Archive for the ‘disaster’ Category

July 3, 2011

While it was no where NEAR this grand, I have been in a hotel evacuation.

Please take time to think about this:

1. If this happened, what would you do?
2. Can you depend on hotel staff to give you guidance or do you read the chart on the wall?
3. If the hotel burns with your stuff in it, who replaces it and how long does it take?

Now … plan …

Thank you.

Sent to you by KC5FM via Google Reader:

A fire at London’s Park Lane Hilton hotel forced the evacuation of about 1,500 people. No injuries were reported.

Things you can do from here:


June 7, 2011

Did you see this from the KWHW Sunrise Reporter?

“Bintz was very thankful … Insurance will cover the accident …”

FEMA and your tax dollars were not summoned to the accident, except for the first response from police and fire. The only Federal response was from the National Guard unit that just happened to be training in the area at the time.

Don’t wait six months after the disaster to call your insurance agent. The first call should be to your insurance company. The advise is for owners and renters alike.

Check your policy. The two needed items after a disaster are shelter and debris removal. Homeowners policies may have provisions to cover both.  Renters’ insurance often covers the cost of temporary shelter until one can return to their home.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners offers an explanation of the disaster claims process.

Plan, prepare, practice … Go ahead and call your insurance company while you are thinking about this part of your plan.

Paying the Price: The Status and Role of Insurance Against Natural Disasters in the United States (Natural Hazards and Disasters: Reducing Loss and … in a Hazardous World: A Series)

March 20, 2011

Are you following the news in Japan?

It’s been over a week since the earthquake and tsunami.

There’s no rioting in the streets, no reports of looting, no outcries for the head of FEMA to resign.

Could this mean that the Japanese really ARE the second most prepared country in the world?  One writer suggest they are Number ONE in this arena.

Pay attention America. If this was happening here, would you do as well? … make a plan, build a kit to support the plan, practice the plan.

Today, please.

Sent to you by KC5FM via Google Reader:

