How can humanitarian response be decentralized?

Source: How can humanitarian response be decentralized?

For a long time, it wasn’t possible to include everyone’s voice in planning or decision-making without impossibly large amounts of time. There was no way to listen, at scale. So aggregation and centralization became common, especially in times of urgency, even with the troubles these tend to cause.

But now, with the technologies we have, we can *listen*, in high resolution and in high fidelity. But technology isn’t a silver bullet. We also need the political will and the personal values to make that happen. With Aspiration’s new Digital Humanitarian Response program, we get to support some of the rad people willing and able to make these movements happen. In May, we hosted the Humanitarian Technology Festival at MIT. The Digital Response Wiki provides resources and notes, and here are some top-level highlights from the event:

Disaster and humanitarian issues don’t happen in a vacuum

Notes from the Humanitarian Technology Festival

Groups like Public Lab help lay the groundwork (both socially and technically) for fast-cycle disasters, via their ongoing interaction with communities around environmental justice. This also provides scaffolding for handing off responsibilities after an extreme event. Kathmandu Living Labs, a group committed to mapping the infrastructure of their geography, is an excellent case study in this. When the Nepal earthquake hit, they were able to jump into action quickly due to pre-existing Open Street Map communities, workflows, data infrastructure, and (most importantly) social ties. Kathmandu was then capable of making use of (and maintaining) the updated data after the fact. Simply by being (and being allowed to be) active in affected communities on a day-to-day basis, organizations can support communities in becoming more resilient to disasters.

That said, preparing for extreme events before they happen can help mitigate the severity of impact on people lives. We explored the idea of games to make what might be considered dull more fun. No need to start from scratch (though that can be stimulating as well!). Climate Centre makes such games, and publishes them openly over on their website.

We already have much of what we need

One of our spectrogram statements was, “We already have all of the technology we need.” While we were divided in our responses, we acknowledged that the ability of groups of people to make do with what they have in disaster is astounding. And our preferences apply here technically as well as ethically. Distributed, federated systems both for technology and for communities/governance are more resilient than centralized systems (as well as addressing human rights in general). There are a few of these rad systems being built, NYC Prepared being one of my favorites.

Data and consent are deeply linked

Data use with populations that are vulnerable (based on their history, their current circumstances, or both) is still a big question, but not one we need to face on our own. OpenGov, Missing Persons, and other transparency-related initiatives have figured an awful lot of that out, and we should take note. Additionally, while consent is different in high-stress situations than in long-term advocacy campaigns, it should still be a strong consideration in any plan or intervention.

We looked at the Framework for Consent Policies which came out of a Responsible Data Forum in Budapest, and suggested advocating for a “notify this set of people in case of emergency” embedded into social platforms, similar to Networked Mortality or ICE contacts in some phones. This way, people would be consenting and determining who would be their contacting associates in case of disaster (unlike what Facebook recently did). Consent is a component of accountability, both of which highlight how frontline communities might be the architects of their own rescue.

Accountability is just as important in precarious situations as it is in everyday life, if not more so

Accountability is sorely lacking in humanitarian aid and disaster response. Fantastic organizations exist to track where spending is going, but money is often considered misspent. Frameworks exist for deploying aid in ways which alleviate, rather than exacerbate, conflict and tensions. However, these frameworks and mechanisms are still sometimes insufficient, as even well intended groups remain in regions for decades while populations become reliant on them, rather than becoming self sufficient.

Rather than come up with an external group to hold response groups accountable, we figured the frontline community could state whether or not initiatives are working, and those reports could be sent directly to the response organizations, their donors, and relevant constituents. This factors in strongly to the Dialling Up Resilience initiative grant of which Aspiration is a part (Yes, it’s spelled with 2 L’s. They’re Brits). More on that soon.

You can find more thorough notes from Humanitarian Technology Festival on (you guessed it) our wiki. Reach out to us if you have any questions about this ongoing work. Contact us here: / @willlowbl00

Digital Humanitarian Response

FEMA Sends Officials to Help With Flint Drinking Water Crisis

Source: FEMA Sends Officials to Help With Flint Drinking Water Crisis

(TNS) – The federal government’s disaster relief agency has sent three officials to assist Michigan with the Flint drinking water crisis at the state’s request, but Gov. Rick Snyder has not yet requested federal financial aid in connection with the ongoing public health emergency, a Michigan State Police spokeswoman said Saturday.

