AMU Emergency Management Original Public Safety

EDM Friday Briefing: US Infrastructure Still Needs Attention

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Emergency and disaster management briefing for May 21, 2021: COPS report highlights LEO suicide and defines efforts to combat the increased suicide rates; SLO is using pre-positioning to help combat wildfire ignitions amid high winds; officials are urging residents in high wildfire risk areas to ensure they know their evacuation zones and routes; testing delays will push back the start date for Plant Vogtle nuclear generation station in Georgia; the U.S. welcomed the world’s largest container ship for the first time; a new NCSC report highlights the insider threat to critical infrastructure and resources; the 2021 Infrastructure Report Card shows an increased number of dams with high hazard potential; and Louisiana remains under multiple flood warnings and a high wind advisory as strong storms and heavy rainfall continue across the lower part of the state.

1. In an effort to address increasing first responder suicide rates, the Community Oriented Policing Service (COPS) released its report, Law Enforcement Suicide: 2020 Report to Congress. The report highlights a total of three areas, including peer responder programs such as train-the-trainer. The report estimates the availability of mental health resources, specifically those focused on suicide prevention, while also identifying efforts taken since the Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act was signed into law in January of 2018.

2. Fire season is off to a strong start in the West amid ongoing drought conditions, and wind events increase the chance for wildfires. Fire departments along California’s Central Coast are working to stay ahead of any fire ignitions by pre-positioning engines with strike teams when wind events loom. This week, San Luis Obispo pre-positioned multiple engines in key locations throughout the city and county to address downed power lines or other fire dangers ahead of forecast high winds.

3. Firefighters and officials in high wildfire risk areas are encouraging residents to create defensible space around their homes. If possible, officials are asking residents to use fire-resistant building materials or retrofit their homes with the appropriate materials. In addition, residents should prepare an evacuation plan, know their evacuation zone and route to safety, and have a go bag with necessary items, including prescription medications, water, food, first aid kits, and other essentials.

4. Additional time for testing the Unit 3 systems is required at the Plant Vogtle nuclear power station in Georgia, further delaying its start date. Testing will be completed in late June, delaying the new Unit 3 start date likely until January. The original projected start date was November. Delays and other issues have bumped the cost of completing the two new units to about $26 billion, nearly double the original estimated cost of about $14 billion. However, the new units will create hundreds of jobs and at about 1,117 megawatts each, generate enough to power one million homes and businesses.

5. On Thursday, the largest container ship in the world docked for the first time in the United States at the Elizabeth-Port Authority Marine Terminal in New Jersey. The arrival of the CMA CGM Marco Polo — whose length equals three-and-a-half football fields — underscores the infrastructure enhancements and improvements that were needed to accommodate these new, massive ships. Bridges were raised, shipping channels were deepened and ports have been upgraded to handle the larger ships efficiently. The Marco Polo will make three more East Coast stops before it heads back to Asia.

6. There are 16 critical infrastructure sectors, which rely, in part, on human intellect as well as computer/cyber components. These factors make U.S. infrastructure vulnerable to threats, including attacks from insider personnel. Compounding the threat is the fact that much of the critical infrastructure across the nation is privately owned. A new report, Insider Threat Mitigation for U.S. Critical Infrastructure Entities: Guidelines from an Intelligence Perspective, focuses on the human threats to critical infrastructure resources and highlights steps that can be taken proactively to protect these resources.

7. According to the new 2021 Infrastructure Report Card, dam safety is still a major concern across the United States. Estimates by the Association of State Dam Safety Officials show that the number of deficient high-hazard-potential dams now exceeds 2,300. However, officials noted that although this number has increased, the number of dams with an Emergency Action Plan in place has increased from 5% to 81%.

8. The Louisiana death toll has risen to five after devastating floodwaters swamped parts of the state. The flooding occurred after torrential rainfall — more than 12 inches in some locations — fell within 12 hours on Monday. More rain is forecast for Friday, and flood warnings, along with a wind advisory, remain in effect for much of the lower part of the state.

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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