The Year 2000 problem is unprecedented in its character and simultaneous world-wide impact. This technological pandemic has the potential to induce extensive disruptions in advanced cultures and affect you, your family, and your work. But this new hazard also promises to be a research bonanza for the hazards community, and the application of past research can help mitigate the problems and guide response.
The Year 2000 problem, or Y2K, is an apparently simple matter that may impact billions of systems all over the world, each of which must be individually examined and correctly repaired before January 1, 2000. Unfortunately, it is logistically impossible to fix every system in the time remaining. Further, many systems exchange data across organizational boundaries and disruptions in one system can cascade problems into previously repaired ones. Systems at risk range from mundane to exotic: VCRs, microwave ovens, telephone exchanges, grocery stores, railroads, hospitals, banks, oilwell platforms, and satellites.
The Y2K problem results from a shortcut used in many computers and microchips. Years ago, to conserve memory space, programmers developed the custom of using two numbers to record the year--for example, 72 would mean 1972. Computers and microchips that still use a two-digit year may, on January 1, 2000, recognize 00 not as 2000 but as 1900. This could cause them to either shut down or generate incorrect data, potentially impacting billions of systems worldwide.
This hazard is unparalleled, and no one knows for certain what will happen. We have dealt with floods, hazardous materials, disease, and warfare, but we have never faced anything like this pervasive bug that lurks in electronic tools throughout the world. The intensity of disruption is unknown. Some believe it will be a series of glitches and minor annoyances, while others predict worldwide disruptions to electricity, food, transportation, and financial networks.
Our collective, evolving understanding of Y2K parallels an individual organization's stages of awareness and response to this hazard. The major elements are:
Other major issues will likely surface as we gain more experience. For example, it will become increasingly apparent to domestic and foreign criminals that January 2000 is an opportune time to commit criminal or terrorist acts.
Past hazards research and experience can be applied to the Year 2000 problem. For example, knowledge about communicating hazards information to the public can be used to speed acceptance of Y2K risks. There should be multiple confirmations of the hazard from credible sources, and officials should strive toward a balance between providing enough information to induce adaptive response and too much, which could overwhelm or raise concern needlessly.
Based on both research and experience, business continuity and public emergency management institutions have been designed to address generalized threats as well as specific hazards. They provide an excellent framework to address Y2K, even though none have faced an event with global impact, when no resources outside their impact area will be able to assist.
The scope of the Year 2000 problem provides a tremendous opportunity for both hazards research institutions and researchers. Some of the areas of inquiry for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other civilian and military organizations, as well as individual hazards researchers, include:
Y2K presents an unprecedented opportunity for the hazards field. Research funding institutions should hasten to prioritize the most promising avenues relevant to their missions and solicit proposals to allow adequate lead time before Y2K impact. Researchers need to prepare themselves with background research on the problem and frame quality projects. This is one deadline that cannot be delayed.
Rich Huggins, Rich Huggins and Associates, Palo Alto, California
The federal government provides hundreds of links to federal agencies and sites by economic sector.
Y2K pioneer Peter de Jager emphasizes ingenuity in overcoming the inevitable disruptions.
Engineering giant Fluor Daniel is one of the leaders in broadening management involvement.
The Law Journal Extra! provides numerous references, discussions, and alerts regarding Y2K.
The General Accounting Office offers a model y2K continuity and contingency plan.
Ed Yardeni maintains a well-documented and constantly updated strategic analysis Y2K Web site.
The Cassandra Project provides information on household and neighborhood preparedness.
The Business Recovery Manager's Association site focuses on Y2K planning for business risk managers.
The Small Business Administration site is full of advice and checklists.
This site contains discussions on Y2K by chief information officers of large organizations.
Ed Yourdon, author of Time Bomb 2000, offers this Web site that provides links to his and other's forecasts.
This site provides information on the Y2K status of commercially available products.
For a less-than-serious look at the problem, view this site.
