2016 Year in Review: Disaster Edition

Looking back on 2016, it’s difficult to believe that so many significant disasters could occur over a single calendar year. Many of these we recall seeing in the “headlines” but only long enough until news outlets and social media could catch the next major story. Oftentimes, the “camera” stops rolling before the storm has even moved on or the wildfire is contained. The aftershocks of an earthquake even have a difficult time getting news coverage unless it exceeds the magnitude or damage of the initial shaking. So, because “awareness” is a step towards “preparedness,” it seemed appropriate to recall these major incidents with a “2016 Year in Review: Disaster Edition.” Below is a summary of the most devastating disasters that took place over the last calendar year. Additional information on all of these can be found @ http://www.livescience.com/57303-biggest-natural-disasters-of-the-year.html

Winter Storm Jonas:

The massive winter storm left the northeast U.S. covered in such extensive snowfall that the white precipitation was clearly visible from space. Over the course of one weekend (Jan. 23-24), Jonas broke records for snowfall in various places along the East Coast.

Taiwan Earthquake:

On Feb. 6, a 6.4-magnitude earthquake hit 17 miles (28 kilometers) northeast of Pingtung City in southern Taiwan. It’s relatively shallow depth (14 miles, or 23 km, below the surface) caused widespread damage, toppling buildings in the city of Tainan. The quake caused an estimated 117 deaths and left hundreds more injured.

California Wildfires:

A series of wildfires blazed across California this year, burning more than half a million acres. According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, 6,938 fires had burned 565,070 acres (229,000 hectares) as of Dec. 11, 2015.

Louisiana Flooding:

Tremendous downpours inundated Louisiana in August, when some regions received more than 20 inches (50.8 cm) of rain over a 72-hour span (from Aug. 12‑14). At least six rivers hit record levels during the rainfall.

Italy Earthquakes:

Central Italy was rattled this year by three strong earthquakes in just three months. A 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck Aug. 24 about 6.5 miles (10.5 kilometers) southeast of Norcia, Italy. The initial quake was followed by several aftershocks, including a 5.5-magnitude earthquake that struck 2.5 miles (4 km) northeast of Norcia the same day. The temblors rocked Central Italy, killing hundreds of people as medieval-era stone buildings collapsed.

Hurricane Matthew:

Hurricane Matthew was a powerhouse of a storm that circulated through the Atlantic Ocean in October. The strongest storm seen in the Atlantic since Hurricane Felix in 2007, Matthew briefly reached Category 5 hurricane status — with winds exceeding 157 mph (252 km/h).

New Zealand Earthquake & Tsunami:

A powerful 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck New Zealand on Nov. 14. Though the quake’s epicenter was northeast of Christchurch, the massive temblor was felt as far away as New Zealand’s capital of Wellington, located 120 miles (200 km) away, on the North Island. About 2 hours after the initial quake, tsunami waves over 7 feet (2 meters) tall hit the coast.

Tennessee Wildfires:

Areas around Gatlinburg, Tennessee, were consumed by wildfires on Nov. 28, closing the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and forcing thousands to flee their homes. The inferno spread rapidly through the area’s drought-stricken forest, pushed by gusty winds. According to meteorologists, the gusty winds blowing dry leaves spread the blaze, also knocking over power lines and sparking new fires.

Indonesia Earthquakes:

During the first week of March, a 7.8-magnitude temblor struck about 500 miles (800 km) southwest of Sumatra, an island in western Indonesia. On Dec. 7, another earthquake shook the island nation. The shallow 6.5-magnitude quake’s epicenter was 12 miles (19 km) southeast of Indonesia’s Aceh province, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS). It damaged hundreds of structures in the district of Pidie Jaya in Aceh.. At least 100 people were killed and 136 seriously injured.

 

Oroville Dam: Were Red Flags Overlooked?

