Editorial: To Address the New Normal, Disaster Relief Needs to Start With Prevention

(TNS) - In Congress, battles are raging over disaster relief spending. Who should get the help? Puerto Rico, still seeking emergency reconstruction money in the wake of 2017 Hurricane Maria (and yes, Puerto Rico is part of the United States and just as deserving of help as, say, North Carolina)? How about Hawaii, where volcanic eruptions have seen molten lava destroy homes, roads and other infrastructure? Nebraska and Iowa, which were inundated by some of the worst flooding in their history? California, trying to rebuild from the most widespread and deadly wildfires the state has ever seen? Or the Florida Panhandle and parts of Georgia, where homes and farms were wiped out by the violent Hurricane Michael last year?

Earthquake Law Could Financially Strain California Hospitals

(TNS) — California’s hospitals are scrambling to retrofit their buildings before “The Big One” hits, an effort that will cost tens of billions dollars and could jeopardize health-care access, according to a newly released study.

The state’s 418 hospitals have a deadline from the state, too. They’re racing to meet seismic safety standards set by a California law that was inspired by the deadly 1994 Northridge earthquake, which damaged 11 hospitals and forced evacuations at eight of them.

By 2020, hospitals must reduce the risk of collapse. By 2030, they must be able to remain in operation after a major earthquake.

California Earthquake Early Warning System Gets an Early Test

California’s earthquake early warning system may have taken a step forward this week when officials conducted a test in downtown Oakland.

The USGS, in partnership with the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES), the city of Oakland and Alameda County, issued Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) soliciting a response to a survey to about 40,000 people in a 60-acre block. It went well, but not perfectly.

Gov. Newsom Declares Wildfire Emergency Ahead of New Fires

(TNS) — Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in California on Friday and waived environmental regulations to expedite nearly three dozen local forest management projects to protect communities from the deadly wildfires that have decimated regions up and down the state.

The governor's action marks the latest effort by the state to offset the possibility of catastrophe after back-to-back years of savage wildfires that killed more than 100 people and burned nearly 2 million acres in total. The projects will cost a total of $35 million, which will be paid with forest management funds in the 2018-19 budget.

Technology Wildfire Summit Highlights California’s Progress

Fighting wildfires has traditionally been a response driven by experience, but as conditions change, as they have in California, that response becomes more difficult.

Climate change has made the wildfire seasons in California longer and more severe, and that makes response that is based on history and experience difficult. But that’s beginning to change because of technology as more than 700 stakeholders learned this week at the Wildfire Technology Innovation Summit held at California State University, Sacramento.

A recent drought in California and global warming, in part, has led to increasingly intense fires that in 2017 and 2018 killed more than 100 people in 2017 and 2018, burning more than 875,000 acres. The changing conditions have resulted in a fire season that is nearly year-round.

Commentary: With Climate Change, Who Should Prevent California Wildfires?

(TNS) — Intense mega-fires have become the “new abnormal” in California. The wildfires are out, for now. Thank you, firefighters! But the fight over who should bear the costs of future damage compensation and risk mitigation is heating up.

Citing wildfire liabilities upwards of $30 billion, Pacific Gas and Electric Co., the state’s largest electric utility, recently filed for bankruptcy. Headlines hail this the first of many “climate change bankruptcies.” But climate change is only one factor. These fires would not be so big if we did not send power through thousands of miles of tinderbox forest at high-risk times. Liabilities would not be so large if fewer people lived in high fire-risk areas.

Effectively Responding to Active Shooters in Healthcare Facilities

Active shooter incidents have been on the rise throughout the United States. The most recent FBI data has identified 250 healthcare active shooter incidents between 2000 and 2017, in which 799 people were killed and an additional 1,418 were wounded. In the first half of that period, there was an average of 6.7 incidents per year. That number has tripled to over 20 incidents per year in the second half of that period.

Additionally, the Annals of Emergency Medicine published a 2012 study that examined all U.S. hospital shootings between 2000 and 2011 in which there was at least one injured victim. It identified 154 incidents in 40 states causing death or injury to a staggering 235 people.

New method to determine how safe buildings are after an earthquake

Deciding when it's safe for a building's residents to move back in after an earthquake is a major challenge and responsibility for civil engineers. Not only do they have to evaluate whether the building could collapse, but also whether it could withstand aftershocks of the same magnitude. The good news is, some promising research is being carried out in this field.

Scientists at EPFL's Applied Computing and Mechanics Laboratory (IMAC) have come up with a new method that can increase the accuracy of these types of assessments. It is based on taking measurements of a building's ambient vibrations, and can be used to enhance existing methods and speed the process for determining which structures are too fragile to live in. The study – by Yves Reuland (lead author), Pierino Lestuzzi and Ian F.C. Smith – appears in the January issue of Soil Dynamics and Earthquake Engineering.

‘It’s Making Us Less Prepared’: Shutdown Slows Planning for Hurricanes and Other Disasters

For experts who make a living forecasting hurricanes, storm season is a year-round worry. When the tropics are calm, as they are now, researchers dive into data, analyze results, improve scientific models and train state and local officials on the latest technology that can help them make lifesaving decisions.

But the partial government shutdown — the longest in United States history — has brought much of that fieldwork and instruction to a halt. Most researchers have been furloughed, and training academies and courses have been canceled, with no makeup dates in sight.

Los Angeles' Earthquake Early Warning System Could Save Lives, but What About the Rest of California?

(TNS) - With considerable fanfare, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti started the year by trumpeting a cellphone app that will instantly notify users in Los Angeles County when an earthquake of 5.0 or bigger begins to hit.

The pilot program, officially unveiled Jan. 3, can provide crucial seconds — even dozens of seconds — for people to duck and cover or otherwise take potentially lifesaving actions.

Dubbed ShakeAlertLA, it’s the first earthquake early warning system of its type in the country.

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