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AMU Emergency Management Original Public Safety

EDM Monday Briefing: Damages Top $95 Billion in US for 2020 Disasters

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Emergency and disaster management briefing for January 25, 2021: A shifting weather pattern will bring a string of storms to California via atmospheric rivers; raw Bob Evans Italian Sausage in one-pound chubs is being recalled due to potential foreign matter contamination; emergency management officials, first responders, and residents in Monterey County are preparing for upcoming heavy rainfalls that may prompt debris flows from wildfire burn scars; a water main break forced the closure of a portion of I-70 in St. Louis; Flagler County residents are being urged to sign up for free CERT training; a NOAA report reveals 2020 disasters in the United States totaled over $95 billion dollars in damages; family disaster planning needs to include family pets and farm animals; and the Scottish government refused to pay ransom after hackers stole 1.2 GB of data from its Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).

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1. A shift in weather patterns means California is likely to be inundated with a series of storms and a deluge of heavy rainfall, along with deep snow in the upper elevations. According to meteorologists, as a ridge of high pressure moves out, a jet stream housing strong atmospheric rivers will usher in one storm after another for the next one to two weeks.  With the wet weather being ushered in, dry conditions that have persisted for the past six months — and prompted days of critical fire weather — will shift to dangers that will now include landslides, flash floods, flooding, and avalanches in areas with heavy snowfall.

2. Raw pork sausage is being recalled by an Ohio-based company due to possible foreign material contamination. Bob Evans Farms, Inc., has recalled about 4,200 pounds of its Bob Evans Italian Sausage, packaged in one-pound chubs with a lot code of 0352 and a USE/Freeze by date of January 31, 2021. The raw sausage product being recalled may contain a foreign material identified as thin blue rubber.  

3. Emergency management officials and residents living in Monterey County are preparing for potential debris flows as extremely wet weather moves into California. Monterey County experienced two wildfires this past season, the River Fire, which scorched over 48,000 acres, and the Carmel Fire, which burned another 6,905 acres and left massive burn scars. Fire suppression repair, along with mitigation measures across the burn scar areas, have been ongoing for months. However, emergency management officials are still urging residents to be prepared to evacuate should the need arise.

4. A water main break in St. Louis on Saturday flooded area roadways and trapped some people in their cars amid the rapidly rising water. City officials stated that a 20-inch water main pipe burst, inundating roads and forcing the closure of Interstate 70 in both directions through the area. The break was first reported around 7 p.m., and the fire department was called in to assist with rescuing people who became trapped in their vehicles due to the rapidly rising water.

5. Residents in Flagler County, Florida have the opportunity to sign up for free Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training, with the online portion required to be completed by February 1. The training will increase preparedness and coordination between community residents and professional first responders. The training will cover basic disaster response skills, while also educating residents about hazards most likely to affect the community. It will also ensure they have the ability to prepare for and respond to those incidents.  

6. The United States suffered a total of 22 natural hazard disasters in 2020, each of which had damages that exceeded $1 billion. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) determined the total combined cost for the 2020 disasters exceeded $95 billion, an amount that is unsustainable for the country in the future. Evidence shows that changing building codes and land use laws — among other things — would help reduce the costs of disasters by saving approximately $4 for every $1 spent and would also likely create tens of thousands of jobs.

7. Planning ahead for a disaster should also include preparations for family pets and farm animals. First responders may risk their lives to save animals during a disaster, so ensuring animals are safely evacuated with their families prevents unnecessary risk to lives. Ready.gov offers comprehensive online assistance for disaster preparedness, including safety tips, resources for shelter information and a checklist for pet/animal needs should an evacuation notice be ordered.

8. Government officials in Scotland refused to pay hackers the ransom they demanded after stealing 1.2 GB of data on Christmas Eve. The cyberattack affected the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), and responsibility for the hack was claimed by the Conti ransomware gang. As a result of the government’s refusal to pay the ransom, Conti published 4,000 documents and databases. However, government officials remain clear that they will not use public finances to pay extortion fees. Security experts are working to recover and analyze stolen data and will then contact affected organizations and individuals.

Kimberly Arsenault serves as an intern at the Cleveland/Bradley County Emergency Management Agency where she works on plan revisions and special projects. Previously, Kimberly spent 15 years in commercial and business aviation. Her positions included station manager at the former Midwest Express Airlines, as well as corporate flight attendant, inflight manager, and charter flight coordinator. Kimberly currently holds a master's degree in emergency and disaster management from American Public University.

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