This site contains the testimony of FEMA's executive associate director of Response and Recovery, Lacy Suiter, before the Senate Special Committee on the Y2K Technology Problem.
The Disaster Center Year 2000 site is an ever-growing nexus of Web links, bulletin boards, forums, and pages of all kinds dealing with disasters.
Tsunamis are large ocean waves generated by both local and distant earthquakes. The U.S. Pacific coastline is at risk to both local and distant tsunamis, and many communities are unprepared to meet this risk. In an effort to lessen the potential for damage, destruction, and loss of life, the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program (NTHMP) was established to foster partnerships among the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA); the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS); and coastal communities in Alaska, northern California, southeastern Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington,.
The program addresses three main areas:
To assist Pacific states in developing maps of potential tsunami flooding, the Center for Tsunami Inundation Mapping Efforts (TIME) was established in Newport, Oregon, and is currently preparing inundation maps for Alaska and California.
In 1997, each participating state established a tsunami mitigation resource center, and meteorologists from each state attended a two-day workshop on understanding tsunami warning procedures. In addition, participants have inventoried state tsunami education materials, identified gaps, and formed working groups to address public education needs.
For more information on this program, contact the Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program, NOAA/Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL), Bin C-15700, 7600 Sand Point Way, N.E., Seattle, WA 98115-0070; (206) 526-6800; fax: (206) 526-6815; e-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org; WWW: http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/tsunami-hazard. For more information on the Center for Tsunami Inundation Mapping Efforts, contact NOAA/PMEL/OERD, 2115 S.E. OSU Drive, Newport, OR 97365-5258; (541) 867-0372; fax: (541) 867-3907; e-mail: email@example.com; http://newport.pmel.noaa.gov/time/home.html.
As we mentioned in the last Observer (Vol. XXIII, No. 1, p. 4), this summer the Natural Hazards Center hosted the 23rd Annual Hazards Research and Applications Workshop, and we have compiled summaries of the many discussions and presentations that took place there. Those summaries, abstracts of the hazards research presented, and descriptions of the projects and programs discussed at the meeting are available in hard copy for $20.00, plus $5.00 shipping, from the Publications Clerk, Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center, Campus Box 482, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309-0482; (303) 492-6818; fax: (303) 492-2151; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; WWW: http://www.colorado.edu/hazards. Checks should be payable to the University of Colorado; Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Diner's Club cards are also accepted. (Orders beyond North America require additional shipping charges; contact the Publications Clerk at the address above for details or consult the Hazards Center on-line publication order form: http://www.colorado.edu/hazards/puborder.html.)
But hold on there, Newton!
Those same session summaries (but not the research abstracts and project descriptions) are now available free on the Hazards Center Web site at http://www.colorado.edu/hazards/ss/ss.html. So, if you missed the workshop (or want to know what was going on in the Millennium Room while you were enthralled by the discussion of Typhoon Paka in the Sunshine Room) take a look.
The latest on-line working paper from the Natural Hazards Center examines how the network of response agencies and organizations functioned following the February 4, 1998, Afghanistan earthquake. In Network Without Center? A Case Study of an Organizational Network Responding to an Earthquake, author Aldo A. Benini uses data from that event, as well as insights from theories of disaster management and organizational networks, to examine the efficacy and deficiencies of networks in disaster management. The case study suggests that in networks without a strong center the initial response may be hampered, but organizational learning for later phases may be promoted.
Working Paper #100 is available free from the Hazards Center Web site at http://www.colorado.edu/hazards/wp/wp100/wp100.html. Persons without access to the World Wide Web can ob tain printed copies for $9.00, plus $3.00 domestic shipping and handling. To order a copy, or to determine overseas costs, contact the Publications Clerk or consult the Hazards Center on-line publication order form at the addresses above.
