A February 10, 2014 article in Emergency Management Magazine titled Attack on California Electric Grid Called Terrorism brings about some very interesting speculation on an incident that occurred at an electrical substation near San Jose last year. Unfortunately the article saves some critical information for the end and left me with a poor initial impression (i.e. assuming that the weapons used were assault rifles). My early impression of the article, particularly having grown up in the country, was that this was the result of ‘Billy-Bob and Joe decided after a bunch of brewskis they were going to shoot up a substation’, as stated by Mark Johnson, recently retired VP of Pacific Gas and Electric.
Toward the end of the article, the author identifies information associated to the shooting of the transformers, including the removal of 75 lb manhole covers and the cutting of fiber optic lines. With this and other information revealed in the article, it seems likely this was more than Billy-Bob and Joe. It’s suggested by the author that this activity could have been a ‘dress rehearsal’ for terrorists. While I’m no terrorism expert, I offer that it’s not likely to involve any major entities such as Al-Qaeda, who are, unfortunately, must more clandestine than this – just look at how long it took us to find Bin Laden. My guess is that this was perpetrated by a local, semi-organized, domestic group. They did some research, but were clearly sloppy and ultimately unsuccessful, if, in fact, their goal was to cause an outage. Nonetheless, an act such as this should certainly be categorized as terrorism, despite the origin of the perpetrators and their cause.
This scenario, however, provides some important food for thought. I’ve posted previously on the vulnerability of our electrical system to both intentional acts as well as natural disasters. There are some efforts under way to increase the redundancies of our system and to create micro-grids, which would isolate impacts, which are great mitigation strategies. The occurrence of this intentional act should bring strong consideration to prevention and protection activities to heighten security and resiliency of this infrastructure. We need to call on our law makers to work with emergency managers, regulators, and the industry itself to require a multi-faceted approach to include protection, prevention, and mitigation efforts.
Tuesday morning I attended a panel discussion hosted by the Greater Utica Chamber of Commerce focused on providing information to areas businesses about the FAA‘s selection of the former Griffiss Air Base/Oneida County Airport as one of six sites in the nation to test integration of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) into commercial airspace. The presentations were excellent, with efforts centered around the NUAIR Alliance, a conglomerate of public, private, and educational entities working toward testing airspace integration technologies and protocols, as well as various uses and applications of UAVs, including those for agriculture, commercial enterprise, and public safety.
Interestingly enough, as mentioned by the panelists, UAVs, or drones as they are often referred, have been in regular use in other nations for years. Japan, for example, has been using UAVs for agricultural applications such as spraying crops, for the last 10 years. France, too, has been using UAVs for various purposes. Here in the US, we largely face matters of regulation as the barrier to utilizing UAVs for non-military applications. The FAA, who would enact these regulations, is largely looking at matters of safety related to the integration of UAVs into commercial airspace. Researching these matters and making recommendations to the FAA through real life application is the goal of NUAIR. Amongst the partners of the NUAIR Alliance are private firms who wish to use UAV technology for agricultural and commercial applications. These companies, smartly, are now in on the ground floor of this technology in the United States.
With most drones being relatively inexpensive, this technology is accessible for both small farmers and large companies. Amazon, the online retain giant, has already expressed interest in using UAVs to deliver packages. As for public safety applications (I’ve written before about this), the possibilities are practically endless. Those who have privacy concerns have little ground for blocking development of these life saving tools. Current privacy laws, up to and including the US Constitution, already address these concerns and provide the foundation for UAV applications in law enforcement. The new Fox show, Almost Human, which is set in the future, brilliantly displays heavy use of drones to track suspects and serve other law enforcement purposes which are better served with smaller, more agile UAVs rather than the piloted helicopters we use today. These are faster to deploy and minimize human risk. Thus far, the show has not displayed any use of UAVs with the capability to use lethal force. Law enforcement aside, there are numerous other public safety applications. A recent article about massive boulders crushing a farm house in Italy displayed images and video, reportedly taken by UAVs. Consider similar technology leveraged for a missing person search or to gather information on the extent of a wild fire or damages from a tornado.
The future of UAVs is exciting and I’m thrilled for the test grounds to be practically in my own back yard. I’m looking forward to the first UAV sighting near my property as the NUAIR partners conduct tests. Technology certainly is exciting!
