Volume XXII Number 2, November 1997

Table of Contents

Closet, Car, or Ditch? The Mobile Home Dilemma During a Tornado

The Alternate Dilemma: How to Explain and Encourage Counterintuitive Behavior

Making Communities Disaster Resistant

The Latest Publications from the Natural Hazards Center

More Internet Stuff

NSF Funds Internet Workshop for Earthquake Researchers

Governors Create Drought Council

FEMA Offers El Niño Information and Mitigation Conferences

Some Additional El Niño Web Sites

Group Activities

Washington Update

FEMA to Rewrite Coastal Construction Manual

FEMA Recruiting BPAT Members

Radius Project Seeks Associate Cities

SWT Establishes Center for Research and Policy on Hazards and Environmental Geography

Conferences and Training

EMI 1997-1998

Upcoming Flood Courses at EMI

Contracts and Grants

NSF Creates Three New Earthquake Centers

New Group Forms to Manage Risk

Recent Publications

Who We Are

Closet, Car, or Ditch? The Mobile Home Dilemma During a Tornado

--an invited comment

Understanding Tornado Fatalities

A tornado is a deadly phenomenon that strikes with little warning and can destroy a building in a matter of seconds. Thus, knowledge of the attributes of persons killed by tornadoes, their behavior when the storm threatened, and the circumstances of their death are useful in evaluating hazard preparedness, safety rules, and warning methods. This information identifies high-risk groups, high-risk situations, and high-risk behaviors and can be used to improve preparedness and warning programs and reduce tornado-related deaths.

Our research during the past five years has focused on risk factors for death due to tornadoes in the United States. My colleagues, Paul King, Barbara Hammer, and Yuichi Ono, and I have asked the question, "Why do some people die in tornadoes while others survive?" To find answers, we travel to the site of a tornado disaster about one week after the event in order to complete a detailed study of each fatality and of survivors who were in the path of the tornado. This research has been funded by Quick Response grants made available by the Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center (see the Observer, Vol. XXII, No. 1, p. 5).

Our survey quantifies demographic data and information related to method of warning, access to warning, time of awareness of the impending tornado, exact location when the storm struck, degree of destruction at the site, and so on. Survivors are interviewed in person. Surveys are completed for fatalities through interviews with relatives, supplemented by neighbors, coroners, and funeral home directors. The survey responses for those who died are then compared to responses from those who survived, in order to identify differences between the two groups.

Data have been collected for the Georgia and Alabama tornadoes of March 27, 1994, and the Arkansas tornadoes of March 1, 1997. Surveys were completed for 45 fatalities and 104 survivors. In both cases, several tornadoes struck across rural areas of a southern state on a weekend afternoon with 10 to 30 minutes warning time from the National Weather Service (NWS).

What We Learned

Results from the Georgia and Alabama tornadoes (Disasters 19 (1995): 170-177) showed risk factors for death to include advanced age, location in a mobile home, location in a room above ground with windows, not watching television in the hour before the tornado hit, and being aware of the approaching tornado for less than one minute. Results from the Arkansas tornadoes (available from the Natural Hazards Center as Quick Response Report #98, see the article in this Observer) also showed risk factors for death to be location in a mobile home and in a room above ground with windows. In contrast to the earlier study, there was no difference in age between fatalities and survivors, although being divorced appeared as a risk factor, possibly due to the isolation and reduced income of divorced persons.

These results generally reinforce previous assumptions that were developed from studies of tornadoes and other hazards:

Additional research of this type will provide a composite of tornado risk factors over a variety of geographic, demographic, and cultural settings--the foundation of a stable and reliable database from which general conclusions may be drawn.

Are Cars Safer than Mobile Homes?

While conducting the first study in Georgia and Alabama in 1994, we were surprised by the common occurrence of cars or pickup trucks that remained upright with little damage near mobile homes that were destroyed and the mobile home occupants killed. After careful thought, it did not seem so surprising. After all, a modern car has a low center of gravity, a streamlined form, a protective interior, and is designed to encounter strong winds and protect occupants in case of a roll-over and other crashes. Our preliminary estimates showed that a door-handle-height wind speed of about 120 mph is required to tip a car, compared to perhaps 80 mph to tip a mobile home.

