How to Replace Five Common Vital Records

I was sent the following from USA.gov on Friday.  It’s a good reminder to keep copies of these documents so you at least have a starting point and can reference the registration numbers of each.  I also keep copies of my driver’s license and credit cards (all front and back).

From a business perspective, you should also consider what documents you maintain copies of.  What records are vital to you?  Are the copies up to date?  Are they stored off-site?

 

How to Replace Five Common Vital Records

Vital records, like birth and marriage certificates and military service records are often necessary to access a variety of government benefits and services. But sometimes life happens and those vital records go missing. Maybe they were misplaced in a move, were stolen or got damaged in a fire.

USA.gov has information to help you find copies and replacements of your vital records so you can apply for whatever benefits and services you need.

Birth, Marriage and Death Certificates

These records come from the states. To find a copy, you’ll have to contact that state office where the life event occurred. Find the contact information for state and territory offices that can help you.

Passport

Report lost or stolen passports to the State Department right away by calling 1-877-487-2778. To report and replace the lost or stolen passport, you’ll have to submit forms DS-11 and DS- 64 in person at a passport agency or acceptance facility. If you lose a passport, and then find it again, you won’t be able to use it to travel. You should return the lost passport and request a new one.

Military Service Records

You often need copies of military service records to apply for a variety of government programs available for veterans, like health care, retirement or education benefits. The National Archives keeps copies of all veterans’ services records, and you can apply online to receive a copy of yours or an immediate family member’s if they are deceased. If you prefer to mail or fax a request for your records, you can download form SF-180. You can also find out how to replace lost military medals and awards.

Social Security Card

If you can’t find your Social Security card, you may not actually need to replace it. As long as you know your Social Security number, you will still be able to collect Social Security benefits, get a job and apply for many government benefits and services. However, if you do want to replace the card, you’ll need to gather documents proving your identity and citizenship to mail or take to a local Social Security office.

Green Card

If you have a U.S. Permanent Resident (Green) Card, you may need to replace it if it was lost, stolen or damaged or if your name or other biographical information has legally changed since it was issued. You can easily request a new one online. If you’re outside the United States and have lost your green card, you should contact the nearest U.S. consulate or immigrations office before you apply online for a new card.

If you need help getting copies of other vital records like tax returns or school records, you can find the information you need to replace them at USA.gov.

 

The Leading Edge of CyberSecurity… Where is it?

Tim RieckerI finally had a chance to read through Homeland Security Today’s publication of The Leading Edge Today.  The January edition was focused on cyber security.  The Producer’s Corner article (i.e. letter from the editor), cites a study and report compiled by Verizon and other entities from around the globe, including the US Secret Service.  This report, called the 2012 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, is staggering.  They cite 855 confirmed cases of enterprise data loss and say that most entities that are hacked aren’t aware of it for weeks or months – and are usually notified by someone else of the incident (i.e. law enforcement or an enterprise internet security firm).  The remainder of the publication offers some good information and insight on trends and prevention activities in the realm of cyber security.

Obviously The Leading Edge Today was published prior to the President’s signing of the cyber security executive order just a couple of days ago.  All reports so far indicate that the executive order really has no teeth.  It’s not law and only provides recommendations, although it does call for the establishment of a Cyber Security Framework (perhaps to parallel the National Response Framework?) and calls for the NIST to establish the standards of this framework.  DHS is charged with sector-specific outreach to engage the private sector.  It’s not the full package of what our nation needs, but it’s a start.  It’s apparently a political throwing-down of the glove to challenge Congress to promulgate and pass a cyber security bill.

I’ve not had the chance to do any research on it, but what are other nations doing?  I imagine that there must be countries out there who have not dragged their feet as much as we have on this matter; and hopefully they have been able to implement not only strategic plans that outline progress, but have also implemented tighter defenses.  This may also be an opportunity for a global defense against cyber crimes – particularly in consideration of the perpetrators and the victims often times being from around the world.  In my eyes, this cyber terrorism needs to be viewed as an attack on our sovereignty, on our economy, and on our personal and corporate privacies.  To fight it is to wage war against those who perform it and those nations who sponsor it – just like any other act of terrorism.