The eye-opening events taking place in Northern California this week, with the breaches of the Oroville Dam, may prove to be an example of how disasters can sometimes be the result of a failure to act. There is a significant amount of documentation, dating back to 2008, that the remedial measures taken to fix the defects of the main spillway found in numerous inspection reports sent to state and federal officials were insufficient. Additionally, there were a number of other warnings and “red flags” raised about the possibility of massive erosion of the emergency spillway which, in fact, occurred and resulted in the evacuation of nearly 200,000 residents in downstream communities from the reservoir. However, there are a number of external inspectors and engineers that have defended that state’s management of the spillway and reported that all standards for dam inspections and maintenance had been met leading up to this incident. The following article provides more information about the Oroville Dam failures and debate over whether or not anything more could’ve been done to prevent the current situation: http://www.govtech.com/em/disaster/Alarms-raised-years-ago-about-risks-of-Oroville-Dams-spillways.html

Fortunately, this disaster was purely infrastructure-centric and did not result in a loss of life or community but it very well could’ve. The preliminary estimated cost associated with repairing this infrastructure suggests around $200 million and, again, this is without the subsequent costs of an actual disaster to the communities around it. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ordered the Department of Water Resources to perform a forensic analysis aimed at determining the cause of the chute failure. So, while the “jury” may still be “out” on whether or not gross negligence played a factor, this incident will likely be a great case study on the cost-benefit of mitigation measures for the outdated infrastructure in this country moving forward.

 

Orange County Proclaims State of Emergency

Unless you are a native of Orange County, you probably laugh when you hear about emergency preparedness for heavy rain or flood-related events. To be honest, most of the rest of the country does too. However, southern California has a significant history of “wet disasters” including flooding/flash-flooding, mud slides, debris flows and landslides. Many of these past incidents have led to state and local proclamations as well as federally declared disasters.

On January 22nd Orange County experienced its largest rainstorm in seven years which flooded roads, triggered mudslides, inundated vehicles and caused dozens of traffic accidents. As a result of this storm (which was the third and most powerful of three consecutive storms) as well as others throughout the state, the California Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) proclaimed a State of Emergency. Emergency Proclamations not only increase the number and expediency of resources needed for a given response but they also serve as an appeal to the federal government to receive reimbursement for costs associated with damage and response efforts. Additionally, each of the 58 counties throughout the state can make a local proclamation of emergency and, if their costs exceed a threshold unique to each jurisdiction, they may become eligible for both federal and state reimbursement. The Orange County Board of Supervisors issued a proclamation last Friday, February 3rd for the damage caused by the most recent storms.

As a result of Orange County’s Proclamation, coupled with the fact that this wet winter may continue for a few more months, it seemed timely to encourage our stakeholders to review some great preparedness tips provided by the American Red Cross @ http://www.redcross.org/get-help/prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/flood Here, you will find not only preparedness efforts to keep you and your loved ones (including pets) safe but also proactive measures you can take to protect your living spaces and businesses from unwanted water and debris.

Also, if you are interested in accessing FEMA “flood plain” maps they can be located on the OC Public Works website @ http://www.ocflood.com/nfc/floodplain/zone

 

California Tree Mortality Exceeds 100 Million

In November of 2016, the U.S. Forest Service confirmed that the number of dead trees in California since 2010, resulting from a five-year drought, now exceeds 100 million. Additionally, there are many more trees that have been infected by the invasive species known as the “Bark Beetle” which are anticipated to joint this growing rate of tree mortality in the coming years. There are differing opinions regarding what could’ve or should’ve been done to prevent the current condition of California forests but the fact remains that this is a nature epidemic. Tree mortality rates have not only led to a significant public safety crisis with elevated fire danger and risk of naturally falling trees but also a burdensome financial hurdle for state and federal agencies charged with mitigation measures.

With public safety as its most pressing concern, the U.S. Forest Service has committed significant resources to help impacted forests, including reprioritizing $43 million in California in fiscal year 2016 to conduct safety-focused restoration along roads, trails and recreation sites. However, limited resources and a changing climate hamper the Forest Service’s ability to address tree mortality in California. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Forest Service officials are seriously hampered not only by short-term budgets passed by Congress, but also a broken budget for the Forest Service that sees an increasing amount of resources going to firefighting while less is invested in restoration and forest health, said Vilsack.

