Uncommon knowledge, news, and opinion

Uncommon knowledge, news, and opinion

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Emergency / Disaster Readiness Workshop & Expo – Feb. 25 in Napa

January 28, 2012 at 8:57 pm By Roz Potter
Saturday, February 25, 2012, from 9:30 am – 4:30 pm,  Napa, CA  – Location TBA

We regret that the February EXPO must be postponed. Instead, a 3.5 hour Disaster Readiness Workshop will be held Saturday, March 24th from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the John Muir Inn in Napa. Please call 707.255.7146 for details.

This 6-hour one-of-a-kind event will help get your household ready for a variety of emergencies.

Demonstrations: Learn how to disinfect water, handle utility emergencies, use safety and self-defense devices, see how earthquake protection materials work, and select worthwhile supplies and equipment for lighting, first-aid, communications, sanitation, and 3-day “Go” bags

Tasting, of three types of emergency food bars and water with a 5-year shelf-life

Family Disaster Planning documents, including communication and reunification, urgent medical information, utility emergencies, asset protection, and emergency notification documents

Disaster Readiness Lecture and Discussion, including earthquakes, tsunamis, fires, and hazardous materials

$60 fee ($65 at the door) includes 3.5  hrs of instruction, disaster plan documents,  supply lists for “Go” bags for home, work, car and school, and 7 live demonstrations (2.5 hours). $15 discount for prior Defying Disaster Workshop participants, seniors over 65, full-time students & multiple participants from the same address. Partial scholarships available ($20 total cost).  Register in advance to avoid disappointments at the door.

See Link for details including registration.

A Century of Disasters

May 30, 2011 at 8:40 am By Roz Potter

From Slate Magazine, Link

This will be the century of disasters.

In the same way that the 20th century was the century of world wars, genocide, and grinding ideological conflict, the 21st will be the century of natural disasters and technological crises and unholy combinations of the two. It’ll be the century when the things that we count on to go right will, for whatever reason, go wrong.

Late last month, as the Mississippi River rose in what is destined to be the worst flood in decades, and as the residents of Alabama and other states rummaged through the debris of a historic tornado outbreak, physicists at a meeting in Anaheim, Calif., had a discussion about the dangers posed by the sun.

Solar flares, scientists believe, are a disaster waiting to happen. Thus one of the sessions at the American Physical Society’s annual meeting was devoted to discussing the hazard of electromagnetic pulses (EMPs) caused by solar flares or terrorist attacks. Such pulses could fry transformers and knock out the electrical grid over much of the nation. Last year the Oak Ridge National Laboratory released a study saying the damage might take years to fix and cost trillions of dollars.

But maybe even that’s not the disaster people should be worrying about. Maybe they should worry instead about the ARkStorm. That’s the name the U.S. Geological Survey’s Multihazards Demonstration Project gave to a hypothetical storm that would essentially turn much of California’s Central Valley into a bathtub. It has happened before, in 1861-62, when it rained for 45 straight days. The USGS explains: “The ARkStorm draws heat and moisture from the tropical Pacific, forming a series of Atmospheric Rivers (ARs) that approach the ferocity of hurricanes and then slam into the U.S. West Coast over several weeks.” The result, the USGS determined, could be a flood that would cost $725 billion in direct property losses and economic impact.

While pondering this, don’t forget the Cascadia subduction zone. That’s the plate boundary off the coast of the Pacific Northwest, one that could generate a tsunami much like the one that devastated Japan in March. The Cascadia subduction zone runs from Vancouver Island to northern California, and last ruptured in a major tsunami-spawning earthquake on January 26, 1700. It could break at any moment, with catastrophic consequences.

All of these things have the common feature of low probability and high consequence. They’re “black swan” events. They’re unpredictable in any practical sense. They’re also things that ordinary people probably should not worry about on a daily basis. You can’t fear the sun. You can’t worry that a rock will fall out of the sky and smash the earth, or that the ground will open up and swallow you like a vitamin. A key element of maintaining one’s sanity is knowing how to ignore risks that are highly improbable at any given point in time.

