September 1998

Table of Contents

The Flood Aid Fair in Poland: A Method to Promote Information Exchange

The Natural Hazards Center's Quick Response Program

A Letter to the Editor: Map of Disaster Declarations Needs Further Examination

1998 Session Summaries Now Available

A Gem of a Meeting

Cooperating with Nature and Paying the Price

On The Line

On International Cooperation in Disaster Telecommunications

Wold Disaster Reduction Day: October 14, 1998

Contracts and Grants

PERI Announces Grant and Research Program

WSTB Creates Committee to Evaluate Corps Risk-Based Analysis

National Geographic Looks at Natural Hazards

Washington Update

From Us to You Via the World Wide Web

The Internet Page(s)

Project Impact Update

Conferences and Training

OAS Hosting Virtual Conference on Disaster Reduction in the Education Sector

Recent Publications

Who We Are

The Flood Aid Fair in Poland: A Method to Promote Information Exchange

--an invited comment


The flood that affected Poland in July 1997 was called the Flood of the Millennium. The scale of this natural disaster was enormous and unusual for this part of the world--about 10% of the total land area in Poland was flooded. The waters inundated about 46,000 houses--equal to the number of housing units built during the entire year of 1997 in Poland. The flood also caused extensive infrastructure damage: 3,100 kilometers of road were affected; 180,000 telephone connections were damaged; 245 bridges were destroyed; and 56 water treatment plants were rendered inoperable. While the extent of financial loss caused by the flood was difficult to determine, a government estimate issued in March 1998 placed losses at about$2.4 billion. The flood (which also affected the Czech Republic and Eastern Germany) was the single most costly disaster in 1997 worldwide.

The initial response to the flood was, of course, humanitarian. Polish counties and municipalities not affected by the flood donated immediate financial assistance or gifts in-kind to the victims. In addition, nongovernment organizations (NGOs), such as the Catholic church, mounted a massive campaign to collect and distribute funds and gifts to flood-affected areas. After the initial response, foreign governments and multinational donors also gave goods, equipment, and financial assistance to the victims.

Flood-related reconstruction in Poland proceeded at a slow pace. Though there had been assistance directed at the flood-affected region of Poland, the need for flood reconstruction persisted eight months after the disa ster. Financial resources for reconstruction were scarce. To make matters worse, due to poor communication systems and organization, victims of the flood did not have access to information regarding sources of aid supplied by donors, the government, or commercial firms. This resulted in the inefficient and inequitable distribution of aid.

The World According to GARP

To help municipal staff and their communities (known in Poland as gminas) address postflood problems, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), working with municipal staffs, NGOs, national municipal associations, contractors, and other organizations, developed the Gmina Assistance and Reconstruction Program (GARP). GARP had three major components: 1) technical assistance, 2) finance, and 3) information facilitation.

The information facilitation component of GARP adopt-ed a comprehensive approach to promote communication exchange. The major goal was to foster interaction between those that had something to offer toward flood reconstruction and the victims of the flood (municipalities, small-to-medium size enterprises, and homeowners). The methods were diverse, including seminars and a model flood aid information system, but the most unique approach under this component was the Flood Aid Fair.

The Flood Aid Fair

The Flood Aid Fair was modeled after commercial trade fairs, but with an orientation toward reconstruction needs in the flood-affected area. As mentioned above, the goal of the fair was to create an event where an intensive exchange of information could take place between donors (bi- and multilateral, humanitarian, financial, and commercial) and the victims of the flood. Foremost, the fair was designed to promote the market response to demand for goods and services created by the flood.

The Flood Aid Fair was organized in collaboration with the municipality of Raciborz--one of the hardest hit municipalities. GARP also solicited the assistance of five Polish NGOs for organizing the event. In addition, the government of Poland, through its Ministry of Flood, lent its patronage to the fair. Thus, the Flood Aid Fair was organized at relatively little expense compared to standard trade fairs.

The fair addressed different dimensions of outstanding flood-related needs. It included a Flood Aid Needs Board, to which victims could contribute ideas, a series of seminars on flood reconstruction techniques, and a survey administered to both exhibitors and participants. In total, there were 146 exhibitors--a group assembled to meet the diverse needs of the victims of the flood. Exhibitors at the fair, held in a converted school building provided by the municipality of Raciborz, were organized according to the following groups: flood aid organizations, government institutions, municipal associations, consulting firms, building materials firms, new technology firms, financial institutions, and others. Many exhibitors had never before participated in a fair and were new to this type of information exchange.


While the fair lasted only eight hours, much information was exchanged between fair exhibitors and participants. More than 4,000 individuals representing NGOs, municipalities, regional development agencies, commercial firms, governments, and homeowners attended the fair. Based on survey results, participants and exhibitors both felt that the event was a success. Conclusions about this event include:

Maris Mikelsons and Krzysztof Chmura, The Urban Institute, Washington, D.C.

The Natural Hazards Center's Quick Response Program

It's that time of year again! The Natural Hazards Center is soliciting proposals for its 1999 Quick Response (QR) program, which enables social scientists to conduct short-term research immediately after a disaster.

If you have a burning question that can only be answered by being at the scene of a disaster within the first hours or days following the event, we encourage you to submit a brief proposal describing that research. If your proposal is approved, you are then eligible to receive funding to carry out your investigation should an appropriate disaster occur in the coming 12 months. Grants average between $1,000 and $3,000 and essentially cover travel and per diem only. In return, grantees must submit reports of their findings, which are published by the Natural Hazards Center both electronically and in hard copy.

Details about proposal submission requirements can be obtained by requesting a 1999 QR Program Announcement 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 program announcement is also available from the center's World Wide Web site at the URL below. The deadline for proposal submission is October 15, 1998.

In the meantime, to obtain a list of Quick Response reports and all our other publications, along with their prices, send $3.00 to the Publications Clerk at the address above. 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.

A Letter to the Editor

Map of Disaster Declarations Needs Further Examination


The map of disaster declarations included in the July 1998 Observer tells a truly remarkable story and one quite at variance to your comment that it shows hazards happening everywhere (see Vol. XXII, No. 6, p. 5). It shows the distribution of declared disasters to be highly concentrated in certain parts of the country: western Washington; the California coast and southern California; the lower Mississippi; southwestern Florida; Appalachia; the New England coast; North Dakota, and, to an even greater extent, the eastern part of North Dakota; along with northwestern Minnesota. In some of these counties disasters are declared in half the years. Many counties, perhaps the majority, have had none or less than three disasters in the 34-year period covered.

An interesting commentary would address the implications for this highly skewed distribution of federal disaster assistance. Clearly, some counties are disaster-prone. Is there a political dimension that makes some counties more successful than others in receiving federal assistance? Does disaster assistance increase the likelihood of subsequent disaster assistance? If there were no federal disaster assistance, would these heavily assisted counties be substantially less populated and less developed? Would that be a desirable consequence?

My conclusion: this map calls for an essay. You are to be congratulated for picking it up.

Robert K. Davis, Institute of Behavioral Science, University of Colorado-Boulder

Annual Hazards Workshop Returns to Boulder

1998 Session Summaries Now Available

In July, hazards professionals from around the world gathered in Boulder, Colorado, for the 23rd Annual Hazards Research and Applications Workshop. There was lively debate and healthy discussion during the four days of the workshop on topics as diverse as network news coverage of natural disasters, the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction, preparing for terrorist incidents with weapons of mass destruction, measuring disaster losses, and using new technologies in natural hazard management. The participants were as diverse as the program topics, as federal, state, and local government officials, researchers, representatives of nonprofit organizations and private industry, and others talked, listened, and learned from one another.

To ensure that these ideas and discussions are not limited to participants who attended the workshop, the Natural Hazards Center publishes brief summaries of each session, abstracts of the hazards research presented, and descriptions of the projects and programs 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 or access the publications ordering information on our Web site at http://www.colorado.edu/hazards/puborder.html.) Currently, the list of all session summary and abs tract titles is available on our Web site at http://www.colorado.edu/hazards/ss.html. In November, the complete text of all session summaries will also be available at that site, although 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) 492-6818; fax: (303) 492-2151; e-mail: jclark@spot.colorado.edu; WWW: http://www.colorado.edu/hazards. Visa, Mastercard, America n Express, and Diner's Club cards are also accepted.

