Home Coronavirus EDM Friday Briefing: U.S. State Department Issues Level 4 Travel Advisory for China
EDM Friday Briefing: U.S. State Department Issues Level 4 Travel Advisory for China

EDM Friday Briefing: U.S. State Department Issues Level 4 Travel Advisory for China


Emergency and disaster management briefing for January 31, 2020: WHO has declared the novel coronavirus a Global Health Emergency and issued a Level 4 travel advisory; an oil well explosion in Texas killed one and injured three; monitoring by the TPC Group showed unsafe butadiene levels multiple times daily prior to the massive fire and explosions at their petrochemical plant in Port Neches; severe storms have caused flash flooding, floods, and power outages in South Australia; Lake Christine Fire burn scar mitigation efforts to ease flash floods and mudflows have been completed; regions of Australia hit by another heat wave were placed under a high fire alert again on Friday; a guide is available to assist behavioral health facilities with emergency planning efforts; and a new 6-part webinar series addressing cancer risks for firefighters begins in February.

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1) The WHO (World Health Organization) has proclaimed the novel coronavirus a Public Health Emergency of International Concern due to the 2019-nCoV outbreak, prompting the U.S. State Department to issue a Level 4 travel advisory -- Do Not Travel -- which is its highest level. The death toll has increased to 213 cases, all of whom have died in China. Also, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported the first person-to-person transmission case in the United States during an afternoon press conference on Thursday. Person-to-person spread has also been reported in Germany, Japan, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam. The number of confirmed cases in China has now risen to 9,809.

2) An oil well explosion in Burleson County, Texas, has left one dead and three others injured. The incident occurred Wednesday afternoon at Chesapeake Energy's worksite near Caldwell, and the fire was not extinguished until Thursday afternoon. The three injured workers were flown by helicopter to hospitals in Houston and Austin, but names of the victims have not yet been released.

3) Prior to the 2019 massive fire and multiple explosions at the TPC Group Petrochemical Plant in Port Neches, Texas, frequent and increasingly larger butadiene emissions had allegedly been occurring. According to reports, after a settlement in 2017 for their alleged release of butadiene into the air, the TPC Group was to monitor butadiene levels and then post those reports online. Officials say it is too soon to know if the results -- which allegedly show recordings exceeding multiple times a day what are considered safe levels of butadiene -- were a factor in the massive fire and explosion that took place at the plant on November 27.

4) Severe storms impacting South Australia produced heavy rainfall and damaging winds, prompting some power cuts in areas due to flash flooding. The severe weather has lashed the region with monsoonal-type rains, leading to flooding in Port Lincoln. The state's largest run hospital, Royal Adelaide Hospital, is experiencing intermittent power outages. Nearby Kangaroo Island saw the rain as a welcome relief, as it helped to contain brushfires that have ravaged the island over the last month.

5) Mitigation efforts to protect residents and structures in Basalt and Eagle counties in Colorado after the Lake Christine wildfire, have now been completed. The 30 major and minor projects, which cost over $1.3 million and were mostly funded by state and federal grants, addressed the Lake Christine Fire burn scar. The projects were meant to prevent flash flooding and mud flows from reaching residential areas in the counties. The 2018 Lake Christine Fire, which burned 12,588 acres, destroyed three homes, and cost $25 million in damages and first responders efforts, was caused by arson.

6) Parts of Australia are now on a high fire alert again. Fires began on Friday, after soaring temperatures and high winds whipped up unpredictable blazes, including one blaze dangerously close to Canberra. Temperatures climbed to over 104 degrees Fahrenheit in many densely populated locations and along hundreds of miles of the coast south of Sydney. To date, Australia's unprecedented bushfires have killed 33 people and at least 1 billion native animals, destroyed about 2,500 homes, and scorched 28.91 million acres.

7) A handbook is available to assist emergency managers and planners in behavioral health facilities with disaster planning. The guide, the Disaster Planning Handbook for Behavioral Health Treatment Programs, is part of the Technical Assistance Publication Series offered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Behavioral health programs are obligated to be prepared for emergencies since they provide essential services as outlined in Emergency Support Function #8, and it is suggested that local emergency managers contact facilities in their jurisdiction to make them aware of the guide.

8) A new webinar series is being launched in February to address firefighter cancer risks. The webinar series begins on February 18 and is part of a 6-part series, produced in collaboration by the National Volunteer Fire Council and the Volunteer and Combination Officers Section of the International Association of Fire Chiefs. The webinars are meant to highlight recent study findings that firefighters have an increased risk of cancer and of mortality from cancer, which is partly due to improper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) decontamination practices after fire response.


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.