All posts by Baron Shale

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.

A simple Google search for “Fairbanks community preparedness” or “Fairbanks disaster plan” will bring up options including the Fairbanks North Star Borough’s Comprehensive Emergency management plan as well as the Fairbanks emergency management home page.

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

The Fairbanks north star borough’s emergency management home page has several links to other resources including the Comprehensive Emergency Management plan and business preparedness. These additional resources show that the borough has extensive information concerning disaster management.

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

Most of the annex’s listed in the Comprehensive management plans’s table of contents seem very technical and difficult to read. Putting the resource into a more readable language would open the resource up to a wider range of people.

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

I feel more indifferent about my community’s preparedness.  I never worried about it before researching it and I doubt I’ll worry about it after finding out what plans are in place.



Family Preparedness

While I was doing my pre-assessment family preparedness checklist I realized that I have pretty much everything I might need during an emergency however it’s scattered throughout my house.  If an emergency did happen, i’d likely spend precious time collecting everything and would run the risk of forgetting important items. One easy way for me to improve my families preparedness is to gather everything together into one easily accessible kit.

Unit 7: Public Education

In this modern digital age, technology and personal electronic devices are ever-present in our lives. Because of this, education of the public has shifted to mobile-based information services. Several organizations have realized this and are utilizing “apps” to raise public awareness and to educate the public.

The article I found, App raises public awareness as wildfires rage, is a review of the CAL FIRE: Ready for wildfire app developed by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention. The app, which is available free of charge for both IOS and Android phones, “provides tools and steps to help prepare your family, home, and property from a wildfire.” Additionally, the app gives users the ability to access information about active California wildfires and offers tips on wildfire prevention, safety, and evacuation. While the app’s location based alerts focus’s only on California, the premise and information available is useful for any location prone to wildfires. The app works on the “Ready, Set, Go” three step model which teaches the user how to maintain and harden your home against wildfire, create and prepare a wildfire action plan, and recognize what to do when wildfire strikes. A “preparedness meter” tracks progress and gives your progress visual representation.

The key take-away points from this resource are: prevention, preparation, and action. The app, which I downloaded and explored for a while, highlights the importance of active wildfire prevention through creating defensible spaces and “hardening” homes and/or property. Additionally it calls for individuals and families to prepare wildfire action plans, emergency supply kits, and communication plans. Lastly it stresses the importance of evacuation before conditions become dangerous.

I selected this resource because I think it represents the shift away from traditional education resources. I think the use of an app makes information easier to distribute to a larger population as well as more accessible to a wider range of people. This resource is an example of developing an effective method for public education about a hazard because it raises public awareness and promotes the public to develop strategies to better prepare for future hazards.

The Great Flood of 1993: Human Impact Resources

NOAA’s Natural Disaster Survey Report published February 1994 detailing “The Great Flood of 1993”

The USGS’s Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center published a report about the Ecological Status and Trends of the Upper Mississippi River System (UMRS). Chapter 15 of this report details the Great Flood of 1993.

“The 1993 Great Midwest Flood: Voices 10 Years Later.” A 10th-Anniversary Anthology of Stories of Hardship and Triumph collected by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Learning from the Mississippi Flood of 1993: Impacts, Management Issues, and Areas for Research.”

My favorite resource was NOAA’s Natural Disaster Survey Report from 1994. This report is full of information about the 1993 flood including general information, forecasting challenges, hydrological modeling capabilities, warning systems, preparedness, and major lessons learned. The abundance of information it has makes it long but overall I think it’s an all around great resource.

Stop Disasters! Flood

For the last part of Week 2’s assignment I played Stop Disaster! Flood and noticed several things. The first thing I noticed was that low-lying areas were inundated first. This meant that higher terraced areas free of water. Because of this, important buildings and utilities like hospitals, schools, and power stations do better on high ground where they have a lower risk of flooding. I also noticed that building material was an important part of flood mitigation. Wooden and brick buildings withstood flood damages worse than concrete houses which prompted me to build primarily with concrete. A key part of my learning experience with this game came from the small windows of information presented periodically throughout the game. These typically expanded upon actions I was doing and better explained how and why the actions were useful.

The Great Flood of 1993: Monitoring & Mitigation

Flood monitoring is done on different scales with the use of several different instruments. Local flooding is monitored through river streamflow gauges, depth sensors, and real-time observation. Large scale monitoring can be done through combining local measurements and remote sensing.

One example of large scale flood monitoring is the Global Flood Monitoring System (GFMS). This system is a “NASA-funded experimental system using real-time TRMM Multi-satellite Precipitation Analysis (TMPA) precipitation information as input to a quasi-global (50°N – 50°S) hydrological runoff and routing model”. This system monitors precipitation and produces flood vectors that can be uploaded into GIS to models flood intensity. The National Weather Service offers flood watches and warnings for large-scale gradual river floods. A flood watch is issued when local weather conditions generate conditions that may produce flooding.

