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.
From infectious diseases to terrorist attacks, state and federal agencies must collaborate to provide the most effective responses for large-scale public health events. New types of threats continually emerge, terrorist tactics evolve, and environmental conditions change. Each of these factors contributes to the complexities that emergency preparedness professionals must consider when preparing for, mitigating, or responding to any threat.
Emergency management is an evolving discipline that requires a progressive emergency manager to fulfill new and expanding requirements for success. Successful leaders in this field follow a systematic problem-solving process and excel at coordinating multiple agencies and information sources rather than simply being experts in one subject. The seven and a half traits discussed here describe the ultimate emergency manager.
In each disaster, examples of community resilience emerge: neighbors helping neighbors; volunteers filling response gaps; businesses providing unexpected resources; and first responders going above and beyond their call of duty. Many people have an innate urge to respond to disasters by donating their time and money, giving blood, providing transportation, feeding and clothing survivors, and so on. Imagine a disaster response of the future where that natural instinct to help is harnessed and nurtured by emergency preparedness professionals.
New York City Emergency Management (NYCEM) has designed an internship program specifically tailored for high school students. The agency shares its lessons learned to help other agencies understand why such efforts are important, how the program works, and what steps agencies can take to start their own intern programs. Engaging at the high school level helps recruit a valuable yet underutilized resource and promotes overall community resilience.