Category Archives: Hazards and Threats

Weather Wednesday: Arctic Clipper

Rick Atterberry, EDEN Immediate Past Chair writes about the weather. 

What’s with Weather Wednesdays?   Well, when my term as chair of the Extension Disaster Education Network came to an end in October of 2014, Virginia White asked me if I’d write an occasional blog post for EDEN and our eXtension Community of Practice.

Ever since I wrote a series of posts during and after the response to tornadoes in November of 2013 that affected Gifford, Illinois, which is in Champaign County where I serve as the volunteer Emergency Management Agency Public Information Officer and Washington, Illinois, where I grew up and have many family and friends, I’d been thinking about writing about the weather more regularly.

I hasten to add I am not a meteorologist.  Indeed we do have an actual meteorologist or two in EDEN, including Tom Priddy at the University of Kentucky who created our terrific Next 48 online dashboard tool.  I do have some formal training, but will, as any Extension employee would, rely on research.  Often, I’ll write about threats and best-practices.  On the other hand, some musings may be weather related, but not all that technical.

If you have topics you’d like to see addressed, let me know at ratterbe@illinois.edu .  In the meantime, I hope you’ll enjoy this post about the dreaded “Alberta Clipper.”

What’s an Alberta Clipper?

Much of the continental United States occasionally shivers through a winter weather system known as an Alberta Clipper.  In fact, the first full week of January this year was a classic example with record and near record low temperatures in many areas east of the Rockies.

An Alberta Clipper is a low pressure area that generally originates on the lee side of the Rockies in Alberta, but can also start in Saskatchewan or even Montana.  The “clipper” part is considered a reference to the speeds of the clipper ships. As the cold air is caught up in the typical winter jet stream pattern, it can be pushed far south in the U.S.

Alberta Clippers are characterized by sometimes dramatically colder temperatures resulting in the temperature dropping 20 degrees or more in a relatively short time.  While there is snow associated with most clipper systems, it is usually light, maybe one to three inches, and often with very low moisture content so it is easily blown about by the high winds that may occur.  It is not unusual for an Alberta Clipper to result in a “ground blizzard” after the snowfall has ended.   A ground blizzard results when snow already on the ground or falling as post-frontal flurries is caught up in the wind making forward visibility difficult and resulting in snow drifts and icy patches on highways as was experienced recently.  During a ground blizzard it is often possible to look up and see the sky much more clearly than one can see forward.

While snowfall is limited in a clipper system, the colder temperatures can plunge far south which is certainly what happened this past week.  Some of the coldest weather experienced each winter is often associated with clippers and wind chills can typically reach 30 to 40 degrees below zero, or lower, in the North Central, Great Lakes and North Atlantic States.

Threats associated with clippers include difficult driving conditions; frostbite; frozen pipes; slips and falls; residential fires resulting from malfunctioning or improperly used furnaces, fireplaces and auxiliary heating appliances; cold weather hazards to pets and livestock; and mechanical difficulties with outdoor machinery.

 

Weather Wednesday

Rick Atterberry, EDEN Immediate Past Chair begins a new series about weather with this post. 

Freezing cold thermometer iconMany northern and central states have Wind Chill Warnings or Advisories this week.  Wind chills tonight may exceed 60-degrees below zero in some areas.  In that range frostbite may occur to exposed flesh within minutes.  In addition, recent snowfall in Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin and several other states was of the dry and fluffy variety.  There is a high chance for blowing and drifting snow even though no new snow will be falling.  Visibilities will be reduced and travel may be difficult.

Here’s a link to a very brief summary of best practices from FEMA. The FEMA release includes a further link to more information from NOAA’s National Weather Service.

Several key messages:

  • Check on relatives, friends and neighbors, especially those who are homebound or have special needs.
  • If you have plumbing along exterior walls or in uninsulated spaces leave a trickle of water running and/or open under-sink cabinet doors.
  • Do not attempt to use a blowtorch or other heating device such as a paint stripping gun to thaw frozen pipes.  Get warm air circulating around the pipes or call a plumber.
  • Make sure your Carbon Monoxide detectors are operating properly and have fresh batteries.
  • Do not use a stove, oven or other appliance designed for intermittent use as a heat source.
  • Never fill a kerosene heater indoors.  Allow the unit to cool and fill it outdoors.
  • Avoid using extension cords with electric heaters.  Occasionally feel the attached cord on the heater and the wall outlet into which it is plugged.  If either the cord or the outlet is warm to the touch discontinue use of the heater.
  • Never warm up a vehicle by operating the engine in an enclosed space such as an attached garage.
  • Keep vehicle fuel tanks topped up.
  • If you must travel, make sure you let people know your intended route and anticipated time of arrival.  Leave home with a fully charged cell phone if possible and make sure you have a charger with you.  Keep an emergency kit in your car including a flashlight, high energy food bars, bottled water or a safe means to melt snow for drinking, blanket, first aid kit, fire extinguisher, jumper cables, etc.
  • Stay aware of the official names of the roads on which you are travelling and note mile markers or intersections in case you need to report your location.
  • Stay with your vehicle if it becomes stuck or disabled.   Run the vehicle for about ten minutes each hour to provide heat, but crack a window away from the exhaust pipe when doing so and make sure the exhaust pipe is clear of snow.
  • Do not use cruise control when roads are wet, icy or snow-covered.

Most importantly, give the first responders, tow truck operators and snowplow drivers a break and stay home if at all possible.

Meet a Delegate Monday: Sonja Koukel

Michelle Bufkin, AU Agriculture Communications Student/EDEN Community of Practice Social Media Assistant, recently interviewed EDEN delegate Sonja Koukel

1. How did you first get involved with EDEN?Sonja Koukel
My initial involvement in disaster preparedness and emergency planning occurred when I was employed as a University of Alaska Fairbanks Extension district agent based in Juneau (2005-2010). One of the most important roles I played in that capacity happened when an avalanche took out the hydropower lines affecting 30,000 residents. As the Extension agent, I provided information to the Governor’s office covering topic areas from keeping foods safe to safe use of alternative fuel heat sources. When I relocated to New Mexico, I approached Billy Dictson – then, the Point of Contact (POC) – and asked what I could do to help. I became an EDEN delegate, attended the 2010 Lexington, KY, annual meeting and have attended every annual meeting since. I also became the POC when Mr. Dictson retired.

2. Can you tell us a little about your role in disaster preparedness in your state?
This is another area in which Billy Dictson played a large part. He was a founding member of the Southwest Border Food Safety and Defense Center housed on the New Mexico State University campus. In a nutshell, the Center helps communities plan and exercise food protection planning and incident response, all hazards agriculture response and recovery planning, and risk assessment planning. When I arrived in NM, Mr. Dictson hired me to coordinate the Food Safety Initiative. Upon his retirement, 2012, I stepped into the position of Co-Director for the Center. As an Extension Specialist, and through my connection with the Center, I assist in helping raise awareness of disaster preparedness with Extension county agents and the general public, by providing materials, resources, and exploring the best use of social media in response and recovery.

3. How have you seen disaster preparedness differ from state to state?
While the nature of the potential disaster may differ – avalanches in Alaska / wildfires in New Mexico – I find the act of preparedness very similar no matter where you live. The greatest difficulty is in getting individuals to actively engage in preparedness as most have the “it will never happen to me” mentality. In both Alaska and New Mexico, my work revolves around raising awareness, engaging Extension agents and community members in training and exercises, and then keeping people involved during the absence of disasters.

4. What can EDEN delegates look forward to for the 2015 EDEN Annual meeting?
Bienviendos! The Annual Meeting will be held in Las Cruces, New Mexico – also known as “The City of the Crosses.” Located about 50 miles north of the Mexican border, with a population of just over 100,000, it is the second largest city in the state and is home to New Mexico State University – the land-grant institution of NM.

EDEN delegates have a unique opportunity to visit the Santa Teresa International Export/Import Livestock Crossing located on the U.S.-Mexico border. The border crossing is the busiest in the U.S. averaging over 300,000 animals a year. Visit their website for videos and more in-depth information. We are currently planning: a tour of the Santa Teresa “inland port” Union Pacific rail facility and a visit to Old Mesilla, NM, where Billy the Kid was tried and sentenced to hang. Visit the EDEN homepage for information on the post-meeting trip to Albuquerque – an EDEN excursion to the International Balloon Fiesta!

5. What was your favorite part of the 2014 EDEN Annual meeting?
Attending Annual Meeting is a source of motivation for me. Reconnecting with EDEN professionals who have become friends over the years, meeting new delegates, and attending the informational sessions are my favorite parts. I’m always amazed with the incredible work the EDEN group accomplishes year after year. Muscle Shoals, AL, is a fabulous place and a location I don’t think I would have experienced had it not been for EDEN.

Meet a Delegate Monday: Pat Skinner

Michelle Bufkin, AU Agriculture Communications Student/EDEN Community of Practice Social Media Assistant, recently interviewed EDEN delegate Pat Skinner. 

Pat Skinner photo

1. How did you first get involved with EDEN?

In fall of 1997 the LSU AgCenter disaster mitigation and housing programs convened a conference in New Orleans called “Breaking the Housing Disaster Cycle.” Joe Wysocki, then program leader for CSREES housing education, mentioned that he was working with a North Central Region (NCR) committee called EDEN. EDEN’s three-year NCR committee life was coming to an end and the members wanted to explore taking the concept national. They joined our conference and – at the end – asked if Louisiana would take the leadership and begin expanding the membership. I became the first national chair and webmaster in January 1998.

2. Can you tell us a little about your role in disaster preparedness in your state?
My role in disaster management is primarily about risk appreciation and mitigation. I came to Extension in the early 1990’s for the specific purpose of conducting an education program associated with a river commission project to raise five structures “slab-n-all.” That program was funded by FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) for Hurricane Andrew. I had no Extension experience, but lots of experience with floods and the federal flood programs, primarily the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

In the late 1990s I led another project in which we developed and coached flood mitigation task forces in fifteen SE Louisiana parishes. The task-force project introduced our Extension agents to parish floodplain administrators (FPAs), and introduced both our agents and FPAs to their emergency managers and occasionally to local voluntary organizations active in disasters. The 1997 conference that brought EDEN to New Orleans was part of this task-force project.

My primary program since the 2005 hurricanes (Katrina and Rita) has been creation of an Internet-based Enterprise GIS system that provides flood- and wind-hazard information for any point in Louisiana; the point is specified by a user placing a pin in a map manually or by address lookup, using road and aerial base maps for reference. At www.LSUAgCenter.com/Floodmaps we host, read and interpret the Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) of the NFIP for the entire state. We read the Basic Wind Speed (BWS) at a location from another Internet service we built for this application. We give the user ground elevation (consumed from the US Geological Survey), which the user can compare to Base Flood Elevation (BFE) on the FIRM to get an idea of how deep the 100-year flood would be at their point of interest. We even draw them a picture using our BFE Scenarios application. The BWS and BFE information is essential to people making building and restoration decisions because the statewide building code adopted in 2006 requires buildings to be designed and built to resist damage from these hazards.

Currently I have the privilege of managing a comprehensive disaster mitigation program that for the first time engages 4-H youth.

3. What was a highlight from your term as EDEN chair?
The highlight of working in Extension is always getting to work with really good, selfless people on a mission. That would be true for the early EDEN days, and still today. As I see how subsequent chairs have managed and led and hosted meetings I am horrified at what I didn’t know back then. But these are forgiving folk.

Louisiana took the leadership because EDEN asked us to. I took the lead role because my boss said I should. He believed in me, even though – or perhaps because – I knew nothing about Extension. I was unencumbered by notions of what was and was not possible at any level. So I guess the highlight was simply that over those early years we moved forward.

4. Can you tell us about the role you currently hold with EDEN?
My official role in EDEN is Web Manager and PD for the LSU AgCenter subcontract of Purdue’s NIFA funds for support of EDEN work. The LSU AgCenter hosts a number of EDEN Internet and Intranet web presences and provides networking support, working closely with the EDEN Communications group at Purdue. I gave up web-mastering many years ago and now just think up stuff for our very talented webmaster – Andrew Garcia — to do.
I am most active in the EDEN Exec and international committees, and now taking greater interest in the youth activities and disaster activation and communication planning arenas.

5. What was your favorite part of the 2014 EDEN Annual Meeting?
There were several high points, but my hands-down favorite part had to be bringing the 4-H’ers to the meeting and having the group receive them with such enthusiasm.

Meet a Delegate Monday: Andy Vestal

Michelle Bufkin, AU Agriculture Communications Student/EDEN Community of Practice Social Media Assistant, recently interviewed EDEN delegate Dr. Andy Vestal, who will have a breakout session at the EDEN Annual Meeting. 

1. How did you first get involved with EDEN? Dr. Andy Vestal

I got involved in EDEN about a month before Hurricane Katrina, in July of 2005. I was immediately led to the effort because of a six-year grant for animal disease and homeland security response and recovery. Within a month of being in this position, Hurricane Katrina hit followed by Hurricane Rita, and we realized we had a lot to do preparedness-wise. The fall of 2005 was my first visit to the EDEN Annual Meeting in Fargo, North Dakota. It was an experience for me to see the overall mission and goals of the organization: to help people help themselves.

2. Without divulging too much of your annual meeting material, can you tell us how the strike teams were formed?

After any incident an after action report is filed. After [Hurricane] Ike the report stated there was high priority to establish mission ready teams of seasoned County Extension Agents, CEA, that were deployable. The first teams were established in the Gulf Coast, where 7 million Texans live.

3. What are some of the disasters that have affected Texas over the past few years and how have you been involved?

In 2008 when Hurricane Ike hit us it was a challenge; 32,000 families lost their homes along with a large agricultural loss. Hurricane Ike, though only a category 2 hurricane, was about 450 miles wide. It pushed an 18 foot wall of water 20 miles inland, covering mostly ranchland that had about 35,000 head of cattle. We realized that within 72 hours the cattle would have saline toxicity, because all they had to drink was salt water. We deployed our strike teams to create Livestock Supply Points, LSP’s, and from September 13 to 30 we received and distributed over 125 semi-truck loads of feed and hay. By week 3, we started shipping about 15,000 head of cattle into other parts of the state.

In 2011 every geographic region of Texas had challenges with wildfires; there were over 32,000 in the state, and dozens were 50,000 acres or greater; over 3 million acres burnt. Our Livestock Supply Points and CEA strike teams were again activated to stand up 13 LSP’s. Our goal was not to put out fires, but to help landowners with displaced livestock. We received and distributed approximately 120 semi-truck loads of hay and feed. We were much better prepared, because we had about 50 County Extension Agents that were seasoned, trained, and mission ready.

4. What has been the most rewarding thing you have done in terms of disaster preparedness for your state?

The Hurricane Ike recovery, “Operation No Fences” on YouTube shows the land and livestock owners response, along with county agents and other volunteer organizations. The support we built for them was rewarding to our county extension agents because we had farmers and ranchers that had lost everything. To find that we had a mobilized team supporting them was unexpected, but extremely helpful. We estimate we saved the USDA indemnity program more than $10 million by shipping cattle out, since it saved their lives, and it costs about $600 a head to bury cattle. Also about 80% of the cattle shipped out had brands and/or ear tags; we had brand inspectors to help identify the rightful owners. Through these efforts we were able to maintain the strong fabric of the local agricultural economy in that area.

5. Have you worked on any multi-state projects through EDEN and what have those been?

I have had two major multi-state projects through EDEN. Both were funded by the Department of Homeland Security, DHS, at Texas A&M. The goal of the first was to strengthen crisis communications. We adopted the Association for Communication Excellence, ACE, group’s curriculum called “Media Relations Made Easy.” We incorporated an animal disease issue scenario into the training and partnered with multiple land grant universities to host a series of six workshops using that curriculum. We had about 180 Ag communicators from 29 states and Canada attend.

The second project was partnering with 22 state veterinarians and extension programs to test and establish an animal health network in those states. This program is still up and running. The mission of that project was to improve upon the state veterinarian’s capability to have early detection and rapid response to animal diseases, especially in smaller, hobby farms.

6. What do you think is the most important thing EDEN delegates can do to help the citizens in their states?

Learn from other state’s experiences. There’s a lot of different material and experiences that states can learn from each other. When we learn from each other we may reinvent something we learned from Washington State to fit our state, but the fact that we have guidance is extremely valuable.

If you haven’t yet registered for 2014 EDEN Annual Meeting, follow this link to register.

 

4 things to do during a hurricane

Post by Michelle Bufkin, AU Agriculture Communications Student/EDEN Community of Practice Social Media Assistant

Last week we discussed what to do to prepare, before a hurricane forms. This week we will discuss what to during a hurricane in your area. Even though there are no hurricanes on either side of the US currently, it is never too early to prepare!

Hurrican 1. Listen to a weather radio or app
The best way to stay informed during a hurricane is to listen to a weather radio. Nowadays there are apps that do the same thing, but I would be wary about using them during a storm because the power may be out and your phone can die quickly when using them. You may ask, why should I listen to the weather radio, I already know a hurricane is in my area. Because hurricanes can cause other natural disasters such as: tornadoes, hail, flooding, and landslides. The best way to be prepared for these is to be informed.

2. Ensure food & water availability
One important thing to have during a hurricane is enough food and water for you and your family. The issue with this, is having food that can be eaten without power. For a list of suggested ready to eat food to have, visit this website. For a safe water supply fill up tubs for water to flush toilets. For safe drinking water fill up large containers, estimate a gallon of water a day per person for a few days. For more water tips visit here.

food safety3. Ensure (cold) food safety
One easy way to keep cold food safe is to turn your refrigerator to its coldest setting and keep the doors closed. If the fridge temperature rises above 40 degrees for more than two hours go ahead and discard any perishable foods such as meat, poultry, leftovers, fish, and eggs. If your freezer rises above 40 degrees for an extended period of time and the food no longer has ice crystals on it throw it out. Never taste food to see if it is still good. Remember this handy tip: when in doubt, throw it out!

4. Evacuation
If you are considering evacuation, evacuate early. It reduces the stress on you and your family from traffic. If an evacuation becomes mandatory, know your evacuation routes and have a plan in place on how to reach them if they become congested. Don’t forget to already have a planned place to evacuate to, and contact them ahead of time.

I hope these tips help you feel more confident in preparing for when a hurricane is approaching your area. Remember: It is never too early to prepare!

5 Things to do to be Hurricane Ready

Post by Michelle Bufkin, AU Agriculture Communications Student/EDEN Community of Practice Social Media Assistant

With the first hurricane of the season in the East Pacific Ocean approaching Central America and the Atlantic Ocean clear for now, there is no better time to begin preparing. There are 5 important steps to follow now when preparing for hurricane season.

1. Build an emergency kit
This should be done before a hurricane is forming, so plan ahead and buy a few things every time you go to the store. Do not wait until the last minute to buy supplies for your kit, they may not be available! To find out what to put in your emergency kit by visiting redcross.org. Dog at table, "Where's the plan?"Also don’t forget your pets while making emergency kits. The ASPCA and PetMD provide good overviews of what should be in a pet emergency kit. Ready.gov also provides great information on preparing your pet for emergencies.

2. Make a plan
Your family should have an emergency plan prepared and in place long before NOAA announces a tropical storm or hurricane. Make sure in this plan you include where your family plans to evacuate to if necessary. If you plan to evacuate to friends or relatives make sure they are aware and correctly prepared to house (not the word I wanna use, but can’t think of another one) you and your family should the need arise.  Check out this free printable checklist from getbuttonedup.com. What tasks can you check off in twenty minutes a night for a week?

3. Know your surroundings
Check the area you live to see if it is prone to flooding from storm surges and rains. If it is make sure insurance will cover any flooding that might occur this hurricane season. Research the local evacuation routes and how to get to them. If an evacuation becomes mandatory the routes might become extremely congested or difficult to reach. Can you identify an alternate route? Being prepared beforehand and confident of the location of the routes will make the evacuation much smoother. If you don’t live on the coast, you still might be affected by hurricane evacuations. Is your community a destination for evacuees?

4. Plan to secure your belongings
If a hurricane becomes imminent and threatening, it might be necessary to move some of your belongings to better protect them. If you discuss this ahead of time, the stress of moving them can be reduced. You will want to bring in all outdoor furniture and anything else that might blow away. If you have antique or sentimental pieces of furniture and your house is prone to flooding, or you think it might, moving those pieces to a higher level will better protect them. You can also take inventory of your belongings ahead of time, either by pictures or pen and paper. This will better help the insurance company assess losses.

5. Prepare your property
There are things you can do around your house now to better protect your property from wind or rain. Trim dead limbs or branches off trees and bushes to make them more wind resistant. Clear gutters of debris. Install storm shutters on your windows. These are permanent and prevent breaking. If you plan on riding the storm out, buy or inspect your generator to insure that it is working properly.

Even though hurricane season is just beginning, it is never too early to get prepared! Check back next week to see what you should do once a hurricane is formed and approaching!

p.s.  Here are homeowner handbooks from the Gulf of Mexico Alliance.

Interview with Dr. Melissa Newman: Oso Mudslide Volunteer Part II

Michelle Bufkin, AU Agriculture Communications Student/ EDEN Community of Practice Social Media Assistant, recently interviewed Dr. Melissa Newman to learn about search and rescue dogs and about her experience in Oso. Here is part 2 of Michelle’s interview with EDEN delegate Melissa Newman

How was the Oso mudslide similar or different from other conditions you have worked with your dog?
It was absolutely completely different. There was no way I could have prepared or trained my dogs for that. This mudslide was so much bigger than anything I could explain. There was more than just a little bit of mud. We were talking anywhere between 10-40 feet of mud. There were trees, houses, anything in its way it just pushed, it was said that the winds in front of the mudslide were in excess of 200 mph. They had huge excavators from the lumber companies and they were running everywhere creating noise; I could not have trained that situation, but because of the other training we had given the dogs they were prepared for it. Dog experts say that dogs don’t generalize, but I think you can train them to; when you keep taking them to different rubble piles they start to realize that the conditions don’t matter, they just need to do their job. But the mud was crazy, I sunk at one point all the way up to my chest and it took six men to dig me out because the mud was so deep and thick. These dogs maneuvered over all of this, got stuck in the mud, pulled themselves out. It was absolutely incredible, I was impressed with all of the dogs there, not just mine. There were 20 dogs there sent by FEMA, split into two groups of 10 dogs. I worked with the 10 dogs that were in my group and one dog was as good as another.

FEMA Oso MudslideDid the mud from the slide mess up the dog’s senses? 
Working the slide was actually difficult for the dogs because there were places where the odor did not come straight out. There was a lot of water because the slide rerouted a river, so the dogs would find odor in the water, and they were right, but that was not where we needed to dig. So what we did for the most part was once a dog sensed odor we would send in another dog to better locate a high priority place to dig. It was difficult for the dogs originally because they were not getting rewarded even though they thought they were at source. There was just so many feet of mud, and it rained out there probably 11 or 12 of the 14 days we were there, so the mud never dried; which may have actually helped us because if it had dried it would have made a cast that really would have kept the odor down. It was tough work, and unfortunately because there were so many fatalities that meant there was an odor everywhere. The dogs adjusted to it, but no dog by itself had a find. It was absolutely a team effort. When we went out, there were 12 people missing still, when we left that number was down to two.

With such a large area of debris, how did you focus a search?
They separated the areas geographically. There was a natural break in the mudslide to the east and west, so they split down that. I was assigned with the California Task Force 7, who hosted us. We worked the western side of the slide. They broke it down in grids, so we just worked the dogs in those grids and cleared our portion of it. The other group was assigned to Washington Task Force 1 and worked the same way on the east side. The excavators had their own grid, they would dig to natural surface and then move and dig to natural surface there. What made this a unique deployment is this was the first time that FEMA sent FEMA certified human remains detection dogs, they have used HR dogs before. They also did the first modular deployment ever, which means only handlers and their dogs were sent to Washington, instead of our entire task force. They did this because California Task Force 7 and Washington Task Force 1 were already in place, all they needed more of was handlers and dogs.

I know the conditions in Oso were extreme. How long can a dog successfully work in conditions like that?
It varies. When we went out originally we were working 10-hour days, but they quickly realized they did not want to exhaust all of the dogs at once. So they put us on a rotation where we would either get a morning or an afternoon off every other day. We were working 4-hour shifts, and during those 4 hours the dogs were not going non-stop. On the first few days we did the wide, cover it and screen it, and they got GPS points to focus on from there. Then we came back and targeted those areas. Personally, I would have liked to work my dog more, but the way they handled him he worked very hard and very well. Two things we were concerned about were dehydration and hypothermia. We had to put them in warming tents and make sure they had fluids whenever we were not working.

After seeing the disaster first hand, is there any advice you would give our readers to help recover from a natural disaster like this?
This community was pretty spectacular, they just handled it. This slide took out a major road between two towns,so all they had now was a logging road south of the incident; the day I got there it was a one-lane rough road, and when I left most of it was two lanes and resurfaced. The community was really good about taking care of people, we had thank you notes in our laundry and lunches, there were people that were doing our laundry for free to support us. As a community they knew where their resources were, their fire departments responded immediately. Knowing what resources you have available to you in state is critical. The communities need to know the details of where to get state support before an incident occurs. I can’t see anything that this community could have done differently to help in recovery. They managed their donations really well by documenting when people picked things up. People forget about that, because after a disaster donations will be made, so that raises the need for somewhere and someone to manage the donations. I guess that is a lesson learned for other communities, never underestimate the amount of stuff the community will receive. It truly was an honor to help this community because they are so sad, and if you can help them it’s good to be able to do that.

Didn’t see the first part of the interview? Read it here.

Interview with Dr. Melissa Newman: Oso Mudslide Volunteer Part I

Thanks to University of Kentucky  Point of Contact Andrea Higdon, we learned that Dr.  Melissa Newman and her rescue dog had been deployed to Oso to help find people buried by the mudslide. Melissa is an associate professor at the University of Kentucky and an EDEN delegate. Michelle Bufkin, AU Agriculture Communications Student/EDEN Community of Practice Social Media Assistant, recently interviewed Melissa to learn about search and rescue dogs and about her experience in Oso. Below is part one of  the interview.  

Can you tell us how you first got involved with EDEN, and what your role is?
I have been working with EDEN for about 12 years now. Originally I was just curious, but then I got involved here at the University of Kentucky with Andrea Husband and Roberta Dwyer. We received funding through grants and have not turned back since. We have done an online program and got involved with the S-CAP, Strengthening Community Agrosecurity Preparedness, Project. It just became one neat thing after another. We love working together. It is also one of the passions I have: I am a deputy sheriff, a firefighter and with the task force, so it all fits together.

How did you get involved in search and rescue and why did you get into the human remains detection part of search and rescue?
According to my mother, I have always been interested in canine work. Many years ago, a little kid went missing near my home in the middle of nowhere Kentucky. I offered my assistance since I had endurance horses and could ride trails. They sent me away saying they did not need my help. That is the only search I have ever been on that sent anyone away. So when I got my next dog I sought out a state organization to learn about search and rescue. I did not know whether the dog  or I could do it, but luckily I was gifted with a dog that absolutely loved the work. I started out just doing wilderness search and rescue, which is when a little kid goes missing in the woods you go find them, or so I thought. When the first three finds I had were deceased victims, I started to realize that, at least in Kentucky, people don’t just get lost because there is a McDonald’s within a mile if you walk in a straight line. When people go missing in Kentucky, a lot of times, it is because something bad has happened to them.

My dog was probably 2 years old when I actually started training him to be a human remains detection dog. I certified him through the North American Police Work Dog Association, because at that time all of the human remains detection dogs had to be certified through law enforcement. He was the first of many trained dogs for me. It took a mindset shift, to remind myself that I am now looking for deceased people, but it only took one search for me to recognize that bringing the loved one home is critical to the healing of the family. It is not a pleasant thing to go do, but it really does help the families. I always tell this story to explain where I am coming from: Very early in my career, I went on a search for a drowning victim, the dog and I were in the boat with our life vests on: I look over and see a woman sitting on a dock with her legs crossed, just looking out over the water, the driver of the boat tells me that she is the wife of the man we are looking for. It really hit me that she needed him back, alive would have been much better, but she needed closure. That’s how I started and that’s one of the main reasons why I keep a really good attitude about it, because I am working for the family at that point.

IMG_1012How long have you trained and handled search and rescue dogs? And what breeds do you use?
I have trained and handled these dogs for 15 years. I actually just lost my first dog in December. He was over 15 years old. I predominantly use German Shepherds, but for my Federal Emergency Management Agency, live-find work, I have a Labrador and a Dutch Shepherd, because to do the work for FEMA they have to be so athletic and over the top ready to work; they can’t be affected by the environment. I go with the best dog, not necessarily the best breed, but I am biased to German Shepherds because I love them. The traditional FEMA dog is a live-find dog. It was not until August of last year (2013) that FEMA allowed task forces to have human remains detection dogs. This was because FEMA’s objective was to get there very quickly and find everyone alive and save them. But they realized when they’re coming in days after an event occurs they still need to help in the recovery process so the community can move on.

Can you give a detailed description of how your dog does its job?
They work by smelling the air. My job is to get him in a position to have the wind blown to him, much like a bird dog works. We refer to this as air scent search dogs, as opposed to a traditional tracking dog, which a lot of people think of as a bloodhound with his nose on the ground. My dogs work off-lead. Most of the time they work without collars because we are sending them into hazardous conditions and don’t want them to get hung up on anything. We’ll send them into the area, they’ll cover the area smelling the wind and if they detect the presence of human remains, they will go to that location and get as absolutely as close as they can. We train them nose to source. The closeness is really critical in law enforcement, but we use it for disaster dogs also. They get to that point and then bark until the handler gets there to say good boy. My dogs are working towards a paycheck of a toy, different dogs have different rewards but I have found toys work best for them. Some people try to reward with food, the problem with that is that, at some disasters there are people’s kitchens with refrigerators full of food so the dog will eat while working, and not get a lot of work done. With my dogs, they know that I am the one that has his toy, so he has to find something for me to reward him.

Earthquake Warning in Oklahoma

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the Oklahoma Geological Survey have issued a rare Earthquake Warning for a potential magnitude 5 or above quake for the state of Oklahoma.  How rare?  This is the first earthquake warning ever for a location east of the Rocky Mountains.

183 earthquakes of magnitude 3 or higher were reported in Oklahoma between October of 2013 and mid-April 0f 2014.  Up to 2008, the long term average was just 2 a year.
The surveys say that past experience has shown that clusters of smaller earthquakes often precede a quake of magnitude 5 or stronger.  Oklahoma experienced a damaging 5.6 magnitude earthquake in 2011.  14 homes were destroyed and two people were injured.

Scientists are studying a possible correlation between the increasing use of deep injection wastewater wells used in connection with hydraulic fracturing in the oil and gas industry  and the increase in the frequency of earthquakes in Oklahoma and elsewhere.

Earthquake SafetyThe Federal Emergency Management Agency has a very good earthquake preparedness website .

In addition the USGS has preparedness tips.

A consortium of organizations from earthquake prone California has a seven step preparedness guide.

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency has a downloadable game that can help families learn about earthquakes together.

Earthquakes can and do occur in every one of the 50 states so the current situation in Oklahoma provides an opportunity to review our personal, family, institutional and business plans.