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EDM Friday Briefing: FBI Issues New Cybersecurity Alert

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Emergency and disaster management briefing for May 28, 2021: New regulations boost the preparedness of California’s electric suppliers; Oregon faces an increased risk of wildfires with drought-parched forests and grasslands; worker shortages fuel the backlog of container cargo ships waiting to be offloaded at ports in the United States; the NWCG urges decision-makers to seek ways to reduce wildland firefighter smoke exposure; staffing shortages loom ahead of wildland fires as severe drought encompasses much of the West; ambulance production is delayed as microchip shortages plague automotive companies; DHS/TSA released a Security Directive that outlines new regulations for critical pipeline owners and operators; and the FBI issued a new alert for Conti cyberattacks targeting healthcare and first responder agencies.

1. Thanks to new regulations, power companies in California are more prepared for the 2021 wildfire season, which officials hope will curb some of the rolling blackouts seen during the 2020 season. This year, another 3,500 megawatts of capacity are available, which includes four-hour lithium ion batteries that can store 2,000 megawatts of energy from renewable sources. Officials are cautioning residents that rolling blackouts are still likely, and vulnerable populations should be prepared in case they lose power.

2. As the beginning of wildfire season approaches, severe drought in Oregon has parched forests and grasslands, making it easy to ignite wildfires that spread rapidly. Firefighters are working to burn some areas ahead of the season to reduce risks, but more people continue building along the wildland-urban interface, increasing the challenge. To help reduce the wildfire risk, incentives are being offered for residents to make their homes fire-resistant, and communities are already adding firefighters in preparation of the upcoming season.

3. A parking lot of anchored container ships remains off the coast of California just ahead of the peak shipping season. Vessel wait times are averaging between one and two weeks, and cargo carriers noted that much of the delays are related to worker shortages. Worker shortages limit how quickly ships can be offloaded, and increased import demands are compounding the vessel congestion situation.

4. The National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) is urging decision-makers to find ways to reduce firefighter smoke exposure. Wildfire smoke contains chemicals and particles that are hazardous when inhaled, including fine particulate matter (PM), carbon monoxide (CO), and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). PM can penetrate deep into the lungs, increasing the risk of upper respiratory infections for firefighters exposed to it, including the risk of pneumonia. NWCG urges decision-makers to evaluate if the firefighter needs to be in the dangerous smoke to meet operational objectives.

5. An ongoing severe drought, coupled with a warm and dry winter, have already strained water supplies in the West. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, 73% of California is now in severe drought, 90% of Utah, 86% of Arizona and 75% of Nevada. The numbers make the wildfire season look particularly bleak, and that is coupled with staffing shortages and a wildland firefighting workforce already stretched thin.

6. Supply chain disruptions are leading to shortages of ambulance production in the auto industry. This issue is mainly due to microchip or semiconductor shortages plaguing the auto industry. Multiple factors are involved in the shortage, including diverting production to an increased demand for home electronics in 2020, and a major fire at a microchip production plant in Japan that produced at least 30% of the microchips for the auto industry.

7. On May 27, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced new regulations for cybersecurity for critical pipeline owners and operators. The announcement arrives after a cyberattack affected the Colonial Pipeline system, which led to short-term gas shortages along the East coast. The Security Directive requires pipeline owners and operators to designate a Cybersecurity Coordinator who is available at all times. It also requires companies to identify gaps and remediation measures and report them to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and TSA within 30 days.

8. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued a new alert regarding Conti ransomware attacks on first responders and healthcare networks. A total of 16 attacks targeted first responders over the past year, which delayed access to real-time information, potentially endangering the public and increasing safety risks to first responders. The FBI noted that the agencies targeted by Conti included 9-1-1 dispatch centers, emergency medical services (EMS), law enforcement agencies and municipalities.

  

Kimberly Arsenault serves as an intern at the Cleveland/Bradley County Emergency Management Agency where she works on plan revisions and special projects. Previously, Kimberly spent 15 years in commercial and business aviation. Her positions included station manager at the former Midwest Express Airlines, as well as corporate flight attendant, inflight manager, and charter flight coordinator. Kimberly currently holds a master's degree in emergency and disaster management from American Public University.

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