FEMA Updates Federal Interagency Operational Plan

FEMA updated the Federal Interagency Operations Plan for federal disaster response and recovery efforts to support the National Response Framework and National Disaster Recovery Framework.

This is the first time the recovery and response plans have been combined into one plan, providing unity of effort for federal agencies to support state, local, tribal and territorial governments after a disaster.

The plan serves as the federal organizing framework for responding to and recovering from various types of threats and hazards and the unique challenges that they pose. It is a strategic document relying on the operational plans, capabilities and resources of the federal government and does not address all aspects of incident response and recovery.

Learn more at: Federal Interagency Operational Plans | FEMA.gov

CONVERGE Positionality Hazards and Disaster Research Training Module and Demonstration Webinar, March 23

The CONVERGE facility, headquartered at the Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado Boulder, is so pleased to announce the release of the Positionality in Hazards and Disaster Research Training Module. This module defines positionality and highlights how understanding your own positionality–or how your different identities shape your perceptions, interactions, and experiences–can lead to more ethical and methodologically sound disaster work. You can register and access the free module here: https://converge.colorado.edu/training-modules  

To learn more, please join us Thursday, March 23rd, from 10:00 to 10:30 a.m. MT for a live webinar where our team will provide a demonstration of the training module. To register for the upcoming webinar, please visit: https://cuboulder.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_fzdb-tfeQIGm4CuL2SvURQ  

This new module is part of a larger series of foundational and advanced trainings that are designed to accelerate the education of a diverse hazards and disaster workforce. The module, like the others in the series, concludes with a 10-question quiz. Upon successful completion of the quiz, users receive a certificate, which is worth one contact hour of general management training through the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) certification program. These modules can be useful for classroom assignments as well as other activities. Please see the CONVERGE Annotated Bibliographies for further readings and the Assignment Bank for sample assignments.  

CISA’s Power of Hello and De-escalation Program Webinar, Apr 11

CISA will host a webinar on its Power of Hello and De-escalation Program on Tuesday, April 11, 2023, at 1 p.m. EDT. 

CISA leads the national effort to understand, manage, and reduce risk to our cyber and physical infrastructure. CISA provides access to a multitude of capabilities that can enhance security posture in a cost-effective and informed manner. To augment security beyond traditional protective measures, organizations can enable their security and non-security personnel to reduce risk through non-confrontational techniques.

This presentation will discuss CISA’s Power of Hello and De-escalation Program. These resources empower employees to identify suspicious activity, navigate the threat of potentially escalating behavior, and take measures to stabilize or de-escalate the encounter. The presentation will also discuss how to report the situation to an organization’s multi-disciplinary threat management team or directly to local law enforcement.  

This webinar is part of CISA’s Emergency Services Sector (ESS) Resilience Development Webinar Series, a quarterly webinar series facilitated by CISA’s Emergency Services Sector Management Team that focuses on topics of interest to ESS stakeholders. The target audience for this webinar series is homeland security, public safety, emergency management, and emergency response personnel.

No advanced registration is required to join this webinar. Save the date and go to CISA’s Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN) Connect Room for this webinar at the scheduled time to join: https://share.dhs.gov/powerofhello/. A HSIN account is not required to join; participants may enter the room as a guest.

New DHS S&T laboratory and certification program will focus on NG911 interoperability

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) recently published a Feature Article discussing its progress developing and implementing a new laboratory and Next Generation 911 (NG911) interoperability testing and certification program.

The primary goal of this lab is to provide operators, manufacturers, and vendors with a physical and virtual test facility that offers standards, guidelines, and metrics that can be used to test and validate interoperability of their technology solutions. The new lab will focus on improving interoperability testing of solutions accessed across 911 platforms at the state and local levels.

According to statistics from the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), an estimated 240 million calls are routed to first responders every year via our country’s 911 system. At the same time, NENA estimates that, as of February 2021, there were 5,748 disparate 911 platforms in the U.S., each operating its own technologies, components, and processes for sending and receiving calls and routing and dispatching emergency medical services.

The new laboratory and NG911 interoperability testing and certification program is a joint effort between S&T and multiple agencies, including the Critical Infrastructure Resilience Institute (CIRI) Center of Excellence, the Department of Transportation, Texas A&M University’s Internet2 Technology Evaluation Center (ITEC), and other government and private stakeholders.

This multi-phase joint effort has been underway since 2020. In the first phase, S&T, CIRI, and ITEC conducted community outreach efforts among various stakeholders and partners in the 911 space.

Phase two is ongoing and estimated to run until late 2023. This second phase involves:

  • Defining which components of a 911 system will need to be tested with vendor solutions.
  • Developing related conformance, compatibility, and interoperability tests and test cases.
  • Setting up baselines for determining metrics for success and effectiveness in the field.

