Psychological Distress, Depression, Anxiety, and Burnout among International Humanitarian Aid Workers: A Longitudinal Study
Source: PLoS ONE
International humanitarian aid workers providing care in emergencies are subjected to numerous chronic and traumatic stressors.
To examine consequences of such experiences on aid workers’ mental health and how the impact is influenced by moderating variables.
We conducted a longitudinal study in a sample of international non-governmental organizations. Study outcomes included anxiety, depression, burnout, and life and job satisfaction. We performed bivariate regression analyses at three time points. We fitted generalized estimating equation multivariable regression models for the longitudinal analyses.
Study participants from 19 NGOs were assessed at three time points: 212 participated at pre-deployment; 169 (80%) post-deployment; and 154 (73%) within 3–6 months after deployment. Prior to deployment, 12 (3.8%) participants reported anxiety symptoms, compared to 20 (11.8%) at post-deployment (p = 0·0027); 22 (10.4%) reported depression symptoms, compared to 33 (19.5%) at post-deployment (p = 0·0117) and 31 (20.1%) at follow-up (p = .00083). History of mental illness (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] 4.2; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1·45–12·50) contributed to an increased risk for anxiety. The experience of extraordinary stress was a contributor to increased risk for burnout depersonalization (AOR 1.5; 95% CI 1.17–1.83). Higher levels of chronic stress exposure during deployment were contributors to an increased risk for depression (AOR 1·1; 95% CI 1·02–1.20) comparing post- versus pre-deployment, and increased risk for burnout emotional exhaustion (AOR 1.1; 95% CI 1.04–1.19). Social support was associated with lower levels of depression (AOR 0·9; 95% CI 0·84–0·95), psychological distress (AOR = 0.9; [CI] 0.85–0.97), burnout lack of personal accomplishment (AOR 0·95; 95% CI 0·91–0·98), and greater life satisfaction (p = 0.0213).
When recruiting and preparing aid workers for deployment, organizations should consider history of mental illness and take steps to decrease chronic stressors, and strengthen social support networks.
New GAO Reports and Testimonies
Source: Government Accountability Office
1. Airport Noise Grants: FAA Needs to Better Ensure Project Eligibility and Improve Strategic Goal and Performance Measures. GAO-12-890, September 12.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/650/648149.pdf
2. Asset Forfeiture Programs: Justice and Treasury Should Determine Costs and Benefits of Potential Consolidation. GAO-12-972, September 12.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/650/648097.pdf
4. Bureau of Prisons: Growing Inmate Crowding Negatively Affects Inmates, Staff, and Infrastructure. GAO-12-743, September 12.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/650/648124.pdf
5. Critical Infrastructure: DHS Needs to Refocus Its Efforts to Lead the Government Facilities Sector. GAO-12-852, August 20.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/593580.pdf
6. Department of Homeland Security: Oversight and Coordination of Research and Development Should Be Strengthened. GAO-12-837, September 12.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/650/648153.pdf
7. Federal Disaster Assistance: Improved Criteria Needed to Assess a Jurisdiction’s Capability to Respond and Recover on Its Own. GAO-12-838, September 12.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/650/648163.pdf
8. Iraq and Afghanistan: Agencies Are Taking Steps to Improve Data on Contracting but Need to Standardize Reporting. GAO-12-977R, September 12.
9. Military Training: DOD Met Annual Reporting Requirements and Improved Its Sustainable Ranges Report. GAO-12-879R, September 12.
