On October 10, 2001, I stood in the field of wreckage of the World Trade Center. Now, a dozen years later, I returned to the site of that destruction and terror. The memory of 9/11 persists, but the wreckage is long gone, replaced by the One World Trade Center. On this 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, building a resilient nation is as important as it has ever been. The World Trade Center site offers many lessons in that regard.
As the Boston area recovers from the tragic and unprecedented events of the past week, the lessons learned will be far reaching. Emergency management professionals, like their counterparts in law enforcement, are pretty good culturally at pulling together “after-action” reports that chronicle what they did right and what they can do better next time. Those lessons learned will offer new chapters to study and consider in terms of planning and preparations for any future incidents of this magnitude but in terms of the private sector, there are a number of lessons learned that need to be studied as well.
There are few spots left around the world without Internet access, and few people who cannot reach out to access it. It has been relatively free of state interference and American dominated. However, the Net has had mounting problems, and 2012 has marked the end of the old Internet as we knew it. The days of an American-controlled freewheeling Internet with unlimited access and relatively cost-free access are over.
Over the past several days, we’ve seen some remarkable examples of leadership in times of challenge. For as good as all of these efforts may be, however, there is one decision that makes no sense to me. The decision to proceed with the New York City Marathon this weekend is the wrong decision. Let’s put a few things on the table here first.
On the day before the Labor Day weekend, the White House released the President’s latest “National Preparedness Month” Proclamation. Like last year’s, the proclamation employs the term “resilience.” Yet, the White House remains unwilling to act to establish resilience as the nation’s preparedness objective and daily operating condition. Rhetoric is not results.
With the recent heat waves and storms that have impacted millions of people throughout the United States, much is being written about the nation’s inability to prevent and recover quickly from destructive events. I am not yet ready to start placing blame – there are lots of things I should have done to be prepared. Individual responsibility leads to community preparedness. Here are some thoughts the disruptions bring to mind.
Once again, America is officially under attack. According to multiple reports, including an “incident response” report from the Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT), U.S. natural gas pipeline companies are at the center of a major cyber attack campaign. While I’m certain that some in Congress will use this latest cyber attack campaign as fodder to further their cyber security legislation, I do not believe we can legislate our way out of this problem.
A significant part of America’s homeland security efforts is preparing to resist, mitigate and recover from disasters manmade and natural. With the private sector owning the vast majority of U.S. infrastructure, as well as the critical role businesses play in the community and the economy, private sector preparedness has long been a priority, since the 9/11 Commission issued its final report. It has taken a long time, however, for DHS’ Voluntary Private Sector Preparedness Program to gain momentum.
It is always difficult to fully absorb the lessons from wide-scale crises in the wake of the catastrophe. Information is often incomplete or contradictory, or still evolving. Learning these lessons, however, provides an opportunity to address the shortfalls of catastrophic disaster response.