And yet in the coming century, these or other black swans will seem to occur with surprising frequency. To read on… Link

From NASA: photos, stats and descriptions of global climate change

May 25, 2011 at 12:59 pm By Roz Potter

From NASA’s award winning website, an instructive read.  Link and Link

The evidence for rapid climate change is compelling:

Republic of Maldives: Vulnerable to sea level rise

Republic of Maldives: Vulnerable to sea level rise
Sea level rise

Global sea level rose about 17 centimeters (6.7 inches) in the last century. The rate in the last decade, however, is nearly double that of the last century.4

The effects of climate change will likely include more frequent droughts in some areas and heavier precipitation in others.
Global temperature rise

All three major global surface temperature reconstructions show that Earth has warmed since 1880. 5 Most of this warming has occurred since the 1970s, with the 20 warmest years having occurred since 1981 and with all 10 of the warmest years occurring in the past 12 years. 6 Even though the 2000s witnessed a solar output decline resulting in an unusually deep solar minimum in 2007-2009, surface temperatures continue to increase. 7

The oceans have absorbed much of this increased heat, with the top 700 meters (about 2,300 feet) of ocean showing warming of 0.302 degrees Fahrenheit since 1969.
Warming oceans

The oceans have absorbed much of this increased heat, with the top 700 meters (about 2,300 feet) of ocean showing warming of 0.302 degrees Fahrenheit since 1969.8

Flowing meltwater from the Greenland ice sheet

Flowing meltwater from the Greenland ice sheet
Shrinking ice sheets

The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have decreased in mass. Data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment show Greenland lost 150 to 250 cubic kilometers (36 to 60 cubic miles) of ice per year between 2002 and 2006, while Antarctica lost about 152 cubic kilometers (36 cubic miles) of ice between 2002 and 2005.

Visualization of the 2007 Arctic sea ice minimum

Visualization of the 2007 Arctic sea ice minimum
Declining Arctic sea ice

Both the extent and thickness of Arctic sea ice has declined rapidly over the last several decades. 9

The disappearing snowcap of Mount Kilimanjaro, from space.

The disappearing snowcap of Mount Kilimanjaro, from space.
Glacial retreat

Glaciers are retreating almost everywhere around the world — including in the Alps, Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, Alaska and Africa.10

Record high temperatures increasing.
Extreme events

The number of record high temperature events in the United States has been increasing, while the number of record low temperature events has been decreasing, since 1950. The U.S. has also witnessed increasing numbers of intense rainfall events.11

The carbon dioxide content of the Earth’s oceans has been increasing since 1750, and is currently increasing about 2 billion tons per year. This has increased ocean acidity by about 30 percent.
Ocean acidification

The carbon dioxide content of the Earth’s oceans has been increasing since 1750, and is currently increasing about 2 billion tons per year. This has increased ocean acidity by about 30 percent. 12

The potential future effects of global climate change include more frequent wildfires, longer periods of drought in some regions and an increase in the number, duration and intensity of tropical storms.

The current and future consequences of global climate change

Artic Sea Ice

September Arctic sea ice is now declining at a rate of 11.5 percent per decade, relative to the 1979 to 2000 average. Arctic sea ice reaches its minimum each September. The graph (see site) shows the average monthly Arctic sea ice extent in September from 1979 to 2010, derived from satellite observations. The September 2010 extent was the third lowest in the satellite record.

Be certain not to miss the Time Series, showing Arctic sea ice mass from 1979-2010, from satellite images.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) in the earth’s atmosphere.

CO2 concentrations are at their highest in 650, 000 years. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is an important greenhouse gas released through natural processes such as respiration and volcano eruptions and through human activities such as deforestation and burning fossil fuels.

