State of Oregon Cascadia Playbook V.3

The State of Oregon has recently released its latest version of the Cascadia Playbook, a guide to expected responses in the aftermath of a major disaster (in this case an earthquake along the Cascadia Subduction Fault). You can find it here.

UK – Young people most at risk in a flood according to British Red Cross and Environment Agency

Young people most at risk in a flood, warns Environment Agency & British Red Cross

  • 18-34s least aware of dangers of flooding in their area
  • More than half of 18-34s would not know what to do in an emergency
  • Mental health impacts of flooding can last for two years or more

The Environment Agency and British Red Cross are urging young people to learn how to protect themselves and help their communities when flooding hits after research shows a lack of knowledge is putting them at risk.

According to Environment Agency research, 18-34 year olds are least likely to know if the area where they live is at risk of flooding and least likely to know how to protect their homes and possessions. Less than half (48%) of under 35s would know what to do if a flood warning was issued.

This week, the government published new climate change projections which show that sea levels are set to rise over this century and more frequent, extreme weather requires urgent action. This means that knowing your flood risk and understanding what action to take in a flood is more important than ever.

5.2 million homes and businesses in England are at risk of flooding and the average cost of flood damage to a home is £30,000 but the devastating consequences can go beyond the material. Those who experience flooding in their own home are also at high risk of suffering from negative mental health impacts which can last for years after flooding has hit. The most recent Public Health England research shows that over a third of people who were flooded in 2014 suffered with depression, anxiety or PTSD and nearly a quarter of people were still experiencing these negative mental health impacts two years later.

In December 2015, Storm Desmond struck North West England and caused extensive flooding, leaving 45,000 homes without power. Thousands of properties in Cumbria were flooded including a church in Kendal where local resident, Jonny Gios still works. He said:

Being flooded turned our world upside down for a whole year. The community came together in an amazing way during the recovery process but the stress and worry in the months that followed was devastating. It was difficult to unpack the trauma and took several months of counselling – suffering physical and emotional symptoms of post-traumatic stress.

I can’t underline how important it is to be prepared and to know what to do when flooding hits. Simple actions can make a huge difference and could save you months of trying to gather your life and home back together.

The Environment Agency has today launched its Flood Action Campaign, partnering with the Red Cross, to encourage young people to learn how to Prepare Act Survive in a flood to reduce the impacts of damage, and to join a new national network of Community Reserve Volunteers to help their communities if disaster strikes.

Caroline Douglass, Director of Incident Management & Resilience at the Environment Agency said:

The terrible impacts of flooding can last long after the flood waters have receded. But simple actions can lessen the damage to your home, protect your wellbeing and help you recover more quickly.

Our flood defences protect thousands of homes around the country but we can never entirely eliminate the risk of flooding, which is why it’s crucial to know how to protect yourself when it hits.

Simon Lewis, Head of Emergency Response at the British Red Cross, said:

We respond to an emergency every four hours in the UK, from major fires to devastating floods. Flooding can have a catastrophic impact on homes and communities, causing untold damage to the things and the people we treasure most. That’s why it’s vital we all know what to do, and how to help, to lessen the impact and help communities rebuild and recover faster.

Sadly we cannot always stop things like this from happening, but by becoming a community reserve volunteer, young people across the UK could help make a difference should the worst happen.

The British Red Cross wants to create a national network of 10,000 community reserve volunteers who can be called upon to help in a crisis. Over 5,000 people have already signed up to the scheme so far.

To be a community reserve volunteer you don’t need specialist skills to make a difference and simple acts of kindness can make big difference. Any necessary training will be given at the scene of the crisis and you can confirm your availability when you are contacted. With these two initiatives the Environment Agency and the Red Cross want to see younger people not only better prepared for flooding but also more actively involved in supporting the community in times of need.

The Environment Agency is spending more than £2.6 billion to build flood schemes around the country as part of its current programme, which will better protect 300,000 homes by 2021.

Exercise your emergency plan. Often.

For a good while it was my task to imagine, research, write and execute plausible worst-case scenarios for everything from natural disasters to pandemics to terror attacks.

My little outfit was called Apocalypse (noun) and we were the in-house bad-stuff-no-one-wants-to-consider creators for many executive-level exercises on this little globe of ours.

My colleagues and mentors would serve as reality checkers – ‘Let me see the science research on this one’ or ‘Did you actually check the ventilation system in the Governor’s offices?’

The answer to that last one was, “Yes.” I spent a great deal of time on the ground, researching the areas of interest and doing time-date-weather checks to ensure we had every detail down right.

Occasionally, the scenarios we crafted were so realistic they caused raised eyebrows among the most senior command staff who would be running through them as part of large-scale tabletop and/or functional exercises.

Sometimes they’d ask my handlers how we knew the exact details of what they thought were closely guarded secrets. “Research. And did we mention – Hal’s a foreign national?” was the reply they seemed to enjoy the most.

