Claire B. Rubin has 32 years of experience as a researcher, consultant, and educator in the fields of emergency management and homeland security

  • “How to Survive a Disaster”

    29 Jan 2015 | 6:45 am

    See some personal advice from an expert: How to Survive a Disaster.

  • FEMA Director Urges Wise Recovery Rebuilding

    28 Jan 2015 | 6:18 am

    Re a recent speech by Fugate in FL, see: FEMA head: Rebuild wisely after disasters. Excerpts from the article follow: The hundreds of billions Florida would have to spend dealing with a massive hurricane on the scale of 1992’s Hurricane Andrew would dwarf the costs linked to Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, the nation’s top emergency management official told House lawmakers Tuesday. Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told a House subcommittee that’s why it’s important to rebuild coastal areas ravaged by storms in a way that makes them less vulnerable to future catastrophes. “There’s a certain amount of risk out there right now,” Fugate told the House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee on emergency management. “We’ve modeled some of these disasters (and) they’re actually bigger than Sandy. We have to make sure that, as we go in after a disaster, we’re not (going) to come back and repeat it over and over again.”

  • Is There a Link Between the New England Blizzard and Climate Change?

    27 Jan 2015 | 2:53 pm

    Climate Change Is Making Blizzards Like The One Hitting New England Much Worse, Scientists Say. Another epic blizzard is bearing down on New England. There is a “big part” played by “human-induced climate change,” especially warming-fueled ocean temperatures according to Dr. Kevin Trenberth, former head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. ***  He explained: The number 1 cause of this is that it is winter. In winter it is cold over the continent. But it is warm over the oceans and the contrast between the cold continent and the warm Gulf Stream and surrounding waters is increasing. At present sea surface temperatures are more the 2F above normal over huge expanses (1000 miles) off the east coast and water vapor in the atmosphere is about 10% higher as a result. About half of this can be attributed to climate change. Thanks to Pierre Picard for this citation.

  • Assessment of the “Rebuild by Design” Efforts

    26 Jan 2015 | 8:14 am

    In the latest issue of the Hazards Observer, there is an article titled Rebuild by Design; Lessons learned from the evaluation of HUD’s post-Sandy resilience design competition, by Carlos Marti (go to pages 6-13). Carlos Martín, PhD, is a Senior Research Associate in the Urban Institute’s Metropolitan Policy Center. For those of you who share my interest in the innovative efforts made after H. Sandy, this assessment of the Rebuild by Design effort is of special note. But, I am not clear what the reviewer thinks of the effort – one the one hand it was highly original, but difficult to implement, and on the other hand it was duplicative and tiring for the participants. Plus, this effort was in addition to the usual recovery planning efforts. I would be interested in what the readers of this blog think about the experiment. As you may know, the Rockefeller Foundation is continuing its efforts to achieve resilience during recovery. So, it is important that the results of the Rebuild by Design effort be known and perhaps replicated.

  • Hazard Mitigation Wall in Moore OK

    26 Jan 2015 | 6:25 am

    From Moore, OK, a story about a new Hazard Mitigation Wall. I never knew that a highway noise barricade could also provide high wind protection. Thanks to Rob Dale for this citation.Filed under: mitigation

  • ” No Emergency Response Plan for Mysterious Material”

    25 Jan 2015 | 7:53 am

    Interesting case of where the law and the plan are written too narrowly to cover a deadly substance killing wildlife. See: No emergency response plan for mysterious material. SAN FRANCISCO — The deaths of birds from a sticky goo on San Francisco Bay this past week signaled an environmental emergency, but the network of skilled government agencies trained to swiftly respond to bay disasters was nowhere to be found. That’s because the multiagency response that would have immediately mobilized containment and cleanup to prevent further damage is usually triggered only if the substance on bay waters is petroleum-based and reported by a company or ship.Filed under: Hazardous Materials

  • Jan. 15 Issue of Hazards Observer Is Now Available.

    24 Jan 2015 | 5:35 pm

    If you would like to subscribe to the digital version, it is free. Here is the direct URL to the latest issue.

