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Natural Disasters

RISKAlert November, 2014 Updated Incident Planning for Healthcare Facilities

Incorporating Active Shooter Incident Planning into Health Care Facility Emergency Operations Plans

National preparedness efforts, including planning, are based on U.S. Presidential Policy Directive (PPD) 8: Preparedness, which was signed by the President in March 2011.  This updated  directive represents an “evolution” in understanding of national preparedness based on lessons learned from rom natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy, terrorist acts like the Boston Bombing and active shooter and other violent incidents.

Preparedness is centered in five areas: Prevention, Protection, Mitigation, Response, and Recovery. These concepts are applied to Health Care Facility (HCFs) Planning for active shooters and other violent incidents.

Emergency Operations Plans for Health Care Facilities (EOPs) should be living documents that are routinely reviewed and consider all types of hazards, including the possibility of an active shooter or terrorist incident. As law enforcement continues to draw lessons learned from actual emergencies, HCFs should incorporate those lessons learned into existing emergency plans or in newly created EOPs.

It advises a whole community approach that includes staff, patients, and visitors as well as individuals with access and functional needs. Examples of these populations include children, older adults, pregnant women, individuals with disabilities, etc.

The key concepts include not only familiar concepts like “Run-Hide-Fight” but also concepts on addressing a wider range of risks (threats), how to do drills, improvement of situational awareness activities, expanding the definitions of risks, how to do Psychological First Aid (PFA), and how to integrate these with HIPAA guidelines and Rules and the importance and role of Security in Emergency Operations Planning (EOPs).

Lesson  Learned :    Don’t Wait to Respond!

A 2005 investigation by the National Institute of Standards and Technology into the collapse of the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001, found that people close to the floors impacted waited longer to start evacuating than those on unaffected floors.   Similarly, during the Virginia Tech shooting, individuals on campus responded to the shooting with varying degrees of urgency. (ref:  Federal Building and Fire Safety Investigation of the World Trade Center Disaster: Occupant Behavior, Egress, and Emergency Communications.)

            Frequent Security Situational Awareness Training, and Active Shooter –
Disaster Drills can prevent this “frozen” phenomena and save lives in
a violent incident , a terrorist attack, or a disaster scenario.

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Got a House near the Coast? The Storm Surge Lessons we’re Learning from the Philippines Disaster and Hurricane Sandy…

You already know that the climate is getting progressively warmer, and sea levels around the world
are rising.

This new climate reality played out last week in the Philippines, an archipelago nation with over 7000 islands, as a giant typhoon smashed into the central Philippines districts and destroyed everything in its path, including housing for millions of people living near areas around the cities of Tacloban and Cebu and other islands.

With thousands already dead and thousands more in  island areas that have not been reached yet,
the ultimate death toll may be weeks in coming, but some experts think it could top over 15,000 people.

If, like me, you live near an ocean coast anywhere, you have to wonder how future storms may affect your region.

The rising sea levels are already invading fresh water wells along Florida’s east coast, polluting the fresh water with salt, and forcing cities to find new fresh water sources.  Saltwater seeping in from the ocean keeps spreading farther west, threatening to ruin the freshwater supplies that provide most of South Florida’s drinking water.

Even though the US doesn’t get typhoons, it does get hurricanes, and what we learned in this typhoon, just like we learned in Hurricane Sandy in October, 2012, was that it’s not the wind, it’s not the rain,
it’s the STORM SURGE that creates the disaster. 

In the recent typhoon, the storm surge, while not technically a tsunami, pushed up an enormous amount of water on shore, that destroys everything it touches and pushes the water inland, dragging along houses, trees, cars, people, animals, giant ships, hotels and anything else it finds on it’s path.

“As a nation we don’t understand storm surge well, nor do coastal communities understand storm surge risk,” said Jamie Rhome, a storm surge specialist at the Hurricane Center. “It’s one of the hardest things to communicate.”

Storm surges can travel inland up to thirty miles and can quickly push up rivers, and bays. “People
don’t understand how far inland storm surge can go,” Rhome said. “It penetrates well inland, goes up rivers, into bays. It goes wherever it can, and people don’t realize they are at threat of flooding.”

