Tag Archives: disaster

The US Government Is Updating Its Nuclear Disaster Plans And They Are Truly Terrifying

“We are looking at 100 kiloton to 1,000 kiloton detonations,” a FEMA official said.

Dan Vergano

Amid concerns over North Korea, federal emergency managers are updating disaster plans to account for large nuclear detonations over the 60 largest US cities, according to a US Federal Emergency Management Agency official.

The shift away from planning for small nuclear devices that could be deployed by terrorists toward thermonuclear blasts arranged by “state actors” was discussed on Thursday at a two-day National Academies of Sciences workshop for public health and emergency response officials held at its headquarters across the street from the US State Department.

“We are looking at 100 kiloton to 1,000 kiloton detonations,” chief of FEMA’s chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear branch Luis Garcia told BuzzFeed News. The agency’s current “nuclear detonation” guidance for emergency planners, first released in 2010, had looked at 1 to 10 kiloton blasts — smaller than the 1945 Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs that killed more than 200,000 people at the end of World War II. Those smaller size detonations had seemed more reasonable after 9/11, with high concerns about an improvised terrorist bomb.
“The North Koreans have really changed the calculus.”

But last year North Korea tested an apparent thermonuclear bomb with a surprisingly large estimated blast size of 250 kilotons, a “city buster” much bigger than past test blasts and nearly the size of current US intercontinental ballistic missile warheads. The test blast kicked off a new era of nuclear anxiety in the US.

“The North Koreans have really changed the calculus,” Cham Dallas of the Institute for Disaster Management at the University of Georgia told workshop participants. “We really have to look at thermonuclear now.”

Dallas presented “speculative” analyses of a nuclear detonations in several cities — including New York and Washington, DC — at the workshop, suggesting that a thermonuclear blast roughly doubles the hundreds of thousands of dead and many more wounded (a 1979 analysis of a 1,000 kiloton blast in Detroit estimated 220,000 deaths, for example) compared to the atomic bomb blasts. They also cause many more burn injuries and larger fallout clouds that travel farther away.

The updated FEMA guidance would be for the 60 largest urban areas in the US and will rely on newer detonation models created by the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. These models take into account weather patterns that direct and distort weapon clouds, as well as the shelter provided by concrete structures. “A 10 times larger [explosion] yield does not make things 10 times worse,” LLNL’s Brooke Buddemeier said at the workshop. People remaining in shelters in the hours and days after a blast greatly lower their chances of getting radiation sickness.


International disaster training drill simulates 8.0 earthquake hitting Mexico and unleashing volcanic firestorm

International disaster training drill simulates 8.0 earthquake hitting Mexico and unleashing volcanic firestorm

Why so many disaster simulation drills?

– Don’t call us paranoid, but why is the world suddenly having so many disaster simulation drills? Besides the New Madrid quake drill in the U.S, the latest exercise involves several nations and is hosted by San Diego State University. Exercise 24 (X24) Mexico is the third iteration of a primarily virtual, open-invitation, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) exercise with real-world functional components that is hosted by San Diego State University’s “Immersive Visualization Center” (VizCenter). Public Event kicks-off February 08-09, 2012 at 8:00am PST -Hosted by San Diego State University Immersive Visualization Center.

X 24 Excercise: Participants include: Department of Homeland Security, Office of Health Affairs, NORAD-NORTHCOM, US Customs and Border Protection, Global Borders College, Mexican Army and Navy, Mexico Federal Police, Vietnam Ministry of Defense, India National Disaster Management Agency, World Shipping Council, Red Cross, Pacific Disaster Center, NYK Logistics (yusen logistics), National defense University.
“The Viz Center is a physical space but one that largely represents relationships between people and organizations collectively attempting to positively impact the worlds of Humanitarian Assistance Disaster Relief, Community Resilience, Search and Rescue, and aid to operational Emergency Responders and Homeland Security.” -Viz Center


What would it look like if our leaders had lost control?

What would it look like if our leaders had lost control?

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By David Malone

What would it look like if our leaders had lost control? What would be the signs? Here’s a list of some of the signs I think we would see.

The first sign would be that the measures our leaders had taken did not have the effect we were assured they would have. Not that they didn’t have some effect, after all you can’t subsidize banks with $16 Trillion without something happening.

