Emerging Threats to Rail Infrastructure: Part I, Freight | Domestic Preparedness Photo: ©iStock.com/af_istocker
Commentary

Emerging Threats to Rail Infrastructure: Part I, Freight

by Joseph Trindal -

There is a desire for some bad actors to target rail systems, especially the hazardous materials freight rail network. This threat underscores the need for the rail transportation industry to maintain and strengthen partnerships with federal, state, and local authorities. With over 140,000 miles of infrastructure, there are difficult security challenges. For example, the U.S. rail system moves over 1.8 billion tons originated/year of freight, petroleum, chemicals, and military assets, making it a vital lifeline. A recent roundtable examined current issues and progress regarding this important topic from government and private sector experts.

 
Commentary

Remember the Past, While Imagining the Future

by Catherine L. Feinman -

The imaginations of television and filmmakers are often used to create futuristic worlds, with technologies that can be used as tools or as threats. Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) are one such technology that is now off the screen and often seen in the sky. Like “The Jetsons” of the early 1960s, the airways offer many opportunities to transport people and objects from one place to another. With increased travel and transport, though, emergency preparedness, response, and resilience professionals must address the potential benefits of this technology as well as regulations and enforcement issues that could hinder daily and disaster operations. In a worst-case scenario, terrorists could conduct attacks using UAS equipped with explosives, weapons, or dispersal devices for chemical, biological, or radiological materials.

Healthcare

Biothreats – Advocating Action Through Transition

by Robert C. Hutchinson -

On 15 November 2016, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) released a letter report to the president on “Action Needed to Protect Against Biological Attack.” PCAST urged the president for immediate action to ensure that the nation has the ability to meet these challenges with near-, medium-, and long-term goals. It is critical that the recommendations in this letter are conveyed to the current administration, and not lost in transition.

Resilience

Freight Rail Safety and Emergency Management

by Kay C. Goss -

During the second week of October 2017, the DomPrep Journal hosted and Draeger sponsored a series of presexxntations and discussions, which included most of the major federal agencies engaged in freight rail safety and security, as well as the American Association of Railroads. To add to that discussion, several states have made significant contributions to freight rail safety. Three major state and local emergency management agencies that have made these major strides in rail safety and security are described here.

Preparedness

Protecting the Homeland From Nefarious Drone Use

by Richard Schoeberl & Kendall J. Smith -

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.

Preparedness

Chemical Attack on Public Transport – A Likely Scenario

by Zamawang Almemar -

Some experts say that a chemical attack plot on Western public transportation systems such as this one is inevitable: It is 0753 on a Tuesday morning at the busy red line subway station in Washington, D.C. The Islamic State group (IS) just claimed responsibility for a chemical attack that took place there by three IS supporters (two males and one female) about half past the hour. The Metrorail transportation staff and first responders are rushing to care for the victims of what seems to be a sulfur mustard attack.

Resilience

Critical Infrastructure Partnerships – Prioritizing Assets

by Christopher Ryan -

A key early step for critical infrastructure protection (CIP) programs is to identify and prioritize the most important facilities and assets for maintaining community safety, normalcy, and quality of life. Within single jurisdictions, CIP program managers typically choose prioritization criteria to determine the most critical assets. However, developing customized prioritization criteria for multiple, closely interconnected jurisdictions in the National Capital Region (NCR) – where public safety authority is decentralized – recently proved much more challenging. Here is how they overcame this challenge.

Preparedness

Staying “PRIMED” for a Radiation Event

by Grant Coffey -

Chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive (CBRNE) events are low in frequency, but high in consequence, requiring a frequent and more targeted emphasis on the way that responders train and learn. Radiation is often not well understood. It can be intimidating for both the public and for first responders. Radiation cannot be seen, smelled, or heard. Yet, risk is relatively easy to mitigate when responders have been adequately trained and equipped.

Updates

FLIR Systems Introduces FB-Series ID Thermal Fixed Bullet Camera With Built-In Human and Vehicle Recognition Analytics

FLIR Systems Inc. introduced the FB-Series ID, the latest fixed bullet thermal security camera in the FB-Series family. Combining best-in-class thermal image detail and high-performance onboard analytics, the FB-Series ID is ideal for narrow to wide area perimeter detection and sterile-zone monitoring. The FB-Series ID features accurate video analytics that are capable of classifying human or vehicular intrusions.

Secretary Nielsen Announces the Establishment of the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office

Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen announced the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD) Office. The CWMD Office will elevate and streamline DHS efforts to prevent terrorists and other national security threat actors from using harmful agents, such as chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear material and devices to harm Americans and U.S. interests.

Attorney General Sessions and Acting DEA Administrator Patterson Announce New Tools to Address Opioid Crisis

Attorney General Sessions announced new resources and stepped up efforts to address the drug and opioid crisis. These efforts include over $12 million in grant funding to assist law enforcement in combating illegal manufacturing and distribution of methamphetamine, heroin, and prescription opioids; the establishment of a new DEA Field Division in Louisville, Kentucky; and a directive to all U.S. attorneys to designate an opioid coordinator.   

Nature’s Silent Sentinels Could Help Detect Security Threats

DARPA’s new Advanced Plant Technologies (APT) program looks to seemingly simple plants as the next generation of intelligence gatherers. DARPA’s vision for APT is to harness plants’ natural mechanisms for sensing and responding to environmental stimuli and extend them to detect the presence of certain chemicals, pathogens, radiation, and electromagnetic signals.

USDA Helps Rural Communities Restore Water Systems Damaged by Disasters

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is awarding the National Rural Water Association and the Rural Community Assistance Partnership each a $500,000 grant. The grants will be used to provide training and technical assistance, onsite repairs, and utility management advice for rural water and sewer utilities impacted by disasters.