The "Internet Resources" section of the Hazards Center Web site--http://www.colorado.edu/hazards/sites/sites.html--has been completely revised and updated. This annotated list of Internet assets that we've found particularly useful now includes sections on: All Hazards; Earthquakes and Tsunamis; Landslides; Volcanoes; Climate Change, Drought, and El Niño; Hurricanes and Coastal Hazards; Tornadoes, Thunderstorms, High Wind, Lightning, and Other Severe Weather; Floods; Wildfire; Snow Avalanche; Satellites, Remote Sensing, and GIS; Disaster Mental Health and Emergency Medicine; and, E-Mail Lists/Newsletters/Discussion Groups.
For an extensive, annotated list of useful hazard Internet sites, see:
This site--"The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Online"--is the principle source of information on the activities of this United Nations agency with regard to disasters and complex emergencies. It includes information about the office; its latest emergency reports; emergency information by country/region; sections on coordination, emergency response, and disaster reduction; a list of OCHA publications; news about and from IRIN--OCHA's Integrated Regional Information Networks; and information on training, conferences, and workshops.
For several years, David L. Bilbo of Texas A&M University has worked to ensure that disaster mitigation, preparedness, and response are integrally included in the information that agricultural extension agents provide to their clients, and he has developed this Texas Agricultural Extension Service Emergency Information Web site to support that goal. It includes the complete text of the guide Extension Agent's Handbook for Emergency Preparation and Response, as well as separate sections on tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, and winter weather--each of which provides extensive background information and safety guidelines.
The Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) hosts an Emergency Management and Preparedness Program (EMPP), which conducts applied research and assists in the development of emergency planning capabilities for a variety of agencies and organizations. For example, the EMPP has developed the training plan for the Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program, as well as other courses, job aids, computer-based training, and training videos (including several for the Federal Emergency Management Agency). It has also helped create emergency exercise plans and assessment tools as well as computer systems to support emergency management. Finally, the program has extensive experience in preparing public education materials for emergency management. The EMPP Web site provides an introduction to the program and describes previous and ongoing research, capabilities and expertise, products, publications, and training resources. Additional information is available from John Sorensen, Emergency Management and Preparedness Program, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN 37831-6206; (423) 576-2716; fax: (423) 574-5938; e-mail: email@example.com.
Not surprisingly, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Web site is one of the best sources on the World Wide Web for information about how home and business owners can protect their property from natural hazards. The FEMA mitigation section, at the URL above, not only covers various programs available to reduce losses, but also includes numerous on-line publications that individuals can peruse and/or download.
Two of the latest additions are, Homeowner's Guide to Retrofitting: Six Ways of Protecting Your Home from Flood Damage, and Taking Shelter from the Storm: Building a Safe Room Inside Your Home. The first publication was written with special attention to the needs of actual flood victims; it will be the primary resource distributed by FEMA following floods. It covers the National Flood Insurance Program substantial damage requirements, preliminary cost estimates, retrofitting in areas subject to multihazards, and obtaining technical and financial assistance. The second booklet, developed with the Wind Engineering Research Center at Texas Tech University, provides information on how to assess risks due to extreme winds and includes detailed plans and specifications for constructing in-residence shelters. These publications, FEMA #312 and #320 respectively, can also be ordered free from the FEMA Publications Distribution Facility, P.O. Box 2012, Jessup, MD 20794-2012; (800) 480-2520.
Think you're pretty knowledgeable about natural hazards? Test drive this natural hazards quiz from the National Geophysical Data Center and see if you really do know the difference between a tsunami and a seiche . . .
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Web site not only provides information about the society but also includes an "Issues" section that provides several papers and presentations on human advocacy, a Code of Conduct for nongovernmental organizations involved in disaster relief, presentations from the Humanitarian Agencies Forum (a monthly meeting hosted by the IFRC), and information about the Sphere Project--an effort to develop standards in humanitarian assistance.
This new Web page on "Disaster Mitigation in Hospitals" was created by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Emergency Preparedness Program in South America. It contains a wide variety of information on hospital disaster mitigation, including guidelines, training materials, and a selected bibliography, as well as publications available through PAHO. The developers welcome suggestions for expanding or improving this site.