Rural mobile home residents have few options when a tornado threatens. Underground shelters are rare and a sturdy building for shelter is usually some miles away. In those desperate situations when sturdy shelter is not within running distance from a mobile home, both the NWS and the American Red Cross recommend that mobile home residents leave the mobile home and "lie flat in a ditch or low-lying area" when a tornado warning is issued.

Mobile home residents recognize the legendary vulnerability of their dwellings in wind storms. However, when the tornado siren starts blowing or the Weather Channel screen turns red, few are willing to gather the family and leave their mobile home to run outside into a severe thunderstorm with heavy rain, lightning, hail, and flying debris to lie down in a water-filled ditch to await a tornado. They tell us such actions are counterintuitive.

Following our field observations in 1994, a reasonable option for those in mobile homes without nearby shelter seemed to be to drive to one. Our public statements in 1994 that rural mobile home residents with no nearby shelter may be safer getting into their vehicles and driving to a shelter when a tornado threatens, rather than running outside to lie down in the storm, drew widespread media attention, many comments of agreement, and strong comments to the contrary by a few people in the NWS.

In light of NWS and Red Cross recommendations that mobile home residents and vehicle occupants exit and lie down outdoors when a tornado threatens, we sought previous studies on the relative safety of being in a vehicle compared to being outdoors that supported those recommendations. As we reported in a commentary last year (Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 77: 963-964), no studies have been found to support those recommendations.

Tornado Strength and Vehicle Safety

Following our surprising observations after the 1994 tornadoes, we embarked on a systematic survey of the effects of tornadoes on cars and pick-ups. We collected data on vehicles parked outdoors at homes with F1, F2, or F3 tornado damage following the Louisville tornado in May 1996, the Arkansas tornadoes in March 1997, and the Texas tornadoes in May 1997.

Not surprisingly, this sample of 180 vehicles showed that the percentage of cars moved or tipped tended to increase with increased home damage (and inferred wind speed). Surprisingly, at homes with F3 damage (158- 206 mph), fewer than half (46%) of cars were moved by the wind, only 15% were tipped over by the wind, and 39% of the vehicles were damaged sufficiently to cause serious injury to potential occupants. These results are now under review for publication.

Where does that leave us with respect to surviving tornadoes? We will continue postdisaster research of deadly tornadoes to determine general principles of high-risk behaviors and identify high-risk groups. It is clear that the 73 mph or less wind speeds of F0 tornadoes, the weakest of weak tornadoes, pose little threat to human life. It is also clear that the rare violent tornadoes (F4 and F5) with maximum wind speeds over 206 mph will destroy well-built homes and toss vehicles. The only reasonable protection in these extreme cases is an underground shelter, but only 3% of tornadoes have these wind speeds.

It is in the middle range of F1, F2, and F3 wind speeds that most tornadoes occur. Underground shelter is always safest, but the interior rooms of well-built homes or offices provide life-saving shelter in most cases. At the same time, mobile homes clearly remain a high-risk location in this range. For nearly half of the Americans who die from tornadoes, the last view they have of this world is the disintegrating interior of their mobile home. Only one-third of the 15 million mobile home residents in the U.S. live in a mobile home park, and some of these do not have sturdy shelters for all residents. The other 10 million live on private rural land,

and many of these people will not have a sturdy shelter within running distance when the tornado warning is issued. Mobile home occupancy is predicted to increase for the foreseeable future, and millions of Americans are on the road in their cars and trucks during the late afternoon when tornadoes are most likely to occur.


The hazards community has an opportunity to find reasonable, affordable, and practical means of reducing the risk of death to mobile home residents due to tornadoes. We must also strive to provide safety recommendations for mobile home residents and vehicle occupants that are based on modern research.

Thomas W. Schmidlin, Department of Geography, Kent State University

The author can be contacted at Kent State University, P.O. Box 5190, Kent, OH 44242-0001; (330) 672-2045; fax: (330) 672-4304; e-mail: tschmidl@kent.edu.

The Red Cross Responds . . .