But if the effect is not what they assured us it would be and moreover if the underlying problem they said the actions would fix, remains unfixed, then this is to me a simple and clear proof, not even a sign, a proof, that they don’t know what they are doing.

If a doctor gave you an antibiotic and said it would clear up the infection but instead your hair fell out while the infection roared on, what would you think of the doctor and his understanding of a) medicine and b) your disease?

And if the good doctor then pushed his way back to your bed side and began shouting down all other diagnoses and insisting that you be held down and forced to swallow another, larger dose, would you swallow it? Or would you have your friends take said doctor and throw him in to the street?

Part of our problem is that the veneer of control and understanding persists long after the actual substance has gone. So Mr King comes out today defending more QE [Quantitative Easing]. He is a reasonable and intelligent man so there is a strong temptation to believe he must know what he’s doing. If he says we need to take another dose of the medicine before it will finally have its advertised effect …. well he’s the doctor, right?

But the way I see it our bankers, financial experts and politicians have become like the rats, pigeons and monkeys that used to press bars for rewards in the Skinner boxes of 1950?s psychology experiments.

For those of you not familiar with the jargon of Skinner boxes and Operant Conditioning, it’s very simple. Wait until the animal does something you want it to do, such as peck at a button when a light comes on or press a bar, and then deliver a reward so that the animal associates the action with the reward. Simply reward the actions you want and the animal will learn to perform the actions you desire. It was found you could train animals to do the most amazing things.

More interesting it was found that once the animal had learnt what behaviour gave the reward, it would continue to press its bar long after the reward stopped being given. The animal had, so it was hypothesised, created a theory if it was an ‘higher’ animal, a ‘reinforced neural pathway’ if it was a ’lower’ one, and the behaviour became a learned habit.

Once the habit was ingrained the animal would persist in it no matter what. The rat or monkey would sit there grimly pressing its bar in the apparently dogged ‘belief’ that it had worked before it would work again. The scientists found that it took a long time for, to use the jargon, the behaviour to be extinguished.

The worst situation for the animals was what the researchers called ‘intermittent reward’. The scientists found they didn’t have to reward a behaviour every time for that behaviour to be learned and become ingrained.

As long as pressing the bar would occasionally give a reward then the animals would persist in it for longer and longer periods without any reward. They would just keep pressing it, long, long after any ‘untrained’ animal – a casual observer, would have concluded that bar pressing just didn’t work.

The poor trained animals had learnt that once upon a time this was the correct action to take and now had it firmly in mind that it was still the action that gave the desired outcome, it is just that you had to be determined and maintain confidence in the policy, not being blown off course by those who had lost faith, or those who had never seen the miracle of the bar pressing in all its former glory. And so on they would go starving in their corner pressing their bar.

The ‘better’ trained the animals were at pressing their bar the longer they keep at it in the face of overwhelming objective evidence of the failure of their actions.

Seems clear to me our leaders are just pressing that bar because they don’t have the imagination to think of anything else. They never did know why pressing the bar delivered the reward. Economics is a Skinner box, a black box, where no one can see and certainly none of them understands, the mechanism at work.

They have theories about the underlying rules and mechanisms and assumptions about human nature and the nature of economic behaviour. Their assumptions are almost all fatuous from any kind of evolutionary perspective. And their theories about the mechanisms are generally drawn from dubious first principles or based on correlations which they have noted – when this has happened in the past then this has followed. But sadly for them the correlations are very often ephemeral.

They hold true for a decade or two and then seem to stop being correlated. At which point a new correlation is elevated to the status of a new rule and the old rule is quietly no longer referred to. Like some embarrassing family member everyone pretends not to have heard from in ages and ages, if ever. ”Gosh, is he still alive. You know I always thought there was something not right about him.”

And so they continue to press the bar and attribute anything positive that subsequently happens to their bar pressing. While anything negative is attributed to not pressing it correctly or to malign external factors. If nothing happens, well press it again a bit harder. Remember confidence in the bar is the key to seeing the policy through!

When the proponents of pressing the bar start to disagree among themselves this, to me, is another sign that the end is approaching. Each still believes firmly in the magic properties of the bar and of pressing it.

