For more than a decade, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) statistics have shown that, although there has been some improvement, not enough people are prepared for emergencies and disasters. However, publicly available resources are educating community members and helping them prepare – one month at a time – for potential disasters that are likely to affect them.
As another calendar year comes to a close, agencies and organizations are reflecting on the events of 2017: hurricanes, mass shootings, wildfires, critical infrastructure failures, disease outbreaks, cyberattacks, and other incidents that have strained local resources. DomPrep’s readers are continually challenged to be prepared for, respond to, and mitigate the consequence of disasters. When a crisis occurs, the gaps in planning and response are forced into the spotlight. However, when disasters are diverted, the success often goes unseen. This edition of the DomPrep Journal recognizes and thanks all those who work behind on the firing line and behind the scenes everyday to make their communities safer and more resilient through their activities, informational resources, and recommendations.
“The whole point of U.S. nuclear weapons control is to make sure that the president – and only the president – can use them if and whenever he decides to do so,” said Alex Wellerstein, a historian of nuclear weapons at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in an article published on 1 December 2016. As presidents and circumstances change, it is important to understand presidential authority and legislation as they relate to nuclear weapons.
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.
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.
Debuting in 1962, “The Jetsons” depicted the family of the future, with people movers, tube travel, vehicles that folded up into brief cases for parking purposes, home computers, internet, microwave ovens, CT x-ray for medical purposes, cellphones, and speed limits of up to 2,500 miles per hour. Fast-forward to today, as roadways become more congested, one logical alternative is to go up. Unmanned aircraft systems bring the nation a step closer to the Jetson way of life.
Until the federal government decides how to best secure the skies from unmanned aerial systems (UAS), first responders, emergency managers, and public safety professionals will have a big problem to deal with. However, in light of the recent hurricanes and wildfires, this technology is also a real game changer for search and rescue and other unforeseen positive uses. Efforts are being made, but more regulation, enforcement, and concepts of operation are still needed to define this transformative technology.
A firefighter would not run into a burning building without turnout gear and self-contained breathing apparatus. A paramedic would not treat and transport a patient without proper body substance isolation precautions. A hazardous materials technician would not attempt to contain a highly toxic chemical spill without donning a Level A protective suit. Personal protective equipment (PPE) is standard issue for these professions. Responding to a disaster without sufficient education on the type of incident, the warning signs, the tools available, and even themselves would be like running into one of the above scenarios without the proper level of PPE.
As initial search and rescue operations in Houston, Texas, following Hurricane Harvey shifted to recovery efforts, three CNA experts discussed the various challenges metropolitan areas face during, immediately after, and throughout the long-term recovery from a large-scale disaster. Drawing on their 40 years of collective experience, panel moderator Monica Giovachino, Jason McNamara, and Dawn Thomas shared perspectives on a wide range of disaster response and recovery topics.
For decades, governments have conducted emergency preparedness exercises as a method to evaluate the ability to prepare for, respond to, and recover from natural and manmade disasters. There is no doubt the tens of thousands of exercises conducted across the nation have improved the nation’s preparedness but, in order to tackle new and emerging threats, more must be done.