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.
Washington, D.C., hosts thousands of special events each year, ranging in size and complexity. For such events, the District of Columbia’s Department of Transportation (DDOT) serves as the lead agency for transportation management and support. Although many of these events are planned activities for which the district and its local, regional, and federal stakeholder partners have advance notice for planning purposes, the nation’s capital is also home to many unplanned First Amendment events, which provide less notice and are less defined with respect to the planning and support required. The 2017 presidential inauguration and subsequent Women’s March highlight the differences in planning efforts and outcomes for these two types of events.
Complex coordinated terrorist attacks (CCTAs) are exactly as the name implies: large-scale attacks that are multifaceted, well-planned, and often involve multiple perpetrators. These individuals are often unknown to law enforcement, making them difficult to identify during pre-operational planning activities. Because of their size and complexity, these types of attacks far too often have a devastating impact across jurisdictions, disciplines, and even state lines.
Immigration continues to be a relevant yet sensitive topic of discussion. Some of the most concerning immigration issues may be the ones that are more complex and not well understood by lawmakers, law enforcement, or the public. This complexity increases opportunities for abuse of an important immigration process, which then creates a significant vulnerability that is not fully appreciated until it is too late.
Recent terror attacks have demonstrated that the modus operandi for terrorists to attack innocent people is to use whatever tools can easily be obtained. Some agencies and companies may inadvertently sell or donate the very equipment terrorists use to kill people and endanger national security. This proposal offers a barrier to terrorists wishing to exploit the healthcare, public health, chemical, and pharmaceutical industries in the area of excess equipment.
Low-probability, high-consequence situations, such as mass fatality events, often stress or overwhelm local response capabilities within a very short timeframe. The ability to handle these situations differs greatly depending on the size of the jurisdiction affected and its readily available resources. New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Research conducted research to address this issue.
The 2016 Legislative Session of the Indiana General Assembly passed Senate Enrolled Act 147 requiring the Indiana Department of Homeland Security (IDHS) to establish minimum standards and approve best practices no later than 1 July 2017 for a school emergency response system. The new guidelines are helping to improve school safety and security across the state and offer a template for other states to consider when reviewing and updating their emergency response systems.
Rezwan Ferdaus, a U.S. citizen and graduate of Northeastern University, was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in 2011 for supporting al-Qaida and plotting to fly a motorized airplane – loaded with explosives and controlled by a global positioning system (GPS) – into the U.S. Capitol Building and the Pentagon. Though the FBI insists the public was “never in danger,” the threat of a terrorist attack via unmanned aircraft system (UAS) technology is increasing. If someone other than FBI undercover agents supplied explosives to Ferdaus, the story would have been very different.