Natural disasters

  • Earthquake early warningSilicon Valley tech startups developing earthquake early warning mobile apps

    Silicon Valley tech startups are developing mobile applications to alert residents about earthquakes, but most lack a direct source to the seismic sensors deployed by the state’s ShakeAlertsystem which sends alerts seconds before the ground begins to shake.Googleis currently the only tech company with an agreement to access ShakeAlert’s data feed, and analysts anticipate that Google will integrate ShakeAlert’s system with its Nestthermostat, a Web-connected thermostat that sends alerts to users’ phone and e-mail with details on home temperature and energy use.

  • DisastersTornadoes occurring earlier in Tornado Alley

    About 1,300 tornadoes hit the United States every year, killing an average of sixty people. Peak tornado activity in the central and southern Great Plains of the United States is occurring up to two weeks earlier than it did half a century ago, according to a new study whose findings could help states in “Tornado Alley” better prepare for these violent storms.

  • Infrastructure protectionCities seek new ways to cope with sea level rise – and look to the Dutch for advice

    Scientists predict a “tenfold increase” in the frequency of hurricanes and other storms, as well as sea-level rise of eleven to twenty-four inches within a little more than three decades – and planners and managers in U.S. coastal cities are looking at new ways to prepare their cities’ infrastructure for these challenges. In New York and New Orleans, city planners are studying the experience of the Dutch, who have gained a lot of experience – and fame — for their water control methods.

  • PreparednessThe State of New York launches disaster preparedness initiatives

    The state of New York is implementing a proactive strategy to deal with the threat of terrorism and natural disasters like Superstorm Sandy. Local municipalities have been granted state support for emergency preparedness projects, and the state’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services(DHSES), led by commissioner Jerome Hauer, has expanded its regional footprint from five planning/response regions to ten. “Mother Nature has become much more aggressive, so we too must adopt a similar posture to ensure we are ready to respond effectively when the next disaster strikes, Hauer says.

  • Coastal infrastructureRural towns lose to urban centers in competition for coastal protection funding

    Infrastructure protection planners say there are only three ways coastal communities can defend themselves against rising sea levels: defend the shoreline with both natural and man-made barriers; raise key infrastructure such as buildings and roads; or retreat from the shoreline. Each of these options costs a fortune to follow. Smaller, more rural coastal communities in many states are finding that they are having a hard time competing with more powerful interests in coastal urban cities over funding for protection against sea-level rise.

  • Seismic vulnerabilityNot all Oakland buildings are equally seismically vulnerable

    A mobile app which allows Oakland resident to check on whether their buildings are seismically vulnerable reveals that there is a vast inequality between safe and vulnerable homes in the city, as residents living in less-affluent, older multi-unit buildings would suffer the most in a major quake. Oakland is home to hundreds of those vulnerable buildings that may collapse in a major earthquake, and there is no law mandating property owners to retrofit buildings to safer standards.

  • RecoveryColorado recovering as it marks one year anniversary of devastating flood

    On 29 September 2013 Colorado experienced the most severe natural disaster that had ever befallen the state. Within three days much of the state had experienced a rainfall equivalent to its total for the entire year. In the end, nine people died, nearly 1,000 were evacuated by helicopter, and 1,800 homes were destroyed. The total cost of the damage reached $2.9 billion. Now, a year later, Colorado is finally coming back.

  • Infrastructure protectionSea level rise affecting the infrastructure, psychology of key mid-Atlantic towns

    Scientific research and flooding trends have led many to speculate that the Atlantic coast of the United States is already sinking. Mid-Atlantic towns on the coast stretching from Virginia to South Carolina have been experiencing increased flooding and receiving reports and satellite findings from government agencies, leading many of those living on the mid-Atlantic coast to wonder whether their hometowns are doomed.

  • Earthquake early warningInexpensive, home-made quake early-warning system can be a life saver

    UC Berkeley astrophysics professor Josh Bloom has developed an earthquake early-warning (EEW) device meant for the home or office. Resembling a home fire alarm or carbon monoxide sensor, the device was built using a Raspberry Pi single-board computer, an SD card, wired power speaker, and mini Wi-Fi adapter — costing roughly $110 in parts.

  • DisastersStart-ups offer apps which help people cope with disasters

    Open data policies which allow government agencies to share public information with citizens and the private sector have made California welcoming to startups dedicated to helping communities recover following a disaster.For example: Appallicious offers an app which allows subscribed cities and towns to select from hundreds of data sets, then share with the public, information on evacuation routes, current hazards, and location of critical resources.BlueLine Grid allows public employees from different agencies to communicate with each other during a crisis.SeeClickFix is connecting residents to their local government.

  • Infrastructure protectionFlorida Keys preparing for rising sea levels

    The Florida Keys rank third among East Coast communities at risk of “population displacement” due to higher seas which will flood nearby land. Scientists say that if sea levels continue to rise at the current rate, high waters which drowned the Keys during 2005’s Hurricane Wilma could become a normal part of living in Monroe County by 2060. Officials in Monroe County, Florida are putting together a GreenKeys Sustainability Action Plan which will help residents of the Florida Keys maintain a sustainable lifestyle while under threat of sea-level rise due to climate change.

  • Radiation risksNo Fukushima radiation found in California’s coastal areas

    Following the 11 March 2011 Fukushima disaster, researches wanted to see whether radioactivity could be found in Bay Area precipitation. They collected weeks’ worth of rainwater around UC Berkeley Campus to find out. The results: low levels of a number of different radioactive nuclei produced by the fission of uranium-235 including, cesium-134, cesium-137, and iodine-131. “The levels we saw were detectable, but low and not a health hazard to anyone,” said UC Berkeley’s nuclear engineering professor Eric Norman.

  • Earthquake early warningJapan boasts an earthquake early-warning system, but critics question its value

    Since 1979, scientists with the Japanese earthquake prediction program have been monitoring a stretch of coastline southwest of Tokyo, watching for ground motion which might signal a pending rupture on the nearby fault zone. If motion is detected, Japanese law requires the prime minister to issue an emergency warning to close schools, secure hospitals, and shut down critical public transportation systems. Critics argue Japan will be unable to predict earthquakes in the same manner meteorologists track approaching typhoons or rain storms, saying that the program offers false hope.

  • Earthquake early warningShakeAlert’s performance during August Napa tremor should lead to regional deployment: Supporters

    See video

    Before the magnitude-6 earthquake struck Napa County late August, the Bay Area Rapid Transit received an alert ordering trains to stop, and some 911 operators had a few seconds of warning to brace for an influx of calls from concerned residents. The success of ShakeAlert, California’s earthquake early-warning system currently in the testing phase, has encouraged state lawmakers to push for funding — and deploying — the regional early warning system.

  • BusinessNew Orleans creates economic value out of environmental vulnerability

    Following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, New Orleans and the state of Louisiana have become so adept at dealing with disaster reconstruction, that their new-found skills are now seen as an economic asset to be shared, for profit, with other states and localities. The area’s new environmental awareness is also a source of economic growth, as analysts now consider “emerging environmental” as one of six key industries in the city and state to focus on development, along with coastal restoration and water management, disaster mitigation and management, hazardous waste disposal, advanced bio fuels and waste water treatment.