Preparing for Mother Nature’s toughest weather

May 27, 2015

We’ve all heard the expression, “spring is in the air!” Well, spring has fully sprung, and as flowers bloom and temperatures grow warmer, so does the threat of severe weather which is also common during this time of year. Depending on what region you live in the US, severe weather-related events such as tornadoes and hurricanes are prone to happen causing serious damage to homes and businesses. Luckily, the U.S. Government Bookstore offers the following weather-related publications to help you prepare for Mother Nature’s toughest weather.

003-017-00569-1Thunderstorms, Tornadoes, Lightning, Nature’s Most Violent Storms: A Preparedness Guide, Including Tornado Safety Information for Schools. This illustrated booklet showcases facts about weather-related events and suggests life-saving actions you can take, if you find yourself in an unexpected situation resulting from a weather-related event.  The goal of this booklet is to present you with details on how to recognize severe weather, be aware of your surroundings, and to encourage you to develop a plan to be ready to act when threatening weather approaches. Additionally, it provides important information on what causes specific weather-related events and features a “Why Worry About Thunderstorms?” fact list of weather-related risks as it relates to lighting, tornadoes, flash floods and floods, and hail.

FloodsTheAwesomePower_NSC_Page_01Floods: The Awesome Power. This booklet explains flood related hazards and suggests lifesaving actions you can take in the event of a flood. Filled with illustrations, this easy-to-read booklet provides helpful information on how you can recognize a flood potential and develop a plan to be prepared when threatening weather approaches. It also provides information on flood severity categories from minor to major flooding scenarios, river floods, and flash floods risks whether in a car, truck, or SUV, or at home, work, or school.

Weather Spotter’s Field Guide: A Guide to Being a SKYWARN Spotter. The United States is the most severe weather-prone country in the world. Each year, people in this country cope with an average of 10,000 thunderstorms, 5,000 floods, 1,200 tornadoes, and two land-falling hurricanes. Approximately 90% of all presidentially declared disasters are weather-related, causing around 500 deaths each year and nearly $14 billion in damage.9780160924255

SKYWARN® is a National Weather Service (NWS) program developed in the 1960s that consists of trained weather spotters who provide reports of severe and hazardous weather to help meteorologists make life-saving warning decisions. Spotters are concerned citizens, amateur radio operators, truck drivers, mariners, airplane pilots, emergency management personnel, and public safety officials who volunteer their time and energy to report on hazardous weather impacting their community.

Although, NWS has access to data from Doppler radar, satellite, and surface weather stations, technology cannot detect every instance of hazardous weather. Spotters help fill in the gaps by reporting hail, wind damage, flooding, heavy snow, tornadoes and waterspouts. Radar is an excellent tool, but it is just that: one tool among many that NWS uses. We need spotters to report how storms and other hydro-meteorological phenomena are impacting their area.

This guide provides the procedures for Spotter Reporting, their role in severe storms that may result in hazardous conditions, and provides safety tips for extreme weather conditions.

003-017-00563-1Owlie Skywarn’s Weather Book. Although designed to appeal to children, this booklet provides important severe weather-related information for all ages. It includes information on hurricanes, tornadoes, lighting, floods, and winter storms. This booklet is written and illustrated in a cartoon style format for children 8 to 12; however, it contains valuable disaster preparation and response information of use to parents, teachers and other adults.

How can I get these weather-related publications?

Shop Online Anytime: You can buy the following  publications (with FREE Standard Shipping worldwide) from the U.S. Government Online Bookstore website at http://bookstore.gpo.gov:

Order by Phone: You may also Order print editions by calling our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.

Shop our Retail Store: Buy a copy of any print editions from this collection at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, Call (202) 512-0132 for information or to arrange in-store pick-up.

Visit a Federal depository library: Search for U.S. Government publications in a nearby Federal depository library. You can find the records for most titles in GPO’s Catalog of U.S. Government Publications.

About the author: Trudy Hawkins is Senior Marketing and Promotions Specialist in GPO’s Publication & Information Sales Division supporting the U.S. Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov).

 


The U.S. military storms to the rescue in foreign disaster relief

March 5, 2012

Last year, the United States suffered a record number of devastating weather and climate disasters, including hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires and floods, causing the President to issue a record 99 “major disaster declarations” during 2011.

Image: Natural disaster word collage Source: JimKimmartin.com

(And just this week, as I write this post, we are faced with the news about a line of dozens of deadly tornadoes that hit the Midwest, striking Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, and Kansas, with particular devastation to the towns of Harrisburg, IL and Henryville, IN.  See the end of this article for a links to terrific Federal disaster preparedness and response publications for citizens and professionals.)

However, the U.S. unfortunately had a lot of company as the entire world endured one of the worst years ever for catastrophic natural disasters.

Record Number of Catastrophic Natural Disasters Worldwide

2011 was the costliest year on record in terms of global property damage, with more than a third of a trillion dollars in damages worldwide, according to Munich Re, a multinational that insures insurance companies. The single worst and costliest natural disaster of the year was Japan’s earthquake and subsequent tsunami and nuclear disaster.

