Extreme Weather Events: The Costs of Not Being Prepared
A February 12th communication from the Department of Homeland Security – Written testimony of NPPD Office of Infrastructure Protection Assistant Secretary Caitlin Durkovich and PLCY Assistant Secretary David Heyman for a Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing titled “Extreme Weather Events: The Costs of Not Being Prepared” – makes for interesting reading for all those concerned with preparedness and response to ensure a swift and effective recovery effort from a large-scale emergency event.
As detailed in the testimony, “weather events present a significant and growing challenge, as evidenced by multiple multi-billion dollar disasters occurring in recent years….Natural disasters not only have the potential to cause severe consequences, including fatalities and economic loss, but also may overwhelm the capacities of critical infrastructure, causing widespread disruption of essential services across the country. Additionally, higher temperatures and more intense storms may damage or disrupt telecommunications and power systems, creating challenges for telecommunications infrastructure, emergency communications, and the availability of cyber systems.”
In the March 2011 Presidential Policy Directive 8: National Preparedness (PPD-8), the Federal Government defined resilience as the “ability to adapt to changing conditions and withstand and rapidly recover from disruption due to emergencies.” In practice, this means something much greater that affects Americans and is inherently tied to the security of our homeland. Resilience is the ability of citizens, businesses, and communities to: 1) proactively prepare for potential disasters so as to ensure that they are well-positioned to weather the impact; and 2) readily respond to a situation as it occurs to mitigate the threat or hazard.
In September 2011, the National Preparedness Goal (NPG) was published, which defines what it means for the United States to be prepared for all types of disasters and emergencies. Under the NPG, there are 31 core capabilities across prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery mission areas. The NPG is followed by the National Planning Frameworks that describe the roles and responsibilities of everyone and how we come together to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond, and recover from emergencies in order to ensure a secure and resilient Nation. Working with interagency partners, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) PPD-8 Program Executive Office oversaw development of the Frameworks with state, local, tribal, territorial, and Federal partners and the private and non-profit sectors. In August 2013, FEMA released the Comprehensive Preparedness Guide 201, Second Edition, which provides communities with guidance for conducting a Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (THIRA). The THIRA helps communities develop an understanding of t risks from natural, technological, and human-caused threats and hazards. In this way, communities can make informed decisions on how to manage risk and develop needed capabilities.
Finally, DHS is shepherding with Federal partners the development of a National Campaign to Build and Sustain Preparedness. The initiative will ultimately four key elements:
- a comprehensive campaign including public outreach, and community-based and private-sector programs;
- federal preparedness efforts;
- grants, technical assistance and other federal preparedness support; and
- research and development.
Understanding the risks faced by communities and the Nation as a whole is essential to national preparedness. The Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment Guide provides a common and consistent approach for communities to support the first two components of the National Preparedness System:
1) Identifying and Assessing Risk; and
2) Estimating Capability Requirements.
It expands on existing local, state, tribal, and territorial hazard identification and risk assessment processes. The THIRA is complemented by a Strategic National Risk Assessment (SNRA) that analyzes the greatest risks to the Nation, and contributes to a shared understanding of the full range of risks, including long- term trends that face our Nation.
THIRAs and the SNRA, along with other specialized risk assessments, provide an integrated national risk picture, which in turn helps to achieve the National Preparedness Goal of “a secure and resilient Nation with the capabilities required across the whole community to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from the threats and hazards that pose the greatest risk.”
Achieving the National Preparedness Goal requires participation by the whole community. Consistent application of THIRAs provides an important tool for integrating whole community contributions toward achieving the National Preparedness Goal. Through the THIRA process, communities are better able to educate individuals, families, businesses, organizations, community leaders, and senior officials about the risks they face and their roles in and contributions to prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery.
Firestorm applauds those private businesses, organizations and institutions that adopt these same methodologies to protect themselves, persons and property.
The recent, significant weather events across the South, Southeast and Northeast provide current, stark examples of the potentially devastating impacts extreme weather can have on critical infrastructure.
As detailed in the testimony: “Infrastructure built now can have a design life span of 50 years or more, and will be expected to operate under future stressor conditions, whatever they may be. As a result, it is a prudent investment to incorporate resilience into asset and system design and promote hazard mitigation in built infrastructure, rather than rebuild or redesign infrastructure after incidents occur.”
“To achieve infrastructure resilience, owners and operators along with government and nongovernmental partners must be able to maintain essential services provided by critical infrastructure to our communities regardless of the hazard or threat, and when a disruption occurs, ensure essential services and functions are brought back to full operations as quickly as possible. To accomplish this, DHS is leveraging a whole community, all-hazards approach to better prepare for, protect against, mitigate, respond, and recover from extreme weather.”
The Department of Homeland Security views this as a “shared responsibility.” From the testimony:
“Civilians are usually the first to arrive in a crisis, and history shows that they are critical in those important first minutes. In order to maximize their ability to help themselves, their communities, and the U.S. Government respond to and mitigate threats, we must ensure that they are well-equipped and understand the importance of preparing for and responding to disasters. Citizen responders have the capacity to act as force multipliers and can be an even more potent force if they know what steps they can take to prepare.”
To ensure that your business continuity program addresses all key elements of business continuity, it is vital to perform a complete Business Impact Analysis (BIA) of the business, and impacts of any disruption on day-to-day business operations. Firestorm’s BIA is the foundation work upon which the entire continuity planning process is built. Ask yourself and your teams these additional questions:
- Do you have access to your plans anytime, anywhere? In the middle of of a severe event?
- Are your plans customized to fit the needs of your company?
- Are they accurate and up-to-date?
Having the answers to these questions is critical if your business is to survive a disruption or crisis. Let’s follow the example detailed by the Department of Homeland Security, FEMA and others.