Homeland Security Priorities Needed – Any Ideas?

Homeland Security Today recently published an article citing the Congressional Research Service‘s study regarding DHS‘ failure to align and prioritize its variety of mission areas.  The results of this study shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.  The massive quantity of DHS programs, including both those at the federal level as well as those pushed down to state and local governments is mind-boggling.  If you aren’t familiar with the size and complexity of DHS, see my post on the 10 year anniversary of DHS.

I won’t tackle at length the issues associated with combining 22 agencies as I did in that post, but consider the number of agency missions, directives, and requirements that DHS must have as a result of that merger.  It’s no wonder they can’t keep track of their own business!  A monster has been created, and with it a huge bureaucracy intended to manage it – but, alas, it’s impossible to manage such a beast!  Does Janet Napolitano even know all the programs and mission areas within the agency?  Doubtful.  And that’s no slight to her, it’s too big for anyone to commit to memory.  In an effort to reduce bureaucracy and streamline services and missions, they have, in fact, done the opposite.  Essentially, DHS is over-diversified.

As the HSToday article points out, DHS published a strategic plan last year, but that plan fails to give any priority to their array of missions.  It also fails to provide a cohesive strategy to the entire federal homeland security amalgamation.  This certainly is not what an agency strategic plan should do, but federal and national level strategies should be created.  DHS does require states to formulate and maintain State Homeland Security Strategies – so why can’t they do the same?

There have been a number of articles and blogs in the last few days citing the fact that ‘homeland security’ as a term, has a very loose and amorphous definition.  This is a clear signal that clarification is needed on many fronts.  I believe that part of that clarification is that homeland security is a concept, not a mission area.  There may certainly be a need for a coordinating agency to address mission areas related to the concept of homeland security, but that agency is not DHS as we now see it.  What needs to be done?  As a trainer, I say a needs assessment is a good start.  The writing is on the wall, now let’s do something about it.

Strenghtening 9-1-1 Systems

Tim RieckerThis morning, Government Security News (GSN) published an article regarding the FCC‘s examination of last June’s derecho storms that severely impacted Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, DC, and Ohio.  The FCC looked into the long-lasting down time of 9-1-1 call centers in these impacted areas, provided comment, as well as recommendations – which largely are pretty sound.

If you’ve read earlier blog posts of mine, you’ll know that I more-often-than-not tend to defend utility companies.  Yes, we can all be better prepared, but I believe that sometimes the expectations are unreasonably high, especially with wide-spread disasters.   Also, utility companies are just that – companies – their primary goal is to be profitable.  With this in mind, there comes a point when the cost of mitigation may, at least in the short-term, make them unprofitable.  While in theory I would say ‘suck it up’, share holders tend not to see things that way.  So that does leave us with a bit of a quandary.

9-1-1 is an absolutely critical service.  Outages and disturbances in these systems occur every day throughout the nation, but are typically short in duration.  The derecho left 3.6 million people with interrupted 9-1-1 service, some for many days.  While there are general infrastructure issues that result from storms that can impact a utility system, this was compounded after the derecho by continued high winds for a few days, making many repairs impossible.  The FCC report cites, however, a few easy fixes that could have greatly reduced both the number of outages and the duration of many of these outages – including emergency power generators at central offices and distribution hubs.  There were also planning gaps that were discovered, that, once addressed should help reduce impacts by both number and duration.  I believe we also need to harness the technology we have to discover redundancies and back-ups that can be implemented in the even of future system failures.

Every incident is a learning experience for all involved – and hopefully even for those fortunate enough to not be involved.  The challenge is accepting these lessons learned and applying them to improve our measure of preparedness, increasing our awareness, and better enabling us to respond more effectively the next time around.

What lessons have you learned from disasters???

Taking Philanthropy (and more) Beyond the Days of Disaster

Timothy RieckerThe latest edition of Homeland Security Today has an article titled ‘Taking Philanthropy Beyond the Days of Disaster’ , which talks about the need that non-profit organizations who provide disaster services have before and well after a disaster.  Their programs help bring preparedness and other critical services into neighborhoods and to fragile and disadvantaged populations.  The article tells the story of someone who saw this need and formed the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, a foundation centered on helping organizations fund disaster-oriented projects throughout the year.  You also have the choice of giving directly to organizations in your community.  Organizations like the Red Cross, The Salvation Army, and others – that are in every community – provide services year-round and could greatly benefit from your continued help.  Being a philanthropist doesn’t require you to be a millionaire – even contributing ten or twenty dollars during a fund-raiser or dropping a few dollars or some spare change into a kettle makes a huge difference.

Beyond philanthropy, you should also consider volunteering in your community.  Every organization needs more people – and not just during disasters – to meet the needs of those they help – and ANYONE can volunteer, it’s just a matter of finding the right organization and the right role for you.  Jobs can be as diverse as office assistance to disaster response.  Some positions require training, which the organization will provide.  Every organization will help find the position that is right for you.  Organizations are even happy to have entire families volunteer!  Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – January 21st – has also been designated as National Volunteer Day.  Through their website you can find volunteer opportunities (also check volunteermatch.org) as well as volunteer fairs that will be held around the nation on January 21st.  If you have interest in a particular organization, just give them a call and let them know you would like to volunteer.

Whether of yourself or of your wallet, please consider giving – it makes a world of difference.

The Future of Virtual Learning and Collaboration – Free Webinar

Passing this along from the folks at training magazine.  It’s free!

The Future of Virtual Learning and Collaboration

Date: Thursday, January 31, 2013
Time: 10:00 AM Pacific / 1:00 PM Eastern

Join Training magazine on Thursday, January 31, for this complimentary Webinar, presented by UNC Executive Development, and learn to create rich, robust and collaborative learning environments that can be delivered anywhere and anytime.

Follow this link to register for this complimentary Webinar, The Future of Virtual Learning and Collaboration.

Attend this live Webinar and learn to:

  • Create an effective virtual environment that can be customized to deliver an interactive and engaging learning experience.
  • Increase collaborative learning through the use of virtual classrooms and social technology.
  • Blend formal learning programs with informal learning to increase engagement.

Register for this complimentary Webinar today!


Stephen Green
President, Graduate Programs
2U, Inc.


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New Risk Report from the UK

This is a very interesting, insightful, and comprehensive report. Quite an eye-opener on global issues in emergency management.

Recovery Diva

A new, very worthwhile, report  on Risk Assessment from the Government Office of Science (UK) Jan. 5th: Reducing Risks of Future Disasters: Priorities for Decision Makers. From the foreword:

“Science tells us why disasters happen and where many of the risks lie, and for some disasters we can even forecast when they will occur. The aim of this Report has therefore been to review the latest science and evidence, and to take stock of the further improvements that lie ahead. In so doing, it sets out priorities and options for how DRR [disaster risk reduction] can be substantially improved today and into the future.

The key message is that disaster and death are not the inevitable consequence of greater exposure to hazards. It is possible to stabilise disaster impacts, save lives and protect livelihoods. However, achieving this will require a change in culture and a new approach. Everyone with a…

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Today is the Day Before

I subscribe to disaster recovery e-mails from a company called Agility Recovery, whose primary focus is IT disaster recovery but they recognize the value of a comprehensive approach.  They have great marketing and outreach, including regular webinars on various emergency management topics.

This week’s ‘Disaster Recovery Tip’ from Agility made me aware of a new campaign by FEMA (and I must say, FEMA’s campaigns have gotten MUCH better over the last few years – Kudos to FEMA!!!).  This one is entitled ‘The Day Before’, and reminds us that we never know what will happen tomorrow, so we should always be prepared.  Link to the video below.

FEMA: The Day Before

NYPD Active Shooter Recommendations and Analysis – December 2012

Timothy Riecker


This document, updated by NYPD last month in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, was brought to my attention through LLIS.  It’s also posted on the NYPD’s website here.  This document is a good compilation of practitioner research; official recommendations suitable for schools, businesses, and public buildings; and reflects on the ‘Run, Hide, Fight’ recommendations we’ve seen (NYPD’s version is a little more of a mouth-full – Evacuate, Hide, Take Action).  I like that they provide some information relative to attackers including gender, age, number of attackers (98% of active shooter incidents are carried out by a single attacker), planning tactics, targets, number of casualties, location of attack, weapons used, attack resolution, and other statistics – with this data provided for over 300 case studies (all included in the document).

The real value of this document is that the information which is provided to the reader allows for better informed (instead of emotional or ‘trendy’) decisions on facility security and planning relative to active shooter scenarios.

Thanks to the fine folks at NYPD for doing this work and sharing it with the public safety community.

Active Shooter Video – Run, Hide, Fight

Timothy RieckerAlabama Homeland Security, at the request of the Governor, modified the City of Houston’s Run, Hide, Fight video in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook school shooting.  Despite a few comments I’ve seen around the internet about the video being ‘sensationalized’, I think it’s a very well done video hitting emotions as best as possible through an instructional video.

It appears that the concept of ‘Run, Hide, Fight’ is the best approach we have against these types of horrific incidents.  It makes sense.

See the video here.


– Tim Riecker

Managing an Exercise Program – Part 4: Conduct an Annual Training & Exercise Planning Workshop

This post is part of a 10-part series on Managing an Exercise Program. In this series I provide some of my own lessons learned in the program and project management aspects of managing, designing, conducting, and evaluating Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) exercises. Your feedback is appreciated!

Managing an Exercise Program – Part 1

Managing an Exercise Program – Part 2: Develop a Preparedness Strategy

Managing an Exercise Program – Part 3: Identify Program Resources and Funding

Managing an Exercise Program – Part 4: Conduct an Annual Training & Exercise Planning Workshop.

Managing an Exercise Program – Part 5: Securing Project Funding

Managing an Exercise Program – Part 6: Conducting Exercise Planning Conferences

Managing an Exercise Program – Part 7: Develop Exercise Documentation

Managing an Exercise Program – Part 8: Preparing Support, Personnel, & Logistical Requirements

Managing an Exercise Program – Part 9: Conducting an Exercise

Managing an Exercise Program – Part 10: Evaluation and Improvement Planning

Timothy Riecker


As HSEEP Volume 1 states, “The basis of effective exercise program management is a Multi-Year Training and Exercise Plan.”  The MYTEP is the product of a Training and Exercise Planning Workshop (TEPW), a collaborative which should be conducted annually to update the plan (and the collaborating partners!) with any changes in preparedness priorities, funding, or other influential factors.  I really can’t underscore the importance of the TEPW and MYTEP enough – they truly are the backbone of an effective exercise program.

First the TEPW needs to be scheduled and attendees invited.  This workshop should include not only your core planning team (discussed a bit in part 3), but should also expand to others within the sphere if influence and coordination.  States should invite relevant state agencies, a representation of counties (as it would be unwieldy to invite all of them), key cities and/or Urban Area Security Initiative groups, key Federal partners (like FEMA, EPA, DOE, USCG), as well as major not for profits or VOADS, and critical infrastructure private sector folks or authorities like utility or rail companies or regional transit authorities.  Counties should invite key county and state agencies, a representation of local governments, representatives of key groups like the county fire chief’s association, not for profits or VOADs, and those critical infrastructure folks within the county – including school districts and colleges.  Cities, towns, and villages should all follow suite similarly.  Not for profits and private sector folks need to ensure that they are invited to the table of the meetings of others (are you part of a local emergency planning committee – LEPC???) – and for conducting their own TEPWs (not required, but a good idea) need to consider where their primary operations take place and who they have significant relationships with relative to preparedness.  In the end it can be quite a crowd.  You want to be certain that the invites go to the right people (i.e. the exercise program managers, if they have them, or the emergency managers for these entities).  Stress that this is a workshop – where work gets done – so they can’t just send someone to ‘hold a seat’.  It needs to be someone who can represent the organization and its interests in the area of preparedness.  The invite should also state what key information they should be prepared with and prepared to discuss, like major preparedness training and exercise initiatives.

The HSEEP website provides some detailed guidance on TEPWs, a sample agenda, and even a draft invite letter and presentation on its resources website.  You’ll notice that the agenda is a VERY full day.  Don’t try to cut any corners – and I would even encourage a working lunch.  It’s frustrating to hold people longer than planned and even more frustrating to spend a full day in a workshop and not accomplish what you set out to do.  During the workshop, participants should review priority preparedness capabilities and coordinate exercise and training activities that can improve and validate those capabilities. As a result of the workshop, the Multi-Year Training and Exercise Plan outlines a multi-year schedule and milestones for execution of specific training and exercise activities.  Just as importantly, the TEPW helps to deconflict any exercise issues that may exist between these partners, like avoiding scheduling major exercises too closely to each other.  As part of this process, be sure to discuss major areas for improvement discovered from After Action Reports of earlier exercises – the implemented improvements should be tested.

During the TEPW, you will start to populate an exercise calendar.  Some partners will have dates set, others may only be able to narrow it down to a month or calendar quarter.  Around these exercise activities and their known major objectives, training programs can be identified and roughly scheduled as well.  This is the beginning of your MYTEP.

Conducting a TEPW and formulating a MYTEP is not only the first step toward HSEEP compliance, it is also the foundation of your program.  Through the TEPW, your organization and its partners will identify training and exercise requirements, goals, and benchmarks; ideally forecasted out three to five years.  You start with regulatory and other legal requirements, include grant and funding deliverables, and initiatives driven by the organizational mission and emergency management functions.  If the organization has a goal of revising a certain emergency plan by the end of the calendar year, then it would be a good idea to include an exercise testing that plan.  Through the process of the TEPW, you will identify what level of exercise is appropriate: ranging from a seminar to a full-scale exercise; and opportunities to capitalize on different exercise initiatives, merging exercises and leveraging combined efforts and funding – especially between different agencies and organizations.  Finally, you should identify training opportunities to ensure that personnel have the tools they need to function properly.

A TEPW can be complex and fast-paced.  There can be a lot of attendees all needing to get their information out.  The preparedness of the facilitator and attendees is absolutely critical to the success of the TEPW and the quality of the MYTEP.  If you’ve never done one, reach out to someone who has to help you along – including me.

Happy New Year to all and be on the look out for Managing an Exercise Program – Part 5: Securing Project Funding.