September 29, 2011 at 10:55 pm By Roz Potter
Preparedness. You’ve thought about it, and even bought a thing or two. Here’s your chance to get a big part of the job done.
In one day, for 6 hours, in one place, you’ll find an array of the supplies, equipment, instruction, demonstrations, and documents needed to get your household ready for serious emergencies.
Through live demonstrations you’ll learn how to store and disinfect water, handle utility emergencies, use safety, self-defense, and communication devices, and select worthwhile supplies and equipment for disaster essentials such as lighting, communications, and sanitation.
We’ll disassemble several ready-made “Go”Bags and first-aid kits so you can see the quality and contents for yourself. And, we’ll provide supply lists and and have basic contents available for 3-day “Go” Bags you can build for home, work, car and school, for yourself, family members and for gifts. A limited number of “Go” Bags will be available to purchase
Food, first-aid and hygiene packs, light sources, radios and other communication devices, water storage containers and water purification items, sanitation, self-defense and other equipment, along with carriers, will be on-hand
Put together your own disaster plan so you can easily contact and reunite family members, locate emergency services, communicate with advisers, turn off utilities, access critical records and items, and obtain safe medical care, when options are limited
Saturday, November 12, 2011, from 10 am to 4 pm, The John Muir Inn, Napa, CA
$60 fee includes 2.5 hours of disaster preparedness instruction, Defying Disaster’s preparedness documents including communication, reunification, utility emergency and pet plans, and emergency medical information forms, 3-day “Go” Bag supply lists for home, car, school and work, demonstrations, and a Defying Disaster Daypack
Advance reservations required. To reserve a space, send $30 deposit and contact information to Defying Disaster, P.O. Box 5927, Napa, CA 94581. For further information, please call 707.255.7146 or use the form on this website’s “Contact” page. Some partial scholarships are available
Space is limited. A second workshop will be held December 3, 10-4, also at the John Muir Inn
September 29, 2011 at 8:03 pm By Roz Potter
From Maryn McKenna’s blog on Wired.com: Link
We refrigerate food so we don’t get sick. But in the case of the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes, refrigeration doesn’t help because unlike most other bacteria, Listeria reproduces well in cold temperatures.
An outbreak of foodborne illness that appears to be spread by fresh cantaloupes has sickened 72 people so far, in 18 states, and 13 have died. According to investigators, the source of the contamination has not yet been found. And also, according to a media briefing today, the contaminated cantaloupes were also shipped overseas, to countries that investigators would not identify.
And, as an extra bonus, the tally of cases and deaths is likely to keep rising, because the particular illness in this outbreak has an incubation period of up to two months
The outbreak, which has been building for several weeks, involves melons from a single grower in Granada, Colo. called Jensen Farms. The first cases occurred at the beginning of August and authorities began to be concerned when the outbreak crossed state lines in early September. On Sept. 14, the growers did the right thing and launched a recall of all the whole cantaloupes they shipped between July 29 and Sept. 10. To their knowledge, they had sold cantaloupes to wholesalers and distributors in 17 25 states.
At this point, I can practically hear foodborne-disease geeks — as well as almost anyone who has taken a tropical vacation — thinking to themselves: “Wait. Weren’t we told it’s safe to eat fruit if it has a rind and you don’t eat the rind? You don’t eat cantaloupe rind. What gives?” And that’s correct, generally.
The advice you get, if you want to eat anything raw that might have been contaminated, is to choose something with a peel, wash it, and then peel it yourself. But there’s an aspect of melon that makes this problematic: Unlike a banana, you don’t peel a melon with your fingers. You slice it, and the knife blade can carry any organisms on the outside of the melon into the flesh.
September 20, 2011 at 10:16 pm By Roz Potter
From the Digital Journal, Link . Also see Geology.com, Link for a discussion of the 1815 eruption – the largest in recorded history and the cause of a deadly lowering of global temperatures.
Increased rumblings this month from Mount Tambora on Indonesia’s Sumbawa Island are forcing residents to take the mountain seriously, with authorities there raising the volcano alert to its second-highest level.