First off, I’d like to give a greeting to all of you. I’ve been absent from blogging for quite a few months now. I spent much of last year working in New Jersey as part of a team managing waterway debris removal as the result of Hurricane Sandy. It was a great experience and often challenging – but I had an opportunity to work with some outstanding people and do some good for the people of New Jersey. I’m sure in future posts I’ll reflect on some lessons learned from that assignment.
Since my return I’ve been spending time with family and getting my own business back up and running. I’ve also re-started the pursuit of my graduate degree. With all the writing I’ve been doing, I’ve found it challenging to get back into blogging, but have thought about it often.
Earlier this evening I had some inspiration in reading the most recent (January/February 2014) edition of Emergency Management Magazine, in which Jim McKay’s Point of View article (which I could not locate online) spoke about ‘Medics entering the warm zone’ during mass shootings. This is a topic I’ve had some mixed feelings over for the last couple of months.
While I understand the urgency to enter the area and save lives – which is the main goal of public safety – we’ve always been taught to do so SAFELY. This new concept of EMS personnel entering a non-secure active shooter environment is in serious conflict with what we’ve been taught about responder safety. Are we being too hasty?
Most times I’ve seen this new concept referenced, it is noted that the medics are outfitted with ballistic vests and helmets and escorted by law enforcement. A great idea – but is this equipment being made readily available to EMS? Not to the folks I’ve been speaking to. Most law enforcement don’t regularly travel with riot gear, aside from their ballistic vests which they usually wear when on duty. Additionally, are there law enforcement resources available to escort medics so early on in a mass shooting incident? Often times not. It seems this concept is not well thought out.
What about training? Tactical medic classes have been available for the last few decades, but most medics are not trained as such. I’ve heard of no movement in EMS training to include information on how to make entry into an unsecured shooting incident, or in law enforcement training regarding providing escort duty to unarmed EMS personnel. In fact one of the only ‘doctrinal’ references comes from the US Fire Administration, although it doesn’t provide much information. This entire concept, to be effective, efficient, and safe needs to be prepared for – planning, training, and exercises.
I’m not alone among my EMS colleagues having experienced looking down the barrel of a shotgun when responding to a call. It must be considered that responding to an active shooter is NOT that. It’s much more serious. I understand that this idea can save lives – but what happens when the first medic loses their life after making entry? Let’s start with that thought in crafting this new approach. A dead responder can’t save any lives.
The most important thing we can do in the aftermath of a disaster or an exercise is to identify what we learned and the improvements we need to make.
Originally posted on Recovery Diva:
In recent years, a greater no. of universities have created emergency management units and acquired dedicated staff to manage them. This example of Rutgers’ experience after Hurricane Sandy is instructive: Hurricane Sandy exposes flaws in Rutgers’ emergency response, report says.
In the teeth of the fiercest hurricane to hit New Jersey in generations, Rutgers University secured its campuses, safely evacuated thousands of students, managed large shelters without incident and maintained crucial data on its vast computer networks.
But Hurricane Sandy also exposed critical weaknesses in the university’s emergency response, including a failure to communicate well with students and staff, a shortage of personnel at the emergency nerve center and, perhaps most importantly, a lack of backup power, resulting in the loss of decades-old scientific research samples.
Training… It’s all about your audience!
Originally posted on Creating Communication:
My superstar student Reva shared an amazing resource with the class during her Mini-Discussion this week: the Audience Analysis Worksheet. Feel free to use the worksheet authored by Lenny Laskowski for your next presentation!
Analysis - Who are they? How many will be there?
Understanding - What is their knowledge of the subject?
Demographics - What is their age, sex, educational background? (I think we can definitely add more questions regarding demographic information here).
Interest - Why are they there? Who asked them to be there?
Environment - Where will I stand? Can they all see & hear me?
Needs - What are their needs? What are your needs as the speaker?
Customized - What specific needs do you need to address?
Expectations - What do they expect to learn or hear from you?
Do you conduct audience analysis before your presentations? How do you complete this important…
Originally posted on Recovery Diva:
The folks at the CDC Foundation has prepared a really excellent interactive graphic. See this Business Continuity infographic.
Since the Diva wanted to print it off and use it as a poster, the staff at the foundation were gracious enough to break it up into 3 pdf files so that it would print off. If you want a copy of the 3 files to print, contact the Diva directly.