VOLUME XXII  NUMBER 1, September 1997

Table of Contents

Designing Disasters: Determining Our Future Vulnerability

Hazards Center Library Now On-Line

A Flood of Stuff on Floods and Other Things

The Natural Hazards Center's Quick Response Program

The 1997 Annual Hazards Research and Applications Workshop

Late-Breaking Information Sources

Washington Update

On The Line

Meeting the Promise of Flood Forecasting

UND Researchers to Aid Community and Examine Effects of Red River Floods

The Decade Page

IDNDR Plans New Internet Conference for 1997 World Disaster Reduction Campaign

Insurance Industry to Work with UNEP on Environmental Disaster Issues

International Hurricane Center Offers Certificate Program and Courses in Hazards Management

Presenting PPP 2000

SNDR Publishes National Plan for Disaster Reduction

Some Communications Initiatives

Introducing the UCLA Center for Public Health and Disaster Relief

Introducing the Greig Fester Centre for Hazard Research

Green Cross UK Takes on Environmental Disasters

The Internet Pages

Contracts and Grants

The Centre for Risk and Disaster Management Studies: Institute for Cindynics

Conferences and Training

Cal-Berkeley Announces Fall E.M. Courses

Upcoming Workshops at ADPC

Recent Publications

Who We Are

Designing Disasters: Determining Our Future

--an invited comment

A New Paradigm

The Second U.S. Assessment of Research and Applications for Natural Hazards, a multi-disciplinary effort to evaluate and summarize knowledge about natural and technological hazards and disasters from the perspectives of physical, natural, social, behavioral, and engineering sciences, is nearing completion. It is being conducted by staff of the Natural Hazards Center and scores of volunteer hazards researchers and managers. Since 1994, over 100 nationally and internationally recognized experts have worked and debated together to evaluate our nation's relationship to past, present, and future hazards.

It is clear to most involved in this effort that natural and related technological disasters are not problems that can be solved in isolation, but symptoms of more basic problems created culturally and based on the ways we view the natural world. We have concluded that it is time for a change in the prevailing thinking about how to cope with these hazards.

How we prepare for disasters today will greatly affect the sustainability of our cities in the future. With every passing year, we are laying the groundwork for increasingly catastrophic natural and technological disasters. We need a new paradigm of hazard reduction--sustainable hazard mitigation--that embraces the notion of adjusting to the environment, incorporates a global systems perspective, embodies the concept of sustainability, and derives its moral authority from local consensus. In short, the new paradigm must go beyond simply reducing losses to building sustainable local communities throughout the U.S.

Under this new paradigm, actions to reduce losses would only be taken when they are consistent with five principles of sustainability: environmental quality, quality of life, disaster resiliency, economic vitality, and inter- and intra-generational equity. This paradigm cuts across all areas of research and hazard reduction.

Sustainable Hazard Reduction

To accomplish these goals, we recommend new approaches in several areas:

Looking Toward the Future

Finally, we ask the nation to acknowledge that we will never be totally safe from disasters. We ask that those who are charged with making national and local decisions acknowledge that they are designing the disasters that future generations will experience. And we seek to begin a nationwide conversation that will lead to actions that link hazard mitigation and disaster response to the broader goals of sustainability.

Dennis Mileti, Second U.S. Assessment of Research and Applications for Natural Hazards

Designing Future Disasters will be available in the near future and will be announced in an upcoming issue of the Natural Hazards Observer.

Hazards Center Library Now On-Line

Since the Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center was established over 20 years ago, the backbone of its information service has been its library, which has grown to become one of the most extensive collections of documents on human adaptation to natural hazards in the world. In the past, persons wanting to consult that repository of disaster knowledge had to contact the center's librarian and request a search of the library catalog.

Now, anyone can conduct such searches via the Internet.

Christened "HazLit," the library Internet database, including many fully annotated entries, is available through the World Wide Web at:


At that Web location, users will find an overall description of library services, a brief summary of how to search HazLit (recommended reading for first-time visitors), a list of suggested keywords to use when searching the database, and, most importantly, the search mechanism that allows the user to query HazLit based on concepts or keywords.

HazLit is intended to make the Hazards Center library readily accessible to the world beyond Boulder, Colorado. At the same time, the Hazards Center staff recognize that computer technology cannot yet replace the knowledge or skill of the people who have managed the center library for years. Hence, for a fee, we still offer customized extensive searches of the library by a human being, and information about that service is available from the Web address above.