“On August 30, we recorded seven volcanic earthquakes and since Sept. 8 the frequency of the quakes rose substantially, to between 12 and 16 per day,” said Husnuddin, head of the West Nusa Tenggara Disaster Mitigation Agency, (BNPB), the Jakarta Globe
reports. Mount Tambora has the distinction of having the world’s deadliest eruption which killed at least 71,000 people, with some estimates as high as 90,000. Between 11,000-12,000 were killed by the eruption itself while tens of thousands more died from the ensuing starvation and disease associated with volcanic fallout which created the “Year Without a Summer” in 1816, a summer which greatly impacted the Northern Hemisphere, including North America and Europe.
Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/311696#ixzz1YYpHX4QS
September 20, 2011 at 1:18 pm By Roz Potter
Seasonal flu is especially dangerous for young children, the elderly and those with chronic medical conditions. Last year’s pandemic swine flu, although producing mild illness in many, resulted in deaths and serious complications for children and young adults in particular.
Here are some excerpts from a recently released guide for parents:
How serious is the flu?
Flu illness can vary from mild to severe. While the flu can be serious even in people who are otherwise healthy, it can be especially dangerous for young children and children of any age who have certain long term health conditions, including asthma (even mild or controlled), neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions, chronic lung disease, heart disease, blood disorders, endocrine disorders (such as diabetes), kidney, liver, and metabolic disorders, and weakened immune systems due to disease or medication. Children with these conditions and children who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy can have more severe illness from the flu.
What are the symptoms of the flu?
Symptoms of the flu can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea. Some people with
the flu will not have a fever
How can I protect my child against the flu?
To protect against the flu, the first and most important thing you can do is to get a flu vaccine for yourself and your child.
Vaccination is recommended for everyone 6 monthsand older.
It’s especially important that young children and children with long term health conditions get vaccinated. (See list of conditions under “How Serious is the Flu?”)
Caregivers of children with health conditions or of children younger than 6 months old should get vaccinated. (Babies younger than 6 months are too young to be vaccinated themselves.)
Another way to protect babies is to vaccinate pregnant women because research shows that this gives some protection to the baby both while the woman is pregnant and for a few months after the baby is born.
September 20, 2011 at 12:53 pm By Roz Potter
From the Washington Blog: Link
[A] study [by University of Texas engineering professor Steven Biegalski and researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory] reports that more radioxenon was released from the Fukushima facilities than in the 1979 meltdown at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Pennsylvania and in the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster in the Ukraine.
“As the measurements came in sooner and at higher concentrations than we initially expected, we quickly came to the conclusion that there were some major core melts at those facilities,” Biegalski said. “I remember being in the lab thinking, ‘Wow, if this is all true we have a far more bigger accident than what we’re hearing right now.’”
The thought was confirmed by data collected by he and PNNL researchers. Their study reports that more radioxenon was released from the Fukushima facilities than in the 1979 meltdown at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Pennsylvania and in the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster in the Ukraine.
Biegalski said the reason for the large release in Fukushima, when compared to the others, is that there were three nuclear reactors at the Japan facilities rather than just one.
Nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen notes:
New TEPCO data measured on August 19 & 20 shows severe damage to the spent fuel in Fukushima Daiichi Units 1, 2, and 3…. This TEPCO data clearly contradicts and refutes the July assertion by the NRC the Fukushima Daiichi spent fuel pools were not damaged in this tragic accident.
The following was reported in an earlier post by Defying Disaster, see Link :
As a radiation meteorology and nuclear safety expert at Kyoto University’s Research Reactor Institute, Hiroaki Koide [says]:
The nuclear disaster is ongoing.
At present, I believe that there is a possibility that massive amounts of radioactive materials will be released into the environment again.
At the No. 1 reactor, there’s a chance that melted fuel has burned through the bottom of the pressure vessel, the containment vessel and the floor of the reactor building, and has sunk into the ground. From there, radioactive materials may be seeping into the ocean and groundwater.
