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Number 648 •September 4, 2015 | Past Issues













Worth Thousands of Words: Will a Picture Spark Action in Europe's Refugee Crisis?

European leaders are finally stepping up efforts to address the worsening refugee crisis, thanks at least in part to heart-wrenching photographs of Aylan Kurdi, a three-year old Syrian refugee who drowned near Turkey this week.

So far this year, more than 300,000 people have risked their lives to cross the Mediterranean Sea for the safety of places such as Greece and Italy—Kurdi was one of 2,600 that haven’t survived. The vast majority of those making the dangerous crossing are fleeing the death and destruction of conflict zones of Syria.

The refugee crisis, thought to be the worst since WWII, is far from a sudden emergency. It is, to some degree, the culmination of years of failure to confront Syria’s bloody collapse. After four years of conflict and with no peace talks in sight, millions of Syrians have lost hope and headed for the European Union countries. But they are not alone—asylum seekers from North Africa and the Middle East are also part of the massive influx of refugees.

Although tragic, the photographs of Kurdi prompted the sort public shock, sympathy, and outrage that finally sparked a response from European leaders, who have been wrangling for months over potential refugee quotas.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said he was very distressed when he saw the photographs on the front page of the newspaper.

“As a father, I felt deeply moved by the sight of that young boy on a beach in Turkey,” Cameron said while visiting northeast England Thursday. “Britain is a moral nation and we will fulfill our moral responsibilities.”

Such “moral responsibilities” are at the center of the struggle over how European Union countries handle asylum seekers. Current rules require refugees apply for asylum in the first EU state they reach, which has overwhelmed countries such as Greece and Italy. EU leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande want to see the burden more evenly distributed.

“So many refugees are arriving at our external borders that we can’t leave Italy or Greece alone to deal with the task,” Merkel is quoted as saying by Reuters. “Neither can it be that three countries, like Sweden, Austria and Germany, are left alone with the lion's share of the task.”

Hollande and Merkel have formulated a proposal for a refugee distribution quota that will be considered by the Council of European Interior Ministers on September 14.  For Britain’s part, Cameron announced Friday that it would expand its Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation program, which has facilitated the resettlement of 216 refugees to date.

“Given the scale of the crisis and the suffering of people, today I can announce that we will do more, providing resettlement for thousands more Syrian refugees,” Cameron said at a news conference in Portugal.

Considering the sheer number of people pouring into Europe’s border towns, it is unlikely that Cameron’s promise will satisfy critics who want Britain to accept tens of thousands of refugees—and not just from Syria.

The United Kingdom has lagged in sheltering refugees in general, not just Syrians. In the first quarter of this year, Germany took in more than 73,000 asylum applications, followed by Hungary, which had more than 32,000, according to Eurostat. By comparison, the UK has accepted about 7,300 applications.

The United Nations High Commissioner Antonio Guterres has called on European Union countries to accept up to 200,000 refugees from several different war zones. The strategy is aimed at helping all people fleeing war and persecution and must replace Europe’s current piecemeal approach, Guterres said in a statement

“No country can do it alone, and no country can refuse to do its part,” said Guterres. “The only way to solve this problem is for the union and all member states to implement a common strategy, based on responsibility, solidarity and trust.”
—Elke Weesjes

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Its Name is Legionnaires': High Profile Outbreaks Aren't Related—Or All That Uncommon

Coast-to-coast outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease might lead some people to believe the bacterial menace is sweeping the nation, but fear not. Although the recent outbreaks in several states have had elements of timing and location that made them news, they aren’t related—nor are they much outside of the norm, according to health officials.

The disease, which causes infection in the lungs, began making headlines in July when more than 120 people in the South Bronx became ill. Twelve died before the source of the contamination—a cooling tower atop the Opera House Hotel—was located. New York City Health officially declared the outbreak to be over on August 20, after no new cases had been reported for more than two weeks.

Less than two weeks later, however, another significant outbreak was reported—this time in California’s San Quentin prison. Six inmates had contracted the disease and another 95 are under observation, according to the latest statement by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The source of the infection, which spreads when the waterborne Legionella bacteria is inhaled through steam or mist, hasn’t yet been identified.

A similar situation also struck the Illinois Veteran’s Home in Quincy about the same time. In that case, 41 people had been diagnosed with Legionnaires’ and eight had died.

While it may be natural to assume that the disease is on the rise, Matthew Moore of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told the Associated Press that, although bacterial growth was making a slightly earlier than normal appearance this year, the amount of activity was “par for the course.”

Legionnaires’ disease was first discovered when it sickened 123 people at an American Legion Convention in 1976. Because the bacteria can cause serious infections in those with compromised lungs—the elderly, asthmatic, or smokers, for instance—it can strike certain populations particularly hard.

Still, the disease is treatable for many. The CDC estimates that 8,000 to 18,000 people are hospitalized with Legionnaires’ disease each year, but also warns that many cases—which are tracked by local and state health departments—aren’t documented or reported. For those that do contract the disease, the death rate is about 15 percent—similar to other pneumonia-like illnesses.

This year’s total cases—currently just above 3,000—aren’t too far from the 5,000 reported last year. But even if numbers do end up spiking, in the larger scheme of things, the public has many more environmental risks to be concerned about. In fact, considering how adept health officials have become at handling outbreaks since the discovery of the bacteria, it’s much less of a threat, as Vanderbilt University’s William Schaffner told the New York Times.

“This is something that public health has done many times over since 1976,” he said. “We know how to solve this problem.”

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Disaster News Redux: A Katrina Round Up

Fateful Storm: In 2005, Hurricane Katrina descended on the southern United States and forever changed the landscape—physically, economically, and socially. The storm—which came ashore as a Category 3 maintained hurricane strength for another 150 miles inland—affected large swathes of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida but struck the City of New Orleans especially hard.

Although Katrina was a storm of epic proportions, the cascading effects of the disaster were even more devastating and highlighted serious problems in the nation’s ability to respond to disasters—including gaps in emergency management planning, evacuation failures, and a wide range of social vulnerability issues, just to name a few. As the years wore on, Katrina also provided a wealth of lessons on recovery and rebuilding.

Sea of Change: Ten years later, the anniversary of the mammoth storm spawned an almost obligatory look back at the changes Katrina had wrought. Conclusions about what we’ve learned, however, have been wildly varied.

There were, of course, stories of progress. The New York Times ran a piece on levees and wetlands that had been restored in the past decade. Wired devoted a feature to how everything from forecasting to emergency management to disaster gadgetry has improved since the storm. PBS even followed the pets of Katrina and how their plight changed the way we evacuate animals in disaster. Countless other stories touted the resilience of the survivors and communities.

But even while many celebrated the progress made since the storm, others were quick to point out all that’s left to be done. An article in The Lens points out that the state-of-the-art levee system in New Orleans is meant to protect property, not lives. And Katy Reckdahl writes in Politico not of true recovery, but of recovery with an asterisk. Harry Shearer, writing in the Huffington Post, simply says enough with the self-congratulatory back patting, already—New Orleans isn’t ready to be the success story most people want to hear and survivors shouldn’t be forced to submit to a media circus congratulating them on their resilience.

The Next Wave: Indeed, Shearer makes a good point. The ten-year mark of a terrible disaster might be a good time to recall public attention to the all that’s left to be done in terms of national preparedness, but the pressure to put a positive spin on the situation is counterproductive and condescending. One only has to delve in to the stories of actual survivors to see that, although they are resilient, they’ll never be made whole.

There’s also the question of whether or not such anniversary flybys are worth much. There’s indication that even the lessons of a major disaster such as Katrina aren’t relevant to communities that haven’t experienced disaster in while, or ever. Perhaps, as former President Bill Clinton told New Orleanians on the anniversary, the best purpose they can serve is as a brief respite—a moment to put down the shovel before digging in deeper.

“So my take on this is: have a good time New Orleans, you’ve earned it,” he said. “Give yourself a pat on the back, you’ve earned it. Laugh tonight and dance to the music, you earned it. And tomorrow, wake up and say – ‘look at what we did. I bet we can do the rest, too’.”

