All posts by Arnold Schwarzveqwvijepneger

Community Preparedness

1. Was it easy or difficult to find your community’s plan? Describe how long it took, or in the extreme case, that you never actually found it online.

I headed to Google, typed in “(city’s name) emergency plan” and the top result was our local emergency department’s webpage. The second result was a PDF of the county’s Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (CEMP). Overall my search process took less than a minute.

2. Describe one thing you think shows your community is well-prepared in case of a disaster

Having an emergency management department definitely shows our county emphasizes disaster preparedness. The department’s home page has a section titled “Information & Helpful Links to Prepare, Plan, and Protect your Family in a Disaster” with useful links for people. Some of the links include daily situation reports, evacuation zone information with routes & shelters, public information, and information on the local FEMA-sponsored Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).

Upon reviewing the CEMP I learned the Department of Public Safety conducts a minimum of one full-scale and two functional exercises per year involving all agencies listed in the plan.

3. Describe one way you think an improvement could be made to your community’s plan.

The CEMP is over 800 pages in length, with most pages being walls of single-spaced text. While I appreciate thoroughness, it is unrealistic to assume every person involved in a disaster can or will be intimately familiar with such a lengthy report.

While helping draft Fairbanks North Star Borough’s emergency plans I ran into a similar issue: where do I draw the line between chapters and sub-sections being considered detailed versus excessive? My answer was to make the first part of the document predominantly text, in vivid detail for administrative personnel. Part two of the document consisted of annexes with quick reference guides in a checklist format. For instance, if the disaster was a flood, you look in the table of contents for “floods” and you are directed to two pages, one for reading specifics, and one with a checklist.

4. Answer the following question: Do you feel better or worse about how well your community is prepared after reading its’ plan?

I feel equally prepared after reading my county’s emergency plan. My main concern prior to reading was related to logistics. I do not think the primary artery used for transportation en masse on a daily basis is adequate for the amount of traffic in our area. After reading the transportation section I learned my county has memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with entities from two nearby bases that can be activated in times of disaster. These MOUs include the use of shallow boats and helicopters with personnel to operate each. The intent is to provide medical evacuations or rescue stranded residents, but the population density would overwhelm available resources if anything close to Katrina were to occur.

Improving Preparedness


Prior to unit eight I believe my preparedness level was above average. I attribute my readiness to a few things:

  • Growing up in Alaska
  • Being military
  • Having a family
  • First-hand disaster experience
  • Being a homeland security and emergency management major
  • Living in a disaster-prone area

I will readily admit being married is the main reason I take steps to prepare. Before my wife moved here my friends and I would meet up for hurricane parties. Let me clarify, this was not a party in the sense that everyone contributed supplies and setup a shelter. No, this was a party where we played drinking games outside during storms. Not exactly an ideal scenario if something major happened.

Now that I have pets and my wife lives with me in a region where we get hammered by hurricanes, I have to be an adult sometimes. We have two totes in the garage we can grab any time with emergency supplies before heading out. I also put important documents and emergency cash in a binder that we would bring if we left our house. These totes have canned goods, water, non-perishable food, food for the pets, hygienic supplies, flashlights, batteries, and a handful of other items. To protect our house, we have fire extinguishers and renters’ insurance. We already had communication plans and everything we deemed necessary from FEMAs “Basic Preparedness Kit”.


Unit eight motivated me to finally go cut a large branch off a tree in our backyard. I did this because if the tree fell towards our house it could have broken a window or damaged the siding. I inspected our fire extinguisher to ensure it was still in working order, and I made a list of semi-perishable items that should be replaced in our totes before hurricane season. I plan on buying a real first aid kit in the near future to keep in our car as well.

Progress picture of the tree that could have damaged our house. Chainsaw shown for scale.

Here is the same tree after all the brush was removed.

FEMA CERT Program!

1. Summarize the main point of your article.

Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) is a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) initiative that focuses on training volunteers to be resilient before, during, and after disasters. Throughout the course volunteers learn basic first aid, light search and rescue, team organization, and fire safety. FEMA developed campus CERT and workplace CERT to make the course attractive for people of all ages and professions.

2. Describe 3 key points you concluded from the article that are relevant to the topic.

• CERT is gaining traction. Since inception over 2,700 local programs have been established. Over 600,000 volunteers participate.