Rafael Lemaitre, director of public affairs for the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Washington, D.C., said on Twitter on Friday that FEMA has deployed two liaison officers to the Michigan Emergency Operations Center to provide technical assistance. A third FEMA liaison officer arrived Saturday, a state police official said.

Capt. Chris Kelenske, deputy director of emergency management and homeland security for the state police, asked FEMA on Wednesday to send the officials “to provide support if we have any questions” about the emergency response process, MSP spokeswoman Nicole Lisabeth told the Free Press on Saturday.

But no federal financial aid has been requested by the state because local officials are still conducting assessments and “no requests have been specifically made from local officials that needs have not been met,” Lisabeth said.

Snyder, who declared a state of emergency in Flint and Genesee County on Tuesday, is facing criticism both for not declaring an emergency sooner and for not requesting federal financial help through FEMA. Snyder spokesman Dave Murray said Tuesday that under the law, Snyder could not declare a state of emergency until Genesee County did so. That happened Monday, one day before Snyder acted.

Stacy Parker Le Melle, an author with ties to Michigan, has launched a drive on urging Snyder to ask FEMA to provide aid directly to Flint. “We implore you to do your duty,” says the petition. “Help Flint residents get the relief they need!”

Flint’s drinking water became contaminated with lead in 2014 after its supply source was switched from Lake Huron water provided by what was then the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to the more polluted and corrosive Flint River, while the city was under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager.

The cost-cutting move resulted in a spike in lead levels in children, which can cause permanent brain damage. A recent preliminary report from a task force appointed by Snyder placed most of the blame on the state Department of Environmental Quality, which failed to require the addition of anticorrosive chemicals to the water. That prompted a Snyder apology and the Dec. 29 resignation of DEQ Director Dan Wyant.

Although the state assisted the city in moving its source of drinking water back to Lake Huron water supplied by Detroit in October, concerns about contamination remain because the more corrosive Flint River water damaged pipes and other infrastructure.

Michigan’s chief medical executive, Dr. Eden Wells, said Thursday that Flint residents should either use a lead filter on their drinking water taps, or drink bottled water, until further notice. The Flint water is safe to drink if a properly installed and a properly maintained lead filter is used, Wells said. She also called on parents to have children younger than 6 blood-tested immediately for signs of lead poisoning.

Under state and federal law, after Snyder declared a state of emergency Tuesday, he may request financial assistance through FEMA “if state and local government resources are unable to cope with the emergency or disaster.”

At Snyder’s request, “FEMA may conduct a Preliminary Damage Assessment in cooperation with state and local emergency management officials,” according to a fact sheet distributed by the Michigan State Police.

The results of that assessment are then reviewed by the governor’s office and other state officials and used as a basis to determine whether to request federal financial assistance, the fact sheet said.

“Should the state request federal disaster assistance, FEMA will review the request and make a recommendation to the president, who will make the final determination on any disaster aid to be provided to the state,” according to the fact sheet.  “The goal of disaster assistance is not to make individuals, businesses or government entities whole again, but to restore the community to a level that meets expected health and safety considerations.”

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver met in Lansing with Snyder on Thursday and said preliminary estimates to repair Flint water distribution infrastructure damaged by corrosive water from the Flint River have ranged from millions of dollars to as high as $1.5 billion. Health-related costs would be on top of that.

Monica Lewis-Patrick, a spokeswoman for the group We the People of Detroit, said at an anti-Snyder rally in Flint Friday that Snyder should not only be requesting federal financial assistance, but should be mobilizing the Michigan National Guard to assist with the crisis.


©2016 the Detroit Free Press

Visit the Detroit Free Press at

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Ambulances redirected Tuesday Night as Sacramento County’s Hospitals Were Swamped

(TNS) – On Tuesday evening, as emergency room waiting lists grew longer and longer, the Sacramento County Emergency Medical Services Agency made a game-time decision to enact its Level Two Expanded Emergency protocol to address the uncommon surge in patients.

It was the first time in more than five years that action of this level was required, officials said.

