Selena Xie's blog

FEMA for the Holidays

Although hurricane season officially ended November 30th, it's always a good time to be thinking about disaster preparedness. In this spirit, FEMA has compiled a list of preparedness gifts because helping loved ones prepare is a great way to say "I care." Here are a few gift tips:

Snow Business

It's early for snow, so you better hurry and read the Red Cross's handy Winter Storm Safety Checklist which provides valuable tips and a good refresher on winter etiquette!

Winter Storm Safety Checklist

Katrina Flood Victims Successfully Sue for Damages

This Wednesday, a federal judge found the Army Corps of Engineers guilty of negligence that caused some of the worst flooding after Hurricane Katrina. This verdict that denounces the poor maintenance of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO), a major navigation channel, is the first time the government has been held liable for any of the flooding in the New Orleans area.

Web technology and disaster

Harvard Medical School has recently released an iPhone app teaching you the basic about H1N1 and allows you track it as well. Tech Crunch explains:

The Swine Flu Application includes videos, animations and text that allow you to learn the basics about swine flu, how to reduce the risk to you and your family, and how to prepare your business for the pandemic. The app also features real-time updates and news from Harvard Med School about H1N1.


October 24th marked the International Day of Climate Action. 350 has become the symbolic for those who want to act on climate change. Where does 350 come from? Currently, because of human activity, there are 387 PPM (parts per million) CO2 in the atmosphere. Scientists have advised that 350 PPM is the upper limit that is safe for humans. On last Saturday, millions of people all around the world displayed their commitment to reducing the impact humans have on our earth. See more photos and find out more at

National Fire Prevention Month

When you see a large group of elementary school students outside, they are either at recess or being fire-drilled. The difference is in the eyes – kids at recess look happy and engaged while kids being fire-drilled have glazed over eyes because it seems so pointless. As the fire instructor at my weekly CERT training remarked, “if there were a fire, I wish it would be at a school because those kids are drilled.” They know what to do, where to go. Fire fighters cannot go into residential homes and force people to be safe. I, like elementary school kids, never gave much attention to fire safety because obviously it is never going to happen to me.  I learned a few things last night that have made me think differently (having a fire chief bark at you for three hours will do that to you).

Weather and Disaster

This Tuesday, I went to my third CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) class and we received the "National Weather Service’s Basic Storm Spotter Course".  We learned a lot about different weather patterns, what severe weather Texas is vulnerable to, and how to spot them. We also learned what a long way we are from actually understanding severe weather phenomena. In fact, understanding the weather is a critical element in preparing for disasters. One way you can help is by reporting any severe weather you see so that meteorologists have as much data as possible. You can even take it a step further by joining CoCoRaHs, which is a dedicated group of volunteers who collect and report rainfall.

Report severe weather here:

Disaster Round-up in Pacific Asia

Everyday, it seems we hear about a new typhoon or earthquake has plagued a part of Pacific Asia. Here is a round-up of the disasters as provided by Reuters:

* On Sept. 26, Typhoon Ketsana tore through the Philippines, submerging houses, triggering landslides and killing nearly 300 people.

* On Sept. 29, an undersea earthquake sparked a series of tsunamis in the South Pacific that tore buildings apart and washed people to sea, some still in their beds. The death toll in Samoa, American Samoa and neighbouring Tonga nears 200.

* A day later, a 7.9 magnitude earthquake hit Indonesia's Sumatra island, toppling hundreds of buildings in Padang city, killing more than 1,000 people and trapping many more under rubble. Within 24 hours another quake struck Sumatra.

Test your H1N1 IQ (Influenza Quotient)

How much do you know about the flu? Check out your IQ (Influenza Quotient) at Time:,8599,1923150,00.html

Also, check out this doctor rapping about how to stay flu free!

Emergency Management in Austin

Last night, I attended my first CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) class. The classes are held in the CTECC (Combined Transportation, Emergency, Communications Center). Let me tell you, the building. is. amazing. First of all, they have a Wal-Mart sized 911 Call Center that looks like a combination of the New York Stock Exchange trading floor and the control room from War Games. On the floor, they receive all of the 911 calls placed within Travis County (except for those placed on the UT campus and in Plugerville). Besides the call responders, there are also police, fire, transportation, and medical stations on the floor ready to respond to any emergencies.

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