• Disaster response experts call for "red-helmet brigade"

    Experts say that the world need to be better prepared to respond to natural disasters such as the Pakistan floods of the Haiti earthquake; they say that an organization such as the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs should establish a special response unit to set up a computerized database that identifies all available assets routinely needed in an emergency — emergency personnel, medical personnel, water, non-perishable food stuffs, extraction machinery, temporary shelters, and field hospitals; some supplies could be held in locations around the world, ready to be dispatched as soon as disaster assessment experts working for a central command and control center arrive on the scene of a catastrophe

  • China, Pakistan floods; Haiti earthquake: not merely "natural" disasters

    The recent disasters in Pakistan, China, and Haiti have done more than kill thousands and displace millions: they have raised questions about whether the modifier “natural” — as in “natural disaster” — is accurate in describing the sources and scope of the catastrophes; these and other recent disasters, in other words, raise questions about how much of the damage caused comes from the forces of nature and how much is the result of human activity; experts say that a major contributing factor to the scope of these disasters are development decisions which are too often controlled by wealthy and corrupt elites who have no interest in protecting people who have been marginalized by poverty

  • Wild fires in Russia may shower region with Chernobyl-era radioactive particles

    Large forested areas in Bryansk were contaminated when the Chernobyl nuclear power plant’s Reactor No. 4 exploded during a pre-dawn test on 26 April 1986, spewing radioactive clouds over much of the western Soviet Union and northern Europe; radioactive particles settled into the soil, and environmentalists have warned that they could be thrown up into the air once again by wildfires and blown into other areas by the wind; the death rate in Moscow has doubled to 700 people a day

  • Cholera spreads in flood-ravaged Pakistan

    With stagnant water throughout Pakistan, water-borne diseases such as gastroenteritis, malaria, and typhoid, now threaten the nation; there are reports of diarrhoea and cholera among the hundreds of thousands left homeless, and food and drinking water are in short supply

  • Good business: Developers make buildings more disaster-secure than building code requires

    A Florida developer hopes to get more business by making his building hurricane-proof; with debris-resistant windows on all thirty-five of its stories, the developer says the building would withstand a Category 5 hurricane without significant damage; the extra hurricane proofing built into the Miami building shows that sometimes the private market can overtake the public sector when it comes to building design and safety standards; for example, in New York and Washington, D.C., some developers have put in anti-terrorism safeguards that exceed building codes

  • Keeping trains on track

    Tel Aviv University helps develop early-warning hazard system for the world’s railways; researchers are collecting high-tech sensing data from satellites, airplanes, magnetic and soil sensors, and unmanned aircraft to devise a solution that will provide a reliable early-warning system for train operators; the solution will help keep trains on track during natural disasters and acts of terrorism

  • 25,000 new asteroids -- 95 in near Earth orbit -- found by NASA's sky mapping

    NASA’s newest space telescopes has spotted 25,000 never-before-seen asteroids in just six months; 95 of those are considered near Earth objects — which means, in the language of astronomy, that they are within thirty million miles of Earth; the telescope also sighted fifteen new comets and confirmed the existence of twenty brown dwarfs — stellar objects that are bigger than a planet but much smaller than a star; the full celestial catalog of what is out there will not be released to the public until next year after NASA has had time to process the images and flag false alarms

  • Congress to establish a commission to study threat of asteroid impact on Earth

    The annual probability of the Earth being struck by a huge asteroid or comet is small, but the consequences of such a collision are so calamitous that it is prudent to appraise the nature of the threat and prepare to deal with it, experts say; Congress agrees

  • DHS unveils more Than $1.8 billion in FY 2010 preparedness grants

    DHS announces more than $1.8 billion in preparedness grants; the grants are designed to help states, urban areas, tribal governments, and non-profit organizations enhance their protection, prevention, response, and recovery capabilities for risks associated with potential terrorist attacks and other hazards.

  • New technology could lead to an earthquake prediction system

    A new airborne radar-based mapping technology allows scientists to see earthquake images on the ground for the first time; the airborne images show tiny or large motions that occurred beneath the surface of the earth, on the fault line, which can not be seen by flying over an area or walking on the surface

  • Scientist says nuclear weapons best bet for saving Earth from asteroids

    Scientists argue that the best way to prevent a large asteroid from doing grave damage to Earth is to blast the asteroid with nuclear weapons; the sheer power of a nuclear explosion may make it the most practical and cost-effective option for deflecting or fragmenting asteroids, compared with alternatives such as chemical fuel or laser beams; for one thing, a nuclear explosive would be cheaper to launch into space due to its large amount of energy per unit mass; in contrast, a non-nuclear blast might require several launches for an equivalent amount of power

  • Online monitors of Yorkshire flood risk

    The U.K. Environment Agency now offers individuals and businesses at flood risk in Yorkshire a real-time Web-based monitoring of local river and sea levels; the data from more than 1,700 monitoring stations across England and Wales will complement personalized phone and text-message alerts from the Environment Agency’s free flood-warning service

  • Tiny flying robots to monitor forest-fires, chemical spills, and more

    Swiss researchers developed a tiny flying robot which could be equipped with different sensors and small cameras for a variety of applications; the robot could monitor different kinds of emergencies — from forest fires to chemical accidents

  • Italian scientists face manslaughter charges for failing to predict 2009 L'Aquila earthquake

    Italian prosecutors have issued indictment against six scientists for failing to warn the residents of L’Aquila about the 6 April 2009 earthquake; the magnitude-6.3 earthquake caused 308 deaths and 1,600 injuries, and left more than 65,000 people homeless; prosecutors say the scientists participated in a press conference on 31 March, in which they encouraged residents not to move out of the L’Aquila region; coming to the defense of the seismologists, nearly 4,000 scientists from around the world have signed a letter to Italy’s president, urging him to focus on earthquake preparation rather than holding scientists responsible for something that they cannot do — predict earthquakes

  • DHS adopts ASIS's resilience standard for private sector organizations

    DHS has adopted ASIS International’s Organizational Resilience Standard as part of a program designed voluntarily to bolster the resilience of private organizations during man-made and natural disasters and emergencies