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Number 639 • January 29, 2014 | Past Issues













Digital Déjà Vu: The Re-Reintroduction of Cybersecurity Legislation

President Barak Obama used his State of the Union address last week to beat an old drum—the pressing need for cybersecurity. As a two-time champion of measures to reform online safety practices, the president aimed to use recent security breaches as the vehicle to launch yet another bid.

“I urge this Congress to finally pass the legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyber-attacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children’s information,” stated Obama in his speech on January 20. “If we don’t act, we’ll leave our nation and our economy vulnerable, if we do, we can continue to protect the technologies that have unleashed untold opportunities around the globe.”

The president proposed legislation that would collect reports of cyberattacks into a central repository, introduce new penalties for cybercriminals, and streamline the ways in which businesses and the government work together to prevent breaches. The proposal was met with widespread support from both Congress and industry experts.

A high-profile breach of Sony Pictures—which nearly sparked an international incident—and hacker attacks on Target, Staples, Home Depot, and JPMorgan Chase are among the many recent events that sparked the need to take action. But while those issues have brought the matter to the public’s attention, the debate over how to address cybersecurity is nothing new.

Lawmakers have attempted to introduce cybersecurity bills for many years, but opposition from industry and civil rights groups have often thwarted the initiatives. President Obama himself has led a number of efforts to prepare the country for increasing cyber threats and crimes.

He released the Cyberspace Policy Review, a national strategy related to the information and communication networks, in 2009. Two years later he issued legislative proposal that called on Congress to provide government and the private sector with the tools they needed to combat cyberthreats at home and abroad. His proposal failed to get congressional approval.

Although the president is a staunch supporter of taking some sort of action on cyberthreat, he’s been sensitive to privacy concerns. In 2012, when the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), the White House threatened to veto the measure, saying that the bill put Americans’ privacy at risk and was to lenient on companies that failed to secure their computer networks.

Civil liberties and Internet freedom groups agreed, characterizing the controversial bill— which would have allowed private entities to share user information with government intelligence agencies—as the digital equivalent of the Patriot Act.

“It allows private Internet communications and information of American citizens to go directly to the [National Security Agency],” Leslie Harris, president of the Center for Democracy and Technology, said in a statement. “Once that private information is in the hands of the military, it can be used for purposes completely unrelated to cybersecurity.”

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) took a similar stance during a May 2012 debate on the house floor.

“Allowing the military and NSA to spy on Americans on American soil goes against every principle this country was founded on,” he was quoted as saying by the Toronto Standard.

Although CISPA did not make it out of the Senate that year, it was reintroduced in 2013. While the House again supported it, it wasn’t considered by the Senate and once again died. A newer version of the bill (unrelated to the president's proposal) was introduced in the house in early January.

Obama’s most recent proposal isn’t much better than CISPA, though, according to some advocacy groups. They criticize the effort as being too similar in information sharing aspects and still not tough enough on private entities that fail to protect consumer information.

“Instead of proposing unnecessary computer security information sharing bills, we should tackle the low-hanging fruit,” the digital rights group The Electronic Frontier Foundation writes in a statement. “This includes strengthening the current information sharing hubs and encouraging companies to use them immediately after discovering a threat.”

Others have pointed out that none of the cybersecurity proposals so far have included practical measures such as holding companies liable or educating end-users about threats. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) agrees with those criticisms and is pushing back against the proposal. While reform is needed, she says, the current proposal wouldn’t have done much to stop the recent incidents. 

“I fear we may have taken the wrong lesson from these recent high-profile attacks,” Lofgren said in a recent statement. “These attacks were not the result of a missed opportunity to share information, but rather caused by substantial and obvious security failures and a culture of treating cybersecurity as an afterthought.”

—Elke Weesjes, Editor, Natural Hazards Observer

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Disaster News Redux: Keystone XL Battle Comes to a Head

XL Dispute: The last time we reported on the mercurial outlook of the Keystone XL pipeline, the state department had just released an environmental impact statement that assessed the hotly contested pipeline’s impact on climate change.

The January 2014 report was significant because President Barack Obama was awaiting its findings on greenhouse gas emissions before approving the pipeline—a 1,100-mile behemoth slated to carry about 830,000 barrels of tar sands crude per day from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.

