Poster Session Abstracts

Beverley Adams, ImageCat, Inc.
Charles Huyck, ImageCat, Inc.
Ron Eguchi, ImageCat, Inc.
Paul Amyx, ImageCat, Inc.
Zhengui Hu, ImageCat, Inc.
Shubharoop Ghosh, ImageCat, Inc.

Virtual Disaster Viewer: Advancing Earthquake Reconnaissance in MS Virtual Earth

The Virtual Disaster Viewer (VDV) is an online collaborative platform for earthquake damage detection and analysis. In response to the Sichuan China earthquake, the Virtual Disaster Viewer with Microsoft Virtual Earth was launched as a new way of generating preliminary estimates of earthquake damage when access to the affected area is restricted. The objective of the VDV is to share and disseminate satellite and field-based damage data and situation assessments to a worldwide network of distributed users.

The VDV is the brainchild of an international consortium of earthquake experts from Europe and the United States, whose mission is to advance earthquake response and ultimately improve engineering standards around the world. Working with a specially designed online tool developed in MS Virtual Earth, dozens of earthquake experts were assigned specific areas, or "tiles," of affected regions to review. They provided their assessment by comparing before and after high-resolution satellite images acquired by DigitalGlobe and Geoeye imagery companies. The initial information gathered by the engineers includes: the number of collapsed, heavily damaged, and intact buildings; the number of collapsed bridges; the area affected by landslides; the length of roads obstructed by landslides; and the location and scale of humanitarian relief operations.

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Philip Berke, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Gavin Smith, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Ward Lyles, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

State Hazard Mitigation Plan Evaluation

The nation is making a major investment in hazard mitigation planning since adopting the Federal Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000, which strongly encourages all state and local governments to prepare hazard mitigation plans. This study examines: 1) the quality of the state and local hazard mitigation plans; 2) factors explaining the variability of state and local plan quality; and 3) factors motivating state and local jurisdictions to enact incentives and disincentives and use federal funds to mitigate hazards. Methods include content analysis of 30 state and 180 community plans in coastal areas, surveys of state and local mitigation planning programs, analysis of mitigation expenditures, and local case studies.

To date we have examined 30 coastal state hazard mitigation plans. Preliminary results suggest the following: First, SHMPs meet basic Federal Emergency Management Agency requirements but there is wide variability in plan quality. A few plans include innovative model elements. Second, the Hazard Identification Risk Assessment, summarizing the hazard context, is the strongest element of the plans. Implementation elements are the weakest.  Third, plans exhibit wide variations in internal consistency between HIRAs, capability assessments, mitigation goals, and mitigation actions.

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Philip Berke, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Yan Song, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Mark Stevens, University of British Columbia

Natural Hazard Mitigation in Compact New Urban versus Conventional
Low-density Developments

New urbanist developments (NUDs) are built at relatively high densities (compared to conventional developments) and can exacerbate flood risks if located in flood-prone areas without incorporating greater flood hazard mitigation. We examined (1) the exposure of NUDs to flood hazards, (2) flood hazard mitigation techniques incorporated by NUDs and conventional developments, and (3) factors that help determine the incorporation of flood hazard mitigation techniques.

To address these issues, we used a national sample of NUDs and conventional developments located in flood-prone areas, descriptive statistics, multiple regression analysis, personal interviews, and document study. We found that 36 percent of NUDs are exposed to flood hazards. Regarding flood hazard mitigation techniques, NUDs are more effective than conventional developments in using stream channel modifications and structural protection techniques.

NUDs are not more effective than conventional developments in protecting environmentally sensitive areas or using stormwater best management practices. When controlling for other factors, however, new urbanist design does not appear to make a difference in the use of flood hazard mitigation techniques. The incorporation of mitigation techniques appears, instead, to depend on local government technical assistance during development review and public participation in the review. We recommend revisions to new urbanist design codes, more proactive land use planning by local and state governments, and additional research by planning scholars.

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Kevin A. Borden, Colgate University

The Death Map: What it Is and What it Is Not

An article published in the International Journal of Health Geographics earlier this year generated national print and online media attention. The article portrayed the geography of hazard-induced mortality for the contiguous United States. Visual representation of deaths from natural hazards provided interesting material for a variety of media outlets and led to the label “Death Map.” Such widespread coverage, however, increased the probability that the original research would be misunderstood or misrepresented. What was the purpose of the original hazard mortality study? What are some of the common ways the work has been misunderstood or misrepresented? Finally, in what ways is this research useful to emergency managers? 

The purpose of the original article was to provide a broad overview of the geographic distribution of hazard deaths in the United States. Proper spatial epidemiologic techniques, such as using standardized mortality ratios to indirectly adjust for differences in the age structure of different county populations, were incorporated.  Cluster analysis was performed to identify spatial “hot spots” of high and low hazard mortality.  In its current form, the information provided in hazard mortality maps is not predictive and does not indicate where people will die in the next big event. Also, people will not gain insight into their likelihood of dying from natural hazards from locating the county in which they live. The next step for this research is to see how it can be applied in the emergency management community.

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Brianna Cash, National Academies Disasters Roundtable

Disasters Roundtable of the National Academies Wants to Hear from You

The Disasters Roundtable of the National Academies holds two or three public workshops per year that facilitate and enhance the exchange of ideas among scientists, practitioners, and policy makers on issues related to natural, technological, and other disasters. The Disasters Roundtable draws hundreds of people to its workshops and continues to enhance its value to the disaster community. Visit the Web site to find out about upcoming workshops.

The new presidential administration has demonstrated a commitment to integrating scientific input with the policymaking processes. The Disasters Roundtable is able to facilitate this communication and would like to hear from the participants at the Natural Hazards Workshop about topics, issues, and research agendas that the Disasters Roundtable should consider in its workshop planning. Visit our poster to submit your questions, suggestions, and comments for the Disasters Roundtable.