September 19, 2011 at 4:21 pm By Roz Potter
From the NYT: Link
A medical privacy breach led to the public posting on a commercial Web site of data for 20,000 emergency room patients at Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto, Calif., including names and diagnosis codes, the hospital has confirmed. The information stayed online for nearly a year.
Since discovering the breach last month, the hospital has been investigating how a detailed spreadsheet made its way from one of its vendors, a billing contractor identified as Multi-Specialty Collection Services, to a Web site called Student of Fortune, which allows students to solicit paid assistance with their schoolwork.
Gary Migdol, a spokesman for Stanford Hospital and Clinics, said the spreadsheet first appeared on the site on Sept. 9, 2010, as an attachment to a question about how to convert the data into a bar graph.
The spreadsheet included names, diagnosis codes, account numbers, admission and discharge dates, and billing charges for patients seen at Stanford Hospital’s emergency room during a six-month period in 2009, Mr. Migdol said. It did not include Social Security numbers, birth dates, credit-card numbers or other information used to perpetrate identity theft, he said, but the hospital is offering free identity protection services to affected patients.
Records compiled by the Department of Health and Human Services reveal that personal medical data for more than 11 million people have been improperly exposed during the past two years alone.
September 14, 2011 at 8:32 pm By Roz Potter
From the Mainichi Daily News, Link
As a radiation metrology and nuclear safety expert at Kyoto University’s Research Reactor Institute, Hiroaki Koide has been critical of how the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) have handled the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. Below, he shares what he thinks may happen in the coming weeks, months and years.
The nuclear disaster is ongoing. Immediately after the crisis first began to unfold, I thought that we’d see a definitive outcome within a week. However, with radioactive materials yet to be contained, we’ve remained in the unsettling state of not knowing how things are going to turn out.
Without accurate information about what’s happening inside the reactors, there’s a need to consider various scenarios. At present, I believe that there is a possibility that massive amounts of radioactive materials will be released into the environment again.
At the No. 1 reactor, there’s a chance that melted fuel has burned through the bottom of the pressure vessel, the containment vessel and the floor of the reactor building, and has sunk into the ground. From there, radioactive materials may be seeping into the ocean and groundwater.
The use of water to cool down the reactors immediately after the crisis first began resulted in 110,000 cubic meters of radiation-tainted water. Some of that water is probably leaking through the cracks in the concrete reactor buildings produced by the March 11 quake. Contaminated water was found flowing through cracks near an intake canal, but I think that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
I believe that contaminated water is still leaking underground, where we can’t see it. Because of this, I believe immediate action must be taken to build underground water barriers that would close off the nuclear power plant to the outside world and prevent radioactive materials from spreading. The important thing is to stop any further diffusion of radioactive materials.
The government and plant operator TEPCO are trumpeting the operation of the circulation cooling system, as if it marks a successful resolution to the disaster. However, radiation continues to leak from the reactors. The longer the circulation cooling system keeps running, the more radioactive waste it will accumulate. It isn’t really leading us in the direction we need to go.
September 13, 2011 at 11:23 pm By Roz Potter
From the Globe and Mail: Link
Tuberculosis is an airborne disease that knows no boundaries. It is spread person to person through air that is exhaled, coughed or sneezed by infected individuals. Exposed individuals who are very young, old, chronically ill or immunocompromised are at highest risk.
“TB is an old disease that never went away, and now it is evolving with a vengeance,” said Zsuzsanna Jakab, the WHO’s Regional Director for Europe.
“The numbers are scary,” Lucica Ditiu, executive secretary of the Stop TB Partnership told a news conference in London. “This is a very dramatic situation.”
TB is currently a worldwide pandemic that kills around 1.7 million people a year. The infection is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis and destroys patients’ lung tissue, causing them to cough up the bacteria, which then spreads through the air and can be inhaled by others.
Cases of multidrug-resistant (MDR-TB) and extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) – where the infections are resistant to first-line and then second-line antibiotic treatments – are spreading fast, with about 440,000 new patients every year around the world.
Experts say around 7 per cent of patients with straightforward TB die, and that death rate rises to around 50 per cent of patients with drug-resistant forms.