10. Millennium Challenge Corporation: Results of Transportation Infrastructure Projects in Seven Countries. GAO-12-631, September 12.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/650/648093.pdf
11. Nonproliferation: Agencies Could Improve Information Sharing and End-Use Monitoring on Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Exports. GAO-12-536, July 30.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/593132.pdf
1. Modernizing the Nuclear Security Enterprise: Observations on the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Oversight of Safety, Security, and Project Management, by Mark Gaffigan, managing director, natural resources and environment, before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, House Committee on Energy and Commerce. GAO-12-912T, September 12.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/592773.pdf
2. Next Generation Air Transportation System: FAA Faces Implementation Challenges, by Gerald L. Dillingham, Ph.D., director, physical infrastructure issues, before the Subcommittee on Aviation, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. GAO-12-1011T, September 12.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/650/648121.pdf
3. Operational Contract Support: Sustained DOD Leadership Needed to Better Prepare for Future Contingencies, by Timothy J. DiNapoli, acting director, acquisition and sourcing management, before the House Committee on Armed Services. GAO-12-1026T, September 12.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/650/648106.pdf
Source: Techtonophysics (via Seth Stein, Northwestern University)
The 2011 Tohoku earthquake is another striking example – after the 2008 Wenchuan and 2010 Haiti earthquakes – of highly destructive earthquakes that occurred in areas predicted by earthquake hazard maps to be relatively safe. Here, we examine what went wrong for Tohoku, and how this failure illustrates limitations of earthquake hazard mapping. We use examples from several seismic regions to show that earthquake occurrence is typically more complicated than the models on which hazard maps are based, and that the available history of seismicity is almost always too short to reliably establish the spatiotemporal pattern of large earthquake occurrence. As a result, key aspects of hazard maps often depend on poorly constrained parameters, whose values are chosen based on the mapmakers’ preconceptions. When these are incorrect, maps do poorly. This situation will improve at best slowly, owing to our limited understanding of earthquake processes. However, because hazard mapping has become widely accepted and used to make major decisions, we suggest two changes to improve current practices. First, the uncertainties in hazard map predictions should be assessed and clearly communicated to potential users. Recognizing the uncertainties would enable users to decide how much credence to place in the maps and make them more useful in formulating cost-effective hazard mitigation policies. Second, hazard maps should undergo rigorous and objective testing to compare their predictions to those of null hypotheses, including ones based on uniform regional seismicity or hazard. Such testing, which is common and useful in similar ﬁelds, will show how well maps actually work and hopefully help produce measurable improvements. There are likely, however, limits on how well hazard maps can ever be made because of the intrinsic variability of earthquake processes. © 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)
High winds, especially when combined with precipitation from seasonal storms, can cause damage to electricity utility systems, resulting in service interruptions to large numbers of electricity customers. While most such power outages are caused by damage from trees and tree limbs falling on local electricity distribution lines and poles, major power outages tend to be caused by damage to electricity transmission lines which carry bulk power long distances. Depending on the severity of the storm and resulting impairment, power outages can last a few hours or extend to periods of several days, and have real economic effects. Power outages can impact businesses (primarily through lost orders and damage to perishable goods and inventories), and manufacturers (mainly through downtime and lost production, or equipment damage). Data from various studies lead to cost estimates from storm-related outages to the U.S. economy at between $20 billion and $55 billion annually. Data also suggest the trend of outages from weather-related events is increasing.
Suggested solutions for reducing impacts from weather-related outages include improved treetrimming schedules to keep rights-of-way clear, placing distribution and some transmission lines underground, implementing Smart Grid improvements to enhance power system operations and control, inclusion of more distributed generation, and changing utility maintenance practices and metrics to focus on power system reliability. However, most of these potential solutions come with high costs which must be balanced against the perceived benefits.