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Susan L. Cutter, University of South Carolina
Christopher T. Emrich, University of South Carolina

Research and Development at the Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute

The Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute (HVRI) is an interdisciplinary research, educational, and training center focused on the interaction among social vulnerability, environmental hazards, and the built environment, with emphasis on developing and implementing real world solutions to emergency management problems and processes. HVRI is comprised of 12 core geography faculty and staff members and 10 research affiliates from other disciplines. HVRI funds roughly 12 graduates and undergraduate research associates through extramural research grants from a variety of sponsoring agencies—including the Department of Homeland Security, the National Science Foundation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Federal Emergency Management Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Oxfam. Current HVRI projects include:

• Research on populations at risk of exposure to chemical releases and the vulnerability of communities in responding to chemical disasters;
• Studies into relationships between social vulnerability and risks associated with climate change-related hazards at the Southeastern U.S. county level;
• Interpreting photographs to understand trends in long-term recovery from disasters along the Mississippi Gulf Coast;
• Social vulnerability and resilience indicators;
• South Carolina coastal sea level rise assessment and analysis using LIDAR-based remote sensing imagery;
• Geospatial emergency management support for state and local disaster response, recovery, mitigation, and preparedness initiatives.

More information on these projects can be found at HVRI online.

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Ann-Margaret Esnard, Florida Atlantic University
Alka Sapat, Florida Atlantic University
Christopher Chagdes, Florida Atlantic University
Martin Fitts, Florida Atlantic University
Christine Mitchell, Florida Atlantic University
Donald Johnson, Florida Atlantic University

Toward a Displacement Index: Conceptual and Technical Considerations

Indicator- and index-building activities have become commonplace for assessing and estimating the social, environmental, and economic strengths and vulnerabilities of communities, regions, and even countries. In the context of disasters, much of the empirical research has focused on identifying places and populations that are vulnerable to natural and man-made hazards—both current and emergent.

In light of Hurricane Katrina, there have not been similar research efforts to capture the full range of indicators and measures for long-term displacement from catastrophic hurricanes. This poster reports on the initial phases of research that seeks to fill this gap by focusing on: 1) a comprehensive conceptualization of displacement vulnerability; 2) a set of related indicators and measures at varying scales, including indicators tapping policy capacity and commitment; and 3) perceived limitations and complications in the development of an operational displacement index.

Visit the project website.

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Christina Finch, Pacific Disaster Center

Pacific Disaster Center Brings Applied Science to Asia Pacific Emergency Management

The Pacific Disaster Center was established by the U.S. government in 1996 to provide applied science solutions to natural hazard risks in Hawaii. The safety and security of the Hawaiian Islands is still a major focus of the PDC, but shortly after becoming operational, the PDC expanded its primary area of interest to the Asian Pacific region. In recent years, the center has been developing and deploying information and communication technology, risk and vulnerability analyses, modeling and visualization capabilities, and socioeconomic impact assessments—all while providing support to civil and military authorities worldwide.
PDC has established a broad repertoire of tools to address the full range of natural and human-induced hazards needs—immediate relief, strategic recovery, mitigation, planning, and preparedness.  The center has six core capabilities: hazard risk and vulnerability assessments, hazard mitigation planning, web collaboration technology, technology assessment and support, geospatial information and sharing, and impact assessment and scenario modeling.  PDC’s Web site has additional information and resources, including interactive map applications, geospatial data resources, case studies and project profiles.

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Yue "Gurt" Ge, Texas A&M University
Walter G. Peacock, Texas A&M University
Michael K. Lindell, Texas A&M University

Florida Single-Family Resident Response to Hurricane Mitigation Incentives

In emergency management, a range of economic and non-economic mitigation incentives have been broadly discussed and employed in planning and management. Given well-designed incentives, it is necessary to evaluate resident response to them so that future adjustments can be implemented. This study explores single-family household responses to five mitigation incentives for hurricane preparation in the forms of shutter and envelop coverage in the state of Florida, including low interest loans, forgivable loans, property tax reductions, insurance incentives, and inspection programs with mitigation credits.

The five ordinal variables in regard to incentives are combined into a scale variable that indicates resident response. Additionally, three groups of independent variables include demographic/socioeconomic characteristics, hazard risk experience, and spatial exposure. Logistic regression and spatial auto-regression models are operated to examine the significance and effect of factors determining response to mitigation incentives. The research is expected to provide governments, nongovernmental organizations, and policymakers—especially those in coastal areas—with empirical evidence to design and promote hurricane mitigation incentives for those affected.

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Nancy Grant, University of Akron
Julia Beckett, University of Akron

Tracing Policy to Action: The Standard and Practice of Hand Hygiene for the Ohio Division of the American Red Cross

This theoretical framework considers the regulatory approach to public policy through law, regulation and implementation, and training and practice applied to personal protection via hand hygiene during disaster response. Hand hygiene protects against the spread of disease and pathogens; however, training and compliance are difficult. Most research is hospital based. The American Red Cross recognizes the importance of hand hygiene, provides literature and displays encouraging proper hand hygiene, and issues notices emphasizing the importance of maintaining hand hygiene during disaster response.

The current preparedness and practice of Ohio Red Cross personnel and volunteers was identified by examining American Red Cross mass-care training and practice. A dissonance among the American Red Cross training manuals, kits, and fact sheets emerged. Large scale, universally applicable guidance, such as general shelter guidelines, do not detail items that should be provided or included in supplies, such as hand sanitizers. On the other hand, specific kits directly identify alcohol-based sanitizers if they are health or medically related.  Likewise, specific fact sheets and guidance include alcohol-based sanitizers as hygiene items. Most specifics regarding the use of hand sanitizers as alternate or additional hygiene supplies are left to local chapters and state divisions, largely because of the nature of the organization. Individual initiative seems to be the most important variable in the practice of hand hygiene in mass care. The framework of stepwise implementation does not appear, even though practice generally follows national guidance.

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Greg Guibert, International Hazards and Disasters Network
Corey Reynolds, International Hazards and Disasters Network

International Hazards and Disasters Network: A New Online Community

The International Hazards and Disasters Network (IHDN) is a professional social network for researchers, practitioners, and policy officials engaged in disaster risk reduction efforts. Launched in June 2009, and still in beta format, IHDN creates an interactive online community presence for individuals and organizations working in the hazards and disasters fields around the world. The site provides opportunities for individuals to meet, collaborate, and discuss the pressing issues facing our community through a simple, streamlined interface.

Content on IHDN is community driven. Any member can upload a blog, comment on featured content, contribute to discussions, upload videos and photos, and, in the future, contribute documents and resources through a disaster wiki to share with the entire risk reduction community.

IHDN currently features:

• Blogs
• Discussion Boards
• Global Event Calendar
• Social and Professional Groups
• Video Uploads
• Photo Uploads

As IHDN matures and we move out of beta phase additional networking tools will become available to community members, such as a disaster Twitter Tracker and a jobs section, among others.