The Alternate Dilemma: How to Explain and Encourage Counterintuitive Behavior

When reading Thomas Schmidlin's article on tornado safety messages for mobile home dwellers, the reader should be aware that only two tornado events were studied. According to the National Weather Service (NWS), the March 27, 1994, Georgia/Alabama tornado was rated F4 on the Fujita Tornado Intensity Scale, and the three killer Arkansas tornadoes on March 1, 1997, ranged from F2 to F4. The NWS post-storm survey of this event reveals that in one of these three killer tornadoes, seven people abandoned two mobile homes and got into a ditch. Two men died when a tree fell on them. The other five people were unhurt. Interestingly, however, at the time, the tornado created damage indicating F2 intensity; yet, the mobile homes that were abandoned were never found. One questions, then, what would have happened had all seven people remained in their mobile homes?

The NWS carefully points out that one should not apply the maximum F-scale rating of any particular tornado to the entire damage path. It was quite likely, therefore, that some of the mobile homes in Schmidlin's study were in lower intensity damage paths; thus, there was little or no damage to vehicles in the area. Studying more tornadoes and documenting the likely F-scale rating for specific areas is needed.

NWS statistics on tornadoes reveal that, since 1986, there have been 12,483 documented tornadoes in the United States. Of that total, 83.6% were F0 and F1, with another 11.2% rated as F2, and 3.7% categorized as F3. Only 1.5% of all events were classified as F4 and F5. From those statistics, one could conclude that planning for F0 through F3 tornadoes would be reasonable. However, all tornadoes are not the same: only seven of 503 tornado-related fatalities were associated with the 6,591 F0 tornadoes. By comparison, the F4 and F5 tornadoes (again, just 1.5% of tornadoes) killed 255 people--50.7%. Your chances of dying in an F5 are 5,200 times greater than in an F0.

Schmidlin also states that the NWS and the American Red Cross recommend that mobile home occupants threatened by a tornado get out and lie in a ditch. As one of the authors of Red Cross national disaster education materials, I know this is not a correct interpretation of our tornado safety message. Since 1992, the NWS, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the American Red Cross have recommended that mobile home occupants leave and "choose another safe place in a sturdy, nearby building," not lie in a ditch. The "ditch" message was provided as a last resort for people driving vehicles out in the open where no nearby sturdy building was available.

We further recommended that mobile home residents acknowledge the potentially lethal tornado threat and make arrangements, in advance, for shelter. Many mobile home communities have shelters that afford safety within a minute's walking distance. And, yes, getting out in the rain, hail, wind, and lightning may not seem logical, but it beats becoming part of the debris field along with your mobile home.

Schmidlin points out that people are reluctant to expose themselves to severe weather when they perceive their current location (inside a car or inside a mobile home) as safe. I agree that counterintuitive behavior is among the most difficult things to explain or ask people to do. For example, during an earthquake, most people inside a building want to run outside; however, years of research have proven that it is safer to remain indoors and "drop, cover, and hold on." The same situation applies to those who think it is safer to remain inside their home or car when threatened by a tornado.

However, it has been well established that mobile homes are unsafe in tornadoes and other extreme windstorms. Also, violent tornadoes have turned automobiles into missiles and scrap metal, mercilessly wrapping their frame around the rest of the car and anyone left inside.

Research has shown that showing post-tornado damage images to the public does not encourage desired preparedness and safety actions. What does work is asking people to describe their alternatives and to discuss each situation on a case-by-case basis. I have done this frequently in my home state of Oklahoma, and in each case, we have been able, as a group, to identify a nearby sturdy building or underground shelter to go to in a tornado.

Finally, which tornado should we prepare for--the F0/F1 or the F4/F5? As a member of the hazards community, I would never recommend that someone go to their car for safety. Weather experts frequently remind me that the science of storm-scale meteorology does not allow precise warning regarding the intensity of a tornado. The NWS cannot tell anyone whether a tornado will be an F0, F3, or F5. We must assume, and prepare for, the worst-case scenario. Getting out of a mobile home and going to a sturdy nearby shelter remains the sole option.

Rocky Lopes, Community Disaster Education, American Red Cross National Headquarters

Making Communities Disaster Resistant

Evansville, Indiana, along with surrounding Vanderburgh County, is the first officially designated "Disaster-Resistant Community" in the United States. In July 1997, the Evansville City Council and the Vanderburgh Board of County Commissioners approved resolutions to implement a comprehensive disaster protection program, specified by the Institute for Building and Home Safety (IBHS) (formerly the Insurance Institute for Property Loss Reduction) and other representatives of the insurance industry, to showcase the benefits of risk reduction. The program supports the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Disaster Resistant Communities initiative, announced by Director James Lee Witt on December 26, 1996, to promote community responsibility for dealing with natural hazards.

