Communities are facing a wide variety of shocks and stresses. Whether it is a natural disaster threat (hurricane, earthquake, flood, wildfire), socioeconomic stressor (homelessness, poverty), or loss of a major employer, communities are looking for strategies to protect their citizens, tax base, and infrastructure (including buildings) from disaster. New tools and benchmarks provide the basis for developing these strategies.
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act (MSDHSPSA) was approved by the Florida governor on 9 March 2018. The act implemented numerous new, and at times controversial, laws and requirements for schools, law enforcement, mental health officials, and others. Included in the law was the new requirement for schools to conduct active shooter drills as often as other emergency drills. Since fire drills are usually conducted once a month, the new requirement greatly expanded the number of active shooter (or code red) drills from approximately one to ten per school year in Florida schools.
Homeland security is a complex and ever-evolving challenge whose mitigation necessitates the actions and collaboration of personnel across all branches of government and the private sector. This enhanced complexity presents law enforcement, homeland safety, and security professionals with a myriad of challenges due to an environment overflowing with existential and hybrid threats, technological innovation, interconnectivity, and limited resources.
The anthrax attacks in October 2001 were a wakeup call nationwide of America’s weakness to respond to a widespread biological terrorist incident. Since that time, local, state, and federal agencies have worked together to improve public health readiness to mass dispense medical countermeasures (MCM) at points-of-dispensing (PODs). Providing bulk dispensing to non-public (or “closed”) PODs is one methodology employed to expedite the distribution of MCM to the private sector. However, exercising bulk dispensing in a realistic environment can present numerous challenges. Finding non-traditional partners, such as the Girl Scouts of Central Maryland, provides a cost-effective and simple solution to reducing the artificialities of a functional exercise.
Florence, the first major hurricane of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season, made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane early on the morning of 14 September 2018 at Wrightsville Beach in the vicinity of Wilmington, North Carolina, with wind gusts of up to 105 mph. As the forecasted path of Florence indicated direct impacts to North Carolina – and a declaration of emergency was issued 7 days before landfall – the animal agriculture industry and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS) began implementing emergency plans before the rain began. The NCDA&CS hurricane response structure was based on lessons learned during response to foreign animal disease outbreaks in the United States over the past several years, and was fine-tuned from experiences with Hurricane Matthew just two years prior.
Perhaps one of the biggest myths in emergency management is that the public will panic during a crisis. Instead of panicking, the public often pulls together and even puts themselves in harm’s way to help each other. Furthermore, the public, not first responders, are often first on-site during an emergency. The emergency management community must embrace these realties and provide the public with the knowledge and training necessary to save lives and prevent human suffering.
On 2 January 2019, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission (MSDHSPSC) released its initial report. The commission report addressed many critical issues and lessons learned within its 15 chapters. The chapter on information sharing discussed the actual or perceived restrictions from privacy laws such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). The discussion addressed several areas where there is significant confusion and dispute that continues until today, and directly impacts safety and security planning, preparedness, and collaboration.
At the end of the school day on 14 February 2018, a former student entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (MSDHS) in Parkland, Florida, and committed a mass murder on the campus that forever changed numerous lives and an entire community. During the attack, 17 students and staff were killed and another 17 were injured. Approximately 3,500 students and staff were not physically injured, but most definitely affected by the active shooter attack.
Emergency management is a complex, collaborative network of agencies, levels of government, nonprofit organizations, and volunteers coming together following a disaster. In addition to general plans and practices that can be applied to many emergency responses, some emergencies require more specialized training that may not be available in every jurisdiction. Swift water rescue teams are assets that may be needed now more than ever.
In today’s emergency service professions, it is essential to master the core knowledge necessary to understand the research and emerging technology that guide incident response. To become truly prepared to respond, each emergency professional must take the time to develop the knowledge to manage the threat and initiate response operations. Training and education are critical in helping a responder master the competencies needed for response efforts.