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Dustin Henry, Texas A&M University
Gabriel R. Burns, Texas A&M University
Shannon Van Zandt, Texas A&M University

Community Resilience and Recovery: Questions from Galveston

The landfall of Hurricane Ike in September 2008 caused large-scale damage to houses and businesses on Galveston Island. Following the devastation, a team of researchers from Texas A&M Hazard Reduction and Recovery Center conducted an NSF-funded study to determine whether pre-existing physical and social development patterns would affect the long-term recovery trajectories for socially vulnerable households on Galveston Island.

The project sampled a random set of 1,500 households to examine the impact of the hurricane on the community. Those in housing units and houses were surveyed using a damage assessment instrument to gauge structural characteristics and damage, as well as a household survey to determine relocation and rebuilding decisions. Eighteen students blanketed Galveston Island in December 2008, collecting 1,500 damage assessments and 260 household surveys. An additional 225 surveys were collected by mail from households that were vacant or destroyed by the storm. Data gathered from these surveys will be combined with other coastal data to evaluate which characteristics might make community areas more vulnerable or more resistant to a natural disaster. Another goal of this study is to gather follow-up data on structures and households in order to capture long-term recovery trajectories for the community.

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Daniella Hirschfeld, Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management

StormSmart Coasts in Action: Two Case Studies of Local Level Climate Change Adaptation

Coastal communities are facing greater natural hazards due to a variety of factors, including population growth, past land use decisions, and potentially accelerated sea level rise. The StormSmart Coasts program was designed to help local officials address the expected impacts of erosion, storms, floods, and sea level rise in ways that are effective, fair, and legally defensible. The program gathers and presents user-friendly coastal management tools for local officials. Many of these tools are part of the No Adverse Impact (NAI) approach to land management, which is grounded in a “do no harm” approach. Although nothing can guarantee a community will not face litigation when managing floodplains, following the NAI approach can minimize lawsuits and position communities to win the lawsuits that do arise. NAI principles have been upheld in courts at all levels, including the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Massachusetts’ StormSmart program was implemented in September 2008, and has been working on five innovative projects with seven pilot communities. Presented here are two case studies that show the use of different tools—hazard identification and communication, planning, and regulations. The Town of Hull served as the study area for the development of inundation visualization models. Photorealistic 3D models of seven critical facilities, along with five different inundation scenarios, were built. All can be viewed in Google Earth. A second case study shows how towns on the Cape are integrating sea level rise into Federal Emergency Management Agency-approvable, multi-hazard mitigation plans.

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Jennifer A. Horney, University of North Carolina

Factors Associated with Risk of Evacuation Failure from Hurricane Isabel in North Carolina, 2003

Purpose. Important differences in risk of evacuation failure exist across households. This study examines if social factors such as social capital, social cohesion, and social control contributed to differential rates of evacuation from Hurricane Isabel by residents of three North Carolina counties.

Methods. Census blocks in three counties affected by Hurricane Isabel were stratified by flood zone. Thirty census blocks were selected based on probability proportionate to population size from each flood zone. Within each block, seven random interview locations were chosen using a GIS-based site selection tool. Risk differences and 95 percent confidence intervals for evacuation failure were calculated for social factors including social capital, social control, and social cohesion.

Results. High levels of neighborhood social cohesion, markers of territoriality (e.g. no trespassing signs), membership in a church or civic organization, neighbors’ evacuation, and longer length of residence were associated with an increased risk of hurricane evacuation failure in this study. While attending more church or organizational meetings did not increase the likelihood of evacuation failure, those who reported volunteering to provide assistance following Hurricane Isabel through church or civic groups were more likely to fail to evacuate.

Conclusions. Differential levels of social capital, social cohesion, and related social factors contributed to differential rates of evacuation from Hurricane Isabel. Those who reported closer relationships with neighbors and were active volunteers in the community might be most susceptible to evacuation failure. They should receive targeted messages regarding evacuation from officials.

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Li-ju Jang, Chung Shan Medical University

The 921 Earthquake: A Study of Factors Influencing Disaster Resilience

Introduction: This study examined factors influencing disaster resilience. The 921 Earthquake was used as a major stressor for evaluating the disaster resilience of survivors in Tung Shih, Taiwan. The 7.6 magnitude earthquake was responsible for approximately 2,415 deaths.

Method: The researcher applied a snowball sampling strategy to select “information-rich” participants for in-depth study. A total of 15 interviewees of varying socioeconomic status participated. The researcher used qualitative data analysis software, ATLAS.ti 5.5, for content analysis.

Findings: Participants identified acceptance, Hakka spirit, preparedness, resource availability, self-reliance, serving others, social support networks, and spirituality as factors promoting disaster resilience. Participants also affirmed that government function and responsibility should not be overlooked.

Conclusions: Participants believe that support from family, clan, neighbors, and friends are essential—even more important than practical aid from outsiders or the government. Natural disasters are considered warnings from gods, redirecting focus on personal merits and moral cultural practices. Taking the local culture into consideration, disaster preparedness efforts might include learning to live harmoniously with nature. This finding reinforces the importance of understanding culture and local understanding.

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Jung Eun Kang, Texas A&M University
Rahmawati Husein, Texas A&M University
Gabriel R. Burns, Texas A&M University

An Assessment of Coastal Zone Hazard Mitigation Plans in Texas

The Federal Emergency Management Agency requires states or local jurisdictions to develop hazard mitigation plans in order to be eligible for hazard mitigation grants as outlined in the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000. As of May 2007, more than 14,000 local jurisdictions in the United States have developed single or multi-jurisdictional hazard mitigation plans. Little empirical research, however, has been done on the quality of local hazard mitigation plans. This study assessed status of 12 hazard mitigation plans against the developed protocol for areas within the Texas coastal management zone. Also, this research systematically examined critical components of these hazard mitigation plans, highlighting their strengths and areas that could be improved upon.

The average plan quality score (PQS) was 41.6 on a 100-point scale, with a high of 53.3 and a low of 28.7. Regional and county plans appeared to display slightly higher plan quality scores than city plans. With respect to the plan components, implementation had the highest average component quality score (CQS) at 51.9, followed closely by planning process at 51.7, goals and objectives at 45.5, interorganization coordination at 42.2, and vision statement at 38.3. Most disconcerting were the very low component quality scores for fact basis at 33.6 and mitigation policies and actions at 28.2. These two components are the heart of mitigation actions plans. The relatively low PQS and CQS results suggest there are significant areas of potential improvement that should be undertaken in future iterations of mitigation hazard action plans.

