Table of Contents

an invited comment
Modeling Cities: The Los Alamos Urban Security Initiative

Re-examining Natural Hazards in the U.S.

The Three Centers, Part 2
The Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research (PEER) Center

World Bank Announces New Disaster Management Facility

Introducing the Asian Pacific Disaster Management Center

On the Line
WEBEX: A Successful Experiment in Emergency Management

Open GIS Addresses Disaster Management

Researchers Correct Suicide Study

Washington Update

From the Hazards Center Web Site

The Internet Page(s)

Additional Y2K Resources

Conferences and Training


IDNDR Wrapping Up the Decade

Seismic Rehabilitation Guidelines and Maps Available On-Line

UC Extension Offers Internet Emergency Management Course

Help Wanted: Interns Sought for the Natural Hazards Project, OAS

A National Plan for Wind Hazard Mitigation? AAWE Seeks Your Thoughts

Wind Hazard Mitigation Consortium Developing

Seeking Lightning Authors

Contracts and Grants

USWRP Seeking Research Proposals

EENET Plans Regular Wednesday Programs for 1999

Recent Publications

Introducing Risk Management Journal

Who We Are

Modeling Cities:The Los Alamos Urban Security Initiative

--an invited comment

All cities, regardless of size, have a unique set of problems related to security, local economy, energy and water distribution systems, other infrastructure, transportation, and the environment. A comprehensive understanding of how a city works can provide the means to better evaluate vulnerabilities related to natural hazards, such as earthquakes or hurricanes, or to human-caused terrorist attacks. For cities to be safe and sustainable, we must implement long-range urban planning and risk assessment tools and not rely on reactive decision making. The tools must be based on an accurate assessment of the inter-relationships among the many complex processes that occur in an urban environment.

When a disaster strikes a city, the consequences are complicated and far-reaching. As our cities continue to grow and modernize, they become major societal junctures where separate infrastructure elements depend strongly upon each other to function effectively. For example, when a major earthquake strikes Los Angeles, there will be immediate and obvious consequences, such as downed freeway overpasses, that will complicate emergency response and the economic activity of the city and slow the repair of damaged electrical substations and transmission lines. Since traffic flow on surface streets (now the preferred routes because of the damaged freeways) depends highly on electrical power for traffic lights, the electrical problems feed back into the transportation problems. Mitigation of these and other complex feedback processes demands an integrated approach in which natural processes and a range of infrastructure processes are examined together. The Urban Security Project at Los Alamos National Laboratory is building such an approach.

The Urban Security Initiative begins with computer simulations and geographic information systems (GIS). A distributed computing architecture is being developed that allows users to conduct computer simulations of a broad range of natural and infrastructure processes. While the simulations of various processes may run on a variety of computers (ranging from supercomputers to desktop personal computers), the computers can talk to each other through the single interface developed by the initiative. Similarly, users need only interact with the single interface. GIS provides initial and boundary conditions for simulations based on real data and received simulation output so that real data and simulations can be compared in a common format. In addition, GIS is used to compare different simulations as data are passed from one process to another (e.g., earthquake ground motion to freeway vulnerability).

This approach is moving the Urban Security team toward several goals--one of which is to prepare libraries of simulated disaster scenarios. These libraries can then be used to help in planning and training before a disaster happens. A second goal is to use the simulation tools rapidly during a disaster, in order to maximize the effectiveness of emergency response.

The Los Alamos Urban Security Team includes environmental engineers, geologists, software designers, natural hazard specialists, mathematicians, hydrologists, civil en-gineers, atmospheric scientists, chemists, GIS specialists, and transportation experts who work in collaboration with urban planners and environmental scientists from academia and the government.

The First Two Years

The overall project goal is to establish links among models of all subsystems that make up a city. For the last two years, the project has been dedicated to five areas:

The long-term goal of the Los Alamos Urban Security Initiative is to link these five areas with models of other urban systems, creating a system of systems to be used for emergency worker training in virtual environments, emergency response, and long-term urban planning. These tools will be available at different levels of complexity for a variety of users, ranging from urban planners to civil defense officials. Our goal is to make a major leap forward in developing the tools required to strengthen cities within the U.S. and around the globe.

