Sunday the Governor of South Carolina explained that the state has not seen the current level of flooding in 1000 years. A thousand-year-flood or a hundred-year-flood are shorthand descriptions for the annual exceedance probability for such a flood-event. In the 1960’s, the United States government decided to use the 1-percent annual exceedance probability (AEP) flood as the basis for the National Flood Insurance Program. I have done some modest work with the Charleston, South Carolina region on community resilience.
The biblical flooding in South Carolina is at least the sixth so-called 1-in-1,000 year rain event in the U.S.
Catastrophic rainstorms like this one happen only every thousand years, climate and weather experts explained as unprecedented flooding forced people out of their homes, closed roads and submerged stalled vehicles. Former Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen is fond of using that description of what Hurricane Katrina did to New Orleans.
Thanks to the Alaska Dispatch News, here’s a transcript of the speech President Obama gave Monday evening (9PM Eastern) in Alaska.
On Saturday, August 27 ten years ago, Hurricane Katrina was a CAT-3 still in the Gulf, but projected to hit along the Mississippi delta. That weekend I was conducting counter-terrorism training in a windowless, Strangelovian room far from the Gulf. I perceive that over the next week Homeland Security morphed from being mostly threat-oriented toward much more engagement with vulnerability.
Media and scholarly attention to the Tenth Anniversary of Katrina started in early August and has been surprisingly substantive.
Resilience in Survivors of Katrina (RISK) – This is an ongoing longitudinal study of several angles on several sub-populations. Recovery Diva – Claire Rubin has posted at least twenty thoughtful updates with multiple links. REVERB – An exhibition (through November 1) at the Contemporary Art Center of New Orleans. It has been five years since an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon killed eleven and initiated several weeks of an uncontrolled release of oil from the well-head. What can and should be done, and sometimes not done, when dealing with big footprint, multi-consequence disasters that unfold over an extended period of time?
Thad Allen, the former Coast Guard Commandant who was pulled out of retirement to serve as the National Incident Commander for the Gulf oil spill has tried to help us learn these lessons.
When I was designated as the national incident commander, I sat down with a small group of folks who became my cadre and senior staff.
The Incident Command System that was established in New Orleans was the basis for… the coordination of command.
If we look at what transpired, we need to know what the basic doctrine says against the reality of what we found on the ground… We did not have a large, monolithic oil spill. We have worked on smaller spills with state and local governments with smaller responsible parties. First, I think we need greater clarity moving forward on what the responsible parties, who they are, what they do, and how they interact with the contingency plan. The second notion was difficult for the people of this country to understand and our political leaders was ultimately, there is a fiduciary link between the responsible party and shareholders which would bring into question whether or not a decision should have been made based on the environment and the response itself. There is a discussion about what constitutes an authority to take action, the day-to-day supervision of workers. Admiral Allen is one of those rare people who somehow speak more clearly than the transcript can sometimes capture. As time and space expand, typically so does the number and diversity of those involved in engagement. The evacuation of Richmond commenced in earnest Sunday night, closed at daylight on Monday morning with a terrific conflagration, which, was kindled by the Confederate authorities wantonly and recklessly applying the torch to Shockoe warehouse and other buildings in which was stored a large quantity of tobacco. At present we cannot do more than enumerate some of the most prominent buildings destroyed. At sunrise on Monday morning Richmond presented a spectacle that we hope never to witness again.
The streets were crowded with furniture and every description of wares, dashed down to be trampled in the mud or burned up where it lay. We regret to learn that a serious loss of life resulted from the blowing up of the powder magazine on the suburbs early on Monday morning. There has been a tendency to dismiss Haiti as Haiti, too forsaken to have any lessons for anyplace else. Several colleagues at the White House, DOD, and with various voluntary agencies have commented on important lessons that each of them learned.
Recently I was in discussion with a long-time peace officer, together we were trying to make sense of a treacherous situation.