A number of options exist for Congress to consider which could help reduce storm-related outages. These range from improving the quality of data on storm-related outages, to a greater strategic investment in the U.S. electricity grid. Congress could empower a federal agency to develop standards for the consistent reporting of power outage data. While responsibility for the reliability of the bulk electric system is under the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (as per the Energy Policy Act of 2005), no central responsibility exists for the reliability of distribution systems. One possible option could be to bring distribution systems under the Electric Reliability Organization for reliability purposes. Recovery after storm-related outages might be enhanced by a federal role in formalizing the review or coordination of electric utility mutual assistance agreements (MAAs). This would not necessarily mean federal approval of MAAs, but may help in the cooperative coordination of additional federal and state resources, especially in a wide, multi-state weather event. While there has been much discussion of transmission system inadequacies and inefficiencies, many distribution systems are in dire need of upgrades or repairs. The cost of upgrading the U.S. grid to meet future uses is expected to be high, with the American Society of Civil Engineers estimating a need of $673 billion by 2020. While the federal government recently made funding available of almost $16 billion for specific Smart Grid projects and new transmission lines under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, there has not been a comprehensive effort to study the needs, set goals, and provide targeted funding for modernization of the U.S. grid as part of a long-term national energy strategy. Such an effort would also require decisions about the appropriate roles of government and the private sector.
Power delivery systems are most vulnerable to storms and extreme weather events. Improving the overall condition and efficiency of the power delivery system can only serve to improve the resiliency of the system, and help hasten recovery from weather-related outages. Ultimately, however, electric utilities are responsible for this infrastructure. They are in the business of selling electricity, and they cannot sell electricity if their power delivery systems are out of service.
Residual Market Property Plans: From Markets of Last Resort to Markets of First Choice – 2012
Source: Insurance Information Institute
This report by Robert Hartwig, president of the Insurance Information Institute, and Claire Wilkinson analyzes the changes taking place within the residual property market, which consists of a myriad of different programs in place across the United States to provide insurance to high-risk policyholders who may have difficulty obtaining coverage from the standard market. So called residual, shared or involuntary market programs make basic insurance coverage more readily available. The report notes the still-burgeoning growth of the market, which now has a massive total exposure to loss that is approaching $900 billion. Despite attempts by certain states to reduce the size of their plans the fact of the matter is that this market of last resort remains the market of first choice for many vulnerable, high-risk coastal properties. The report focuses on the plans in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New York, North and South Carolina, and Texas.
KCC Issues Report on Historical Hurricanes That Would Cause $10 Billion or More in Insured Losses Today
KCC Issues Report on Historical Hurricanes That Would Cause $10 Billion or More in Insured Losses Today
Source: Karen Clark & Company
Karen Clark & Company (KCC), independent experts in catastrophe risk, catastrophe models and catastrophe risk management, today issued a report identifying historical US hurricanes that would likely cause $10 billion or more in insured losses were they to strike today.
Employing a robust methodology developed by the firm, KCC examined the nearly 180 hurricanes that have hit the United States since 1900 and determined that 28 of those storms would result in $10 billion or more in insured losses in 2012 given the greater number, size and cost of structures in their paths.
The 1926 Great Miami Hurricane tops the list with an estimated $125 billion loss. The two deadliest hurricanes in US history, the 1928 Okeechobee Hurricane and the famous Galveston storm of 1900, are the next costliest at $65 billion and $50 billion, respectively. Two other Florida storms, the 1947 Fort Lauderdale Hurricane and 1992′s Hurricane Andrew are also estimated at $50 billion. Rounding out the top loss producers are 1915′s Galveston ($40 billion), 2005′s Katrina ($40 billion), the 1938 Great New England ($35 billion), and 1954’s Hazel and 1965’s Betsy. both estimated at $20 billion. Hurricane Donna in 1960 affected the entire East Coast from Florida to Maine and would likely cause a $25 billion loss today. The remaining 17 storms on the list range from $10 to $15 billion each.
2012 CoreLogic Storm Surge Report Reveals More Than Four Million U.S. Homes at Risk for Hurricane Storm Surge Flooding
CoreLogic (NYSE: CLGX), a leading provider of information, analytics and business services, today released its annual Storm Surge Report detailing exposure of single-family homes to storm-surge damage within several predefined geographic areas in the United States. The 2012 CoreLogic Storm Surge Report provides the first-ever property-level analysis of residential property risk along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts broken down by region and by individual state, in addition to a snapshot of risk within previously reported major metro areas.