Starting in the early evening, UC Davis Medical Center began experiencing what it called an “extremely high patient volume.” Ben Merin, EMS coordinator for the county, said the facility was not alone.

“Every health-care area was really busy yesterday,” he said. “It was raining, there were car accidents. Hospitals go through this regularly, there are upticks and slows. Yesterday was just a day when everything came together.”

When a facility reports concerns about high volume to the county, as UCD did Tuesday night, EMS can make a decision to put that hospital on diversion. That would mean closing that emergency room to new, noncritical patients, and routing all ambulances carrying noncritical patients to the nearest equipped hospital. Facilities would continue to take critical patients even during high-volume periods, Merin said.

Tuesday night, however, all the local hospitals were so busy that putting UCD on diversion would have just inundated the nearest facility and caused a cascade after that, he said. Instead, EMS chose to enact the level two plan, which mandates that noncritical patients be evenly distributed throughout all the emergency rooms in the county.

The county told each hospital to enact its surge plans, or individual protocols for handling busy nights. They also took charge at their control center, at UC Davis Medical Center, to keep an eye on how close to capacity each hospital was, Merin said.

Each time a paramedic picked up a patient, he or she called the control center to find out which facility to deliver to in order to keep the patient numbers evenly distributed. Normally, the paramedic would drive the patient to the nearest facility, or a facility of the patient’s choosing.

“The hospitals see surges all the time,” Merin said. “They manage those surges individually, just fine, all the time. Tuesday night it happened to be enough of the hospitals surging that it had a communitywide impact. So rather than having diversions happening, we enacted protocol to control that.”

But even with the even distribution protocol, the high volume was problematic, said Dr. Justin Wagner, medical director of the Sutter Emergency Department, in an email.

“This caused tremendous strain on the other hospitals in Sacramento County, which had to pick up the slack,” he said.

The emergency patient distribution method lasted for about four hours, and ended at 9:40 p.m. Tuesday. After that, ambulances returned to delivering patients based on standard protocol.

At UC Davis, eight elective surgeries that had been scheduled for Wednesday were canceled. The emergency department is accepting noncritical patients, but is taking patients transferred from other hospitals only on a limited basis, according to a statement from the medical center.

“As with all other hospitals in the Sacramento area, UC Davis Medical Center is experiencing an extremely high patient volume,” the statement said. “UC Davis Medical Center staff are working around the clock to ensure that every patient receives the appropriate level of care during this extraordinary period. Patient safety remains the hospital’s No. 1 priority.”

Kaiser Permanente issued a statement Wednesday saying its emergency department was no longer experiencing a surge. Dignity Health did not make representatives available for comment.


©2016 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.)

Visit The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.) at

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

200,000 Remain Displaced in the Philippines as Death Toll Rises to 45

(TNS) – The death toll from two storms that battered the country last week rose to 45 on Sunday as several towns remained under water and rain kept falling in northern regions, disaster monitoring officials said.

The rain was caused by a cold front, dragged into the country by Typhoon Nona (international name: Melor) and Tropical Depression Onyok, which hit the country in succession last week.

Nona hit the southeast of Luzon—the Philippines’ largest group of islands—on Dec. 14 and moved west across the archipelago.

Even as it departed for the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea), another storm named locally as Onyok hit the southern island of Mindanao and brought more heavy rain.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) also on Sunday said more than 200,000 people were displaced as parts of Luzon and Eastern Visayas remained under water.

The multi-agency council said a total of 65,318 families or 289,616 people in Central Luzon, Mimaropa, Calabarzon and Eastern Visayas are still staying in evacuation centers.

Of the total number of displaced, 19,046 families or 87,743 people are staying inside 367 evacuation centers.

The rest of the affected families are either staying in their friends or relatives’ homes.

The NDRRMC reported 118 areas in Ilocos Region, Central Luzon, Mimaropa (Mindoro-Marinduque-Romblon-Palawan) and Metro Manila are still flooded.

Eight cities and 45 towns in Central Luzon, Mimaropa, Calabarzon (Cavite-Laguna-Batangas-Rizal-Quezon), Bicol Region and Eastern Visayas are without power and 42 roads and 21 bridges were still not passable.

