On 17 February 2022, Dr. Asha M. George, executive director of the Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense, testified as an expert witness before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs at a hearing on addressing the gaps in the nation’s biodefense and level of preparedness to respond to biological threats. In 2015, the Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense released its first report, A National Blueprint for Biodefense, to warn that the biological threat was rising and to inform the government that the nation was insufficiently prepared to handle a large-scale biological event. When COVID-19 emerged in early 2020, many of those findings proved to be true.
A crisis can occur when a situation becomes unstable, circumstances suddenly change, or tension and stress heighten. However, not all events need to reach the level of a crisis or disaster if proper preventative measures are taken. Preparing for and possibly preventing a crisis mean thinking outside the box, creating good habits, developing a plan, and then implementing that plan.
Imagine an important grant application deadline approaching next month, delaying the submission for a couple weeks, but then a critical incident happens (perhaps, something like a pandemic) that diverts attention for weeks, months, or much longer. The routine tasks that require action are not performed in a timely manner, and the deadline for that grant application is now gone. Developing some small habits like prioritizing would have significant effect on productivity and effectiveness of response and recovery efforts for a future crisis.
One common sentiment that can hold people back from thinking outside the box is, “That’s how it’s always been done.” Lessons learned and best practices are critical components of disaster preparedness efforts. However, no matter how many lessons are learned and best practices are discovered, the pursuit for new lessons and even better practices should never end. In this January 2022 edition of the Domestic Preparedness Journal, a new year begins with four new ways of looking at disaster preparedness.
by Eric Kant, Joel Thomas, Chauncia Willis, Sarah K. Miller, Nissim Titan, Tzofit Chen, Brian Kruzan, Camila Tapias & Alexa Squirini -
When incidents are catastrophic and/or happen in compromised environments, complexity can increase rapidly and dramatically, compromising response objectives and resulting in catastrophic failure. The cost of these failures is measured in destruction and human lives, making even minimal reductions in capabilities untenable. A rapidly changing environment requires that the modern emergency manager is capable of quickly understanding community needs, including the needs of underserved populations and traditionally underrepresented groups.
A quick search through articles on DomesticPreparedness.com for the word “resilience” reveals a possible shift in focus for preparedness professionals over the years. In 2005, the Domestic Preparedness Journal published many resilience articles that focused on creating standards and plans in order to more rapidly return to normalcy. By 2010, there seemed to be a greater focus on funding, grants, and other resources needed to be able to sustain operations when disasters occur. By 2015, education, communication, and collaboration were key buzz words in articles on resilience. Then 2020 arrived along with much reflection on what could have been done better to be resilient in the face of an unprecedented event and how to endure the consequences of past decisions.
This year marked the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Many events were held to commemorate the lives that were lost and to honor those who survived yet still ran into the danger zones to save lives in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington, DC. However, one special event hosted in Washington, DC on 30 September 2021 was particularly impactful as it recounted that fateful day through firsthand accounts. Some presenters have told their stories many times over the years while others shared their heroic actions publicly for the first time in two decades. The District of Columbia’s 2021 Interoperability Summit “20 Year Anniversary of the September 11, 2001 Attack on America: Never Forget,” was organized by the District of Columbia Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency’s (HSEMA) Office of the Statewide Interoperability Coordinator (SWIC), in conjunction with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s (CISA) Emergency Communications Division (ECD).
The word safety is commonly used in the workplace and sounds good when it is tacked onto other words or used in phrases – for example, public safety, safety officer, safety lock, safety culture, safety goggles, and various slogans like “safety first,” just to name a few. However, the true meaning of the word should not get lost in such casual terms used in daily routines.
Neither human nor robot, a digital police officer (D-PO) is a vision in machine teammates: an artificial intelligence-based partner that can be reached through multiple devices including the patrol car’s on-board computer and officers’ mobile devices. A D-PO has access to multiple data sources including live security camera feeds and criminal databases as well as other D-POs assigned to officers. Scientists and engineers, like those at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), are working in the field of human-machine teaming to bridge the gap between today’s tools and the machine teammates of the future.
Whether constructing a home, creating community programs, or developing multijurisdictional plans and procedures, it is not enough to just construct, create, or develop. A home that collapses, a program that is not sustainable, and plans and procedures that lack continuity are examples that should motivate emergency preparedness professionals to build resilience into every planning process.