• FloodsMaking flood forecasting easier, faster

    Floods and tornadoes are the deadliest disasters in the world. In the United States alone, approximately eighty lives are lost every year due to flood related incidents. In addition to the loss of lives, the nation loses billions of dollars in property damage and spends billions on recovery and rebuilding efforts every year. With the help of the Internet of Things (IoT) and early alerts and warnings technology, flood forecasting is not impossible.

  • EarthquakesDecision to defund the Earthquake Early Warning system criticized

    The Trump administration’s decision to defund the Earthquake Early Warning system is being criticized by experts. The “administration’s failure to fund the Earthquake Early Warning (EEW) system threatens this vital program and potentially the lives of hundreds or even thousands of people on the West Coast from California to Alaska,” says one expert.

  • Seismic early warningNo funds for California's earthquake early-warning system in Trump's proposed budget

    The Trump administration’s proposed budget would eliminate federal funding for an earthquake early warning system being developed for the U.S. West Coast. Critics say that if the relevant clauses in the budget proposal become law, the long-planned seismic warning effort will be killed. Scientists say the withdrawal of federal funds would likely end the early-warning project, which aims to send smartphone tremor alert messages to West Coast residents.

  • Seismic early warningIsrael to install earthquake early-warning system

    Israel has selected Ottawa, Canada-based Nanometrics to build an earthquake early-warning system in Israel. The alert system will give a 10-to-30-second alert of an impending earthquake. The system’s success depends on the distinction between two types of waves an earthquake generates — P waves (for primary) and S waves (for secondary). P waves are very fast, traveling through rock at between four and seven kilometers per second, and are thus the first waves to arrive at a recording station following an earthquake. An S-wave has a shearing motion that makes the rock vibrate perpendicular to its path. This movement slows the S-wave, so that it travels at two to five kilometers per second, or about half the speed of the P-wave. It is S waves which are almost entirely responsible for the damage and destruction associated with earthquakes.

  • Seismic early warningMexico implements lessons from 1985 devastating earthquake

    Five years after the devastating 1985 quake, which killed more than 10,000 people, Mexico equipped itself with one of the world’s most effective early warning systems for earthquakes. SASMEX: The Seismic Alert System of Mexico comprises more than 8200 seismic sensors located in the most active earthquake zone that runs between Jalisco, Michoacán, Guerrero, Oaxaca, and Mexico City.

  • HackingHackers activate Dallas’s emergency sirens system

    Near midnight on Friday night the residents of Dallas, Texas were startled when, simultaneously, 156 emergency sirens sounded the unmistakable warning alarm. Dallas officials soon discovered the reason: The city’s alarms system had been hacked. Dallas’s mayor Mike Rawlings said: “This is yet another serious example of the need for us to upgrade and better safeguard our city’s technology infrastructure.”

  • Disaster predictionPredicting floods, hurricanes with social media

    Social media can warn us about hurricanes, storms, and floods before they happen – according to new research. Key words and photos on social media can signal developing risks – like water levels rising before a flood. Researchers, who analyzed posts on Flickr between 2004 and 2014, found certain words – such as river, water, and landscape - take on distinct meaning of forecast and warning during time periods leading to extreme weather events. Words can be used as ‘social sensors’, to create accurate early warning system for extreme weather, alongside physical sensors.

  • EarthquakesBetter communication key to reducing earthquake death toll

    A major problem in conveying earthquake risks to the public is that scientists are unable to predict when, where, and with what strength the next earthquake will strike. Instead, they use probabilistic forecasting based on seismic clustering. Earthquake experts have long grappled with the problem of how to convey these complex probabilities to lay persons.

  • Seismic detectionQuake-detection app recorded nearly 400 temblors worldwide

    UC Berkeley’s worldwide network of smartphone earthquake detectors has recorded nearly 400 earthquakes since the MyShake app was made available for download in February, with one of the most active areas of the world the fracking fields of Oklahoma. The Android app harnesses a smartphone’s motion detectors to measure earthquake ground motion, then sends that data back to the Berkeley Seismological Laboratory for analysis. The eventual goal is to send early-warning alerts to users a bit farther from ground zero, giving them seconds to a minute of warning that the ground will start shaking.

  • Seismic eventsMay 2012 North Korean seismic event an earthquake, not nuclear test

    A tiny seismic event that occurred in North Korea on 12 May 2010 appears to have been an earthquake rather than a small underground nuclear explosion, according to a new analysis. The new study contradicts the findings of a 2015 report which concluded that the magnitude 1.5 seismic 12 May event was a small nuclear explosion.

  • TsunamiJapan’s latest tsunami reaction shows lessons learned from previous disasters

    By James Goff

    Parts of Japan were on tsunami alert today following a magnitude 6.9 earthquake off the east coast of the country. This was the first real test for Japan since the 2011 earthquake which led to a deadly tsunami. The lessons learned from 2011 saw higher seawalls, more effective public education and evacuation protocols, a beefed-up response from the nuclear industry and so on, but would it pass the test? The good news is that Japan came through this with flying colors. It wasn’t long after the earthquake hit that the tsunami warnings were later downgraded. Undoubtedly there will have been one or two glitches, but the tsunami was managed well by a country that has experienced more of these events that any of us would ever like to contemplate.

  • Nuclear alarmBathroom air freshener triggers emergency response at nuclear weapons complex

    Late in the afternoon on Wednesday of last week officials at the nuclear weapons complex declared an emergency after finding what they regarded as a suspicious device in a bathroom at the Savannah River National Laboratory in South Carolina. Emergency teams determined that the suspicious device was an air freshener wrapped in paper towels with a flashing light on it.

  • DisastersThousands of people didn’t evacuate before Hurricane Matthew. Why not?

    By Jennifer Horney

    As Hurricane Matthew approached the Atlantic coast earlier this month, many residents followed orders to evaqcuate, but others stayed in place. Hurricane Matthew illustrates the challenges of managing disaster evacuations effectively. By understanding who is likely to obey or ignore evacuation orders, authorities can use data to reduce the number of false alarms and concentrate limited resources on groups who are most likely to choose to shelter in place. It is critical to grapple with these issues so we can do a better job responding to the next storm, which likely won’t be ten years away.

  • Earthquakes“Drop, Cover, and Hold On”: Worldwide ShakeOut drill to be held 20 October

    USGS scientists recently determined that nearly half of Americans are exposed to potentially damaging earthquakes based on where they work and live. Still others will be at risk when traveling. USGS asks Americans to be prepared to join millions of people from around the world participating in Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drills worldwide on 20 October. During the drill, participants practice “Drop, Cover, and Hold On.” This is the recommended safety action to take during an earthquake.

  • Emergency notificationFCC updates, strengthens Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA)

    The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) two weeks ago adopted rules to update and strengthen Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), a system that delivers critical warnings and information to Americans on their wireless phones. The updated rules are intended to promote the wider use and effectiveness of this lifesaving service, especially for state and local authorities to convey important information to their communities.