The NDRRMC said a total of 168,439 houses were damaged in areas hardest hit by the typhoon.

It pegged the typhoon’s damage to agriculture and infrastructure at more than P2 billion.

Floods almost three meters (nine feet) deep covered some riverside areas in Central Luzon as heavy rain kept falling, civil defense officials said.

“Our home has been flooded up to the waist. It has been flooded for over two days,” said Mary Jane Bautista, 35, in the agricultural town of Calumpit in Bulacan.

Her family and several others were forced to take refuge on nearby high ground — in front of a church where their only shelter is the awning over the entrance. With AFP and PNA

“My husband has to wade through the waters to go home to get supplies. If we need water, he has to go to the faucet in our kitchen,” Bautista said, expressing fears the current could wash him away.

“We had some food but it just ran out,” she added, complaining that government relief goods had not yet reached her.

Around Bautista, the streets had turned into fast-moving rivers, passable only by rowboats and people using inner tubes.

Many low-lying areas in Bulacan and Nueva Ecija act as a catchment area for rain in other parts of the main island of Luzon.

“It [the flood] really takes a long time to recede because this is the lowest area,” said Glenn Diwa, an officer with the regional disaster council.

Over 54,000 people in the region were huddling in government evacuation centers, he added.

Diwa said there was no guarantee they would be home by Christmas.

Fatalities rising

Almost a week after Nona struck, the death toll was still rising.

The NDRRMC, in its morning report, placed the official fatality count at 35 with six people missing and 24 more were added to the injury list.

It said Jose Huiden, 21, from Bulan, Sorsogon, was killed after he got hit in the head by a fallen branch of a mango tree.

Based on reports from the regional and provincial DRRMCs, however, the count has reached 45 after

the bodies of four dead fishermen washed up days after the storm.

The count was 41 on Saturday.

“They left during clear weather. But they were caught by the typhoon on the way home,” said Cedric Daep, the region’s civil defense chief.

The unregistered vessel did not have a radio or even life vests, he added.

The Philippines, with a population of 100 million, is battered by an average of 20 typhoons annually, many of them deadly.

In 2013, Super Typhoon Yolanda (international code name: Haiyan) wiped out entire fishing communities in the central islands, leaving 7,350 people dead or missing.

Relief mission continues

Malacañang also on Sunday said the government will remain steadfast in helping the victims of Nona despite the ambush of three government trucks carrying relief goods for typhoon victims in Samar.

”The government will be unshaken and will even intensify its efforts to bring the assistance to our countrymen affected by the typhoon despite the ambush done by the suspected NPA [New People’s Army],” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a Radyo ng Bayan interview.

A convoy of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) personnel belonging to the 546th Engineering Battalion and the 81st Division Reconnaissance Company had just brought relief goods to typhoon-stricken areas when they were attacked by armed men last Thursday in Pinabacdao, Samar.

”The AFP and the Philippine National Police continue to coordinate with DSWD to increase the security for the relief operations,” Coloma said.

He added that the decision by President Benigno Aquino 3rd to declare unilateral suspension of military operations against the NPA last Friday would boost the relief operations for typhoon victims in Oriental Mindoro, Albay, Samar, Romblon and Sorsogon.

Coloma said the government is also helping the victims of tropical storm Onyok that brought heavy rains to Mindanao areas.

Last Friday, President Benigno Aquino 3rd issued Proclamation 1186 declaring a state of national calamity to further hasten the distribution of relief assistance and to impose price controls, particularly in areas heavily affected by Nona.

Coloma said the NDRRMC had distributed P56.2 million assistance to Regions II, IV-A, IV-B, V and VIII.

He added that the DSWD had also prepositioned P674 million worth of standby funds, P111.5 million worth of food and non-food items and 204,000 food packs in Regions X, XI, XII, Caraga and the National Relief Operations Center in Metro Manila.


©2015 The Manila Times (Manila, Philippines)

Visit The Manila Times (Manila, Philippines) at

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Source: 200,000 Remain Displaced in the Philippines as Death Toll Rises to 45

Lesvos – where to volunteer

Team Health Point Project tent in Moria Camp.Team Health Point Project tent in Moria Camp.