  • Upcoming Webinars on Inclusive Planning for Disasters

    23 Jan 2015 | 2:31 pm

    Announcing a new webinar – “ADA National Network Learning Session: What Large-Scale Planned Events can Teach us About Inclusive Planning for Disasters: Lessons Learned from the 2014 World Series Championship Parade & Civic Celebration in San Francisco.” February 12th, 2015 Webinars begin at 2.30pm ET/1.30pm CT/12.30 pm MT/11.30am PT/9.30am Hawaii. Registration: Free on-line at We often think of disaster planning in terms of a big fire, earthquake, tornado, or terrorist attack. However, many large-scale planned public events require similar emergency planning and coordination with Police, Fire, Transportation, and Public Information Officers, and the ability to react with just in time creative and flexible approaches to problem-solving. Using the 2014 San Francisco Giants’ Championship Parade and Civic Celebration as a case study, participants will: • Understand necessary steps in pre-planning to ensure the inclusion and safety of people with disabilities and seniors. • Review public information dissemination and other strategies to ensure effective communication before and during a large-scale event. • Draw the common themes between large-scale events and disasters and use them as an opportunity to practice disaster response. Presenters:  Carla Johnson, CBO, CASp. Dir. of the San Francisco Mayor’s Office on Disability, which is the City’s ADA compliance program. Thanks to Peg Blechman for the citation. ________________________________ One more related webinar:March 3rd-4th – Integrating Access and Functional Needs into Emergency Planning; Sponsored by the Emergency Management Institute (Emmitsburg, MD), this two-day course will train emergency planners how to include disability-and functional needs–inclusive practices in emergency preparedness, response, and[…]

  • New Orleans – still debating development 10 years after Katrina

    23 Jan 2015 | 8:18 am

    From the Guardian, this article about the ongoing debate about how to redevelop the badly damaged 9th ward in New Orleans. Update: The Guardian seems to have done several articles on New Orleans, and the links keep changing. If you want to track their coverage of the recovery, use the search box to find the articles. Once again, evidence that recovery from disaster may take decades.Filed under: Hurricane Katrina

  • Latest Issue of Australian Journal of EM

    23 Jan 2015 | 6:06 am

    Here is the direct URL to the new issue.

  • Reach Your Audience in an Emergency: #SMEM

    1 May 2014 | 11:04 am

    Reach Your Audience in an Emergency: #SMEM Post by: Kim Stephens Keep the flood photos coming. Click here to upload: — WJZ | CBS Baltimore (@cbsbaltimore) April 30, 2014 Flooding was rampant yesterday for what seemed like half the country. Social Media was buzzing with images, safety tips and information about the event as it continued to get increasingly worse as the day wore on and the rain seemed unending. GALLERY: Heavy April Showers Bring Flooding To Maryland. Upload Your Flood Photos, Here: — WJZ | CBS Baltimore (@cbsbaltimore) April 30, 2014 Using social networks to communicate emergency, safety and preparedness information has now, in 2014, become a standard operating procedure for quite a few emergency management and response organizations. As with any standard procedure, each event can provide an opportunity to understand how to improve and adjust. As a person on the receiving end of the information stream yesterday, I noticed three things that could be improved upon. 1.  Ensure posts are “Mobile Ready” On a day where the situation is changing rapidly, as it does with flooding, people will be looking for information anywhere they can get it. It is important to keep in mind that there is a high likelihood that those searches will be occurring on a mobile device. According to the Pew Research Center “The growing ubiquity of cell phones, especially the rise of smartphones, has made social networking just a finger tap away.  Fully 40% of cell phone owners use a social networking site on their phone,[…]

  • Keeping the Lines of Communication Open: Atlanta Public School’s Long Snow Day

    29 Jan 2014 | 10:08 am

    Keeping the Lines of Communication Open: Atlanta Public School’s Long Snow Day Post by: Kim Stephens We had a light dusting of snow last night and schools are closed today in my county. I’m guessing there are some officials in Atlanta wishing they had made the same decision yesterday before snow and ice paralyzed the city‘s roadways. Although they tried to dismiss school early the traffic was so horrific some buses were unable to get children home and instead had to return them to school. Parents who normally pick up their children were stuck in traffic eerily reminiscent of scenes from the Atlanta-based series The Walking Dead. A shelter-in-place order was issued after 10:00 pm last night and about 452 staff and students spent the night in several different ATL public school buildings. This situation could be any public communicator’s nightmare scenario. However, the Atlanta Public School’s communications team provided a master class in emergency information dissemination, mainly through their @apsupdate (or Atlanta Public Schools Update) Twitter account. Here are a few things they did well. 1. Addressed parents questions and concerns directly Reply to @KharaJ1 be sure to reach out to your child's school. All students are allowed to use phones. — ATL Public Schools (@apsupdate) January 29, 2014 I have heard quite a few communicators debate whether or not they should address direct questions since it could overwhelm staff and bog down the message they are trying to convey. However, in this situation, the decision to address each person was the only logical choice–ignoring parents’ questions could have been its own[…]

  • Deaf People Use Social Media to Make Their Voices Heard: Can #SMEM be used to reach them in a crisis?

