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Friday, June 1, 2018

June 1st

Interesting Facts

Study estimates a prolonged increase in death rate in Puerto Rico in months following Hurricane Maria 

Puerto-Rico-Hurricane-MariaAs with any major natural disaster, assessing the loss of life caused by Hurricane Maria was difficult and contentious. For disaster-related deaths to be confirmed in Puerto Rico, bodies must be transported to San Juan or a medical examiner must travel to the region to verify the death. This makes it difficult to log deaths that were caused by delays in treatment or chronic conditions that worsened in the aftermath of the storm. In December 2017, media reports suggested that the official death toll was significantly underestimated. To produce an independent estimate of lives lost as a result of the storm, the researchers surveyed 3,299 randomly chosen households across Puerto Rico. Results from the survey showed that there were an estimated 14.3 deaths per 1,000 people between September 20 and December 31, 2017. By comparing this post-hurricane mortality rate with the same time period in 2016, the researchers estimated that there were 4,645 additional deaths in the three-month period following Hurricane Maria.
In addition to a significantly higher death toll, the study showed that the average household went approximately 41 days without cell phone service, 68 days without water, and 84 days without electricity following the storm. More than 30% of surveyed households reported interruptions to medical care, with trouble accessing medications and powering respiratory equipment being the most frequently cited challenges. Support for the study came from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Department of Emergency Medicine, Section of Wilderness and Environmental Medicine.... Read more

Grenada PM says frequent natural disasters new normal for the region 

The board of governors of the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) began its 48th annual meeting on Wednesday, with Grenada's Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell warning that natural disasters and hazards associated or linked to climate change is creating a new normal in the region that will require a shift in developmental planning. He said that at the macro level, the region must accelerate its transition to green and blue economies, and in so doing, synchronize economic development with environmental sustainability. “Operationally, we must institutionalize climate-risk screening of all infrastructure projects and programs, of both the public and private sectors. In tandem, we also need to enforce proper building standards that support climate-resilient infrastructure,” he said, while explaining that it is crucially important that the region invest in climate-smart education to entrench a culture of respect for, and preservation of the planet earth... Read more

Building Better Power Grids  

Earthquakes, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, ice storms, solar storms, brush fires, cyber attacks—these are just some of the events that can disrupt or incapacitate an electric grid. But for many countries in the region, it is the threat of hurricanes that looms the largest, especially with the start of the Atlantic hurricane season on June 1 and last year’s brutal storms still fresh in people’s memories. The challenge is how to make the region’s power grids more resilient, so that they can withstand or recover from increasingly severe storms. According to a consensus report called “Enhancing the Resilience of the Nation’s Electricity System,” issued last year by the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, it is impossible to eliminate power outages 100 percent, no matter how much money or effort a country invests in its electric grid. To increase the resilience of the grid,” the report stated, “the nation must not only work to prevent and minimize the size of outages, it must also develop strategies to cope with outages when they happen, recover rapidly afterward, and incorporate lessons learned into future planning and response efforts.” Dr. Gary Jackson, an independent energy consultant in the Caribbean, framed the issue of resilience this way: “It’s more than just the wires that connect the poles. It’s building a resilient framework so that countries have the ability to recover in the shortest possible time.”... Read more

For a Resilient Power Grid, Think “Micro”

In most places, on most days, the ability to turn on a light relies on a large centralized power plant, a network of high-voltage transmission lines, and a local distribution system. Most people don’t even think about the electric grid that powers their everyday lives until suddenly it’s not there. Of course, that’s what happened in Puerto Rico and several other Caribbean islands after a series of devastating hurricanes last year. The system failures are shining a light on new solutions for the energy grid. Part of the answer may lie in microgrids. Unlike an emergency gasoline generator that sits idle most of the time, a solar-powered microgrid is typically connected to the main energy grid, providing supplemental power generation on a regular basis. But if need be, it can be decoupled from the electric power system and run on its own. In other words, even if the main grid is down, microgrids can continue providing power to critical areas. Christopher Burgess, the project director for the Islands Energy Program at the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), believes that more countries will take a more “modular” approach to energy and incorporate microgrids into their power systems in the long term. Not only is this type of approach more resilient, he said; it’s also more cost-effective than a huge transmission and distribution system... Read more
Assessing the Real Cost of Disasters: The Need for Better Evidence

image of Assessing the Real Cost of DisastersDisasters disrupt socioeconomic activities and cause substantial damage. Yet, their full economic impact remains largely unknown, especially the cost of smaller disasters and indirect impacts such as those due to business disruptions. Similarly, little information exists on the total amount of public resources that countries devote to disaster risk management. Reliable, comprehensive and comparable data on the economic impact of disasters as well as on public spending on disaster management and risk prevention are essential for developing effective disaster risk management policies. This report provides an overview of countries' efforts to improve the quality and quantity of information on the costs of disasters.    ... Read more   Download the report (subscription to OECD iLibrary needed)     

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