Many of our scenarios resulted in major changes to the emergency planning process – and more than a few times – were the basis for large-scale awareness/planning programs.

Colleagues who were part of the process would call and say, “Did you see the new DHS directives? Look familiar? Good job.”

Those immersive environments included high-def media produced by some of the most creative minds in the world. We were playing for keeps. And play we did.

Unfortunately, every now and again, a worst-case scenario would play out in real life with casualty counts measured in real lives altered forever.

I take solace in the fact we worked hard to try to get people to imagine what happened if all the ‘What ifs’ fell into place… and made the scenarios so real we captured their imaginations – forcing them to work through every aspect of their response in a controlled albeit extremely high stress environment.

No regrets. Only the occasional rattling reminder that real-life often is far worse than what we considered to be the worst-case scenario.

Be well. Practice big medicine.*

Hal Newman, Executive Director, NEMRC

*Big Medicine = the right people working together at the right time will be Big Medicine. I’ve been saying ‘Be well. Practice big medicine’ for as long as I can remember. It is my own very personal version of ‘Sawu Bona’, the Zulu greeting which means ‘I see you’… I see all of you, I see your good works, I see the difference you are making in the world.

Australia – VIC – Communities to mark 50th anniversary of devastating fires

Tuesday 8 January 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the devastating bushfires of 1969.

On that day 230 fires burned across Victoria, of which 21 were serious including fires in Lara, Darraweit Guim, Daylesford, Bulgana, Yea, Kangaroo Flat and Korongvale.

More than 250,000 hectares, 230 houses and 12,000 livestock were destroyed. Tragically 21 people died, including two CFA volunteers. Hundreds were injured.

Although dry and hot throughout January that year, the weather on 8 January 1969 was unexpected. A weather system that developed in the western Bass Strait that morning brought strong gale force winds to much of the state, causing some fires from the day before to reignite and fanning new fires. 

The worst fires were in the open farm land around Lara near Geelong. It is estimated that the fire travelled up to 11 kilometres per hour that day due to the 119 kilometre winds and low humidity. Lara was almost wiped off the map as the fire burned from the You Yangs to Corio Bay.

The township experienced the most significant deaths with 18 people losing their lives.

The fire in Lara moved so quickly that motorists on the Princes Highway had little chance of escaping as the fire crossed the highway in the mid-morning. 

Some of the 17 who died on the highway had panicked and jumped from their cars in dense smoke in an effort to flee the fire on foot.

Two brothers who sheltered in their car through the worst of the fire front survived. It was the first time that evidence suggested that it was safer to remain in a car during a fire rather than abandoning it – advice that is used today.

In addition to the 18 deaths, more than 40 homes were destroyed, the primary school and church were gone, and vital railway infrastructure was burning.

The other major fire that day occurred in Darraweit Guim where strong winds swept flames through more than 20,000 acres of farmland and crops in a matter of minutes, destroying 12 homes, two churches, thousands of livestock as well as farm machinery and stock feed.

Communications were also disrupted as power poles caught fire and fell to the ground.  

That evening a cool change with heavy rain brought an end to the worst of the fire threat and welcome relief to the state.

The Lara and Little River communities will come together on Sunday 6 January 2019 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the fires and those who lost their lives. All events are free.

 •Church Service at Holy Trinity Church Flinders Ave. Lara, 10am to 11am

•Commemoration Service at the Lara Fires Memorial (next to the Lara Library), 11.30am to 12.30pm

•Community gathering at Lara Community Centre, 12.30pm to 1.30pm

•Guided bus tour by Captain Terry Hedt who fought in the 1969 fires. Limited seats, 1.30pm (departing Lara Community Centre)

For more information on these events, visit the Lara CFA Facebook page.

Bahamas – NEMA facilitates training on Japanese Grant Aid disaster management gear

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) is pleased to receive the remainder of equipment which is part of the $1.8 million Japanese Grant Aid project to The Bahamas in support of the country’s disaster management programme. The equipment includes four balloon lights, eight water pumps, 40 VHF base radio stations, and 200 hand-held radios.


Following donation of equipment by the Government of Japan to aid The Bahamas’ disaster management programme, training sessions on use of the equipment were held December 17-20, 2018 at NEMA on Gladstone Road.  Pictured far left is Director of NEMA Captain Stephen Russell along with Japanese training instructors and participants.  (BIS Photo/Patrick Hanna)

Some 25 staff from NEMA, personnel of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, the Royal Bahamas Police Force and the Ministry of Works underwent training, December 17-20, in basic operation and maintenance of the equipment.

Expert trainers were Derrick Holder and Ronald Alleyne from Barbados, and Takuro Nagai, Manager of the Technical Department and Hiroshi Ohbo, Manager/ Service and Maintenance Section of COMFORCE Japan.

In October 2018, the Government of The Bahamas through NEMA during an Official Handover Ceremony accepted from the Government of Japan a wheel crane, a tractor head truck, along with two 40-foot trailers, two freezer containers and two flatbed cargo trucks.

