Edited Version September 1, 1999 Transcript
EIIP Virtual Online Library Presentation

Disaster Time Line: Selected Events and Outcomes (1965-2000)

Claire B. Rubin
Claire B. Rubin & Associates

EIIP Moderator: Amy Sebring

The original unedited transcript of the September 1, 1999 online Virtual Library presentation is available in the EIIP Virtual Forum Archives (http://www.emforum.org). The following version of the transcript has been edited for easier reading and comprehension. Typos were corrected, date/time/names attributed by the software to each input were deleted but the content of questions and responses are as stated by each participant. Answers to participants’ questions are grouped beneath the appropriate question to facilitate meaning.


Amy Sebring: Welcome to the EIIP Virtual Classroom! Background information for today's session may be found at <http://www.emforum.org/vclass/990901.htm>.

One quick note about any URL's that may be used in the session; they are live links and you can click on them and view the referenced site in your browser window. Subsequent "slides" may display behind your chat window, so you may need to bring the browser window forward. We will use a number of slides today, but I want to point out that we had to sacrifice graphic resolution for the sake of load time. The originals are much sharper!

We will have a presentation for about thirty minutes, and then have audience Q&A for the last thirty minutes. We will review the instructions for Q&A as we are about to begin that portion.


Now, we are pleased to welcome back EIIP partner, Claire Rubin. Claire B. Rubin is President of Claire B. Rubin & Associates, a disaster research and consulting firm in Arlington, Virginia, and a Professorial Lecturer at The George Washington University, Institute for Crisis, Disaster and Risk Management.

She has 20 years of experience in emergency management and has authored numerous publications in the field. She had the lead role in preparing the content of the project she will share with us today, the Disaster Time Line.

Assisting her in this effort has been Ms. Irmak R. Tanali, a Research Associate and Doctoral Candidate at the GWU Institute. Although a newcomer to the field of emergency management, she holds degrees in civil engineering and business administration and has work experience in Turkey. She had the lead role in displaying relationships and in creating the computer-generated graphics.

Thank you for joining us, Claire.


Claire Rubin: Thanks to you all.

The new Disaster Time Line provides a unique, graphic depiction of major disasters, both natural and technological, that have affected emergency management policies in the US. The focus is on the national level.

Using colorful computer graphics, the Disaster Time Line (roughly 18" x 38") shows not only major events, and the year each occurred, but also the influences each event had on major after-action reports and analyses; federal statutes, regulations and executive orders; federal response plans; and major federal organizational changes.

The first slide provides an overview of the chart. Amy, Slide 1, please.


Amy Sebring: This will take a moment to load. We will pause.

Claire Rubin: Some of you may have seen the draft versions that we have displayed at recent conferences. We showed the chart at (1) the FEMA Higher Education conference, held at EMI/Emmitsburg in early July, and (2) the Natural Hazards Conference at Boulder, Colorado in mid-July.

The Disaster Time Line was begun in early 1999, as a teaching tool for our classes in crisis, disaster, and risk management at GWU. We created it in order to provide a useful graphic depiction of major U.S. disasters (both natural and technological) that are considered defining events in emergency management.

The chart provides a snapshot of major disaster events that are considered major milestones; and it shows outcomes in terms of legislative, regulatory, also organizational changes.

Slide 2 shows the left edge of the chart, which shows the main categories of information presented: disaster events, resulting after-action reports and studies, and then legislative, regulatory and organizational changes that followed.


Claire Rubin: The next slide provides a close up of the Legend box, which is a partial snapshot of the legislation and organizations displayed in the Disaster Time Line. Amy, Slide 3, please.


Claire Rubin: By way of background, the choice of 1965 as the year to begin the Disaster Time Line was somewhat arbitrary. We thought it was essential to show that many laws, regulations, organizations dealing hazards and disasters at the federal level existed prior to the formation of both FEMA and EPA.

Additionally, this time frame allows one to see the origins and the evolution of both the Federal Response Plan and the National Contingency Plan. On the slide you will see a close up of a middle slice of the chart (years 1976-82). Amy, Slide 4, please.


Claire Rubin: We anticipate a wide array of potential users. Initially, we assumed that the primary audience would be instructors and students of emergency management. Amy, Slide 5, please.


