The U.S. electric grid, which was designed more than 100 years ago, consists of control systems and field equipment. The grid was originally designed with large central station generation – for example, coal, oil, nuclear, natural gas, hydro – with transmission and distribution substations to deliver electricity to the end customer. As central station power plants are being supplanted by renewable generation from sources such as solar and wind, control systems are becoming more complex and increasingly vulnerable to cyberthreats, especially as the control system networks are connected to the internet.
According to the National Weather Service, there were 107 fatalities across the United States related to heat in 2017 – more than the deaths related to tornados, hurricanes, and cold weather combined. Local emergency management agencies must work closely with the National Weather Service – as well as other agencies and organizations – to monitor extreme heat and related threats that can affect local communities.
Terrorist attacks and mass shootings have changed the threat landscape. In the old-world paradigm, planes were the target and metallic objects were the key concern. In the new-world paradigm, anything can be a target. Thus, the security response needs to shift from reactive to proactive. Artificial intelligence (AI) is the key to moving from a reactive to proactive security response. Three specific applications of AI in the physical security field enable organizations to prevent attacks, not just react to them.
The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting a near-normal 2018 Atlantic hurricane season: the formation of 10-16 named storms, with 5-9 becoming hurricanes (1-4 of these potentially becoming major hurricanes). For the past 10 years, the New York City (NYC) Emergency Management Department has been educating children in NYC schools through the Ready New York Kids Program. Each presentation focuses on three key messages: make a plan, get supplies, and prepare a Go Bag.
New York City has various disaster preparedness teams that are specially equipped to manage many types of threats. One such team involves canines trained to perform search and rescue tasks. Canines have helped save lives at critical times following disasters such as 9/11, when finding survivors among rubble and debris is especially challenging. A Dutch Shepherd named Diesel is one responder who currently works with New York City Police Department to prepare for the next disaster.
This case study from a 2015 deployment to the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) Combined Arms Training Center (CATC) Camp in Fuji, Japan, demonstrates effective ways to detect and prevent unwanted nuclear and radioactive materials from being brought aboard an overseas USMC installation. The author was deployed as the emergency manager (EM) with the collateral duty of being the chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high-yield explosive (CBRNE) protection officer (CPO). Upon arrival, the commanding officer also appointed him to serve as the alternate antiterrorism officer, with full support from his contracting company, Camber Corporation.
Cyberattacks against local governments are becoming a new normal, yet the nation is not doing enough to prepare local health departments (LHDs) from such attacks. More than just a technological issue addressed by information technology (IT) professionals, cyberattacks can threaten lives and result in losses of integrity, availability, confidentiality, and physical destruction of assets. Cyberattacks can erode the trust and confidence communities have in LHDs and can introduce legal and liability issues when breaches of protected patient health information occur. LHDs should consider cyberattacks, and the myriad of nontechnical issues that may result, as part of their all-hazards preparedness efforts.
In January 2018, in New York City, a group of professionals – representing entities including the Department of Homeland Security, private contractors, hazardous materials/weapons of mass destruction (hazmat/WMD), law enforcement officers, and intelligence experts – gathered to discuss the emerging threats to U.S. passenger rail service. Not only are these threats pertinent to passenger rail service, but they also may potentially affect all mass gatherings and large venues across the country on any given day. Emergency planners and responders must determine the best way to mitigate such threats.
People’s lives were changed forever on Tuesday, 11 September 2001. At the time of the 9/11 attacks, airport security was primarily focused on threats from guns and explosives. There was little worry about knives or sharp instruments. Even when detected at checkpoints, they were not often considered dangerous. Closing this security loophole came after these attacks, which spurred drastic security changes at all phases of the transportation system. However, this was not the first time such security has come into question. An historical review of terrorist tactics emphasizes the need to remain vigilant.
With new technology coming to market at a record pace, it can be difficult to know whether products are reliable, durable, and secure enough to make the nation’s emergency management professionals safer, better connected, and fully aware. The market is flooded with tools and capabilities that may be of benefit to first responders, but these tools need to be vetted for the rigorous technical, operational, and safety needs in the field.