“These dead and dying trees continue to elevate the risk of wildfire, complicate our efforts to respond safely and effectively to fires when they do occur, and pose a host of threats to life and property across California,” said Vilsack. “USDA has made restoration work and the removal of excess fuels a top priority, but until Congress passes a permanent fix to the fire budget, we can’t break this cycle of diverting funds away from restoration work to fight the immediate threat of the large unpredictable fires caused by the fuel buildups themselves.” More information on this article published in Science Daily can be found @ https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/11/161125083555.htm

For more information on California’s tree mortality epidemic and to see what measures have been taken by various levels of government visit http://calforests.org/governors-action-on-tree-mortality/

Additionally, over 1,000 trees at UCI have been significantly impacted by invasive species as well which has caused the university to take action. For more information visit http://sustainability.uci.edu/pshb-uci/

 

14th Annual Zone Crew/CSAR Meeting

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On Wednesday, January 11th the UCI Emergency Services Division hosted the 14th Annual Zone Crew/CSAR Meeting in Pacific Ballroom D of the Student Center. This meeting rendered the largest turnout yet with 208 participants and a large CSAR member presence. Featured speakers included Detective Roland Chiu of the UCI Police Department and Isaac Straley Chief Information Security Officer at UCI. Detective Chiu presented on his work with the Orange County Intelligence Assessment Center (OCIAC) as the Higher Education Liaison and Mr. Straley presented on the cyber security risks and prevention initiatives taking place at UCI. The latter topic was very timely and relevant as Anne Widney, Emergency Manager, revealed the results of the recently updated campus Hazard Vulnerability Analysis (HVA); the results of which placed cyber risk as a new Top 5 campus threat.

In addition to the two keynote speakers, Anne Widney also shared some lessons learned that resulted from the UCLA murder-suicide incident last summer as well as discussing the major accomplishments of Emergency Services Division over the past year and what lies ahead in 2017.

The Zone Crew and CSAR programs, among others on campus, are vital to the preparedness mission of the university and it’s a continued pleasure to observe such a growing interest and spirit of volunteerism by these groups year after year. UCIPD and the campus thanks you for your time and effort to ensure the continued resiliency of the university.

For additional information on Zone Crew and/or Campus Search and Rescue (CSAR) please contact Anne Widney at awidney@uci.edu or 949-824-7147.

 

New Title IX & Clery Act Videos

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The Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity (OEOD), Campus Assault Resources and Education (CARE), and UCI Police Department have jointly collaborated on a project to produce a series of four videos to provide information on the various federal mandates and reporting responsibilities under Title IX and the Clery Act as well information on how to help victims and survivors of sexual violence.  These videos were produced by UCI staff who are directly involved with coordinating the Title IX and the Clery Act programs at UCI.

Video 1: This video provides an introduction and overview of two separate federal laws: Title IX and the Clery Act.  Specifically, in this video, you will learn about the types of positions designated as a “Responsible Employee” (under Title IX) and a “Campus Security Authority” (under the Clery Act) and why certain individuals at UCI and UCI Medical Center are required to report under these two laws.  To view video 1, click here.

Video 2: This video provides information on how to report under Title IX. Specifically, you will learn about the types of incidents that are reportable under Title IX and the specific reporting requirements of student employees, faculty members and staff members.  Additionally, this video will describe the various details of what you should and should not do and how to submit your report to the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity (OEOD). To view video 2, click here.

Video 3: This video provides information on how to report under the Clery Act.  Specifically, you will learn about the various information that CSAs are required to report and when CSAs are required to report.  You will learn about Clery Act geography, the different types of crimes that are reportable under the Clery Act, and how to fill out a CSA Report Form for submission to the UCI Police Department.  You will also learn about what you should not do as a CSA.  To view video 3, click here.

Video 4: This video provides information on how Responsible Employees and Campus Security Authorities can support survivors of Sexual Violence (including Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence & Stalking) while fulfilling their obligations and duties under each law. To view video 4, click here.

You can also view all four of these videos directly on the UCI Police Department website available here.

 

Revolutionizing 911

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Last month, a dispatch center in Tarrant County, TX rolled out a new emergency communications tool that could prove to be more accurate and efficient for callers requesting emergency assistance. The SirenGPS mobile app, or what’s being called “Uber for 911,” is an application for cell phones that use Uber-style GPS technology that will deliver the callers pinpointed location with a 90% accuracy reading for dispatch personnel.  This is a significant improvement from traditional cell phone calls that oftentimes provide dispatch personnel with the location of the nearest cell phone tower and not necessarily the caller’s exact location.  The truth is that, until now, Uber could find where is caller is faster than 911 emergency services; particularly if the caller isn’t sure themselves.