Claire Rubin: As we proceeded with documenting numerous events and key legislation and regulations, we sought advice from a variety of expert reviewers. To date, about 20 people (practitioners, consultants, and academics) have reviewed the chart for accuracy of content. We continue to welcome suggestions regarding content and readability. Next slide, please, Amy.


Claire Rubin: In conversations with the reviewers, it became clear that public practitioners and consultants in emergency management also thought the Disaster Time Line would be useful to them and their colleagues. We think it would be of interest to professors and students of emergency management, consultants who need to brief clients lacking history or context for some emergency preparedness decisions practitioners with junior staff who lack knowledge of major formative disasters and their outcomes, and anyone interested in disasters and their effects.

We think the Major Features of this chart are:

  1. The complex web of major disaster events and outcomes for the past few decades becomes much clearer when the interactions are shown graphically;
  2. The colorful graphic presentation provides a comprehensive view of disaster history, and the information is more likely to be remembered;
  3. Most books and other documents cover either natural or technological hazards and disasters, but the Disaster Time Line features both types for each of the 35 years depicted;
  4. After seeing the major disaster events and their ramifications in U.S. emergency management history, certain political and policy outcomes become more obvious; and
  5. It helps to "level the playing field" for young employees and persons not born in the U.S. It highlights key events and outcomes, which they can then research further.

The Disaster Time Line is not meant to be a stand-alone document. For in-depth understanding of the events it lists and the relationships indicated, it is essential to combine it with various books and other documents. We think it would be a useful adjunct to many texts in the hazards or emergency management fields.

In conclusion, the Disaster Time Line will go to printing later this week, and then we will distribute it. Since we developed this product at our own cost and on our own time, we have to charge a fee for it. For more information, go to our web site, www.disaster-timeline.com.

Please welcome my colleague, Irmak Tanali. Thank you.

Amy Sebring: Yes, we are glad to have Irmak join us today. Thank you, Claire. We will now take some questions, comments, and feedback from our audience here with us today. Perhaps Irmak can answer some questions as well.

Irmak Tanali: Greetings everybody, thank you for coming.

Amy Sebring: Reminder, if you have a question or comment, please indicate by inputting a question mark (?) to the chat screen. Then compose your question but WAIT until you are recognized; then hit Enter or Send.

[Audience Questions]


Amy Sebring: Claire, I think you are going to have to put up the price?

Claire Rubin: $20. Which includes postage.


David King: Is there supporting documentation (thumbnails) to go with each box on the chart so you don’t have to research each item individually just to know a little about it?

Claire Rubin: Not yet; we have that in mind for the future.


Avagene Moore: I am impressed with the timeline, Claire. I might want to use it when addressing our counterparts in Italy next month. Is it possible to get a copy that quickly if I order from you today or tomorrow? I would need it by Sept 28.

Claire Rubin: Thanks -- it presents months of hard work! I should mention that Anita Kellogg and ICF Consulting are going to help us with the printing. It should be printed quite soon.

Amy Sebring: Comment: since you have depicted the technological hazards well, I would think that LEPCs would find this useful also. And it is not just junior staff that this could be used for. I can see it as a briefing tool for elected officials, etc.

Claire Rubin: I hope so. Actually, some quite senior people at EPA liked it.

Avagene Moore: Just a comment. I can picture this on the wall in my office. I believe it would be a very useful reference.

Claire Rubin: Great. We will be glad to provide you with one, or more.


Russell Coile: Is it possible to look for glaring omissions of follow-up action by Congress, EPA, NWS, etc., after some big disaster?

Claire Rubin: That is a good point. From the chart you will see that sometimes it takes almost a decade to achieve action. And some disasters have had an intellectual impact, but the direct affect on legislation and policy does not show.


Barbara Sims: Does the flood insurance cover coastal home damage from hurricanes?

Claire Rubin: Not sure what you mean.

Amy Sebring: Barbara, there is extensive info on NFIP on the FEMA web site. I do not believe it covers wind damage.

David King: I can also see a spin-off for you, if it were made available as a series of overhead transparencies or PowerPoint slides, for instructional purposes.

Claire Rubin: Very good idea. I hope Irmak catches that!

Irmak Tanali: Thank you, David.

Russell Coile: I think you have done a fantastic job.