This year’s report indicates that just over four million homes in the U.S. along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts are at risk of hurricane-driven storm-surge damage, with more than $700 billion in total property exposure. In the Atlantic Coast region alone, there are approximately 2.2 million homes at risk, valued at more than $500 billion. Total exposure along the Gulf Coast is nearly $200 billion, with just under 1.8 million homes at risk for potential storm-surge damage.
Hurricane Andrew and Insurance: The Enduring Impact of an Historic Storm
Source: Insurance Information Institute
Hurricane Andrew struck Florida on August 24, 1992, and the tumult it created for the property insurance market in the state has not ceased in the 20 years since, according to an analysis by the Insurance Information Institute (.I.I.). The I.I.I. white paper outlines six key insurance market changes attributed to the costliest Florida disaster. Insurance claims payouts for Andrew totaled $15.5 billion at the time ($25 billion in 2011 dollars), and it remains the second costliest U.S. natural disaster, after Hurricane Katrina, which hit in 2005. Hurricane Andrew forced individuals, insurers, legislators, insurance regulators and state governments to come to grips with the necessity of preparing both financially and physically for unprecedented natural disaster.
Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
This year’s Atlantic hurricane season got off to a busy start, with 6 named storms to date, and may have a busy second half, according to the updated hurricane season outlook issued today by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service. The updated outlook still indicates a 50 percent chance of a near-normal season, but increases the chance of an above-normal season to 35 percent and decreases the chance of a below-normal season to only 15 percent from the initial outlook issued in May.
Across the entire Atlantic Basin for the season – June 1 to November 30 – NOAA’s updated seasonal outlook projects a total (which includes the activity-to-date of tropical storms Alberto, Beryl, Debbie, Florence and hurricanes Chris and Ernesto) of:
- 12 to 17 named storms (top winds of 39 mph or higher), including:
- 5 to 8 hurricanes (top winds of 74 mph or higher), of which:
- 2 to 3 could be major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of at least 111 mph)
Identifying a Cost-Effective Aviation Fleet for the U.S. Forest Service
Source: RAND Corporation
Wildfires are dangerous and costly. They threaten population centers and wildlife habitats, degrade watersheds, and contribute to air pollution. At the same time, they are a natural part of the ecosystem in much of the American West. The cost of fighting these fires has risen dramatically over the past decade — to an average of $1.65 billion annually.
The U.S. Forest Service currently operates an aging fleet of contracted fixed-wing airtankers that provide aerial support for wildland firefighting. After two fatal crashes in 2002 led to more than half of the fleet being taken out of service, the Forest Service sought to replace its fleet with newer, safer aircraft. In support of this effort, the agency asked RAND to determine the composition of a fleet of airtankers, scoopers, and helicopters that would minimize the total social costs of wildfires, including the cost of large fires and aircraft costs.
IntroductionReviews of mass gathering events have traditionally concentrated on crowd variables that affect the level and type of medical care needed. Weather and environmental hazards at mass gathering events have not been fully researched. This review examines these events and aims to provide future suggestions for event organisers, medical resource planners, and emergency services, including local hospital emergency departments.MethodsA review was conducted using computerised data bases: MEDLINE, The Cochrane Library, HMIC and EMBASE, with Google used to widen the search beyond peer-reviewed publications, to identify grey literature. All peer-review literature articles found containing information pertaining to lessons identified from mass gathering disasters due to weather or environmental hazards leading to participant death, injury or illness were analysed and reviewed. Disasters occurring due to crowd variables were not included. These articles were read, analysed, abstracted and summarised.Results20 articles from literature search were found detailing mass gathering disasters relating directly to weather or environmental hazards from 1988 – 2011, with only 17 cases found within peer-review literature. Two events grey literature from 2011 are due to undergo further inquiry while one article reviews an event originally occurring in 1922. Analysis of cases were categorised in to heat and cold-related events, lightning and storms and disease outbreak.ConclusionsMass gathering events have an enormous potential to place a severe strain on the local health care system, Prior health resource and environmental planning for heat & cold-related illness, lightning & storms, and disease outbreak can advance emergency preparedness and response to potential disasters.