God is a metaphor for a mystery that absolutely transcends all human categories of thought, even the categories of being and non-being. What Campbell perceives as metaphorical many have encountered as palpably physical, emerging from the encounter transformed. From this source some are motivated to frenetic external action, others to placid mindfulness. In all the great spiritual traditions we are also warned of our shared tendency toward error and corruption. Within this intricate system of metaphor, allegory and parable there are plenty of contradictions, but also intriguing coherence.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… And the Word became flesh and lived among us.
Resilience of building stock — It is interesting that this is treated as a matter of economic resilience as well as public safety. Resilience of the water system — This is what worries me most regarding the vulnerability of the Los Angeles basin.
Resilience of the telecommunications systems — This is a key interdependency that can divide or multiply every other response and recovery capability. These are three strategic elements within the ability of city government to seriously engage. For those not directly involved in humanitarian relief, the aftermath became a valuable case study in supply chain resilience… and too often suppression of such resilience.
The Ebola outbreak is, almost certainly, a precursor for a future pandemic that will be much worse. The intention of Australian terrorists to undertake random attacks is, almost certainly, a precursor for such attacks there and elsewhere.
In each case a current threat-vector is amplified by human behavior, especially increased population density and mobility. We don’t know precisely when or how the virus was transferred to humans in this epidemic, but consumption of bushmeat infected with the virus is a good guess.

At least 35 cases have been recorded by local health officials, said Sakoba Keita, the doctor in charge of the prevention of epidemics in Guinea’s Health Ministry. Well into summer I assumed this Ebola outbreak would be contained as others have been contained.
Black Swans are better ignored until their arrival – cynically, it reduces expectations for preparedness, responsibility and accountability if you do not acknowledge the possible threat. Given the context of this individual’s commentary over the years I do not take this as cynical. Bill, Claire, others: Are there longitudinal studies of the personality types attracted to Emergency Management? This personality type is especially well-suited for many aspects of public safety and disaster response.
When was the last time you participated in a table-top or exercise that you would describe as rigorous random near-traumatic? John Schwartz and the New York Times gave us an unusually thoughtful piece of journalism last Saturday: No Easy Way To Restrict Construction In Risky Areas. On December 16, 1994, a grain of sand landed at the site with coordinates [14, 17] on the pile. During a long transient period, the pile evolved to a critical state with avalanches of all sizes. Historical narrative is inclined toward an understanding of reality where human intention, rationality and will can assert control. The Japanese architect’s practice is comprehensive, but he has given particular attention to innovative design, materials, and construction techniques for post-disaster settings. As you might imagine this has stirred a bit of an uproar regarding the connection between climate change and natural disasters.
We can start to estimate how countries may weather crises differently thanks to a 2005 analysis of historical data on global disasters. When you next hear someone tell you that worthy and useful efforts to mitigate climate change will lead to fewer natural disasters, remember these numbers and instead focus on what we can control. There is some good news to be found in the ever-mounting toll of disaster losses. This earthquake hazard extends across the entire area from the well-known San Fault and earthquake maps, shaking hazard.
Oct 29, 2013 for the next major earthquake and that the risk is not confined to the well-known Take a look at a map of all recent. A classic field camp scene – a convoy of 12-passenger university vans on a dirt road.
Day 1 at camp: Get to know each other, get to know your measurement tools, enjoy the scenery. The range-front normal fault here cuts across McGee Creek and its Pleistocene glacial moraines, dropping the camp ground site down and down along that awesome shaded scarp. Note the devegetated streak reaching from the crest of the fault scarp straight down to the giant boulder that came to rest in the camp ground. The students stop for a lunch break, in arguably one of the better lunch spots one could choose.
No field camp would be complete without the… colorful flavor of a local bar for the days off. Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.
Please confirm or modify the email address to which you will have subscription offers sent. The 1-percent AEP flood was thought to be a fair balance between protecting the public and overly stringent regulation.
One can only hope that assessment holds true… We must work to prepare for the next disaster, even if it doesn’t happen for a thousand years. The state of Louisiana requested and received a Stafford Act declaration of a major disaster in anticipation of the hurricane’s impact. But we had the storm track and continuous news coverage displayed on several giant monitors. Here at HLSWatch, Bill Cumming has offered several notes and links on the anniversary, see recent Friday Free Forums. I wanted to focus on what needed to be done about the universe — above the unified level that had been established.