Claire Rubin: Thank you very much.

Irmak Tanali: Thank you, Russell.


Amy Sebring: Claire, can you tell us your plans for future updates?

Claire Rubin: Future Plans:

1) Annual Revision. This is the first version of a planned annual publication. In the year 2000, we expect that many new events and outcomes will present themselves. We expect to do the next revision by September 2000.

2) Explanatory Text. We are considering writing an explanatory text in order to (a) to provide some brief descriptions of events and the likely causal relationships between events and outcomes; (b) refer the reader to recommended readings, for further explanation of events and outcomes; and (c) to provide web links for additional information. We would appreciate feedback on these ideas.

Amy Sebring: I think this is suitable for framing, and you might consider selling the frame!

David King: I like everything you've presented. I can really see it being useful in explaining to non-EMA types.

Claire Rubin: I think that is true. We initially had it aimed at students in our intro course.


Amy Sebring: Claire, as you laid this out, did anything in particular strike you about policy development; you mentioned the ten-year lag time. Was there anything else in particular you noticed that might not have occurred to you before?

Claire Rubin: The first impression is one of how reactive we have been in designing laws and policies to deal with emergency management.


Amy Sebring: As opposed to pro-active?

Claire Rubin: The other impression is that we are at a rather critical junction right now as we approach the year 2000. The FRP has been changed drastically, and Y2K is almost upon us.

Anita Kellogg: I really have more of a comment, or compliment. ICF Consulting is exciting about sponsoring this timeline because it is a tool we all need in the business. I agree with Claire entirely that the timeline shows a reactive government.


Avagene Moore: Your explanatory text could be a most comprehensive document, especially with references to research, etc. I am struck once again by how reactive this business has been and still is! Do you have a desire to perhaps make people change their ways of looking at disaster problems? A wakeup call, shall we say?

Claire Rubin: Our intent was to display and explain history; the policy implications are for others to act on!

Tom Hale: I think the increasing role of NGO's and Volunteer groups would be of value.

Claire Rubin: The problem with a chart is that there is limited space and a severe limit to text you can use.


Ann Willis: Can you notice any impacts from FEMA's emphasis on mitigation in the time line?

Claire Rubin: No, not really. Someone at Colorado said, "If FEMA was formed in 1979, why have we had all these expensive disasters since then?"

Amy Sebring: Perhaps that chapter remains to be written, Ann.

David King: We have a fire department training officer with a sign in his office that says "Wanted, one volunteer to die a needless, senseless avoidable death to justify a good training program!" Your chart shows how as a society we validate that view on a regular basis and are so "reactive" instead of proactive.

Claire Rubin: That is quite a sign.


Amy Sebring: Claire, do you have any plans to go back further in time someday? I am thinking in particular of the 40s and 50s. Since I was a mere child in the 50s!

Claire Rubin: At the moment, I do not. It could be done, though.

Amy Sebring: I would like to add my compliments to Irmak on the graphics.

Irmak Tanali: Thank you.

Final Question:

Amy Sebring: I can also see this on CDRom with links to the thumbnails etc. Claire, any last word you would like to add?

Claire Rubin: The idea is to have a hypertext link to each event and major action resulting. Many thanks to you all for the opportunity to chat about this new product.

Amy Sebring: Thank you very much, Claire, and thank you, audience. We will have a text transcript posted later today, and a reformatted version early next week with links to the slides. You can access these via the Transcripts link under Quick Picks on our home page. And thanks to Irmak also!

Now for our commercial! If you have not already made a pledge, please see <http://www.emforum.org/eiip/pledge.htm>. We are about half way to our goal.

Next week's Round Table on Tuesday, we are pleased to welcome back, Rich Dieffenbach with NEMA, to update us on their recent annual meeting. We hope to find out about further developments with some of the issues we have been following of importance to local communities in particular.

Next Wednesday, in the Classroom as part of our continuing hazard series, we will have Marc Levitan, Associate Professor, Louisiana State University talking about wind hazards and their potential effects on chemical plants in hurricane prone areas.

We will adjourn the session now but you are invited to join us back in the Lobby room for a few more minutes of open discussion and to thank our guests.

Great job Claire, thank you.

Claire Rubin: Thank you for the technical support!