Disasters can take many forms – naturally occurring like a volcanic eruption or solar flare, human-caused like a terrorist attack or radioactive material release, or technological like a cyberattack or data breech. Although a specific threat or hazard may be unavoidable, whether it eventually becomes a “disaster” is not a certainty. Averting disaster requires making the right decisions at the right time – from the crisis leaders to the boots on the ground.
Building materials, furnishings, paints, plastics, and electronics found in today’s buildings have the potential to burn or decompose into acutely and chronically acting toxic gases and vapors. Studies have validated that toxic gases and vapors are not just present during suppression activities but also during the overhaul and investigation stages. The impact can be life threatening.
Crises are among the most daunting challenges for leaders. The very nature of true crises – complex, high-consequence events that threaten physical, emotional, economic, and/or reputational health – test a leader’s ability to discern what is happening and what is to be done. The word “crisis” derives from the Greek “krisis” or decision. The contemporary understanding of the word stems from Middle English usage of the medical Latin variant that means “the turning point in a disease,” when the patient either lives or dies. These are the types of decisions today’s crisis leaders are asked to make in situations ranging from forest fires to active shooter incidents.
With millions of passengers travelling each day by rail and subway in the United States alone, the passenger rail industry and the communities they serve are faced with difficult safety and security challenges – from equipment failures to terrorist attacks. A whole community approach is needed to address these challenges, to understand the threats and consequences, and to promote a culture of resilience.
A passenger train derails in an urban community. Whether caused by intentional or unintentional factors, this incident would have consequences that go well beyond the rail company and the passengers traveling in these fated rail cars. Surrounding companies and communities would be affected, hazardous materials may be a threat, critical infrastructure beyond transportation could be impacted, cyber and physical security could be at risk, and so on. Mitigating these risks, threats, and vulnerabilities requires education, tools, and a desire to play a key role in disaster preparedness and response.
With so many graduate degrees available, it can sometimes be confusing to know which to pursue when entering the world of emergency and disaster preparedness and response. DomPrep Advisor Andrew Roszak addressed one broad-based degree that covers many areas critical for managing disasters. In this podcast, Dr. Randolf Burnside of Southern Illinois University’s Political Science Department and Dr. Anirudh Ruhil of Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs share their insight about the Master’s of Public Administration (MPA) degree and how it can help prepare professionals for jobs in both the public and private sectors.
In the United States, there are ongoing efforts to protect the nation’s critical infrastructure. Presidential directives, coupled with national security strategies and several iterations of the National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP), have spanned the terms of at least four presidents and included the rail system. The volume of activity on or near rail lines, potential threats, and interdependencies all raise concern for the protection of this critical infrastructure asset.
From coast to coast, communities across the United States are implementing solutions to address gaps that could hinder response efforts should a disaster occur. From special events to widespread natural disasters, this edition of the DomPrep Journal shares experiences and lessons learned from those who have firsthand accounts of these events and incidents and want to ensure that any existing gaps are closed before similar situations arise again.
The 2017 Emerging Homeland Security Issues panel met in December to discuss the current challenges of today’s threats, review risk management practices, assess means of strengthening interagency relationships, and to consider future resource requirements.
The threat of homemade explosives (HMEs) is not new. From the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, to the “shoe bomber,” London underground bombings, “underwear bomber,” and attacks in Paris and Brussels in the 2000s, the threat is ever changing. Not only do post-incident crime scenes present danger to responders until secondary devices have been ruled out, but also makeshift laboratories where the bombs are made. Handheld explosives trace detection (ETD) equipment can help responders quickly determine on-scene threats, like Triacetone Triperoxide (TATP) and react appropriately and expediently.