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

  • Two Years After Hurricane Sandy – 5 views

    20 Oct 2014 | 5:00 am

    Two Years After Hurricane Sandy – 5 views From National Geographic, see: Two Years After Hurricane Sandy Hit the U.S., What Lessons Can We Learn From the Deadly Storm? In an era of extreme weather, we have to keep the risk of weather disasters in the front of our minds, author says. An excerpt from the author of the book: I think Sandy’s message to us is that we cannot know how big the risk is. We just have to assume it’s huge—and that when a storm is coming and people are telling us to evacuate, we have to listen. From the New Yorker, see: Retreat from the Water’s Edge Nearly two years after Hurricane Sandy, New York has begun a “managed retreat” from some low-lying areas that are vulnerable to flooding and storm surges. Many residents of the Oakwood Beach section of Staten Island have opted into a program that allows them to sell their homes at pre-Sandy value, to the State of New York, which intends to return hundreds of parcels of land to nature. The cleared neighborhood will then serve as a buffer zone to protect other parts of the island. The program has been extended to other areas of Staten Island and Long Island that are at continued risk of flooding in the face of climate-change-related events. In this video, residents describe their experiences with the buyout program, and urban planners explain why communities along the East Coast need to consider moving away from the water’s edge. From the Washington Post, two book reviews:[…]

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  • A bit of humor re Washington, DC

    19 Oct 2014 | 3:05 pm

    A bit of humor re Washington, DC This graphic was a segment of a Drawing Board cartoon published in the Washington Post over the weekend in connection with the Ebola threat. The three branches of the federal government: EXCITABLE LAMENTATION HYSTERICAL

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  • New MOOC Coming: Disaster and Ecosystems: Resilience in a Changing Climate

    19 Oct 2014 | 7:47 am

    New MOOC  Coming: Disaster and Ecosystems: Resilience in a Changing Climate Announcing “Disasters and Ecosystems: Resilience in a Changing Climate”, a new Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) to be launched in January, 2015 This exciting new online training course is being launched in January, 2015.  It was developed jointly by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Center for Natural Resources and Development and the Cologne University of Applied Sciences, Germany.  This is UNEP’s first MOOC, developed in the context of its engagement with universities worldwide, or the Global Universities Partnership on Environment for Sustainability (GUPES). The course covers a broad range of topics from disaster management, climate change, ecosystem management and community resilience. How these issues are linked and how well-managed ecosystems could be a bulwark against natural disasters and climate change impacts is the core theme of the course. The course is designed at two levels: the leadership track, with the first 6 units providing general introduction to the fundamental concepts, which is suitable for people from all backgrounds who wish to have a basic undertaking of the topic.  The second level, or expert track comprises 15 units with more in depth learning on the various tools of ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. The course is delivered by a global array of scientists and practitioners. In addition there are guest lectures from universities and international organizations. The course is invaluable for universities around the world, where faculty members can use it to update their curriculum and use the lectures and teaching materials for blended learning for their[…]

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  • New Report on Adaptation to Climate Change

    18 Oct 2014 | 3:12 pm

    New Report on Adaptation to Climate Change The full report, which is 342 page, is titled Water/Wastewater Utilities and  Extreme Climate and Weather Events: Case Studies on Community Response, Lessons Learned,  Adaptation, and Planning Needs for the Future. Also on the same website are six fact sheets and full case studies and syntheses. This is the first posting on the topic of adaptation to climate change. If you are working on something related, please let the Diva know.

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  • “The Nasty Politicization of Ebola”

    18 Oct 2014 | 6:44 am

    “The Nasty Politicization of Ebola” From an opinion piece by Dana Millbank in the WashPost, see The nasty politicization of Ebola. Here is the lead in: Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, administered a dose of truth to political Washington this week. For this honest service, Collins was pilloried. Collins shared with the Huffington Post’s Sam Stein his belief that, if not for recent federal spending cuts, “we probably would have had a vaccine in time for this” Ebola outbreak.Filed under: Politics

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  • Free Webinar on Disaster Planning