We had hundreds of thousands of patches of oil that moved in different directions over time that moved beyond the geographical area that was contemplated in any response plan, putting the entire coast at risk. We have worked with the responsible parties for over 20 years, very effectively managing oil spills…There were two basic issues that were not well understood by most of the people of the US and political leaders: There would be a constructive role for the entity that was attributed to causing the event.
The fire spread rapidly, and it was some time before the Fire Brigade could be gotten to work. The last of the Confederate officials had gone; the air was lurid with the smoke and flame of hundreds of houses weltering in a sea of fire. All the government storehouses were thrown open, and what could not be gotten off by the government was left to the people, who, everywhere ahead of the flames, rushed in, and secured immense amounts of bacon, clothing, boots, &c.
The Danville and Petersburgh Railroad depots, and the buildings and shedding attached thereto, for the distance of half a mile from the north side of Main-street to the river, and between Eighth and Fifteenth streets, embracing upward of twenty blocks, presents one waste of smoking ruins, blackened walls and smoking chimnies.
WEITZEL, about 10 o’clock, vigorous efforts were set on foot to stop the progress of the flames. Also friendship, feasting, forgiveness, extravagant gifts and considerable drinking of wine. Adding to the grains of sand already accumulated at this site, this addition caused a toppling of that site, spilling over to the neighboring sites. We were able to make a rough identification of the toppling rule and to construct a computer model of the phenomenon.
Last year in a poor region of the Philippines, a single storm, Typhoon Hayain, killed twice as many people.
As countries become richer, they are better able to deal with disasters — meaning more people are protected and fewer lose their lives. Most geology programs require a multi-week field course, and although in detail they may vary substantially, the fundamental objective is quite universal: to have students synthesize the knowledge and apply the skills learned during their prior years of coursework. Teaching a large group of students while being stationed out in the wilderness with them is a uniquely challenging but exceptionally rewarding teaching environment. These are the three key ingredients to understanding ongoing deformation of the Earth’s crust via geologic constraints.
The UCD field camp takes place at the UC-run White Mountain Research Station in Bishop, CA, at the northern end of Owens Valley. He researches the history of earthquakes in the landscape and what we can learn about them from satellites. Because the 1-percent AEP flood has a 1 in 100 chance of being equaled or exceeded in any 1 year, and it has an average recurrence interval of 100 years, it often is referred to as the “100-year flood”. Late Saturday afternoon the mayor of New Orleans (finally) encouraged voluntary evacuation of the city.

We would leave tactical control as close to the problem as we could… I would like to characterize the national incident command as a thin client. From a homeland security perspective our current situation is much less dire than the context reported below, even as the Union was successfully reclaimed. A fresh breeze was blowing from the south, and the fire swept over great space in an incredible short space of time.
The master-metaphor is reinforced with a crowded collection of metaphorical set-pieces, most of which suggest tension and conflict as furrows from which love may flower.
There is unrelenting delight in words that surprise, shattering settled understanding, and seducing any having ears to radically re-imagine human possibility.
Until the last four decades its natural range was isolated from humans and, especially, human networks.
Unfortunately, one of these sites [14, 18] happened to be near an instability so that the toppling caused this site to topple also.
The study of geology requires observing, investigating, and envisioning things on a scale that ultimately cannot be confined to a classroom, and as such relies heavily on experience mapping, measuring, observing, and testing in the field. Where faults are slipping, they’re dragging and breaking up features of the landscape that we can understand, map, and measure.
In this blog he highlights developments in earthquake science, notable mitigation efforts around the world, and media that unveil and illuminate the phenomenon of earthquakes.
Scientists and engineers frequently use statistical probability (chance) to put a context to floods and their occurrence.
What can the lessons-learned from five years ago tell us regarding drought, sea-level rise, pandemics, and other disasters that are as much cumulative as acute?
