EDM Friday Briefing: Zika Virus Spreading, CA City Crumbles to Sea, More Lead Contamination Concerns Surface
Emergency and disaster management briefing for January 29, 2016: Zika virus is spreading rapidly, California officials are seeking disaster funds to help a city with its eroding shoreline, and health experts are questioning whether Flint, MI is the only city with lead contamination in its drinking water.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) says that Zika virus is 'spreading explosively,' and stated a high level of alarm and uncertainty when announcing that it will hold an emergency meeting to find ways to stop the virus from becoming an epidemic.
- The WHO cited two main reasons for the rapid transmission of Zika virus: 1) A general lack of immunity because the virus is relatively new, and 2) Aedes aegypti, a common mosquito species, is responsible for the transmission of Zika. Aedes aegypti is present in nearly every country in North and South America (Canada and Chile are exceptions).
- The water contamination crisis in Flint, MI is exposing the plight of the city's residents and also exposing the true danger of aging infrastructure in cities across the U.S. Officials warn that, without properly monitored and maintained infrastructure, lead could contaminate the drinking water in various locations across the nation. In fact, some are starting to question how many other cities have lead contamination issues like Flint right now.
- California lawmakers are seeking disaster relief funds from both the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services to help Pacifica, CA residents who have been displaced by quickly eroding shorelines. Recent El Niño-fueled storms caused the erosion of about 20 feet of land over a period of about two weeks in Pacifica, resulting in crumbling cliffs with residences literally on the edge.
- Only a small group of militants remains in the Oregon wildlife refuge, as the nearly month-long standoff winds down. The remaining group of militants is attempting to negotiate an arrest-free end of the occupation with the FBI before leaving the refuge. Protest leader Ammon Bundy, who was arrested earlier in the week, again urged the remaining occupiers to leave the refuge and surrender to authorities.
- The FBI released video yesterday that contains footage of the fatal shooting that occurred in association with the Oregon wildlife refuge standoff. The video shows Arizona rancher Robert LaVoy Finicum speed away from authorities in a white truck, slam into a snowbank, get out of the truck, and then reach for his jacket pocket before being shot.
- FEMA is considering a change that would reduce financial strain on the agency by shifting some costs to state and other local governments. The change would be in the form of a "disaster deductible" that state and/or local governments would have to commit before federal funds could be available in the event of a disaster declaration. Federally declared disasters have been on the rise, with an annual average of 39 disasters between 1976 and 1995, and an annual average of 121 disasters between 1996 and 2015.
- With the spread of Zika virus becoming a global concern, and with various travel advisories in effect, some U.S. airlines are offering waivers for cancellations or ticket changes for customers traveling to affected areas. United Airlines, American Airlines, and Southwest Airlines, among others, already have policies in place to deal with the situation.
- A recent magnitude 7.1 earthquake in Alaska has put a renewed focus on the state's readiness to deal with a natural disaster. The quake struck about 160 miles southwest of Anchorage, damaging roads and rupturing gas lines. Alaska is unique in that it deals with a wide array of natural disasters, including wildfires, floods, landslides and even volcano eruptions.
- Law enforcement officials in Ferguson, MO have agreed to train Ferguson officers to avoid the use of force except where necessary. The sweeping reforms in training will work to help officers get the tools to de-escalate confrontations and will also help give officers the "support they need to police effectively but also lawfully and ethically."
— SFGate (@SFGate) January 28, 2016