The area in southern Indiana is endangered by earthquakes, flooding, and tornadoes. This agreement is the first between the insurance industry and a local government to reduce natural hazard losses. IBHS noted that natural hazard loss reduction, in order to be successful, must have the ongoing support of community leaders. This showcase initiative is intended to demonstrate to local leaders that such efforts can be successful.

Under the agreement, Evansville and Vanderburgh County will:

For further information on the Disaster Resistant Community Initiative, contact IBHS, 73 Tremont Place, Suite 510, Boston, MA 02108; (617) 722-0200; fax: (617) 722-0202; e-mail: info@ibhs.org; WWW: http://www.ibhs.org.

For more information on the FEMA effort, contact their Office of Public Affairs, 500 C Street, S.W., Washington, DC 20472; e-mail: eipa@fema.gov; WWW: http://www.fema.gov/home/NWZ97/focus97.htm.

On the Web at . . . . . . http://www.colorado.edu/hazards

The Latest Publications from the Hazards Center

Quick Response Reports

The Natural Hazards Center Web site now includes two dozen full-text Quick Response reports resulting from recent disaster research. The latest additions include:

The entire list of quick response reports is available at http://www.colorado.edu/qr/qr.html.

In addition, printed copies of these reports can be purchased for $5.00 each, plus shipping charges: $3.00 for the U.S., Canada, and Mexico; $4.00 for international surface mail; and $5.00 for international air printed matter. To order copies, contact the Publications Clerk, Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center, IBS #6, Campus Box 482, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309-0482, (303) 492-6819; fax: (303) 492-2151; e-mail: jclark@spot.colorado.edu.

1997 Hazards Workshop Session Summaries

In the previous Observer (Vol. XXII, No. 1, p. 6), we indicated that session summaries and other abstracts and materials from the 1997 Hazards Research and Applications Workshop were available for purchase from the Hazards Center. Well, hold onto your wallet; if you have access to the World Wide Web, the full texts of the summaries are now available free via the Session Summaries page on the Hazards Center Web site: http://www.colorado.edu/hazards/ss/ss.html.

More Internet Stuff

Below are some other useful Internet sites we've encountered recently. A comprehensive list of these resources is posted on the Hazard Center's Web site at http://www.colorado.edu/hazards/sites/sites.html.

On October 7, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) introduced a new World Wide Web site with games, stories, audios, fun facts, and other activities that deliver a serious message to children concerning disaster preparedness and mitigation. The "FEMA for Kid's" Web site is appropriate for most children grades three and above and can be used without adult assistance, although it is designed to support classroom-wide use. The site is interactive and children can submit jokes, feedback, poems, essays, and artwork to be posted. Users are also invited to become "Disaster Action Kids" by completing selected assignments, including games and quizzes. Successful applicants receive a certificate, signed by the FEMA director, proclaiming them a Disaster Action Kid, and the children become part of an "elite" e-mail group. The site includes a map that shows possible hazards for each state and which states have ongoing presidentially declared disasters (users can obtain the latest information about these disasters as well as audio and video clips); information about how to prepare for and recover from disasters; facts about hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, fires and floods--including what to do if caught in a disaster; and teachers' resources, along with a bibliography and list of other disaster-related Web sites.

The Regional Disaster Information Center (Centro Regional de Información Sobre Desastres--CRID) for Latin America and the Caribbean (see the Observer, Vol. XXI, No. 6. p. 14) is an information clearinghouse and training organization dedicated to improving disaster prevention and response in all countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. CRID offers bibliographic searches through the Internet, CD-ROM, or direct contact with the center; publication and distribution of bibliographic material in both Spanish and English; direct access via the Internet to an extensive collection of technical documents in full text; distribution of original publications and training materials (written and audiovisual) published by CRID members or other collaborating organizations; publication and distribution of instructional materials on bibliographic methods, bibliographic software use, and access to the Internet; mass distribution of public and technical information materials (bulletins, bibliographies, etc.); and technical advice and training on design and organization of disaster information units. For additional information, see the Web site above or contact the Centro Regional de Informacion Sobre Desastres, Apartado 3745-1000, San José, Costa Rica; fax: (506) 231-5973; e-mail: crid@netsalud.sa.cr.