The 11-volume report stated that extracting the tar sands would increase greenhouse gas emissions, however it also predicted extraction would likely occur at the same rate whether the pipeline was built or not.

Supporters expected the assessment to open the door for approval of the project, based on Obama’s previous comments. Opponents, however, disputed the report’s objectivity and pointed to a pending investigation into an earlier version as reason not to jump to conclusions, the New York Times reported at the time.

In the end, however, the report was one more false peak in a mountain of procrastination on the decision. Since then, Obama said he would wait on the results of a Nebraska Supreme Court ruling on the route the pipeline would take (that decision was handed down on January 9). More recently he has said he’d like to see reviews pending from the Environmental Protection Agency and the departments of Defense, the Interior, Homeland Security, and Commerce, according to a report in the Times Thursday.

Key Decisions: The U.S. Senate passed a bill Thursday aimed at trying to get a final answer from Obama, who has ultimate authority because the pipeline crosses international borders.

The bill, which passed 62 to 36, is the latest gauntlet thrown down in a five-year fight that has become less about pipeline concerns and more about political posturing, according to experts.

“The political fight about Keystone is vastly greater than the economic, environmental or energy impact of the pipeline itself,” Robert Stavins, director of the environmental economics program at Harvard, told the Times earlier this month. “It doesn’t make a big difference in energy prices, employment, or climate change either way.”

Piping Down?: The bill now moves to the House of Representatives, which can vote on the measure as it stands or consolidate it with a similar House bill that passed earlier this year. If the bill is consolidated, it will return the House and Senate for vote.

The Whitehouse has indicated on several occasions that the president will veto legislation approving the pipeline. Republicans—even with nine votes from sympathetic Democrats—are currently short of the two-thirds majority needed to override the president’s veto.

Even considering extenuating action by the House and pending federal reviews, it’s possible for the president to decide on the matter as early as February, according to the Thursday Times report. It’s a conclusion everyone in the matter is eager to see reached.

“This issue is ready for a decision,” Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune, told the Times. “After the agencies have weighed in, this issue has been examined enough, and the president has everything he needs to make this decision.”

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Work the Workshop: NHC Now Accepting Student Volunteer Applications

A little bit of labor can go a long way for students interested in attending the Natural Hazards Center Research and Applications Workshop for next to nothing. We're now accepting applications for student volunteers to assist with our annual Workshop, to be held July 19-22 in Broomfield, Colorado. The benefits of volunteering include free workshop registration and meals—a $345 value—and the opportunity to network with some of most respected professionals in the field. Lodging and transportation are the responsibility of attendees.

Not just anyone will qualify to add this esteemed service position to their CV, though. Applicants must commit to being available onsite beginning with Workshop setup on July 19 until event breakdown on July 22. Volunteer duties also include providing technical assistance, timekeeping, administrative help and other tasks as needed. Every effort will be made to facilitate student interests in session attendance and networking, however, volunteer activities must take priority. Preference will be given to candidates with a strong work ethic and a demonstrated sense of professionalism.

If this sounds like you, we encourage you to complete our online form before March 9. Volunteer assignments will be made by April 3.

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Introducing the All-New Natural Hazards Observer

As you might recall from our last issue, the Natural Hazards Observer has a new editor and a brand new look. We're happy to let you know that the January Observer is available online now!

This totally redesigned issue features invited comments, a photo essay, and many more perks. With a focus on the tenth anniversary of the Indian Ocean tsunami, this month's issue is all about rehabilitation and reconstruction. Content includes:

Rebuild by Design—Lessons learned from the evaluation of HUD's post-Sandy resilience design competition. By Carlos Martín

Aceh Revisited—Ten years after the Indian Ocean tsunami. By Rein Skullerud

Always on Alert—Tsunami sentinels in the Indian Ocean. By Nirmal Ghosh

Ground Wars: The Empire State Strikes Frack—The ongoing controversy over hydraulic fracturing. By Stacia Ryder

We're sure you'll be impressed with the new look of the Observer online, but you should see it in print! A year's subscription to the print edition is $30. 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 Proposals
Seventh International Conference on Science in Society
Science in Society
Deadline: February 17, 2015

Science in Society is accepting proposals for various types of presentations for their annual conference to be held October 1-2 in Chicago, Illinois. Proposals should include the purpose, methods, and implications of the work and be related to conference themes. Scholarly work in research, practice, or theory is eligible. For more information on the conference and how to submit a proposal, visit the call for proposals on the Conference Web site.


