Each year, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Ready campaign recognizes September as National Preparedness Month. Agencies and organizations across the United States participate in this national preparedness effort by sharing educational resources, organizing events, and mobilizing action to help reduce risk and build community resilience. FEMA recognizes that, when individuals and communities prepare for any of the numerous potential threats they may face, the nation as a whole benefits.
Disaster planners recognize the need to build interagency, interdisciplinary support to combat widespread disasters with far-reaching consequences. However, gaining such buy-in can be challenging – especially when stakeholders do not recognize the threat to their communities or do not understand the roles they can and should play in mitigating such threats. This is important considering that an international threat can quickly become a local problem and a local threat can transform into an international concern.
The Homeland Security Act of 2002 created the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to safeguard the United States against terrorism. The department brought together 22 different federal agencies, each with a role to: prevent terrorism and enhance security, especially from a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or high-yield explosive (CBRNE) attack; manage borders; administer immigration laws; secure cyberspace; and ensure disaster resilience. That is just the federal part of the equation. The first DHS Secretary, Governor Thomas Ridge, envisioned an enterprise where state, local, tribal, and territorial governments were also an integral part of that mission. What is not clearly stated is the role that nongovernmental organizations play. This would include industry, think tanks, and media.
The National Biodefense Strategy highlights President Donald Trump's commitment to protect the American people, “and establishes objectives to effectively counter threats from naturally occurring, accidental, and deliberate biological events.” This strategy is intended to guide innovation and collaboration beyond the federal government. The president is targeting this strategy for action by state, local, territorial, and tribal (SLTT) entities, practitioners, scientists, educators, and industry.
This report is a meeting readout. It relays the sentiments of the many experts who participated but is not an exhaustive analysis of the recommendations and how they should be implemented. It is meant to lay the groundwork for the next steps, which key leaders and policymakers should consider. The information relayed herein is generally reflective of the opinions voiced at the meeting as well as the survey respondents, though any given statement should not necessarily be viewed as consensus.
In almost any adverse incident, whether natural or manmade, the general public is involved. At times, they are the victims and survivors. Active bystanders may be the true first responders simply because of proximity. Volunteers often surge forward hoping to help. Eager though untrained, members of the public can be a help or hindrance – and the difference may be how effectively they are led.
Threats come in many forms. Some occur naturally from weather events. Some occur maliciously through technological manipulations. Some occur violently with traditional weaponry or weaponized materials. Some threats combine two or more of these and other threats. The preparedness community is tasked with identifying potential threats in order to mitigate or thwart the devastating consequences should a threat manifest in disaster.
During the first two decades of the 21st century, the nation’s security and defense focus was primarily on terrorism by non-state actors and lone wolves. During that same period, advances in digital and information technology were rapidly adopted by government and industry. Often, technology’s implementation was quick and cheap with little regard to being secure, which created security gaps and vulnerabilities. Threats include the weaponization of information by utilizing social media and sponsorship of “news-media” programs.
DomPrep hosted the 2018 Emerging Homeland Security Issues Panel in conjunction with the Clean Gulf Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana, on 13 November 2018. The active discussion among panel members and more than 50 attendees focused on hybrid warfare and the current threat environment, strategic and operational preparedness, emerging technology to meet these threats, and sustainment of interagency relationships.
Since the end of the Second World War, nations around the globe have seen the evolution of computers and the internet. The subsequent informational “melting pot” known as the World Wide Web has created a fertile environment for sharing both critical intelligence and fictitious narratives. When state actors leverage their existing conventional military tactics and combine them with ever-evolving cyber technology, this new hybrid warfare tactic introduces numerous new and increasingly challenging political, psychological, and economic threats.
Fire, wind, and water – a lot of water. The year 2018 delivered all in a series of natural disasters that seemed almost continual. Throughout the year, there was a significant risk to lives and property caused by wildfires in the West, hurricanes in the Southeast, and flooding in numerous locales nationwide.