Though the near-insolvency of FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) is top news today, the situation should hardly come as a surprise. For the past several months, NPR has been following the looming crisis, and I’ve been commenting along the way. The challenge that now confronts FEMA isn’t something that Administrator Fugate can fix: either he provides funding to disaster victims (and in doing so, violates federal law) or he watches those in need go without the assistance they require.
September 16th, 2011 - by Jeff Robertson
On Wednesday, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) released their joint investigative report on the April 20, 2010, Deepwater Horizon incident in the Gulf of Mexico waters off Louisiana. There are a multitude of regulatory recommendations but two key lessons: 1) NEVER skip established safety routines and protocols, and 2) ALWAYS address risk into your decision-making.
The world has faced tragic events of late: the Japanese earthquake and tsunami; the tragic bombing and shooting in Oslo, Norway; and post-Hurricane Irene floods along the U.S. East Coast. With these and other ever-present threats to our critical infrastructures and way of life, the National Defense Industrial Association’s (NDIA) 2011 Homeland Security Symposium is “Disasters: Preparing, Surviving and Responding to Dynamic Threats.”
September 1st, 2011 - by George Foresman
Just in case anyone missed the news in the past week, the eastern U.S. experienced the shaking of an earthquake followed by torrential rains and winds associated with Hurricane Irene. By all accounts, local, state and federal officials along with their brethren in the non-governmental and private sectors performed well during their preparation and response. In between TV pundits, we caught glimpses of ordinary Americans talking in serious terms about what they, their families and their communities were doing to be prepared. It was the type of informed talk that has been a long time coming and is sweet to hear.
August 31st, 2011 - by David Olive
As the East Coast is cleaning up from the effects of Hurricane Irene, pundits have not been shy in expressing opinions about the use (mostly about the benefits) of social media tools like Facebook and Twitter to get information out to affected audiences. The FCC has launched an inquiry into whether phone calls to 911 emergency response agencies were affected by congestion on the cellular phone communications networks. The FCC might also look into how media solicitations for viewer video affects network congestion.
August 31st, 2011 - by Sam Rosenfeld
The London Riots prove, yet again, that one of the principal roles of the Metropolitan Police (“The Met”) in London is to be the whipping post of politicians pursuing an agenda. There are certainly commentators in the UK and the U.S. who are advocating for the much more widespread use of weapons in public order, some queries about why CS gas wasn’t used, etc. The answer is simple – if one cannot identify, incapacitate where necessary and arrest an individual for wrong-doing, as a police force, you simply become a weapon of suppression of the population, rather than a police force that is representative of the community protecting that community.
August 31st, 2011 - by Rich Cooper
With Hurricane Irene now nothing but some sputtering winds and loosely formed rain showers, we are about to endure the aftermath of whining naysayers and professional complainers. Even as the storm was beginning to pass through North Carolina and Virginia, observers began to comment that the storm was not packing the punch that it had been forecast to hold. It’s almost as if there was a measure of disappointment from these complaining parties that there was not some type of large body count or more catastrophic destruction.
Earlier this week, all the talk was earthquakes and hurricanes. It was also the day that The Heritage Foundation released its latest report on how to fix homeland security –“Homeland Security 4.0: Overcoming Centralization, Complacency, and Politics.” It is always nice to have some real world disasters to remind us that the U.S. is still not well prepared for to deal with really big disasters.
August 24th, 2011 - by Chris Battle
Ever tried to get on Twitter only to find that frustrating white whale floating in a sea of blue with the message that the network is overcrowded and you should come back later? In the social media world, this is known as the Fail Whale. During yesterday’s mini emergency in Washington, when a 5.8 earthquake shook the city and sent scared and confused folks fleeing from buildings, we experienced a Fail Whale on the part of the Washington DC, government. Increasingly, citizens aren’t turning to government officials for disaster management but to one another. And they’re doing it through social media.
August 24th, 2011 - by David Olive
One of the best descriptions of what it is like to work in Washington, DC, can be summed up with the old canard, “After all is said and done, there will be a lot more said than done.” I have every confidence that will be the situation following the earthquake we experienced early Tuesday afternoon. Less than 24 hours from the event, it is presumptuous to draw final conclusions, but there are some things that need to be addressed immediately.
I’m back in my office building after the great DC Shake of 2011. The earthquake that struck Virginia and surrounding areas was a surreal experience, one I’ve never had and one I don’t care to repeat any time soon. I have to say I’m proud of the people in my building for knowing what to do and doing it without panic, as well as the surrounding buildings for replicating the same behavior.
August 23rd, 2011 -
Shortly before 2 PM a 5.8 earthquake hit Mineral, Virginia, affecting Washington, DC, Maryland and the Eastern seaboard.
July 7th, 2011 - by Rich Cooper
America’s infrastructure could use a makeover. Many of the things that help this country “GO” – roads, bridges, utilities and more – are in poor shape and in many places, crumbling before our eyes. Yet, the country has seen little in the way of real change when it comes to building a stronger, more resilient America. Not enough of us are talking and thinking strategically about infrastructure investment priorities, how risk and resilience are considered, and how we are going to pay for these much-needed updates. Enter Adm. Thad Allen, former commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard.
June 28th, 2011 - by Jeff Gaynor
Yesterday, the Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC) released the recommendations of its Community Resilience Task Force (CRTF), which argue that it is impossible to build a resilient nation upon protected yet aged, overstressed, exploitable and consequence-amplifying infrastructure foundations.
It’s a basic lesson any semi-decent carpenter or weekend handyman knows. If you have the right tools, you can do your job a lot easier and a whole lot better. As basic as this premise might be, it is one that we have failed to follow in terms of dealing with fire and ice in this country. With a median age of several decades and enormous wear and tear, the reliability and safety our firefighting planes is in serious question.
June 3rd, 2011 - by Guest Contributor
By Keith Stefanelli
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has experience working through emergencies – on Wednesday, he was again guiding emergency response, this time to a fatal tornado outbreak in Central and Western Massachusetts. This made me wonder: What if Governor Patrick had lost the 2010 Gubernatorial Election, and Massachusetts had a new Governor, less experienced in emergency response? What if the next Black Swan event of statewide or national significance occurs on the Inauguration Day of a new Governor or President?
Black swans are another name for Secretary Rumsfeld’s famous category of “known” unknowns, things we know we don’t know – but maybe we should. The Japanese anticipated the double-shot of earthquakes and tsunamis, but not the triple whammy of earthquake-Tsunami-massive release of low-dose radiation from nuclear power plants. It is hard to believe that Washington would not screw up a nuclear incident just as badly as Toyko, particularly if the event happened in the midst of another catastrophe.
Regardless of circumstance or event, be it flood, fire, tornado or terror, the American Red Cross has always been there. With the release of the Ready Rating Program, the American Red Cross has once again shown their capacity to do just about anything they set their mind too. When you compare this effort to those of DHS in its Private Sector Preparedness (PS-Prep) Program, it’s not even a fair comparison.
May 17th, 2011 - by Daniel Kaniewski
The Homeland Security Policy Institute Preparedness, Response, and Resilience Task Force released its Interim Report on Resilience, a report urging policymakers to develop a shared – and actionable – vision of resilience. The report represents the first in a series of Task Force contributions this year that will offer recommendations for Federal policymakers on how to enhance national resilience.
May 9th, 2011 - by Rich Cooper
In this final installment of my five-part interview with Virginia Task Force 1’s Capt. Joe Knerr and Lt. Rodney Vaughan, the two veteran rescuers reflect on the resiliency of the people of Japan, the lessons they’ve learned along the way and how their experiences in Japan compare with other disasters to which they have responded.