The U.S. information security and technology communities are no longer solely responsible for protecting critical infrastructure from cyber threats - emergency managers also play an increasingly important role in that task. Increasing the overall level of cyber preparedness therefore requires closer coordination, information sharing, and effective planning, as well as frequent assessments.
Some biological agents - anthrax and ricin, for example - can be used as weapons against human targets; others specifically attack animals and food crops. Both types of attack, though, can have devastating effects on the economy and on the morale and overall wellbeing of a nation. To mitigate these threats, the public and private sectors must cooperate to recognize and close existing gaps.
With thousands of farms and millions of cattle scattered across the United States, regulators, dairy producers, and veterinarians strive to protect the nation's food supply, including the milk supply chain from cow to breakfast table. Emergency preparedness planners, therefore, must work with agricultural suppliers to protect milk and other food products.
Water, water everywhere, and all of it fit to drink. Reservoirs supply drinking water to communities throughout the United States. Protecting such a large area, including the surrounding land, poses many challenges and raises red flags when unauthorized visitors come too close.
Implementing the guidance provided by Presidential Directive 8 can lead to organizational and procedural challenges - while also working toward greater national preparedness. The first step in implementation is to identify threats and hazards and define the risk as it pertains to a particular jurisdiction. The next step is to determine and validate all potential capabilities currently available.
There is no way to prevent weather disasters from happening, but advance planning, frequent training drills and exercises, and rapid communications can save lives and reduce damage to infrastructure. Under the "Homeowner" bill, that same combination of managerial tools can also be used to reduce the response and recovery costs caused by natural disasters lying in wait.
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast of the United States. One of the most important lessons learned from that disaster was that the federal government must work with local authorities to support communities in preparing for, responding to, and recovering from the adverse health effects of major public health emergencies. The Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act is key to making that possible.
In an environment that is constantly changing and increasingly interconnected, many states are finding new ways to use existing assets. In New Jersey, one valuable asset previously used primarily for collecting and analyzing information on terrorist threats played a leading role in the rapid sharing of disaster-response information before, during, and after Hurricane Sandy in late 2012.
In a fast-paced world, it makes sense to increase the speed of transportation. However, as plans are being created, there is much more to consider than simply the costs, design, and location of new high-speed rail projects. For one thing, this new mode of transportation will also draw significant attention from those who wish to harm American citizens and U.S. interests in general.
Since 9/11 and Katrina, significant federal funding has been invested in planning for similar incidents and events that may (or may not) happen in the future. Meanwhile, state and local planners must focus their efforts on the incidents most likely to occur within their own jurisdictions. This approach seems eminently reasonable, but raises new questions about the level of catastrophic planning needed and the ability to cope with sudden disasters of any type.