Cities and regional planning groups need to re-examine the storm surge threat in their areas, and make plans to deal more effectively with these lethal storm surges that may come from hurricane and typhoons in the future.

Is Extreme Heat a New Deadly Threat?

We are currently in the grip of a terrible heat wave in the western states.  Death Valley, California almost beat it’s previous record of a 130, with a National Weather Service Thermometer recording 129.9.   The highest temperature ever recorded on Planet Earth is 132.

Despite all the news coverage of hurricanes, homes torn apart by tornadoes, and tropical storms, the deaths from excessive heat kill more people annually than almost all the other natural disasters (except for tsumanis and 7.0 and above earthquakes).

Deaths from excessive heat include both cardiac arrest and breathing issues.  “Heat-related illnesses and deaths are preventable. Taking steps to stay cool, hydrated and informed in extreme temperatures can prevent serious health effects like heat exhaustion and heat stroke,” said lead author Ethel Taylor, a researcher who works with the CDC.

Because extended heat waves put a strain on electrical loads and may trigger power outages, it is important for companies to have a Plan for Extended Extreme Heat.
Plan for a situation without electricity for 3 or more days.

Having just survived a week in south Florida without AC, and growing in Los Angeles, also
without air conditioning, here are a few tips to stay cool:

1.  Stay wet to facilitate evaporate cooling.  Wear a wet T-shirt and keep your clothes

2.  Make sure pets are ALWAYS in a shady place and give them plenty of cool water.

3.   Buy ice and use it to rub on children’s arms and legs to keep them cool.

4.   Use fans and swamp coolers if electricity is available.  Coleman makes fans that
run on batteries if electricity goes out during a heat wave.

5.   Wake up earlier and use the cooler morning hours for outside tasks and stay
indoors during the heat of the day.

And, if it’s blistering hot where you are — DO NOT USE FIREWORKS.  Areas that
are already dry, including shake roofs, will burn more easily under such extreme heat!

AND wherever you are, STAY COOL.


Data-Driven Security: The Best Way to Improve Security for Anything, Anywhere

How can you improve your security program?  Are we talking about a seaport?  A church?  A manufacturing facility?  A gas pipeline?  An office building?  Corporate Headquarters?   Zoo?  Hospital?  Bank?  Clinic?  City Hall?  Harbor?  Stadium?  Government Agency?

It doesn’t matter what you need to protect — if you decide it is a critical asset, it needs good, continually improving security, and
an on-going assessment program is the fastest, easiest way to get it.

If wonderful, dedicated you, (as the security pro), don’t know what’s working and what’s not, how can you improve the overall program, unless you wait for an “precipitating event”, like a THEFT, like an ASSAULT, like a FLOOD, or a HURRICANE, or a POWER LOSS, and then you immediately start working on that and making sure THAT particular disaster doesn’t happen again!
Meanwhile, everything else is slowly losing energy due to lack of constant attention.

And so let’s say you are the Super Bowl, and the power went out!  Terrible. Inexcusable.  And you’re busy getting a 2nd or 3rd backup generator to make sure THAT POWER LOSS never happens again.

This problem with this model – fixing what’s broken and ‘learning from experience’ is that it’s always a day late.  You’re always chasing after something that already happened.

Instead, you can  set up a program so that you use to continually evaluate the current condition, assess the risk, and then improve the security controls, based on THAT RISK ASSESSMENT.

Tony Robbins used to call it CANI

  • Constant And Never-ending Improvement.  You can accomplish this by setting up regular assessments and then adjusting or tweeking the security controls to adjust to the new, or more aggressive threats.
    “Regular” assessments can be monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, annually, bi-annually, whatever schedule suits you and the organization.   The idea is that by continually reassessing your last improvement,and changing the threats and risk level,
    you can create a dynamic, data-driven security program that improves the security profile dramatically, without having to
    suffer through another triggering event!
    The concept of CANI – Constant And Never-ending Improvement can breathe life into your security program, you can use it to improve your health, your fitness level, your guitar playing, your _______________________.
    You fill in the rest!



Holding Hurricane Sandy Survivors Hostage to House In-Fighting

Many, including Chris Christie, and Peter King,  are shocked and dismayed when the relief vote for New York and New Jersey was postponed until the new Congress assembles later this week.

