• Wireless communication solutions for emergency situations

    At one time, traditional broadcast networks — radio and TV — were adequate for alert services and information dissemination during disasters and emergencies; these means do not allow communication among individuals; modern mobile devices might prove increasingly resilient in emergencies and could be the most accessible platform for the majority of people

  • Engineering earthquake-resistant buildings

    Chile’s 8.8-magnitude earthquake was much more powerful that Haiti’s 7.0-magnitude tremor; yet, Haiti’s quake claimed an estimated 300,000 dead, while Chile’s quake claimed around 800; the reason: Chile enforced building codes for earthquake-resistant structures after the 1960 9.0-magnitude earthquake; the corrupt, indifferent, and ineffective governments of Haiti never bothered to develop a meaningful building code, let alone enforce one

  • Chile quake occurred in zone of increased geological stress

    The massive 8.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Chile on 27 February occurred in an offshore zone that was under increased stress caused by a 1960 quake of magnitude 9.5; the earthquake, some 300-500 times more powerful than the magnitude 7.0 quake in Haiti on 12 January, ruptured at the boundary between the Nazca and South American tectonic plates

  • The Chile quake was followed by a smaller tsunami than originally expected

    The tsunami which followed Saturday’s earthquake in Chile was smaller than originally expected because the earthquake ruptured only a relatively small segment of fault at the boundary between the Nazca and South American tectonic plates — around 350 kilometers; the length of fault rupture determines the distance at which a tsunami begins to lose energy

  • Chile quake will likely be followed by increased volcanic activity

    Chile’s problems are not over, as previous earthquakes were followed by volcanic activity: after a magnitude 8.3 in 1906 and a magnitude 9.5 earthquake in 1960, there were three or four more volcanic eruptions within about 500 kilometers of the epicenter in the following year than would normally be expected

  • Smart CCTV detects brush-fire in early stage

    Researchers develop a CCTV that can detect the first flames of a brush fire; a specially developed software for the CCTV analyzes video images for the characteristic flicker and color of a flame; the software looks for pixels which change from one frame to the next, and which also have a fire-like color

  • The unprecedented role of SMS in disaster response

    In Haiti, volunteers set up an SMS messaging system which allow individuals in earthquake-affected areas to text their location and urgent needs in real time for free; since the majority of incoming text messages were in Creole, thousands of volunteers agreed to serve as instant translators

  • A new law of hurricane formation

    Robert Ehrlich, a physicist at George Mason University, offers a new mathematical model of hurricane formation which appears finally to solve one of the outstanding puzzles of climate change; the model also predicts dramatic increases in the number of storms as the world warms

  • Radar detection may fail to spot smaller tornadoes

    Even though meteorologists use multiple radar stations to monitor thunderstorms, small tornadoes can escape the detection of radar scans. Smaller tornadoes do not level entire towns like their bigger brethren, which can be more than a half-mile wide, but the small twisters can cause widespread damage

  • Private security firms eyeing Haiti contracts

    Private security firms eager to gain lucrative security contracts in earthquake-ravaged Haiti; a mid-march conference in Miami would bring together security companies and Haitian officials to examine the market; critics, including some current and former Haitian officials, worry about the trend toward privatizing essential reconstruction services

  • Obama offers strategic redefinition, expansion of DHS mission

    In July 2002, nearly a year before DHS was created under former president George W. Bush, a handful of advisers hastily drafted in private a 90-page national homeland security strategy; that document was later criticized for being partially responsible — by overemphasizing terrorism at the expense of natural disasters — for the Bush administration’s botched response to Hurricane Katrina; in October 2007 the Bush administration updated its homeland security strategy; the Obama administration has now revised and expanded Bush’s 2007 changes; the new strategy states that preventing terrorism remains the cornerstone of homeland security, but it expands the definition of homeland security to include other hazards, among them mass cyberattacks, pandemics, natural disasters, illegal trafficking, and transnational crime

  • Cold war offered odd benefit: it limited species invasions

    During the cold war, when an Iron Curtain divided the European continent, there were few introduced bird species in Western Europe; following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the removal of the Iron Curtain, trade and the movement of people between east and west increased – and with it the introduction of non-native bird species; these non-native species do not have natural enemies in the local habitat, so they do damage to agriculture and domestic birds, and carry disease

  • Climate change experts argue for international geoengineering effort

    Solar-radiation management (SRM) would involve releasing megatons of light-scattering aerosol particles in the upper atmosphere to reduce Earth’s absorption of solar energy, thereby cooling the planet; another technique would be to release particles of sea salt to make low-altitude clouds reflect more solar energy back into space; long-established estimates show that SRM could offset this century’s predicted global average temperature rise more than 100 times more cheaply than achieving the same cooling by cutting emissions

  • Haiti earthquake a reminder that disasters are preventable

    While earthquakes are inevitable in earthquake zones, and hurricanes and tornadoes are inevitable under certain weather conditions — “there are no inevitable disasters,” a University of Colorado expert says; “There is no such thing as a natural disaster”; the scope of death and injury, the magnitude of damage to buildings and infrastructure, are the result not of nature – but of man-made decisions; what we see in Haiti is the result of decades of corrupt and ineffective Haitian governments, indifferent to the welfare of the Haitian people

  • Need seen for single U.S. disaster recovery agency

    The Obama administration has launched a series of meetings around the country which bring together government officials and representatives of non-profit, volunteer, and faith-based organizations to identify and share best practices and innovations in the area of disaster recovery; insights gathered at these meetings and at other similar meetings will go into recommendations for improving disaster recover policy to be presented to the Obama administration in April