But as they come to disagree more and more about how to press it – harder, softer, use some leverage, don’t use any leverage – and disagree about what the results are likely to be if successfully pressed, the fact of their disagreement starts to eat away at their collective faith in the bar and its magic. This is how paradigms collapse. And I believe we are in the early stages of that collapse.

The paradigm is not making sense even, I think, to some of the faithful.

The essence of the paradigm was that debt was not a problem because growth would take care of it. All that was required was to stimulate growth and pressing on the ‘Bail out the banks’ bar would take care of that. They have pressed and pressed and it has not delivered. In fact debt has got worse.

In ’09 banks would not lend to each other. We were told it was a liquidity problem. Our leaders refused point blank to even listen to any other ideas. They ignored or ridiculed those who said this was a crisis of solvency not liquidity, and ignored as outlandish and dangerous the idea that the reason banks wouldn’t lend to each other is because they all knew they had massive debts and that the assets/income stream underpinning all those debts was a lie.

But the truth is the assets were not worth what the banks claimed. And because the banks all knew this to be true they quite reasonably refused to accept each other’s assets as collateral and without collateral they would not loan.

Fast forward over two years during which, instead of cutting out the infected tissue of bad debts, we simply fed it all to National banks and what is the result? Now we have nations who won’t lend to each other. We now have a credit crunch at the sovereign level. And it will have the same effect it had last time but larger.

Now nations are starved of cash and via them whole national systems of the banks who were infected and starved of cash in 09 are at death’s door again. Only difference we, the peoples of these nations, are trillions more in debt than we were three years ago. Bravo! Bravo!

Meanwhile the monkeys in charge still won’t listen to any alternative ideas and are still at their sacred bar pressing it and telling themselves that one day soon it will work as it once did.

Courtesy of David Malone – http://www.golemxiv.co.uk


Unprecendented Weather Disasters Plague America

US counts the cost of nine months of unprecedented weather extremes

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric administration, there have been 10 major disasters this year

John Vidal, environment editor

As deadly fires continue to burn across bone-dry Texas and eight inches of rain from tropical storm Lee falls on New Orleans, the US is beginning to count the cost of nine months of unprecedented weather extremes.

Ever since a massive blizzard causing $2bn of damage paralysed cities from Chicago to the north-east in January, nearly every month has been marked by a $1b+-weather catastrophe. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric administration (Noaa), there have been 10 major disasters already this year, leaving more than 700 people dead and property damage of over $35bn (£22bn).

In the past 31 years the mainland states have suffered 99 weather-related disasters where overall damages and economic costs were over $1bn. This year has seen three times as many than as usual.

Noaa will release its August data next week but Summer 2011 is expected to be the warmest on record. Chris Burt, author and leading weather historian, has complied a list of more than 40 cities and towns that have experienced record temperatures this year.

“So many heat records of various types have been shattered this past summer that it is impossible to quantify them,” he said. “Not since the great heat waves of 1934 and 1936 has the US seen so many heat-related records broken as occurred this summer. The back-to-back nature of the intensity of the past two summers should raise some interesting questions, questions I am not qualified to address.”

This year, the UN World Meteorological Organisation said 2010 was the warmest year on record, confirming a “significant” long-term trend of global warming and producing exceptional weather variations.

The insurance company Munich Re said in the first six months of the year there were 98 natural disasters in the US, about double the average of the 1990s.

“The increasing impacts of natural disasters, as seen this year, are a stark reminder of the lives and livelihoods at risk. Severe weather represents a very real threat to public safety,” said Jack Hayes, director of Noaa’s National Weather Service.

But the US is not alone. 2011 has seen the deepest drought in 60 years in the Horn of Africa which has contributed to a famine in Somalia and 10 million people affected in Kenya, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Uganda. Southern Africa, however, experienced unusually heavy rainfall.

Latin America has suffered a series of disasters. More than 500 people died in some of Brazil’s worst rainstorms and mudslides in January, and Columbia faced what it called its worst-ever natural disaster when months of rain and floods devastated the north of the country. Meanwhile Mexico and much of central America experienced one of their deepest droughts in many years.

Korea, the Philippines, parts of China have been racked with some of the worst storms in a century, with flash floods and landslides triggered by torrential rain .