Call for Papers

Second World Conference on Health Sciences
World Conference on Health Sciences
Deadline: February 20, 2015
The organizing committee of the World Conference on Health Sciences is accepting abstracts for presentation at the conference, to be held April 30 to May 2. Abstract submissions should be focused on health care in a scientific environment. For more information on submissions, visit the call for papers page on the conference Web site.


Call for Applications
Senior Undergraduate Scholarships
Association of State Dam Safety Officials
Deadline: March 31, 2015
The Association of State Dam Safety Officials is accepting applications for its 2015-2016 Senior Undergraduate Scholarship competition. Students planning to graduate from an accredited civil engineering program or a closely related field during the 2015-2016 academic year are eligible. Students should have an average GPA of 2.5 and a demonstrated interest in pursuing a career in a discipline related to the design, construction, or operation of dams. For more guidelines and information, visit the scholarship page on the ASDSO Web site.

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Some New Web Resources

Unscheduled Events
Despite the title, the newsletter of the International Sociological Association's Research Committee on the Sociology of Disasters is once again a regularly scheduled event. The long dormant publication has been revived and will be keeping disaster researchers informed of upcoming events and new research, as well as to sharing information about awards and other opportunities. Check out the December edition online now.


Communications in the Aftermath of a Major Earthquake

After an earthquake or similar disaster, geologists can provide valuable information to help those affected make the best choices for their safety and well being—but that often means setting aside science jargon and communicating in a way that offers a sense of safety, connectedness, and hope. This paper examines strategies drawn from disaster literature and personal experience to help geoscientists deliver effective communications during crises.


Vulnerability, Resilience, and Post-Disaster Reconstruction International Debates
This Web site offers a unique online opportunity to discuss issues in disasters, see how the conversation changes minds, and even win prizes for contributing to the dialogue. The first debate, “Does Temporary Housing Hinder the Recovery Practice?,” has been posted, so check it out and see if you’re opinion is swayed by the arguments.


Governor’s Guide to Mass Evacuations
This guide was prepared to help governors and other state leaders prepare to play their roles in disaster response in advance of an emergency that involves mass evacuations. The guide covers important elements such as knowing the extent of authority, coordinating with nonprofits and volunteer organizations, establishing shelters, training, and reentry issues.


Alliance for Response
This initiative of Heritage Preservation connects emergency managers with cultural heritage professionals in order to increase cultural and historic preservation before and after disasters. The Web site includes more about the effort, a planning toolkit, a list of existing emergency management-preservation networks, and an “Ask the Alliance,” feature for any uncovered, burning questions.

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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]

February 15-16, 2015
International Conference on Integrated Natural Disaster Management
International Conference on Integrated Natural Disaster Management Secretariat
Tehran, Iran
Cost and Registration: $290, open until filled
This conference will address disaster risk reduction frameworks, risk and disaster management, health, and climate change adaptation. Topics include the economic impacts of disaster, links between climate change and disaster management, mass gathering triage, near-earth object monitoring and communication, modeling complex disasters, and risk governance in urban environments.


March 13-17, 2015
Emergency Management Policy and Leadership Forum
National Emergency Management Association
Alexandria, Virginia
Cost and Registration: $850 before February 15, open until filled

This conference will focus on National Emergency Management Association recommendations on federal disaster risk management policy and building relationships that effectively assist those affected by disasters. Topics include maximizing volunteer organization capacities, leveraging disaster-related open data, and federal planning integrations for mass fatalities.


March 14-18, 2015
World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction
United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Sendai, Japan
Cost and registration: Not listed, closes February 20
This conference will discuss the adoption of a new post-2015 Framework for Action on disaster risk reduction, examine the lessons learned from the 2005 Hyogo Framework for Action, and determine how to move forward with implementation. Topics include international cooperation in disaster risk, disasters in urban settings, emerging risks, early warning systems, and the economics of disaster risk reduction. Public forum side events are also scheduled.


March 24-26, 2015
Preparedness, Emergency Response, and Recovery Consortium
Preparedness, Emergency Response and Recovery Consortium
Orlando, Florida
Cost and Registration: $475 before February 1, open until filled
This conference will examine public health, EMS, and medical providers in the context of emergency management. Topics include infectious disease threats, nursing home evacuations, landslide search experiences, biological terror attacks, arctic emergencies, and creative social media solutions.