via Homeland Security Watch by Philip J. Palin on 3/20/11

The image above displays different levels of March 11 quake intensity (circles) superimposed on population density. Red star is epicenter. Darkest blue is Tokyo region.  The large arc of an island extending across most of the picture is Honshu.  The island at the top is Hokkaido.  The northern third of Honshu is traditionally known as Tohoku (literally meaning northeast).  Courtesy of NASA Earth Observatory.
As of Sunday evening in Japan:
Dead: 8133    Missing: 12, 272 (Kyodo)
Injured: 2611 (OCHA)
Evacuees in public shelters: 360,000 (Kyodo)
Buildings damaged or destroyed: 117,000 (USAID)
Without regular water service: 2.3 million people (COE)
Without electricity: 289,000 households (713,000 plus people) (OCHA)
Aftershocks: 290 and at least one separate 6.1 earthquake (USGS)
The situation at hospitals that have been without tap water, electricity and gas since the earthquake struck remains a concern. Many hospitals are trying to keep patients alive without water or electricity. Some hospitals have reported reducing the number of meals and procedures provided. They fear that lives saved from the earthquake will now be lost due to the shortages of doctors and medicine. There is also a shortage of medicines for people with chronic conditions in the evacuation shelters. Several reports of hypothermia, serious dehydration and respiratory diseases in the shelters. The focus is now on keeping the elderly alive and healthy. (OCHA)
The cold weather has eased slightly but the Japan Meteorological Agency warned that freezing temperatures will return in the Tohoku region on 20 March, and be followed by heavy rains on 21 March. Unseasonably cold weather is expected to continue beyond 22 March. The Agency has also issued a flood alert for the earthquake affected coastal regions during the spring tides from the 18 – 26 March and in particular for Minami-Sanrikucho, Miyagi where the ground has sunk 75cm.
Approximately 94 percent of main roads reaching affected coastal areas had been repaired as of March 19, with additional repairs ongoing in affected areas, according to the GoJ.  In addition, six previously damaged sea ports are now operational and the Sendai airport is open for a limited number of emergency and humanitarian flights. (USAID)   Two main highways are still reserved for emergency vehicles only. (COE)
The current GOJ guidance for securing emergency supplies: Evacuation centers will send requests to municipalities, and the prefecture will consolidate these requests  and liaise with the national government. Then, the national government will request relief items  and food from the private sector and other municipalities, which will be consolidated at SDF  sites and transported by the SDF to affected areas. (COE)  This system is not yet having wide-spread effectiveness.  According to Sunday’s Washington Post, “Eight days after a 9.0 magnitude earthquake sent a merciless wall of water crashing onto Japan’s northeastern coast, a city once noted for its jazz festival and expansive joie de vivre is reduced to foraging for basic necessities. The descent of a vibrant metropolis toward a state of simple survival has helped numb the population to a further agony. Many here are too preoccupied with day-to-day needs to focus on unseen dangers leaking from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant down the coast.”
The GoJ has announced temporary power cuts across the nation, following the reduction in output or the closure of 11 of 50 nuclear generators located in affected areas. The government warned that rolling blackouts would begin March 14 and are expected to last until at least the end of April.  (COE)
The construction of temporary housing for the evacuees has started in Rikuzen-Takada City and Kamaichi City, in Iwate Prefecture. In Rikuzen-Takada, 36 structures are planned for the end of this month, and 200 in total afterwards, while about 100 structures are to be built in Kamaishi, Ofunato, Iwate and Sohma, and Fukushima. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, estimates 8,800 temporary houses are needed in Iwate, 10,000 in Miyagi and 14,000 in Fukushima for the short-term. The Government has requested a consortium of constructors to build at least 30,000 in two months. (OCHA)
According to Reuters, Economics Minister Kaoru Yosano said that the economic damages from the disaster would exceed 20 trillion yen (US$248 billion). The 1995 Kobe earthquake caused some US$100 billion in damage and was the most expensive natural disaster in history. Citigroup estimated 5-10 trillion yen in damages to housing and infrastructure while Barclays Capital estimates economic losses of 15 trillion yen (US$183.7 billion). Goldman Sachs estimated total economic losses to be 16 trillion yen. (US$198 billion) (Reuters, March 19)USB expects Japan’s economy to grow 1.4 percent this year, compared to a previous forecast of 1.5 percent and also upgraded its growth forecast for next year to 2.5 percent, up from a previous estimate of 2.1 percent. (Reuters)
Crisis Commons has established a data aggregation site focused on Japan. It is being constantly updated and expanded.  ReliefWeb continues to be a very rich source of background and situational awareness.

It has taken much longer than the oft-discussed 72 hours, but nine-to-ten days after the earthquake-and-tsunami a reasonably clear picture of the situation in Northeast Japan is beginning to emerge.  The clarity will increase with each passing day, as should our sense of the profound scope and scale.  This is how a rich, resilient, and well prepared society can still be knocked very hard.
It is, I think, premature to reach many risk readiness conclusions.  While the amount of information available is really amazing, differences of language and culture can obscure our understanding.  The vast amounts of information may even distract from our sense of meaning.
But it is not too soon to begin framing some questions.  Even as those on the ground are organizing themselves to serve the survivors, how can we organize observations to enhance our chance of future survival.  A few questions of particular personal interest:
Resupply of the affected areas has been slow.  What factors contributed most to the delay: Unavailability of supply? Damage to transportation infrastructure? Uncertainty about the status of transportation infrastructure? Reduced availability of fuel?  Uncertainty about availability of fuel? Weather complications? Unwillingness of truckers and other elements of the logistical system to enter the impact area?  Refusal of officials to allow truckers and others to enter?  Efforts to establish effective command-and-control?
My deniable hypothesis: All the above contributed, but I perceive the command-and-control mentality had (and is having) a particular impact.
While the total number of dead is likely to be close to or above 20,000, given the roughly 1.4 million in the earthquake-and-tsunami target zone, this is a considerably better outcome than might be expected.  What saved lives:  infrastructure, information, training?  Family reunification is a big question for US catastrophic preparedness, what is the Japanese policy/strategy in this regard?  What was the population’s behavior in this regard?  Who died?  It seems to me there is evidence to suggest that the elderly died in disproportionate numbers.  Was this a matter of mobility?  Information?  Training?  Isolation?
My deniable hypothesis: The wider the individual’s social web especially at the critical moment of threat, the more likely their survival.
At least from this distance, there has been a strange sort of slow-motion decision-making in regard to both the tsunami response and dealing with the nuclear emergency.  For example, I am neither a firefighter nor a nuclear specialist, but I was pushing use of Tokyo’s high-rise firefighting equipment at Fukushima 48 hours before it happened.  Based on my experience in Japan I wonder about the influence of hierarchical cultural patterns.  To what extent were people waiting for orders? Waiting for instructions?  Using the Cynefin framework, how did participant-observers define their problem: was it complicated, complex, or chaotic?
Two deniable hypotheses: The situation after 2:46  Japan time on March 11 was “chaotic”.   Most participants and decision-makers in Japan treated the situation as “complicated.”  See Cynefin Framework for definition of terms.

