Category Archives: Earthquakes

1st Emergency Management Theory and Research Workshop

A flurry of major disaster declarations in the late 1980s and early 1990s reminded everyone  that we inhabit a vulnerable country and planet. In 1989  major hurricane HUGO  made landfall in South Carolina and the 7.1 magnitude LOMA PRIETA earthquake, which hit the San Francisco Bay area, brought death and devastation to both coasts in the U.S.. 1992 brought another double impact by way of category 5 Hurricane ANDREW, the first named storm of a rather  slow Atlantic hurricane season, which devastated the southern region of Miami-Dade County, Florida in late August, while another major hurricane by the name of INIKI devastated Kauai, in the state of Hawaii on September 11. The MIDWEST FLOODS of 1993 were of epic proportions in terms of the magnitude of the hazard and the human suffering they caused. In 1994 the magnitude 6.7 NORTHRIDGE earthquake caused 60 deaths and extensive structural damage, and loss of property in southern California.

Six years and six major disasters that caught many by surprise or largely unprepared. Six events that raised numerous questions about the capabilities, quality and state of readiness of our emergency management resources at the federal, state and local levels. Six major hits from Mother Nature that motivated FEMA to reinvent itself, together with emergency management infrastructure at the state and local levels. These disasters also generated a new model of emergency management where mitigation became the core, around which the traditional pillars of preparedness, response and recovery must be exercised. Relative to this FEMA’s Director declared that “mitigation  is the foundation of emergency management during a ceremony to launch the “National Mitigation Strategy“.

Two rather significant developments  during this time were: (a) the realization that there was an urgent need to professionalize the emergency management sector across the nation, and (b) the discovery that in a nation with a vast and rich infrastructure of higher education, less than 1% of the total number of universities and colleges had any kind of an offering in the field of emergency management, be it by way of regular courses, seminars, certificate or degree programs. What a dilemma! Even if we wanted to create professionals in the field of emergency management, meaning individuals with approved higher education course work and preferably degrees, the stark and problematic reality was that at the time our wealth of universities and colleges had practically nothing to offer to help in this endeavor.

The shock of this findings caused FEMA to launch in 1994 its Higher Education Project,based at the Emergency Management Institute (EMI) in Emmitsburg, MD, with the objective of motivating institutions of higher learning across the USA to start including content related to all aspects of emergency management in their curricula, and also to work toward the development of degree program at the baccalaureate or advanced degree levels. The rest is history; over the years since than historic launch date, the High-Ed program has continuously added universities and colleges to a growing list of institutions of higher learning that now offer degrees ranging from bachelor’s to a Ph.D.  in a wide ranging wealth of topics.

Twenty years later, this June 1 -5  FEMA will hold its 2014 Higher Education Summit at EMI and, for the first time will also hold its 1st Emergency Management Theory and Research Workshop, where invited designated emergency management scholars will share their experiences in designing and teaching courses that are relevant to the field.

I am honored to be among those invited emergency management scholars and will be presenting on the topic of ‘Teaching about Vulnerability and Mitigation: An empirical approach‘. I will be sharing how I progressed from educating federal, state and local staff in the field while conducting damage assessments during the post-hurricane Andrew recovery phase in 1992/1993, to designing and organizing training workshops in hazard mitigation, to designing and introducing two graduate-level courses in Hazard Mitigation and Vulnerability Assessment that I taught for sixteen years. I will also present on how I added other educational offerings to respond to demand at two opposite extremes, one was an offering known as ‘Developing a culture of mitigation through education‘ for K-12 schools that was recognized as an example of ‘Best Mitigation Practices’ by FEMA in 2005, and the other a continuing education program for emergency management practitioners and professionals in several fields known as the ‘Emergency Management and Hazard Mitigation Certificate Program‘. One key aspect of my talk will be how I managed to blend empirical knowledge acquired from field observation of damaged buildings, with applied research under the state of Florida funded ‘Residential Construction Mitigation Program‘, and the implementation of hundreds of actual ‘brick and mortar’ mitigation projects, into highly practical and interactive course offerings without textbooks, but with a wealth of real-life examples that students could see and study.

I am looking forward to a rewarding and exciting experience as I prepare to participate in the 1st Emergency Management Theory and Research Workshop, and the 2014 Higher Education Summit. I shall report on my experience upon my return to the home base!

InTeGrate: Teaching about Risk and Resilience

An innovative and important workshop – InTeGrate: Teaching about Risk and Resilience – started on Wednesday 14 May 2014, with some sixty higher education teachers,educators and researchers from around the country in attendance. The workshop ends today, Friday 16 May 2014, in Boca Raton Florida.

At 7:30 A.M. the morning before the workshop opening plenary the skies looked menacing with storm clouds, and promising as well.
At 7:30 A.M. the morning before the workshop opening plenary the skies looked menacing with storm clouds, and promising as well.

The workshop and the InTeGrate project, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), are brainchildren of Dr. Cathryn (‘Cathy’) Manduca, Ph. D. Director of the Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota.

The Marleen and Harold Forkas Alumni Center was the venue for the InTeGrate workshop 14-16 May 2014

This particular workshop, one of several organized by InTeGrate/SERC, is a collaborative effort of several institutions that are engaged in important research and other activities  related to the central topic of Risk and Resilience. Reflecting such multi-institutional support workshop conveners include the following wonderful, deducated and hard working, individuals: Leonard (‘Len’) Berryof the Florida Center for Environmental Studies (CES), David Blockstein, National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE), Cathy Manduca, SERC, Carleton College, Mantha Mehallis, Florida Atlantic University (FAU), and John Taberof IRIS (Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology). Mary-Beth Hartman of CES/FAU and Monica Bruckner of SERC/Carleton College coordinated  the myriad details of hosting and convening  this event.

