Shifting More Costs to the States

This proposal has been covered before, but the recent WV disaster brings it to the front burner. See: FEMA Looks to Shift More Disaster Costs to States. Some details from the WSJ article:

Last month, President Barack Obama declared a federal disaster in eight West Virginia counties after flooding killed 23 people, and more than 3,700 people have signed up for housing and other assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The agency has so far approved $30.3 million in aid to individuals, and the federal government’s disaster tab will increase significantly once aid to local governments to help rebuild roads and bridges is factored in.

It is this ballooning spending on disasters such as hurricanes, floods and wildfires that has some members of Congress calling for FEMA to look for ways to tighten its belt, while still covering essential disaster-mitigation and recovery costs. In response, FEMA is proposing that states pay a still-undetermined amount—similar to an insurance deductible—before receiving federal disaster aid ….

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Book Review: “Narratives of Crisis; Telling Stories of Ruin and Renewal”

Review of Narratives Of Crisis: Telling Stories Of Ruin And Renewal, by Matthew W. Seeger and Timothy L. Sellnow. Publisher : Stanford Business Books.ISBN: 9780804788922 (cloth); ISBN 9780804799515 (pbk); ISBN9780804799522 (e-book); 216 pps; from $29.95; June 2016.

Reviewed by NancyKay Sullivan Wessman, who is the author of Katrina, Mississippi: Voices From Ground Zero (Triton 2015)

Songwriter-singer Fred Neil and performer Harry Nilsson shared the message in 1966 and 1969: “Everybody’s talking at me. I don’t hear a word they’re saying. Only the echoes of my mind.” Their form of storytelling reflects every human’s method of trying to make sense of and understand daily life, especially crisis.

In Narratives Of Crisis: Telling Stories Of Ruin And Renewal, communications researchers Matthew Seeger and Timothy Sellnow focus on their fascination of crises as transformational, “powerful forces of change.” They particularly emphasize how and why words-become-stories before, during, and after a crisis event help individuals, organizations, and communities shape ensuing change. They identify many different disasters and what they call “resulting consequences. . . the social, political, economic, demographic, physical, and technological changes that follow a crisis.”

Heavy on theory, definitions, exploration of events over time as “deeply disruptive and abnormal,” the authors discuss narratives of blame, renewal, victims and heroes, and memorial tributes. Different storytellers approach the narrative from their own perspective and for their own reasons, and the resulting stories interact or compete, “answering questions focused on three general categories: evidence, intent, and responsibility,” they affirm.

The book’s first four chapters explain “narratives of crises,” expose “humans as storytellers,” reveal “how stories disrupt our sense of meaning,” and discuss how accounts of disaster events simply relate what happened. Reading the pages through to Chapter 10, “How Narratives of Crisis Compete and Converge,” seemed plodding and repetitive, but the authors finally present convergence – the” development of a coherent, unifying story that subsumes many other stories, themes, perspectives, and pieces of information.” The life-length of a narrative increases the prospect that associated stories will persist and that the converged narrative will endure to inform, reveal lessons learned, and enable individuals and communities to  protect themselves from known risks. Stories “shape understanding and action.”

Through relating stories of many news-worthy crises – the Exxon Valdez oil spill and Deepwater Horizon disaster, the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 and Super Storm Sandy, the 1918 influenza pandemic, the sinking of Titanic, nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, the Fukushima Daiichi crisis after the Great East Japan Earthquake, and Hurricane Katrina – Seeger and Sellnow show how communications fill the void in often conflicting progressions to become narratives that instigate change and shape beliefs, actions, and culture. They insist that “crisis narratives must be understood as stories with limitations inherent in the narrator and the storytelling form,” and that the change becomes the consequence – often in socially-, politically-, economically-, demographically-, and technologically-visible ways.

On page two, the authors erroneously had Hurricane Katrina slam into New Orleans on August 27, 2005, and on page 37, they mistakenly associate the same storm with 2006. Correctly, Katrina hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast at Bay Saint Louis – Waveland on August 29, 2005.

Despite that error of fact, the book – particularly in the less academic and more practically-parsed later chapters – can help emergency management professionals understand both why and how storytelling can help make sense of crises and then lead individuals, organizations, and communities to recognize the need for and take action for better preparedness and response. As Seeger and Sellnow conclude, narratives can and do “promote the ethics of resilience, cooperation, and, ultimately, renewal.”


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Infographic on the Cost of Catastrophe

New infographic on The Cost of Catastrophe; Assessing the Impact of Natural Disasters.

Thanks to Chris Jones for the citation.

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“Can New York Be Saved in the Era of Global Warming”

From Rolling Stone, this article about global warming and its effect on NYC. “The future of America’s greatest city is at risk.”


Posted in Global Warming | 3 Comments

New Threat – a Heat Dome

It seems the phenomenon has been around for a while, but this is the first time I have seen an explanation of a heat dome. See this article from CNN:  Extreme Weather Heat Dome.

Posted in Weather | 3 Comments

The Challenges of Recovery in WV

Mobile FEMA teams face long, complicated task in West Virginia rebuilding process

As town hall meetings continue to crop up around towns in the flood-affected areas of West Virginia, questions continue to arise about what exactly FEMA’s role is in southern West Virginia’s rebuilding process.

There are a number of answers to that loaded question, and FEMA’s Mobile Disaster Assistance Teams are attempting to provide the public with those answers in a painstakingly thorough manner: going door-to-door in the impacted communities

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Book Reviews

  • Just a reminder that two readers owe me a book review.  Please try to complete them soon.
  • I recommend this new book: American Dunkirk, by James Kendra and Trish Wachtendorf of the Univ. of DE Easy ready and a fascinating story. More details are available here. [ I did find a reviewer for my review copy.]