spanish, details steps caregivers can take to before, during, and after disasters to keep kids—and their businesses—safe.


Hashtag Standards for Emergencies

Any organization that has wrestled with creating social media policies will appreciate the thought that went into this UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs brief. The report includes background info on social media and hashtag usage and proposes creating three primary hashtag types—tags created for public reporting of events, those named for the disasters they monitor, and tags that would prompt and emergency response. Hashtag monitoring and limitations of a hashtag system are also included.



It doesn’t take much to give good map, but you might be surprised by the good it can do. This U.S. Department of State Humanitarian Information Unit site will give you all the info you need to become part of the online mapping community. Learn about sites that tap ordinary Internet users to help define roads, structures, and land features on satellite image and how the newly defined maps can inform environmental and crisis decisionmaking.



Sunny with a chance of chickenpox? This app will let you know. Sickweather scans publically available social media for reports of illness, maps it, and let’s you know when clouds of illness are on the horizon or even right down the street. Available for Android and iPhones, Sickweather is the latest way to stay ahead of the cold and flu season.

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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]

November 18-23, 2014
Georisk 2014
International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics
Madrid, Spain
Cost and Registration: $542 before November 10, open until filled
This conference will focus on effective geophysical risk assessment, forecasting, and management. Topics include modeling and assessment of geophysical hazards, vulnerability assessment, early warning systems, and communication protocols and practices.


December 10-11, 2014
Middle East Resilience Conference
International Association of Emergency Managers
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Cost and Registration: $800, open until December 1
This conference will promote emergency management principles and train professionals using theoretical and practical methods, with an emphasis on building resilience in the Middle East. Topics include embracing the unthinkable, strengthening national resilience, the 100 Resilient Cities program, building silos of resilience, and knowing your risk.


February 10-12, 2015
International Disaster Conference and Expo
International Disaster Conference and Expo
New Orleans, Louisiana
Cost and Registration:  $375 before December 5, open until filled
This conference will explore public and private disaster response from an international perspective and offer solutions to prevent property loss in catastrophes. Topics include, emergency management resilience, response and recovery technology innovations, public health and medical management, animals in disasters, and insurance considerations.


February 23-25, 2015
National Tornado Summit
University of Central Oklahoma
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Cost and Registration: $225 before December 5, open until filled
This summit will provide insights on improving mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery to save lives and property in the United States. Topics include emergency management planning after disaster, the effect of climate change on severe weather, alternative building materials, improving building codes, increasing public safety, and enhancing storm shelters.


March 22-25, 2015
Spring World 2015
Disaster Recovery Journal
Orlando, Florida
Cost and Registration: $1,095 before January 23, open until filled
This conference focuses on providing continuity managers with the information they need to conduct efficient disaster recovery. Topics include global resiliency, cloud computing, cybersecurity, industry regulations, and challenges faced by senior continuity practitioners.

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Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

Disaster Resilience Project Manager
Australian Council of Social Service
New South Wales, Australia
Salary: $65,950 to $72,800
Deadline: November 10, 2014
This position is responsible for building community service organization resilience to extreme weather and will build partnerships to improve vulnerable communities’ outcomes. Duties include developing a business and financial plan, managing the project budget, coordinating training, and facilitating communication between stakeholders. An understanding of disaster community service organizations, familiarity with Australian emergency management funding, and strong strategic planning skills are required.


Disaster Risk Project Coordinator

United Nations Development Program
New York, New York
Salary: Not listed
Deadline: November 12, 2014
This position will focus on developing policy while providing supporting the implementation of the UNDP strategic plan. Duties include researching, developing, and producing disaster risk governance reports; organizing workshops, conferences, and meetings; and preparing progress reports for various publications. A master’s degree related to institutional policy analysis, disaster development, or climate risk management and at least five years of project planning experience is required.


Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator, GS-15

Federal Emergency Management Agency
Denver, Colorado
Salary: $123,285 to $157,100
Deadline: November 20, 2014
This position will serve as a senior manager, policy advisor, and executive coordinator for state and tribal disaster recovery. Duties include tracking the progress of disaster recovery operations, promoting partnerships between federal government and state, tribal, and local stakeholders, and assisting in the development of pre-disaster recovery organizations. One year of experience at the GS-14 level and specialized experience in facilitating whole of community disaster recovery is required.


Disaster and Crisis Studies Professor

Wageningen University and Research Center
Wageningen, The Netherlands
Salary: $86,795 to $115,077
Deadline: December 15, 2014
This position will teach, conduct research, and maintain a focus on crises and disaster for the university’s Sociology of Development and Change Chair Group. Duties include developing research agenda related to natural and manmade hazards and supervising students of all education levels. A PhD in a relevant social science field with a focus on conflict or disaster studies, and relevant fieldwork experience is required.


Exercise Analyst
Obsidian Analysis, Inc.
Washington, D.C.
Salary: Not listed
Deadline: Open until filled
This position will focus on supporting the design, control, and execution of relevant homeland security exercise programs. Duties include generating analytical assessments and presentations for clients, identifying program risks and efficiencies, and determining priorities and requirements for exercise support. A bachelor’s degree in national security, social sciences, or related field and at least one year of professional experience in training coordination is required.

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Webinars, Training, and Education

Incident Command Systems: What Can Humanitarian Agencies Learn?
November 10, 2014, 9:00-10:20 a.m. EST
Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance in Humanitarian Action Cost and Registration: Free, register online

This webinar will focus on how humanitarian organizations can use Incident Command Systems to improve their organizational structures and be more effective. Attendees will learn how applying ICS could potentially help improve leadership in emergency response and increase cooperation with national authorities.


IPAWS: The New Normal for Receiving Alerts
November 12, 2014, 2:00-3:00 p.m. EST
International Association of Emergency Managers
Cost and Registration: Free, register online before the event
This webinar will help emergency managers and practitioners get the most out of the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System, also known as IPAWS. Topics include technical advancements in receiving alerts, shortcomings of Common Alerting Protocol tools building relationships in the emergency management community, public outreach, and the IPAWS All-Hazards Information Feed.


How Taskforces Strengthen Mass Care Preparedness and Response
November 12, 2014, 3:00-4:00 p.m. EST
National Mass Care Strategy
Cost and Registration: Free, no registration necessary
This webinar will emphasize how multiagency taskforces have become an important resource for effective disaster preparedness and response. Topics include the evolution of taskforces, taskforce use in the disaster operations, mass care exercises, and national community events.

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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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