NY Times Allows Cyber Attacks for the Sake of Research

Timothy RieckerJust read a very interesting article about the New York Times falling victim to cyber attacks from China – and allowing it!  As the article states, the Times took a gamble for a period of four months, allowing these hackers to repeatedly penetrate their servers and steal information.  This was a calculated decision by the NY Times, however, made with the assistance of a cyber security firm, and with the intentions of analyzing patterns to build better defenses.  Essentially, it seems, the cyber security firm used by the Times would deftly parry certain attacks by the hackers, allowing some blows through their defenses and letting a bit of blood.  Slowly, as the patterns of attack were recognized, the firm would tighten up their defenses until they shut down the attack completely.  A dangerous gamble, given the information the NY Times may have on its computers, but seemingly worthwhile.  An interesting bit of information from the article was that the hackers installed 45 pieces of custom malware over this period of time, with only one of them being recognized and stopped by their Symantec antivirus software.

I commend the NY Times for this effort, but certainly don’t recommend it!  It’s a heck of a gamble and a great deal of damage could have been done.

Planning in Perspective

planI just finished reading an article by Lucien Canton, CEM – who is a well-respected and often published emergency management professional.  He maintains a blog, which he posts to often, and provides great insight to various EM-related topics.  The article that struck my interest was ‘Paper Plans and Fantasy Documents’.  Canton poses the question as a subtitle to his article – ‘Are we over-thinking planning?’.  In all actuality, based on his article and my own experiences, no – in fact we’re under-thinking it by maintaining a cookie cutter approach across the entire nation.

Canton’s commentary is similar to the thoughts I had in an earlier post on the (mis)use of templates in emergency planning.  Standards are good to have in every industry, certainly in emergency management and homeland security.  There are folks who become true experts through a great deal of experience, research, and trial and error.  The best ones share their expertise with the rest of the world in the hopes that we can all benefit.  Eventually, these standards become embraced by ‘standard setters’ – those in government or regulatory bodies who can pass laws, regulations, or codes to compel others to adhere to these standards.  This is all absolutely necessary – but, as Canton mentions, these standards become the basis for how people plan.

Just like I often write in my training-related posts, it’s all about the audience.  Our planning priority must be to meet the needs of the jurisdiction/company/organization who will be using the plan.  The plan must have utility – i.e. it must be usable.  Just because a plan meets established standards, does not mean that it can be operationalized.  Obviously our plans must still meet standards, but that really is a secondary concern to usability.  I think we are missing the forest for the trees and need to seriously re-think how we plan.

Any ideas?

Safeguarding our Electrical Grid – Reblog

More thoughts on the vulnerabilities of our electrical grid.  Great post.

andyblumenthal

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Popular Science (28 January 2013) has an interesting article on “How To Save The Electrical Grid.”

Power use has skyrocketed with home appliances, TVs, and computers, causing a significant increase in demand and “pushing electricity through lines that were never intended to handle such high loads.”

Our electrical infrastructure is aging with transformers “now more than 40 years old on average and 70% of transmission lines are at least 25 years old” while at the same time over the last three decades average U.S. household power consumption has tripled!

The result is that the U.S. experiences over 100 mass outages a year to our electrical systems from storms, tornados, wildfires and other disasters.

According to the Congressional Research Service, “cost estimates from storm-related outages to the U.S. economy at between $20 billion and $55 billion annually.”

For example, in Hurricane Sandy 8 millions homes in 21 states lost power, and…

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Reblog – School Security

Excellent guidance, not only for schools but for other facilities as well.

Diamond Security

School EntranceAlthough the facts remain unclear as to how Adam Lanza, 20, was able to enter Sandy Hook Elementary School and kill 26 children and adults on Friday, news reports indicate he forced his way into the front entrance, possibly by shooting out or somehow breaking glass in the office’s door or window. It has also been reported that the front entrance was equipped with an intercom/camera system designed to screen visitors. Additionally, all of the other entrances/exits to the school were locked by the time Lanza entered the school.

What the official investigation will reveal remains to be seen. That said, considering the attack began at the school’s front door, it would behoove K-5 officials to review the security of their campuses’ entrances.