I spent two weeks, end November 2015 on the island working with Team Positive Action as well as with Health Point Project with the clear impression that the vast majority of the frontline response was done by unpaid volunteers, as well as local people stepping up to the task.

Almost all volunteer organizations have their main online presence on facebook, where they often update on their acitivities. Several facebook groups are active as well. However, these facebook pages quickly become large and difficult to navigate, and the answers one gets varies in quality. The most widely used facebook groups for volunteers are Information Points for Volunteers, Volunteer´s Coordination Team (the name may be misleading since this group is actually an extenstion of a particular volunteer group, the Volunteer´s Coordination Agency, run by Fred Morlet, though general questions are often asked). For medical people the group Medics for Greece may be useful.

The Lesvos Volunteer Map is continuously updated and shows where various organizations work.

Want to Volunteer on Lesvos and Information for Short-Term Volunteers are very comprehensive and continuously updated pages and a must-read for all considering volounteering on Lesvos and providing a very thorough list of volounteer opportunities. Also check out the Excel sheet Short-Term Volunteers Spreadsheet.

Volounteers distributing clothes at The Afghan Hill in MoriaVolounteers distributing clothes at The Afghan Hill in Moria

Main areas of interest for volunteers:

The north coast (arrival of the majority of boats): Main city here is Molyvos, app. 1:15 h. drive (80 km) from Mytilini. From here one may access to the North Coast on paved road to Eftalou (5 km), continuing unpaved (app 15 km) to Skala Sykaminea. Read about the migrants journey arriving on the coast.

The camps: The two main camps Moria and Kara Tepe are both located app. 10 km north of Mytilini. A third, smaller camp, Pikpa is located by the airport and caters primarily to people with special needs. The camps are described in detail in a separate post

Below, I highlight a few of the most established organizations, which I personally met when I was on the Island. Medical volunteers may read about the overall medical organization in a separate post.

On the North Coast:

Starfish – an established organization, working in Oxy transit camp and not on the actual coast. Seems very organized, with about 100 young people of all ages and nationalities working for them, many in theis 20s.  Skills required: All are welcome. The work is non-medical, no particular skills needed to apply. Very structured.

A Drop in The Ocean – Norwegian organization, open to anyone. Working mainly out of Eftalou. Mainly non-medical and no particular skills needed to apply. Works with The Kempsons and founded by Trude Petersen, after a short visit previously this year. Their facebook group has an impressive 30.000 members. Skills required: All are welcome. In addition they specifically ask for medical personnel.

Lighthouse Relief – Scandinavian initiated organization, open to anyone. Works out of Platanos, close to Skala Sykaminea where they operate a transit camp with possibilities for overnight stays as well as a small emergency room. No particular skills needed to apply. Also check their facebook page.

The Kempsons – not an organization, but a British couple, Eric and Philippa working out of their house in Eftalou. Collaborates with several volunteer organizations such as A Drop in The Ocean and Positive Action and knows what is going on mainly on the North Coast. For donations, they have an Amazon wish-list. Also check out Eric Kempson´s YouTube page.

Team Positive Action: Not a fixed team on the ground, but collaborates with The Kempsons and send volounteers with all sorts of backgrounds. Originates from the Scottish organization Positive Action in Housing.

The Volounteer Cook – A Young Malaysian cooking on the beach in Platanos. There are several other volounteer cooking organizations needing help,  including VCA, Bristol Skipchen and others. Try enquiring on the general facebook pages.

Disaster Medics – Paramedics and other people with medical skills working where neede, as of now, as mobile response team on the coast. Check out their facebook page, frequently updated with news.

The organization of medical volunteers on the North Coast is described in detail in a separate post.

In the Camps

Lesvos Volounteer Agency– one of the oldest and most established as well as professionally run of the volunteers organizations.  As of now, they work in Kara Tepe. No particular skills needed to apply.

Health Point Project – seem to have established a presence at the Moria Camp in a tent at the bottom of the Afghan Hill. They need all sorts of people, both with or without medical skills.

The overall medical organization of the camps is described in detail in a separate post.

Finally, a brief note regarding donations: Always ask organizations on the ground what they need as this changes. Information on the various facebook groups may not be accurate unless it comes directly from the organizations.  Buy as much as possible locally, it avoids shipping/customs as well as supports the local economy. For those going to the island: If in doubt who to give to, bring your money with you and find out what is needed once you are there.