This snazzy home page--a joint effort of the American Red Cross, the IBM corporation, and CNN--offers much background information about disasters, disaster relief, and disaster preparedness, as well as news about ongoing and recent events. Moreover, it provides a means for locating worldwide disaster relief organizations and either soliciting or offering aid for specific disasters. During emergencies, it can provide referrals for reaching friends and family at risk. As the organizers of this site state, "Our mission is to help disaster victims and the disaster relief community worldwide by facilitating the exchange of information on the Internet," and this includes services during actual events. The site also provides an on-line "Forum" for discussing relief issues and an extensive library of disaster facts, figures, and other information.

The new Relief and Rehabilitation Network (RRN) Web site is a neutral forum for the exchange of information among professionals from over 150 donor, government, U.N., Red Cross, nongovernmental, research, and media organizations in the field of humanitarian assistance. Participants represent more than 60 countries worldwide. The new site includes an on-line RRN Newsletter featuring articles and news on current developments in the field of humanitarian assistance, key policy issues, a regional focus section, and details of recent and forthcoming conferences, training courses, and publications. It also provides an up-to-date list of RRN publications and abstracts; "Red Pages" that offer a comprehensive directory of links to nongovernmental, U.N., and donor organizations, news, background information, and research resources relating to humanitarian assistance in both complex emergencies and natural disasters; a list of current members; and information on how to join the RRN or order RRN publications.

The National Coordinating Council on Emergency Management (NCCEM) has established its own Web site, which includes information about the council, its mission, and its Certified Emergency Manager program; details about NCCEM conferences; a "Topic of the Month" section; lists of NCCEM partners and experts; news regarding current issues in emergency management; and copious links to other emergency management-related sites.

The International Landslide Research Group (ILRG) is an informal group of individuals concerned about mass earth movement and interested in sharing information on landslide research. Alas, the group's newsletter, an oasis in the sometimes arid landscape of hazards newsletters, is being discontinued, and the Web site is now carrying the burden of maintaining communication among the group. The site currently provides all back issues of the newsletter, with information about landslide programs, new initiatives, meetings, and publications, the experiences of people engaged in landslide research, and "any other information about landslide research that `normal' journals will not accept."

The mission of the California Specialized Training Institute (CSTI)--the training arm of the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services--is to promote public safety and security in disaster management, criminal justice, and hazardous materials emergency response and mitigation. The institute offers courses at its campus near San Luis Obispo and elsewhere in California to enhance the knowledge and skills of middle- and upper-level management officials of city, county, state, and federal government agencies and private industry. A limited number of out-of-state applicants may also attend courses, some of which are available for college credit. The CSTI Web site provides complete information about the institute and its programs.

Initiated about one year ago, the Leadership Coalition for Global Business Protection is a group that includes representatives from major corporations, national and local governments, and the U.N (see the Observer, Vol. XXI, No. 6, p. 10). The coalition's aim is to encourage business and industry to work with government emergency management agencies in disaster preparedness, response, recovery, training, and mitigation. The group includes such diverse participants as the IBM Corporation, the New York City Mayor's Office of Emergency Management, and the United Nations International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction Secretariat. The coalition Web site offers background information about the group, descriptions of coalition initiatives and proposed activities, press releases, and a library.

This is the Web site for the UCLA Center for Public Health and Disaster Relief (see the Observer, Vol. XXII, No. 1, p. 14), a newly formed institution dedicated to developing a curriculum and providing education on the public health aspects of disasters.

CEPREDENAC--the Center for Prevention and Coordination of Disaster in Central America--is publishing a weekly, Spanish-language e-mail bulletin for the Central American disaster community. To subscribe, send an e-mail message to the address above asking to be added to the list.

