Risk analysis

  • ResilienceSome states are better prepared than others for climate change challenges

    In recent years, a number of states have started taking action to prepare their communities for climate change. Many have even developed specific adaptation plans to guide their work. Until now, though, no one has been able to define how much progress states are actually making in implementing those plans. The Georgetown Climate Center’s (GCC) online tool, the State Adaptation Progress Tracker, changes that. A GCC release says that now, anyone will be able to quickly determine how much progress their state is making and decision-makers will be able to learn from innovative examples of actions other states are taking.

  • EarthquakesComplicating the task of quantifying earthquake hazards in the Pacific Northwest

    Nearly forgotten research from decades ago complicates the task of quantifying earthquake hazards in the Pacific Northwest, according to a new report from scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of Washington, and other universities. The report focuses on the Cascadia subduction zone — a giant active fault that slants eastward beneath the Pacific coast of southern British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and northern California.

  • Lab safetyResearch institutions must support strong, positive safety culture in chemical labs

    Everyone involved in the academic chemical research enterprise — from researchers and principal investigators to university leadership — has an important role to play in establishing and promoting a strong, positive safety culture, says a new report from the National Research Council. This requires a constant commitment to safety organization-wide and emphasis on identifying and solving problems, rather than merely adhering to a set of rules and assigning blame when those rules are not followed.

  • InfrastructureMapping Florida sinkholes

    Sinkholes are common in Florida because of porous rock underground, such as limestone, which holds water. Over time, acid in the water dissolves the rock, creating a void. The Florida Geological Surveyand Florida Department of Emergency Managementare making progress on creating a statewide map showing where sinkholes are most likely to form. Florida received more than $1 million in federal funding last year to conduct a three-year study which would eventually help emergency planners predict where sinkholes are likely to develop, especially after large rainstorms.

  • EarthquakesWastewater injection induces Oklahoma quakes: study

    The dramatic increase in earthquakes in central Oklahoma since 2009 is likely attributable to subsurface wastewater injection at just a handful of disposal wells, finds a new study. The researchers say Oklahoma earthquakes constitute nearly half of all central and eastern U.S. seismicity from 2008 to 2013, many occurring in areas of high-rate water disposal.

  • Seismic risksL.A. to catalog buildings at risk of collapse during a major earthquake

    After years of efforts to get officials to catalog buildings at risk of collapse during a major earthquake, Los Angeles City Council late last month instructed building officials to establish a database of such buildings. About 29,226 buildings built before 1978 are subject to survey, but city officials would use mapping programs to narrow down which structures need further field inspection. The city estimates roughly 5,800 buildings are at risk, and an additional 11,690 buildings will need inspection on site to determine whether they are soft-story buildings or not. Los Angeles has yet to decide what to do once it compiles the list, and whether to require retrofitting of vulnerable buildings, but seismic experts and policymakers insist that finding out which buildings are vulnerable is a necessary first step.

  • HurricanesReal-time forecast of Hurricane Sandy accurately predicted storm’s track, intensity

    A real-time hurricane analysis and prediction system that effectively incorporates airborne Doppler radar information may accurately track the path, intensity, and wind force in a hurricane. This system also can identify the sources of forecast uncertainty.

  • Chemical spillsW.Va. spill leads lawmakers, industry to look at reforming toxic substances law

    The government was slow to respond to the 9 January 2014 massive chemical spill in West Virginia because the law governing such response, the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), limits regulatory agencies’ authority to investigate such spills.Under TSCA, the EPA must first prove that a chemical poses an unreasonable risk to health or the environment before it can require the needed testing that would show a potential risk. One observer called this a Catch-22, telling a congressional panel that “This is like requiring a doctor to prove that a patient has cancer before being able to order a biopsy.”

  • Fire hazardImproving common furniture fire test

    In the United States, fires in which upholstered furniture is the first item ignited account for about 6,700 home fires annually and result in 480 civilian deaths, or almost 20 percent of home fire deaths between 2006 and 2010. A new study finds that the bench-scale test widely used to evaluate whether a burning cigarette will ignite upholstered furniture may underestimate the tendency of component materials to smolder when these materials are used in sofas and chairs supported by springs or cloth.

  • EarthquakesNew L.A. fault map threatens Hollywood development projects

    The state of California recently released new geological maps which reveal the presence of an active earthquake fault along the path of major developments in Hollywood. The maps established a zone of 500 feet on both sides of the fault, and state law will require new developments within the zone to conduct underground seismic testing to determine whether the fault runs beneath planned development sites. Building on top of faults is prohibited. Three prominent Hollywood developments — the Millennium Hollywood skyscraper project, the Blvd6200 development, and an apartment project on Yucca Street — are within the 500-foot fault zone.

  • Nuclear sheltersSurviving a nuclear explosion in your city

    During the cold war, scientists modeled every imaginable consequence of a nuclear explosion. Michael Dillon, a Lawrence Livermore Lab mathematician, found a gap in the sheltering strategies for people far enough from ground zero to survive the initial blast but close enough to face deadly radioactive fallout. Dillon’s model’s addresses the most vulnerable people, those who found shelter from the blast in lightweight buildings, or buildings lacking a basement (these buildings are more easily penetrated by deadly radioactive dust). His recommendations:  if adequate shelter is fifteen minutes away, people should remain in their initial, poor-quality shelter no longer than thirty minutes after detonation. If the better shelter is only five minutes away, however, individuals should move there immediately, leaving the closer but unsafe buildings altogether.

  • Risk assessmentCanadian city developed mathematical formula to evaluate risk

    The City of Hamilton, Ontario has ranked Terrorism fourth on its list of top ten emergency risks, below Hazardous Materials and Explosions, Energy Supply Emergencies, and Epidemics/Pandemics.The city’s ranking of top 10 emergencies for which it plans is not a mere judgment call: The city’s emergency management office uses a mathematical equation to rate the risks to the city and its population.

  • InfrastructureThousands of U.S. bridges in “fracture critical” condition

    There are currently 66,749 structurally deficient bridges and 84,748 functionally obsolete bridges in the United States – about a quarter of the nation’s 607,000 bridges. With declining federal funds for bridge repair, the burden of maintenance has shifted to states, which spent $28.5 billion last year on bridge work – up from $12.3 billion in 1998.

  • Chemical plantsDHS chemical plant security program hobbled by problems, poor oversight

    A DHS program responsible for the security of chemical facilities, such as the West Fertilizer Company plant in Texas, has been ineffective owing to a number of issues, leading federal investigators to wonder “whether it can achieve its mission, given the challenges the program continues to face.”

  • DisastersFinding the right balance for natural hazard mitigation

    Uncertainty issues are paramount in the assessment of risks posed by natural hazards and in developing strategies to alleviate their consequences.Researchers describe a model that estimates the balance between costs and benefits of mitigation — efforts to reduce losses by taking action now to reduce consequences later — following natural disasters, as well as rebuilding defenses in their aftermath.