Congress Considering Emergency Management Bills

2 04 2011

A small number of bills in Congress deal with disaster planning or recovery efforts.

* Reacting to the earthquake in Japan, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) introduced the Critical Infrastructure Earthquake Preparedness Act of 2011 (HR 1132) on March 16. The bill would direct the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to create a grant program specifically for improving the ability of hospitals and airports to withstand earthquakes. Communities on active fault lines could be eligible for funding under his measure. Cohen’s own district in Tennessee is located along the New Madrid Fault Line, and in a press release on the bill, he notes that Memphis could obtain funds to reinforce its airport under this bill. It has not had committee or floor action.

* HR 570 is the Dental Emergency Responder Act of 2011, and passed the House on March 8. The bill, from Rep. Michael C. Burgess (R-Texas), would clarify that dentists could be considered as voluntary disaster-response public health workers under the federal disaster-response framework. The bill has not had Senate action.

* HR 175 is the Smart Housing in Disasters Act of 2011, and was introduced on Jan. 5, by Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who is the ranking member on the House Homeland Security Committee. The bill would direct the administrator of FEMA to develop “lifecycle plans and tracking procedures” for housing provided after a disaster. It has not had committee or floor action.

* HR 57 is the Disaster Recovery Improvement Act and was introduced on Jan. 5, by Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.). It would amend the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to require swifter decisions on appeals of decisions pertaining to eligibility for, and amounts of, federal disaster assistance; direct the president to implement certain regulations pertaining to the repair of public facilities damaged by disasters; direct FEMA to revise the evaluation process for governors’ requests for major disaster declarations; and authorize the president to provide assistance for pets and service animals during emergencies. It has not had committee or floor consideration.





Free Online Symposium – Community Recovery from Disaster

16 03 2011

Given the recent catastrophe in Japan, this is a most timely event.  Lots of quality speakers including Chuck Wemple from the Houston-Galveston Area Council who will be presenting an article on economic issues in post disaster recovery based on his experiences in Texas.  Information about this free event is below.

The Public Entity Risk Institute will present its first 2011 online symposium, Community Recovery from Disaster, March 21-25, 2011. The symposium will bring to practitioners and public officials practical information about the latest research and lessons learned about the economic, social, physical, institutional and interdisciplinary dimensions of disaster recovery. These dimensions were explored in depth by top researchers in the field at the recent Theory of Recovery Workshop sponsored by PERI and funded by the National Science Foundation. This online symposium will investigate how these dimensions of disaster recovery could affect your community, and offer lessons that will help you prepare.

Each day of the symposium, registered participants will be able to log in and read the papers and post comments on the material presented and pose questions to the authors or other participants. Provided as a public service, PERI Virtual Symposium Programs are free and open to anyone with Internet access (registration required). Each morning, participants who enroll in the Symposium will be emailed a link to the papers being presented that day.

This symposium program will be moderated by Dr. Laurie A. Johnson. Laurie Johnson is Principal of Laurie Johnson Consulting and a senior science advisor to Lexington and Chartis Insurance companies. She has over 20 years of professional experience in urban planning, risk management, and disaster recovery management, and has studied most of the world’s recent, major urban disasters, including the Chile (2010), Sichuan China (2008), Kobe Japan (1995) and Northridge (1994) earthquakes, Hurricane Katrina (2005) and the 2004 Florida storms, and the World Trade Center disaster. In 2006, she was a lead author of the recovery plan for the City of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina and coauthored the book, Clear as Mud: Planning for the Rebuilding of New Orleans, published in April 2010.

The following experts have been invited to contribute Issues and Ideas Papers:

  **Charles Eadie, Principal Associate, Hamilton Swift & Associates, will present a paper on the physical dimensions of disaster recovery.
  **Dr. Rick Sylves, professor and senior research scientist at the Institute for Crisis, Disaster, and Risk Management, Department of Engineering Management, University of Delaware, will present a paper on the institutional dimensions of disaster recovery.
  **Chuck Wemple, Economic Development Program Manager of the Houston-Galveston Area Council and manager of the Gulf Coast Economic Development District, will present an article on economic issues in post disaster recovery based on his experiences in Texas.
  **Dr. Rob Olshansky, professor in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, will co-author the symposium introduction and synthesis paper with the moderator.
  **Dr. Liesel A. Ritchie, assistant director for research at the Natural Hazards Center, will present on the social dimension of disaster recovery.