During the Great Flood of 1993, the Weather Surveillance Radar 88 Dopplar (WSR-88D) systems were used to document rainfall and monitor flashflood conditions in large cities like Chicago and Kansas City.  Additionally, The Long Term Resource Monitoring Program (LTRMP), whose goal was to “support decision makers with the information and understanding needed to maintain the Upper Mississippi River System”, had field stations positioned around the Mississippi floodplain. These stations allowed for continual observation of the flood.

Global Flood Monitoring System (GFMS) 

Long Term Resource Monitoring Program


The Great U.S.A Flood of 1993

The “Great USA flood” occurred along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers from May – September 1993. The event took place in the American Midwest, caused $15 billion dollars of damages, and resulted in 50 deaths.

The Midwest is located in the interior United States, north of the Ohio River between the Appalachian and Rocky mountains. This region consists mainly of flat geographic features like plains, plateaus, river valleys and lakes. Due to its location, far from the moderating effects of the ocean, the Midwest region experiences extreme temperature and precipitation that is responsible for hazards like severe thunderstorms, drought, heat waves, regional flooding, and winter storms.

The 1993 flood was an overbank river flood that occurred along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers following record summer rainfall in the early months of 1993. The influx of water from persistent heavy rainfall and from melting snowpack after the previous winter caused the river to exceed its capacity and overflow the channel.

The most interesting thing I’ve learned so far about this flood is that of the 3 largest floods in the U.S.A. (The Great floods of 1844, 1951, and 1993) the 1993 flood had the highest waters and the lowest discharge rates.

Unit 5-Week 3: Human Impacts

Finding resources for this particular case study was difficult due to the fact that the event occurred more than 100 years ago during a period of time when record keeping was not considered a priority. In addition to the age of the event, there is also a language barrier to contend with since much of the information about the goings on around the Italian front were recorded in either Italian or German.


My favorite resource is the second listed resource. It is a chapter from Erik Durschmied’s book, The Weather Factor: How Nature has Changed History. This chapter, “White Death”, details the situations and hazards in which Italian and Austro-Hungarian troops had to live during and after deadly avalanches on the Italian front. I like this resource because it contains several first hand accounts about the avalanche as well as conditions leading up to the events.

“The City of Ice” Avalanche mitigation

The Italian front was no stranger to avalanches. It was common knowledge that heavy snowfall could result in disastrous slides however the most strategic areas tended to also be the most hazardous. Because of this, areas along the Italian front, especially high in the mountains, often utilized structural avalanche mitigation methods such as sand bag trenches, snow nets and building reinforcements.  One of the less common mitigation technique used during this time was burrowing.

To avoid avalanches, as well as frigid temperatures, snowstorms, and enemy fire Austro-Hungarian troops tunneled into a glacier on Mount Marmolada’s northern slope. The end result was ~12 km of tunnels connecting makeshift barracks, kitchens, chapels, and storerooms in an “ice city” that could house ~200 soldiers.

A schematic drawing of ice city

This method was surprisingly effective for a while. The ice not only shielded troops from avalanches but also maintained an internal temperature of ~0ºC , which was much warmer than the external -30ºC temperature .  The ice city did very well however no one  accounted for the movement of the glacier.  Eventually glacial motion contorted tunnels and forced the abandonment of ice city.

The remnants of Ice City re-emerged a decade ago when Alpine glaciers responded to the changing climate. Glacial retreat exposed several WWI artifacts that prompted expedition by local government agencies.  The expeditions unearthed WWI memorabilia as well as personal belongings  of the men who lived  there.

Stop Disaster! Avalanche ideas

Since there is no Stop Disaster! game for avalanches I played around with the flood game for a while. It was an entertaining way to visualize flood mitigation that I think can be modified to fit avalanche hazards.

I like the concept of having to protect an area from a certain hazard. For the flood game it made sense to make it a riverside village however for avalanches I think a higher altitude location, like mountain resort, would make more sense.I also think that incorporating an avalanche-zoning map that progresses from low to high risk would be a good way to set a time scale for the game.

Similar to the flood game, I would like to see certain building with hazard specific upgrade options like avalanche warning systems as well as various structural mitigation methods. Deflecting berms, powerline and building reinforcements, earthen mounds, or even snow nets could be utilized to protect from or divert an avalanche. One option I think would be cool to play around with would be the ability to actively control avalanches through artificial triggering. This wouldn’t need to be super complex, just a point-and-click way to trigger smaller less hazardous easier to defend avalanches.