    15 Dec 2013 | 2:24 pm

    Deaf People Use Social Media to Make Their Voices Heard: Can #SMEM be used to reach them in a crisis? Guest Post by: Dr. Steph Jo Kent News about the #fakeinterpreter for Nelson Mandela’s Memorial Service worsened daily: from grotesque incompetence to mental illness to a potential record of violent crime. If ever there was a cautionary tale for emergency management, this is it. Are you wondering “how such a spectacular mistake could have been made“? Before the latest horrifying turn, sign language interpreters and members of the Deaf community were already beginning to emerge from the first waves of disappointment, anger, and humiliation. One man’s audacity, and what appears to be a laissez-faire attitude toward providing real communication access, drew the lightning bolt flash of long pent-up Deaf frustration. Cathy Heffernan, writing for The Guardian, presents the background: “Bad interpretation is surprisingly common and something that deaf people who use interpreters face on a regular basis. Across public services and the courts unqualified people are asked to translate, even in situations where clear communication can make the difference between life or death.” The Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf established a Task Force in 2009 to begin drafting an official position paper and process for integrating qualified sign language interpreters into all stages of the emergency management cycle: preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation. Overtures to establish Emergency Management Interpreter Strike Teams have been made to responsible agencies and managers at many levels of government. Some jurisdictions have taken this seriously, most however have not. (See the Getting Real II Presentation for information on foundations laid in California, Georgia, and Florida.) Commentary from Rabbi Yehoshua Soudakoff, Director of Jewish Deaf Multimedia Deaf people were[…]

  • Information Design: Is a Picture Worth a Thousand Words?

    12 Dec 2013 | 10:01 am

    Information Design:  Is a Picture Worth a Thousand Words? Post by: Kim Stephens Looking back on the year, there was one  article that stood out because of its clear use of graphics and imagery to communicate risk information. During the summer of 2013, the Washington Post published a short online report about the hazards at the Potomac River Gorge titled “The Perils at Great Falls.” This spot in the river is a deadly place where 27 people have died since 2001.  Standing on the banks, it looks deceptively calm, but it is what people don’t see on the surface that can kill–erratic currents, jagged cracks, potholes and uneven terrain can trap swimmers.  The article explained those hazards with imagery that eliminated the need to read even one word.  Some commented that the piece was the definition of information design: “…the practice of presenting information in a way that fosters efficient and effective understanding of it.”  (Wikipedia) Each of the major hazards in the river were given a graphical representation. In the image above the person is shown fishing off the bank: water rises rapidly and unexpectedly, sweeping him away. I have captured a screenshot, but the original graphic is animated. The image below shows hazards beneath the water and on the banks–cliffs that tempt people to jump in, and varied terrain underwater that can kill if you dive in the wrong spot. The Dreaded Fact Sheet Too often,  in the world of emergency management, images are occasionally included–if one can be dredged up, but they are usually not the focus[…]

  • Social Networking Trends of 2013 and Implications for #SMEM

    4 Dec 2013 | 9:52 am

    Social Networking Trends of 2013 and Implications for #SMEM Post by: Kim Stephens December is a month of reflection and I, along with Patrice Cloutier and James Garrow are using our blogs to highlight interesting  social media and emergency management trends from the year and note future possibilities for improvement. 2013 could be seen as a pivot point for quite a few organizations: social networking graduated from being novel and experimental, to just one of the tools in the communication’s toolbox. That being said, however, we still have a long way to go before full integration is realized throughout the response community. Social Networks: The Stats  We’ve all seen the statistics–social networks have millions and millions of users, except Facebook which sits at 1.11 billion. A deeper look at these stats, however,  can help create a more informed communication’s strategy, for instance,  is this the year to get G+ and Pinterest accounts? Here are a few noteworthy stats I’ve collected from a variety of sources, along with some possible implications. Twitter boasts over 500 millions users, but one interesting note is what these users are talking about. According to Nielsen, 33% of Twitter users tweet about television shows. Implication:   Why not schedule tweets that appear during shows that discuss disasters with links to information about how people can prepare–or where they could turn for help if that type of event happened in their community? If you are uncomfortable promoting a show that you did not create and have no quality control over, then simply add qualifiers, or correct misinformation, if necessary. New[…]