Disaster Discourse: The Hagerty Blog

2021 Preparedness Grants: Readying Your Community for Emerging Threats Through Prevention and Protection

On February 25, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas announced that as part of the newly released 2021 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Preparedness Grants, combating domestic violent extremism (DVE) would be a ‘National Priority Area’. Coupled with lone actor attacks, cyberattacks, and complex coordinated terrorist attacks (CCTA), local and state government face a profound challenge in preparing for, and potentially responding to, this known and emerging threat. Through this recent funding cycle, over $1.8 billion has been made available in competitive and awarded grants:

Additionally, Secretary Mayorkas emphasized that many of the threats our country now faces stem from homegrown extremism as opposed to threats from foreign actors. Accordingly, law enforcement and their public safety partners must be bold and innovative as they continue developing the skills required to respond to new threats motivated by dis- and misinformation as well as extremist rhetoric spread through social media and other online platforms.

Preparing for the Next Critical Incident: A Focus on Prevention and Protection

As the threat landscape continues to evolve, the prevention and protection mission areas of FEMA’s National Preparedness Goal have been prioritized. Ensuring these important capabilities are top of mind provides organizations and jurisdictions an opportunity for discovery, innovation, and perspective – hopefully strengthening their readiness for any hazards they may face.

Encrypted messaging, hyper-networked groups, and lone actor events demonstrate the span of complexity that responders now operate in. Identifying and sharing a key detail could prevent an attack or mitigate the severity of its impact. For example, studies show that 86 per cent of lone actors share their convictions with others, and 58 per cent provide indications of violent intent. Communicating crucial information between local and state partners, wherever that information may come from, could be the difference.

To properly prepare, an organization must understand the nature and complexity of the emerging threats. Often, law enforcement, fire protection, emergency management, and emergency medical services – not to mention the wider community of public and private sector partners – do not communicate consistently in the way that a multi-day, critical incident might require. Therefore, developing plans and procedures to ensure the fluidity of critical information-sharing prior to and during a crisis is a must.

Building a Preparedness Program Driven by Prevention and Protection: Hunter Seeker Exercises

While decades of planning, training, and exercise have strengthened overall response to critical incidents, the preparedness grants offers awardees a unique opportunity to develop and sustain a community preparedness program driven by the prevention and protection core capabilities.

To help build and promote an understanding of how critical prevention and protection capabilities can stop an active threat, cyberattack, or act of DVE from taking place, Hagerty has developed Hunter Seeker – an exercise hosted by intelligence operations centers (such as a fusion center or other intelligence and information sharing hub) that incorporates gaming concepts and Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) guidance to create a dynamic exercise experience like no other.

Unlike many exercises, Hunter Seeker is highly customizable – tailored to meet the unique needs of the participants. Using a phased approach that goes beyond HSEEP standards, Hagerty’s exercise designers and active threat experts conduct rigorous interviews and assessments, build organic scenarios (such as a DVE attack or cyberattack) with thousands of injects and hundreds of potential outcomes, and incorporate gaming concepts for the organizations involved in the Information Sharing Environment (ISE).

Throughout the exercise, participants are fully immersed in the scenario through simulated news, social media, and incorporation of the Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN) along with other information sharing tools. During the multi-day exercise, the decisions made by individuals and teams shape the scenario, with each outcome designed to test the identified and unidentified weaknesses in the system. Following the completion of Hunter Seeker, Hagerty experts facilitate an after-action reporting process and improvement planning effort with participating agencies and organizations.

Are You Threat Ready? Hagerty Can Help!

Hunter Seeker is a dynamic, interactive exercise and a way that Hagerty can help bolster your community’s or organization’s preparedness capabilities. As we help you find the right solution to meet your needs, it is important to note that our services are not limited to solely in-person or solely virtual conduct – a myriad of hybrid options also exist that can benefit your organization. Hagerty will work with you to determine the best scenario given your desired objectives, outcomes, and resources.

David Schuld is a Deputy Director of Preparedness Programs at Hagerty Consulting, and leads the firm’s efforts in homeland security, active threat preparedness, and Hunter Seeker. He has managed numerous public safety-related projects ranging from intelligence and information sharing, to integrated response to an active threat, to mass casualty crime recovery. 

Jonathan Davis is a Managing Associate at Hagerty Consulting and homeland security subject matter expert, most recently working for the United Kingdom (UK) Home Office.