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

  • “Our Failing Weather Infrastructure”

    31 Oct 2014 | 6:18 am

    “Our Failing Weather Infrastructure” From the NY Times, an article about another potentially disastrous deficiency:  Our Failing Weather Infrastructure. Clearly federal budget cuts in recent times have done a lot of damage. An excerpt: Each of these instances revealed just how fragile our national weather program really is, and how desperately we need to invest significantly more in the weather infrastructure, technology and the kind of communication redundancies that will keep all of us safe. This is not a new problem. For years, congressional allocations to the National Weather Service have all but flatlined. Meanwhile, the cost of storm recovery has skyrocketed. In the 20 years leading up to Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the United States suffered 133 weather disasters that exceeded $1 billion in damages, for a total of over $875 billion. Sandy, the second-costliest hurricane in the nation’s history, came with a price tag of an estimated $65 billion.Filed under: Infrastructure, Weather

  • A Critique of Free-Market or Ad Hoc Disaster Charities

    31 Oct 2014 | 12:10 am

    A Critique of Free-Market or Ad Hoc Disaster Charities Following the posting about problems at the Red Cross, here is another take on disaster charities. The topic of free-market charities is not one I am familiar with, but this article in AlJazeera piqued my interest.  It is not written by an disaster expert, but probably someone who either experienced or watched the damage of H. Sandy first-hand. See: The problem with free-market-based disaster relief;Two years after Superstorm Sandy, the non-profit industrial complex continues to rear its ugly head. An excerpt: Aside from longstanding questions over how disaster aid is allocated and spent — public funds themselves being difficult to track — the management of privately managed donations raised a new set of questions. As bureaucratic and inefficient as a public response can be, placing money into private, philanthropist hands assures even less oversight and accountability. Robin Hood preaches something called “venture philanthropy, or charity that embraces free-market forces, to combat poverty.” Is it any wonder that a free-market-based approach to disaster recovery would gravitate towards aid money with scant, if any, oversight?

  • The Red Cross Gets Socked by Pro Publica – updated

    30 Oct 2014 | 4:01 am

    The Red Cross Gets Socked by Pro Publica – updated For the second time this year, ProPublica has gone after the Red  Cross for its disaster relief efforts.  This report focuses on two disaster responses in 2012.  See:The Red Cross’ Secret Disaster. From the lead to the article: In 2012, two massive storms pounded the United States, leaving hundreds of thousands of people homeless, hungry or without power for days and weeks. Americans did what they so often do after disasters. They sent hundreds of millions of dollars to the Red Cross, confident their money would ease the suffering left behind by Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Isaac. They believed the charity was up to the job. They were wrong. UPDATE ON Oct.30th: here is the Red Cross’s reply to the article.

  • H. Sandy Rebuilding Strategy; Progress Report- Fall 2014

    29 Oct 2014 | 2:03 pm

    H. Sandy Rebuilding Strategy; Progress Report- Fall 2014 With no fanfare today HUD released its second progress report, as required by the Executive Order that created the H. Sandy Recovery Task Force.  The report is 184 pages, which the Diva has not yet had a chance to read. The press release and a link to the full report are at this website. The Diva thinks this effort is significant because the existence of an Executive Order addressing disaster recovery and the formation of a Hurricane Sandy Task Force (which was headed by the HUD Secretary and which was required to make a report and follow up on recommendations) are the most substantive federal efforts to address and improve long-term recovery seen to date. It remains to be seen how important and long-lasting the outcomes are from this effort.  Feedback from those of you working on this matter would be welcomed.Filed under: Hurricane Sandy

  • New Climate Change Report from EPA

    29 Oct 2014 | 5:05 am

    New Climate Change Report from EPA New Climate Change report from US EPA.  Access to the full report ( 112 pp.) is on this website.

  • Effects of BP Oil Spill on Ocean Floor

    28 Oct 2014 | 2:17 pm

    Effects of BP Oil Spill on Ocean Floor BP Oil Spill Left Rhode Island-Sized ‘Bathtub Ring’ on Seafloor. Some details: New research shows that the BP oil spill left an oily “bathtub ring” on the sea floor that’s about the size of Rhode Island.The study by UC Santa Barbara’s David Valentine, the chief scientist on the federal damage assessment research ships, estimates that about 10 million gallons of oil coagulated on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico around the damaged Deepwater Horizons oil rig. Valentine said the spill left other splotches containing even more oil. The rig blew on April 20, 2010, and spewed 172 million gallons of oil into the Gulf through the summer. Scientists are still trying to figure where all the oil went and what effects it had.Filed under: Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, Environmental impact

  • Business Continuity and EM

    28 Oct 2014 | 6:59 am

    Business Continuity and EM An article in the current issue of Disaster Recovery Journal may be of interest; its title is Business Continuity Professionals Need Emergency Management Training. It is only 2 pages and at the end there is a nice list of resources. Note that a subscription to the journal, in hard copy or online, is available at no cost. UPDATE:  See the comments of Eric Holdeman on this topic; he is an experienced emergency manager and welcomes the connection between the two fields of endeavor.    

  • SBA Needs to Do Better re Disaster Assistance – GAO

    27 Oct 2014 | 12:02 am

    SBA Needs to Do Better re Disaster Assistance – GAO The GAO issued this report recently: Additional Steps Needed to Help Ensure More Timely Disaster Assistance. Report out on the aftermath of H. Sandy. Full report is 69 pp. A one page summary is available also. Not sure why it took 2 years to produce, but I guess they have their reasons.Filed under: Economic Impact

  • Another Post-Sandy Perspective – that of an environmentalist

    26 Oct 2014 | 6:15 am

    Another Post-Sandy Perspective – that of an environmentalist An Environmentalist’s Assessment of H. Sandy Outcomes. Thanks to Franklin McDonald for the citation.Filed under: Environmental impact, Hurricane Sandy

  • Extensive Article on Ebola in NewYorker Magazine

    25 Oct 2014 | 7:28 am

    Extensive Article on Ebola in NewYorker Magazine The latest issue has an indepth account of the virus, featuring details re the genomic research being done on the disease.  

  • 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[…]