All Mosquitoes are Not the Same When it Comes to Zika

September 23rd, 2016

Author: Sid Baccam, Compuutational Epidemiologist, IEM

By now, we all know that Zika virus can be spread to humans through pesky mosquito bites. But why should we care only about specific mosquitoes? Aren’t all mosquitoes the same? Actually, there are more than 3,500 species of mosquitoes, 175 of which are found in the United States, and each one is different. The most commonly found species in the U.S. include the Anopheles quadrmaculatus, Culex pipiens, Aedes aegypti, and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes. Read the rest of this entry »

Zika and the Brain: A Public Health Game Changer

September 16th, 2016

Author: Dr. Rashid Chotani, Senior Scientist, IEM

Human infection with Zika virus (ZIKV) was initially reported to be mild and non-life threatening. However, as ZIKV has been introduced into unexposed and highly dense populations, it has evolved. We know now that when the virus attacks the brain of an unborn child, the effects can be devastating.

ZIKV can be passed from mother to fetus (in-utero) during pregnancy, which can result in microcephaly, a very serious condition resulting in life-long disabilities, and other birth defects. Today, I want to discuss ZIKV-related microcephaly and show how the number of U.S. birth defects due to possible Zika infection has alarmingly increased, leading to a serious public health concern in the U.S. and its territories.

Read the rest of this entry »

Recent Canonization of Mother Teresa Brings Memories, Realizations for IEM CEO

September 6th, 2016

Author: Madhu Beriwal, President/CEO of IEM

When she learned that Mother Teresa had been declared a saint, IEM CEO Madhu Beriwal was taken back to memories from her childhood, which brought home a powerful realization of the impact that Mother Teresa has had on her life. What follows are Madhu’s reflections after hearing this news on September 4, 2016. 

Mother-Theresa-wikipedia.orgI met Mother Teresa in the 1960s. She was famous in Calcutta (now Kolkata) and well-known in India, but word of her ministry had not yet traversed around the world. When I say “met,” it is both saying too much and too little. The all-girls school I attended in Calcutta (sorry, old habits die hard) raised money for her charity and she came to collect it.

Truthfully, we enjoyed raising the money. The school held a fete, a fair, with games, crafts, and food. Parents and siblings attended. A good time was had by all. It seemed almost incidental that the money raised would be given to Mother Teresa.

So, she came. Several hundred girls stood at attention in the Assembly Hall. As was usual, they fidgeted and moved, their regulation shoes creating a high rustling sound. Starched white uniforms moved stiffly, adding their own sound to the low cacophony. Read the rest of this entry »

Is Zika Here to Stay?

August 22nd, 2016

Author: Rashid Chotani, Senior Scientist, IEM

With Zika virus making its presence known in the United States and local transmission occurring in Florida, there is a growing concern about the risk of Zika. But we have to ask the question: WHY is it spreading so rapidly, and why now? Once Zika virus was identified in Brazil, with knowledge from previous outbreaks, it was obvious that the disease would spread across the Americas and was here to stay. The BIG question was when it would emerge as a locally-transmitted disease in the U.S. Read the rest of this entry »

How the Olympics Will Affect the Risks of Zika

August 19th, 2016

Author: Dr. Rashid Chotani, Senior Scientist, IEM

IEM’s Dr. Rashid Chotani discusses the Zika virus outbreak and the risks the Olympics in Rio pose to the spread of the disease. Dr. Chotani predicted that the disease would surface in Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. Local mosquito-borne Zika virus transmission has been reported in Wynwood, a neighborhood in Miami, FL. A Texas resident who recently traveled to an area of Miami known as a “hot spot” for local Zika transmission tested positive for the virus, the Texas.

video-thumbnail-valuesHow the Olympics Will Effect Zika Outbreak (7:10)

This was filmed at the International Center for Terrorism Studies at The Potomac Institute for Policy Studies Seminar, June 23, 2016.

The Challenge of Developing Situational Awareness During Hurricane Disasters—Part Three: Understanding the Impact (or the “What’s Next?”)

June 21st, 2016

Author: Jim Weldin, Senior Emergency Planner, IEM

This is Part 3 of a three-part series on hurricane analysis. Part 1, “Determining the What,” dealt with anticipating the impact of a tropical system and Part 2, “Consequences (Or the ‘So What?’)” focused on consequence management. 

Hurricane Sandy made landfall near Atlantic City on October 29, 2012, at approximately 8 p.m. The 933-kilometer-wide storm produced 158 kph winds as it moved northwest toward the New Jersey coast as a Category 1 hurricane. A new state record was set for the lowest recorded barometric pressure (an indicator of storm strength), which was measured at 27.94 inches at landfall.

Hurricane Sandy’s impacts on New Jersey included high winds with hurricane-force gusts, storm surge, and significant rainfall. Surge heights were considered major to record-level—i.e., in the 6- to 9-foot range—along the coast, resulting in major inundation of coastal areas and flooding of barrier islands. Rainfall levels totaled up to 7 inches for most locations in New Jersey. Read the rest of this entry »

The Challenge of Developing Situational Awareness During Hurricane Disasters—Part Two: Consequences (Or the “So What?”)