Sea Level

Sea level rise is caused by the thermal expansion of sea water due to climate warming and widespread melting of land ice. The chart (see site) shows historical sea level data derived from coastal tide gauge records (trend calculated using the linear regression method).  Satellite data shows an increase of 3.27 mm per year, from 1993 to the present

Global Surface Temperature

Increased 1.5 degrees Farenheit since 1880 worldwide. January 200-2009 was the warmest decade on record.

Land Ice

There is a loss of 100 billion tons per year in Greenland. Data from NASA’s Grace satellite show that the land ice sheets in both Antarctica and Greenland are losing mass. The continent of Antarctica (left chart) has been losing more than 100 cubic kilometers (24 cubic miles) of ice per year since 2002.

Lessons from the Christchurch NZ Aftershock

February 24, 2011 at 12:56 am By Roz Potter

The “Ring of Fire” earthquake zone is the source of 80% of the world’s earthquakes. According to the USGS, the Ring of Fire “extends from Chile, northward along the South American coast through Central America, Mexico, the West Coast of the United States, and the southern part of Alaska, through the Aleutian Islands to Japan, the Philippine Islands, New Guinea, the island groups of the Southwest Pacific, and to New Zealand”. This earthquake belt was responsible for 70,000 deaths in Peru in May 1970, and 65 deaths and a billion dollars’ damage in California in February 1971 (the San Fernando quake).

Located on the Ring of Fire, Christchurch, New Zealand has some of the world’s most stringent building codes. Why then, did Tuesday’s 6.3 magnitude earthquake cause the collapse of many buildings, when September’s 7.1 magnitude quake in the same vicinity did little damage?

The devastation from the latest quake was an unfortunate combination of proximity, timing, and stress from September’s stronger but more distant rupture.

Tuesday’s earthquake, centered just 3 miles from Christchurch, a city of 390,000 people, was also just 3 miles deep. Shallower, closer quakes are more destructive. While September’s quake struck early on a weekend morning, catching most people at home in bed, Tuesday’s quake struck in the middle of a workday, finding people at multistory pre-World War II as well as more modern buildings, many of them unreinforced masonry, already weakened by September’s trembler.

The New Zealand Herald newspaper gives us a real-time glimpse into actual conditions following the quake. This report is from 4:22 PM today:

- All hospitals are operational and have been emptied to make room for victims

- 80% of the city is still without water. Emergency water supplies are available at locations, primarily schools throughout the city and neighboring towns. People are advised to bring their own containers. The water needs to be boiled before drinking.

If it rains, residents are urged to save all water for drinking. It is not to be used to flush toilets, take showers or baths.

- The sewage system has been damaged. People are advised not to flush their toilets and to use a bucket or dig a hole outside for human waste.

- Gasoline supplies are low and needed for emergency vehicles. People are advised not to buy gas except for critical uses. Roads are damaged.

- People are encouraged to walk to keep vehicles off the road. The public is to bring bedding, medications and personal effects with them to shelters.

- Power has been restored to 60% of the city. It may be several weeks before it is restored completely.

- All schools and day care centers are closed. People are only to report to work if they work in an industry supplying food.

- Telephone and cellphone calls are to be limited. Text messages are preferred as they place less load on networks. In yesterday’s paper, people were asked to change their cellphone messages to let callers know their location and to give alternate details if possible.

- Many supermarkets and ATMs are closed due to damage.

- The Port has sustained serious damage

- Aftershocks are continuing. More damage is expected. Residents are urged to drop, cover and hold on at the first sign of an aftershock.

Update: 2 26 11

The death toll stands at 145, with hundreds more missing. There are many traumatic injuries from collapsed concrete buildings.

Whose Fault Is It?

September 27, 2010 at 3:32 pm By Roz Potter

More people live and work on or near the Hayward Fault in the San Francisco Bay Area than any other fault in the United States. As of 2008, 2.4 million people lived close by. More than 1.5 million people “work at sites that would experience strong or very strong levels of shaking” from the next powerful quake on the Hayward Fault.

