Your Complete Guide to the 5 Cybersecurity Bills in Congress

Yesterday Eric Geller, a writer for The Daily Dot, an online internet culture newspaper, posted Your complete guide to the 5 cybersecurity bills in Congress.  This is a great overview of each of the bills and what they entail.  These bills represent an important progression toward a better cybersecurity policy and implementation in the US.  A worthwhile read.

© 2015 – Timothy Riecker

Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLC

www.epsllc.biz

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News in Emergency Management

Regrettably I’ve not posted in a few weeks due to a very busy schedule.  While that hasn’t broken, I did want to take some time to ensure that my readers have seen some recent news that has been circulating in emergency management as of late.

First, the FEMA mobile app has updated and is now providing the ability for users to receive weather alerts from up to five locations across the nation.  This is a particularly handy feature for those who have family and friends in other states or those who travel frequently to different areas.  With hazardous weather season upon us, be sure that you use the FEMA mobile app or other state or local alerting service to ensure that you, your family, and organization receive alerts.

Second, DHS has provided an update on the status of the LLIS (Lessons Learned Information Sharing) Libarary.  From the release I received this morning…

Dear LLIS.gov User,

This spring, the Lessons Learned Information Sharing (LLIS) program will make a significant change. The LLIS.gov website will cease independent operations and will consolidate its content with the Naval Postgraduate School’s Homeland Security Digital Library (HSDL.org) and FEMA.gov.

One of the advantages of this move is that LLIS.gov content such as lessons learned, innovative practices, after-action reports, plans, templates, guides, and other materials will be consolidated with the already substantial database on HSDL.org. This change will allow the homeland security and emergency management communities to find relevant information in one place. FEMA’s LLIS program will continue to produce trend analyses, case studies on the use of FEMA preparedness grants, and webinars relevant to the whole community. These products will be available to the public on FEMA.gov.
They don’t give any timeframe for this migration aside from stating that they will provide updates in the coming weeks.  Personally, I think this is a move that makes sense by consolidating some great sources of information.  I’m also happy to hear that FEMA will continue providing some data and trend analysis, although I’m hopeful that the information they provide is of greater value than what I have seen in the past.  I’m also curious if this will be somehow integrated into the new Data.gov site.  It’s unfortunate that LLIS has been pulled down for so long while they have sorted all this out.

Lastly, good news for coastal communities and those who have suffered inland tropical storm damages in the last few years – the prediction for the 2015 hurricane season is that we will have lower than average activity.  A link to the annual predictive analysis can be found here.

That’s all for now.  Stay safe.

© 2015 – Timothy Riecker

Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLC

www.epsllc.biz 

Dispatch Transition to EOC Operations

Within the LinkedIn discussion thread of one of my recent posts on applications of ICS, I was prompted to consider that one more awkward element for an EOC operation can be the transition or integration of dispatch with the EOC.  Consider that during ‘routine’ operations, it is dispatch who is supporting field operations and tracking critical actions.  Many jurisdictions encounter a difficulty when activating an EOC locally to support a growing response – what to do with dispatch?

The EOC’s traditional role as ‘expanded dispatch’ aids a field response by providing a greater level of coordination far beyond the tools normally available to most dispatchers by facilitating direct access to agency representatives who are dedicated to supporting the needs of the incident.  Under routine operations, Command (or Logistics) is contacting dispatch directly (usually via radio) to request resources.  Upon activation of an EOC, these requests must be routed to the EOC.  In some jurisdictions, EOCs are co-located with dispatch (at least in the same building), making this transition a bit easier in regard to technology and people, but some jurisdictions have these buildings separated.

How do you solve this awkward dilemma of ICS/EOC interface?  First of all, it needs to be thought through and planned PRIOR to an incident!  This is when we can do our best work, ideally bringing all relevant stakeholders to the table, mapping out processes and procedures, and identifying equipment and technology issues needed to support it.  With everyone together, talk through what you want to do given the circumstances you have.  Each idea likely has pros and cons that have to be weighed.

Some possibilities… Keep all resource orders going through dispatch. In doing so, you are not interrupting the ‘normal’ communications link with field operations.  In this circumstance, though, you need to consider how the dispatcher will transfer the resource request to EOC Logistics.  Since you likely do not want Logistics to be accessing the PSAP system, the dispatcher will likely have to enter the request into another system, such as EOC management software (something they likely don’t use often).  This can be time consuming so it will likely require the dispatcher to be solely dedicated to this incident.  The scope of resources (or ideally missions) is also beyond what a dispatcher usually deals with (thus the reason for activating the EOC), so it would likely require some additional training and use of dispatchers with greater experience.

Another option is to bring the dispatcher into the EOC.  Sometimes physical separation, despite technology, can make things awkward.  If the jurisdiction has the technological ability to bring a dispatcher into the EOC as part of the Communications Unit, they can interact with field operations and facilitate communication better.  The need to enter the resource/mission request into a formal system which is assignable and trackable still exists.

Another option is to pull dispatch out of the incident.  This can cause significant disruption to the incident but is manageable if pre-planned, trained, and exercised.  At this point in an expanded incident the need to use radio communications beyond field operations may be exceeded.  Field Logistics can interface directly with EOC Logistics via phone or other technology to communicate resource requests.  This methodology gets the request directly to EOC Logistics for them to handle.

There are certainly other models and possibilities that exist.  What experiences do you have?  What have you seen work?  What have you seen fail?

© 2015 – Timothy Riecker

Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLC

WWW.EPSLLC.BIZ 

Flooding – ’tis the Season

In central New York we have experienced 50+ degree (F) weather for the first time in months.  With the warmer weather has come the melting of a fair amount of snow which accumulated through the winter.  Winter temperatures rarely reaching above freezing up here resulting in little melting of snow through the season, so it’s all occurring now. Coupled with spring rains and storms, flood watches and warnings have been issued here and in other locations around the nation.  If you haven’t already, now is the time to prepare for flooding!

Aside from the measures that homeowners, business owners, and facility managers can take (sump pumps, doorway dams, sand bags, and flood barriers), jurisdictions need to be prepared for the impacts of flooding.  If electronic gauges don’t exist in your streams and rivers, be sure to have someone periodically measure and report their depth and progression toward flood stages.  Ensure that culverts are clean and open for the flow of water, and have personnel, equipment, signage, and barriers ready to deploy to address trouble spots and close roads.

Ironically, water and wastewater systems have a significant vulnerability to flooding.  The EPA has issued Flood Resilience: A Basic Guide for Water and Wastewater Utilities that includes worksheets, videos, and flood maps to guide water and wastewater system operators through identifying their flood risk and vulnerability and mitigation options available to them.  Along with that effort, they have issued a Flooding Incident Action Checklist.

Most importantly, make sure that flood awareness is not a unilateral effort.  Involve emergency managers, elected officials, and first response organizations.  Review plans, policies, and procedures and ensure they are up to date.  Consider related actions, such as notification and warning, evacuation, and flood fighting measures.  Preemptive messaging to property owners/residents and business owners to help them be aware and prepared for flooding is also crucial; and make sure everyone knows how to receive local weather alerts so they are aware of any imminent flooding dangers.

Stay dry!

© 2015 – Timothy Riecker

Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLC

www.epsllc.biz