The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) has completed a review of fire service operations surrounding the challenges faced in April 2011 as fire departments in the southeastern United States responded to a significant weather event.On April 27, 2011, a devastating series of tornados struck Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee. The dollar loss has been roughly tallied at $6 billion in insured losses and a total of over $10 billion for all losses. An estimated 336 lives were lost in the region’s tornados and related events, with 239 of those in Alabama. At least 10,000 homes were heavily damaged or destroyed and dozens of public facilities were rendered inoperative. Many areas that were isolated by road closures and power outages extended over two weeks in some rural areas. At least five tornados were rated at EF5 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale (EF Scale).A series of meetings was held in the summer of 2011 to look at fire department and emergency medical services (EMS) organization activities in Alabama and Georgia during the tornados. Over 50 representatives of impacted departments attended and each had an opportunity to respond to specific questions as well as provide a free range of their own inputs.The report, Fire Service Operations for the Southeastern Tornados – April 2011 (PDF,1.5 Mb), condenses those meetings and inputs and provides an insight into the routines, challenges and needs of local fire and EMS agencies during preparation for, response to and recovery from, natural disasters. It serves as a benchmark to provide USFA an opportunity for evaluation to ensure we are providing the services that the first responder community requires for success, as well as to guide directions for future activities.
Explaining Extreme Events of 2011 from a Climate Perspective (PDF)
Source: American Meteorological Society (From NOAA and Met Office)
Using a variety of methodologies, six extreme events of the previous year are explained from a climate perspective.
2012 Half-Year Natural Catastrophe Review (PDF)
Source: Munich Re
+ Insured losses in the United States during the first six months of 2012 totaled US$ 9.3bn – near the long-term average but well below the US$ 24.4bn seen in the first half of 2011 (in 2012 Dollars).
+ Thunderstorm (tornado-hail) activity accounts for the almost all US losses so far, and are estimated at US$ 8.8bn, the third most costly spring thunderstorm season in US history
+ Very mild winter over most of US causes only minor winter storm losses. Lack of heavy winter precipitation limited spring flooding but has exacerbated drought conditions.
+ Severe droughts now impacting central and southwest parts of country; Two major wildfires in Colorado in June caused record damage in the state from the peril, and the largest wildfire in New Mexico history occurred in May.
+ Active early hurricane season; tropical storms Beryl and Debby caused minor wind damage and extensive flooding in Florida.
+ No significant, damaging earthquakes in US during first half of 2012.
Source: U.S. Fire Administration
The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), supported by the DHS Office of Health Affairs (OHA) and the National Emergency Medical Services Management Association (NEMSMA), announces the release of a new guide for Emergency Medical Services (EMS) providers: Operational Templates and Guidance for EMS Mass Care Incident Deployment (PDF, 1.5 Mb).
"This guide provides important information on preparing for events that can impact EMS preparedness and response in local departments," said U.S. Fire Administrator Ernest Mitchell. "The model policies and practices referenced in the guide will lead to a better prepared EMS deployment to mass care incidents."
The guide is intended to provide information to local-level EMS and fire departments on the development and enhancement of the organization and preparedness for mass care incidents, including natural and man-made disasters, large gathering and pandemic events, and other emergencies potentially resulting in large numbers of patients.