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

Call for Entries
Climate Change and Security Contest
Office for Security and Cooperation in Europe
Deadline: September 22, 2015

The Office for Security and Cooperation in Europe is accepting entries for a contest to raise awareness on the connection between climate change and national security. Entries will consist of a vivid image and tagline, along with a short explanation of the work, that illustrate how conflicts stemming from climate change can increase security risks. For more information and submission guidelines, visit the contest Web site.


Call for Abstracts
Resilience and the Anthropocene Special Issue
Resilience: Policies, Practices and Discourses
Deadline: October 15, 2015

The editors of Resilience: Policies, Practices and Discourses are accepting abstracts of papers to be published in an upcoming issue of the journal that will focus on political ecologies related to resilience and an era where humans have become a geophysical force. Interdisciplinary abstracts of no more than 500 words may be submitted via email. For contact information, visit the call for abstract notice on the journal Web site.

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Some New Web Resources

Helping Victims of Mass Violence and Terrorism Toolkit
While you'll find all the resources you need to compassionately incorporate victim care into your mass shooting or terrorism plans, this toolkit will apply to any emergency. The kit, created by the U.S. Justice Department Office for Victims of Crime, is ready to go for emergency managers, law enforcement, and other responders who want to build partnerships, establish victim assistance protocols, and help their communities as they recover from tragic events.


Field Guide Set for Engaging Faith Communities in Disasters
Faith communities can be a tremendous resource in times of disaster—if you know how to approach them. The National Disaster Interfaith Network has created two documents that will help. The Field Guide offers guidance on how government and nonprofit groups can build lasting emergency and preparedness relationships with the faith communities in their cities. The Religious Literacy Primer offers basic literacy in more than 20 religious faiths and gives practitioners a better understanding of how the faith community fits into emergency planning.


Performance of Natural Infrastructure and Nature-Based Measures as Coastal Risk Reduction Features

Why build a levee when wetlands will help protect your coastal town from storms? That's an important question to ask and this report will help you find the answer. The study looks at a variety if natural flood protection measures and lists the strengths and weaknesses of each, how they reduce risks, types of communities where they're best suited, and performance standards.


Case Studies in Building Community Resilience
While China is very far from the United States on the map, it isn't always the case when it comes to responding to the impacts of climate change. These case studies, produced by the Georgetown Climate Research Center, are an interesting look at how areas of the United States and China are responding to similar threats—coastal vulnerability, water scarcity, and urban heat waves.


Model EMS Clinical Guidelines
The National Association of State EMS Officials has compiled this collection of evidenced-based and consensus-based practices to assist EMS organizations in delivering enhanced patient care, increasing safety, and promoting positive outcomes. While adoption of the guidelines is optional, it was created with the intent of standardizing EMS care at the state level.

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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 16-17, 2015
Tri-State Emergency Responder Conference
Northeast Iowa Community College
Dubuque, Iowa
Cost and Registration: $198, open until filled

This conference will provide regional fire and emergency medical services personnel with an opportunity to increase their training and knowledge base. Topics include risk management for firefighters, ethical decision making, tactical EMS operations, and customer service skills for first responders.


October 31 to November 4, 2015
2015 Annual Meeting
American Public Health Association
Chicago, Illinois
Cost and Registration: $870 before September 17, open until filled
This conference will focus on helping public health workers form partnerships with a variety of agencies and policy makers to further the health of their communities. Topics include mental health in older adults, racism and public health, multi-sector partnerships to prevent violence, creating healthy places, public health and safety issues, and using science to support decision making.


November 3-5, 2015
Rising Seas Summit
Association of Climate Change Officers
Boston, Massachusetts
Cost and Registration: $775, open until filled
The conference will provide a multi-sector look at the intersection between climate change, sea level rise, and extreme weather events. Topics include leveraging climate data tools, developing organizational adaptation plans, engaging the business community, protecting drinking water, and addressing policies that mask risk.


November 13-18, 2015
IAEM Annual Conference
International Association of Emergency Managers
Clark County, Nevada
Cost and Registration: $743 before October 13, open until filled
This conference will focus on expanding the spectrum of emergency management and providing training and networking opportunities. Topics include how gender matters in emergency management, disaster research put into practice, social media, and leadership examples from Fukushima and Hurricane Sandy.