The program got off to a good start with a reception and dinner on Wednesday 14 May 2014, at the FAU Alumni  Center, followed by the keynote address by Dr. Leonard Berry. Ph.D., Director of the Florida Center for Environmental Studies, Florida Atlantic University and a Panel Discussion moderated by David Blockstein of NCSE with the following panelists Ricardo A. Alvarez,former Deputy Director, International Hurricane Center, Research Affiliate at the Florida Center for Environmental Studies, Tatjana Hocke-Mirzashvili, James Madison University, and Mark Benthien, Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC), University of Southern California.

The panelists were tasked with commenting of Dr. Berry’s Keynote Address, highlighting key concepts and questions to set a foundation for discussions during the following day and a half of workshop plenary sessions and breakout group meetings.

Referring to Len Berry’s keynote Ricardo Alvarez made the following remarks:

“Len has made something that is rather difficult to do appear rather simple and easy by taking what is the complex and wide ranging topic of risk and resilience and in just a few minutes, dissect it into its key concepts and components, to present us rather effectively  with a summary that is relevant and easy to understand. Most of us have difficulty in clearly articulating just one aspect of this topic, while others have written lengthy papers and even books attempting to do the same thing.”

“For me one of the ‘take-home messages’ is that teaching is about transferring actionable knowledge to relevant sectors including, not only scientists and other professionals, but also policy-makers and the general public. Teaching is about progressing from science to application, from research to the implementation of solutions. teaching about risk and resilience is about preparedness in anticipation of expected impacts to our vulnerable communities. We all, as teachers, educators, need to be interpreters of science bringing knowledge to people, to all of us, about places we all understand. Not about global climate change, global warming or global sea level rise, but about how any of these processes may impact our own community, the places where we live and work.”

“Len has highlighted several key principles and concepts for us, including: (a) Risk and vulnerability are shared conditions, so it makes sense for residents of one community to work together toward managing their risk and achieving resiliency; (b) Relative to this a very good local example of collaboration, and working together, is the Four County Climate Change Compact formed by Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach Counties that is a model for the entire nation; (c) Addressing risk and resilience requires an interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approach, and also a new paradigm for planning, one that is not based on the past but on what the future may bring by way of potential impacts; (d) In some cases we may view resilience almost as a ‘code word’ to be able to discuss ‘politically controversial’ issues, such as sea level rise and climate change, in some sectors or venues. Here Len addresses an ‘ugly truth’ of the climate change, sea level rise, global warming discourse, where ideology or political orientation trump the dialogue and the right of self-expression; (e) Len poses a challenging question: “Does resilience need to increase as risk increases?”; and (f) Perhaps of greater relevancy for purposes of this workshop are Len’s comments about the two cases that will be used to set a foundation for discussion and dialogue during the workshop, which make me think of the effectiveness of a ‘learn-by-doing’ approach where the events described by the case are the ‘doing’ part, something that has been done, that has taken place already, while what we can borrow, copy because it is good, avoid, or adapt from the case, constitutes the ‘learning’. In this sense this is about using real-life practical examples rather than theory. to learn more, to educate ourselves, about risk and resilience, the main topic of this workshop. Thank you Len for inspiring us as we look forward to a productive workshop. Thank you”

Cathy Manduca, SERC and InTeGrate project Director welcomes participants during the opening plenary session
Cathy Manduca, SERC and InTeGrate project Director welcomes participants during the opening plenary session

During the Opening Plenary Session on Thursday 15, May 2014, two case studies were introduced to workshop participants. One was an earthquake scenario presented by Mark Benthien of USC and Keith Porter of SPA Risk LLC. The second case study was a sea level rise scenario presented jointly by Nancy Gassman of Broward County Public Works Division, and Ricardo A. Alvarez of CES/FAU. Dr. Gassman presented (Gassman Teaching Risk and Resilience FAU 05152014) the events described in the case related to flooding, coastal erosion, water-management, seasonal extreme high tides, and the indirect impact of Hurricane Sandy, and the exacerbating aspects of sea level rise in the City of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Ricardo presented (Using Case Studies as Teaching Tools ) on the benefits of using case studies as tools in teaching about risk and resilience, and also identified several specific teaching opportunities offered by the  ‘sea  level rise scenario’ case presented at the workshop.

InTeGrate workshop participants attend the opening plenary session
InTeGrate workshop participants attend the opening plenary session

Discussions about the Fort Lauderdale Sea-level rise case continued during a breakout session moderated by Eileen Johnson of Bowdoin College, with Nancy Gassman and Ricardo Alvarez as panelists and subject-matter experts, and Julie Lambert of FAU acting as session rapporteur, during which panelists and participants engaged in extensive dialogue and Q&A both about scientific and engineering aspects of the case study, and about issues related to teaching about risk and resilience to undergraduates.

On Thursday the post-lunch plenary session moderated by Alana Edwards of FAU was about 'Examples of Incorporating Risk and Resilience into the Curriculum and Across Disciplines
On Thursday the post-lunch plenary session moderated by Alana Edwards of FAU was about ‘Examples of Incorporating Risk and Resilience into the Curriculum and Across Disciplines