There are a number of other foreseeable benefits to this app as well including 1) the ability to place an emergency request that is not dependent upon cell signal; 2) the users option to upload medical information to the app so that first responders will have a profile on medical responses prior to arriving on scene; 3) a fewer number of steps/clicks on your phone to reach emergency response personnel; and 4) the ability to inform dispatchers of the callers need when communication challenges are present (i.e. language barriers, physical inability to speak or situations where speaking may put the caller in danger).

For more information on this fascinating new means of contacting requesting emergency assistance see the entire article @ http://www.govtech.com/em/next-gen-911/Uber-For-911.html

Please note that the SirenGPS App is ONLY being used in Tarrant County, TX and is NOT being used by UCIPD or any other dispatch center in the State of California.  For emergencies on and off campus continue to use the traditional method of dialing 911 to request assistance.

 

Yahoo Hacked, Again

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Yahoo reported on Wednesday (December 14th) that it has identified a new breach that occurred in August 2013 and involved data associated with more than one billion user accounts; double the number affected in a different breach disclosed in September 2016. Yahoo said it believed the latest incident was likely distinct from the breach disclosed in September 2016, when it said information associated with at least 500 million user accounts was stolen in 2014. The 2014 breach was believed to be the world’s biggest known cyber breach by far. Yahoo said the stolen user account information may have included names, e-mail addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, hashed passwords and, in some cases, encrypted or unencrypted security questions and answers. Read more about this incident @ the following link: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/14/technology/yahoo-hack.html?_r=0

If you have a Yahoo account, resetting your password and other steps are advised. The following link has suggestions on how to secure your Yahoo account: http://www.cnbc.com/2016/12/15/if-youve-ever-created-a-yahoo-account-take-these-steps-immediately-to-protect-your-data.html

Yahoo is not the first major company that has fallen victim to this kind of large-scale hack nor will it be the last. While these types of cyber security risks are typically out of our control, the cyber security risks that oftentimes carry the greatest impacts to our daily lives are much more preventable with some good; solid practices which are captured by the national cyber security campaign: “Stop, Think, Connect.”  Take a look at the “best practices” below and conduct a self-assessment how many of these practices you currently employ.  Challenge yourself to adopt at least a couple of these to further protect yourself and your equipment and contributing to the security of this technology for all. Please visit http://www.stopthinkconnect.org for more information.

 

Annual Holiday Teddy Bear & Toy Drive

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Greetings Anteater Community,

Just a friendly reminder that the UCI Police Department is still accepting donations for the annual Teddy Bear & Toy Drive!  So, please stop by today or tomorrow with any unwrapped item (teddy bear or toy) you would like to provide a child with this holiday season.  Donations will be accepted at the following locations:

UCI Police Department, University Hills Community Center, Puerta Del Sol Office, Camino Del Sol Office, Palo Verde Office, Pippin Commons, The Anteatery, Applied Innovation, OIT (MSTB 263), OIT (131 Innovation Dr., Suite 200).

The bears and toys will be donated to help comfort children receiving care at UCI Medical Center and at other Orange County children’s organizations.

Thank you,

UCIPD

Facebook & Emergency Communication

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It should come as no surprise to anybody that Facebook is rapidly becoming the most useful platform for emergency communication between friends and family during emergencies and disasters. The company first launched the feature known as “Safety Check” just over two years ago and ever since has seen a rapid expansion in the number of people using it during crisis situations.  Safety Check is a user-friendly; quick and effective way to report your personal safety as well as check on the well-being of family and friends.

One of the best examples of how quickly this feature was able to post and relay information within a network of affected or likely affected individuals in or around the scene of a major crisis was during the Orlando nightclub shooting that took place back in June of this year. The following article describes how critical this feature was to a group of people that had never heard of it prior to this tragic event https://www.wired.com/2016/11/facebook-disaster-response/    Safety Check is also widely being used at this time for the wildfires in Gatlinburg, TN http://www.wbir.com/news/local/facebook-activates-safety-check-feature-for-sevier-co-fires/357405529

Learn more about Safety Check on Facebook and become familiar with it should you ever have to use it for yourself or to verify the safety of others by visiting their FAQ page @ https://www.facebook.com/about/safetycheck/