Finally, if you need to talk to someone about what you have experienced on Lesvos after you get home, try Psychologists across borders.

Further info:
Overview of all posts on Lesvos and Lesvos FAQ for volunteers.

The post Lesvos – where to volunteer appeared first on the flying surgeon.

Source: Lesvos – where to volunteer

The ‘Community Shined’ After Devastating Tornado in Warrick, Co., Ind.

(TNS) – You can plan for tornadoes and disasters, but until it strikes, you don’t know how you’ll react, Warrick County Sheriff Brett Kruse said.

But when a tornado destroyed parts of Warrick County in 2005, it was the community that came together.

Kruse, then chief deputy, remembered being awoken by his son, a deputy sheriff.

“You have to get down here,” his son told him.

As he drove through Warrick County, it was chaos.

“Everything was a blur. … The total devastation — it was just unbelievable,” he said.

The department had 37 deputies and sheriffs on duty from the tornado’s touchdown through the days of cleanup that followed.

“It was pretty overwhelming. Our entire department worked 12 hours on and 12 hours off — no exceptions — except one who was on vacation.”

It wasn’t just public safety officials pooling together, it was the community.

“It’s a community and everybody helps everybody out. And it was no different. … I mean who wants to wait around for somebody to clean your yard up? Nobody does,” he said.

Southwestern Indiana banded together and said: “We’re not waiting on the government to help us,” he said.

Former Vanderburgh County Sheriff Eric Williams remembers it like Kruse — everyone came together.

“I think Vanderburgh County and our public safety and our community — we showed people how to do it on our own,” Williams said.

Before the tornado struck, Williams, then chief deputy, had been at a wedding reception for another deputy.

He knew the weather was going to be bad while lying in bed watching TV with his wife.

“I had even started to get ready to go in. I was kind of keyed up; couldn’t sleep. I remember getting a call — something to the effect of, ‘We’re getting a report of a tornado at Ellis Park … But basically we didn’t know how much damage or if there were any damage, but we’ve got cars en route,'” he said.

Within minutes, he had his uniform on and was out the door.

“I do remember driving in and the lightning flashing and noticing, in what would be in Warrick County, what was still the funnel cloud. It didn’t really register what I was really seeing,” he said.

“Until I got there and started walking around, I had no comprehension of the scope, the amount of damage, and the amount of tragedy we were getting ready to deal with over the next several days.”

The scene was worse than he could’ve imagined — red and blue lights lighting up the dark night, flipped trailers, emergency personnel using a house door as an impromptu gurney.

“I can see it real vividly, walking in, and I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of it. There were some really tragic visions and things that you saw that you shouldn’t have to see,” he said.

But it was the sounds that stick in his mind the most.

“You could hear people screaming, yelling for help, or screaming because they couldn’t find somebody. It was chaotic,” he said.

From that night on through the following days, the public safety and the community came together to help.

“You don’t wait around for … the state or the feds or whoever (to come help you). You dig in and you put a program in place and you start working it,” he said.

Vanderburgh County Coroner Annie Groves said the community showed how caring and compassionate it really was 10 years ago.

“I think what the positive was, was teamwork — everyone left their egos at the door and did their job. The worst times of our lives is when we find out we’re at our best. This community shined,” Groves said. “It was the proudest day of my life to say I live in Evansville, Indiana.”


©2015 the Evansville Courier & Press (Evansville, Ind.)

Visit the Evansville Courier & Press (Evansville, Ind.) at

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Source: The ‘Community Shined’ After Devastating Tornado in Warrick, Co., Ind.

New Page on Refugees Has Been Added to this Blog

Just a reminder that the Diva recently added a page titled Refugees, in an effort to gather and share key articles on providing guidance based on experience with disaster recovery to the host countries that are trying to meet the needs of the many refugees fleeing from conflict areas and seeking to resettle in other countries.  The present focus is on refugees arriving in large numbers in Europe.

Suggestions and contributions are welcomed.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

FEMA’s Infographic on How to Apply for Assistance

Well, it looks like FEMA, and probably other federal agencies, have taken to creating an infographics. See: What to Expect After You Apply for FEMA Aid, an infographic currently being used in S.C.

