Home Emergency Management News EDM Tuesday Briefing: California Gas Leak Makes History, Study Connects Zika Virus and Birth Defects

EDM Tuesday Briefing: California Gas Leak Makes History, Study Connects Zika Virus and Birth Defects


Emergency and disaster management briefing for March 8, 2016: A study reveals that the Porter Ranch methane leak was one of the largest in history, researchers find a stronger link between Zika virus and birth defects, and the FBI/Apple iPhone unlocking battle continues.

  1. The methane leak that lasted at least 112 days in Porter Ranch, CA was the second largest ever recorded in U.S. history, a recent study concluded. The massive leak released a total of 97,100 tons of methane into the atmosphere — a total only surpassed by the collapse of an underground storage facility Texas in 2004.
  2. While crews from Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) plugged the gas leak on February 18, many residents in Porter Ranch and surrounding communities still have yet to move back home. A California appeals court ruled that SoCalGas must continue to pay for temporary accommodations for displaced residents until March 18 while lingering health concerns are addressed.
  3. It has long been speculated that Zika virus is linked to a birth defect known as microcephaly, but now Zika may be linked to other birth defects, as well. Results of a recent study in Brazil not only strengthened the link between Zika and microcephaly, but also pointed to possible connections between Zika and other birth defects associated with central nervous system (CNS) development and fetal growth restriction.
  4. As of March 3, Zika has spread to 52 countries and territories. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), five of those 52 countries and territories reported a Zika virus outbreak that has since ended. The geographical distribution of the virus has steadily widened since the outbreak began in 2015, the WHO reported.
  5. The federal government filed an appeal in New York in its case against Apple about unlocking an iPhone as part of a criminal investigation. The judge ruled that the state cannot force Apple to unlock the iPhone, but federal officials are arguing that Apple has willingly assisted in similar cases before and could easily do it again.
  6. Craig Federighi, senior vice president of software engineering at Apple, authored an op-ed in The Washington Post stating his case that building software to hack into the iPhone to help federal authorities unlock the device would "turn back the clock to a less-secure time and less-secure technologies." Once this backdoor software exists, he said, criminals could use it "wreak havoc on the privacy and personal safety of us all."
  7. The U.S. military conducted an airstrike against a terrorist camp in Somalia yesterday using both manned and unmanned aircraft. The large-scale attack killed more than 150 al-Shabab militants at the terrorist training facility about 120 miles north of the capital, Mogadishu.
  8. The Department of Defense (DoD) is planning to host its first-ever program that will allow cyber security specialists to 'hack the Pentagon.' The DoD will begin a pilot program in April that will give vetted hackers a chance to find vulnerabilities in public DoD web pages.
  9. Emergency personnel in Paris began an 11-day exercise to test response to large scale flooding like the historic flood that happened more than 100 years ago in 1910. Up to 900 emergency personnel, 150 police officers and 40 emergency vehicles will be involved in the exercise, which will take place from March 7 to March 18.
  10. A fallen tree caused a commuter train to derail in northern California last night. Parts of the train became submerged in a creek about 45 miles east of San Francisco. No passengers were killed but at least nine were injured.

Matt Mills Matt Mills has been involved in various aspects of online media, both on the editorial side and on the technology side, for more than 16 years. He holds a Master's Degree in Journalism from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, and is currently involved in multiple projects focused on innovation journalism.