Welcome to the second issue of “Disaster Discourse Monthly,” an e-newsletter that curates news about innovations, advancements in technology, and groundbreaking practices in emergency management. Developed by Hagerty Consulting, Inc., we hope this newsletter is a useful way to share key insights that can help our industry better prepare for, prevent, respond to, and recover from disasters. We only send this newsletter once a month, but if that’s still one more email than you’d like to receive, just click here to unsubscribe. Otherwise, enjoy this issue (or any of our past issues), and we’ll see you next month.
The Aftermath: Hurricanes’ Wake
As we continue to monitor the aftermath of the 2017 hurricane season, we are also focused on the passage of H.R. 4667. This piece of legislation will authorize $81 billion in aid for recovery from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and the 2017 California wildfires, while also addressing the “rising cost of disasters.” Additionally, this bill will save lives by incentivizing mitigation through changes to the Stafford Act. These pieces of legislation may be attached to the continuing resolution that will fund the government, and avert a shutdown. Read more about the reforms to the Stafford Act here.
Communities are building upon lessons learned during response and recovery operations. After rescue efforts during Hurricane Harvey were undermined by lack of vehicles and neighborhood expertise, Harris County, Texas, is compiling a volunteer database of people who have the “equipment or local knowledge” to assist rescue efforts, which could usher in a new era of community-based response efforts. This reinforces the message FEMA Administrator Brock Long relayed in his testimony for the 2017 hurricane season, in which he noted that citizens “are the true first responders.”
Private and public-sector organizations are considering ways to leverage lessons learned from the 2017 hurricane season to increase resilience. For example, manufacturers are exploring ways to develop “hurricane proof” wheel-shaped homes. Meanwhile, insurance companies are teaming with researchers to “break, burn, and throw stuff,” in order to better prepare their clients to be resilient to disasters. And, in a bold move on the public sector side, in Texas, Harris County could be overhauling its floodplain regulations for the first time in a decade, which could lead to smarter development and safer neighborhoods.
As affected communities transition into long-term recovery, a “new normal” is starting to emerge in jurisdictions large and small. This New York Times mini-documentary shows the aftermath of Hurricane Irma on the tiny island of Barbuda, how Barbudans’ way of life has changed, and how it may change further – possibly for good. Since no one on the island owns property, the destruction caused by Irma has been particularly devastating. In order to alleviate this, the Prime Minister has proposed individual homeownership as low as $1 for a deed, which could generate capital for rebuilding, but could also “upend a way of life.”
Hacking the Hackers
According to the security firm Veracode, more than 90 percent of applications use the same framework whose vulnerabilities led to the Equifax data breach. The House of Representatives recently acknowledged the importance of cyber preparedness by passing legislation that could rename the National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) as the standalone Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. With cyber threats on the rise, as evidenced by the recent ransomware attack in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, it’s more important than ever to develop cyber security strategies. While there are some good hackers – like the “ethical” ones at Berkeley who help organizations prevent malicious hacks – most hackers aren’t so noble. Here are some simple tips to protect yourself before the next major corporation gets hacked.
Climate Change: A Catalyst for Change
Climate change has impacted much more than just our environment; how governments choose to respond to it could cost them financially. Moody’s Investors Service, Inc. has warned that whether or not cities address climate change could affect their credit rating. Similarly, a new report from the Government Accountability Office forewarns the costly “economic risks” of climate change. Meanwhile, the EPA has proposed a reduction in the cost of carbon, which could undo “reams of environmental regulation.”
As with most other disasters in 2017, the wildfires in California have been unprecedented, with the Thomas Fire growing to the fourth-largest in modern California history. From the fierce Santa Ana winds to chapparal, dry brush, and errant fires from homeless encampments, many factors have contributed to the deadly and often uncontrollable flames across the state. California imposes stringent regulations meant to curb the risk of such fires, and many believe additional measures should be taken given this recent sweep of blazes. In one example, the City of Santa Rosa is considering new legislation at the local level that would require homeowners to have back-up batteries for their garage doors. In the event that the power goes out, back-up batteries would mean heavy and closed doors could still be opened – a measure that could save lives.
On Alert: Emergency Communication
The fires in California are also front and center in an ongoing debate about emergency alert systems, after reports that homeowners in Sonoma County were warned of the flames by “embers” instead of alerts from emergency managers. Sonoma County is currently working to understand how they can better communicate with residents going forward. Across California, other local agencies are charting new paths forward to communicate more effectively with both English and Spanish speaking populations, including dedicating social media channels specifically for emergency messages in Spanish.