Over the next six months, NEMA, in collaboration with its public and private partners will aim to install a base radio and a number of hand-held radios in each of the Family Island-designated Emergency Operations Centers (EOC), to support the local Disaster Consultative Committees with their emergency communications.

The water pumps and balloon lights will be strategically placed among the three Emergency Relief Warehouses in Grand Bahama for the Northern Bahamas, New Providence for the Central Bahamas, and Great Inagua for the Southern Bahamas to be readily available for use in those areas, as necessary.

“Again the National Emergency Management Agency is pleased to see this programme successfully executed,” said Director of NEMA Captain Stephen Russell.

The programme commenced in April 2016 with the signing of a Grant Agreement, the formation of a local committee for the product selection and specifications, the tendering process and production of goods in Japan, and the eventual shipping to The Bahamas. This also included the support of two local companies –Five Stars Brokers and Four K’s Cargo — in clearing the shipment and delivering them to NEMA on Gladstone Road.

“The equipment and training should tremendously enhance the country’s disaster preparedness and response mechanism, particularly in the areas of inter-island communication, logistics and transportation,” said Captain Russell.

Study – Big data and technology in disasters: Better integration needed for effective response

In a recent review article published in the journal Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, a group of Johns Hopkins’ authors evaluated 113 studies using predetermined criteria with the final search taking place on May 1, 2017. Search terms were created in consultation with medical librarians and subject matter experts in Information and Communications Technology (ICT), big data, and disasters. Only articles that implemented ICT and big data tools in real life were considered. (Table 1).


Disasters are becoming more commonplace and complex, and the challenges for rescue and humanitarian organizations increase. Increasingly these groups turn to big data to help provde solutions. The authors wished to examine how ICT tools and big data were being used in disaster responses. By conducting a structured literature search and developing a data extraction tool on the use of ICT and big data during disasters they showed that some important gaps exist which should be part of a future research focus.
Credit : Copyright: © 2018 Society for Disaster Medicine and Public Health, Inc. https://doi.org/10.1017/dmp.2018.73

A data extraction tool was developed by subject matter and included the following items; first author and year, data type, disaster type, country. (Table 2).

The literature review identified some important gaps: more information is needed on the use of technologies. Most articles discussed the use of ICT in natural disasters which were mainly hurricanes and earthquakes. What was underreported was data on extreme temperatures and flooding, even though these events account for 27% and 26% of global deaths respectively.

Copyright: © 2018 Society for Disaster Medicine and Public Health, Inc. https://doi.org/10.1017/dmp.2018.73

According to first author Dr. Jeffrey Freeman, “Disasters are inherently a Big Data challenge, and with the ubiquitous nature of cell phones, the rapid spread of connectivity, and the rise of technologies like the Internet of Things, the challenge is only going to get bigger. In disasters, the key question we face today is how do we harness a growingly diverse and often chaotic wave of data and information. Simply put, we’ve got to handle more data than we’ve ever had, and do so more quickly and effectively than we’ve ever done before. Big Data and ICT pose a serious challenge in disasters, but they also hold promise for potential solutions. The answer to leveraging the massive amounts of data that ICT is creating is likely to be found within the very same technologies driving the Information Age. But we have to think creatively about adapting and adopting these technologies in emergency situations. Disasters leave little room for trial and error. The consequences are too great.”

According to Dr. Dan Barnett (coauthor on the paper) “As a researcher of public health emergency preparedness and response systems, I’ve watched closely as the rate of innovation has frequently outpaced adoption in this field. If we are to be effective in responding to disasters and other public health emergency situations, we need to do a better job figuring out how technology can be integrated into disaster response.

In embarking on this integrative literature review, we knew information and communications technology (ICT) was present in disasters, and we knew people were using related technologies, but we didn’t know much else. As researchers, we wanted to more clearly understand how Big Data applications and ICT solutions were being used, and more importantly, we wanted to know where things went right and where things went wrong. These kinds of insights can move the state of the science forward, and ultimately, allow us to achieve a more effective response to disasters.

Technology and disasters have had a tenuous relationship. For those of us in the field, there has been a growing recognition that technology holds promise for enabling disaster response, but we’ve also watched as even the most basic of technologies, like phone service and electricity, has been crippled during the acute phase of a disaster. Technology holds little value in disasters if unavailable when it’s needed most. If we can understand more clearly how people want to use Big Data and ICT in disasters, then we can focus our efforts on ensuring those technologies are resilient and reliable under any circumstances.”

NZ – Wellington Earthquake National Initial Response Plan version 2.0 released

The Wellington Earthquake National Initial Response Plan (WENIRP) has been developed to assist emergency managers, and responding agencies, to respond effectively to this complex emergency scenario. It is a Supporting Plan to the National Civil Defence Emergency Management Plan 2015 (National CDEM Plan 2015), and builds on the arrangements in the National CDEM Plan 2015.

Find more information here: Wellington Earthquake National Initial Response Plan