• Berkeley quake demonstration shows bridge safety ideas

    Researchers demonstrate new bridge design that can withstand powerful earthquakes; the design concept relies on building segmented bridges with seismic isolators between the segments; the design would be particularly useful for long stretches of elevated freeways and high-speed rail lines that often run on elevated tracks

  • FEMA says immigration status to determine eligibility for disaster relief

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) says that the legal status of applicants for disaster relief will be taken into account in determining whether or not they are eligible for the agency’s Individual Assistance program’s grant funds

  • Louisiana children taught how to prepare for storms

    The 2010 hurricane season set to begin 1 June; from the Florida panhandle to Brownsville, Texas, there is a 44 percent chance of at least one major hurricane making landfall, compared to a 30 percent average in the last century; the Louisiana homeland security office offers a Get a Game Plan book for children in which the main character, Get-a-Game-Plan Gator, walks children through the necessary preparations for a natural disaster

  • Identifying disaster victims: Looking at teeth to determine victims' age at time of death

    In disasters which claim many victims as well as in an unsolved homicide case, looking at victims’ teeth to determine how old they were at the time of death would help in identifying them; age determination of unknown human bodies is important in the setting of a crime investigation or a mass disaster, because the age at death, birth date, and year of death, as well as gender, can guide investigators to the correct identity among a large number of possible matches

  • Katrina, Rita cleaned up polluted, lead-laden New Orleans soil

    It appears that hurricanes Katrina and Rita, with all the devastation they have caused, made one beneficial contribution to the future of New Orleans: decades of Louisiana-type corruption and collusion between the oil industry and the state government have caused the city’s soil to be heavily polluted, laden with lead, arsenic, and other poisonous substances; the sediments washed into the city by the hurricanes have blanketed the polluted soil, resulting in a dramatic drop in the presence of lead and arsenic in the city’s soil — and in the blood stream of children in the city

  • Oil spill, flooding create perfect storm for commerce, shipping

    The Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the Icelandic volcanic eruption, and flooding in Tennessee have created a “perfect storm” for businesses that rely on an efficient supply chain; in New Orleans and other Gulf Coast communities the impacts of the spill may only be beginning; New Orleans is still down 200,000 to 250,000 residents in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The impending oil catastrophe could lead to further flight as jobs are lost and people default on their businesses and homes

  • Search-and-rescue dogs to be fitted with satellite navigation devices

    Spanish company develops dog collars fitted with satellite navigation technology; the collar will be used by search-and-rescue dog to help locate trapped victims after an earthquake or similar disasters; the technology combines information on the scenting abilities of the dog with data on its location

  • New California tremor map shows 50 new faults

    California has an estimated 15,000 faults; many of those are short, and experts have found no evidence that they have generated sizable temblors; others, though, can produce major quakes; the state’s geological agency have placed fifty new faults — all of them surface faults that have been discovered over the last two decades — on one map which will help educate the public and aid in planning and quake readiness

  • GAO: U.S. tsunami detection buoys are costly, difficult, and not always reliable

    A network of 39 buoys makes up the early-warning system to protect 767 U.S. coastal communities at risk of tsunamis; maintaining the system is expensive — it consumes 28 percent o the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s budget — and the sensors are not always reliable

  • Mobile communications helps in business continuity

    The essential step for companies to survive disasters: enable people to work from home; instead of using technology to recover from an incident, we are now at the point where we can use it to prevent the incident having much of an effect; the key is to build technology into the company’s operations from the start

  • Leading volcanologist: ash crisis may not be over

    In addition to air travel woes that the massive ash cloud has already caused, it may trigger longer-term changes in climate and health hazards; moreover, additional eruptions are likely: “The oceanic crust in this region is slowly pulling apart along giant fissures that extend deep enough to reach magma sources; the volcanic magma rises along these fissures and erupts in episodes when and where the fractures break at the surface”

  • Iceland's volcanic eruption will not affect climate patterns

    The eruptions of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano, while impressive and large enough to shut down air traffic in Europe, are too small, so far, to have an impact on global warming; the 1991 eruption at Mount Pinatube did cool the planet by injecting sulfates into the upper reaches of the atmosphere, where they circulated for over a year, shading the earth; so far the Icelandic volcano has only put out less than 0.004 Mt of SO2, compared to the 20 Mt that Mt. Pinatubo injected; also, the Icelandic emission was only into the lower atmosphere, where the lifetime is on the order of one week, as opposed to a couple years in the stratosphere

  • Laptops to serve as roaming earthquake detectors

    Newer models of laptops contain accelerometers — motion sensors meant to detect whether the computer has been dropped; if the computer falls, the hard drive will automatically switch off to protect the user’s data; researchers say this motion sensing ability allows laptop to serve as roaming earthquake detectors — even though laptop accelerometers are not as sensitive as professional-grade seismometers, so they can only pick up tremors of about magnitude 4.0 and above

  • Preparing for climate wars

    Climate change is not only the concern of academics and left-leaning do-gooders; it has increasingly become the preoccupation of strategic planners, militaries, and the intelligence communities in all the leading industrial states; the national security establishments of the U.S. NATO, India, and others have been war-gaming climate change and how to cope with its predicted consequences; a new book details some of the frightening scenarios for which the U.S. and other militaries prepare

  • Critical surge barrier on New Orleans's eastern flank completed ahead of schedule

    A 7,490 ft.-long storm-surge protection wall that is the central part of a roughly two-mile long surge barrier in New Orleans is being completed several months ahead of schedule; the placement of a significant portion of the barrier, well ahead of the start of the 2010 hurricane season, adds a welcome level of defense on the city’s eastern flank