To learn more, see DHS S&T’s March 2 Feature Article.

Cybersecurity Framework Implementation Guide issued

The Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response is pleased to announce the release of the Cybersecurity Framework Implementation Guide, which provides specific steps that healthcare organizations can take immediately to manage cyber risks to their information technology systems. This cybersecurity implementation guide provides recommendations, best practices, and resources to help the public and private healthcare sectors prevent cybersecurity incidents. Recent high-profile cyberattacks reinforce the need for companies and organizations to assess their cyber health and resilience and take actions to improve cybersecurity.

FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute announces new learning management system

FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute (EMI) is enhancing the learning experience with a new learning management system set to launch this spring. The new system promises a more interactive and convenient experience, allowing for progress tracking and access to a host of student services, all in one place. As part of the rollout, all current and former EMI students will need to go through a new login and verification process the first time they visit the site. It is essential to ensure that your FEMA Student ID (SID) information is accurate and up to date. To prepare for the launch, take these steps:

  1. Verify and update your FEMA SID information by clicking on “Edit Profile” in the FEMA Student Identification (SID) System (dhs.gov). Self-help actions and FAQs are available to guide you through this process.
  2. Review your Student Transcript (Independent Study only) from the Student Portal at Emergency Management Institute (EMI) | Student Portal (fema.gov). Please ensure your SID information is up to date before completing this step.
  3. Review your transcript for accuracy and make any necessary corrections before the new system goes live.

If you run into technical difficulties, email independent.study@fema.dhs.gov or call (301) 447-1200.

FEMA announces updates to the National Risk Index

In late March, FEMA will release major updates to the National Risk Index. Updates will include Census 2020 data and geographies, risk assessment for U.S. territories, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Social Vulnerability data, shifting all scores to percentiles, adding risk metrics for trend analyses and more. The National Risk Index shows the communities most at risk to 18 natural hazards. It is a key tool to helping communities better learn and reduce their risk and can support mitigation planning, community preparedness and emergency management.

CISA releases Cybersecurity Resources for 9-1-1 Centers

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has just released a 3-page reference aid, Cybersecurity Resources for 9-1-1 Call Centers.

Public safety communications entities, such as Emergency Communications Centers (ECCs), Public Safety Communications Centers (PSCCs), and Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs), are a highly visible and important part of Emergency Services Sector communications, and therefore present an appealing target to cybersecurity threat actors.

CISA assists public safety organizations to seamlessly and securely communicate during steady state and emergency operations to keep America safe, secure, and resilient. This document describes several CISA resources available to public safety communications organizations to help enhance their cybersecurity posture and resilience.

The document summarizes CISA’s cybersecurity advising and assessment services available to public safety communications organizations, with relevant links to the CISA website for additional information on each service. The document also provides brief summaries with links to many CISA resources and tools that can help organizations manage their own public safety communication systems and program assets.

Donating blood may reduce PFAS levels in firefighters’ blood

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly referred to as PFAS, are often called the “forever chemicals” because they do not break down and can accumulate over time in the environment and in the human body. Exposures to this family of chemicals have been linked to cancer and other health effects.

Firefighters are at higher risk because they are exposed to these chemicals at high levels from multiple sources. PFAS are present in some firefighting foams to increase their fire suppression capabilities. They are used in firefighter protective gear to enhance the gears’ water resistance. PFAS can also be found in the products of combustion, since these chemicals are present in many household products that burn in fires.

While the first line of defense is preventing exposures to PFAS, firefighters also need ways to mitigate the effects of these chemicals on their health once they have been exposed.

Researchers at the University of Arizona Health Sciences recently embarked on a new study to test the effectiveness of blood or plasma donations in lowering levels of PFAS, and whether lower levels of PFAS reduce the risk of cancer or cardiovascular disease.

The study will build on recent research on Australian firefighters, which found that PFAS levels in the blood could be reduced if a person donated blood every 12 weeks or plasma every six weeks. The research team will first determine if firefighters in the U.S. will see the same benefit as those in Australia, and then expand the research to see if a reduction in PFAS levels results in beneficial biological effects.

This ongoing study is the latest in a series of significant research projects by the University of Arizona Health Sciences, contributing to our understanding of how occupational exposures impact firefighters’ health. Last year, the research team, in collaboration with the Tucson Fire Department, provided evidence to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) that occupational exposure as a firefighter causes cancer. Learn more about the research team and its past and upcoming research on firefighter occupational health in the University of Arizona Health Sciences’ Jan. 17 blog.