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Emergency and disaster management briefing for March 15, 2021: Volcanologists caution that increased seismic activity at Mauna Loa could signal a forthcoming eruption; a major sandstorm forced the cancellation of hundreds of flights in Beijing; WHO suggests the current Guinea Ebola outbreak allegedly came from latent human infection; Colorado was slammed with feet of snow that prompted the closure of roads and DEN; several tornadoes touched down in Texas amid severe weather on Saturday; applications are now being accepted for the Port Security Grant Program (PSGP) offered by DHS/FEMA; severe weather is possible for several regions in the nation on Wednesday and Thursday; and the NWCG highlights noise as a factor in miscommunications and injuries for wildland firefighters.

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1. Volcanologists are carefully watching Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano as seismic activity has increased over the past week. A total of about 200 small-magnitude earthquakes were recorded beneath the volcano at shallow depths of about four miles. Measurements from the Global Positioning System (GPS) indicate a summit inflation consistent with magma supply that although slow, has continued since it began in January.

2. Hundreds of flights in China were cancelled on Monday after a sandstorm enveloped Beijing and much of the nation’s north. The sandstorm originated in the Gobi Desert, which forced school closures in the Inner Mongolia Region. High winds and low visibility led to the cancellation of flights from the two main airports in the nation’s capital, with the sand and dust forecast to impact at least 12 provinces.

3. The World Health Organization (WHO) believes that the current Ebola outbreak in Guinea was allegedly sparked by a latent human infection from the previous outbreak. According to experts, the infection can remain viable in Ebola survivors in specific locations within the body. This means that the disease can potentially be transmitted to others, although some say more research is needed.

4. A massive snowstorm slammed Colorado, prompting multiple closures on Sunday, including roadways and the Denver International Airport (DEN). A blizzard warning was in effect for Denver, where a total of 27.1 inches of snow had fallen by midnight on Sunday. The National Guard was activated to assist with the search and rescue efforts, and the storm moved up into the number four slot in the state’s top snowstorms.

5. Severe thunderstorms on Saturday afternoon in Texas spawned several tornadoes. The tornadoes touched down in northwest Texas, with tornado warnings in effect from the National Weather Service until 10 p.m. on Saturday. The town of Happy sustained damage from at least one tornado, and high winds and hail were also a factor in several locations throughout the region.

6. Applications are now being accepted for the Port Security Grant Program (PSGP). The PSGP is one of four Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency (DHS/FEMA) grant programs that focus on transportation infrastructure security. Funding priorities for the grant include, among others, Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosive (CBRNE) prevention; detection, response, and recovery equipment; Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) detection technologies; and active shooter training. The current deadline for application acceptance is May 14, 2021.

7. Severe weather is possible in several regions throughout the nation on Wednesday and Thursday. Large hail, strong winds and brief tornadoes are possible from the Midwest through the Tennessee Valley on Wednesday. On Thursday, the same threat moves to the Southeast, including the East Coast, with the threat impacting at least Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia.

8. Noise exposure while working places firefighters at an increased risk of injury. In its 6 Minutes for Safety, the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) points to several impacts that noise has on wildland firefighters, including its ability to cause fatigue, headaches and distractions. According to NWCG, noise is also a factor in miscommunication, the failure to hear warnings and increased errors.