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Optimal Evidence in Difficult Settings: Improving Health Interventions and Decision Making in Disasters

April 24, 2014 Comments off

Optimal Evidence in Difficult Settings: Improving Health Interventions and Decision Making in Disasters
Source: PLoS Medicine

Summary Points

  • As for any type of health care, decisions about interventions in the context of natural disasters, conflict, and other major healthcare emergencies must be guided by the best possible evidence.
  • Disaster health interventions and decision making can benefit from an evidence-based approach.
  • We outline how systematic reviews and methodologically sound research can build a much-needed evidence base.
  • We do this from the standpoint of Evidence Aid, an initiative that aims to improve access to evidence on the effects of interventions, actions, and policies before, during, and after disasters and other humanitarian emergencies, so as to improve health-related outcomes.
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Resilient Cities Research Report

April 23, 2014 Comments off

Resilient Cities Research Report
Source: Grosvenor

The ability of cities to thrive as centres of human habitation, production and cultural development, despite the challenges posed by climate change, population growth and globalisation, is determined by their resilience. From a real estate investor’s perspective, resilience allows cities to preserve capital values and generate sustainable rental income in the long term. In human terms, cities are resilient if they absorb shocks, like Hurricane Sandy, maintain their output of goods and services and continue to provide their inhabitants with a good quality of life according to the standards of the time.

Resilience – the ability of a city to avoid or bounce back from an adverse event – comes from the interplay of vulnerability and adaptive capacity.

Vulnerability is a city’s exposure to shocks in terms of both magnitude and frequency. Shocks may be due to changes in the climate, environmental degradation, shortage of resources, failed infrastructure or community strife due to inequality. That most cities have survived for the last several centuries or, in some cases, millennia, indicates a long period of stability in the pattern of urban growth. Recent population growth and industrialisation, despite many benefits, are destabilising planetary systems and making previously safe places more vulnerable than they ever were before.

Yet cities, like societies, are adaptable. Just like societies, they vary enormously in their adaptive capacity due to governance, institutions, technology, wealth and the propensity to plan.

So resilience increases when cities have more adaptive capacity and decreases when they are more vulnerable. Exponential population and economic growth is placing so much pressure on resources that resilience, which has for so long been a free gift of history, urgently needs to be rethought.

By quantifying the resilience of 50 of the world’s most important cities we, at Grosvenor, hope to contribute to this vital debate.

CRS — Green Infrastructure and Issues in Managing Urban Stormwater

April 17, 2014 Comments off

Green Infrastructure and Issues in Managing Urban Stormwater (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

For decades, stormwater, or runoff, was considered largely a problem of excess rainwater or snowmelt impacting communities. Prevailing engineering practices were to move stormwater away from cities as rapidly as possible to avoid potential damages from flooding. More recently, these practices have evolved and come to recognize stormwater as a resource that, managed properly within communities, has multiple benefits.

Report: Nearly 300,000 New Yorkers Flooded in Sandy Lived Outside FEMA Flood Zones

April 11, 2014 Comments off

Report: Nearly 300,000 New Yorkers Flooded in Sandy Lived Outside FEMA Flood Zones
Source: Natural Resources Defense Council

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s flood maps for New York City did not identify that nearly 65 percent of the area inundated during Hurricane Sandy—home to nearly 300,000 people—was at risk from coastal flooding, according to a new analysis from the Natural Resources Defense Council. The report tallies the human toll and impact to critical infrastructure like schools and hospitals.

Update on National Hurricane Center Products and Services for 2014

April 11, 2014 Comments off

Update on NHC Products and Services for 2014 (PDF)
Source: NOAA (National Hurricane Center)

NOAA’s National Hurricane Center (NHC) will implement the following changes to its text and graphical products for the 2014 hurricane season…

Facts for Features: 2014 Hurricane Season Begins

April 10, 2014 Comments off

Facts for Features: 2014 Hurricane Season Begins
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

The North Atlantic hurricane season begins June 1 and lasts through Nov. 30. The U.S. Census Bureau produces timely local statistics that are critical to emergency planning, preparedness and recovery efforts. The growth in population of coastal areas illustrates the importance of emergency planning and preparedness for areas that are more susceptible to inclement weather conditions. The Census Bureau’s rich, local economic and demographic statistics from the American Community Survey gives communities a detailed look at neighborhood-level statistics for real-time emergency planning for the nation’s growing coastal population.

Emergency planners and community leaders can better assess the needs of coastal populations using Census Bureau statistics. This edition of Facts for Features highlights the number of people living in areas that could be most affected by these dramatic acts of nature.