June 13th, 2016

Author: Jim Weldin, Senior Emergency Planner, IEM

This is Part 2 of a three-part series on hurricane analysis. Part 1, “Determining the What,” dealt with anticipating the impact of a tropical system. We discussed various tools and projections used by the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management to predict the potential impact of a tropical system. This post focuses on consequence management.

Historical data on the impact of past storms was useful in projecting potential consequences in New Jersey from Hurricane Sandy. In addition, FEMA, through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), provided maps of flood-prone areas and historical data on property flooding insurance claims as part of its mission to reduce the impact of flooding on private and public structures. GIS mapping helped emergency managers define facilities most at risk, including key residences and businesses; hospitals and schools; and critical infrastructure, such as power plants, water/wastewater treatment facilities, and police, fire, and emergency medical service (EMS) stations. Read the rest of this entry »

The Challenge of Developing Situational Awareness During Hurricane Disasters—Part One: Determining the What

June 1st, 2016

Author: Jim Weldin, Senior Emergency Planner, IEM

These series of articles will discuss the aspect of gaining situational awareness during hurricane disasters. The overall theme is to determine the potential storm impact, the consequence of that impact, and finally utilization of this information to provide recommendations for consequence management.


Emergency management and civil defense agencies are responsible for coordinating response to a disaster. This coordination occurs in a centralized location—the emergency operations center—where information is gathered and analyzed to determine the impact or potential impact of an incident, ascertain resource needs, and establish priorities for assigning resources where they are needed most.

I was engaged in this process while supporting the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management when Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast of the United States in October 2012. My experience in the State Emergency Operations Center and 2 weeks later in the Joint Field Office working with 2,600 Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) staff was consistent with the challenges that every emergency operations center around the world faces when confronted with a dangerous natural disaster: determining the what, the so what, and the what’s next.

Part One: Determining the What!

The State of New Jersey is the most densely populated in the United States, with a population of approximately 9 million people. Much of that population is centered in the urban areas in the northeast part of the state near New York City and coast of the Atlantic Ocean coast. The unmet needs of this large urban area can quickly overwhelm the capability to deliver services.

To coordinate the assistance needed during disasters, a critical function of the emergency operations center is to determine what is occurring, the impact or the consequence of what is occurring (the so what), and the consequence management or the plan to respond (the what’s next). Significant challenges, however, impede the ability to determine these three elements. Read the rest of this entry »

Planning to Provide Continuity

May 23rd, 2016
Disaster Recovery for Businesses

An open sign is one of the few items left after a tornado struck this convenient store in Oklahoma in 2013. (Photo: State Farm/Flickr)

Author: Gary Scronce, Director of Preparedness Programs, IEM

Where I live in Louisiana, we have been hearing a little more about emergency preparedness than normal lately with the start of hurricane season on June 1 fast approaching. Then this morning, I noticed that the week of May 16-20, 2016 has been designated as Business Continuity Awareness Week. A lot of the focus of the emergency management community prior to hurricane season is on trying to get the public to prepare itself and rightly so. During the first 48-72 hours after a hurricane, people should be prepared to take care of themselves. So how does this tie to Business Continuity? In two important ways at least.

First, the public sector version of Business Continuity Planning (BCP) is Continuity of Operations Planning (COOP). Governments develop COOP plans to help reduce or prevent the risk of critical government services and functions going offline in a disaster. For those risks that can’t be prevented, COOP planning prioritizes those services and functions and seeks to minimize the time it takes to recover them if they go offline. The faster governments can recover, the faster they can resume providing day to day services to their citizens/customers, respond to their emergency needs and support their recovery from disaster.  Being able to do those things helps a community get back to “normal” faster. Read the rest of this entry »

Crude Oil Derailments Continue – Are You Prepared?

May 1st, 2014

trainderailmentAuthor: David Willauer, Transportation Manager, IEM

Another train transporting crude oil derailed yesterday, this time in downtown Lynchburg, VA, resulting in a large fire and oil spill on the James River. CSX reported 15 tank cars derailed on a train traveling from Chicago to Virginia, four of which breached and caught fire. While there were no injuries reported, a half-mile evacuation was ordered by local officials.

Crude oil train derailments are occurring with alarming regularity in North America, and this trend is likely to continue. Advances in methods of extracting oil from shale formations in North Dakota and Canada have led to a dramatic surge in North American oil production. With gaps in the pipeline network connecting production facilities to U.S. oil refineries, producers are relying on rail carriers to transport significant amounts of crude oil to meet this new demand. U.S. freight railroads have carried more than 400,000 carloads of crude oil in 2013 compared to 9,500 carloads in 2008. With this level of crude oil transport continuing for the foreseeable future, it is critical that local officials prepare to respond to these types of incidents.

hazardsignHigher Flammability of Bakken Shale Oil
Bakken Shale Oil is more volatile than other crude oil, increasing the probability of incidents we have seen in Quebec, Alabama, North Dakota, New York, Pennsylvania, and now Virginia. Read the rest of this entry »