The Natural Hazards Center hopes this new service will help both the hazards research and practitioner communities in their work. We welcome comments regarding HazLit and the Internet access we are providing. Comments should be directed to Mary Fran Myers, Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center, IBS #6, Campus Box 482, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309-0482, (303) 492-2150; fax: (303) 492-2151; e-mail: myersmf@colorado.edu.

A Flood of Stuff on Floods and Other Things

Our Newest Monograph

How They Dealt With Floods in Georgia

On July 3, 1994, Tropical Storm Alberto struck the Florida panhandle and proceeded northeast before stalling just south of Atlanta, Georgia. As the storm lingered and then slowly retraced its steps to the southwest over the next six days, it dumped more than 20 inches of rain over large parts of the Flint River Basin in southwest Georgia, flooding the cities of Montezuma, Albany, Newton, and Bainbridge, and inflicting over $1 billion in damage. This devastation notwithstanding, the flood provided an opportunity to identify and document the successes and failures of state and local floodplain management programs and activities.

An Assessment of Floodplain Management in Georgia's Flint River Basin, by Elliott Mittler (Monograph #59, 1997, 190 pp.), documents such a study. Mittler assessed the impact of federal, state, and local floodplain management activities on losses in the Flint River Basin, paying special attention to the impact of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and local floodplain management efforts. In this monograph, he looks at previous studies; evaluates the political situation affecting flood recovery in each community; examines federal, state, and local responses to the disaster, concentrating on recovery plans and the use of hazard mitigation programs to reduce future flood losses; analyzes the effectiveness of the NFIP; and offers a series of findings and recommendations based on the relatively successful recovery programs he found.

In his foreword to this book, flood expert Gilbert White says, "This is the first thorough effort to assess in one area the effects of current local, state, and federal policies on the use of floodplains in the United States. Although focused on one river basin, it illustrates the problems that should be addressed for the nation as a whole . . . It thoughtfully raises a series of questions to which sound answers must be found if wise use is to be achieved in the long run. . . . If the nation is to be well served in managing floodplains, this should be seen as a basic step toward genuine assessment."

An Assessment of Floodplain Management in Georgia's Flint River Basin costs $20.00, plus shipping charges (consult the chart on the facing page). It can be ordered from 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.

Our Newest Special Publication

Have We Learned Anything Since the Big Thompson Flood?

On July 31, 1976, the Big Thompson Canyon, northwest of Denver, Colorado, was ravaged by a flash flood, causing the worst natural disaster in Colorado history. At least 139 people died, 88 were injured, and seven people were never found. The flood destroyed 316 homes, 45 mobile homes, and 52 businesses, and damaged numerous other structures.

More than 20 years after the flood, vulnerability to this type of disaster remains--flash flood deaths have not declined, and the public continues to underestimate the power of flowing water. Moreover, debris flows, mudslides, and alluvial fan flooding in canyon areas in the Western United States are causing greater damage as more people move to the West. And, experts still have not devised an effective way to get motorists to abandon their cars and climb uphill to safety during flash floods in steep mountain canyons.

The Natural Hazards Center's newest Special Publication, Twenty Years Later: What We Have Learned Since the Big Thompson Flood, edited by Eve Gruntfest (SP #33, 1997, 230 pp., $20.00), contains papers from a meeting held in Colorado on the anniversary of the flood to examine subsequent advances in our knowledge about and ability to prevent such disasters. The volume includes sections on federal perspectives, dam safety, human dimensions of disaster, meteorological capabilities and climatological issues, warning systems, international experiences, and paleo-hydrological methods.

Copies can be purchased from the Publications Clerk at the address above.

Our Newest Working Paper

The Taking Issue and Hazardous Areas

Geographically specific natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes inflict tens of billions of dollars in public and private costs upon the United States annually, and the level of damage in particular disasters is often related to the location and design of structures in areas of known risk. Governmental regulations such as floodplain zoning and coastal setbacks may be imposed under police powers to restrain unsafe building practices. State courts have generally upheld such measures against takings challenges, that is, claims based on the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibits government from taking private property without compensation. However, one of the more perplexing recent legal developments--at least for hazards managers--has been the apparent tendency of courts to restrict the ability of governments to regulate development in hazardous areas.