2011 has also seen a series of major non-weather-related natural disasters. The worst, by some way, was the Japanese tsunami which killed at least 12,000 people and devastated the country. However, 6.2 or above earthquakes have hit New Zealand, the Philippines, Japan, the Fox Islands, Papua New Guinea, Mexico, Indonesia, Fiji, Thailand, Burma, Vanuatu, Argentina, Chile and Iran in the first six months of 2011. Smaller ones have hit Pakistan, Tajikistan, Tonga, and the Solomon Islands.

In addition the Arctic ice melt this year hit a record in July and is expected to the second or third greatest ever recorded, says the US national snow and ice data centre.

• This article was amended on 05 September 2011. The original stated the death toll for the Japanese tsunami was 1,200,000 instead of 12,000. This has been corrected

A year of US disasters – 2011 so far

• Hurricane Irene, August 20-29. Over $7bn and around 50 deaths.

• Upper Midwest flooding. The Missouri and Souris rivers overflowed in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri. Damages: $2bn.

• Mississippi river flooding, spring and summer. Damages neared $4bn.

• Drought and heatwave in Texas, Oklahoma. Over $5bn.

• Tornadoes in midwest and south-east in May kill 177 and cost more than $7bn in losses.

• Tornadoes in the Ohio Valley, south-east and midwest on April devastate the city of Tuscaloosa, kill 32 and cause more than $9bn in damages.

• Tornadoes hit from Oklahoma to Pennsylvania 14–16 April. Toll: $2bn in damages.

• 59 tornadoes in midwest and north-east April 8-11. Damages: $2.2bn.

• 46 tornadoes in central and southern states 4 and 5 April. Toll: $2.3bn in damages.

• Blizzard late January paralyse cities from Chicago to the north-east. Toll: 36 deaths and more than $2bn in damages.


12 Things That We Can Learn About How To Prepare For Disasters And Emergencies

12 Things That We Can Learn From Hurricane Irene About How To Prepare For Disasters And Emergencies

The Economic Collapse Blog

Whenever a major disaster or emergency strikes, millions of lives can be turned upside down in an instant. Fortunately Hurricane Irene was not as catastrophic as originally projected, but millions of people did lose power and at least 35 people lost their lives. Large numbers of homes were destroyed and the economic damage from Hurricane Irene is going to be in the billions of dollars. Now that Hurricane Irene has passed, this is a good opportunity for all of us to look back and learn some important lessons about how to prepare for disasters and emergencies. The reality is that a major disaster or emergency has happened somewhere in the United States almost every single month so far this year, and it is only a matter of time before you and your family will be faced with another disaster or emergency.

No plan is perfect, but if you have a plan you are going to be far better off than if you do not have a plan. September is “National Preparedness Month”, so now is a great time to focus on preparing your family for the future disasters and emergencies that are inevitably coming.

Survival Grocery List

The following are 12 things that we can learn from Hurricane Irene about how to prepare for disasters and emergencies….

#1 Disasters And Emergencies Are Inherently Unpredictable

When a disaster or an emergency strikes, you never know what is going to happen. Even a storm such as Hurricane Irene that was tracked for weeks can end up being highly unpredictable.

For example, while a tremendous amount of attention was paid to New York City, the reality is that some of the worst damage ended up being caused in Vermont. Hurricane Irene actually caused the worst flooding that Vermont has seen since 1927.

The following is how the governor of Vermont described the devastation that was caused in his state by this storm….

“It’s just devastating,” Gov. Peter Shumlin said Monday. “Whole communities under water, businesses, homes, obviously roads and bridges, rail transportation infrastructure. We’ve lost farmers’ crops,” he said. “We’re tough folks up here but Irene … really hit us hard.”

#2 During A Major Disaster Store Shelves Become Empty Very Rapidly

What do we see happen every single time there is even a minor disaster or emergency?

Every single time, food and other emergency supplies disappear from store shelves in a matter of hours.

If you do not have at least a couple weeks of food stored up you are being totally foolish.

In fact, considering how unstable the world has become, it is amazing that only a small percentage of the population has enough food stored up to be able to last for at least six months.

If an economic apocalypse happens, a major war breaks out, an EMP attack takes place, a huge comet strikes the planet or weapons of mass destruction are used in this country, you may not have access to mass quantities of very cheap food any longer.

