by Richard Schoeberl, Anthony (Tony) Mottola & Anthony L. Clark -
The rapid collapse of Afghanistan creates uncertainty and fears around how swiftly the Islamic State (ISIS) and al-Qaida can rebuild, mobilize, and plan attacks on the West under a Taliban-led government. As conflict breeds instability, volatility will certainly follow the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. There will likely be a reconstitution of al-Qaida and growth of ISIS as two movements compete for influence in the country. It calls to question whether the recent attacks in New Zealand, inspired by ISIS, were motivated by what most would consider a victory for Jihad as the Taliban’s self-proclaimed victory seeks to inspire more terrorist movements. After 20 years of U.S. occupation, many are questioning whether Afghanistan will once again become a massive draw and haven for Islamic extremists.
Reflecting on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it is essential to not only remember that fateful day, but to highlight the events that precipitated it, examine lessons learned and policies established, and consider programs and policies needed to sustain prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery capabilities in the U.S. and its territories. Although historical analysis and synthesis of past events often lead to relevant details about current incidents, communities often fail to implement or accept the recommended changes. The 9/11 Commission Report cited, “The most important failure was one of imagination.” The 1995 Aum Shinrikyo Tokyo subway sarin gas attack has unique characteristics in the history of acquiring, proliferation, and distributing weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in the chemical and biological domains, with significant influence in WMD policies and consequence management platforms.
It is difficult to imagine that the attacks of 9/11 occurred 20 years ago. Emergency managers build systems to mitigate the potental impacts of disasters on communities. An emergency manager’s job is to plan for the worst and prepare communities for that one moment when it is time to lead. The memory of walking into the New Jersey Emergency Operation Center on September 11, 2001 and seeing the devastation as it unfolded is vivid in my mind. Patriot Day is a day that conjures memories of the lives lost as well as the nation’s subsequent recovery from that devastating event.
Building codes and standards have long been a silent partner in the health, safety, and welfare of communities and are becoming increasingly more important in society. Today’s emergency managers and community leaders face a multitude of risks including extreme weather events such as hurricanes, tornados, straight-line winds, flooding, drought, and wildfires, as well as global risks from communicable disease outbreaks and environmental change. Luckily, building codes and standards continue to provide a safe structural foundation for communities as a trusted and proven resource and are regularly evolving to meet the challenges of these dynamic threats.
Many companies and government offices were unprepared for the COVID-19 pandemic and sustained lockdowns, despite years of warnings and guidance from experts and the federal government. This lack of preparedness cost companies dearly, from delays in setting up work from home software to supply chain disruptions that could have been mitigated against – if not prevented. In addition to better business continuity planning, the use of red teaming could have possibly spared certain organizations’ reputation hits and some monetary losses. Similarly, organizations can use red teaming or a red team mindset to bolster disaster preparedness.
“Telecommunication overload” is a commonly used term that is a regular feature of various emergency scenarios. However, one fact needs to be remembered. Although some copper carrier network pieces are still in place in the United States, nearly all new investment is going into fiber backbones and updated wireless services. Fiber networks are designed to handle extra capacity easily and wireless technology is advancing rapidly.
The nation has experienced unprecedented times due to the COVID-19 pandemic given the requisite need for social distancing and isolation experienced from stay-at-home orders. Daily lives were transformed. For homebound children, this was disruptive and changed daily routines. While at home, children engaged in a variety of safe and supervised activities, such as home schooling, play activities, crafts, games, etc. A side effect of social distancing is temporary physical isolation from many important influences in their lives, such as school and teachers, sports, community organizations, extended relatives, classmates, and friends.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought child predators into people’s homes. In the critical areas of human trafficking and child exploitation, the risks to children increased due to criminals shifting their methods and techniques to online streaming services. Increased virtual learning and stay-home mandates forced children to transition from a classroom environment to home learning via virtual platforms. This transition done in the perceived safety of a child’s home under the supervision of his/her parent was and remains fraught with inherent danger.
The role airports play in the world is critical. Even a minor disruption to their operations has immediate cascading impacts, which can be familiar to anyone who has experienced a delayed departure and the dreaded “Will I make my connection?” stress that follows. However, airport disruptions create far greater economic and business operations impacts than the occasional need to catch a later flight. Cargo aviation operations provide a critical part of global trade, accounting for the movement of nearly US$7 trillion worth of goods annually. Additionally, the air transport industry supports 29 million jobs globally and billions of dollars in local economies. Meanwhile, amid the global pandemic, aviation supports critical healthcare operations, carrying doctors and specialists rapidly to areas where they are needed; epidemiological investigators to locations of emerging diseases; and medications valued at more than US$1 trillion to locations around the world. These examples emphasize the need to ensure that aviation, and its component parts – including airports – remain resilient and functional at all times.
Two days into the May 2020 George Floyd riots in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, hundreds (on the way to ~1,500) of properties were burning, with smoke visible on the horizon. Top leaders appeared on television stating that law and order were breaking down and urging calm within the community. Based on media reports, there were a few places volunteers could help. One was in watching pandemic-vacated buildings, schools, churches, and grocery stores that were being systematically firebombed and looted. This was beneficial as volunteers deployed and were able to save some buildings such as a popular local Mexican restaurant complex near St. Paul (El Burrito Mercado) and a grocery store in Minneapolis. Another way in which volunteers could help was in intelligence gathering.