If anything good can come from Sandy Hook, it’s the knowledge that the security upgrades recently implemented at the school, as well as the heroic actions of…

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Managing an Exercise Program – Part 5: Securing Project Funding

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

HSEEP Cycle

Nothing moves without funding – nothing.  Without funding, good ideas are nothing more than that – ideas.  I’ve seen many ideas and initiatives die before they even made it to the proverbial chopping block, simply because of a lack of money to support them.  This is the time of year when we see a lot of new ideas.  In public and private sectors alike, our leaders, motivated either by legislative writ or self driven compulsion, give us an annual speech to ring in the new year.  These speeches come with lofty ideas – many of which we never see get off the ground because funding is never allocated.  So where do we get money to conduct exercises?

Timothy RieckerAdmittedly, my expertise lies in government and the funds available to build and sustain emergency management programs – not so much in the private sector and not for profit areas, but I’ll give these a crack.  Public sector funds consist largely of the Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP).  HSGP funds a myriad of emergency management and homeland security grants including the Emergency Management Performance Grant (EMPG), the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI), Operation Stone Garden (OPSG), and others, including Citizen Corps which is now no longer a separate grant program, but instead an optional allocation which states may choose to provide.  Generally, exercises, and the expenses associated with all steps of the exercise program and project, are allowable expenses for all these grant programs.

How do you get these funds?  Well, the bad news is that if you don’t already receive them, you probably can’t.  There are some allocations, like Citizen Corps, which may be granted to jurisdictions by the state, but with this example you need to build a local Citizen Corps program and exercise only that program with any dollars you receive.  If you do receive some of these HSGP funds, the challenge is in reallocation of dollars that are probably needed elsewhere, and budget increases are probably out of the question.  So here’s where we have to get creative.  Reach out to the folks who were involved in your TEPW – all those agencies and organizations.  Try to gain consensus on the need for an exercise (or building-block series of them).  Most or all of these agencies may have an interest if you had a successful TEPW and managed to combine some exercise initiatives.  Don’t forget your private sector partners, either – especially if they are members of your Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC), as they may take special interest in preparedness.  Be sure to have a plan and make a business case.  The TEPW that you just conducted (see the previous post in this series) provides you with an excellent statement of need and a plan to address it.  You may have additional supporting documentation like after action reports, which can help add some context to your need for exercise funding.  Build a budget and know how much to ask for.  If each agency and organization can contribute a portion, that will all add up fairly quickly.  Don’t forget the possibility of sponsorships, as well.  I once managed to secure lunches to be provided for all exercise participants (about 150 of them!) in exchange for a medical supply vendor setting up in a near-venue area and giving a presentation during lunch, including the opportunity for folks to try out some of their equipment.

In the private sector, fighting for budget can be tough – especially when it’s not tied to a profit center.  My advice here (and again I have limited experience in this area, so if you have any ideas, please post them!) is, similar to the public sector, 1) make a good business case for it (i.e. improved safety, response coordination, and decreased down time all minimize the loss of revenue), 2) have a plan, and 3) if you are just starting an exercise program – start small.  Let the executives see the potential that can be gained from larger investments in your program.  Similarly, if you can partner with a local public safety exercise, be sure to invite your executives to see how it goes and be ready to explain the benefits to your company.

As for not for profits, largely it’s a combination of the public and private sector tips.  Also, consider seeking grants from foundations for the specific purpose of preparedness.  Don’t just limit yourself to local foundations, either.  Their may be companies that specialize in first responder or emergency equipment that may have a foundation.  I would guess that their foundations would have a particular interest in preparedness activities.

Overall, be sure to plan early.  Don’t expect to seek funding for an exercise that you have planned for a couple of months down the road.  It may take as long as a year to get your financial ducks in a row.

As always, if anyone has any additional thoughts or ideas, I’d love to see them!

Coming soon… Managing an Exercise Program – Part 6: Conducting Exercise Planning Conferences.  It’s more than just meetings!

NYPD Active Shooter Recommendations and Analysis – December 2012

Timothy Riecker

NYPD Logo

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.