Sign-up today for the free symposium! 

 





Are Earthquakes Really on the Increase?

14 03 2011

The destruction caused by the recent earthquake in Japan has grabbed our attention this weekend.  And, the subsequent tsunami and nuclear problems are tragedies that are almost incomprehensible.  One question that has come up a couple of times on the television news program I was watching included:  “Are earthquakes happening more frequently?”

Best source of information for a question like that is the United States Geological Survey (USGS).  And the USGS answer to the question follows:

“Although it may seem that we are having more earthquakes, earthquakes of magnitude 7.0 or greater have remained fairly constant.  A partial explanation may lie in the fact that in the last twenty years, we have definitely had an increase in the number of earthquakes we have been able to locate each year. This is because of the tremendous increase in the number of seismograph stations in the world and the many improvements in global communications.  In 1931, there were about 350 stations operating in the world; today, there are more than 8,000 stations and the data now comes in rapidly from these stations by electronic mail, internet and satellite.  This increase in the number of stations and the more timely receipt of data has allowed us and other seismological centers to locate earthquakes more rapidly and to locate many small earthquakes which were undetected in earlier years.” 

The USGS National Earthquake Information Center (NEIC) now locates about 20,000 earthquakes each year or approximately 50 per day.  Also, because of the improvements in communications (e.g. Twitter, YouTube, Facebook) and the increased interest in the environment and natural disasters, the public now learns about more earthquakes.

According to long-term records (since about 1900), the USGS expects about 17 major earthquakes (7.0 – 7.9) and one great earthquake (8.0 or above) in any given year.  So far in 2011, the NEIC Information Center indicates that we have experienced one great earthquake and six major earthquakes





The Growing Use of Geospatial Information in Emergency Management

24 09 2010

Over the last few years, the Fort Bend County Office of Emergency Management has utilized technology to improve its abilities to handle collection and dissemination of information, both on a day-to-day basis and also during times of disaster.  It is incumbent on professional emergency management agencies to be aware of how useful technology can be before, during, and after a disaster occurs.  In particular, the relatively recent ability of everyday citizens to have access to GPS receivers enlarges the possibilities of how geospatial information can be utilized in the field of emergency management.

Geospatial information is more than just a handheld GPS receiver used to navigate personal travel.  Digital maps can unite people across the world and even save lives.  After last January’s earthquake in Haiti, geographic information systems helped first responders map cities, locate survivors, and distribute aid.

Penn State University has recently received a series of work entitled “The Geospatial Revolution Project.”  It is an overview of modern mapping, focusing on GPS (like Garmin units in a vehicle, smartphones, etc..), taking a look at GPS’s impact both on our daily lives and on the world at large.  The mission of the Geospatial Revolution Project is to expand public knowledge about the history, applications, related privacy and legal issues, and the potential future of location-based technologies. The first episode is a 13 minute documentary that takes a look at a timeline history of mapping —- including an examination of GPS use to provide humanitarian aid during the Haiti earthquake relief efforts.  Despite the destruction wrought by the earthquake, about two-thirds of phone lines remained standing–the most resilient bit of infrastructure–and that allowed some ingenious rescue methods that would have been impossible even a few years earlier.

The 13-minute video uses the earthquake in Haiti to highlight how geospatial technology is critical in providing first responders with the information they need to help victims.  This video can be accessed at the following link:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwVig_cAU7U





Haiti Earthquake Relief Effort

25 01 2010

I have written a couple of times about the Haiti Earthquake Relief Effort.  The option offered below for businesses is unique in the sense that it involves a technology product that the Houston Urban Area is utilizing to help our area prepare for the next disaster.  Recently, our region purchased a technology called “i-INFO” to help us manage resources during a catastrophe.   

i-INFO Networks in other parts of the United States have formed a network to assist those in Haiti— in a manner that is appropriate to the need.  The World Cares Center in New York City, a member of the National Business Reponse Network, is deploying a team to Haiti to setup a resource and volunteer coordination center to assist int he relief and recovery effort.    The National Business Response Network is working with US Northern Command in this relief effort.  The team should be established this week, and once set up, with the help of other Business Response Network members providing satellite phones and other key equipment, the team will be in a position to communicate directly from the center in Haiti.

