This newsletter is a compilation of recent disaster ~things~ that I think are cool, important, or otherwise of interest to people who are intrigued with disaster (broadly defined).
There’s a little something for everyone!
The State of Emergency Management
Well, 2022 started with a bang.
The Marshall Fire in Colorado caused over half a million in damage. There has been devastating flooding throughout parts of Brazil. Thousands of cars were trapped on a very icy stretch of Interstate 95. Seventeen people were killed in a Bronx apartment fire. A volcano erupted in Tonga which caused a tsunami and cut off communications for multiple days and caused extensive damage. There was a bridge collapse in Pittsburgh which has renewed calls for the need to inspect and repair aging bridges across the country. Omicron continues to rage throughout the country with hospitals overwhelmed again. And, as you read this the northeast is just finishing up digging out of their first blizzard of the year.
New GAO Report Dropped
As most of you probably know emergency managers across the country are tired, overworked, and burnt out. This is a huge problem for the people who are experiencing this kind of work environment but it’s also a huge problem for the ability of the emergency management system as a whole to function effectively. The Government Accountability Office released a report this month that looked into the long-standing staffing issues within FEMA.
The report, titled FEMA Workforce: Long-Standing and New Challenges Could Affect Mission Success is deeply worrying. Of note are the persistent staffing shortages, inconsistent workforce qualifications, and poor staff development. (I think anyone with experience at FEMA can name a few other issues too but that’s none of my business.)
Speaking of folks who do disaster work… Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal introduced the Climate Resilience Workforce Act this month. Zoya Teirsten at Grist and Yessenia Funes in Atmos both have good summaries.
The Book of The Month
“A Bigger Picture: My Fight to Bring A New African Voice to The Climate Crisis” by Vanessa Nakate
This month’s book is a memoir from climate activist Vanessa Nakate. In it she outlines her experience of beginning and leading climate strikes in Uganda. It’s an important book that explores how climate activism — and climate work more broadly — needs to differ from country to country to be effective.
Important Disaster Media Coverage This Month
If you only read one disaster article this month let it be this one. Hannah Dreier wrote a heartbreaking piece about FEMA’s COVID funeral assistance call center for the Washington Post. The entire process is just frustrating and devastating for everyone.
A lesson from Surfside? Underground assault from sea-level rise puts coastal structures at risk by Kimberly Miller for The Palm Beach Post
Court revokes oil and gas leases, citing climate change by Lisa Friedman in The New York Times
An Alabama Town’s Sewage Woes Test Biden’s Infrastructure Ambitions by Glenn Thrush in The New York Times
Biden Administration Announces Plan to Spend Billions to Prevent Wildfires by Alyssa Lukpat in The New York Times
Dodging Disaster by Marina Schauffler in The Maine Monitor
‘Everything is at risk’: Flood survivors urge Congress to change inadequate insurance by Oliver Milman in The Guardian
MyShake earthquake warning app now available in WA by Nicholas Turner in The Seattle Times
Texas enacts nation’s strongest flood disclosure law by Thomas Frank in E&E News
Penny Wise and Pound Foolish? NYC Budget Cuts Aggravated Flooding and Deaths by Yunus Kovankaya, Sara Schwetschenau, and Upmanu Lall in State of the Planet
Until we address chronic underfunding, Canada will keep failing at emergency management by Jack Lindsay in The Conversation
The Federal Government Is Still Undercounting Extreme Weather and Climate Deaths by Peter Aldhous and Zahra Hirji in Buzzfeed
Boulder Co. Disaster Management director addresses concerns over Marshall Fire notifications by Russell Haythorn for KMGH-TV
The volcanic explosion in Tonga destroyed an island – and created many mysteries by Maya Wei-Haas in National Geographic
City of Medford withdraws financial support for ‘Firestorm’ sculpture from KOB15
Feds halt $1.95 billion in Harvey aid, saying Texas did not submit required paperwork by Zach Despart in the Houston Chronicle
Months after Hurricane Ida, Grand Isle has permanent power restored by Chad Calder for nola.com
Evictions continue for Houma public housing tenants displaced by Hurricane Ida by Kezia Setyawan in Houma Today
New FEMA program would place homeless disaster survivors in apartments instead of trailer parks by Hannah Dreier in The Washington Post
More than 400 Texans have sued ERCOT, energy providers over deadly February blackouts by Zach Despart in the Houston Chronicle
Can they go home again? by Karin Brulliard for The Washington Post
This Disaster Girls Podcast has one of the better critiques of the latest disaster movie Don’t Look Up and I also enjoyed “What Don’t Look Up’s” Action Campaign Gets So Wrong by Molly Taft for Earther.
The End Bits
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