Emergency and disaster management briefing for March 12, 2021: Oregon’s early earthquake warning system was rolled out on March 11; Japan continues decommissioning of the Fukushima-Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant by completing soil decontamination; residents in northern Colorado are bracing for feet of snow over the coming weekend; the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan was closed and power was cut to residents amid gusty, high winds; FEMA has educational flood map products available to help mitigate flood risk and build resilience; the IMO announced that more than 34,000 earthquakes spanning two weeks indicate magma is moving upwards under the Fagradalsfjall volcano; the FDA announces a recall of four lots of the blood pressure drug Spironolactone due to a dosage mixup; and new POINTER technology may help save the lives of first responders injured or lost during an incident response.

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1. The rollout of Oregon’s earthquake early warning system occurred on March 11, on the 10th anniversary of Japan’s major 9.1 earthquake in 2011. With the new system, residents are sent a real-time notification through a mobile app or via text message once the system has detected a significant earthquake. The system does not predict earthquakes; instead, it is designed to alert residents once shaking has been detected.

2. Ten years after Japan’s massive and deadly 9.1 earthquake and tsunami in March of 2011 caused the meltdown of the Fukushima-Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, decommissioning of the plant is still ongoing. Recently, soil decontamination was completed to remove radioactive cesium — cesium-137 due to its lengthy half-life. Workers removed the top two inches of soil and replaced it with crushed granite, while other areas farther from the plant were treated with substances that fix or substitute cesium. However, experts say long-term storage of the copious amounts of contaminated soil and water remain a challenge.

3. Heavy snow is expected in the northern region of Colorado and near Denver, with snowfall totals ranging from one inch to over 45 inches. Totals near Boulder and Fort Collins are likely to reach 30 to 45 inches, with the majority of the snowfall occurring Saturday. Forecasters stated that travel would likely be difficult to impossible Saturday through Sunday and cautioned residents to be prepared with supplies to stay at home for several days.

4. Gusty, high winds led to power outages in northern Michigan and partially closed a bridge. On Thursday morning, the Mackinac Bridge Authority closed the Mackinac Bridge to high-profile vehicles due to the danger posed by the high winds. The high winds downed trees and power lines across the north, and the wind advisory was in effect until about 6 p.m. Thursday evening.

5. New educational map products to help plan for floods and build resilience are now available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The products are available online and include one tutorial that focuses on coastal hazards, identifies common flood map features, and helps users learn how to determine the flood zone and flood elevation for each coastal property. The second resource highlights how communities have used FEMA-developed data to reduce their risk based on their unique location.

6. A total of more than 34,000 earthquakes have been recorded on the Reykjanes Peninsula since they began two weeks ago. The Icelandic Meteorologic Office (IMO) noted that a total of 3,400 earthquakes were recorded in 2020, up from the 1,000-3,000 from previous years. The seismic activity is likely due to magma movement, and the current warning status remains at Orange for the Fagradalsfjall volcano.

7. Four lots of the popular Spironolactone blood pressure drug have been recalled by Bryant Ranch, due to a potentially fatal error. Dosage amounts may have been swapped in pre-packaged bottles between the 25mg pills and the 50mg pills. The dosage swap may be life-threatening to individuals due to irregular heartbeat occurrence, increased potassium levels or those diagnosed with renal insufficiency.

8. New technology may be available by 2022 to help save the lives of first responders injured or lost during an incident response. The technology is named POINTER, which stands for Precision Outdoor and Indoor Navigation and Tracking for Emergency Responders, and recently, it was successfully field-tested. The location tracking technology is able to penetrate most natural materials such as soil, earth, water, and thin metals from about 70 meters or about 300 feet via low frequency magnetic fields (magnetoquasistatic fields).


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