Emergency and disaster management briefing for January 8, 2021: Los Angeles County ranked No.1 in FEMA’s National Risk Index; Van Wert County seeks volunteers for new CERT training; the large bushfire near Perth has been contained, but risk remains; a sinkhole in a hospital parking lot in Italy swallows cars and cuts water and power to a nearby recovery residence; the FBI is alerting private sector companies to targeting and exploitation by Egregor ransomware; experts believe bushfires in Australia are likely to increase in frequency, duration, and intensity; vog currently remains the most dangerous risk from the ongoing Kilauea eruption; and the SolarWinds hack caused an Office 365 breach at the Department of Justice which impacted employee emails.
1) In a new initiative, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has ranked the 3,006 counties in the United States according to their risk level for natural disasters. The new National Risk Index looks at a county’s vulnerability to 18 natural disasters, while also factoring in population and just how quickly the county is able to return to normal function following a disaster. Los Angeles County scored the number one spot on the Index, while New York County came in third place and Riverside County follows them both in seventh place.
2) Emergency management officials in Van Wert County, Ohio, are looking for volunteers to assist throughout the community should a disaster occur. The community disaster assistance program, Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), will train volunteers in several functions, including, but not limited to, basic first aid, CPR, disaster preparedness, disaster medical operations — including triage and treatment — and the Incident Command System (ICS). Anyone interested is encouraged to apply through a link provided by CERT. Applications will be accepted until February 5, 2021.
3) Residents north of Perth, Australia, are no longer in immediate danger from the bushfire burning close by; however, emergency officials have cautioned residents to remain on high alert. Cooler weather helped firefighters build effective containment lines, but increasingly hot, dry and windy conditions will test those lines. A total of 24,700 acres has already been scorched by the ongoing wildfire, which has forced evacuations and road closures. A bushfire watch and act remain in effect for the area.
4) A sinkhole opened up in a hospital parking lot in Naples, Italy, early Friday morning. The sinkhole at the Ospedale del Mare Hospital occurred at around 7:00 a.m. local time, and was nearly 66 feet deep, encompassing a total of about 21,500 square feet. The large sinkhole swallowed cars, signs, and trees, cut power and water to an area recovery residence, and forced its evacuation. Search and rescue teams were dispatched with dogs to ensure no one was trapped amid the rubble.
5) Private-sector companies are being alerted about the Egregor ransomware operation that is targeting and extorting businesses worldwide. According to officials at the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the ransomware has already impacted at least 150 companies since it was observed in September of 2020. Infection by the ransomware is occurring through phishing emails with malicious attachments and insecure Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) or Virtual Private Networks.
6) Some experts believe that Australian bushfires are likely to increase in frequency, intensity and duration. The cause for this change is being attributed to climate change, pointing out that 2019 was the hottest, driest year on record for the nation. The nation saw massive destruction as deadly bushfires in 2019/2020 scorched nearly 44.5 million acres, destroyed thousands of homes and killed at least 30 people.
7) The eruption of the Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii continues, although all the activity is confined within the Haleamaumau summit caldera. According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the most dangerous aspect of the eruption at this time is the vog that is occurring. Vog is a result of the sulphur dioxide gas mixing with atmospheric elements — including oxygen, sunlight, and water vapor — which produces sulphate aerosols that are dangerous for humans and also reduces visibility for aviation.
8) According to a spokesman from the Department of Justice, the SolarWinds hack breached the Department’s Microsoft Office 365 system. Allegedly, the hack allowed access to about 3 percent of employee email accounts, including both sent and received emails. At this time, officials believe the hack did not breach the department’s classified network.