By noon the flames had transformed into a desert waste that portion of the city bounded between Seventh and Fifteenth streets, from Main-street to the river, comprising the main business portion. The flames east on Main-street, were checked by the blowing up of the Traders’ Bank about noon. I underestimated the power-amplifiers of human need and social interaction and fear… multiplied exponentially as the vector penetrates more deeply into the matrix. But assiduously working through strategic scenarios with tactical details can be helpful to expose preparedness issues. They are not very comfortable winging it or blazing new trails; working steadily within the system is the Guardian way, for in the long run loyalty, discipline, and teamwork get the job done right. This toppling destabilized sites [14, 19] and [15, 18] and eventually led to the collapse of a large part of the pile. In any case, we do not have sufficient information about the details of the system to be able to make long-term predictions. What the professor sees as a string of freak events appearing accidentally and mysteriously by an apparent act of God and leading to a catastrophe is simply a manifestation of the criticality of the system. We have the students use this information to perform an extremely simplistic seismic hazard assessment (truly just inferring an average recurrence rate of earthquakes of a given magnitude) in order to convey the fundamental concept of earthquake recurrence along a fault. If the probability of a particular flood magnitude being equaled or exceeded is known, then risk can be assessed. Necessary to integrate but no more than what is necessary and without adding layers of bureaucracy.
The second is the fiduciary link between the representative of the responsible party and unified command and their shareholders. We can form no estimate at this moment of the number of houses destroyed, but public and private they will certainly number six or eight hundred. This is especially the case if tactical planning is consistently framed and facilitated to achieve strategic purposes.
History has prepared the sandpile in a state that is far from equilibrium, and the matrix through which the avalanche propagates is predisposed to accommodate events of large sizes. To determine these probabilities all the annual peak streamflow values measured at a streamgage are examined. There are legal requirements for documenting costs which you have to carry on a balance sheet that they cannot sever. Never before has so much monetary value been so concentrated and (at least virtually) proximate.
They are cautious about change, even though they know that change can be healthy for an institution. As a child of civil war, I disbelieve in structured learning… Provided we have the right type of rigor, we need randomness, mess, adventures, uncertainty, self-discovery, near-traumatic episodes, all those things that make life worth living, compared to the structured, fake, and ineffective life of an empty-suit CEO with a preset schedule and an alarm clock. First, had the initial grain of sand fallen elsewhere, nothing dramatic would have happened.
We monitored how many avalanches of each size occurred, after the addition of a single grain to the pile. A streamgage is a location on a river where the height of the water and the quantity of flow (streamflow) are recorded. Violence is naturally occurring in human populations, its mimetic mutations now facilitated by many more of us in communication, contact, and perceived competition. Also, if the configuration at position [14, 19] had been slightly different, the sandslide would have stopped sooner, without devastating consequences. While we can give an accurate and complete account of what actually happened, we are at a loss to explain how these many accidental features could possibly have conspired to produce an event of such magnitude.
2), and found that the distribution of events where a total of s sites topple obeys a power law, P(s)- s-T. Geological Survey (USGS) operates more than 7,500 streamgages nationwide (see map) that allow for assessment of the probability of floods. The event was contingent upon many separate, freak occurrences and could clearly have been prevented. Thus, if one waits long enough, one is bound to see events that are as large as one has the patience to wait for. Examining all the annual peak streamflow values that occurred at a streamgage with time allows us to estimate the AEP for various flood magnitudes. Furthermore, we are baffled by the fact that even though sand had been added to the system for a longtime, only minor events had occurred before the devastating collapse, and we had every right to expect the system to be stable. For example, we can say there is a 1 in 100 chance that next year’s flood will equal or exceed the 1-percent AEP flood. Clearly, the event was a freak one caused by very unusual and unfortunate circumstances in an otherwise stable system that appeared to be in balance.
Eliminating the particular grain of sand that caused a particular avalanche only made the system produce large avalanches somewhere else at different times. More recently, people talk about larger floods, such as the “500- year flood,” as tolerance for risk is reduced and increased protection from flooding is desired.

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Rubric: Business Emergency Preparedness


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