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Owen Kulemeka, University of Illinois

Chronic Illness and Disaster:  Assessing Preparedness Efforts in North American Cities

Disasters in the past decade demonstrate individuals suffering from chronic illness face significant challenges. This poster describes a study examining how cities in the United States and Canada inform citizens with chronic illness about how to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters. 

Using information from global health organizations, the researcher developed a checklist of information needed during a disaster by individuals with chronic illness. This checklist was used to assess how eight cities inform those with chronic illness obtaining evacuation assistance, receiving post-disaster health services, applying for recovery assistance, and addressing other challenges.

Findings revealed four problems with information campaigns. First, information often deals with challenges that emerge immediately after a disaster and neglectsthose arising during disaster recovery.  Second, the information doesn’t often address the challenges of specific chronic illnesses. Third, information providers often assume external caregivers will be present during disaster. Fourth, much of the information is inaccessible to those with hearing or sight impairments.

These findings illustrate that cities seeking to prepare chronically ill citizens need to provide easily accessible information focusing on long-term disaster recovery, addressing the challenges of specific illnesses, and recognizing external caregivers may not be present during disasters.

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Cedar League, University of Colorado-Colorado Springs

What Were They Thinking? Using YouTube to Observe Driver Behavior While Crossing Flooded Roads

Floods are among the most life-threatening weather-related hazards. They result in nearly 100 deaths in the U.S. annually—over 50 percent of which are vehicle-related. Despite improved warning systems, public awareness campaigns, and penalties for drivers who require rescue on closed roads, vehicle-related fatalities in floods remain an ongoing problem. This study observes driver behavior to try to understand what people are thinking when they crossed flooded roads. An online survey was sent to 100 YouTubers who broadcasted videos of themselves crossing flooded roads. Survey questions asked why they were driving in flood waters, the purpose of their trip, their awareness of flood warnings, and what would deter them from driving in floodwaters again.

Results from 52 respondents show the majority intentionally decided to cross flooded roads for fun or to film the flood. The minority were situational drivers, having a specific place to get to such as driving to or from work. Most were males between the ages of 18 and 35 driving trucks or SUVs who said they were not influenced by education campaigns. They paid attention to weather warnings to some degree, but would drive again in similar conditions. Respondents indicated a greater presence of emergency officials and/or warning signs in flood areas might deter them in the future. This study demonstrates YouTube is a useful methodology in hazard research.

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Cedar League, University of Colorado-Colorado Springs
Walter Díaz, University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez

The Effect of Radar and Weather Information Products on Emergency Manager Decision Making

The Center for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere (CASA) is a National Science Foundation-funded project that develops low-cost networks of Doppler radars that operate at short range—called Distributed Collaborative Adaptive Sensing (DCAS). User needs were built into the end-to-end system design linking CASA technology to individuals, emergency managers, and society.

This study will obtain feedback on the use of DCAS data from seven emergency managers based in four Oklahoma counties. The study also includes a control group of emergency managers without access to DCAS based outside the test area. Participating managers will fill out an online survey following severe weather events in which the National Weather Service has issued a watch or warning. The survey includes questions on weather information use, sources of weather information accessed, deployment of assets, assessment of DCAS usefulness and/or NEXRAD for emergency management decision making, uncertainty in that decision making, emergency manager communication with other resources, and the warnings issued to their jurisdictions.  

This study hopes to gain insight on improving DCAS usefulness for users as well as increase our understanding of how weather radars and products fit into emergency manager decision making. It will also indicate how CASA may impact this process and ultimately reduce uncertainty in user decision making.

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Jo Anne Martinez-Kilgore, Cariño Conservation

Cockled, not Cuckolded:  Moving Towards a Common Vocabulary to Describe Activities, Stakeholders, Collections, and Objects as Varied Fields Collaborate for Disaster Management

This poster presents terms for which the presenter has encountered varying definitions.  Terms such as “vital records” can represent slightly different sets of activities among archivists, records managers, librarians, and museum professionals. Terms such as “cockled,” “blocked,” and “cleavage” describe conditions familiar to conservation professionals, but used differently by those outside museums, libraries, and archives.

This poster focuses on identifying a select group of terms to describe activities, stakeholders, collections, and objects often discussed as part of the prevention, planning, response, and recovery phases of disaster management for cultural property collections.  The presenter surveyed existing resources to explore the range of definitions for similar terms throughout various specialty fields in various contexts. The core reference group of existing glossaries spans the fields of conservation, preservation, libraries, archives, museums, fire prevention, safety and industrial hygiene, disaster mitigation and response, and risk management and insurance.

The poster presents a core vocabulary of approximately 50 terms with various definitions in the existing glossaries or standards.  Conference attendees are invited to contribute to the terms presented and propose alternate definitions. The presenter intends to establish standard definitions for the core group of terms in Wikipedia, as well as post and monitor the term list on the Disaster Mitigation Planning Assistance Web site with links to the Wikipedia list.

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Sue McNeil, University of Delaware

Disaster Focused Graduate Programs at the University of Delaware

In September 2010, the University of Delaware will launch a new graduate program in Disaster Science and Management. This interdisciplinary program will award master’s (thesis and nonthesis) and PhD degrees. The program builds on the strengths and experience of the Disaster Research Center to offer a program that includes both field experiences and international experiences, has an interdisciplinary focus, and is centered on strong advising and committed faculty.  The new program complements the existing graduate program (offering master’s and PhD degrees) in Sociology.

The poster describes the graduate programs in Disaster Science and Management and Sociology. The goal of both programs is to create exceptional professionals interested in careers in academia, public service, or private enterprise. The Disaster Science and Management program focuses on advancing scientific understanding and application of the burgeoning disaster-focused scientific field. The scholars will serve as leaders and stewards of the discipline. The program covers theories, research methodologies, and policies related to emergency preparedness, mitigation, management, and response. The Sociology program provides an opportunity for scholars to pursue a variety of interests in crime, law, deviance, race, class, gender and collective behavior/social movements, and research that studies the role of social science in disasters.

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Sharon Mielbrecht, Pacific Disaster Center

The Pacific Disaster Center’s DisasterAWARE Improves Decision Support for Emergency Managers

Since 1996, the Pacific Disaster Center has delivered effective solutions to disaster management and humanitarian aid organizations worldwide. Among these solutions is Disaster Alert, Warning, Analysis, Risk Evaluation (DisasterAWARE), the functional architecture behind a number of integrated decision support systems designed to meet the needs and priorities of senior disaster managers and decision makers.