It is important that the donations from citizens and businesses fit the needs of the victims— it would be counterproductive to send items that are of no use to those suffering.  The Center will provide a mechanism for knowing exactly what is needed.  So, today, I have two suggestions for those citizens and businesses that want to contribute to the relief effort:

Citizens:

Citizens are urged to donate money to relief organizations. This ensure that the most appropriate type of aid gets to the victims as quickly as possible.  Donating to the American Red Cross, is a simple way for citizens to donate and to make sure that the money is being put to good use.  The Fort Bend County OEM coordinates with the Red Cross locally during disasters which affect Fort Bend County, and you can donate to the Red Cross to send more relief to Haiti.

Businesses:

Businesses are also urged to donate to the Red Cross, but can also offer supplies to be sent directly to Haiti. A registry is available at http://registry.i-info.com/haiti and is intended to collect in-kind resources from any organization that is willing to donate these critically needed items. If you don’t have anything to donate on the list, you can register for updates to the registry.





Texas Task Force-1 Not Traveling to Haiti

18 01 2010

As printed in the Houston Chronicle on January 18, 2010:

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — An elite search and rescue team from Texas will not fly to earthquake-devastated Haiti and has been demobilized by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  The Texas Engineering Extension Service in College Station on Monday said the United Nations mission in Haiti has declared that search and rescue teams in the country are sufficient.

Texas Task Force One was called up by Gov. Rick Perry on Thursday, two days after a massive earthquake rocked the Port-au-Prince area. The urban search and rescue team from Texas, with about 80 personnel, plus search dogs, had been on standby in Houston since then.  Flights in and out of Haiti’s capital city airport, which suffered damage, have been limited, with commercial service halted to clear the way for military and other recovery flights.





For People Seeking To Restore Contacts with Family Members After the Earthquake in Haiti

15 01 2010

Here is some information that might be helpful for those looking for relatives in Haiti.    The Family Links program is operated by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).  Review the information carefully; there are some important caveats about the Family Links program.  On its website, the ICRC indicates that:

As a result of the earthquake that hit Haiti on 12 January 2010, thousands of persons within Haiti and abroad have lost contact with their loved ones.  The aim of the Family Links website is to accelerate the process of restoring contact between separated family members.

It is managed by the ICRC, in cooperation with the tracing services of the Haitian Red Cross Society and of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies throughout the world.  The website offers the possibility for persons in Haiti and abroad to publish their own names and the names of relatives with whom they are striving to restore contact.

In Haiti, the Red Cross has not been able yet to collect and publish on the Website the identities and whereabouts of the persons affected by the earthquake. Nevertheless, with the current reinforcement of their activities, the ICRC, together with the Haitian Red Cross, will add on the Website more information on the affected population in Haiti. This will provide more responses to the queries of anxious families who remain without news from their loved ones.

Entries published on the lists can be modified only by the ICRC at op_prot_haiti.gva@icrc.org. If you want to modify details for a name that you entered or delete a name completely, you must email the ICRC.  If your search is not successful, do not hesitate to revisit the website frequently, as everyday, new people are registering themselves.   To locate your relatives go to the following link:

http://www.familylinks.icrc.org/WFL_HTI.NSF/DocIndex/locate_eng?opendocument

IMPORTANT
The ICRC has no means of verifying the information sent through the network. It is not responsible for any inaccurate information given through the services made available on this site.

The information given on this website is not confidential and can be consulted by everyone. It is the responsibility of the persons publishing information on this website to ensure that no harm can result from this publication. The ICRC cannot be held responsible for any negative consequences of publishing information on this website.