This is earthquake country. California has a 99% chance of having at least one magnitude 6.7 or greater quake anytime in the next 30 years. For the S.F. Bay Area, the risk is 63%. And of all the faults in the S. F. Bay Area, the risk is highest for the Hayward/Rodgers Creek Faults.

Homes, mass transit corridors, major freeways and roadways intersect the Hayward at many locations. It is crossed by many critical water and gas pipelines, and electrical transmission lines. It begins near San Jose and winds its way northward through Santa Clara,  Alameda and part of Contra Costa County to San Pablo Bay.

The Hayward Fault has not ruptured since 1868, 142 years ago, in case you’re counting, and if you live in the Bay Area, you should be. The average period between the last 5 major quakes on the Hayward Fault  is 138 years. 

Pressures in the Hayward Fault have been building unabated, since 1868. Similar pressures in the San Andreas Fault were at least partially relieved by the 1906 San Francisco quake, and to a small extent by the 1989 Loma Prieta. There has been no relief for the Hayward.

The 1868 quake was felt as far away as Nevada. There was major damage in Hayward, San Leandro and Fremont, and lesser but significant damage in San Jose, Oakland, Santa Rosa, and San Francisco. Even Napa, yes, that Napa suffered substantial damage from the 1868 quake. 

So, residents of Santa Clara, Contra Costa, Alameda, Napa, Marin, Sonoma and other counties, the Hayward is your Fault too.  Your counties suffered damage in the 1868 quake,  you rely on services that traverse the Hayward Fault, or you live, work or commute on or near the Hayward Fault. 

Residents of any area could find themselves in double- or triple-trouble. Some regions, like Marin and Sonoma counties have several large fault systems, in these cases the San Andreas and the Rodgers Creek Faults. Many have unknown faults, like the one that ruptured in Napa County, CA in 2000. In many cases, seismic waves from one fault rupture transfers to another, extending damage over a wider area than expected.  

Oh yes, the United States Geological Survey (USGA) wants everyone to know that the 6.7 magnitude 1994 Northridge California earthquake occured on an unknown fault. The Northridge caused extreme damage to roadways, overpasses, buildings and other structures. 33 people were killed. 141 were injured.

Of the 141 injured, 138 required hospitalization – those were nasty injuries. 12,000 homes, schools, hospitals and other buildings were structurally damaged. The USGS says the world has many unknown faults. We cannot use our knowledge of existing faults to predict future earthquakes. Future quakes are as likely to occur on unknown as they are on known faults.

Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Washington D.C., Alaska, Washington, and many other parts of the U.S. and the World, you have your faults too. The Earth is full of them. Take heed. Mother Nature gives no warning. You’ll be on your own when she strikes.

Ready? If not, here are some tips. More will be coming in future posts:

1. Your family may not be together when an earthquake strikes. They may not be able to get home

Complete a communication plan for emergencies and disasters and keep copies at home, work  and in your car. Have wallet size versions with the most essential information for each family member. The plan should include emergency contacts, both local and out of state. When family members call the contact they should advise their exact location, whether injured or in need of help or not , and where they are going.

Teach each family member to text. Text messages get tranmitted more readily than voice transmissions.

Telephones with transformers require electricity to work. This includes cordless phones and many business or advanced feature phones. Have at least one old-fashioned, no bells or whistles, plug in telephone at home, work, and hopefully, schools.

2. Essential services (water, electricity, trash service, sewage treatment plants, transportation and some roadways) may be inoperable for days to weeks. If transportation is disrupted, store shelves cannot be stocked. If electricity is out, ATMs, gas pumps, cash registers, and water pumps won’t work.

This will be more than an inconvenience for those who rely on oxygen concentrators, insulin and other drugs that require refrigeration, or those who don’t store extra water, baby formula or other essentials.