Global insured losses from catastrophes were USD 45 billion in 2013, Swiss Re sigma says

April 1, 2014 Comments off

Global insured losses from catastrophes were USD 45 billion in 2013, Swiss Re sigma says
Source: Swiss Re

  • Total economic losses from natural catastrophes and man-made disasters were USD 140 billion in 2013
  • Global insured losses were around USD 45 billion in 2013, with large contributions from flooding and hail events
  • Around 26 000 lives were lost in natural catastrophes and man-made disasters in 2013
  • A special chapter on climate change in the sigma says rising global temperatures are expected to lead to shifts in the frequency, intensity and duration of extreme weather events

IPCC Report: A changing climate creates pervasive risks but opportunities exist for effective responses; Responses will face challenges with high warming of the climate

March 31, 2014 Comments off

IPCC Report: A changing climate creates pervasive risks but opportunities exist for effective responses; Responses will face challenges with high warming of the climate (PDF)
Source: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a report today that says the effects of climate change are already occurring on all continents and across the oceans. The world, in many cases, is ill-prepared for risks from a changing climate. The report also concludes that there are opportunities to respond to such risks, though the risks will be difficult to manage with high levels of warming.

The report, titled Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, from Working Group II of the IPCC, details the impacts of climate change to date, the future risks from a changing climate, and the opportunities for effective action to reduce risks. A total of 309 coordinating lead authors, lead authors, and review editors, drawn from 70 countries, were selected to produce the report. They enlisted the help of 436 contributing authors, and a total of 1,729 expert and government reviewers.

The report concludes that responding to climate change involves making choices about risks in a changing world. The nature of the risks of climate change is increasingly clear, though climate change will also continue to produce surprises. The report identifies vulnerable people, industries, and ecosystems around the world. It finds that risk from a changing climate comes from vulnerability (lack of preparedness) and exposure (people or assets in harm’s way) overlapping with hazards (triggering climate events or trends). Each of these three components can be a target for smart actions to decrease risk.

+ Summary and Full Report

CRS — Drought in the United States: Causes and Current Understanding

March 6, 2014 Comments off

Drought in the United States: Causes and Current Understanding (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Drought is a natural hazard, often with significant societal, economic, and environmental consequences. Public policy issues related to drought range from how to identify and measure drought to how best to prepare for, mitigate, and respond to drought impacts, and who should bear associated costs. Severe droughts in 2011 and 2012 in Texas and the midcontinent region, and the current drought in California and the American Southwest, have fueled congressional interest in drought and its near-term effects on water supplies and agriculture, as well as interest in long-term issues, such as drought forecasting and links between drought and human-induced climate change. Continuing drought conditions throughout the country contribute to ongoing interest in drought.

GA Gov. Deal: Report will play a key role in future winter storm response

March 6, 2014 Comments off

Deal: Report will play a key role in future winter storm response
Source: Georgia Office of the Governor

Gov. Nathan Deal today received the internal review and action plan he ordered from state agency heads involved in emergency response during the winter storm of Jan. 26-30.

“Our state experienced two severe winter storms in two weeks, events that tested the resilience and preparedness of all Georgians,” Deal said. “Following the first storm, I implemented immediate action items as well as initiated an internal review by state agency heads. The action items paid off. Our state for the second storm was more informed and prepared through the cellphones alerts, emails to school superintendents and consultations with local meteorologists. The safety of our citizens is of the utmost importance, and this report will play a key role in shaping the way our state government agencies prepare for and prevent dangerous winter weather situations.”

State agency heads from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Public Safety, the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Defense and the Department of Transportation met to examine the events of the winter storm, which was found to be an extremely unusual circumstance based on data from the National Weather Service.

The report includes short- and long-term solutions, some of which have already been successfully implemented.

CRS — The Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Strategy: In Brief

March 4, 2014 Comments off

The Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Strategy: In Brief (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

On the evening of October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy, the second-largest Atlantic storm on record, made landfall in southern New Jersey. The consequences of the storm included at least the deaths of 159 people, over 23,000 people who required temporary shelters, 8.5 million customers who were left without power, approximately $65 billion in damages, and 650,000 homes that were damaged or destroyed.1

This report briefly analyzes the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Strategy (HSRS), which is the key strategic document released by the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force established by executive order. The HSRS has 69 different recommendations meant to guide the regions’ recovery from the disaster. This report also discusses overarching issues for Congress that may arise in oversight of the Hurricane Sandy recovery process and how lessons learned from Hurricane Sandy can be applied to future disasters.

CRS — Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda): U.S. and International Response to Philippines Disaster (updated)

March 3, 2014 Comments off

Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda): U.S. and International Response to Philippines Disaster (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)

This report examines the impact of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), which struck the central Philippines on November 8, 2013, and the U.S. and international response. Haiyan was one of the strongest typhoons to strike land on record. Over a 16 hour period, the “super typhoon,” with a force equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane and sustained winds of up to 195 mph, directly swept through six provinces in the central Philippines. The disaster quickly created a humanitarian crisis. In some of the hardest hit areas, particularly in coastal communities in Leyte province and the southern tip of Eastern Samar, the storm knocked out power, telecommunications, and water supplies. The humanitarian relief operation was initially hampered by a number of significant obstacles, including a general lack of transportation, extremely limited communications systems, damaged infrastructure, and seriously disrupted government services. Despite the physical and logistical challenges, regular relief activities reportedly reached most of the worst-stricken areas within two weeks of the storm.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Community Collective Efficacy following the 2004 Florida Hurricanes

February 28, 2014 Comments off

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Community Collective Efficacy following the 2004 Florida Hurricanes
Source: PLoS ONE

There is a paucity of research investigating the relationship of community-level characteristics such as collective efficacy and posttraumatic stress following disasters. We examine the association of collective efficacy with probable posttraumatic stress disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder symptom severity in Florida public health workers (n = 2249) exposed to the 2004 hurricane season using a multilevel approach. Anonymous questionnaires were distributed electronically to all Florida Department of Health personnel nine months after the 2004 hurricane season. The collected data were used to assess posttraumatic stress disorder and collective efficacy measured at both the individual and zip code levels. The majority of participants were female (80.42%), and ages ranged from 20 to 78 years (median = 49 years); 73.91% were European American, 13.25% were African American, and 8.65% were Hispanic. Using multi-level analysis, our data indicate that higher community-level and individual-level collective efficacy were associated with a lower likelihood of having posttraumatic stress disorder (OR = 0.93, CI = 0.88–0.98; and OR = 0.94, CI = 0.92–0.97, respectively), even after adjusting for individual sociodemographic variables, community socioeconomic characteristic variables, individual injury/damage, and community storm damage. Higher levels of community-level collective efficacy and individual-level collective efficacy were also associated with significantly lower posttraumatic stress disorder symptom severity (b = −0.22, p<0.01; and b = −0.17, p<0.01, respectively), after adjusting for the same covariates. Lower rates of posttraumatic stress disorder are associated with communities with higher collective efficacy. Programs enhancing community collective efficacy may be an important part of prevention practices and possibly lead to a reduction in the rate of posttraumatic stress disorder post-disaster.

CRS — Agricultural Disaster Assistance

February 19, 2014 Comments off

Agricultural Disaster Assistance (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

The U.S. Department of Agricult ure (USDA) offers several permanently authorized programs to help farmers recover financially from a natural disaster, including federal crop insurance, the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP ), and emergency disaster loans. The federal crop insurance program is designed to protect crop producers from unavoidable risks associated with adverse weather, and weather-related plant diseases and insect infestations. Producers who grow a crop that is currently ineligible for cr op insurance may be eligible for a payment under NAP. Under the emergency disaster (EM) loan program, when a county has been declared a disaster area by either the President or the Secret ary of Agriculture, agricultural producers in that county may become eligible for low-interest loans.

CRS — Emergency Relief for Disaster Damaged Roads and Transit Systems: In Brief

February 13, 2014 Comments off

Emergency Relief for Disaster Damaged Roads and Transit Systems: In Brief (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Major roads and bridges are part of the federal-aid highway system and are therefore eligible for assistance under the Emergency Relief Program (ER) of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Following a natural disaster (such as Hurricane Sandy in 2012) or catastrophic failure (such as the 2013 collapse of the Skagit River Bridge), ER funds are made available for both emergency repairs and restoration of federal-aid highway facilities to conditions comparable to those before the disaster.