DisasterAWARE’s key functions are:

• Automated ingest and dissemination of near real-time hazard updates, warning, and information bulletins for enhanced situational awareness;
• Synthesis and visualization of real-time hazard information with geospatial datasets and modeling results to construct a common operation picture among partners at all levels;
• A forum for information sharing across agencies and departments—registered users can view, post, and edit hazard-event graphics, situational reports, or damage assessments as disasters develop.

DisasterAWARE technology is in use in many custom, web-based applications in the United States and abroad.

PDC’s Emergency Management Operations (EMOPS) showcased DisasterAWARE’s full functionality on its Web site in May 2009. With additional global and regional data, as well as improved visualization, navigation and response time, EMOPS directly promotes the PDC mission to provide applied information, science, and technology to help reduce disaster risk and impacts on life and property.

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Jacqueline W. Mills,  California State University-Long Beach
Andrew Curtis, University of Southern California
Susan Tubbesing, Earthquake Engineering Research Institute
Marjorie Greene, Earthquake Engineering Research Institute
Gabe Mulford, Earthquake Engineering Research Institute
Boykin Witherspoon, III, California State Polytechnic University-Pomona

Field Data Collection in a Post-Disaster Environment: Using the EERI Field Tool to Create a Clearinghouse Resource for Researchers and Practitioners

This poster presents a new field data collection tool that can be used by researchers and practitioners in a variety of post-disaster environments. Data from such environments has untapped potential to build knowledge by: 1) enhancing studies of the individual occurrence (e.g., performance of engineered structures after Northridge); and 2) incorporating data from occurrences to gain a comprehensive understanding of physical and/or human processes for an event type (e.g., spatial patterns of damage in Southern California earthquakes) or similarities across event types. The first area has received attention, such as the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI) Learning from Earthquakes program that allows photos from earthquakes to be accessed with a Google Maps interface. This project, however, focuses on the second area, particularly on leveraging post-event field data to facilitate studies in all phases of emergency management and across multiple hazard types using Geographic Information Systems.

One component of this project is the development of the EERI Field Tool, which enables data (photos and attributes) to be collected systematically, organized, and integrated with GIS. Through a straightforward workflow that includes use of GPS, digital photographs, and the EERI Field Tool, researchers and practitioners can have improved efficiency in field data collection and contribute systematic, spatially-enabled data on events. Furthermore, through EERI’s partnership with the California Post-Earthquake Information Clearinghouse, these data can be archived and disseminated for widespread use by researchers and practitioners.

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William C. Nicholson, North Carolina Central University

Course Offerings from the Rural Domestic Preparedness Consortium

Rural emergency responders face unique challenges compared to their urban counterparts. In recognizing the need for consistent, quality training that addresses those challenges, Congress and the Department of Homeland Security established the Rural Domestic Preparedness Consortium to develop and deliver all-hazards training in support of rural homeland security requirements.  The RDPC, which is led by Eastern Kentucky University, is comprised of six academic institutions with expertise in developing and delivering  courses to rural emergency responders. To ensure training directly reflects the needs of rural emergency responders, the consortium convenes a national rural preparedness summit and completes a biennial national survey of rural stakeholders. Data gathered from these activities is used to determine training needs, the extent to which training is needed, and the best delivery methods.

All training delivered by the RDPC is certified by DHS and offered tuition-free.

This poster explains the nature of RDPC, sharing information on available courses and those in development. The poster also describes how to schedule the free training in one’s jurisdiction.

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Anna Osland, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Improving Knowledge of Factors Which Contribute to Mitigation of Transmission Pipeline Hazards in NC: The Role of Natural Hazard Mitigation and Land Use Planning Tools

Background: Local decisions regarding development near hazardous liquid and natural gas transmission pipelines can have a direct impact on the likelihood of transmission pipeline rupture. While the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 requires local planning for natural disasters, no such mandate exists for pipeline hazards.

Research Goals: This paper aims to 1) identify tools used to mitigate pipeline hazards; 2) improve knowledge of factors that contribute to mitigation of pipeline hazards; and 3) compare local natural hazard reduction efforts with efforts for technological hazards.

Methods: I use descriptive statistics to assess the use of 18 land-use planning tools, used by 85 jurisdictions in North Carolina, to mitigate new development from encroaching on transmission pipeline areas. I use ordinary least squares regression to calculate the affect of local capacity, pipeline knowledge, community characteristics, hazard mitigation for natural and technological hazards, and risk perception variables on community pipeline mitigation score. A spatial lag variable is included in the OLS regression. T-tests are used to calculate differences in hazard reduction efforts for five natural and five technological hazards.

Results: Preliminary results suggest planning agencies use few land use tools to mitigate new development near transmission pipelines. An average of 4.3 tools are used in each jurisdiction.  The tools most frequently used include signs indicating pipeline location, requiring the use of a utility location service before excavating, and illustrating pipeline locations on subdivision plats. T-tests indicate significant differences in mitigation of floods and all other hazards.

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Togu Santoso Pardede, University of Tokyo
Tetsuo Kidokoro, University of Tokyo
Takashi Onishi, University of Tokyo

Action Planning After Disaster: Learning from Village/Gampoong Planning in Aceh Reconstruction

It is a challenge to understand the post-tsunami reconstruction planning process in Aceh. The process is complex, not only because of the huge reconstruction needs of a community that has suffered both a historical disaster and a lengthy armed conflict, but also because the coordination of many national and international aid agencies and local governments were paralyzed at the time. Accordingly, the national government had to establish a special body (BRR) to coordinate and implement reconstruction. The first challenge of BRR was to get close to the communities using a bottom-up process, because the Aceh Reconstruction Master Plan/Blue Print top-down approach was difficult to implement. One way to do this was through “village planning,” a bottom-up plan that tried to engage community in creating their own futures. 647 village plans were designed and supported by donors in less than three years.

This paper examines the process of the village planning during the reconstruction process in Aceh. Village planning performance was evaluated on three essential aspects: reconstruction, mitigation, and participatory governance. We can learn to what extent the concept of “build back better” is implemented and what factors promoted or hindered achievement from the case studies. It concludes we need community action planning not only for short-term redevelopment, but also for the long-term planning, such as land use, hazard mitigation, and capacity building.