The Hazards Center's latest working paper, The Taking Issue and the Regulation of Hazardous Areas, by Rutherford H. Platt and Alexandra D. Dawson, examines these issues in depth. The authors note that since 1992 an invigorated property rights movement has achieved two favorable decisions in the U.S. Supreme Court: Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council and Dolan v. City of Tigard, each involving hazard area regulations. However, they maintain that, while these decisions imposed a higher burden of justification upon public regulators, they did not undermine the longstanding presumption that government may enact reasonable limits on private land to mitigate natural disaster risks without compensation to the owner.

The Taking Issue and the Regulation of Hazardous Areas, Natural Hazards Working Paper #95, is available free on the World Wide Web:


Individuals without access to the World Wide Web, can order a printed copy of the working paper for $9.00, plus shipping and handling. To determine total cost, contact the Publications Clerk at the address above.

Shipping Charges
Domestic Canada and Mexico International
Number of Pages Printed Matter First Class Surface Printed Matter Air
Printed Matter
Surface Printed Matter Air
0 - 35 $3.00 $3.00 $3.00 $3.00 $4.00 $5.00
36 - 80 $3.50 $4.00 $3.50 $4.50 $5.00 $6.00
81 - 450 $4.00 $5.00 $5.00 $6.00 $6.00 Call for price

The Natural Hazards Center's Quick Response Program

The Natural Hazards Center is soliciting proposals for its 1998 Quick Response (QR) program, which enables social scientists to collect perishable data immediately after a disaster. If you would like to study a disaster before the last of the debris is swept up, submit a brief proposal describing the research question you would like to pursue in anticipation of an event. If your proposal is approved, you will then be eligible to receive funding to carry out your investigation, should an appropriate disaster occur in the next 12 months. Grants average between $1,000 and $3,000 and essentially cover travel only. In return, grantees must submit reports of their findings, which are published by the Natural Hazards Center both electronically and in hard copy.

Researchers who wish to submit proposals for Quick Response Research Grants should request a QR solicitation letter from Mary Fran Myers, Co-Director, Natural Hazards Center, Campus Box 482, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309-0482; (303) 492-2150; fax: (303) 492-2151; e-mail: myersmf@colorado.edu. The deadline for proposal submission is October 15, 1997.

In the meantime, to obtain a list of Quick Response reports and other Natural Hazards Center publications, send $3.00 to the Publications Clerk at the address on the previous page. This list, as well as full text copies of recent QR reports, are available at no charge from the center's home page on the World Wide Web: http://www.colorado.edu/hazards.

The 1997 Annual Hazards Research and Applications Workshop

In July, hazards professionals from around the world gathered in Denver, Colorado, for the 22nd Annual Hazards Research and Applications Workshop. There was plenty of debate and discussion during the four days of the workshop, as federal, state, and local government officials, nonprofit organization and private industry representatives, and others who work to alleviate the suffering and loss caused by natural disasters talked, listened, and learned from one another.

To ensure that the ideas and information generated at the workshop are not limited to the participants only, the Natural Hazards Center publishes brief summaries of each session, abstracts of the hazards research presented, and descriptions of the programs and projects discussed at the meeting. A set of all workshop materials, including the agenda and participant list, costs $20.00, plus $5.00 shipping. (For orders beyond North America, contact the Publications Clerk at the address below for shipping charges.) Currently, the list of all session summary and abstract titles is available on our Web site: http://www.colorado.edu/hazards/ss/ss.html. In November, the complete text of all session summaries will also be available on our Web page, although the abstracts of hazards research, programs, and projects will not.

To order these materials, send your payment (checks should be payable to the University of Colorado) to the Publications Clerk, Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center, Campus Box 482, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309-0482; (303) 492-6819; fax: (303) 492-2151; e-mail: jclark@spot.colorado.edu. Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Diner's Club cards are also accepted.

Late-Breaking Information Sources

In June 1997, the Natural Hazards Observer published a special issue that contained a list of information sources on hazards and disasters. Below are recent corrections and additions to that list. To obtain a printed copy of the original Information Sources edition of the Observer, send $2.00, plus $3.00 for shipping, to the Publications Clerk, Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center, Campus Box 482, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309-0482; (303) 492-6819; fax: (303) 492-2151; e-mail: jclark@spot.colorado.edu. Readers can also access the list electronically via our World Wide Web site: http://www.colorado.edu/hazards.


