“Global Risks: Pool Knowledge to Stem Losses from Disasters”

From Nature.com, an article by Susan Cutter et al: Global risks: Pool knowledge to stem losses from disasters.  Public awareness, rigorous risk research and aligned targets will help policy-makers to increase resilience against natural hazards, say Susan L. Cutter and colleagues.

Interesting article that is well-worth reading.

“The National Strike Force”

The current issue of the Coast Guard’s Journal of Safety and Security at Sea. Proceedings of the Marine Safety and Security Council features articles on the National Strike Force, but there are a host of other great articles on related topics in the issue.  For a free copy (and a free subscription) of the Proceedings click here.

The Proceedings is a nice, slick-paper magazine issued quarterly. The current issue is 98 pages long. Definitely a “keeper” for your library.

New Report on the State of the Humanitarian System

Thanks to the blog iRevolution, here are some details about a major new report on the international humanitarian services sector. Innovation and the State of the Humanitarian System. A few excerpts follow:

Published by ALNAP, the 2012 State of the Humanitarian System report is an important evaluation of the humanitarian community’s efforts over the past two years. “I commend this report to all those responsible for planning and delivering life saving aid around the world,” writes UN Under-Secretary General Valerie Amos in the Preface. “If we are going to improve international humanitarian response we all need to pay attention to the areas of action highlighted in the report.” Below are some of the highlighted areas from the 100+ page evaluation that are ripe for innovative interventions.

Accessing Those in Need. Operational access to populations in need has not improved. Access problems continue and are primarily political or security-related rather than logistical. Indeed, “UN security restrictions often place sever limits on the range of UN-led assessments,” which means that “coverage often can be compromised.” This means that “access constraints in some contexts continue to inhibit an accurate assessment of need. Up to 60% of South Sudan is inaccessible for parts of the year. As a result, critical data, including mortality and morbidity, remain unavailable. Data on nutrition, for example, exist in only 25 of 79 countries where humanitarian partners have conducted surveys.”

Haiti — struggling with “the development gap”

Street-view of the National Palace of Haiti, d...

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This Wash. Post  article provides an unusually insightful explanation of the slow recovery process in Haiti.  Among the causes described are the extreme poverty, lack of a viable government prior to the disaster, lack of basic sanitation infrastructure, and the need to create a new organization to dispense funds honestly and with transparency.  See Funding delays, housing complexities slow Haiti rebuilding effort.

Robert Perito, a Haiti expert at the U.S. Institute of Peace, said the emergency response went well. “The reason for that is, we’re really good at it. . . . We have all this capacity, these wonderful teams that deploy. It’s nonpolitical. It’s humanitarian. There’s not a lot of decisions to be made.”

In contrast, reconstruction is all about deciding where and what to build. “This is a classic conundrum in development theory,” he said. “It’s called the development gap: How do you fill the gap between the emergency phase and the long-term development phase?

New Idea for Better US Reponse to International Disasters

As readers have noted, the Diva and others have lamented the ability of the U.S. to effectively response to major disasters in other countries.  It is interesting to note that a proposal for changing the response was made by Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, while participating in the Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas in Bolivia recently. In an article titled Gates backs crisis cells to aid Latin America in disasters, Terradaily, Nov. 23, only a broad outline of the concept is provided.

Defense ministers from across the Americas on Monday mulled the creation of crisis cells that would spring into action in a natural disaster, an idea US Defense Secretary Robert Gates described as “promising.” The proposal was discussed at the ninth Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas in Bolivia’s largest city Santa Cruz. Gates told representatives from some 30 countries that the proposal followed “honest assessments of what worked and what didn’t in Haiti” in the aftermath of that country’s catastrophic earthquake, which killed 250,000 people. The proposal involves creating a series of Military Assistance Collaboration Cells, or MACCs, that would share information and technology.

The concept is very interesting — sort of  a variation of  the concept of Recovery Swat Teams that have been talked about for many years in the U.S.

Thanks to Bill Cumming for calling the press release to my attention.

Haiti — a call for action from donors

The area of Bas-Ravine, in the northern part o...