According to the WHO and Stop TB, 15 of the 27 countries with the highest burden of MDR-TB are in the WHO’s European region, which includes 53 countries in Europe and Central Asia.
More than 80,000 MDR-TB cases occur in the region each year – almost a fifth of the world’s total. The WHO said precise figures for XDR-TB are not available because most countries lack the facilities to diagnose it, but officially reported cases of XDR-TB increased six-fold between 2008 and 2009.
Rates are highest in eastern Europe and Central Asia, but many countries in western Europe have increasing rates of TB and drug-resistant TB, Ditiu said. Britain’s capital, London, has the highest TB rate of any capital city in western Europe with around 3,500 cases a year, 2 per cent of which are MDR-TB.
Treating even normal TB is a long and unpleasant process, with patients needing to take a combination of powerful antibiotics for 6 months. Many patients fail to correctly complete the course of medicines, a factor which has fuelled a rise in drug-resistant forms of the disease.
Treatment regimes for MDR-TB and XDR-TB can stretch into two or more years, costing up to $16,000 in drugs alone and up to $200,000 to $300,000 per patient if isolation hospital costs, medical care and other resources are taken into account.
September 13, 2011 at 4:30 pm By Roz Potter
From the LA Times, Link
Coping with a massive power failure: People trapped in elevators and on amusement park rides; raw sewage flowing into the sea as sewage pumps failed; inoperable gas pumps; hospitals on emergency generators; closed schools and banks; dark traffic lights; burglaries; dinner by candlelight. Federal regulators are investigating.
A utility worker doing maintenance near Yuma, Ariz., triggered a massive blackout that jammed roads, closed schools and businesses, grounded planes and left more than 4 million people across a large swath of Southern California and Mexico without power.
The blackout Thursday brought routine life to a halt. Many offices closed, but workers endured gridlock getting home because traffic lights were out. Officials said they noticed an increase in fender-benders in some areas as drivers tried to navigate the roads.
People were trapped in elevators and on rides at Sea World in San Diego and Legoland in Carlsbad. Hospital emergency rooms switched to backup generators, while outgoing flights from San Diego were canceled for several hours.
PHOTOS: Blackout leaves millions without power
Customers jammed those stores that remained open, stocking up on ice and candles as utility company officials warned that power may not be restored until late Friday. Officials canceled classes Friday at most colleges and schools in San Diego and surrounding communities.
“Get ready to be in the dark. Get your emergency precautions ready,” said Michael Niggli, president and chief operating officer of San Diego Gas & Electric.
The blackout was triggered by a mishap on a high-voltage power line linking Arizona and San Diego, causing a cascading series of electrical grid failures stretching into Southern California.
APS, which is Arizona’s largest electric utility, said a worker was doing maintenance on lines at a nearby substation when the blackout occurred.
September 12, 2011 at 12:54 pm By Roz Potter
From multiple sources:
San Francisco Chronicle (SF Gate): Link
The BBC: Link
Excerpts from SF Gate
One person was killed and four injured in an explosion Monday at a nuclear waste facility, an accident authorities were quick to downplay but which caused environmentalists to push for rethinking nuclear policy amid worldwide jitters over Japan’s nuclear catastrophe.
The Nuclear Safety Authority said no radioactive leaks were detected after the blast shortly past noon at a furnace in the Centraco site, in the southern Languedoc-Roussillon region, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) from the city of Avignon. One of the injured suffered severe burns.
The agency quickly pronounced the accident “terminated,” saying the situation had been brought under control in less than an hour. The building that houses the furnace wasn’t damaged, no leaks were reported and residents who live near the site were not evacuated, the agency said in a statement.
The cause of the accident is not known, and an investigation has been opened to see what went wrong, authorities here said.
France is the world’s most nuclear-dependent nation. It relies on the 58 nuclear power plants that dot the country for about three-quarters of its total electricity, and it’s also a major exporter of nuclear technology throughout the world.
While the March meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima plant prompted other countries to re-evaluate their nuclear programs — with neighboring Germany vowing to shut all its plants by 2022 — France has remained steadfast in its support for nuclear energy.