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 7600 Sand Point Way N.E., Seattle, WA 98115-0070. Eddie N. Bernard, Director; (206) 526-6800; fax: (206) 526-6815; WWW: http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/tsunami and http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/tsunami-hazard.

University of Surrey, Guildford GU2 5XH, U.K. Tom Horlick-Jones; tel: +44 1483 25 9074; fax: +44 1483 25 9394; e-mail: T.Horlick-Jones@Surrey.ac.uk.

Department of Geological Sciences, University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, U.K. Bill McGuire, Director; tel: +44 (171) 419 3449; fax: +44 (171) 388-7614; e-mail: ucfbkwg@ucl.ac.uk.

School of Public Health, P.O. Box 951772, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1772. Steven J. Rottman, Director; Loc H. Nguyen, Program Coordinator; (310) 794-6646; fax: (310) 794-1805; e-mail: locn@ucla.edu.

Updated Information

Apartado 3745-1000, San José, Costa Rica. Tel: (506) 296-3952; fax: (506) 231-5973; e-mail: crid@netsalud.sa.cr; WWW: http://ns.netsalud.sa.cr/crid.

323 Boston Post Road, Suite 2D, Sudbury, MA 01775. Norman R. Tilford, Executive Director; (508) 443-4639; fax: (508) 443-2948; e-mail: aeghq@aol.com.

No Longer in Operation

London School of Economics and Political Science

Washington Update

FEMA's Exemplary Practices II: The Sequel

Taking a cue from Hollywood, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has recently published its followup collection of outstanding emergency management practices. In its recently released Volume II of Partnerships in Preparedness: A Compendium of Exemplary Practices in Emergency Management (1997, 74 pp., free), FEMA describes nine superior emergency management practices and 29 commendable practices.

The nine superior programs include the Los Angeles City Fire Explorer Program, the California Standardized Emergency Management System, a volunteer wildfire mitigation effort called Neighbors for Defensible Space, an Emergency Responders Appreciation Day, a Chronology of Historic Disasters in Tennessee, the Special Needs Awareness Program (SNAP), the National Coordinating Council on Emergency Management's program to certify professional emergency managers, a police-fire incident management course, and a high school earthquake preparedness program.

Commendable practices cover a broad range of emergency management efforts, including business emergency preparedness, earthquake preparedness and debris collection, information dissemination, small city disaster preparedness, interagency agreements, floodplain management, animal management in disasters, and citizen involvement in preparedness and mitigation.

The compendium is indexed according to program title, subject, location, and contact information. Copies can be obtained from the FEMA Publications Distribution Center, 8231 Stayton Drive, Jessup, MD 20794; (800) 480-2520 or (202) 646-3484; fax: (301) 497-6378; or via the World Wide Web: http://www.fema.gov/old97/publicat.html.

FEMA and NEMA Develop CAR

Recognizing the need for cooperation across jurisdictional boundaries in many disaster situations, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) recently announced a joint effort to develop a system for emergency managers and FEMA regional offices to assess their level of preparedness for responding to emergencies.

The Capability Assessment for Readiness (CAR) evaluates the ability of federal and state emergency management agencies to respond to disasters--particularly in partnership with one another. CAR focuses on 13 core elements that can enhance or inhibit major emergency management functions: laws and authorities; hazard identification and risk assessment; hazard management; resource management; planning; direction, control, and coordination; communications and warnings; operations and procedures; logistics and facilities; training; exercises; public education and information; and finance and administration. Using CAR, each state and territory will conduct a comprehensive self assessment and use the results to improve state and FEMA joint strategic planning.

For further information on this effort, contact the Preparedness, Training, and Exercises Directorate, FEMA, 500 C Street, S.W., Washington, DC 20472; (202) 646-3487; fax: (202) 646-4557; e-mail: eipa@fema.gov; WWW: http://www.fema.gov/pte/car.htm.

To obtain a free copy of the recent publication User's Guide for the Capability Assessment for Readiness (CAR) (1997, 31 pp.), contact FEMA, Preparedness, Training, and Exercises Directorate, State and Local Preparedness Division, attn: CAR Team, 500 C Street, S.W., Washington, DC 20472; (202) 646-3080; e-mail: car.team@fema.gov.

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