Thanks to fellow blogger Eric Holdeman for the citation.

Update late Friday:Indeed, other federal agencies are also doing infographics. See the one just added from a reader at GAO, in the comment section of this posting.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Cheap, simple technique turns seawater into drinking water

  • Many old timers have handled heavy hemp rope. That rope was worse than any sand paper one might buy. I hope hemp toilet tissue does not have that same characteristic. It would be very deep cleaning when the howling stopped. glorybe2
  • uhhhh, the water is still evaporated? This can’t be significantly less energy demanding process than RO?


  • The salts extracted from the brine should be re purposed, e.g. incorporated in building materials, …

    Fretting Freddy the Ferret pressing the Fret

  • The idea that returning minerals, extracted by the process of desalination, to the sea is “pollution” is a no brainer. After all, every cloud that forms has temporarily increased the mineral concentration of the ocean, only for it to be restored when the resulting rain finds its way back again. The same applies to any other water extracted from the sea. Similarly, the notion that the higher boiling point of salt water contributes, significantly, to the energy required for evaporative desalination is also mistaken. The extra two or so degrees at which seawater boils requires less than 0.4% of the energy needed to overcome the latent heat of evaporation. Indeed, this is the main justification for reverse osmosis desalination: that it extracts the minerals without having to provide the energy needed for evaporation.


  • How about an aqueduct with 2 parallel channels or troughs covered with a black A-frame roof running East-West from a salty coastline; the Southern channel is filled with seawater, the sun heats the black roof and evaporates the seawater; the water vapor is cooled by the shaded Northern side and condenses, falling into the Northern trough. A wind or solar powered pump keeps the Southern channel filled to the optimum level with seawater.


  • The use of electric power for heat or pressure is usually far more optional than is implied here. How is vaporization different than boiling? Is sub-atmospheric pressure used? Is “only way” now synonymous with “cheapest way?”

    Bob Stuart

  • Commenters deploring over-pop are just uninformed or witless. The (only) accurate projections are the low fertility ones, and they show a peak at 8bn in about 2045, declining thereafter.

    Brian H

  • recently they found that sea water in an area of the Mediterranean was was being filtered through porous rocks effectively filtering out the salt and surfacing as fresh water. Would it be so difficult to recreate this around the world, let gravity provide the energy to filter out the salt.

    Gavin Roe

  • A lack of fresh water is not a problem but over population and that needs to faced, the sooner the better. If a cheap desalination system is found it will, as Mac MacDougal correctly points out, very quickly be exploited to the hilt: more population, more pollution and further in the red.


  • Desalination is the only answer to the great masses of idiot humans congregating on our coastlines and inter-tidal zones, worldwide, like NYC, LA, London, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Capetown and Rio De Janeiro, as these are now stealing water that we need to feed the rest of our population, if we hope to avoid a very bloody crisis, when nations, and perhaps even States in the USA, will actually go to war over the growing shortage of freshwater, and the food shortages that will come with that. Mac, nothing stops humans from ‘breeding’, you are proof of that! Your argument is totally illogical! If humans are actually the only real problem, as you seem to suggest, then, please, do us all a favor and make yourself one less of us. Better yet, convince a bunch of your brainless political compatriots to check out with you! What makes you think that you have more right to clean air, pure water and the basics of life than the next idiot? We are soon to have 9.5 billion people to sustain on this planet and we are going to need much more pure freshwater to do that. The only alternative is mass murder, in one form, or another! Don, just as saltwater freezes at a lower temperature, it also boils at a higher temp than freshwater, thus requires more energy to distill, which is still the best way to make pure H2O. This also yields a more useful form of saline effluent than RO. For all those concerned about the saline discharge, see the end of this post. I have already solved that problem, years ago. Ezeflyer is right. No energy is more abundant in a desert than solar energy, as there are very few clouds. It is hard to beat the economy of one roll of black polymer film, lining a central dirty/saltwater canal, and one roll of clear plastic film stretched over a peaked frame over that, with each eave of that roof film terminating in another smaller, lined canal, for catching the distilled water, on each side of the dirty water canal. Just 3 plowed furrows, the center one twice as wide as the two outer ones, two rolls of plastic film, one black, one clear, and some sticks or tubing to peak the roof, a few small round pebbles, string and stakes, to tension the roof, and you have a massive solar still! Nothing, however, is more energy efficient than a saline-resistant plant with a deep tap root for desalinating water, as they have their own built in water pump! Plant tamarind and olive trees, hemp and Sunroot, and Buffalo grass, to make the deserts bloom! And, yes, Mishap, hemp paper would be better and cheaper than wood fiber for making the filter membrane. We, then, must make mortar-free inter-locking building blocks for our desert-dwelling populations, from the salt, as there is not sufficient market for it in household use, nor as a nutrient for animal husbandry, tho’ the blocks also serve that latter purpose.