• First responders and other qualified volunteers normally teach the Basic CERT course, so members get quality instruction from knowledgeable people.

• CERT is FEMA endorsed but community ran. Formal guides are readily available to take someone from a basic member, to a trainer, and eventually a program manager over time.

3. Why did you select this article – and how does it contribute to the group?

I chose this article because I think CERT is a unique program that not many people know about. If a local program is not available, anybody can start one! CERT gives everybody a chance to learn about disaster preparedness, response, and recovery. Plus, you can start networking with other members once the program gets going to spread the word. Educating your community about disasters is win-win since catastrophes can happen at any time.

Hurricane Maria Human Impact


My favorite source was ‘Quick Facts: Hurricane Maria’s Effect on Puerto Rico’. The article starts by providing background information on Puerto Rico and the storm. Neatly formatted chronological sections describe what happened when Maria made landfall; Maria’s effects; and present living conditions. I think the information is reliable. I Googled claims made in the article to verify the authenticity and was able to using well known websites as secondary sources.

Hurricane Maria Monitoring

Tropical cyclones are initially observed using a combination of the following methods: ships; satellites; aircraft; radar; buoys; and land-based platforms measuring pressure and wind (The University of Rhode Island, n.d.). During Hurricane Maria one tracking and forecasting tool was a C-130 aircraft belonging to the U.S Air Force Reserve’s “Hurricane Hunters” (Brown; Blake, 2017).

Two pallets used solely for weather reconnaissance are loaded into the plane’s cargo section (Hurricane Hunter Association). A computer system responsible for processing all the airplane sensors data, and communication equipment is part of the Aerial Reconnaissance Weather Officer (ARWO) pallet. Pallet number two features one or more ‘GPS Sonde’, a lightweight instrument dropped from the aircraft between 5,000 and 38,000 feet. While descending at 2,500 feet per minute, the GPS Sonde records information twice per second before transmitting its findings back to the aircraft. Information includes current pressure, wind speed, temperature, direction, humidity, and GPS position (Hurricane Hunter Association).

I believe the tools used to track Hurricane Maria were sufficient. Before Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, their public safety commissioner Hector Pesquera told residents “You have to evacuate. Otherwise, you’re going to die. I don’t know how to make this any clearer ( Reuters and Fortune Editors, 2017).”


Reuters and Fortune Editors. (2017, September 20). Hurricane Maria Hits Puerto Rico as Residents Told to Evacuate or ‘You’re Going to Die’. Retrieved from Fortune:

Brown; Blake. (2017, September 18). Hurricane MARIA. Retrieved from National Hurricane Center National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:

Chappell, B. (2017, September 18). Hurricane Maria Heads Toward Puerto Rico As A Major Storm. Retrieved from NPR:

Hurricane Hunter Association. (n.d.). The Aircraft of the Hurricane Hunters. Retrieved from Hurricane Hunters Association:

The University of Rhode Island. (n.d.). National Hurricane Center Forecast Process. Retrieved from Hurricanes: Science and Society:


2017 Hurricane Maria

I chose September 2017s Hurricane Maria for my second case study. Hurricane Maria made landfall across Puerto Rice and a large portion of the Lesser Antilles, a group of islands in the Caribbean Sea. Hurricane Maria reached Category Five on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, with maximum sustained winds near 175 MPH, making it the fifth strongest hurricane in US history. Hurricane Maria was also notably the third costliest storm on record in the United States, with damage estimated at ninety billion US dollars. September 30th, two weeks after Maria’s initial formation, the U.S. National Hurricane Center released a bulletin saying dissipation would likely occur “within a larger frontal zone over the North Atlantic in about 48 hours .

The most interesting piece of information I learned so far is that hurricanes’ maximum potential wind speeds are estimated to be 190 MPH based on computations performed by Kerry Emanuel, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology climatologist.

Human Impact From 2015 Hindu Kush Earthquake

My favorite resource was BBCs live stream “Deadly quake strikes Afghanistan: As it happened”. The second most useful source was CTV News article “More than 260 dead as earthquake strikes remote areas of Afghanistan, Pakistan”, followed by The Guardian’s “Afghanistan earthquake: Pakistan army leads rescue as death toll rises”.