A Gem of a Meeting

As the second millennium comes to a close, many people are looking for new ideas and ways of handling the same old problems in the future. The Association of State Floodplain Managers (ASFPM) is no different. During their annual meeting, held in April 1997 in Little Rock, Arkansas, participants looked forward to the 21st century and a more enlightened approach to flood loss reduction. Floodplain Management in a Multifaceted World (1998, 366 pp., $20.00), the proceedings from that meeting, is now available from the Natural Hazards Center.

The papers in the volume cover every aspect of flood loss reduction, including national policy, state and local planning and land use, watershed management, coastal issues, problems associated with Hurricane Fran, hydrology and hydraulics, mapping, structural flood control, geographic information systems, floodplain resource protection, project evaluation, international approaches, and the overall practice of floodplain management.

Copies of Floodplain Management in a Multifaceted World are available from the Publications Clerk at the address above. Be sure to add $5.00 for shipping.

Announcing the First Publications from the Second Assessment

Cooperating with Nature and Paying the Price

Since 1994, the Natural Hazards Center has overseen the Second U.S. Assessment of Research and Applications for Natural Hazards, a multidisciplinary effort to evaluate existing knowledge about hazards and disasters from the perspectives of the physical, social, natural, behavioral, and engineering sciences. This research has been undertaken by staff at the Natural Hazards Center and over 100 nationally and internationally recognized experts who volunteered their time to evaluate the United States' relationship to hazards.

A select group of experts were invited to expand upon their contributions to the Second Assessment by developing individual works on major themes in hazards research, including insurance, risk assessment, disaster preparedness and response, and mapping. The first two publications of this effort were recently released: Cooperating with Nature: Confronting Natural Hazards with Land-Use Planning for Sustainable Communities, edited by Raymond J. Burby (1998, 368 pp., $47.95), and Paying the Price: The Status and Role of Insurance Against Natural Disasters in the United States, edited by Howard Kunreuther and Richard J. Roth, Sr. (1998, 320 pp., $47.95).

Cooperating with Nature

Cooperating with Nature is about natural disasters and sustainability--the capacity of our planet to provide a high quality of life for present and future generations. Believing that disasters signal a serious breakdown in sustainability because, although they have always been present, they can now wreak havoc that goes far beyond the ability of a society to take them in stride, the contributors to this volume suggest that planning for and managing land use can enhance sustainability by reducing or eliminating vulnerability to disasters. They chronicle the long evolution of land-use planning and identify key components of sustainable planning for hazards. Contributors describe the promise of land-use management for achieving sustainability, explore the reasons why this promise is not being realized uniformly by government at various levels, and propose ways to foster sound land-use decision making. They also explain why sustainability and land use have not been taken into account in the formulation of public policy and provide concrete suggestions for policy reform, calling for a new National Hazardous Area Management Act and a program to foster improved planning and management at state and local levels.

Paying the Price

When this study was begun four years ago, the insurance and reinsurance industries were reeling from the catastrophic losses many firms experienced following Hurricane Andrew in Florida in 1992 and the Northridge earthquake in California in 1994. Many insurers had grave doubts about whether they would be able to continue to provide insurance protection against wind damage from hurricanes and shake losses from earthquakes. This volume contains the results of an effort to bring together the country's leading experts on insurance and reinsurance to examine how this industry can provide protection against such devastating natural disasters.

Paying the Price discusses insurability conditions for natural disasters; the changing demand for residential disaster insurance in the U.S.; the challenges insurers face in providing insurance against damage due to earthquakes, hurricanes, and floods; and the functions of state insurance regulators. It examines various types of state and federal involvement in insurance programs, such as the California Earthquake Authority, the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, and the National Flood Insurance Program. Collectively, the contributors believe that the economic costs of natural disasters are likely to soar even higher in the future unless steps are taken to change recent trends. They discuss the role that insurance and mitigation can play together in reducing future losses and propose a program for reducing losses and financing recovery through joint efforts among insurers and other stakeholders. They also suggest strategies that combine insurance with monetary incentives, fines, tax credits, well-enforced building codes, and land-use regulations.

Both volumes can be purchased from the National Academy Press, 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Lockbox 285, Washington, DC 20055; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-33313; fax: (202) 334-2451; WWW: http://www.nap.edu/bookstore. Please add $4.00 shipping for the first book and 50 shipping for each additional book.

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