Authorities here downplayed the importance of Monday’s incident.
“It’s an industrial accident and not a nuclear accident,” Industry Minister Eric Besson said on i-Tele television. “There have been no radioactive leaks and there have been no chemical leaks.”
September 8, 2011 at 8:05 pm By Roz Potter
1.4 million people are without power in sweltering temperatures, from San Diego to Yuma, Arizona and Baja, Mexico. The San Onofre nuclear power plant has shut down as a result. Water use is restricted in a some communities due to water pumps without power.
From the LA Times on the San Onofre nuclear power plant shutdown, Link. Also, articles from Yahoo, Link, and the Wall Street Journal, Link.
Excerpts: SAN DIEGO (AP) — A major power outage knocked out electricity to more than 2 million people in California, Arizona and Mexico on Thursday, taking two nuclear reactors offline, leaving people sweltering in the late-summer heat and disrupting flights at the San Diego airport.
San Diego bore the brunt of the blackout and most of the nation’s eighth-largest city was darkened. All outgoing flights from San Diego’s Lindbergh Field were grounded and police stations were using generators to accept emergency calls across the area.
The trolley system that shuttles thousands of commuters every day was shut down and freeways were clogged at rush hour. Police directed traffic at intersections where signals stopped working.
The outage extended from southern parts of Orange County to San Diego to Yuma, Arizona. It also is affecting cities south of the border across much of the state of northern Baja.
“It feels like you’re in an oven and you can’t escape,” said Rosa Maria Gonzales, a spokeswoman with the Imperial Irrigation District in California’s sizzling eastern desert. She said it was about 115 degrees when the power went out for about 150,000 of its customers.
A transmitter line between Arizona and California was severed, said Mike Niggli, chief operating officer of San Diego Gas & Electric Co., causing the outage. The extreme heat in some areas also may have caused some problems with the lines.
“Essentially we have two connections from the rest of the world: One of from the north and one is to the east. Both connections are severed,” Niggli said.
Power officials don’t know what severed the line.
September 5, 2011 at 4:41 pm By Roz Potter
From the Huffington Post: Link
Are you prepared for a power outage lasting days? Weeks?
Do you have a back up plan for your insulin, your oxygen concentrator, for water pumps that won’t pump water to your faucets or your toilets? For your electric stove (and coffee maker), your computer, cellphone charger and that phone that requires a plug-in transformer to operate?
Will your workplace be functional or will you be out of a job? Will you need cash, gas, food, or a prescription? Diapers, dish soap, powdered milk or bottled water?
How safe will your neighborhood be in inky darkness?
Generators depend on fuel. Will your supply last a week? Two?
When the lights go out it will be too late to prepare.
The outages could be critical for the elderly, disabled and others who rely on community services.
“What if we’re without power for days?” asked Pat Dillon, 52, who is partially paralyzed from a stroke. Dillon’s senior care facility in Milford, Conn., lost power when a generator failed. As she sat in the dark, Dillon worried that her wheelchair’s batteries would run out. Even worse, she needs to keep her diabetes mediation chilled.
“Once the refrigerator gets warm, my insulin goes bad,” Dillon said. “I could go into diabetic shock. It’s kind of scary.”
Power companies say they’ll try to get critical services running first. But many are just starting to understand the full extent of damage to the grid. Utility workers must traverse thousands of square miles to find out what’s down before they can start repairs.
“It’s going to be several days at least for our most severely damaged areas” to get power back, said Mike Hughes, a spokesman for Progress Energy in North Carolina, which serves about 3.1 million customers.
Gilbert, with Connecticut Power, said it took two weeks to restore power after Hurricane Gloria knocked out service to 477,000 customers in 1985.
“And this definitely blows those numbers away,” she said.
In Virginia, Irene knocked out power to more than 300 critical services, including hospitals, emergency call centers and fire stations. Dominion Resources expects half of those facilities to be restored by the end of the day and most of the rest fixed by Monday.
September 5, 2011 at 3:57 pm By Roz Potter
From the San Jose Mercury News, two articles: Link and Link.
