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Number 646 • June 19, 2015 | Past Issues













Things Just Got Moral: The Pope Weighs in on Climate Change

Climate change has long been the subject of scientific and political debate, but a missive released recently by Pope Francis has added morality to the fray.

The Pope issued what’s known as an encyclical—a papal statement of doctrine—in which he urged wealthy nations to take concrete actions to reverse climate change and begin paying the “grave social debt” incurred by over-consumption.

“The foreign debt of poor countries has become a way of controlling them, yet this is not the case where ecological debt is concerned,” the Pope wrote in Laudato Si’, which was released Thursday. “The developed countries ought to help pay this debt by significantly limiting their consumption of non-renewable energy and by assisting poorer countries to support policies and programmes of sustainable development.”

The Pope didn’t just call out rich and developed countries, but also strongly rebuked anyone who denies the impacts of climate change because it’s financially practical.

“Many of those who possess more resources and economic or political power seem mostly to be concerned with masking the problems or concealing their symptoms,” he wrote. “Our lack of response to these tragedies involving our brothers and sisters points to the loss of that sense of responsibility for our fellow men and women upon which all civil society is founded.”

The statement also deflected the idea that population control was one solution to climate woes, saying that “extreme and selective consumerism” was more to blame and focusing on population was “one way of refusing to face the issues.”

While the encyclical emphasizes the moral aspects of what the Pope termed an “ecological crisis,” it’s not without political import. Pundits point to its release ahead of the UN Climate Summit, scheduled to take place in Paris in December, as evidence of an attempt to influence the conversation.

Indeed, Cardinal Peter Turkson said in a news conference that the Pope feels dialogue is necessary to avoid climate decisions being formed in “an ideological, superficial or reductionist way,” according to The Guardian. For their part, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, UN Climate Secretariat Head Christina Figueres and others have all issued statements welcoming the Pope’s opinion.

Not all responses have been positive, though. Perhaps predictably, conservative U.S. politicians have decried what they characterize as the Pope’s meddling in matters of policy and science. Presidential candidates, especially, have weighed in, with Catholic Republican Rick Santorum stating that the Church should “leave science to the scientists.” Jeb Bush, also a Catholic Republican, told Reuters that the Pope’s teachings “ought to be about making us better as people and less about things that end up getting into the political realm.”

Overall, though, political naysayers haven’t found much traction with the argument that the Pope is out of his milieu. Supporters, for instance, point out that the Pope is trained in chemistry and likely capable of scientific thought. As for his authority to speak on matters of economic concern, experts note that the encyclical addresses these issues from a social justice view of poverty and therefore does try to help people be better as people.

“The basic idea is, in order to love God, you have to love your fellow human beings, and you have to love and care for the rest of creation,” Vincent Miller, who holds a chair in Catholic theology and culture at the University of Dayton told the New York Times. “It gives Francis a very traditional basis to argue for the inclusion of environmental concern at the center of Christian faith.”

Regardless of the encyclical’s impact on policy, there is no denying that the writings of the Pope, who has the ear of an estimated 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide, will add a new facet to climate conversations and individual action—which was exactly the point.

“Humanity is faced with a crucial challenge that requires the development of adequate policies, which, moreover, are currently being discussed on the global agenda,” Turkson is quoted as saying by the New York Times. “Certainly, Laudato Si’ can and must have an impact on important and urgent decisions to be made in this area.”

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Disaster News Redux: MERS Then and Now

We Knew It When: Back in March 2013, DR reported on the discovery of a new SARS-related virus being called novel coronavirus or NCoV. Spread of the virus, which was first identified in Saudi Arabia, was small scale at the time, having only infected 15 people.

What was more worrisome were reports that the Saudi Government had sought to suppress information regarding the disease and had even sanctioned the physician who discovered it for logging its symptoms into the proMED infectious disease database.

A Virus by Any Other Name: Fast forward to the present and that virus is better known as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS. Since it was discovered, more than 1,300 people have been infected by the disease and nearly 40 percent of those have died, according to the World Health Organization. Although MERS has been mostly contained in Saudi Arabia, travelers have spread the disease to at least 25 other countries.

Recently, an outbreak in South Korea has been especially concerning. Since the first case was diagnosed in late May, the country has reported 169 infections and 25 deaths, making it the largest outbreak in any country outside of Saudi Arabia.

Although South Korean doctors were slow in identifying the original case, the country has since taken aggressive measures such as closing schools and quarantining thousands of people who came into contact with those infected, according to the New York Times. 

Calling It By Name: While WHO Chief Margaret Chan said South Korea was now “on a very good footing” in combating the disease, the failure to initially diagnose it shows that after years of battling the deadly illness, the world hasn’t gotten much better at communicating symptoms and risks.

“There was a lack of awareness about MERS both among health providers and also the general public in the Republic of Korea before the MERS outbreak occurred there, so it really took everybody by surprise,” WHO Assistant Director General Keiji Fukuda said in a news conference. “This probably contributed somewhat to a delay in knowing what was going on.”

That is unfortunate. Because there is no cure for MERS (laughable claims from North Korea aside), awareness and prevention are the only real defenses available to fight the spread.

