Sunday, February 27, 2011

Texas Wildfires Information

These are the first resources I can find for the wildfires in the Palisades, TX area Feb 27 2011. Please post comments with more resources if you have them. Note that the #txfire, #amafire and #wildfire tags are being used on Twitter.

National Weather Service 6.15pm update - including evacuation instructions
Live video feed from ChaserTV
Impact map from National Weather Service
Amarillo Office of Emergency Management
Twitter search for #txfire OR #amafire OR #wildfire
Live Audio Scanner Feed for Lubbock County
Live Audio Scanner Feed for Potter & Randall County Fire, Sheriff, and Amarillo PD/FD
Google News search for Texas Wildfire
CBS7 Wildfire Status Page
KWES NewsWest9
INCIWEB - this fire is not there yet, but when it is it will have updates and links to other resources
Satellite images of Amarillo wildfire

Monday, February 21, 2011

Feb 2011 New Zealand Christchurch Earthquake

An 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit Feb 21, 2011 at 23:51 UTC near Christchurch, New Zealand. Here are some information resources for the earthquake. There are reports of building collapses and fatalities.

If you are looking for someone use the #eqnzContact or #ruok hashtags in Twitter or call 1300 555 135. There is also a Civil Defence number - 800-779-997 You can also try the Christchurch Earthquake Person Finder

Top Twitter Hashtags for the quake are #eqnz, #chch. You can try a Twitter search for #eqnz OR #chch Earthquake OR #christchurch: use #eqnz for tweets

AGGREGATION PAGES - aggregating social media and other sites

All Hazards Blog (this one)
SM4EM page aggregating social media resources earthquake aggregation site
The Evolving Newsroom - another aggregate page
Google crisis response page for Christchurch earthquake - people finder, maps
FEMA's blog post with a list of resources


1. Search or post requests on Twitter with the #eqnzcontact tag. For example, if you want to find someone called Fred Blogs, go to, and type the following in the search box: fred blogs AND #eqnzcontact . If you find nothing, post a request for information for example: Please help me find fred bloggs on xxx street christchurch who is missing #eqnzcontact #eqnz

2. Look on the Project EPIC map for #eqnzcontact colored tags in the area of the person you are looking for

3. Try the Google Christchurch Earthquake Person Finder


QuakeEscape - finding people accommodation
Christchurch room finder


Project EPIC crowdsourced tweetmap of Christchurch quake
Crisis camp earthquake wiki
Twitter posts from near Christchurch
Twitter search for #eqnz OR #chch Earthquake OR #christchurch: use #eqnz for tweets
Google map showing damage (see below)
Some relevant twitter accounts: @NZcivildefence, @CanterburyEM, @Police_NZ (auto feed only), @ECan, @geonet
NZ TrendsMap of twitter posts in New Zealand
EagleGIS Earthquake map
Christchurch Earthquake Person Finder report aggregator
QuakeEscape - finding people accommodation

View Christchurch earthquake: Map of the destruction in a larger map


USGS site showing earthquake details plus reports from the public
USGS PAGER initial rapid assessment of earthquake
New Zealand Civil Defense with earthquake updates
Christchurch Quake Map showing location of today's earthquakes
NZStuff page with video, pictures, maps, eyewitness accounts
Latest updates from Radio New Zealand (blog-style)
Live updates blog-style from 3News
3News Running Report
3News earthquake RSS feed - faster since site is slow
New Zealand Herald
MSNBC New Zealand Live Stream
3News Live Video Stream
Youtube Video of immediate aftermath of quake
NEW Youtube video of earthquake aftermath (graphic)
Christchurch Crowdmap of reports (new)
Wikipedia page for this earthquake

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Quick guide to Space Weather and Solar Flares

If you have an interest in astronomy, or follow those "end of the world" blogs, you've probably heard about solar flares, and the potential impact of extreme events on the earth. Solar flares are associated with sunspots, are a regular feature of the Sun, and are normally not something to be worried about. However, due to solar cycles, about every 11 years or so there is a period of increased sunspot activity which can result in flares which actually have an impact on the earth. Recently we have heard stories of potential doom, including worldwide power outages and GPS satellites being knocked out. We are now entering a solar maximum, so should we be worried?