But some of the other worst disasters in the world in 2011 included: floods and landslides in Thailand, Guatemala, El Salvador, Pakistan and Brazil; earthquakes in New Zealand and Turkey; severe spring storms and tornadoes in the USA; Hurricane Irene in the USA; Cyclone Yasi and flooding in Australia; drought in the USA and Somalia; wildfires in the USA and Canada; and the violent winter storm Joachim that swept across western Europe in December.

Image: The world’s natural disasters of 2011. Source: “2011 was costliest year in world disasters” USA Today, January 4, 2012.

Fortunately, while the total number of disasters was about average, the loss of life was below average. Still, many lives were lost around the world, including 15,840 fatalities reported in Japan’s disaster alone.

DoD to the Rescue 

To help local governments around the world respond to these disasters, the United States Government often comes to the rescue with supplies, personnel and logistical support. But sometimes civilian agency response is not sufficient. In these cases, the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development may ask for support from the U.S. military.

Image: The crew of a U.S. Navy MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter from the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) unloads food and supplies at the airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Jan. 15, 2010. Source: Defense.gov

U.S. Government and Department of Defense (DoD) joint task forces may also coordinate with International Organizations such as the United Nations and International Red Cross and Red Crescent and other Intergovernmental Organizations (IGO) and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO).

In total, the U.S. Government on average responds to approximately 70 to 80 natural disasters worldwide annually, but the Department of Defense (DoD) only lends support to 10-15 percent of these disaster responses.

The DoD describes their foreign disaster relief assistance as follows:

“DoD disaster assistance can range from a single aircraft delivering relief supplies, to a fullscale deployment of a brigade-size or larger task force. Though the overall percentage of disasters requiring DoD support is relatively small, these disasters tend to be crises of the largest magnitude and/or the greatest complexity.”

Some of the past disaster response efforts with which the U.S. military has assisted include the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia; 2005 earthquake and 2010 flooding in Pakistan;  and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

Handy Handbook for All Those Who Give a Hand

To assist their personnel who are engaged in foreign disaster relief operations, the Department of Defense prepared a handbook which “offers an overarching guide and reference for military responders in foreign disaster relief operations,” particularly for Joint Task Force (JTF) Commanders and below.

INTENDED FOR ANYONE INVOLVED IN US FOREIGN DISASTER RELIEF OPERATIONS: Fortunately, DoD also released an unclassified version that can be used not only by the military, but also by anyone involved in U.S. foreign disaster response operations, including U.S. Government agencies, international organizations, Intergovernmental Organizations (IGO) and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO).

CONTENTS: This public version of the “Department of Defense Support to Foreign Disaster Relief Handbook” (ISBN:  9780160888632) is divided into 4 major sections:

  • Section I: Introduction: Provides the background, legal authorities and guidance for performing foreign disaster relief (FDR) operations. Includes info on the U.S. Government’s FDR response processes, international and humanitarian guidelines and principles.
  • Section II: Operational Context and Planning Factors.
  • Details the types of missions that DoD units may participate in and the roles of Joint Task Force members. Also provides a five-phase FDR operation and metrics of success, and how to protect responders. Of particular interest in Chapter 6 are the characteristics of natural disasters, including hazards expected from different disaster types, and in Chapter 7, guidelines for talking to the media.
  • Section III: Supported and Supporting Organizations
    • This section provides a broad overview of functional commands and the cross-cutting organizations roles and missions, including Geographic Combatant Commands (GCC) and typical DOD tactical FDR units. Even shows photos to help identify different U.S. military transportation vehicles that could be used.

  • Section IV: Appendices: A number of extremely useful appendices are included that come in handy for anyone involved in Foreign Disaster Relief.
    • Appendix A presents the legal aspects of FDR operations, such as the list of laws and guidance documents allowing DoD participation in humanitarian relief efforts overseas. For example, the principal authority for DOD to conduct foreign disaster relief is the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (Public Law 87-195) (See p. 15 of this compilation of Legislation on Foreign Relations) which “provides the legal guidance for U.S. Government engagement with friendly nations.
    • Appendix B provides the DoD guidelines for interaction with NGOs in a permissive environment. More importantly, it provides excellent color charts showing how civil and military operation centers interact and differ. The page below is an example of how interaction between various civil and military operations in an operations center.

    • Appendix C provides sample formats that are useful to staff who support FDR operations, including excellent example worksheets and sample reports.
    • Appendix D provides a list of useful FDR agency and resources websites.
    • Appendix E provides a list of training courses, both from the Department of Defense and other U.S. agencies like the State Department and the Peace Corps.
    • Appendix F lists references useful in planning and executing FDR missions.
    • Appendix G is a list of acronyms used in this handbook, a must-have for dealing with the military especially, but includes acronyms for international organizations as well. For example, did you know that “OCONUS” means “Outside the continental United States” and “SPINS” means “Special Instructions”?