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Student Paper Competition Winners Announced

The Natural Hazards Center is pleased to announce the winners of the 2015 Hazards and Disasters Student Paper Competition. The competition was established in 2004 to recognize undergraduate and graduate students who conduct research on interdisciplinary hazards and disaster. The papers submitted this year showcased promising research on topics such as gender, climate change hazard mitigation, pandemic illness, transportation in emergency response, and disaster recovery. Winning papers, however, displayed outstanding originality and data collection and analysis, as well as a well-organized thesis and argument.

Two graduate student winners were chosen:

Hannah Rebecca Zulch, Griffith University: Psychological Preparedness for Natural Disasters—Improving Disaster Management Theory and Practice

Yin-Hsuen Chin, University of Florida: Multi-Scale Vulnerability Assessment of Surge and Wind Hazards In Coastal Communities—Venice Island, Florida

Winners will each receive $100, publication on the Natural Hazards Center Web site, and an invitation to the 2015 Annual Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop in Broomfield, Colorado.

The 2016 call for papers will be announced early next year. Full text of winning papers and more information can be found on the Natural Hazards Center Web Site.

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The Annual Hiatus: DR Settles Down for a Long Summer’s Nap

It’s fast approaching that time of year when the Natural Hazards Center gears up for its Annual Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop. Unfortunately, that means DR—Disaster Research News You Can Use will need to take a hiatus while our editorial staff gets the Workshop program ready for the printer.

Look for DR 647 to return August 7 with all the same great news items, resources, conferences, and job postings. And don’t forget, you can always get the latest disaster news if you follow us on Twitter.

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

Call for Presenters
AHIMTA Training and Education Symposium
All Hazards Incidents Management Teams Association
Deadline: July 31, 2015

The All Hazards Incidents Management Teams Association is accepting proposals for presenters and instructors at its annual symposium to be held December 8-10 in Denver. Proposals should include the target presentation audience, an outline, learning objectives, sample PowerPoint, references, and speaker bio. For more submission guidelines and requirements, visit the symposium Web site.


Call for Posters
AHEPP Conference
Association for Health Emergency Preparedness Professionals
Deadline: August 1, 2015
The Association for Health Emergency Preparedness Professionals is accepting posters for presentation at their annual conference to be held November 17-18 in Omaha, Nebraska. Posters can fall under research or practice categories and should apply to topics in risk assessment, communication, exercise design, business continuity, leadership in disasters, or lessons learned from recent events.  For more information and submission guidelines, visit the conference Web site.

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Some New Web Resources

DRR Songs
If you’re the type to sing the benefits of disaster risk reduction from the rooftops, this YouTube channel is for you. Of course, you do need to literally sing. The budding channel was created to showcase musical efforts to communicate ways to be prepared and resilient when disaster strikes. So far, the genre is a little lacking, so the musical among us should check out the channel and maybe even lay down some anti-disaster tracks of their own to share.


CDC Drought Communication Toolkit
When it comes to natural hazards, drought has one of the longest reaches, and that’s especially true when it comes to public health. From immediate short-term health effects to chronic and debilitating impacts, this toolkit will help you keep the public informed of what drought could mean for their health. Check out the Web site for resources on how to explain drought preparedness and safety for a variety of audiences, including homeowners, vulnerable populations, and industry leaders.


Congressional Primer on Responding to Major Disasters and Emergencies
This recently released report by the Congressional Research Service is a guide for policy makers navigating the disaster response and recovery cycles. The document gives a background on disaster declarations, the National Response Framework, various types of disaster assistance, and also outlines congressional responsibilities during disaster.


Washington State has always gotten plenty of rain, but now it has RRAIN, a handy site that helps first responders (and everybody else) stay on top of situational awareness during disasters and emergencies. With topics ranging from weather alerts to pandemic resources to state emergency plans, the site is mobile ready and puts a wealth of information in your pocket.


If you work in healthcare, public health, emergency management, or any other field that intersects medical care with disaster response and preparedness, TRACIE is your new best friend. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services new TRACIE site stands for Technical Resources, Assistance Center, and Information exchange and is just that—a place where health workers can access technical information, get one-on-one guidance, and discuss issues with their peers. Visit the site for all sorts of tips, news updates, or to offer your expertise to other site visitors.

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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]

July 6-9, 2015
National Sports Safety and Security Conference
National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security and the University of Southern Mississippi
Orlando, Florida
Cost and Registration: $750, open until filled

This conference will focus helping law enforcement and emergency managers provide enhanced security and response for large-scale sporting events. Topics include effective preparation for evacuations, mitigating risk and enhancing response, customizing incident command systems for venue emergency response, securing event airspace, and the necessary elements of a communication plan.


July 15-17, 2015
International Conference on Building Resilience
University of Newcastle
Newcastle, Australia
Cost and Registration: $610, open until filled

This conference will focus on reducing the susceptibility of buildings and social systems to the increasing threats posed by natural hazards. Topics include measuring resilience, structural mitigation, community engagement, climate change impacts and slow-onset disasters, social protection and vulnerability, and the role of local government in disaster risk reduction.


August 10-11, 2015
Hurricane Sandy Conference
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
New York, New York
Cost and Registration: Free, open until filled

This conference will discuss the research outcomes of a two-year series of Hurricane Sandy research grants issued by HHS Office of Preparedness and Response, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences. Topics include various research on Hurricane Sandy, as well as strategies to build preparedness and resilience, translating research into practice, best practices in public health, and effective risk management.


August 10-11, 2015
Emergency Restoration Logistics Conference
Electric Utility Consultants Inc.
Boston, Massachusetts
Cost and Registration: $1,595, open until filled

This conference will focus on responding to electrical outages caused by natural hazards. Topics include collaboration between utilities and state and federal agencies, logistics following a catastrophic event, a case study of Hurricane Sandy, timely decision making for emergency managers, and effective internal workforce management.


August 16-19, 2015
APCO International Annual Conference
Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials
Washington, D.C.
Cost and Registration: $650 before July 20, open until filled

This conference will focus on providing knowledge and training for better safety communication. Topics include procedures for frontline communicators, issues in communications center management, emergency preparedness, response and situational awareness, relevant trends in radio technologies, and operational responses to major events.

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Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

Insurance Communications Specialist, G-13
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Washington, D.C.
Salary: $76,378 to $118,069
Deadline: June 26, 2015
This position will analyze needs, recommend strategies, and conduct outreach on federal insurance issues for realtors, insurance companies, policy makers, lenders, and other nongovernmental entities. Duties include researching and analyzing insurance issues and translating complex material into audience-specific publications; creating presentations, videos, speeches, and mass marketing content; and conducting training and outreach events. One year of experience at the G-12 level and specialized experience creating politically sensitive communications are required.


Program Development Manager
Oxfam Great Britain
Salary: Not Listed
Deadline: June 30, 2015
This position is responsible for leading Oxfam’s humanitarian work in Liberia. Duties include managing the development and delivery of country strategy, overseeing donor relations, coordinating humanitarian preparedness and emergency responses in the country, and integrating campaigns, policies, and humanitarian work throughout the program. Experience humanitarian and emergency work in developing countries, strategic planning and humanitarian policy skills, and an understanding of programs such as water sanitation and hygiene, and gender are required.


Evidence Aid
Oxford, England
Salary: $71,000 to $87,000
Deadline: July 6, 2015
This position will be responsible for leading and growing Evidence Aid, developing its research agenda, and building the organization’s capacity. Duties include building influence and demand for evidence-based research in the humanitarian sector, developing relationships with funders and policy makers, identifying growth opportunities and funding sources, and creating strategies that support an aggressive growth model. Leadership abilities, business and development skills, and a strong desire to improve evidence-based decision making in the humanitarian sector are required.

Natural Hazards Scientific Data Specialist
Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES)
Boulder, Colorado
Salary: Not Listed
Deadline: Open until closed
This position will assist with managing data, generating products, and supporting outreach efforts of the CIRES Coastal Science Team. Duties include assessing and compiling hazard event data from post-event surveys, journal articles, and other sources; collecting and managing photos and video recording of hazard damage; and supporting the creation of authoritative post-event reports based on historical hazard databases. A bachelor’s in geography or geophysics, at least three years experience, and knowledge of relational databases and geophysical analysis are required.


Director of Emergency Management and Mission Continuity
University of California Davis
Davis, California
Salary: $70,000 to $154,000
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position will oversee the Emergency Management and Mission Continuity Program, which is responsible for ensuring effective emergency management, preparedness, and business continuity on the UC Davis campus. Duties include assuring university activities are in compliance with applicable policies and regulations, implementing and monitoring prevention strategies and initiatives, and establishing partnerships with other campus departments. A bachelor’s in emergency management or a related field, at least five years experience, and advanced knowledge of the National Incident Management System are required. Please reference Requisition Number 03014426 when searching the job Web site.

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Webinars, Training, and Education

Elderly in Disasters: An Integrated Review
June 23, 2015, 1:00 p.m. EDT
The National Center for Disaster Medicine and Public Health
Cost and Registration: Free, register online before event

This webinar will be discuss the content of the National Center for Disaster Medicine and Public Health’s Outstanding Poster Winner poster at its recent Learning in Disaster Health Workshop. Information will be presented by poster winners Heather L. Johnson and Catherine G. Ling of the Daniel K. Inouye Graduate School of Nursing at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.


Health Care Quality: What's Law Got to Do with It?
July 17, 2015, 1:00-2:30 p.m. EDT
American Health Lawyers Association
Cost and Registration: Free, register online with login

This webinar is the second in a six-part series devoted to examining legal issues at the intersection of public health and health care. It will provide an overview of healthcare quality, innovations to improve health care quality, and how law relates to those innovations, particularly within the Medicare/Medicaid framework.


Post Earthquake Safety Evaluations of Buildings
Applied Technology Council
Cost and Registration: Free, available for limited time

This recorded webinar focuses on providing a basic overview of earthquake safety evaluation procedures to those who are interested in responding to the earthquake in Nepal. Topics include making on-the-spot evaluations and decisions, occupancy of damaged buildings, easy to use field reference documents, and rapid evaluation criteria.

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