At the recent 1998 Pan American Sanitary Conference hosted by PAHO (see the previous Web site), participants considered a report summarizing existing knowledge regarding the effects of El Niño on health and outlining the need to develop a scientific agenda to examine the impacts of extreme events such as El Niño on human health and health infrastructure and services. Interested persons can download a copy of the report from the URL above; it is a PDF file and requires an Adobe Acrobat reader to view. The text in MS-Word format can be requested by e-mail from firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Caribbean Red Cross Society has launched this new Web site to inform the Caribbean community and interested persons outside the area of the aims, programs, and ongoing work of the Red Cross in that region. The site also provides practical information for families on preventing, preparing for, and coping with emergencies, as well as the latest disaster news of the region and ongoing advisories about emerging situations.
The U.K. Emergency Planning Society is "the U.K.'s foremost professional body for all those with an involvement with any form of crisis, emergency or disaster planning and management." Its approximately 850 members are drawn from many fields, including local government, industry, utilities, education, emergency services, volunteer organizations, the legal profession, and private consultants. The society produces independent advice and guidance for its members and others through a series of subgroups whose areas of interest include business continuity, oil pollution, evacuation and welfare, Year 2000 issues, nuclear and other hazardous sites, and civil protection in Europe. Information about each of these concerns is now available from the society's Web site.
The U.K. Home Office, Emergency Planning Division (roughly, the U.K. version of FEMA), now offers this Web site with information about emergency planning in England and Wales and about the U.K. contribution to civil protection in Europe and throughout the globe. The division's responsibilities involve planning for peacetime emergencies and civil defense, and the site includes sections on publications, organizational structure, and available bulletin boards.
The Wildfire Magazine Web site includes individual articles and a complete downloadable issue of the magazine, as well as the Wildfire On-Line Bookstore with nearly 900 books, videos, and software on wildland fire.
This Web report, entitled Updating Flood Inundation Maps Efficiently (USGS Open-File Report 98-200), details a new geographical information system (GIS)-based mapping method, developed by the U.S. Geological Survey, that can be used to produce updated flood inundation maps with greater detail at a much lower cost than traditional hand-drawn flood maps.
The inundation wrought by Hurricane Georges is but another example of the severe flooding that has affected many parts of the country in recent years. In response to this problem, the federal government has been working to improve its approach to floodplain management--both to reduce the loss of life and property caused by floods and to restore the natural resources and functions of floodplains. These changes have involved, in part, a shift in focus from structural controls of the natural environment (dams, levees, altered channels, etc.) toward nonstructural alternatives that modify susceptibility to flooding (restricted use of floodplains, for example). To support this effort, the Executive Office of the President has issued a federal interagency document, Federal Programs Offering Non-Structural Flood Recovery and Floodplain Management Alternatives. The booklet lists programs in three categories: 1) acquisition, relocation, elevation, and floodproofing; 2) rural land easements and acquisition; and 3) restoration of wetlands. It discusses these three strategies and then provides comprehensive summaries of the relevant programs along with useful indices. The publication is available from both the White House and FEMA at the URLs above.
In a year when El Niño has spawned violent weather around the globe, and when many scientists anticipate continuing weather extremes, the national Sea Grant network has created HazNet, a Web site devoted to coastal hazards awareness and mitigation. The HazNet site gathers information and resources from Sea Grant programs, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, and other public- and private-sector sources to help people meet the challenges presented by such natural hazards as riverine flooding, storm surge, coastal erosion, seismic events, and hurricanes. The site includes consumer fact sheets; an example of a community hazard mitigation plan from Rhode Island; a report on changes in building codes and practices in south Florida since Hurricane Andrew; a bibliography of Sea Grant coastal hazards research; and an on-line hazards bulletin board and discussion group.
Lowe's Home Improvement Stores, in cooperation with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, maintains this site with information about storms of the current hurricane season and other severe weather. It includes the latest weather reports, satellite and radar information, warnings, marine reports, preparedness information, background information about hurricanes and El Niño, an on-line bookstore, a chat room, and other resources. From this site, one can also sign up for an e-mail list that sends out updated information about developing and existing storms.
