Archive for the ‘Disaster’ Category

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

Tuesday, 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. (more…)

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

Monday, 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. (more…)

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

Wednesday, 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. (more…)

Planning to Provide Continuity

Monday, 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. (more…)

Texas Fertilizer Plant Explosion Raises Questions About Planning and Zoning

Friday, April 19th, 2013

Author: David Willauer, Transportation Manager, IEM

The explosion at the West Fertilizer plant in West, Texas, this week serves as a sobering reminder of the role of planning and zoning for facilities near chemical plants. Why were a middle school and a nursing home located so close to a fertilizer plant that stores and uses dangerous chemicals, such as anhydrous ammonia?

West Texas Fertilizer plant - buildings near explosion


Planning and zoning officials often do not have critical information such as downwind hazard zones or isolation protective action distances during the planning board process. As a result, schools, nursing homes, residential subdivisions, and child care facilities are often built too close to chemical facilities with downwind hazard zones or too close to highways and railroads transporting chemicals with known recommended isolation protective action distances.

IEM is working with local officials and industries in several states to gather real data about hazardous materials storage and transport and to translate that into actionable intelligence that helps planning officials make more informed zoning and facility siting decisions. This process is also building stronger bonds between industry, communities, and local officials as they collaborate more closely to improve public protection.

For details about the explosion, see Explosion hits fertilizer plant north of Waco, Texas.



Economic Losses From New Zealand’s Recent Earthquake Could Reach $5–6 Billion US

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Author: Dr. Lloyd Blanchard, IEM Consultant

In the early morning of September 4, 2010, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck the South Island of New Zealand. Widespread damage resulted, primarily centered on Christchurch, the largest city on the South Island with a population of approximately 372,000. This earthquake is the worst in the country’s history.

IEM estimates total damage costs (insured losses and uninsured damages) of $5 to $6 billion US (NZ$6.8 billion to NZ$8.2 billion). (more…)

The Perfect Storm: 2010 Hurricane Season, the worst yet?

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Author: Madhu Beriwal, CEO & President of IEM

Hurricane Katrina was thought to be the perfect storm. It punched Louisiana and Mississippi, causing horrific loss of life, tremendous damage to homes, businesses, and infrastructure for miles, and a bruised national psyche.

But, Katrina may not be the perfect storm. The perfect storm may be coming to the Gulf of Mexico this hurricane season.

There are a number of currents that are steering this perfect storm:

The most active hurricane season in recent memory – scientists have predicted that the 2010 hurricane season, stretching from June 1 to November 30, will be very active –more active than the average for the last 50 years of the previous century. The hurricane spawning waters of the Atlantic Ocean are warm, the El Niño (the “good cholesterol” of hurricanes) is weak, and La Niña (the “bad cholesterol” of hurricanes) is expected to get strong during the peak of the hurricane season. (more…)

A Lesson Learned from Katrina? The New Orleans City Assisted Evacuation Plan

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Author: Eston Spain, Emergency Planner, IEM

A few years ago, I witnessed and lived through the before and after of Hurricane Katrina’s wrath.  I saw the problems in evacuating from New Orleans. I was greatly relieved when the City of New Orleans released the City Assisted Evacuation Plan. These are my observations and recommendations about their plan.

As frightful and nerve wracking as it is waiting for a hurricane to make landfall, it can be even more dreadful if you don’t have the means to evacuate.  Maybe it’s because you thought how chic it would be to give up your car and commute everyday to your job via one of the lovely streetcars that New Orleans is famous for. Unfortunately, though, there are others who simply lack the financial means, or for other reasons cannot evacuate on their own. 

In 2008, the City of New Orleans created the City Assisted Evacuation Plan (CAEP) to make sure that the city’s most vulnerable citizens have a way to evacuate. The purpose of the CAEP is to help citizens who want to leave during an emergency, but lack the capability to self-evacuate.[1] The general concept of the plan is that the city utilizes its facilities, manpower, and other resources to provide assistance to citizens who cannot self-evacuate during the declaration of an emergency. The CAEP is available online from the City of New Orleans’ website ( The CAEP comes with an evacuation map as part of the evacuation plan and a flow chart to explain how the process works. The map depicted in the CAEP lists 17 evacuation centers; all serviced by the New Orleans Regional Transportation Authority (NORTA or RTA) buses. (more…)

BP Oil Spill, Hurricane Katrina, 9/11—Will We Learn From History?

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

A Message from IEM President and CEO, Madhu Beriwal

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

As we approach the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, I am reminded again of the lessons that Katrina taught. These lessons are especially important now, as a new monster lurks in the Gulf. This time it is not a hurricane—it’s oil gushing from BP’s exploded Deepwater Horizon rig. And waters are warmer this year than in the past few years, foretelling a bad hurricane season.

I remember these words:

“There is terrible potential for fatal harm to the region and its inhabitants from a storm of this severity … The northerly track of the storms depicted here seems to place a majestic volume of surge, driven inland from the Gulf, against the levee systems south of New Orleans … Levees seem to be overtopped for the first time in major sections … Populated areas could have most residential and some commercial structures destroyed totally … All human efforts feasible should be made to secure the largest evacuation response rate possible.”

I, Madhu Beriwal, was the author of those words in 1985—20 years before Hurricane Katrina struck. This scenario and 49 others were included in the Southeast Louisiana Storm Surge Atlas. The atlas was a single document detailing the varieties of hurricanes that could affect New Orleans. The consequences of such storms were not new to me then or now.

In 2004, IEM created a catastrophic hurricane scenario for an All-Government exercise focused on response planning for New Orleans. That hypothetical scenario was called Hurricane Pam. One year later, the hypothetical Pam became reality in Hurricane Katrina. (more…)

Nurses as Emergency Managers Prepping for Any Disaster

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Note: This article is the third in a periodic series of online articles focusing on emergency management and how its principles can be incorporated into nursing practice. Full articles appear on

There are a lot of views on how to begin the preparedness process. There are even more on how to do a “proper” risk assessment. People go through multiple years of post graduate training and can receive a PhD in risk management and assessment. So, how can a nurse in the field possibly use risk assessment without an advance degree on the topic? That’s what this article is designed to tell them. So, if you want a down and dirty review on risk assessment and how it applies to the medical field, this is the article for you!

See Full Prepping for Any Disaster article