• Washington State more prepared now for volcanic eruption

    Thirty-five years after the 1980 Mt. St. Helens eruption in Central Washington, which killed fifty-seven people and blanketed much of the state in ash, state officials say that they are far more ready for a future emergency than they were previous to that disaster.

  • New measuring systems remotely assessing avalanche risk

    Accurate forecasting of avalanches, and the risk of flooding in Alpine catchment areas during the spring thaw, primarily requires time-resolved data on snow volumes and the levels of liquid water in the snow cover. Geographers have developed a novel measuring system relying on two different physical methods which promises to enhance forecasting of avalanches and spring floods. The method combines GPS and radar to measure snow properties also on the slopes.

  • Disaster and recovery: The unexpected shall come to be expected

    In the days following the Nepal earthquake, the media has been focusing on the heart-wrenching human interest and hero-tragedy stories, but what must be emphasized is that this disaster was anticipated. More importantly, we now have the tools and building technologies to mitigate the impact of even major earthquakes. The frequency of earthquakes has not changed over the past few million years, but now millions of people live in vulnerable situations. The unexpected must come to be expected. Much-needed humanitarian assistance must transition into long-term development efforts. Simply put, instilling a culture of disaster risk reduction, investing in hazard mitigation, building as best as we can, and retrofitting what remains, will save lives.

  • Building healthier communities essential for recovering from disasters

    U.S. communities and federal agencies should more intentionally seek to create healthier communities during disaster preparation and recovery efforts — something that rarely happens now, says a new report from the Institute of Medicine. By adding a health “lens” to planning and recovery, a community can both mitigate the health damage caused by disasters and recover in ways that make the community healthier and more resilient than it was before.

  • Few Oklahoma schools have safe room or shelters for weather emergencies

    Almost two years after a tornado destroyed Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Oklahoma, fewer than half of the state’s 1,773 schools have a safe room, shelter, or basement where students and school staff can take cover in a weather emergency.More than 681,000 students currently attend Oklahoma schools; as many as 500,000 teachers and students are without shelter or a safe room at schools.“I’m afraid more schools are going to be hit and more students are going to be at risk. I’m deeply troubled that two years later we don’t have a plan,” says one expert.

  • Extreme geohazards: Reducing disaster risk, increasing resilience

    Extreme hazards — rare, high-impact events — pose a serious and underestimated threat to humanity. The extremes of the broad ensemble of natural and anthropogenic hazards can lead to global disasters and catastrophes. Because they are rare and modern society lacks experience with them, they tend to be ignored in disaster risk management. While the probabilities of most natural hazards do not change much over time, the sensitivity of the built environment and the vulnerability of the embedded socio-economic fabric have increased rapidly.

  • More 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.

  • Preparing the Pacific Northwest for the Big One

    More than three hundred years ago this week, the geologic fault off Washington and Oregon’s coast lurched and caused a massive earthquake. The resulting tsunami sent ocean water surging far inland, and generated waves felt across the Pacific Ocean in Japan. Now, on the quake’s 315th anniversary, scientists are helping prepare the region for a repeat event that could come at any time. Efforts include helping design the first tsunami evacuation structure in the United States, a campus-wide research project on major earthquakes, and an upcoming rollout of early earthquake alerts.

  • N.C. considering regulations to cope with sea-level rise

    Later this week, researchers peer-reviewing the latest draft report that investigates sea-level rise along North Carolina’s coast, will submit their comments to the state Coastal Resources Commission’s(CRC) Science Panel. The initial 2010 report faced criticism from climate change skeptics and some property developers who claimed the report’s 100-year outlook on sea-level rise was unrealistic. The new report looks at changes along the coast for a period of thirty years.

  • Ohio helps resident pay for tornado safe rooms

    In recent years, Ohio has averaged twenty-three tornadoes annually. The state also experienced winds topping 70 mph during Hurricane Ike in 2008, 100 mph in the derecho during the summer of 2012, and near hurricane-force winds along Lake Erie in northeastern Ohio during superstorm Sandy in the fall of 2012. Many Ohio residents living along “Tornado Alley” have rehearsed their escape plans several times to prepare for the next time a tornado touches ground. To offer residents better protection, since 2013 the Ohio Emergency Management Agency(EMA) has been helping qualified homeowners pay for safe rooms which can withstand the most destructive windstorms.

  • Coastal communities preparing for the next high tide

    The USC Sea Grant program is continuing the work it started three years ago to help coastal communities in Southern California incorporate “resilience” into their planning for adaptation to rising sea levels and climate change. From Santa Barbara to San Diego, Sea Grant works with researchers and community leaders to help governments, businesses and community groups know the resources available to help them plan ahead. The Sea Grant vulnerability report for the city was based on a pilot version of the USGS modeling system, called CoSMoS 1.0, which makes predictions of storm-induced coastal flooding based on a moderately severe storm that occurred in the region in January 2010. It models storm-driven sea level rise for two future climate scenarios, which can help emergency responders and coastal planners anticipate storm hazards and make plans to allocate resources to deal with them.

  • Ten years after Asian tsunami, too few early-warning buoys are deployed

    Ten years after the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami killed more than 220,000 people across twelve countries including Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, and Myanmar, some residents of villages close to the shores are uncertain of how they will be notified or how they will react to a future tsunami. Many of the villages affected by the magnitude-9.1 tsunami still lack ocean buoys that help detect tsunamis, sirens to alert residents, and a protocol for residents to follow when sirens are issued.

  • Washington State seeks better responses to landslides

    The March 2014 Oso landslide in Snohomish County, Washington State, killed forty-three people. A state commission, including experts in emergency management, land planning and development, geology, and hydrology, appointed by Washington state governor Jay Inslee to determine how better to avoid and respond to landslides released seventeen recommendations on last Monday.

  • L.A. water supply vulnerable to disruption by earthquakes

    Eighty-eight percent of Los Angeles’s water comes from the Colorado River, Owens Valley, and the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, passing through three major aqueducts and into the region. The aqueducts cross the San Andreas Fault a total of thirty-two times, making them vulnerable to the much anticipated Big One.A large temblor on the fault could destroy sections of the aqueducts, cutting off the water supply for more than twenty-two million people in Southern California.

  • Better forecasts for rain-on-snow flooding

    Many of the worst West Coast winter floods pack a double punch. Heavy rains and melting snow wash down the mountains together to breach river banks, wash out roads and flood buildings. These events are unpredictable and difficult to forecast. Yet they will become more common as the planet warms and more winter precipitation falls as rain rather than snow. Mountain hydrology experts are using the physics behind these events to better predict the risks.