Welcome back to Disaster Discourse Monthly, the one-stop-shop for all your emergency management and homeland security news needs. In this issue, we discuss cosmic defense and the impact of the World Cup on seismology. As always, we hope this issue helps you learn a little something you didn’t know, but if it’s not a discussion you’d like to be a part of, just unsubscribe here. Enjoy, feel free to read any of our past issues, and we’ll see you in August!
Executive Leadership: FEMA
“I don’t know what’s best for your community. You don’t want me doing mitigation for you,” said FEMA Administrator Brock Long at the Aspen Ideas Festival hosted by the Aspen Institute and the Atlantic. It’s Hurricane Season, and if 2017 showed us anything, it’s that preparedness and mitigation efforts are any community’s first line of defense against a disaster. In a recent OpEd by Long, he emphasizes the importance of local government’s preparedness and response and how FEMA’s role “is to support local governments following a disaster only after their capacity to respond has been exceeded.” With recent reports that FEMA’s disaster response force is “understaffed by 26 percent,” it becomes even more important for local and state emergency managers, especially in coastal regions, to prepare their communities for the event of a disaster.
We’re familiar with disasters from water, fire, or earth, but what about air? The White House recently released the National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy and Action Plan, which details how the United States (US) can improve preparedness for, and response to, the potential disaster poised by earth-bound asteroids. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), President Trump’s recently announced Space Force, and NASA would all take part in preparedness and response efforts. As NASA Planetary Defense Officer Lindley Johnson says, “Planetary defense is a team sport.”
A small earthquake in Mexico City may have been the result of mass jubilation following a World Cup victory against Germany. A less fun earthquake would be the “Big One,” the threat of a high magnitude earthquake that could devastate life in California as we know it. According to the US Geological Survey’s science advisor, Ken Hudnut, a major earthquake could displace 250,000 people, with 175,000 needing to seek refuge at a public shelter. Communities as far as Arizona are preparing for the possibility of the Big One, and California residents are encouraged to prepare themselves by storing vital supplies and retrofitting their homes.
Storms are hard to predict, according to this article by the Verge, which details how storms are forecasted and why it’s so hard to know exactly what a hurricane season will entail. However, one thing we do know is that hurricanes are slowing down, and it’s this overstayed welcome that causes the torrential rain that Houston experienced during Hurricane Harvey. Cities are increasingly at risk from Harvey-esque storms, like New York, where a Sandy-level storm will strike every 25 years. Many of these cities, such as Boston and San Francisco, rely on centralized food distribution centers that are highly vulnerable to disruption should a major storm or flooding occur, and the threat of a superstorm has these governments rethinking how to mitigate against the potentially devastating consequences.
An Unlikely Light in the Storm: Buses
Local governments, such as the City of Chicago and San Francisco, are going electric. While they may not be as flashy as a Tesla, the electric buses these cities are investing in mark a step toward greater fuel efficiency and fewer emissions, which could improve the lives of many suffering from respiratory issues. Looking at another innovation in public transit, communities with a fleet of hybrid diesel-electric buses could actually use their transit buses to as a solution to bring them on-demand power. Hagerty, the Center for Transportation and the Environment, and the University of Texas Center for Electromechanics have been working together to develop a Bus Exportable Power Supply (BEPS) System that could serve as a mobile generator for important buildings, such as a hospital or a shelter, during an emergency.