• MANAGED RETREATProactively Planning for Community Relocation Before and After Climate Disasters

    Between 1980 and mid-2023, 232 billion-dollar disasters occurred in the U.S. Gulf Coast region, with the number of disasters doubling annually since 2018. As the frequency, intensity, and destructiveness of climate change-driven disasters increase, accompanied by an increase in recovery costs, more experts are calling for a managed retreat of entire communities from disaster-prone areas to safer ground.

  • Beirut explosionWhat is Ammonium Nitrate, the Chemical that Exploded in Beirut?

    By Gabriel da Silva

    Ammonium nitrate has the chemical formula NHNO₃. Produced as small porous pellets, or “prills,”it’s one of the world’s most widely used fertilizers. It is also the main component in many types of mining explosives, where it’s mixed with fuel oil and detonated by an explosive charge. For an industrial ammonium nitrate disaster to occur, a lot needs to go wrong. Tragically, this seems to have been the case in Beirut.

  • DisastersDisaster Responders Grapple with Planning for Extreme Weather in the Time of COVID-19

    Last week the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted an above-normal 2020 hurricane season, with the possibility of three to six major hurricanes this summer looming over millions of Americans. In Michigan, record rainfall caused two dams to fail in quick succession, triggering an evacuation of over 10,000 nearby residents. In the time of COVID-19, crowding into an emergency shelter with thousands of others seems unsafe, if not impossible.

  • Oil spillsOil spill puzzle solved: Oil-eating bacteria consumed the Deepwater Horizon oil plume

    The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 is one of the most studied spills in history, yet scientists have not agreed on the role of microbes in eating up the oil. Now, a research team has identified all of the principal oil-degrading bacteria as well as their mechanisms for chewing up the many different components that make up the released crude oil.

  • Gas leakCalif. gas well blowout caused U.S. largest methane release, study finds

    The Aliso Canyon natural gas well blowout released more than 100,000 tons of the powerful greenhouse gas methane before the well was finally plugged 11 February, according to the first study of the event. The results confirm that it was the largest methane leak in U.S. history.

  • Crisis managementDeveloping new modelling tool for better crisis management

    Crisis managers and key decision makers routinely face situations that exceed the capacity of local response networks. Furthermore, natural and man-made disasters often do not respect regional or national boundaries, spilling out across borders and creating new unforeseen problems. For these reasons, decision makers need the tools to better understand crisis impacts and have immediate access to multi-organizational and multi-national expertise if and when required. The EU-funded CRISMA project seeks to address this pressing need through the development of an adaptable online simulation tool.

  • ResilienceMore resilient mass transit to improve Chicago emergency evacuation system

    A group of Argonne Lab researchers will be studying methods and creating tools for building more resilient mass transit systems to evacuate major cities under a $2.9 million grant announced today by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration. The project will bring together researchers from the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory with Chicago’s Pace Suburban Bus and Metra Commuter Rail Service to investigate ways to improve the detection, analysis, and response to emergencies, and how best to evacuate the city in a major emergency.

  • Crisis managementAnticipating and addressing the knock-on effects of crisis situations

    Crisis situations such as an EU-wide black-out, or cross-border flooding in the Netherlands and Germany, say, can have devastating repercussions. A well-known example of such an effect is the meltdown of Fukushima’s nuclear reactors in Japan, after the power plant was hit by a tsunami, which in turn was triggered by an earthquake. Being able to anticipate such cascade effects — and put in place effective emergency measures — can help avoid catastrophe and save lives. This is why the three-year EU-funded FORTRESS (Foresight Tools for Responding to cascading effects in a crisis) project was launched in April 2014; in order to identify and better understand their cause.

  • 911 textingTexas cities adopt 911 texting

    Adding to the rising number of U.S. cities that accept 911 emergency texts, North Texas public safety agencies will now institute the procedure at their response centers. 911 emergency texting not only helps the deaf, but it better caters to younger generations that do not recognize as much the divide between text and voice communications. The texting of additional media such as photos before the responders reach the site could also have a profound impact on the development of an emergency situation.

  • 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.”

  • First respondersHelping first responders identify chemical, biological, and radiological agents

    The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) has expanded the reach and capabilities of its rapid urban plume modeling and hazard assessment system, CT-Analyst, by providing a commercial license to Valencia, California-based Safe Environment Engineering (SEE) for the fields of use of public safety, industrial safety and monitoring, and environmental monitoring. CT Analyst is a tool designed to provide first responders with fast and accurate predictions of chemical, biological, and radiological agent airborne transport in urban environments. CT Analyst will be integrated into the existing product line of SEE’s Lifeline MultiMeterViewer software suite.

  • InfrastructureState agency imposes heavy fine on PG&E for San Bruno blast

    The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) two weeks ago  wrapped up its investigation of a 2010 gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, California, and recommended  that Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) pay $2.25 billion for its negligence, which led to the blast.

  • DisastersProfessor to help fashion New York disaster preparedness policies

    When New York governor Mario Cuomo looked over the devastation Hurricane Sandy did to Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, he knew this should not be allowed to happen again. Cuomo also knew who to hire to make sure the city is secure. Irwin Redlener, the director and founder of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at the Mailman School of Public Health, has been appointed as the co-chair of the New York Ready Commission, which Mayor Michael Bloomberg established after Hurricane Sandy hit the

  • Oil spillsResponding to future oil spills: lessons learned from Deepwater Horizon

    A special collection of articles about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill provides the first comprehensive analysis and synthesis of the science used in the unprecedented response effort by the government, academia, and industry;with the benefit of hindsight and additional analyses, these papers evaluate the accuracy of the information that was used in real-time to inform the response team and the public

  • Emergency responseThe Red Cross, emergency response, and Twitter

    Social media has become such an integral part of our lives that emergency responders are now turning to Twitter and Facebook to gain valuable information during natural disasters or crises