    December 28, 2010

    Coupled along with this note from the Vacation Lane Group, it was observed by the Old Farmer’s Almanac that, on December 26, 1947, “NYC’s deepest snowstorm commenced: 25.8″ at battery, 32″ in suburbs – traffic completely stopped – removal costed $8 million – 27 people died, 1947.”

    In other words, this week’s is not the FIRST worst snowstorm in the Northeast. Neither will it be the last. This particular event predates the Federal Emergency Management Agency by over 30 years.  Please, no jokes about FEMA being established on April Fool’s Day, 1979.

    I am not calling for the elimination of FEMA or Homeland Security, but something was different in 1947.  There was no FEMA, no Red Cross debit cards, the City survived, and America continued.

    What could it have been?

    While I am not calling for the elimination of the Federal Emergency Management Agency or Homeland Security, it is noteworthy that, in public speaking, I have yet to have a listener raise their hand when I ask who would like to give ME a generator. However, rare is the disaster that occurs where there are more requests for FEMA reimbursement for individual generators.

    It appears that FEMA is wise to continue the missive of preparedness. This message is NOT new. The “Are You Ready” books have been in print for several years now. They are a good supplement to the local emergency management program in the USA. It fits nicely with the 303 Plan described by our friends in Australia at

    It really is fitting that, in 1947, I suspect Neighbors Helped Neighbors. In the beginning of the Cold War era, the elderly and infirm were not overlooked. Perhaps, America should return to the pattern and practice of our forefathers.

    After all, all disasters start locally and end locally, in 1947 or today. Are YOU Ready?

    Sent to you by KC5FM via Google Reader:

    via The Vacation Lane Blog by The Vacation Lane Group on 12/20/10

    There once was a time when snow and ice were not the subject of disaster declarations. In fact the Fire, flood, or explosion litany of the disaster legislation often seemed to not even include those hazards. Snowstorms have now been added.

    The current definition reads:

    “Major disaster” means any natural catastrophe (including any hurricane, tornado,
    storm, high water, winddriven water, tidal wave, tsunami, earthquake, volcanic
    eruption, landslide, mudslide, snowstorm, or drought), or, regardless of cause, any
    fire, flood, or explosion, in any part of the United States, which in the determination
    of the President causes damage of sufficient severity and magnitude to warrant
    major disaster assistance under this Act to supplement the efforts and available
    resources of States, local governments, and disaster relief organizations in
    alleviating the damage, loss, hardship, or suffering caused thereby.”

    Thus icestorms and energy outages are not specifically listed unless accompanied by one of the listed hazards or the specifically named ones–fire, flood or explosion. And of course radiological releases and terrorist attacks are also not specifically listed or generically listed.

    Well it will be interesting to see exactly what FEMA and DHS do in the event of a prolonged icestorm or energy outage or even what their plans and capabilities are in fact. A large ice storm in KY last winter has resulted in an outpouring of disaster largess and surely this was partially the result of efforts by the long serving Congressman from KY Fifth Congressional District now chair of the House Appropriations Committee in the forthcoming 112th Congress.

    Not relying on FEMA documentation of capability (there is little to rely upon) but open source materials on other agencies including the Department of Energy a mass and long term outage of power in a major metropolitan area–I would argue the top 500–would result in deaths and damages that would or should qualify this for major disaster status. Perhaps in the South and West, as both FRANCE and Russia have now experienced, heat wave deaths in unairconditioned shelter can be devastating to URBAN populations.

    So suggesting that these situations be added to the planning scenarios and any statutory issues be addressed in the 112th Congress.

    Winter now but yes with the winter solstice arriving summer now the solstice after next.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Years to all.

    Things you can do from here: