A wider-angle lens

Particularly at this time of year, when we are watching hurricanes and tropical storms heading for Puerto Rico and the southesastern Atlantic coast of the continental U.S., we tend to focus on natural disaster events and their consequences that occur here in the U.S., but it can improve our perspective to widen our view occasionally and look out at what is happening globally.

Thanks to Cara Breeden, who posts weekly about publications and resources available to assist with emergency preparedness and response on the DIMRC listserv, I arrived at an excellent tool for achieving this wider view in a report published by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disaster (CRED), entitled “Annual Disaster Statistical Review 2009:  the numbers and trends.”   The report is well written, and also nicely augmented with charts that tell the stories visually.  See especially pages 12 and 13 for charts that show a telling overview of worldwide natural disasters in 2009, and especially see the “Thematic Frames,” one on storms in Europe and Asia (p. 15) and one on earthquakes (p. 21).  Both of these special topics emphasize how important preparation has been for these events, from more early-warning systems to encouraging  better building practices in earthquake-prone areas, but also how much work remains to be done.  There is an excellent list of definitions of the types of disaster events near the end of the report; see Annex 1 on page 31.

While providing a wealth of detailed information, the report does, as its title says, show trends based on the data; the most important tool we have for making preparedness plans.

CDC Treasure Trove

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have an excellent web site with a wealth of health and safety-related information on a broad range of topics and for many audience types. They have redesigned and reorganized, including more images, and the navigation features lend themselves well to helping users find information quickly. We can benefit particularly from their Emergency Preparedness and Response pages, and today are focusing on their Natural Disasters and Severe Weather subsite. For each event, they have gathered excellent information, some of which they have written, and some that links to other, related sites. Check out the “Earthquake” page, which warns that between 2008 and 2035, seismologists predict a 97 percent chance of a major quake in the New Madrid seismic zone (central US: Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, Missouri).