The U.S. has historically had a great reputation for jumping in AS A WHOLE COUNTRY to help the victims and survivors whose lives and businesses have been ravaged and, in some cases, destroyed.  Many world leaders have commented on how the USA always pulls together in these emergencies.

According to the House, that’s no longer true.

The decision to take a budget fight to this level is NOT good politics.   These people, most of them property owners AND registered voters, are going into winter without the basic necessities, with houses that have not been repaired, with streets not repaired.  Sixty-eight days AFTER the disaster, these people cannot wait two more days, they can’t wait one more day.

A big country like the United States of America cannot hold its head up in the world, if we can’t help our own brothers and sisters who suffer these terrible events.

If this happened in New Orleans, I think you can imagine what the talking points would be.

As a group concerned about safety and security, we should be writing our congressmen and senators and tell them to stop playing games with federal disaster relief.

Get Ready for Severe Weather!

Whether it is Spring tornados or spring-summer thunderstorms and hurricanes.  We officially enter the season of severe weather across the U.S.

A major focus at the beginning of each severe weather season, take a few minute to get ready and make sure you are prepared, and your kids are prepared, and your pets are prepared.

You can download a complete list of preparation details at www.ready.gov but here is a
short list to review:

1.  Keep enough food and water for at least two weeks.

2.  Have a family evacuation plan and practice it often, including a meeting place.

3.  Keep a ‘ready-kit’ in your car with extra food, water, change of clothes and don’t forget to include pet food, plastic bags, diapers and other essentials that could carry you for a few days.

4.  Make sure and keep large trees trimmed to decrease the chance they could fall on your house.

5.  Use the internet, like Twitter or National Weather Service, to get breaking alerts, and invest in a battery powered radio.

6.  Keep extra batteries available to keep the radio alerts going.

7.   Keep your car gassed up, instead of running out during an emergency and finding
it’s out of gas, and remember, if the power goes out, the gas pumps don’t work.

8.  Stay alert and try to keep a day ahead of the weather!

Severe Tornados and Why We Need to Stay Prepared

The damage and destruction from the path of a tornado is incredible – and only matched by the sad stories of the survivors, if they are lucky enough to survive.

If there’s one thing that social media has improved – it is the ability of an individual in an affected area to get detailed updated by the minute on a smartphone or over the internet.

The old early warning systems were set up for radio, that was in the days when everyone listened to radios.   I do listen to the radio for maybe 5 minutes a day, in the car, just long enough to put in the CD or connect my ipod.   So the Twitter accounts and iphone-smartphone apps from CNN, the National Weather Service, Weatherbug and dozens more really help to keep people informed.

I often hear news anchors lament the over-availability of information these days, but I think the more access we get to this kind of information and other kinds of info is absolutely a wonderful thing for society and for most people!

If you do live in a tornado-, hurricane- or other disaster-likely area, the Weatherbug app is one of the best because you can set it to actually chirp if severe weather threatens.

As far as risk reduction – being able to protect yourself against major weather events is one of the threats you can more easily eliminate or at least manage.

Are there mor

“Although the average number of April tornadoes steadily increased from 74 a year in the 1950s to 163 a year in the 2000s, nearly all of the increase is of the least powerful tornadoes that may touch down briefly without causing much damage. That suggests better reporting is largely responsible for the increase.

There are, on average, 1,300 tornadoes each year in the United States, which have caused an average of 65 deaths annually in recent years.

The number of tornadoes rated from EF1 to EF5 on the enhanced Fujita scale, used to measure tornado strength, has stayed relatively constant for the past half century at about 500 annually. But in that time the number of confirmed EF0 tornadoes has steadily increased to more than 800 a year from less than 100 a year, said Harold Brooks, a research meteorologist at the National Severe Storms Laboratory. ”



Threat Modeling is the Exciting, Sexy Part of Risk Assessment

As a risk assessment professional, when I get into a risk discussion, most security people want to talk about THREAT!  Threat is the most sexy and exciting part of doing a risk assessment.