Store cash, water, food, medicines, baby formula, a solar or battery powered radio and extra batteries, first-aid and medical supplies and alternative light and heat sources in sufficient quantities to supply essentials to household members. Supplies must include at least 1 gallon of water per day for each person and pet – a 3 day supply is minimal, a two week supply may not be enough. If possible, store extra supplies to help out neighbors, friends and family who will be caught unprepared.

3. Expert help (police, fire, medical, nursing, pharmacies, utilities, ambulance) could be delayed, inaccesible, or unavailable for hours, days or weeks.

Stock  first aid supplies and a manual (available at the Red Cross, Amazon and bookstores) in your home. Take a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) course, available in most communities, and a First Aid class. Reach out to people in your neighborhood with special needs; the frail elderly, those with sight or hearing loss, in wheelchairs, with language barriers, or other needs who will require extra help in an emergency or disaster. 

Before a disaster strikes, know how your community will respond. Where will emergency treatment locations be set up?  Is there a local emergency warning system? Are there experts in your neighborhood that would be willing to help? What is your EAS (Emergency Alert Station) for your area? For the San Francisco Bay Area counties, it is KCBS, 740 on the AM dial.

I’ll be publishing other preparedness tips through October 21, 2010, when the great California Shake Out Earthquake Exercise will take place.

Defying Disaster is underwriting another preparedness workshop on November 6, 2010, this time at the Napa Library in Napa, California. Click here for more information.

44% of Households Surveyed Have an Emergency Plan. “Really!?”!

September 19, 2010 at 3:54 pm By Roz Potter

Seth and Amy, the Saturday Night Live duo, have elevated many questionable issues of our day to a well-deserved level of incredulity in their ”Really?!?” skits. It is in a Seth and Amy spirit that I ask if the statistic noted above, a survey finding, doesn’t seem a bit inflated? The statistic is from the 2009 Citizen Corps National Survey on Personal Preparedness in America, and can be found here.  The same survey found that 57% of respondents have supplies set aside just for diasters. On closer inspection, it turns out that those supplies often don’t include a portable radio, first aid kit or flashlight. So, are 57% of respondents really ready? I think not.

As I may have mentioned once or twice before, September is National Preparedness Month. In the likely event that you’re one of the 56% or so who don’t have a Household Emergency Plan, here are some links:




At minimum, your plan would include where to go, what to do, and how to reach household members, basic emergency services and information in the event of a disaster. In an emergency, you’ll be thankful to have critical information at hand. Really thankful. Review it with everyone involved and keep a copy at work and home, and a wallet-size version in packpacks and wallets.

Defying Disaster’s own comprehensive Emergency/Disaster Planning document, available to workshop and consulting participants, is currently in a format that does not lend itself to downloading.  A downloadable version will soon be available.

For those unfamiliar with the concept of an Emergency Plan, here’s some additional information. An emergency plan document is individualized for each household. It organizes essential information so you can more readily locate family members, and pets and obtain appropriate medical or other services in an emergency or disaster. Many list contact information for local hospitals, doctors, and pharmacies, in addition to evacuation and disaster emergency treatment locations, medical conditions, and emergency notifications. Contact, and family meeting (reunification) locations both near and far, are vital pieces of information, the former in the likely event your family is not together when the disaster hits, and the latter in case your entire neighborhood or area are affected. 

You can’t afford to be without an Emergency Plan. Put it at the top of your to-do list and tackle it a bit at a time for the rest of this Preparedness Month. Life happens. Get a plan, fill it out, and review it with family members and others mentioned. If you can’t manage to find the time or find the task too daunting, attend one of Defying Disaster’s Emergency Planning Workshops (we sponsor them regularly), or call me (707 255-7146) to schedule a time to get yours done. 

So, is your household ready? ”Really?!?” What about your business, organization and schools?

Defying Disaster Games, Website and GermTheory™ LLC provide information only, not medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. See Additional Terms