March 30 to April 2, 2015
Coastal Geo Tools
Association of State Floodplain Managers
Charleston, South Carolina
Cost and Registration: $400 before March 1, open until filled
This conference will address the geospatial data, tools, and technology that aid in coastal resource management. Topics include online coastal management tools, national ocean mapping, sea level rise modeling, planning for coastal inundation, and analyzing shoreline change.


April 14-16, 2015
Partners in Emergency Preparedness Conference
Partners in Emergency Preparedness
Tacoma, Washington
Cost and Registration: $425 until April 1, open until filled
This conference will present emergency management lessons learned from recent natural disasters. Topics include business continuity and disaster recovery, strategies for creating disaster-ready companies, tourists as vulnerable populations, managing urban floods, crisis communication, early warning systems, technologies in weather preparedness, and a historical analysis of volcano hazard management in Washington State.

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Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

Emergency Readiness Specialist, GS-13
Federal Aviation Administration
Washington, D.C.
Salary: $93,263 to $144,538
Deadline: February 4, 2015

This position is responsible for disaster and emergency preparedness planning and coordination of related exercises. Duties include meeting with Federal Aviation Administration Emergency Operations staff, suggesting alternatives and recommendations for FAA programs, and participating in emergency operations preparedness for critical and sensitive national programs. One year of experience at the GS-12 level and specialized experience working with emergency plans at the national level is required.


Emergency Preparedness Planner
Boulder County
Boulder, Colorado
Salary: $43,200 to $62,220
Deadline: February 13, 2015
This position will deliver effective and timely disaster response for the county departments of Housing and Human Services and Community Services and coordinate disaster risk and recovery activities with other county agencies. Duties include creating site-based emergency and response plans focusing on mass care, sheltering, and volunteer and donation management, training, and managing continuity of business operations. Two years experience developing emergency operations plans, considerable knowledge of the Incident Command System, and a bachelor’s degree in a field related to emergency management are required.


Professor, Urban Crises and Recovery Work Group
Georgia State University
Atlanta, Georgia
Salary: Not Listed
Deadline: Open until filled.
This position will conduct research and teach as a full or associate professor within the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies and the Department of Criminal Justice at Georgia State University. Duties include leading a work group in urban crises and recovery, with focus on the built environment, human behavior, and public policy. Applicants should have a strong publication record, experience securing external funding, and a PhD in a social science-related discipline.


Emergency Management Safety and Compliance Officer
University of South Florida
Tampa, Florida
Salary: $45,000 to $48,000
Deadline: Open until filled

This position supports the Emergency and Safety Manager in providing response, recovery, and mitigation programs for the university. Duties include coordinating and composing emergency plans, developing public outreach that enhances preparedness, preparing program reports and department policies, evaluating current strategies, and supporting the Emergency and Safety Manager during emergency operations. A bachelor’s degree and at least two years of emergency management experience are required. Reference job number 6399 when searching for position.


Disaster Program Manager
American Red Cross
Bend, Oregon
Salary: Not Listed
Deadline: Open until filled

This position will lead a primarily volunteer team in implementing regional disaster services. Duties include developing the Disaster Leadership Volunteer program, ensuring Red Cross services are available to diverse communities, mobilizing the community before and during disasters, and securing material and human resources to help in disasters. A bachelor’s degree, at least five years of experience with social service program, and volunteer management experience are required.

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Webinars, Training, and Education

Lean In to Fight Climate Change
February 12, 2015, 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. EST
Women’s Climate Collaborative

Cost and Registration: Not listed, register before February 12
This webinar is the first in a series by the Women’s Climate Collaborative that discusses carbon mitigation in the United States and the need for professional women to work to enact change in their organizations. Topics include indentifying organizational climate needs and action, supporting carbon mitigation efforts, leadership strategies, and opportunities to engage colleagues.


Flood Management Course
March 30 to April 2, 2015
Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation Disaster Risk Reduction Network
Thun, Switzerland
Cost and Registration: Not Listed

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation is offering a flood management course to provide participants with a basic understanding of flood management. Topics include the flood generation process, flood hazard modeling, flood hazard mapping, integrated risk management, flood management strategy, urban and large plain flooding, and flood management in a global context.

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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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