Grant Heiken, Los Alamos National Laboratory

For more information about this project, contact the author at EES-1, MS F665, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM 87545; (505) 667-8477; fax: (505) 665-3687; e-mail: heiken@geology.lanl.gov, or access the project Web site: http://www.ees.lanl.gov/EES5/Urban_Security/.

Re-examining Natural Hazards in the U.S.

The Assessment of Research on Natural Hazards

Twenty-five years ago, geographer Gilbert F. White and sociologist J. Eugene Haas published a pioneering report on the U.S.'s ability to withstand and respond to natural disasters. At that time, research on disasters primarily involved physical science and engineering. As White and Haas pointed out in their Assessment of Research on Natural Hazards (1975), little attempt had been made to tap the social sciences to better understand the economic, social, and political significance of extreme natural events.

Their work attempted to fill this void and, perhaps more importantly, they advanced the critical notion that, rather than simply picking up the pieces following disasters, the U.S. could employ better planning, land-use controls, and other preventive and mitigative measures to reduce disasters' toll. The report also paved the way for an interdisciplinary approach to disaster research and management, encompassing areas such as climatology, economics, engineering, geography, geology, law, meteorology, planning, seismology, and sociology. To this day, professionals in those and other fields continue to investigate how engineering projects, warnings, land-use management, planning for response and recovery, insurance, and buildings codes can be used collectively to help individuals and groups adapt to natural hazards, as well as reduce the related deaths, injuries, costs, and social disruptions that occur.

Moving Toward a Sustainable Future

Recently, more than 100 hazards researchers revisited the work of White and Haas to reassess the state of natural hazards knowledge in the U.S. by conducting the Second U.S. Assessment of Research and Applications for Natural Hazards (see the Observer, Vol. XXIII, No. 1, p. 5). Within a few weeks, every Observer subscriber will receive a 16-page, full color summary brochure describing the project. However, we encourage readers to get the full results of this national, broad-based research effort by ordering the soon-to-be-available full summary volume, Disasters by Design: A Reassessment of Natural Hazards in the United States (1999, $47.95), by Dennis S. Mileti, from the Joseph Henry Press of the National Academy of Science.

Among many conclusions, researchers found that one of the central problems in coping with disasters has been the belief that we can use technology to control nature. Also, most strategies for coping with hazards have failed to take into account the complexity and changing nature of hazards. Moreover, events in the past 25 years have shown that natural disasters and related technological hazards are not problems that can be solved in isolation. Losses from hazards result from shortsighted and narrow conceptions of the relationship of humans to the natural environment.

To redress these shortcomings, the researchers recommend that the U.S. shift to a policy of sustainable hazard mitigation. This concept links wise management of natural resources with local economic and social resiliency. Sustainability means that a locality can tolerate--even overcome--damage, diminished productivity, and reduced quality of life caused by an extreme event without significant outside assistance. To achieve sustainability, communities must take responsibility for choosing where and how development proceeds. Disasters by Design outlines six objectives that must be met simultaneously to reduce losses:

Disasters by Design also advances several approaches for mitigating the effects of natural hazards, including pursuing sustainable land use, developing effective warnings, adopting engineering and building codes, furthering the use of insurance, employing new technology, promoting local consensus and capability enhancement, establishing a holistic government framework, conducting a nationwide hazard and risk assessment, building national databases, providing comprehensive education and training, measuring progress, and sharing knowledge internationally.

Prepublication orders of Disasters by Design are being accepted by the National Academy Press, 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Lockbox 285, Washington, DC 20055; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313; fax: (202) 334-2451; WWW: http://www.nap.edu.

Two prior publications from this project are also available from the National Academy Press. Interested persons can view and print the complete text of these documents and/or order them on-line for a 20% discount.

The Three Centers, Part 2 . . .

The Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research (PEER) Center

The Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research (PEER) Center is a consortium of universities working in partnership with business, industry, and government to reduce the risks posed by major earthquakes. PEER is one of three centers established by the National Science Foundation in October 19971 (see the Observer, Vol. XX, No. 2, p. 9). [We featured the Mid-America Earthquake (MAE) Center in the January 1999 issue of the Observer (see Vol. XXIII, No. 3, p. 4) and will provide information about the Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research (MCEER) in our next issue.] PEER brings together researchers and facilities from the western states of Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, Nevada, Utah, and California. The center is headquartered at the University of California-Berkeley.

Research Program

PEER has developed a Performance-Based Earthquake Engineering Framework to guide its multidisciplinary research. This framework, supported by multiple research projects, combines hazard assessment with performance descriptions to produce reliability-based design and rehabilitation methods. Assessment of cost-effectiveness and implementation potential combines socioeconomic analysis with seismological, geotechnical, structural, and materials engineering models, concepts, and techniques.

One PEER effort is to examine the overall impacts of transportation system failures--including effects on emergency response, traffic patterns, and the economy--in the aftermath of a quake. Researchers from Stanford and the University of Southern California will determine how a region will recover economically when key transportation links are knocked out of service for days, months, or even years. The goal is to develop better software tools and analytical models for transportation planning and response in earthquake-prone urban areas. This will be PEER's first demonstration project, and it will involve a detailed, three-year study of San Francisco's roads, bridges, ports, railways, and airports.

Education Program

The aim of the PEER education program is to increase young students' knowledge about the effects of earthquakes in urban regions and to stimulate their interest in earthquake engineering; PEER's K-12-14 Public Education Program is tailored for teachers, students, and the general public. PEER also administers an undergraduate summer intern program, an earthquake engineering undergraduate scholars course, and earthquake engineering graduate fellowships. Additionally, continuing education is available through workshops and training courses for practicing engineers and other professionals.

Business and Industry Partnership Program

PEER is working with business and industry partners to define projects relevant to the objectives of both PEER and the industry. In this program, focused seminars with one or more partners and center researchers are used to establish a preliminary scope of a project. PEER helps partners to assess risk management decisions, develop and verify new hardware and construction techniques, and devise new analysis and design approaches that can be used to preserve structures and inventories in major earthquakes. As suggested above, a principal mission of PEER is to develop performance-based engineering approaches that allow owners to specify their desired performance objectives.


PEER publishes technical reports, quarterly newsletters, and related Web pages (http://peer.berkeley.edu/). Recent reports include:

For further information about any of these activities, contact the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center, 1301 South 46th Street, Richmond, CA 94804-4698; (510) 231-9554; peer_ctr@eerc.berkeley.edu; WWW: http://peer.berkeley.edu.

World Bank Announces New Disaster Management Facility

The mission of the World Bank is to reduce poverty and improve living standards through sustainable growth and investment in people, and believes that to do this, disaster prevention and mitigation must become integral parts of development planning. Thus, on July 13, 1998, the World Bank created the Disaster Management Facility (DMF) to provide operation support, promote capacity building, and establish partnerships with both the international and scientific communities to work on disaster issues.

Specifically, the DMF will promote:

Among the strategies and measures the DMF will use to accomplish these goals are market incentives for mitigation investment, support to both member countries and other World Bank departments involved in risk reduction activities, review of the World Bank's disaster assistance portfolio to determine lessons for future investments, review of the World Bank policy on emergency assistance, identification and dissemination of model practices, creation of a DMF Web site, and training.

For further information on the DMF and its activities, contact Alcira Kreimer, Disaster Management Facility, World Bank, Room F4K-282, 1818 H Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20433; (202) 473-3205; fax: (202) 522-3224; e-mail: akreimer@worldbank.org; or Margaret Arnold; (202) 473-1378; e-mail: marnold@worldbank.org.

Introducing the Asian Pacific Disaster Management Centre

Natural events in the Asia-Pacific region--such as the recent El Niño-related crises and their direct impacts on economies, food security, agricultural production, water, sanitation, the environment, and health--have demonstrated the urgent need for strengthening national and regional capabilities for disaster prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. Recently established in the Philippines as an independent, nonprofit, regional resource center, the Asian Pacific Disaster Management Centre (APDMC) is a direct response to this need. It provides disaster and risk management services to both the public and private sectors, and serves communities of the region by providing technical assistance, emergency planning and analysis, risk management consultation, training, research, education, information, and other support to deal with both natural and human-caused disasters. For more information, contact APDMC, P.O. Box 1005, Makati Central Post Office, 1250 Makati City, Philippines; fax: (632) 826-0389; e-mail: apdmc@nsclub.net; WWW:

Editors' note: The new Asian Pacific Disaster Management Centre (APDMC) should not be confused with the previously existing Asian Disaster Management Center (ADPC) in Bangkok. The two are separate initiatives.

APDMC Courses

The APDMC recently announced some of its international training courses for 1999:

For more information or registration materials, contact Sanny Jegillos, APDMC, P.O. Box 1005, Makati Central Post Office, 1250 Makati City, Philippines; tel/fax: (632) 826-0389; mobile phone: (63) 0915-806-4850; e-mail: sannyj@nsclub.net or apdmc@nsclub.net.

On the Line

WEBEX: A Successful Experiment in Emergency Management

WEBEX was a recent experiment in the use of Internet live chat technology to conduct an on-line exercise in emergency management. The effort was an experiment to determine whether it is possible to conduct an exercise with a wide variety of players who have little or no live chat experience. The results were extremely positive.

The WEBEX experiment took place during the November 1998 Virtual Fire and Rescue Exposition (VFRE), an on-line conference hosted by National Fire & Rescue Magazine, with an audience of fire and emergency management professionals. Almost all planning for the event took place on-line through weekly meetings using the Emergency Information Infrastructure Partnership (EIIP) chat facility.

We used a train derailment scenario involving hazardous materials and elements of terrorism (loosely adapted from a set of interactive training CD-ROMs, Decision Making Skills for Public Officials During a Hazardous Materials Incident); permission and supporting materials were provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Emergency Management Institute (EMI) and the Preparedness, Training, and Exercises Directorate. Five separate chat rooms, representing the on-scene incident command post, staging and triage areas, an emergency operations center, and a media briefing area, were planned. Five communications officers were trained in chat techniques to facilitate communications among rooms. Potential roles were identified, and volunteer role players were recruited via various Internet media. Two practice sessions, using a different scenario, were held.

The exercise was conducted the evening of November 5th and consisted of a 30-minute pre-exercise briefing, 1 hours of exercise play, and a 30-minute follow-up session. Seven major events were predefined, with a master controller cuing the events to the communications officers in each room, based on the progress of the exercise and the time available.

Evaluators, preassigned for each room, measured the progress of player responses against expected actions and reported exercise status to the master controller. Both event messages and expected actions were laid out in a commonly available document in spreadsheet form. Background materials were provided to the players in advance via a World Wide Web site; these included maps, planning documents, and the opening scenario with photos for the fictitious Central City incident. In addition, an exercise overview, video and audio descriptions, and a players list were provided. During the exercise, additional photos were introduced to provide visual reference and clues.

Conference attendees were invited to either observe or participate. Approximately 50 players and observers stayed throughout the event, and at least 77 were on-line at one point. Professionals from the private sector, fire services, emergency medical services, emergency management, and other local government agencies were involved.

Again, the objective was not to demonstrate technical perfection of response, but rather, to see whether the whole concept of conducting an exercise via the Internet was feasible and to learn what improvements might be made. Further, the experience was designed to be challenging and stimulating to all involved, thereby encouraging similar exercises in virtual communities.

Again, the outcome was very encouraging:

This training technique shows real promise. The Internet environment seems to have the appeal of on-line gaming while creating an interactive experience among professionals

of similar backgrounds. Using this technique in real communities or regions may also help participants understand the wide range of concerns and problems typically involved in response to a disaster or major incident. Although no follow-up event is currently planned, we expect another WEBEX or similar exercise sometime in the future and encourage other organizations to conduct experiments of their own.

For further information about this experience in on-line emergency exercising, contact Amy Sebring, EIIP Project Coordinator, 4121 Claudia, Corpus Christi, TX 78417; (512) 937-4177; e-mail: asebring@emforum.org; or  Avagene Moore, EIIP Coordinator, 1017 Hayes Road, Lawrenceburg, TN 38464-4007; (931) 762-4768; e-mail: amoore@emforum.org. The complete set of exercise materials can also be found on the Internet at http://www.emforum.org/webex.

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