Catherine Hooper's Blog
Earthquakes in Chile & California
Friday, 04 April 2014 16:46

It’s a somber fact, but governments don’t always learn preparedness lessons from disasters. However, this past Wednesday, the country of Chile demonstrated that they learned some valuable earthquake preparedness and response lessons from the past.

When an 8.8-magnitude quake struck the country in 2010, the response was sluggish and haphazard and resulted in a death toll of 525 people.  When an 8.2-magnitude quake struck the country this past Wednesday, officials spring into action; 5 people lost their lives.  With geophysicists predicting an even larger earthquake in Chile’s future, it’s great to see the Chilean government working on their preparedness.

Meanwhile, in the United States, Californians endured their first quake in excess of 5.0-magnitude since 1997. Officials are hoping the event and the subsequent aftershocks will put preparedness back on center stage. The city of Los Angeles has a few specific shortfalls in earthquake preparedness, two of which could be addressed by individual preparedness measures. From the article:

“The first challenge is to fix unreinforced buildings that could collapse in a big quake, an issue that promises to stir debates about acceptable risk and who should pay for that very expensive endeavor. The other two are to plan for catastrophic collapses in water supply and basic communication, as many of the aqueducts and Internet cables that supply Los Angeles cross the San Andreas Fault.”

Airline Black Boxes
Friday, 28 March 2014 19:33

The infamous airline black box is one of the most misunderstood pieces of airline technology. The Verge thinks that the boxes could...and...should be drastically improved. The current boxes are using technology developed in the 1950s and have not undergone any significant updates.

Mudslide Death Toll Rises
Wednesday, 26 March 2014 19:21

CNN is reporting that the 16 deaths due to the Washington mudslide are likely to increase. Upwards of 176 people are still reported as missing. The massive mudslide rolled over two towns this past Saturday; pictures show what appears to be a very difficult search and rescue operation.

Challenging Security Assumptions
Friday, 21 March 2014 16:45

The past few weeks have seen several challenges to widely held assumptions about our personal safety and security. These assumptions include:

By following world news, we’ve learned that, in reality, planes are not always monitored by ground control and they do vanish. Here’s a great map/infographic from Bloomberg on all the planes that have vanished since 1954. Also, it would be reasonable to assume that 1 WTC in NYC has several layers of advanced security. This was proven false when a high school student was able to sneak to the top of the building. Even more surprising is the fact that the building has no working security cameras.

These two small examples show how we often make reasonable assumptions about our safety and security. It’s important to challenge those assumptions from time to time.

Power Grid Preparedness
Wednesday, 19 March 2014 20:40

Power grid security seems to be the hot-button preparedness issue of 2014, following the WSJ story about the possible terrorist attack on a transformer station in California last year (as well as the long lead time on building new transformers).

Now industry experts are admitting that they have a lot of work to do in the preparedness arena. This past November, nearly 2,000 utilities took part in a joint exercise that tested their vulnerability to physical and cyber attacks. Nearly all agreed that their planning and preparedness are not at acceptable levels.

Gerry Cauley, president of NERC (North American Electric Reliability Corporation, tasked with enforcing standards of conduct on the power grid), discusses some of the physical security concerns outside of terrorism:

“Utilities are hardening their systems against big storms like Hurricane Sandy and are working on determining their vulnerability to solar activity that changes the earth’s magnetic field.”

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