AMU Emergency Management Original Public Safety

EDM Wednesday Briefing: St. Vincent Faces Ash Removal Challenge

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Emergency and disaster management briefing for April 21, 2021: Washington DNR responds to 91 wildfires over the past week; a moderate earthquake near a dormant undersea volcano shakes Santorini Island; the U.S. Coast Guard implements an EM credentialing program; Iowa authorities caution residents about scams related to derecho repairs and work; a sub-tropical system develops off the coast of Brazil; heavy, wet snow caused thousands of power outages across northeast Ohio; St. Vincent faces the monumental task of removing feet-thick ash spewed from the La Soufrière volcano that continues erupting; and customers’ driver’s licenses were exposed for weeks during a data breach at the GEICO insurance company.

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1. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in Washington State responded to 91 wildfires over the past week, and concern is rising over the upcoming wildfire season. Conditions across the state include higher than normal temperatures, low relative humidity, low moisture content in vegetation, dry soils due to a lack of precipitation, and high winds along with multiple wildland brush fires. The DNR burn ban has been extended, and the National Weather Service (NWS) is cautioning residents that fires can start quickly amid such dry conditions.

2. A moderate earthquake close to an undersea volcano located near Santorini Island, Greece, was felt Tuesday morning. The quake registered at a 4.0 magnitude, and weak shaking that lasted for several seconds was felt by many in the northern town of Oia. Some have questioned whether the dormant volcano, Kolumbo, might be reawakening, as its last eruption was in 1650. Seismologists have noted that although seismic activity has increased in the area of the dormant volcano, it shows no signs of activity at this time.

3. The U.S. Coast Guard has announced an Emergency Management Credential Program for Coast Guard members, including active duty, civilian, reserve or auxiliary members. The program recognizes the superior skills, knowledge and abilities of Coast Guard members in the field of Emergency Management (EM). The goal of the program is to advance the EM profession and provide the future and current EM professionals with guiding principles, knowledge, and robust leadership skills required during disasters.

4. Authorities in Iowa are cautioning residents about potential scams related to contractors following the devastating derecho that impacted the state in September of 2020. Officials recommend the use of local, well-established, and reputable businesses to perform any work needed, and residents should also ensure there is a written contract. Other tips include negotiating directly with insurance companies, avoiding paying large sums of money up front and reporting dishonest contractors to the Attorney General’s office.

5. Tropical systems south of the equator are rare; however, the trend has been increasing in recent years. A sub-tropical system formed off the coast of Brazil on Tuesday morning with sustained winds of about 40 mph. This is the second sub-tropical storm to develop near Brazil since December, but only one system has ever reached hurricane status — Category 2 Hurricane Catarina.

6. An overnight snow in Northeast Ohio led to thousands of power outages across multiple counties. The heavy, wet snow inundated counties along Lake Erie, including Cuyahoga, Ashtabula, Lake, and Lorain, snapping tree limbs and downing power lines. First Energy cautioned residents that power to some locations may not be restored until late in the day on Wednesday.

7. Officials in St. Vincent issued an appeal for help as some areas are coated in ash nearly one meter (3.2 feet) deep. Eruptions continue at the La Soufrière volcano on the north side of the island; the eruptions have already caused extensive damage to homes, agriculture, and island tourism. The cleanup and safe disposal of the toxic ash will require millions of dollars. Basic needs — including water, food, and shelter — are needed now to help with recovery.

8. A data breach at the GEICO insurance company went undetected for for nearly six weeks, exposing the driver’s license numbers of customers. Although the breach has allegedly been fixed, information provided by GEICO did not disclose how many customers were affected and if the breach was confined to California. The company cautioned customers that the hacked information may likely be used to fraudulently apply for unemployment benefits under their names.

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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