The Western States Seismic Policy Council (WSSPC) maintains an e-mail discussion list (WSSPC-l) to support ongoing deliberations via the Internet regarding all things seismic. Recently, the council and the e-mail list have begun focusing on real policy issues. For example, an initial week-long discussion examined the advantages and disadvantages of the proposed policy statement: "WSSPC supports a national earthquake risk assessment and an allocation of resources based on this assessment." Persons interested in participating in these policy discussions can join the WSSPC-l discussion list by sending e-mail to majordomo@nisee.ce.berkeley.edu with the sole message "subscribe wsspc-l [your e-mail address]." For more information about the council and this discussion list, contact WSSPC, 121 Second Street, Fourth Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105; (415) 974-6435; fax: (415) 974-1747; e-mail: wsspc@wsspc.org; WWW: http://www.wsspc.org.

NSF Funds Internet Workshop for Earthquake Researchers

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has funded a "Virtual Workshop" designed to help researchers in the earthquake engineering community better understand and use the resources available via the Internet. Building on an actual physical workshop held in early August, this demonstration project will run through the spring of 1998 and will offer instructional materials and services specifically designed to foster collaborative research among earthquake engineering researchers. Among the items being developed are information about basic electronic dissemination, interactive Web-based applications, distributed databases, digital imaging, and ways and means of creating electronic research communities. General information about the project can be found on the World Wide Web: http://www.cmp.csuchico.edu/chico_1997/wshome.html.

Governors Create Drought Council

On June 12, the Western Drought Coordination Council (WDCC) met for the first time and adopted a work plan for 1997-98. The WDCC resulted from a memorandum of understanding signed by the Western Governors Association and a number of federal agencies with responsibility for drought management; it is committed to improving drought management in the western U.S. through mitigation and preparedness. For more information about the council and a copy of the work plan, see http://enso.unl.edu/wdcc/ on the World Wide Web, or contact the National Drought Information Center, 239 L.W. Chase Hall, University of Nebraska, P.O. Box 830749, Lincoln, NE 68583-0749; (402) 472-2731; e-mail: wdcc@enso.unl.edu.

Administration for the WDCC is housed at the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC), University of Nebraska-Lincoln; for more information about the NDMC, see http://enso.unl.edu/ndmc/, or contact the address above.

[Adapted from the June 1997 Drought Network News]

FEMA Offers El Niño Information and Mitigation Conferences

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recently issued a press release urging U.S. residents and other citizens of the Pacific/Indian Ocean rim to prepare for the effects of the strong El Niño event currently developing in the Pacific Ocean. This climate pattern, characterized by the emergence of warm, long-lived currents in the eastern Pacific, can mean heavier than normal precipitation and above normal temperatures for many areas of the Americas. In other parts of the world (Australia, southern Africa, for example) it can have other consequences, including reduced precipitation and even drought. To aid individual and community preparation for this meteorological event, FEMA has established an "El Niño Loss Reduction Center" Web site--http://www.fema.gov/nwz97/elnino.htm--that includes much information about mitigating El Niño hazards, as well illustrations of the phenomenon itself, news releases, and many links to other information on El Niño available through the World Wide Web.

In addition, FEMA is hosting several "El Niño Summits" for community and state officials concerned about possible impacts on their regions. (The first was held in Los Angeles on October 14.) For information about these events, see the Web site above or contact the FEMA Office of Emergency Information and Pulbic Affairs, 500 C Street, S.W., Washington, DC 20472; (202) 646-4600; fax: (202) 646-4086; e-mail: eipa@fema.gov.

Some Additional El Niño Web Sites

There are numerous locations on the World Wide Web where one can find El Niño information, but the sites below, as well as the FEMA site mentioned above, provide good places to begin browsing.

Via this site the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA's) Climate Prediction Center offers information about the current El Niño, with advisories and forecasts.

Another NOAA site--the "El Niño--Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Home Page," produced by the NOAA Office of Global Programs is described as "your one-stop source for the latest on El Niño and the Southern Oscillation." It addresses the questions: How large is this El Niño? What is the El Niño forecast? How will El Niño affect the U.S.? How will El Niño affect the world? What is El Niño and where can I learn more? What are we doing to learn more about ENSO?

Similarly, NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory El Niño Theme Page provides access to extensive distributed information related to the El Niño phenomenon. It covers current conditions and recent news releases, and includes sections addressing: What is El Niño? What are the impacts of El Niño? What are the current El Niño forecasts? What is the latest El Niño data? What are some frequently asked questions? and Where can I find more El Niño data and information? This site also provides numerous links to other El Niño information on the Web.

