Home Coronavirus EDM Wednesday Briefing: CDC Increases Travel Alert to Level 3 for China
EDM Wednesday Briefing: CDC Increases Travel Alert to Level 3 for China

EDM Wednesday Briefing: CDC Increases Travel Alert to Level 3 for China


Emergency and disaster management briefing for January 29, 2020: The CDC raises its travel alert level for China; a magnitude 7.7 earthquake struck in the Caribbean Ocean between Cuba and Jamaica, affecting the Cayman Islands and Miami, Florida; the helicopter that crashed in California was not required to have a terrain avoidance warning system; two more countries close their borders with China amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak; another person has died from injuries sustained during the White Island volcanic eruption in New Zealand; efforts to streamline emergencies and public communications led to a new emergency app in an Alabama county; the Merrimack Valley gas explosion after-action report cites inter-agency communication issues due to improperly programmed radios; and FEMA updated its code policy for the Public Assistance (PA) Program for disaster recovery construction.

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1) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its statement regarding travel to China amid the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak. Due to the rapid spread of the 2019-nCoV, the CDC issued a Level 3 travel health notice that recommends "all non-essential travel" to the entire country of China be avoided. So far, the United States has five confirmed cases, and Germany now has its first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus.

2) A magnitude 7.7 earthquake struck between Cuba and Jamaica Tuesday afternoon, with shaking felt as far away as Miami, Florida. The earthquake also affected the Cayman Islands, where officials reported sinkholes, cracked roads and possible sewage spills from cracked pipes. According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the quake was at a depth of 6.2 miles and was centered about 77 miles from Lucea, Jamaica. A second earthquake, a 6.1 magnitude aftershock, occurred 35 miles off East End, Grand Cayman, just a few hours later. However, there were no further reports of damage on the island.

3) New information has surfaced regarding the helicopter crash that claimed the lives of nine people in California on Sunday. According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the aircraft -- a Sikorsky S-76 -- lacked a critical terrain awareness system, the Terrain Awareness and Warning System (TAWS). The system is optional on helicopters other than those used for medical flights or air ambulances, and it's unclear if TAWS would have made a difference, depending on other circumstances that may have occurred with the pilot.

4) Kazakhstan and Mongolia have closed the borders they share with China amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. Hong Kong has also announced that it will cut all trains servicing mainland China beginning on Friday. This includes the high-speed rail station, along with the regular train station. According to China's National Health Commission on Tuesday, 1,771 new cases of 2019-nCoV were identified, raising the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 4,515, with 976 people listed in serious condition.

5) Another person has died from injuries sustained during the eruption of the volcano on New Zealand's White Island. The latest death raises the number of those who died from the eruption to 21, including 18 others that have died in New Zealand and two in Australia. Officials noted that other survivors of the eruption are still being treated for severe burns at hospitals in Australia and New Zealand.

6) Officials in Elmore County, Alabama, unveiled a new emergency management app meant to streamline emergencies and public communications. The new app can push information to residents in just seconds and will also help families prepare a severe weather plan ahead of a storm. Other features of the app include notifications of weather warnings and road closures, along with a special needs registry. Citizens are also able to submit damage reports with pictures to quickly get assistance. The app adds a GPS location for first responders, while also creating a record for possible future FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) claims.

7) Communications are key during a disaster event, and the inability to effectively communicate can often lead to unnecessary injuries or deaths, damages, and/or secondary impacts. According to the after-action report of the Merrimack Valley gas line disaster, findings concluded that among other things, first responder radios were not properly programmed for effective interagency communications after the state spent millions to upgrade its system. The Merrimack Valley gas line explosion that occurred in 2018 caused one fatality and damaged 60-80 homes in the towns of Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover, Massachusetts.

8) The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has released an update to its code policy for its Public Assistance (PA) Program. The update mandates that construction adhere to the International Wildland Urban Interface Code, the International Mechanical Code and the International Fuel Gas Code, and the International Plumbing Code. Each of the code requirements strengthen construction efforts to help ensure resilience in the face of wildfires, seismic, and flooding events -- such as ignition-resistant construction in fire-prone areas and gas and electrical line tie-downs that prevent severing during seismic events.


Kimberly Arsenault 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.