Excerpt from first link known unsafe pipe:
The explosion and fire that ripped through a Cupertino home this week was caused by a crack in a PG&E gas line made of a material whose regular failures have been the subject of at least two federal safety advisories, numerous lawsuits and accidents across the nation dating back at least a decade.
Not only had PG&E been warned of the dangers of the degrading plastic by federal regulators since 2002, several of the utility’s own employees have been sounding the alarm for years.
PG&E officials confirmed Friday that the leaking 2-inch distribution line that triggered Wednesday’s fire was made of a type of pipe called Aldyl-A, manufactured in the early 1970s by DuPont — and there are 1,231 miles of the same type of pipe in PG&E’s system running to homes across Northern California.
The revelation added a new chapter to PG&E’s woes nearly a year after the deadly rupture of one of its steel gas transmission lines in San Bruno, killing eight people and destroying 38 homes.
PG&E officials said Friday they will immediately begin reviewing their gas lines made of the infamous Aldyl-A piping built before 1973.
Excerpt from second link:
A day after federal investigators chastised PG&E for “a “litany of failures” in last year’s San Bruno blast, a loud explosion blew away a Cupertino home’s garage door, and several underground gas pipes in the area were found leaking, authorities said Thursday.
Pacific Gas & Electric crews found seven leaks in the 2-inch pipes that distribute gas to homes in the area near the explosion. But investigators are still unsure exactly what caused Wednesday’s blast.
PG&E has more than 42,000 miles of the distribution pipes running beneath properties in the Bay Area and beyond — and a similar explosion killed a man inside his Sacramento-area home three years ago.
The resident of the Cupertino townhome near the Homestead Square Shopping Center had left the home 15 minutes before the explosion, which badly damaged the residence. No injuries were reported, and firefighters said they saved a pet dog hiding under a bed inside.
September 5, 2011 at 8:46 am By Roz Potter
From Salon.com: Link
In Steven Soderbergh’s upcoming disaster film “Contagion,” no one — not even Gwyneth Paltrow — is safe from a pandemic virus that kills quickly and leaves mass frenzy in its wake.
We’d all like to hope that the film’s scenario is mere fantasy, calculated to give brave moviegoers a decisive end-of-summer thrill. But as Dr. Ian Lipkin, who balanced a consultative role on the movie with his responsibilities as director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia and co-chair of the National Biosurveillance Advisory Subcommittee, tells Salon, these things are unpredictable, and “Contagion’s” plot is far from implausible. Indeed, Soderbergh and “Contagion” screenwriter Scott Burns went out of their way to make the movie “ultrarealistic.”
In a phone interview, Dr. Lipkin described his own role in the film — and his hopes that the project will ultimately not only entertain, but also inspire, advocate and inform.
What follows is an edited and condensed transcript of our conversation. See Link to read more.
September 4, 2011 at 12:00 pm By Roz Potter
Full-page, eye-opening photos of the Vermont flood’s effect on transportation, business, and people’s lives: Link
Communities in Vermont and New York cutoff after 2 full days of rain. Video and story from ABC news: Link
September 4, 2011 at 11:06 am By Roz Potter
From the Boston Globe online: Link
Unprecedented triple-digit heat and devastating drought. Deadly tornadoes leveling towns. Massive rivers overflowing. A billion-dollar blizzard. And now, unusual hurricane-triggered flooding in Vermont.
If what is falling from the sky is not enough, the ground shook in places that normally seem stable: Colorado and the entire East Coast. On Friday, a strong quake triggered brief tsunami warnings in Alaska. Arizona and New Mexico have broken records for wildfires.
Total weather losses top $35 billion, and that is not counting Hurricane Irene, according to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration. There have been more than 700 US disaster and weather deaths, most from the tornado outbreaks this spring.
Last year, the world seemed to go wild with natural disasters in the deadliest year in a generation. But 2010 was bad globally, and the United States was mostly spared.
This year, while there have been devastating events elsewhere, such as the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Australia’s flooding, and a drought in Africa, it is the United States’ turn to get smacked. Repeatedly.