The California Resources Agency has created the California Environmental Resources Evaluation System (CERES) as a means both to disseminate original information and to link people to additional information sources on specific environmental resource topics. The CERES El Niño section includes numerous links to information on everything from the physical phenomenon of El Niño to its potential economic impacts.

Group Activities

Introducing IDEM

The mission of the Institute for Disaster and Emergency Medicine (IDEM) at the University of Massachusetts Medical School is to enhance emergency medical systems and develop emergency medicine residency programs worldwide while working within the cultural and economic bounds of the host country. As part of this mission, IDEM offers courses in various aspects of emergency and disaster medicine and facilitates the development of local and regional training programs. Since 1993, IDEM has worked in Russia, the Newly Independent States (NIS) of the former Soviet Union, and Israel. For additional information, contact Gregory Ciottone, M.D., Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical Center, 55 Lake Avenue North, Worcester, MA 01655; e-mail: greg.ciottone@banyan.ummed.edu.

Announcing the Earthquake Hazard Centre

The Earthquake Hazard Centre is a nonprofit program established to promote earthquake-resistant construction in developing countries by disseminating information via a newsletter and the Internet. The center is based at the School of Architecture, Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand.

The Earthquake Hazard Centre grew out of the International Workshop on Earthquake Hazard Mitigation for Non-Engineered Structures, held in Hyderabad, India, in June 1996. The people attending that meeting saw a significant need to establish a central clearinghouse to disseminate seismic research findings and serve as a forum for sharing earthquake design and construction expertise with and among developing countries. Although the new center is sponsored by the Commonwealth Science Foundation and its initial mailing list will include people primarily from Commonwealth countries, it intends to become fully international in both receiving and disseminating information.

The first issue of the Earthquake Hazard Centre Newsletter was published in July. To be added to the center mailing list or to obtain more information, contact the Earthquake Hazard Centre, School of Architecture, P.O. Box 600, Wellington, New Zealand; tel: 64-4-802 6200; fax: 64-4-802 6204; e-mail: quake@arch.vuw.ac.nz.

Presenting the Housing and Hazards Group

As with the Earthquake Hazard Centre, making homes safer for the world's most vulnerable people is the primary objective of the Housing and Hazards Group at the University of Exeter. The group's activities during the past year have included staging a three-day workshop in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which brought together donors, researchers, local government officials, and NGO representatives; and field studies in northern Bangladesh of different information dissemination techniques appropriate for populations for whom the written word is not always understood. The group's next project is to host a one-day seminar on "Disseminating Safe Building Practice," to be held in Exeter, U.K., on November 17, 1997. This seminar will include reports on the workshop and field study, as well as contributions by distinguished researchers in disaster and emergency housing. Practical aspects of dissemination and rural participation, as well as the role of housing improvement in the wider context of development, will be emphasized. For details, contact Robert Hodgson, Housing and Hazards Group, Earth Resources Centre, University of Exeter, North Park Road, Exeter EX4 4QE, U.K.; tel: +44-1392-263900; fax: +44-1392-263907; e-mail: R.L.P.Hodgson@exeter.ac.uk.

ASCE Offers Continuing Education

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) recently announced its schedule of fall/winter continuing education courses. Many of the courses, offered throughout the U.S., cover natural hazards encountered in engineering. For example, courses include: Municipal Storm Water Management, Wetlands and 404 Permitting, Urban Watershed Best Management Practices, Applications in Storm Water Management, Working with the National Flood Insurance Program, Slope Stability and Stabilization, Hydrology and Hydraulics, Seismic Design and Performance of Building Structures, Wind Loads for Buildings and Other Structures, and Flood Loads and Flood Proofing/Retrofitting Residential and Nonresidential Buildings. ASCE seminars are available on a group/in-company basis, and many are also available via self-study. For a complete schedule and information about registering, contact ASCE, 1015 15th Street, N.W., Suite 600, Washington, DC 20005-2605; (800) 548-2723 or (202) 789-2200; fax: (202) 289-6797; e-mail: conted@asce.org; WWW: http://www.asce.org.

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