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Stephan A. Parker, Transportation Research Board of The National Academies
Michael C. Smith, University of Virginia

Hazards & Security Guides from the Cooperative Research Programs

After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the anthrax attacks that followed, transportation agencies in the United States expanded the programmatic, all-hazards approach that had been developed from decades of experience in traffic incident management, planned special events, and emergency response to natural hazards.  Key guidance includes:

Costing Asset Protection: An All Hazards Guide for Transportation Agencies (CAPTA). A convenient and robust planning tool for top-down estimation of the capital and operating budget implications of measures intended to reduce risks to locally acceptable levels. CAPTA covers multiple modes of transportation, multiple asset classes, and many individual assets.

A Guide to Planning Resources on Transportation and Hazards. The guide provides a framework for thinking about the stages of a disaster from a transportation perspective, describes the most current and innovative hazards research to a transportation audience, and introduces research from fields not always associated with transportation engineering (including social science, mitigation and land use planning, and policy analysis).

A Guide to Emergency Response Planning at State Transportation Agencies. The guide provides operationally oriented practical guidance for state transportation agencies to plan, organize, staff, train, exercise, manage, implement, and fund preparations necessary to carry out their emergency responsibilities.

Security 101: A Physical Security Primer for Transportation Agencies. This publication focuses on measures and concepts designed to safeguard personnel, prevent unauthorized access to equipment, installations, material, and documents, and safeguard equipment, installations, material, and documents against espionage, sabotage, damage, and theft.

For more information, see TRB publications online.

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Kris Peterson, Gender and Disaster Network
Bill Lovekamp, Gender and Disaster Network
Elaine Enarson, Gender and Disaster Network
Nicole Dash, Gender and Disaster Network
Sudha Arlikatti, Gender and Disaster Network

Gender and Disaster Network

This poster is prepared annually by the Gender and Disaster Network (GDN) to help raise awareness about gender equality and disaster risk reduction. It introduces the GDN, provides background on its origins and purpose, and includes information about recent activities of GDN members around the world—publications, conferences, projects, and research efforts. The poster also profiles the 2009 Mary Fran Myers award.

GDN is a virtual community that discusses, networks, and exchanges information through the GDN Web site maintained by Web Coordinator Kristinne Sanz and Maureen Fordham of Northumbria University. Thanks to support from USAID Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, and PreventionWeb, we are making the GDN more dynamic with the addition of GDNwiki, GDN Google Group, GDN online virtual forums, and thematic sections linked to Web sites and GDN member projects.

Member materials were integrated into this year’s poster by Dr. Sudha Arlikatti of the University of North Texas.

For more information about the GDN, please visit the Web site and consider subscribing to our ISDR-hosted discussion list.

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Nada Petrovic, University of California-Santa Barbara
Jean Carlson, University of California-Santa Barbara

Wildfire Resource Allocations in Conditions Involving Multiple Threats

The economic, environmental, and social impact of wildfires is an increasing problem in California and other places. Growing development at the wildland-urban interface, which places valuable assets at risk, exacerbates the problem. Numerous, large fires often occur simultaneously. Limited resources must be stretched across multiple sites. Tools are urgently needed to help make quick and effective decisions. In this work, we develop a framework to examine the tradeoffs associated with fighting multiple fires.

Firefighting decisions in California are currently made using FSPro, a spatial model that maps the probability of fire spread, and RAVAR, an economic model of threatened assets. These tools estimate the potential damage of each fire, which can then be used to compare the costs and benefits of different responses to multiple hot spots.

We illustrate this concept using Hfire, a Rothermel-based model for the spread of wildfire. By changing an extinction parameter, we estimate the impact of various levels of suppression on fire size. We also incorporate the interplay between fire size and urban density in decision making. Tradeoffs between resource costs and assets-at-risk determine the “go-versus-no-go” decision of an individual fire. We evaluate the cost of optimal and non-optimal strategies during simultaneously burning fires. Finally we compare our results with data from the 14 simultaneous fires of October 2003 and the 16 in October 2007 to consider the decisions made in real situations.

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Chaman Pincha, Beyond Boundaries

Home Gone …Work Gone….

A research project titled Indian Ocean Tsunami from a Gender Lens: Insight from Tamil Nadu, India covered 45 tsunami-affected areas with more than 150 focused group discussions and in-depth interviews with affected people. One of the issues raised by this research is that of home-based occupations and the nature of women’s vulnerability in the context of disasters. It’s an essential question of women’s livelihoods in developing countries, which are mostly home-based and are overlooked in the postdisaster damage assessment stage. While the home is considered damaged or destroyed, the loss of home-based livelihoods often is not taken into account. For a woman, the home is a site of both productive and reproductive work. Any damage assessment and subsequent recovery process should take these aspects into account.

The neglect of home-based occupations and their low priority in disaster response push women and the entire household into poverty. This research established that women’s income is mostly spent on children’s education, repair of home, health care and other life-enhancing expenses. However, the lack of gender analysis, reflects in different forms. The temporary shelter complexes, for example, have a shed for men to socialize and—in the case of fishing communities—mend nets, but there are no such spaces available for women that can effectively be used for their home-based occupations.

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Chaman Pincha, Beyond Boundaries

Are Women Vulnerable to Disasters or Are They Made Vulnerable?

Gender Mainstreaming in Disaster Response in Tamil Nadu, India underlines aspects that render women more vulnerable to disasters. A gender analysis of field information gathered from more than 150 focus group discussions and in-depth interviews with people in 45 areas shows multiple facets of women’s disempowerment—social, cultural, economic, and political­—all of which aggravate women’s vulnerabilities in the times of disaster.

More often than not, policy and program response assumes that women are vulnerable, pointing out that the popularity of the phrase gives the impression that their vulnerability is a given. This perception, from both policy makers and humanitarian agencies, is in conflict with women’s own perception of why they are vulnerable. The research demonstrates that, on the one hand, the perception makes the strategic needs of women invisible and, on the other, addresses practical needs in a way that reinforces rather than creates or expands their social, cultural, and economic spaces—the factors that make them vulnerable. It highlights that vulnerability is not a given, but a function of external factors that could be addressed effectively during disaster response, turning disasters into an opportunity to build back better.

The findings of the research, through field-based evidence, contend that unless women’s strategic interests are recognized and factored into all phases of disaster response and preparedness, the discourse of engendering disaster management will remain, at best, rhetoric.