Similarly, CNN hosts this Web site and another e-mail service with breaking news about extreme weather events (email@example.com). To subscribe, see http://cnn.com/EMAIL.
This "Frequently Asked Questions" (FAQs) page, assembled and maintained by Chris Landsea of NOAA's Hurricane Research Division, has been cited by a knowledgeable source as "Without a doubt, the best resource for general questions on hurricanes."
If it's not one thing, it's another. . . . With the waning of El Niño comes the onset of La Niña--the cooling of eastern Pacific waters off the coast of South America--and with it, global meteorological consequences of many kinds. In July, the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado, held an international seminar to examine the many dimensions of the La Niña phenomena; information from that meeting is provided at the first URL above.
In addition, the Environmental and Societal Impacts group at NCAR has launched a La Niña Web page at the second address. This is, by no means, the only La Niña site, but one of its advantages is that it consolidates and serves as an entry point to many others.
The mission of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center is to maintain a continuous watch on short-term climate fluctuations and to diagnose and predict them. These efforts are designed to assist agencies both inside and outside the federal government in coping with such climate-related problems as food supply, energy allocation, and water resources.
The center's Web site, at the URL above, includes much information and many products in support of this mission, including an "Experimental U.S. Threats Assessment" page at the second URL. That information "is intended to provide emergency managers, planners, forecasters and the public advance notice of potential threats related to climate, weather and hydrologic events. It integrates existing NWS [National Weather Service] official medium- (3-5) day, extended- (6-10 day) and long- (monthly and seasonal) range forecasts, and hydrologic analyses and forecasts, which use state-of-the-art science and technology in their formulation." Please note, however, that this product is experimental and not yet fully operational.
It is now 25 years since the major droughts of the 1970s struck the Sahel region of West Africa. Their impacts were not uniform, for the region has a great diversity of soils, climates, livelihood systems, and ethnic groups. For many, these droughts are an especially grim historical marker, given their disturbing effects on food supply and human welfare in this region so dependent on rainfall. They also marked the beginning of profound post-colonial economic and political reforms, as well as widespread international development assistance to the Sahelian nations. This site contains a summary of the presentations, discussion, and findings of a conference held by the Royal Geographical Society in London, May 13-14, 1998, entitled "The African Sahel: 25 Years After the Great Drought--Assessing Progress, Setting a New Agenda." The proceedings offer realistic assessments of the challenges facing Sahelian peoples in the 21st century.
This site contains a statement on "The Threat of Impact by Near-Earth Asteroids" by astronomer Clark Chapman of the Southwest Research Institute to the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics of the Committee on Science of the U.S. House of Representatives at its hearings on "Asteroids: Perils and Opportunities" held May 21, 1998. The statement contains much information about the asteroid hazard, as well as some fascinating statistics concerning the relative severity of various risks--from automobiles to tornadoes to botulism to asteroids.
PRIMAtalk - firstname.lastname@example.org
The Public Risk Management Association (PRIMA) has initiated an unmoderated e-mail discussion list to promote discussion of risk management in the public sector. To subscribe, send an e-mail message to email@example.com, and in the body of the message type, "subscribe prima-talk." The server will send a confirmation of your subscription and information about list usage.
ListDPRA - Discussion/News of Disaster Prevention/Recovery
"ListDPRA" has been established by the Disaster Prevention and Recovery Alliance for the discussion of business interruption and disaster prevention, planning, and recovery generally. Interested persons are welcome to start a conversational thread, respond to a previous post, or ask a specific question on any subject concerning human-caused or natural disasters, protection of business assets, management and employee training, hazards safety, or similar subjects that might be of interest to other group members. This list is for the sharing of information and the announcement of new products and services of DPRA and its members. To subscribe to ListDPRA, send a blank e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information see: http://www.DPRA.net/index.htm.