BBCs live stream was initially appealing because it had information presented in chronological order. Providing a timeline allowed me to see how locals banded together in the earthquake’s immediate aftermath to aid injured people. US studies have shown such behavior to be common in disasters. Seeing similar characteristics across the world is fascinating.  BBC featured pictures and quotes from locals, providing a unique perspective into how the situation was unfolding around Afghanistan and Pakistan. I believe BBCs article to be factual based on their links to primary sources; having screenshots of statements made by officials on social media; and BBCs general credibility as a news outlet.

Update: Last Three’s post on the Mitigation of Landslides taught five different methods for reducing the risk of landslides. Since mudslides and earthquakes often occur together I felt it was applicable to my case study. I learned cannons can be used to trigger avalanches, and tiered steps reinforce heavy grading on hillsides.

Multi Hazard Maps!

Hazard information on the map I chose to use is documented through the use of shading and colors. Each color on the map corresponds to a Modified Mercalli scale rating found in a legend on the map’s bottom left corner. The map’s bottom right features a bar chart displaying various hazards; degree of risk; and what percent of the country is vulnerable. ‘Multi-hazard’ is the technical term for the map type shown, it includes seismic, volcanic, and tropical storm risks.

I found the map to be informative, clearly labeled, and useful. My only complaint is the ‘All Natural Hazard Risks’ bar chart in the bottom right.

Each block represents what percentage of the country faces that level of risk.

There is a scale in the legend showing hazard risk increases as colors get darker, but the explanation left me mildly confused. If you look closely you will notice for volcanic eruptions around ninety-percent of the bar is white, while ten percent is medium-gray. Meanwhile, if you look at the drought bar around thirty-five percent of the bar is the same medium-gray. I wondered why the medium-gray took up different amounts of space on each bar and after awhile I realized the amount of bar space occupied by a particular corresponds to the percentage of Afghanistan facing that level of risk. I attached a picture for clarification.

Maps of this nature would be useful for individuals able to move or adequately prepare for risks. However, based on my observation of Afghanistan the majority of the local populace cannot afford to effectively adapt and prepare their living structures for seismic activity, so the map’s usefulness versus its applicability is questionable.

Note: the map was too large to display in a post without suffering from significant distortion , so a link is provided here.

Stop Disasters, or Attempt to Anyways

I chose earthquake mode on Stop Disaster. I found implementing key facts into game-play was both educational and fun to unlock. For instance, choosing to develop a training course at hospitals unlocks a tip about the importance of preparedness for emergency personnel in disaster prone areas.

A mild annoyance was the game’s monotony. Having to build a structure then open a menu and choose upgrades each time was boring after a while. The game is also limited in scope, but for an introduction to disaster preparedness and mitigation I believe it suits its purpose.

2015 Hindu Kush Earthquake

At 09:09 UTC on October 26, 2015 a reverse fault in a convergence zone between India and Eurasia plate boundaries resulted in a M7.5 earthquake roughly 210 km below Earth’s surface. Earthquakes such as this that originate between 70 and 300 kilometers underground are classified as intermediate-depth (USGS, n.d.). Due to the depth at which they occur, intermediate-depth earthquakes generally cause less surface damage than an equal size and magnitude shallow-depth earthquake would. Although reverse-fault events producing similar earthquakes are commonly in the 70×40 kilometer range, October 2015s earthquake was assessed to be 30×30 kilometers (USGS, n.d.). The epicenter was located in north-east Afghanistan. Several Magnitude 7+ earthquakes have occurred within 250 kilometers of the 2015 epicenter, including in 2002, 2005, and 1983 (USGS, n.d.). Tremors were felt in Kyrgyzstan, India, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Pakistan (USGS, n.d.). In Pakistan witnesses reported landslides crashing into the Hunza River (BBC, 2015).

I learned roughly four hundred people died in the 2015 Hindu Kush earthquake, mostly in Pakistan. However, ten years prior a shallow, fifteen kilometer deep M 7.6 earthquake in the same region resulted in 80,000+ killed and four million left homeless ( Staff, 2009). Reading those statistics made me appreciate the exponentially higher risk associated with shallow-depth earthquakes.


BBC. (2015, OCtober 26). Afghanistan-Pakistan earthquake leaves hundreds dead. Retrieved from BBC:

USGS. (n.d.). M 7.5 – 45km E of Farkhar, Afghanistan. Retrieved from USGS: Staff. (2009). 2005 Kashmir earthquake. Retrieved from History: