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Building a Culture of Cyber Preparedness

Mon, 10/28/2019 - 09:31
Author:  Daniel Kaniewski, PhD

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month; a month to ensure all Americans are safer and more secure online. At FEMA, we are always focused on preparing ourselves, our partners, and the American people for the many threats and hazards we face as a nation. As the need for cybersecurity has grown, so too has our cyber preparedness efforts. 

 

In partnership with our colleagues at the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), we support numerous programs aimed at making the nation more resilient to cyber-attacks. In the past ten years, we have invested over $165 million in grant funding to bolster state and local jurisdictions’ cyber preparedness. While more can always be done, this funding addresses what we are seeing in national reports and assessments where cybersecurity is identified as a national area for improvement.  Our state and local partners are using the funding to develop cybersecurity plans and programs, provide training, conduct outreach and exercises, and acquire hardware and software, firewall enhancements, and closed emergency network infrastructure.

 

Just like a more traditional response to a natural disaster, we must also be ready to respond to a “cyber disaster” as a cyber-attack can trigger physical consequences. These physical consequences could result in significant impacts to governments, businesses, and individuals. Thus, we work with CISA and other federal agencies to ensure our response plans are coordinated and rehearsed regularly with our government and private sector partners.

 

Next year we are facilitating a national level exercise based on a major cyber-attack. The exercise, known as NLE 2020, will integrate several existing exercises, including CISA’s series of exercise modules called Cyber Storm. This will enable us to examine different phases of a connected incident through a unified and collaborative effort. The exercise participants will include all levels of government and the private sector.  We will examine each participants’ respective roles and responsibilities to respond to such an event. Our joint goal is to ensure this is the largest and most impactful cyber exercise for all our stakeholders.  Exercises, such as this large-scale event or the more frequent offerings led by CISA, are instrumental in increasing our level of preparedness for cybersecurity incidents.

 

We also provide our state and local partners with the technical skills they require to make their communities more secure and resilient to cyber-attacks. We offer over 20 online and in-person courses, focused on everything from network assurance and digital forensics, to information security and cyber incident response. Since 2004, FEMA has trained more than 87,000 federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial officials on cybersecurity.

But cybersecurity does not fall squarely on the shoulders of government. Every American has a role to play, which is why this month is focused on raising awareness about what you can do to protect yourself at home, work, or school. Using complex and different passwords for your accounts, keeping your antivirus software and operating systems up to date, and scrutinizing emails before clicking on links are simple things that make a big difference. The theme of this year’s awareness month is “Own IT. Secure IT. Protect IT.” because these individual steps are often more important than technological solutions. Learn more about what you can do at Ready.gov/cybersecurity.

 

Preparedness is a team sport. Whether it be for natural disasters or cyber-attacks, it takes all of us to reduce our vulnerability to these risks. Given increasing cyber threats, we should strive to build a culture of cyber preparedness.

 

Daniel Kaniewski is deputy administrator for resilience at the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Agency’s Acting Deputy Administrator.

How Community Lifelines and Infrastructure Planning are Essential to Mitigation Plans

Wed, 10/23/2019 - 09:15
Author:  Angela R. Gladwell

October is National Community Planning Month. Community planners around the globe join the American Planning Association  in highlighting this year’s theme of “Planning for Infrastructure that Benefits All”.  This year, the focus is on how well-planned infrastructure projects strengthen communities, boost the economy, expand opportunity, and promote equitable development. Infrastructure projects include transportation systems, housing, parks, dams and levees, and communication systems, among others.

The topic of well-planned infrastructure is especially relevant to FEMA’s mission as we continue to focus on increasing community resilience across the nation through mitigation activities.  A key area of focus is specifically  mitigating those infrastructure systems that are considered “lifelines.”

Lifelines are systems, like roads and power, that allow critical government and essential business operations to continue. Lifelines are essential to human health and safety, or economic security. They include police and fire departments, hospitals, power plants, arterial roads, grocery stores, and the cellular towers that connect everything. These often-interconnected systems are, simply put, essential for communities to keep the “lights on.”

The best way to protect lifelines is to include them in your state, local, tribal, or territorial mitigation plans. Over 20,000 communities across the country begin planning for resilient actions and projects in their hazard mitigation plans. Mitigation plans help decision-makers understand their risks from natural hazards and prioritize actions that will reduce the impacts of future events. Often, these actions include improving and investing in lifelines. For example, a mitigation plan can help identify infrastructure-protecting actions like:

  • Adopting and enforcing up-to-date building codes
  • Retrofitting and strengthening infrasturtucture to resist natural hazard damage
  • Raising roads and bridges to maintain dry access during flooding

Plans become a great source for mitigation projects when funding becomes available, whether it is from FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Assistance Program or another source.

Mitigation can and should be a part of everyday considerations, and the important role that planning plays is highlighted under FEMA’s recently released National Mitigation Investment Strategy. Often when people hear the words “hazard mitigation” their minds quickly jump to elevated homes and shelters for riding out storms, but those are only a few of the many great options for protecting where you live, work, and play.

By integrating mitigation plans with community planning processes, we can create safer, more sustainable neighborhoods that make mitigation a part of everyday life. For example, community planners can promote safe growth principles, protecting citizens by encouraging people to live in areas at lesser risk for flooding or earthquakes. Or when designing a new community park, developers could incorporate a drainage pond for storm runoff to reduce flood risks to nearby streets and housing. By including lifelines and risks to hazards in community planning decisions, you not only make your community safer from natural hazards, but more sustainable and resilient as well. 

Learn more about National Community Planning Month and those FEMA programs that work with community planners every day here:

For more information about National Community Planning Month, visit https://www.planning.org/ncpm/.

Financially Prepare for a Disaster

Thu, 09/26/2019 - 11:32
Author:  David I Maurstad, Deputy Associate Administrator, Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration

It only takes one storm, one flash flood, or one inch of water to cause significant damage to a home or business. September marks National Preparedness Month – a reminder to all of us that we need to be prepared for unexpected disasters and emergencies that can strike at any time.  One of the most important steps you can take to prepare for the next storm is to purchase flood insurance.

One year ago, this month, Hurricane Florence released record-breaking rain on the Carolinas and much of the Southeastern United States. The powerful storm dropped up to 35 inches of rain on eastern North Carolina alone, causing flash floods throughout the region. Florence survivors Tony and Rita Morello of New Bern, North Carolina lost everything, but they were prepared with flood insurance.

After the storm, it took Tony and Rita Morello days to get back to their home from a family reunion in Georgia. When the couple finally arrived, they discovered that everything in their home had been destroyed. The Morellos were left with nothing but the items in their suitcases and the clothes on their backs. The realization was devastating, yet the Morellos knew they had a flood insurance policy that would allow them to recover, rebuild, and get back to their routine.

As we know all too well at FEMA, disasters happen every day. National Preparedness Month is an opportunity for all residents to take simple steps today to reduce the impact of storms tomorrow:

  • Create a family emergency plan and talk to your children about what to do during a disaster.
  • Get involved with community preparedness efforts and sign up for alerts and warnings in your area.
  • Learn your evacuation zone.
  • Build a preparedness kit or “go-bag” with water, food, medications, clothing, and critical financial, medical, and legal documents.
  • Speak with your insurance agent to renew your policy or visit FloodSmart.gov to purchase a new flood insurance policy.

Flooding is the most common and costly natural disaster in the United States. Purchasing or renewing flood insurance is one of the most important steps you can take to financially prepare for a disaster. Most homeowner’s and renter’s insurance policies do not cover flood damage, and just one inch of water in the average-sized home can cause more than $25,000 in damage. Insured residents, like the Morellos, can recover quicker and more fully from a flood than their uninsured neighbors.

Preparedness makes us more resilient as a nation, and it starts with you: individuals, families, and communities, taking the right steps to protect the life you’ve built.

Prepared, Not Scared

Thu, 09/19/2019 - 07:30
Author:  Daniel Kaniewski, PhD

National Preparedness Month is every September when we focus on preparing ourselves, our families, and our communities for the disasters and emergencies that can happen where we live, work, and visit. This month we encourage everyone to take actions that will make us better prepared to reduce the impact of disasters. The 2019 theme is: “Prepared, Not Scared,” and focuses on teaching children the importance of preparedness.
Over the last two years, emergencies and natural disasters have tested us as a nation. We have responded to unprecedented hurricanes and wildfires as well as flooding, earthquakes, tornadoes, and other unexpected, perilous events. As emergency managers we know that our efforts will be most successful if the public is prepared. 

Disasters affect everyone, so it takes everyone to help prepare. This includes making sure our children are prepared. Ask your child’s school and child care providers about how you’ll be reconnected with your children in the event of an evacuation. Talk to your kids about what to do in a disaster. This can be a tricky conversation to navigate but using the resources available on Ready.gov/kids can make it easier to talk through the topic.

Preparedness starts with having an emergency plan. An essential part of this is ensuring you are financially prepared. To start, keep emergency cash at home to have on hand if you need to leave your home quickly. Start an emergency or rainy-day fund to cover unexpected disaster costs that include food, water, hotel, gas, and insurance deductibles; this can help stem the impact of lost income. Sticking to a budget can be hard but saving even a small amount can make the difference during recovery. Also, take steps to protect your personal finances. By collecting, copying, and storing your financial information now, it could help you avoid problems and recover faster after a disaster. Use and share this checklist with friends and loved ones to make sure you have the information and documents you need.

Before a disaster occurs, be sure to check your homeowner’s or renter’s policies to ensure adequate coverage. This includes making sure you have flood insurance, which is typically not covered by homeowner’s insurance. Just an inch of water can cause more than $25,000 of damage to your home.

Another important step is developing a family emergency communications plan, designating an out-of-town person to serve as a contact for all family members to reconnect. Establish a family meeting place that’s familiar and easy to find. And sign up for First Aid and CPR training so that you know what to do if a family member, friend, neighbor or co-worker needs your help. Life-threatening emergencies can happen in the blink of an eye, and emergency responders may be minutes away, when seconds count. You may be able to save a life by taking simple actions immediately.

While we may not know when or where a disaster could strike, taking steps to be prepared can reduce the impacts to you and your family. Go to Ready.gov to learn more.

Residents in Hurricane Dorian’s Path Urged to Prepare Now

Sat, 08/31/2019 - 10:03
Author:  FEMA Public Affairs

As the storm track and severity of Hurricane Dorian changes, it’s important for those in its forecasted path to stay alert to the dangers it could bring. 

Pay attention to the forecast in your area, and be prepared to follow guidance from local officials. You may be ordered to evacuate with little notice. Be ready to leave, have a plan for where you will go. 

Areas in the storm’s path include Florida, southeastern Georgia and the Carolinas. Impacted areas could experience life-threatening storm surge, dangerous winds and significant infrastructure damage in the coming days. This could include damage to power, water and road systems.

The window of time to prepare is rapidly closing, so don’t wait to finalize your storm preparations.

  • In Florida, download the FL511 mobile app for updated road and traffic conditions on evacuation routes. You can visit floridadisaster.org for information on emergency preparedness, shelters, road closures and evacuation routes. In Georgia, visit GEMA.Georgia.gov for evacuation or storm updates. In South Carolina, download the SC Emergency Manager mobile app. In North Carolina download the ReadyNC mobile app.
  • Download the FEMA app (in English or Spanish) for directions to open shelters, a customizable checklist of emergency supplies, disaster survival tips, and weather alerts from the National Weather Service.
  • Visit Ready.gov for more information on what you can do ahead of this dangerous storm.

FEMA and its federal, state, local, tribal partners will continue to dedicate resources and staff until this storm is no longer a threat to our country.