Source: Nature Climate Change
Climate warming does not force sea-level rise (SLR) at the same rate everywhere. Rather, there are spatial variations of SLR superimposed on a global average rise. These variations are forced by dynamic processes arising from circulation and variations in temperature and/or salinity, and by static equilibrium processes, arising from mass redistributions changing gravity and the Earth’s rotation and shape. These sea-level variations form unique spatial patterns, yet there are very few observations verifying predicted patterns or fingerprints. Here, we present evidence of recently accelerated SLR in a unique 1,000-km-long hotspot on the highly populated North American Atlantic coast north of Cape Hatteras and show that it is consistent with a modelled fingerprint of dynamic SLR. Between 1950–1979 and 1980–2009, SLR rate increases in this northeast hotspot were ~ 3–4 times higher than the global average. Modelled dynamic plus steric SLR by 2100 at New York City ranges with Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change scenario from 36 to 51 cm (ref. 3); lower emission scenarios project 24–36 cm (ref. 7). Extrapolations from data herein range from 20 to 29 cm. SLR superimposed on storm surge, wave run-up and set-up will increase the vulnerability of coastal cities to flooding, and beaches and wetlands to deterioration.
Hat tip: Journalists Resource
California Sea Level Projected to Rise at Higher Rate Than Global Average; Slower Rate for Oregon, Washington, But Major Earthquake Could Cause Sudden Rise
Source: National Research Council
The sea level off most of California is expected to rise about one meter over the next century, an amount slightly higher than projected for global sea levels, and will likely increase damage to the state’s coast from storm surges and high waves, says a new report from the National Research Council. Sea levels off Washington, Oregon, and northern California will likely rise less, about 60 centimeters over the same period of time. However, an earthquake magnitude 8 or larger in this region could cause sea level to rise suddenly by an additional meter or more.
Global sea level rose during the 20th century, and projections suggest it will rise at a higher rate during the 21st century. A warming climate causes sea level to rise primarily by warming the oceans — which causes the water to expand — and melting land ice, which transfers water to the ocean. However, sea-level rise is uneven and varies from place to place. Along the U.S. west coast it depends on the global mean sea-level rise and regional factors, such as ocean and atmospheric circulation patterns, melting of modern and ancient ice sheets, and tectonic plate movements. California Executive Order S-13-08 directed state agencies to plan for sea-level rise and coastal impacts and asked the Research Council to establish a committee to assess sea-level rise. Oregon, Washington, and several federal agencies joined California to sponsor the study. The report estimates sea-level rise both globally and for those three states for the years 2030, 2050, and 2100.
Climate change and disruptions to global fire activity
Future disruptions to fire activity will threaten ecosystems and human well-being throughout the world, yet there are few fire projections at global scales and almost none from a broad range of global climate models (GCMs). Here we integrate global fire datasets and environmental covariates to build spatial statistical models of fire probability at a 0.5° resolution and examine environmental controls on fire activity. Fire models are driven by climate norms from 16 GCMs (A2 emissions scenario) to assess the magnitude and direction of change over two time periods, 2010–2039 and 2070–2099. From the ensemble results, we identify areas of consensus for increases or decreases in fire activity, as well as areas where GCMs disagree. Although certain biomes are sensitive to constraints on biomass productivity and others to atmospheric conditions promoting combustion, substantial and rapid shifts are projected for future fire activity across vast portions of the globe. In the near term, the most consistent increases in fire activity occur in biomes with already somewhat warm climates; decreases are less pronounced and concentrated primarily in a few tropical and subtropical biomes. However, models do not agree on the direction of near-term changes across more than 50% of terrestrial lands, highlighting major uncertainties in the next few decades. By the end of the century, the magnitude and the agreement in direction of change are projected to increase substantially. Most far-term model agreement on increasing fire probabilities (62%) occurs at mid- to high-latitudes, while agreement on decreasing probabilities (20%) is mainly in the tropics. Although our global models demonstrate that long-term environmental norms are very successful at capturing chronic fire probability patterns, future work is necessary to assess how much more explanatory power would be added through interannual variation in climate variables. This study provides a first examination of global disruptions to fire activity using an empirically based statistical framework and a multi-model ensemble of GCM projections, an important step toward assessing fire-related vulnerabilities to humans and the ecosystems upon which they depend.