New From the GAO

February 12, 2014 Comments off

New From the GAO
Source: Government Accountability Office

Reports

1. Computer Matching Act: OMB and Selected Agencies Need to Ensure Consistent Implementation. GAO-14-44, January 13.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-44
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/660141.pdf

2. Department Of Homeland Security: Ammunition Purchases Have Declined Since 2009. GAO-14-119, January 13.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-119
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/660144.pdf

3. Maritime Administration: Ship Disposal Program Needs Improved Communications and Updated Strategic Plan. GAO-14-223, February 12.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-223
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/660900.pdf

4. Information Technology: HUD’s Expenditure Plan Satisfied Statutory Conditions; Sustained Controls and Modernization Approach Needed. GAO-14-283, February 12.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-283
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/660863.pdf

Testimony

1. Extreme Weather Events: Limiting Federal Fiscal Exposure and Increasing the Nation’s Resilience, by Mark Gaffigan, managing director, natural resources and environment, before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. GAO-14-364T, February 12.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-364T
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/660861.pdf

Captain’s decision to sail into the path of a hurricane caused the tall ship Bounty to sink off Atlantic coast

February 12, 2014 Comments off

Captain’s decision to sail into the path of a hurricane caused the tall ship Bounty to sink off Atlantic coast
Source: National Transportation Safety Board

A captain’s “reckless decision to sail into the well-forecasted path of Hurricane Sandy” was the probable cause of the sinking of a ship off the North Carolina coast in October 2012, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a report released today. The captain and one crewmember died in the accident. Three other crewmembers were seriously injured.

On the evening of October 25, 2012, a day after a closely watched developing storm had reached hurricane strength, the 108-foot-long tall wooden ship, the Bounty, set sail from New London, Conn., for St. Petersburg, Fla., into the forecasted path of Superstorm Sandy. The 52-year-old vessel, a replica of the original 18th Century British Admiralty ship of the same name, was built for MGM Studios for the 1962 movie, “Mutiny on the Bounty.”

Prior to setting off from New London, some of the crewmembers had expressed their concerns to the captain that sailing into a severe storm could put all of them and the ship at risk. The captain assured the crew that the Bounty could handle the rough seas and that the voyage would be a success. Just a month earlier, in an interview with a Maine TV station, the captain said that the Bounty “chased hurricanes,” and by getting close to the eye of the storm, sailors could use hurricane winds to their advantage.

The 16-page report details how a mostly inexperienced crew – some injured from falls, others seasick and fatigued from the constant thrashing of 30-foot seas – struggled for many hours to keep the ships engines running and bilge pumps operating so the seawater filling the vessel would not overtake it.

Coastal flood damage and adaptation costs under 21st century sea-level rise

February 12, 2014 Comments off

Coastal flood damage and adaptation costs under 21st century sea-level rise
Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Coastal flood damages are expected to increase significantly during the 21st century as sea levels rise and socioeconomic development increases the number of people and value of assets in the coastal floodplain. Estimates of future damages and adaptation costs are essential for supporting efforts to reduce emissions driving sea-level rise as well as for designing strategies to adapt to increasing coastal flood risk. This paper presents such estimates derived by taking into account a wide range of uncertainties in socioeconomic development, sea-level rise, continental topography data, population data, and adaptation strategies.

Northridge Anniversary: Surprising Poll Results 20 Years After Costliest Earthquake in U.S. History

January 27, 2014 Comments off

Northridge Anniversary: Surprising Poll Results 20 Years After Costliest Earthquake in U.S. History
Source: Insurance Information Institute

A recent poll by the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) found that only one out of 10 American homeowners (10 percent) have earthquake insurance, compared with 13 percent in 2012. In western states, 22 percent of homeowners said they have earthquake insurance, down from 27 percent.

The 6.7 magnitude quake, which hit Los Angeles on January 17, 1994, also still ranks as the fourth-costliest U.S. disaster, based on insured property losses (in 2013 dollars), topped only by Hurricane Katrina, the attacks on the World Trade Center and Hurricane Andrew.

On the global scale, the Northridge earthquake still ranks as the second costliest earthquake for insurers, after Japan’s earthquake and tsunami of 2011, according to Munich Re.

WEF — Global Risks 2014

January 23, 2014 Comments off

Global Risks 2014
Source: World Economic Forum
From press release:

The chronic gap between the incomes of the richest and poorest citizens is seen as the risk that is most likely to cause serious damage globally in the coming decade, according to over 700 global experts that contributed to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks 2014 report, released today.

Taking a 10-year outlook, the report assesses 31 risks that are global in nature and have the potential to cause significant negative impact across entire countries and industries if they take place. The risks are grouped under five classifications – economic, environmental, geopolitical, societal and technological – and measured in terms of their likelihood and potential impact.

Most likely global risks: After income disparity, experts see extreme weather events as the global risk next most likely to cause systemic shock on a global scale. This is followed by unemployment and underemployment, climate change and cyberattacks.

Most potentially impactful global risks: Fiscal crises feature as the global risk that experts believe has the potential to have the biggest impact on systems and countries over the course of the next 10 years. This economic risk is followed by two environmental risks – climate change and water crises – then unemployment and underemployment, and then critical information infrastructure breakdown, a technological risk.

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