There is no quick fix for addressing all national security threats. Even if there were, it would still be challenging to keep up with the threat environment as it continually evolves at what seems to be exponential rates. The natural and manmade disasters of yesteryear are compounded with emerging cyber, technological, and other threats that once were only in the imagination of science fiction writers.
The use of genealogy websites to find the alleged Golden State killer, Cambridge Analytica’s use of Facebook data to develop targeted ads for the 2016 presidential campaign, and the loss of privacy resulting from the sharing of information on social media bring into focus some of the unintended consequences of the collection, storage, and proliferation of personal information. The use of data in novel and unexpected ways pits users’ demand for privacy against their desire to take advantage of the many benefits today’s technology has to offer.
Today, businesses face many natural and manmade threats. Focusing on active shooter incidents alone, businesses are targeted more than any other entity. According to a 2014 FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, between 2000 and 2013, most (45.6%) active shooter incidents occurred at businesses, with the next highest being education facilities (24.4%). To address these and other threats, business owners must have a continuity or emergency action plan that highlights mitigation, preparation, response, and recovery.
Each day, there are opportunities to acquire new knowledge and skills as well as opportunities to share current knowledge and skills with others. This is especially true in the emergency preparedness realm, where changing circumstances and uncertainties are the norm.
Illegal manufacturing of fentanyl continues to rise and, with it, the dangers of clandestine drug laboratories to responders. Dangerous crime scenes like these are not limited to any one location. Responders everywhere need to prepare to encounter them at any point. Portable gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC/MS) equipment can help hazardous materials (hazmat) response teams quickly identify white powders, like fentanyl, and associated cutting agents on-scene.
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.