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David Ryan Pokorny, Colgate University and Madison County Fire and Rescue Service

Identifying Special Needs Populations in Rural New York

Government agencies in a rural, central New York county wanted to create a special needs registry for disaster response. Rural settings, where limited resources are stretched over a large area, present challenges for disaster response. The meaning of special needs in the rural setting can be different from that of a more developed area. This research addresses these issues by creating a custom definition of special needs persons for this particular New York county. This definition allows for county agencies to determine which individuals should be enrolled in a special needs database. It also is adaptable to disasters with effects that extend over time. The definition of special needs expands as a disaster situation continues. The most prominent factors contributing to creating a special need were physical/mental disabilities and transportation. Research was conducted through semi-structured interviews with county officials and community members. The rural setting of the research created many challenges.

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Claire Reiss, Public Entity Risk Institute

The Public Entity Risk Institute

The Public Entity Risk Institute (PERI) is a nonprofit research institute that develops risk management education and training resources for local governments, school districts, small businesses, nonprofits and others. PERI has developed an extensive resource library with publications, tools, and resources on a wide range of risk management and emergency management topics. PERI’s poster highlights the projects and resources developed over the past year contributing to the field of emergency management. Some current projects include:

• Insurance for My Nonprofit, a Web site that helps nonprofits assess their insurance needs and provides educational materials.

•PERI Data Exchange, which measures risk management benchmarking and performance for the public sector.

• Education and Training, offering a variety of options for public entities, small businesses, and nonprofit organizations.

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Jane Rovins, Natural Hazard Mitigation Association
Ed Thomas, Natural Hazard Mitigation Association
Kristina Peterson, Natural Hazard Mitigation Association
Richard Krajeski, Natural Hazard Mitigation Association

The Natural Hazard Mitigation Association: Bringing Hazard
Mitigation Practitioners Together Across Disciplines

The Natural Hazard Mitigation Association (NHMA) was created in 2008 to bring together various individuals and organizations working in hazard mitigation. Its goals include: serving as a source of training and technical information; achieving greater awareness of the social component of hazard mitigation decisions; benefiting the community by developing more effective mitigation programs; and creating a forum for professionals to share ideas and experiences. NHMA is committed to serving as a bridge between existing hazard mitigation tools and individuals working in the field.

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Jenniffer M. Santos-Hernández, University of Delaware
Havidan Rodríguez, University of Delaware
Walter Díaz, University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez
William Donner, University of Delaware
Joseph Trainor, University of Delaware

Developing Informed Radar Technology: The Social Dimensions of Risk Communication

The Disaster Research Center (DRC) has worked with the Center for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere (CASA) to integrate the needs and recommendations of diverse users for the past six years with National Science Foundation funding. Using a Distributed Collaborative Adaptive Sensing (DCAS) strategy, the radar system enhances the ability to detect, understand, and predict tornadoes, storms, precipitation, and other atmospheric and airborne hazards. Because they frequently affect vulnerable communities, such hazards often result in disasters. Therefore, we must understand and incorporate the cultural, social, economic, and political arrangements of society and how they could inform the technology’s capacity to enhance public safety.

To assist in the development of CASA technology, researchers at DRC documented the needs, recommendations, and perceptions of potential users. Our research strategy employs qualitative and quantitative methods, including quick response research in hurricane- and tornado-affected communities; a quantitative index indentifying vulnerable populations; a quantitative survey and in-depth interviews with emergency managers about access, use, and response to weather forecasts; and an ongoing computer-assisted telephone interview survey exploring the decision-making process of householders under tornado warnings. Over 500 interviews in Oklahoma, Minnesota, Kansas, Illinois, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Alabama are now complete. This research strategy advances our knowledge about the potential users of CASA’s technology, synergizes social and engineering science, and contributes to system design efforts on the basis of knowledge about users.

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Brittany Scott, University of Delaware
Kathleen Shea, University of Delaware

The Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program: Training the Next Generation of Disaster Researchers

In the summer of 2005, the Disaster Research Center at the University of Delaware established a three-year Research Experience for Undergraduates program to engage 10 undergraduate students each year (15 in 2009, after the program was renewed for another three years) in hands-on research training to enhance their understanding of the social science aspects of disasters. REU is a nine-week research training institute held at the DRC-REU site to provide students with the necessary academic background, training, and relevant research experience to prepare them to function as relatively independent researchers.

The REU program is funded by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the University of Delaware. During the program, students are exposed to several course modules, including research methodology, theoretical social science approaches to understanding disasters, and the ethical implications of research.  Students also participate in an Invited Speaker series, in which speakers from a variety of disciplines present their experience/research to the students to emphasize the contributions of other disciplines.

All REU trainees develop a research proposal and engage in independent research projects under the guidance of a faculty mentor, resulting in a final research paper.  Students are encouraged to present these papers in regional or national scientific conferences. Research papers form part of a DRC-edited publication, which is made available to the academic, research, and general communities through the E.L. Quarantelli Resource Collection and the DRC Web site.

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Laura Siebeneck, University of Utah
Tom Cova, University of Utah 

Research at the Center for Natural and Technological Hazards

Faculty and students affiliated with the Center for Natural and Technological Hazards (CNTH) at the University of Utah conduct research on hazard assessment, preparedness, and response. The center’s mission is to develop and implement a research, educational, and outreach program focused on natural and human-induced hazards. CNTH is dedicated to advancing the use of geographic research information science and related technologies in hazards research and management. In addition, CNTH seeks to strengthen ties with governmental agencies and the private sector, as well as reaching out to media, schools, and the public to help minimize risk and associated losses. 

Recent CNTH research has investigated  a variety of issues including evacuation and return-entry research, protective action decision-making by incident commanders during wildfires, remote measurement of wildfire fuel properties, mapping fuels and fires, modeling evacuation scenarios, and terrorism. This poster highlights current research projects conducted at CNTH.

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Pat Skinner, LSU AgCenter and Sea Grant Extension
Beth Tomlinson, LSU AgCenter Extension
Maurice Wolcott, LSU AgCenter and Louisiana Sea Grant Extension

Building a Disaster Mitigation Program in Extension

Following hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Louisiana State University AgCenter was asked to provide rebuilding resources for the about 120,000 recipients of federal recovery funds. The AgCenter Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service brought together related program resources into a single portal ( or The portal incorporated flood mitigation resources developed through earlier post-disaster projects (elevating homes, Hurricane Andrew Hazard Mitigation Grant Program [HMGP], protecting homes from shallow flooding, May 1995 flood HMGP, Louisiana House Resource Center hazards education, Hurricane Lilli HMGP) and mitigation materials developed with direct Federal Emergency Management Agency funding. It used the homebuyer education program and the Coalition to Restore Home Ownership, as well as indoor air and energy program resources, and a Louisiana Sea Grant. The Web portal includes map interfaces showing site-specific wind, flood risks, and ground elevations that support code enforcement education. Concurrently, University of New Orleans Center for Hazard Assessment, Response and Technology and Tulane City Center were engaged for outreach using U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grants.

