Natural Hazard Mitigation Association
Doing More with Less:
Mitigation in a Changing Environment
2012 International Hazard Mitigation Practitioners Workshop
July 17-18, 2012
Omni Interlocken Resort
Broomfield, Colorado

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Session Title:  Track 2: Mitigation Needs.  International Experiences of Natural Hazard Mitigation Professionals

Date/Time:     Wednesday, July 18, 2012                          1:30-3:15 p.m.

Organizer and Moderator: Tom Fahy, Managing Director, Capitol CR Group


  • Larry Brazil, President and CEO, Riverside Technology, Inc.
  • David Curtis, Vice President, WEST Consultants, Inc.  and President, National Hydrological Warning Council
  • Bob Glasgow, Structural Engineer and Principal, Miyamoto International

Recorder:    Antonia Rosati, North American Regional Climate Change Assessment Program (NARCCAP) User Community Liaison, National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)


David Curtis began by discussing background information about Chile such as the country’s location, climate, economic forces, GDP per capita, economic history, e.g., in the early 90s Chile grew much faster than its neighbors, and military influences in the area.

He said major uses of water went to economic uses whereas environmental factors did not get worked into the cost benefit analysis.  He said one example is a hydroelectric power development to build a $7 billion dam, causing bitter controversy.

Mr. Curtis said Chile’s mining needs, i.e., copper, and living standards all require a lot of water.  He said flash flooding is a big issue in Chile, including the most recent incident in Punta Arena in May 2012.  He said the nation wants sustainable environment and to live with the landscape.

Mr. Curtis said his organizations have provided hydrology and hydraulics training – to government agencies, utilities, water, and sewer agencies.  He said 90% of the water is treated and Chile has great water quality.  He said the result, better methods of handling water and water resources—even glaciers—and the goal is to get to 40% hydroelectric production as total production for country.  He said climate change will affect all this.

Mr. Curtis provided the website link to NHWC’s upcoming Jacksonville conference:


Larry Brazil began by thanking NHMA for the invitation, his first occasion at a Practitioners Workshop.  He gave a brief history of Riverside Technology, Inc., noting its website:

Mr. Brazil described the Nile River basin—drainage from 10 countries, currently 200 million people already limited by insufficient water and food and a projected population growth to 400 million by 2025, too much water in some places, too little in others, land degradation, poor access to energy, dominated by issues of erosion, siltation, food insecurity and poverty.

He described the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), an intergovernmental organization formed in1999, funded by donors such as the World Bank.  He explained that while many entities want to invest in the basin, NBI looks at how investments benefit all countries, not just one.

He said Riverside Technology, Inc.  is involved with DSS, Forecast system design, web portal with SharePoint technology, and pilot studies.

Mr. Brazil said the Nile Decision Support System is designed to  “fight problems associated with water stress…” He added that DHI is a major partner to evaluate changes in operation, irrigation, reservoir systems, etc.  He said the decision support system takes current future environmental data and infrastructure into a central database and central model, simulates impacts to object information for decisions.  This way, he said, “They don’t fight over who has a better model.  There is consensus between stakeholders.”

Pilot studies for flood risk mapping in Ethiopia and Sudan were reported by Mr. Brazil.  He said the objective is to reduce future flood damages by producing tools for guiding infrastructure development and preparing for floods.  He said the project is designed to  teach locals how to do flood cross-sections, DEM, asset assessment converted to flood vulnerability and then produce flood risk maps with tools such as USACE’s HEC.  He said this is the only place in the Nile Basin that has done this sort of work.

Mr. Brazil said initial results are encouraging by measures such as use of technology, technology capacity building and sharing of information.

He said the lessons learned so far include: to practice expectation management—what is achievable—and the benefits of showing early results to keep interest and involving future users.

Mr. Brazil highlighted key issues:  1) new Nile state, South Sudan, where will their support be?  2) Grand Millennium Dam in Ethiopia, comparable to Hoover Dam, which was not approved by downstream groups, 3) the Cooperative Framework Agreement has three holdouts to this legally binding document on water distribution.  He said major questions include: availability of data, appropriate tools and technology, continued donor support, and uncertainty if trained people will stay with the program and in their locations?  He said climate change is an overriding question.


Bob Glasow overviewed the Haiti earthquake where his firm, Miyamoto International, has been active since the January 2010 event.  He explained data on damages and losses, noting the number of homeless persons has been reduced from 1.2 million to 810,000 in 2011.

Mr. Glasgow described principal activities:  1) Assessing homes using the standard of the Applied Technology Council, ATC20, developed in California but tailored to Haiti structures, 2) Training 600 engineers on ATC20 through Haiti’s Engineer and Mason Training Program, 3) Assessing 400,000 objects including mapping/GPS locations for each.  He explained that ATC20 has three levels of damage—green/ok, yellow/damage, red/unsafe—with Haiti’s results of approximately 50% green tagged.  30% yellow, the balance being red.

Mr. Glasgow summarized results:  1) Repair of yellow-tagged homes started in January and should end in September.  2) 7,200 homes repaired to date, occupied by about seven persons per dwelling.  3) Over 50,000 people left camps and returned home because of these repairs.  4) 30,000 houses repaired by other nongovernmental programs. 5) 60-70% of debris removed.  6) Over 5,000 masons, 600 engineers and over twenty contractors trained.  7) Masons hired were locals.

7 Q/A


To Mr. Brazil – FEMA flood mapping takes money and time.  Were shortcuts used in Africa?

Answer:  Mapping was optimized based on availability of data.  Data resolution of 90m and other 30m was not as accurate, supplemented with cross sections.  Lots of surveying done by locals, using standard HEC tools but adapted based on resolution available.  Labor intensive, so pilot studies were done.  The work will also generate hydro information that helps justify the expense.

To Mr. Brazil – With doubling of population, is there an estimate of needs, and what is the political fallout?

Answer:  Expecting major stress from this growth.  Ethiopia is moving to control the Nile.  Generally it is cheaper to fund these programs than fund a war.

To Panel – What are the best ways to foster sustainability?

Answer:  Unanimously agreed, continuous training is important.  Cooperative development is also important because the people must feel they own both the changes and the choices being made in their area.

To Panel – Please rank the importance of equipment, software, and capacity

Answer:  Capacity is the most important because technology is useless if people do not know how to use it.

To Panel – What are the most pressing needs in international hazard mitigation?

Answer:  The ability to pay for things.  Many of these countries do not have an economy with internal demand like Chile or the US.

To Mr. Glasgow – Was Haiti repaired to a higher standard?

Answer:  Yes, via such features as horizontal wire reinforcing, 4 to 5 times more resilient buildings.

To Mr. Glasgow – Was there a multi-hazard approach to repairs in Haiti?

Answer:  Technically, this was not rebuilding but rather repair, however, the project was able to use strap-down techniques to secure some buildings against higher winds than before.

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