EASY-TO-READ, PORTABLE FORMAT: Throughout the Handbook are color flowcharts, organizational charts, checklists, notes and warnings, making this easier to read than one would expect from a military handbook.  And because of its rugged spiral bound format and smaller size, I found this handbook particularly easy to hold in one hand while writing with another, since it could lying totally flat and fold back on itself.  Considering that online versions are not convenient in disaster areas, I can see why this is a must-pack item in any U.S. foreign disaster responder’s emergency bag.

Overall, the Department of Defense Support to Foreign Disaster Relief (Handbook for JTF Commanders and Below) provides a fascinating and useful insight into how to respond to natural disasters wherever they may happen around the globe.

HOW CAN I OBTAIN THIS “Department of Defense Support to Foreign Disaster Relief Handbook “?

  • Buy it online 24/7 at GPO’s Online Bookstore.
  • Buy it at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday-Friday, 9am to 4pm, except Federal holidays, (202) 512-0132.
  • Find it in a library.
  • Find some of the information online.

OTHER DISASTER RELIEF PUBLICATIONS FROM THE U.S. GOVERNMENT:

  • Field Operations Guide for Disaster Assessment and Response by the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), print edition available from GPO.  This handbook comes at the topic from the U.S. civilian agency perspective, helping members of a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) get quickly oriented while on site at a disaster.
  • National Interoperability Field Operations Guide Version 1.4 Provides a waterproof, pocket-sized guide that contains radio regulations, tables of radio channels, and technical reference information, and is a must-have tool for establishing or repairing emergency communications in a disaster area.
  • U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance Reference Guide from the United States Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development (online version only). Included are basic fact sheets for 19 funding accounts, each containing citations of important underlying laws, itemizing primary activities (such as Bilateral Economic Assistance, Humanitarian Assistance, Multilateral Economic Assistance, Military Assistance and Law Enforcement Assistance), outlining recent funding history, and describing important statutory restrictions.
  • Legislation on Foreign Relations is a list of U.S. laws governing all aspects of foreign relations, including disaster relief, compiled by both Congressional committees: U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
  • Are You Ready? An In-depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness. This FREE online guide provides a step-by-step approach to disaster preparedness by walking the reader through how to get informed about local emergency plans, how to identify hazards that affect their local area and how to develop and maintain an emergency communications plan and disaster supplies kit. It is produced by Ready.gov, a national public service advertising campaign designed to educate and empower Americans to prepare for and respond to emergencies including natural and man-made disasters.
  • FREE Tornado Safety Guide from the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) Ready.gov website has important tips on what to do before, during and after a tornado.

About the Author:  Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (Bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


Trickle, Trickle, Splash, Splash

September 9, 2011

 As I sit here writing this, it’s raining. It’s been raining for days, as a result of the remnants of Hurricane Lee. Before that, we got rain from Hurricane Irene, although thankfully not what Vermont and Upstate New York received. Before that, innumerable August thunderstorms had dumped inches of precipitation on us. The forecast for the next few days? More rain. Earlier this summer I read that our area was in a “moderate drought” state. Ha! I was just bemoaning our saturated state with a co-worker, in the course of which I said “I’ve been blogging about earthquakes and hurricanes, so I guess I’ll have to dig out a Government publication on floods.” Aha!

 This brings me to Floods: The Awesome Power, a National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration (NOAA to the cognoscenti) booklet that covers all kinds of flooding scenarios, including the one I’m putting up with right now. “Floods are often produced by hurricanes, tropical storms, and tropical depressions. A tropical cyclone’s worst impact may be the inland flooding associated with torrential rains. When these storms move inland, they are typically accompanied by very heavy rain.” Happily, we’re not experiencing what Louisianans did a few days ago, but it wouldn’t be totally unprecedented, either. A few years ago a freak weather system dumped tons on rain around here, resulting in a mini-flash flood in our basement – two or three inches worth. All I’ll say is that pulling up waterlogged wall-to-wall carpeting underlain with ratty-looking linoleum squares isn’t my favorite thing to do. Last night, after work, I spent a couple of hours down there mopping up from the current seepage, and the stream down the block looked way high. It can happen anywhere.

Floods: The Awesome Power not only covers the types of weather systems that can cause flooding, it provides information on how to keep track of such events, how to prepare in advance (“Store drinking water in food-grade containers. Water service may be interrupted”) what to do when the deluge is upon you (“Rapidly rising water may engulf the vehicle and its occupants sweeping them away. Vehicles can be swept away by as little as 2 feet of water”), and what to do afterward (“If the power is out, use flashlights, not candles”). Guilty as changed on that last point – it sounds as if I need more batteries and less wax around the house. There’s also a detailed outline on how to develop a family disaster plan, which could be useful in any number of crisis situations.

All in all, I don’t know of a better way to find out a lot about coping with flooding in a concise, easy-to-read format. You can read Floods: The Awesome Power here, buy it in packs here (great for neighborhood associations and other groups), or find it in a library. As for me, this old doo-wop classic says it all…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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