A highlight of the Louisiana Extension Disaster Recovery and Mitigation program is its ability to work across agency boundaries and expose audiences to rebuilding information, including home finance, construction permitting, building practice, and landscape. The program is an example of how extension education can be an asset in state hazard mitigation education, starting small then expanding with each disaster to meet growing needs.

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Zhenghong Tang, University of Nebraska

Geographic Clusters of Local Climate Change Mitigation Efforts In California

Local jurisdictions and residents are directly at risk of possible climate change. There is growing concern about local roles in climate change mitigation and adaptation. Local jurisdictions, however, have different motivations and capacities in climate change action. This study uses geographic information systems to analyze the spatial patterns of local climate change mitigation in California. The results identify significant geographic clusters and spatial variations of local climate change mitigation efforts in California’s local jurisdictions. Local jurisdictions have made unequal progress in three major types of climate programs—U.S. Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement, Cities for Climate Protection Campaign, and Local Climate Change Action Plans. California coastal jurisdictions have greater incentives and have made more effort in climate change mitigation and adaptation. Statewide coordination and education efforts are necessary to further incentivize local jurisdictions’ participation in climate change action.

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Patricia Marie Tulumello, Emergency Management Ontario

Expecting the Unexpected: The Ontario Provincial Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment

The core challenge faced by emergency managers is how to prevent, prepare, mitigate, respond to, and recover from a myriad of hazards. Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (HIRA) is a systematic risk assessment process. The HIRA assists emergency managers by providing a tool to identify what hazards exist in a designated area, their frequency, and the potential severity of impact on the community, critical infrastructure, property, and environment. HIRA is a proactive approach to emergency management that improves the ability to anticipate and mitigate the potential hazard effects and create effective emergency exercises and training programs focused on the most likely and dangerous hazards. It improves response practices and increases public confidence by showing emergency management professionals are aware of and prepared for all hazards.

To provide the most accurate risk assessment possible, the Ontario Provincial HIRA methodology assesses a variety of hazards types, allows for the addition of unknown hazards in subsequent revisions, incorporates qualitative and quantitative information, incorporates as much scientific information as possible, is applicable to a range of event magnitudes and frequencies, and is simple enough to be easily understood by people with different professional backgrounds.

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Fuhai Xu, University of Arizona
Zhenghong Tang, University of Nebraska

Environmental Capacity Assessment and Ecological Restoration in Post-Earthquake Recovery

The devastating Wenchuan earthquake on May 12, 2008, was the worst disaster in China in the past 50 years. The earthquake resulted in at least 69,227 deaths and left 4.8 million people homeless, as well as having an immense environmental impact on vulnerable biodiversity in the area. It is critical to assess the environmental capacity, providing essential information for post-earthquake recovery planning.

Although numerous recovery plans are being implemented in this area, most are subject to administrative boundaries rather than natural boundaries. This study used an ecosystem-based approach to analyze environmental changes caused by the earthquake. The results indicated serious damage to ecosystem integrity and significant loss of ecological function since the earthquake. These findings suggest recovery efforts should integrate ecological restoration with the reconstruction of human-engineered infrastructure. The study recommends strengthening local institutional capacity in environmental assessments and ecological restoration. Effective education and coordination mechanisms are key to achieving economic, social, and ecological recovery in post-earthquake areas.

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Ann Yoachim, Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law & Policy

“How Safe, How Soon?”

Communities across southern Louisiana face risks from flooding, sea level rise, continued coastal erosion, infrastructure failure, and increased frequency and intensity of hurricanes. Reducing vulnerability in the highly engineered, dynamic ecosystem of southern Louisiana will depend, in part, on community decisions about how they live and build on the coast, as well as the existing structures.
“How Safe, How Soon” is a collaborative effort of communities, regional and national non-profits, academic institutions, technical experts, and philanthropic organizations focused on supporting three vulnerable southern Louisiana communities in their efforts to respond to water related risks. The communities are New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward and Carrollton/Hollygrove neighborhoods and the United Houma Nation located primarily in Lafourche and Terrebonne Parishes. Funded by the Blue Moon Fund, this process has allowed communities to explore risks, open a dialogue with constituencies, create new partnerships, share knowledge and information, develop achievable, short-term solutions—such as community evacuation, return, and relief plans, as well as beginning to build resources necessary for long-term resiliency—and advocate for policy changes.

Project partners hope that the solutions developed by the project and lessons learned from the process can inform other U.S. efforts focused on building coastal community capacity to recover from disasters and prepare for risks in the face of climate change.

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Casey G. Zuzak, University of South Carolina

Mortality Databases: How Do We Collect and Count Deaths from Natural Hazards?

Natural hazards are responsible for hundreds of deaths in the United States annually. Historically, hazard studies have been place based or event specific, lacking a robust sample of hazard event types or failing to be geographically comprehensive. This makes it difficult to examine natural hazards mortality using an all-hazards approach.

The National Climatic Data Center’s Storm Data reports provide mortality figures by specific meteorological event, including gender, age, and location of death. Storm Data is the premier mortality dataset for meteorological hazards. The precision and accuracy related to individual hazard events is sometimes questionable.

The Center for Disease Control’s Compressed Mortality File (CMF) is a general mortality database, focused on all causes of mortality rather than just natural hazard deaths. CMF deaths are interpreted by classifying the cause of death listed on death certificates, for which natural disaster is one of many causes. While the CMF produces a more consistent mortality figure, numerous issues related to accuracy still remain, including location, urban-rural bias, and event-specific mortality data.

This preliminary study provides a systematic accuracy assessment between the Storm Data and CMF databases from January 1, 1996 to December 31, 1998 to ascertain similarities and differences. It produces a less biased estimate of natural hazard mortality for the United States. The degree of overlap between these two databases should provide the most accurate recording of natural hazard mortality and providing additional information for local emergency managers in hazards and vulnerability assessments.

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