December 9-11, 2015
Annual Hazus User Conference
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Atlanta, Georgia
Cost and Registration: Free, open until filled

This conference will look at Hazus success stories, best practices, lessons learned, and recent research. Topics include the use of Hazus in flood, earthquake, or hurricane studies; international applications of Hazus; academic uses; and enhancements of Hazus hazard and exposure inputs.

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Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

Outreach and Vulnerable Population Specialist
City of Bellevue
Bellevue, Washington
Salary: $60,200 to $83,000
Deadline: September 10, 2015

This position will be responsible for developing and implementing outreach programs that reduce loss of life and property during emergencies and disasters. Duties include creating outreach materials, assisting community groups in preparing disaster plans, developing training materials, maintaining vulnerable populations databases, and supporting other emergency management activities. An associate degree, at least two years of emergency management experience, and experience designing emergency response plans is required.


Membership Coordinator

Association of State Floodplain Managers
Madison, Wisconsin
Salary: $27,000 to $37,500
Deadline: October 10, 2015
This position is responsible for developing, maintaining, and coordinating professional memberships for the Association’s 5,000 plus members. Duties include creating strong member and volunteer relationships, developing communications for member retention and growth, proposing new services and member opportunities, and managing the leadership election process. Web site, social media, and database skills; exceptional customer service ability; and content writing skills are required.


Professor of Public Administration and Emergency Management

Oklahoma State University
Stillwater, Oklahoma
Salary: Not listed
Closes: October 15, 2015
This position will serve as an assistant- or associate-ranked public administration professor in the Department of Political Science. Duties include teaching two courses per semester and producing scholarly work. A PhD in public administration, political science, or a related field is required. An interest in fire and emergency management is preferred.


Associate Program Officer

Gulf Research Program
Washington, D.C.
Salary: Not listed
Deadline: Open until filled
This position will assist the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Gulf Research Program as it works toward promoting oil system safety, human health, and environmental resources. Duties include supporting the design and implementation of award opportunities and funding topics, participating in strategic planning, communicating with stakeholders and advisory board members, and representing the program at meetings and workshops. A bachelor’s degree in a related field, scientific policy knowledge, and grant-making experience are required.


Research Associate
The Urban Institute
Washington, D.C.
Salary: Not listed
Deadline: Open until filled

This position will support the Institute in using social science research to further housing and community policy in the areas of economic development, resilience, response, youth development, and hazard mitigation. Duties include developing empirical research projects, fundraising, evaluating existing projects, data collection, and report writing. Project management experience, knowledge of hazards and disaster management, and a PhD in urban planning, sociology, or related fields are required. Please reference Job ID 2107 when searching for position.

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Webinars, Training, and Education

Online Virtual Workshop
Mid-September (Date to be determined)
National Severe Storms Laboratory
Cost and Registration: Free, register interest by September 9

This online virtual workshop will inform the upcoming VORTEX-SE Workshop to be held November 9-10 in Huntsville, Alabama, where attendees will develop a plan for VORTEX-SE research and information sharing. VORTEX-SE is an interdisciplinary program that examines environmental characteristics, forecast needs, and other aspects of tornadoes in the Southeastern United States. The online workshop is a chance to participate in the development of the program for those unable to attend the physical workshop.


Mutual Aid Systems
September 17, 2015, 1:00 p.m. EDT
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Cost and Registration: Free, register online before event
This webinar will discuss how to craft effective mutual aid agreements for fire departments. The presentation features the Missouri State Mutual Aid Coordinator who will frame the discussion with lessons from the Missouri Mutual Aid System and continuity efforts from the Joplin tornado.

Key Challenges Facing Homeland Security and Emergency Management Since 9/11 and Subsequent Large Scale Disasters
October 26 to November 22, 2015
Auburn University
Cost and Registration: $400, open until filled

This four-week online course will address unmet needs and challenges in the homeland security and emergency management professions highlighted by large-scale disasters. Topics include understanding the scope and nature of terrorist threats, examining assumptions in government policy, exploring the complementary nature of homeland security and emergency management structures, and addressing critical infrastructure, cybersecurity, and resilience issues. The course can be taken as part of a certificate program or as a stand-alone training. Visit the course Web site for an in-depth description and application information.

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