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In its lead editorial on Nov. 7th, the Washington Post issues a wakeup call for attention to Haiti and the painfully slow recovery from the earthquake almost 10 months ago. Titled As Haiti Suffers, the World Dozes, the article reminds the U.S. and other donors to stop acting like the recovery projects are the usual development projects and to expedite fulfilling their pledges and to take action. It also says”It is time for Mr. Clinton, to play a critical role for Haiti. ”

ChristChurch, NZ Earthquake – update

Earthquake damage - dairy

Image by martinluff via Flickr

As noted two days ago in this blog, the contrast between the outcomes of the same-size earthquakes in NZ and Haiti is stark.  Here is a discussion of one of the reasons for the difference. Building code saves NZ from serious destruction; Radio Australia, Sept. 6.

As we’ve heard in earlier reports, many New Zealanders are assessing the damage from the weekend’s earthquake. Jeff Crosier, is a structural and earthquake engineer from consulting firm Miyamoto International. While the New Zealand earthquake was larger than the one which devastated Haiti earlier this year, killing 200 thousand people, Mr Crosier says it is surprising how little damage has been caused in Christchurch.

One more explanation: Why the N.Z. quake is no Haiti. MSNBC, Sept. 6.

On the downside, more than 100 aftershocks have occurred, some of which are sizable.  It appears that the structure damage and the no. of badly damaged homes is growing.  To call New Zealand seismically active is an understatement.  According to a NY Times article on Sept. 6,

New Zealand sits above an area where two tectonic plates collide. The country records more than 14,000 earthquakes a year — but only about 150 are felt by residents. Fewer than 10 a year do any damage. New Zealand’s last major earthquake registered magnitude 7.8 and hit South Island’s Fiordland region on July 16, 2009, moving the southern tip of the country 12 inches (30 centimeters) closer to Australia.

Regarding the financial aspects of the recovery, the existence of insurance funds for residential reconstruction is an unusual feature.  Nevertheless, the national government will have to assist public entities as is true in the U.S. system. See UPDATE: New Zealand Building Shares Rally After Quake; Bonds Weaken; Wall St. Journal, Sept. 7.

Fires in Russia — classic failure of public management of emergencies

In the Russian wildfires, will Putin get burned? Wash. Post, August 15.

This response has been so appalling in its ineptitude that it invites comparisons to past disasters. Is this like the 1986 Chernobyl disaster? Or is it more like Hurricane Katrina in 2005? Politically speaking, it should be even worse than Katrina. For one thing, a good part of Russia’s catastrophe has unfolded in the nation’s capital, not in a far-off region such as the Gulf Coast. And these fires are burning with Russia’s 2012 presidential elections on the horizon….

The current crisis should expose and discredit the Russian government at its most incompetent and should permanently taint those in charge. Of course, this doesn’t mean it will: Russia’s government is not a government of the people, but of the well-connected. Its citizens haven’t expected much of their leaders, even before the fires. * * * But if the events of the past month haven’t started a political conflagration, they do seem to be fanning a long-smoldering public distrust of the government. And fires can be unpredictable.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin bears direct responsibility for the dysfunctional system that set the stage for disaster: Legislation that came into effect in 2007, when he was president, turned forest management over to poorly equipped local authorities and to companies that manufacture paper and related products. Oligarchs close to the Kremlin allegedly lobbied for the law, which decimated the forest ranger corps and left Russia ill-prepared for today’s calamity.

The poor response to the fires will further widen the chasm separating the nation’s authorities from society.

Basic tenets of public administration apply, whatever the country.  Rules of thumb regarding governance also apply, two of which are pre-disaster trends usually continue post-disaster and weak public management prior to a disaster typically deteriorates post-disaster.

International Disasters – some perspectives

While we in the U.S. have been focused on the oil spill and its many ramifications, elsewhere in the world at least three large countries (Russia, China, and Pakistan) have been experiencing record-setting disasters. According to the source ReliefWeb, August 10. Extreme weather fuels debate over global warming, and as noted in a Scottish newspaper, August 10th, Pakistan’s floods to outstrip world’s last three disasters.

The  United Nations is to launch an appeal for the victims of floods in Pakistan, which it warned could affect more people than the world’s last three great disasters combined.  It said the toll could exceed the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2005 Kashmir earthquake and the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

Two wikis have been set up to facilitate aid and donations for Pakistani victims.  Please help, if you can.