Get prepared while you still can.

#3 Always Have A “Go Bag” Ready

When disaster strikes, you may only have a couple of minutes before you have to race out the door.

Your “go bag” should contain some food, some water, a flashlight, a battery-powered radio, some cash, copies of your most important documents and any medicine that you may need.

#4 Know Your Escape Routes And Always Have Maps Of The Area In Your Vehicle

Have a plan and know where you are going to be heading in the event of an emergency.

If you don’t have a plan or if you don’t give yourself enough time, you could end up dead. A number of people died during Hurricane Irene while they were in their cars. The following is one example that was noted in a recent CNN article….

A 64-year-old woman was found dead Sunday by Whitemarsh, Pennsylvania, police after her family grew concerned when she did not show up for work. Her body was found a half-mile from where her car was abandoned in a deluged creek, police said.

#5 During A Major Disaster Or Emergency There Is A Good Chance That You Will Lose Power For An Extended Period Of Time

During Hurricane Irene, more than 5 million people lost power. That is why it is crucial to have a battery-powered radio, a battery-powered (or solar) flashlight and extra batteries in your home.

Know what you are going to do once the power goes out. Anyone that has been through an extended power outage knows how life can change almost instantly once the power goes down.

#6 Have Enough Water Stored Up

What was one of the biggest problems in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina?

It turned out that one of the most critical problems was a very serious shortage of bottled water.

Yes, even after Katrina dumped unprecedented amounts of water on New Orleans one of the biggest problems was still a lack of water.

If you do not have clean water to drink, you can die within just a few days.

So when planning for disasters and emergencies, please be sure to store up enough water.

#7 During A Natural Disaster, Major Transportation Routes May Be Shut Down

A lot of people were horrified to find roads closed or washed out during Hurricane Irene. Just because you are used to traveling on certain roads it is not safe to assume that they will always be available during disasters and emergencies.

#8 Have Respect For The Sheer Power Of Natural Disasters

We live at a time when people like to make a joke out of anything, but major natural disasters are not to be trifled with.

If you do not respect nature, you can end up dead. Amazingly, some people were actually out boating and canoeing during Hurricane Irene. According to one CNN article, one 53-year-old man that tried boating during Hurricane Irene was later found dead….

One man in Croton, New York, died Sunday while boating along with four others down the Croton River, said Lt. Russell Haper, a spokesman for the Croton police. The boat overturned in the strong rapids. The 53-year-old man was found dead after a three-hour rescue effort. The other men were pulled safely from the water.

#9 Living Near Water Can Be Very Dangerous

If you live near the ocean or near a major river, you need to understand that the potential for danger is always there.

Even if you live a good bit in from the coast, the danger for substantial flooding is always there. The following is how one CNN article described the situation in Philadelphia at the height of Hurricane Irene….

Outside Philadelphia, waters had already climbed to street-sign levels in Darby, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said, with the water sending “couches, furniture, all kinds of stuff floating down the street.”

#10 During A Major Disaster Bring In All Objects From Outside

During any disaster that involves high winds, anything that is left outside can quickly become a very dangerous projectile. The last thing that you want is for the wind to pick up heavy objects and send them crashing into your home or the home of a neighbor. If you know that a major storm is coming, please bring in everything that you can from outside.

#11 Have A Plan But Be Flexible

Your best chance of making it through a disaster or emergency is to have a plan. But that doesn’t mean that you should always stick with that plan. Disasters and emergencies are inherently unpredictable, so it will be very important to be as flexible as possible.

#12 If You Wait Until Disaster Strikes To Prepare It Is Too Late

Right now is the time to prepare for the next disaster or emergency. If you wait until an emergency happens, you will be out of luck. You need to develop a disaster plan for yourself and your family if you do not have one already.

If you plan on storing up food, water, medicine and other emergency supplies, you need to do it ahead of time. Victory belongs to the prepared, and if you think that you will never wind up in the middle of a major disaster you are just being foolish.

Hurricane Irene was a terrible storm, but fortunately it was not nearly as bad as it could have been.

Hopefully this storm will serve as a wake up call for many of us.

The next time that a disaster strikes, we may not be let off the hook so easily.