Well, yes and no. Most of the concern revolves around the potential for a very strong solar flare which could potentially overload transformers and cause widespread, and possibly permanent power outages. This is a real threat, and was described recently in a National Academy Of Sciences report. In particular, a repeat of a very large flare which occured in 1859 (known as the Carrington Event) could, according to the report, cause an electromagnetic overload of power grids, cause transformers to explode, with damage that might not be repairable for 5-10 years. Yes, that's a 5-10 year widespread power outage. Now, the Carrington Event appears to be quite unusual, and most solar events are much less spectacular. But it should be on our preparation radar. Smaller scale events can still cause regional outages (such as in 1989, when a solar flare resulted in a widespread outage in Quebec, lasting 12 hours and affecting 5 million people)

Fortunately, we have some wonderful resources available, especially from the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center which, like its terrestrial counterpart, offers warnings of activity that could cause problems. However, to be able to use these warnings and resources, we need a quick lesson in solar flares. Here is the super-quick version: for a more detailed account see the SWPC FAQ. Basically, sunspots can result in solar flares which are intense bursts of electromagnetic radiation. These only really affect the earth if the sunspot is pointing right in our direction. The most immediate impact of these earthbound flares is a very quick increase in X-ray flux. You can see current X-ray flux values in this plot from the NOAA GOES satellite (also available on the SWPC site):

See the letters on the right (A, B, C, M, X)? That represents the intensity of the flare. The really interesting ones are "X" class flares, and we get a few of these each solar cycle. Very quickly after the flare an X-class (and sometimes an M class) can cause shortwave radio outages on the sun-facing side of the earth. These rays reach the earth very quickly. The possible impacts on radio are given by the R scale on the NOAA Space Weather Scale.

A solar flare can also produce a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME). This is a cloud of geomagnetically charged particles which reaches earth usually a couple of days after a flare. This is the one which can cause power outages. It is measured using Planetary K-index (Kp) values - you can see the current Kp values in the plot below (also taken from the NOAA site):

Anything over "4" is classed as a storm, although it's really 8's and 9's which spell trouble. Again for a mapping to real effects, see the G-scale on the NOAA Space Weather Scale.

So that's the quick intro to get you started! For more information, as well as the NOAA site, I recommend (check out the forums) and, and AllHazards Blog's own Solar Dashboard.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Emergency managers - are you ready for #smemchat?

If you haven't picked up on it, the world of Emergency Management is a-buzz with talk about Social Media. In many recent emergencies, from the Australian floods, Egyptian revolt to the Midwest icestorm, Twitter, Facebook and Blogs have played an increasingly important part in both dissemination of information and in providing a medium for gathering information from the public.

But of course there is a lot for us to think about: how reliable is all this information? Do false rumors spread like wildfire (or icestorms)? How do you get information out into the "blogosphere" or "tweetverse"? How do you get started? Is there a simple place to get the basics?

Well the good news is that help is at hand. Twitter is no longer just the home of spotty teenagers, and there are some really good resources popping up. Here are my recommendations

1. Take a look at the website This is a new site run by a leading emergency manager with great resources for getting started.

2. Check out what FEMA is doing - their blog, the twitter account of Craig Fugate, head of FEMA, and their news release on Social Media tools

3. Check out the #smem tag search on Twitter. You don't need an account, just go to this search page and take a look at some of the things people are posting about Social Media and Emergency Management.

4. Join us for #smemchat! Every Friday from 12.30-1.30 EST, we have an online chat about social media and emergency management using the #smemchat tag on Twitter. This is a a safe place to air opinions and have a lively debate. To participate, you need a twitter account and the easiest way is to use your twitter account to log into and enter #smemchat as the tag. If you want to watch but not participate, just do a Twitter #smemchat search on Fridays at lunchtime!