  • I’m afraid I see desalination as a problem, not a solution. If it were confined to emergency situations, I would support it. But I know humans and technology; if large-scale desalination becomes economically feasible, then one great obstacle to overpopulation–and one great restraint on reckless exploitation of existing fresh water resources–will disappear. And then what?

    Mac McDougal

  • The Dead Sea is around 1,400 feet below sea level, highly saline and currently suffering from decreasing in volume and area.

    A hydroelectric system running from the Gulf of Aqaba to the Dead Sea would produce large quantities of energy, much of which could be used for reverse osmosis – a field in which Israel leads the World – so disposal of the salt-enriched brine would not be a problem.

    Unfortunately, that would require the local Arabs to put aside their enmity of Israel, so that scheme is a non-starter.


  • I came up with a similar idea about 12 years ago and was laughed at with claims it would never work. Basically I suggested, filtering the sea water and then distilling it, in the same way they make moonshine. And then filter through carbon filters. I presume there would be a slight salty taste, but that could be removed in the same way a water softener removes it…


  • As previous comments indicated, this article makes no sense at all without more information.

    These filters work how long, separating how much salt and other pollutants?

    What is to be done with the filter material when it is saturated?

    Can it be cleaned? Is there a recommended method of disposal?

    Perhaps all the salt should be returned to the ocean? Perhaps the filter material makes some sort of nutrient for ocean farming? Perhaps if washed with ocean water it can be reused?

    Too many unanswered questions. What is the comparison of CO2 footprint for manufacturing the filter material and its disposal with standard desalination for the same amount of purified water?

    Without these answers, the article is just a bit of sensationalism, devoid of actual meaning.


  • Live aboard sailboats have emergency seawater stills that use sunlight to evaporate pure water from seawater. Pure water condenses on a plastic cover and runs down the sides to be collected. Egypt has plenty of sun.


  • Seems promising. Bedouins used to use dried camel poop for cooking fires, so I suppose the same could be used to evaporate water, though it would need an awful lot of it for today’s populations. Some prairie grasses can provide large quantities of burnable biomass, and can also feed camels, so, some of the water could be diverted to either one, maybe. Salt residue could possibly be packaged and sold as ‘sea-salt,’ rich in trace elements.


  • I don’t understand how a lower concentration of salt makes vaporization easier, and that seems to be the idea.

    I have been searching for a reasonably priced solar still for two, without success. We use filters which cost $500/year. A solar still would be more work, but with a better product if we could find one at a low enough cost to test and discard if it doesn’t work out.

    Don Duncan

  • It is silly to say it is LESS energy without actually providing numbers. It cannot be cleaner unless salt and other pollution have some place to be dumped. Also FIRE is not clean as electric pump.

    Raven Bo

  • So, the brine winds up ON LAND?!? How is that better than mixing it back into the sea? More work needed on this problem.


  • An effective and efficient way to make seawater suitable for our consumption is the challenge of our times. This method shows merit, and we hope for its success further on down the road of development.

    The membrane can be used in very remote situations using fire to vaporize the water.

    Unfortunately, trees aren’t very common in the middle east, so we are still left with the obstacle of energy usage. The filtration concept does show promise though. Finding a way to zap the water without using gobs of energy is the key.


  • If it works with wood fibers then wouldn’t it be even cheaper to use Hemp? It has so many possible uses and it ‘wood’ save more trees. I can’t wait for Hemp toilet paper! LMAO


Source: Cheap, simple technique turns seawater into drinking water