    17 Oct 2014 | 3:33 pm

    Free Webinar on Disaster Planning News from Don Watson, longtime supporter of this blog, and the Redevelopment Institute. See: Suddenly, Nothing Was Ever the Same: How Hurricane Sandy Changes the Nature of Planning and Development in the United States October 31, 2014 – 12:00pm eastern Free to Attend – Sign up via URL above Presented by Don Watson, FAIA Architect and Author; Moderated by Barry Hersh, AICP CEP Unprecedented flooding, pollution, fire, drought-along with extreme snow, wind and temperatures-now urge the attention of municipal leaders, stakeholders and planning professionals in every locality and region across the world. U.S. proposals to foster a culture of preparedness for extreme climate and natural hazard impacts are evidenced in The U.S. President’s Climate Action Plan and U.S. Department of Homeland Security Frameworks for Recovery, Response and Mitigation. These plans are centered on multi-hazard risks and the emerging concepts of community resilience.

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  • Ebola As an Unprecedented Disaster

    17 Oct 2014 | 5:32 am

    Ebola As an Unprecedented Disaster Ebola, the CDC and why government struggles with unprecedented disasters.  One key element of the explanation: A main culprit of government fecklessness, Light wrote, is communication. This is in part “because information has to flow up through multiple layers to reach the top of an agency, while guidance must flow down through the same over-layered chain. The result is a disastrous version of the childhood game of ‘gossip’ in which key information gets lost, discarded, distorted, or ignored as it is passed from one child to another.”

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  • Review of Recovery Issues – continued

    16 Oct 2014 | 4:14 am

    Review of Recovery Issues – continued This is a continuation of the Recovery Issues discussion and it also builds on the earlier posting titled Disaster Recovery is a National Disgrace. I think the problems described are not just in the U.S. but are international. Since this blog is dedicated to discussing the recovery phase of disasters, it attracts comments and questions from readers in many countries.  The Diva often chats with experienced and influential researchers and practitioners in Canada, NZ, Australia, and other countries also are struggling to find the intellectual and practical knowledge base re recovery.  Typically, they are unable to find good definitions, policies, guidance, and case studies with respect to long-term recovery from disasters. In this digital era, a country should be able to find a way to work through some of the needs for information sharing, knowledge collection, and a repository for best practices. And ideally countries  could be working with each other to advance the state of the art and practice. Anyone want to take on the challenge? Update: So far 3 people have contacted me to tell me about efforts underway.  Be glad to hear about more.

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  • Review of Recovery Issues

    15 Oct 2014 | 7:37 am

    Review of Recovery Issues Some time ago, the Diva and her colleague, Jude Colle, wrote a paper titled What Keeps Me Up at Night. As a sequel to that paper, the authors prepared a chapter in a yet-to-be published book, which elaborated on 6 items causing sleeplessness. One is  recovery. NOTE: citations to most of the documents referred to here can be found by using the search function on this blog, because they have been covered here previously. Long term recovery from a disaster or emergency consists of those efforts taken to help a community return to “normal” however that might be defined by the community and, if possible, better than the pre-disaster state. Recovery is especially affected by actions taken during the preparedness and mitigation phases of the emergency management cycle. Recovery usually consists of two parts: short-term and long term. Typically, short-term recovery begins while the response phase of a disaster is still going on and includes such items as temporary housing, structure stabilization, restoration of utilities, debris removal, and assessing damage. Long-term recovery addresses permanent housing and the rebuilding of public buildings and infrastructure, use of scientific and engineering solutions, upgrades to codes, and environmental restoration. Long- term recovery from a disaster is often the most expensive phase of emergency management and the longest in duration. Full recovery may take years, if not decades to be completed. Academic Perspective As a nation, we still are not making the kind of progress that is needed with respect to long-term recovery. We still[…]

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  • Personal Profile of Accomplished Gov’t Scientist

    15 Oct 2014 | 5:16 am

    Personal Profile of Accomplished Gov’t Scientist Once in a while the Wash Post does a profile on an unsung hero or heroine in the federal service. See this profile of Gari Mayberry. 

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  • 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: http://t.co/CyodRwubwx pic.twitter.com/YDfDp3XifU — 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: http://t.co/gt9t3jxQ7c pic.twitter.com/NCLQygcrmE — 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,[…]

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  • 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[…]

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  • 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[…]

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  • 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[…]

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  • 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[…]

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