Threats are exciting all by themselves.  Think about all the threats you can name:

All the natural disasters like Earthquakes, Tornadoes, Storms, Hurricanes, Tsunamis, Lightning, Floods

Crimes like Homicide, Assault, Rape, Burglary, Theft, Kidnapping, Blackmail, Extortion

Terrorism like Sabotage, Explosions, Mail Bombs, Suicide Bombs

All the IT Threats like Malicous Code, Disclosure, Data Breaches, Theft of Data

And about 50 more including Chem/Bio incidents, Magnetic waves, High Energy Bursts, Microbursts, Contamination and Reputation Damage.

Each of these threats could theoretically occur at any time, but we try to establish a pattern of how often they have occurred in the past, in this location, in this county, in this country, in the company, etc.   So NASA, for example, gets thousands of hacker attacks, but another company, like the local Salvation Army, gets 1 every 10 years.

Same model for natural disasters, although you might have to factor in climate change, it’s easy to get the threat incidents for hurricanes in Florida, snow storms in Cleveland, earthquakes in northern California, etc.

We also like to examine industry specific data to see if some threats are higher in a certain industry, like the high incidence of workplace violence incidents in hospitals and high risk retail establishments (like Wawa or 7-11).

Another factor we use in calculating threat likelihood is how the threat could actually affect different types of assets…. for example, would an earthquake damage a car?  Probably not. Would it cause damage to an old historical building – probably (unless it had been retrofitted).  Could it cause loss of life, or injuries (think Haiti).

So I use a multidimensional model that takes the threats list (I have a standard list of 75 threats that I use), and map it to each potential loss, based on the ‘asset’ that might be affected.

The more data you get, the better your model will be, and the more value it will have as a decision support tool!


How to Correctly Analyze 100-Year Threats for Risk Assessments

Starting a risk assessment in northern Virginia and going through the threat list they say, “You can take earthquakes out – we don’t have earthquakes here”!

Hey, Haiti didn’t have earthquakes!

Vermont didn’t have major floods!

Connecticut doesn’t have tornados!

Like Murphy’s Law, as soon as you discount a threat, and think, “it will never happen here”, it happens!   The earthquake in the mid-Atlantic in August was a wake-up call for those who that they would never have earthquake damage.

One of the reasons that security risk assessment is so highly valued as an analytical took, and why it’s required by so many governments is because it DOES take into account the 100-year flood, the 75-year drought, etc.

Natural disasters can be so overwhelming, and catastrophic, that they must be considered in any proper risk assessment.  This is why some areas are not suitable for building housing tracts, because they are in a 100-year flood plan.

Because human memories are short, just because YOU haven’t experience a flood
along a meandering creek, doesn’t mean it will never happen.  

Always check the long-term probabilities when you start a risk assessment and make the numbers work for you!

Does Being on TV Make Us Better World Citizens?

Does Being on TV Make Us Better World Citizens?

To quote the character in the 1995 movie, “To Die For” — “You’re not really anybody in America unless you’re on TV… ’cause what’s the point of doing anything worthwhile if there’s nobody watching?  So when people are watching, it makes you a better person.” So if everybody was on TV all the time, everybody would be better people.

A minor statistic – that the recent tsunami in #Japan got CNN its highest ratings since Obama’s inauguration!   What can beat the reality of earthquakes and rising water, followed almost immediately by nuclear power plants with seawater cannons blasting?   And then add the airstrikes over #Libya – all delivered in breathtaking color.

Does showing these images on TV make people more sympathetic to the plight of the rest of the world?   I think it probably does – and that it does make us better people for caring.

The social media has contributed greatly to this – working hand in glove with TV – expanding coverage to new audiences and flashing breaking news around the world.  The immediacy of Twitter and email make us seem empathetic because we are sending the news out to our social circles. 

The middle east uprisings are possible not because of just the media, but because people around the world weigh in and give political support to the protesters.  They know the world is watching and because they know they are not alone anymore, they are empowered to stick with their protests. 

And look at the payoff – the rebels in Libya make their case and the world comes to their aid.  Obviously there are other critical factors at play here, but the TV makes it all possible. 

Just five years ago, people were wondering when the One World concept would finally catch hold and we would collectively realize that we’re really all people on this tiny planet – Pax Humana, aka World Peace. 

It looks like that day has come – not because of highideals or harmonic convergence, or universal values, but because we can tweet pictures to our friends about other people on the other side of the world.  This is true reality TV and it’s going to be a game changer for businesses and governments everywhere.