Mitigation Framework Leadership Group Pushes Forward on Investing in Resilience

view of hurricane from satelliteThe Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has released the “National Mitigation Investment Strategy: Mitigation Framework Leadership Group” report, which focuses on the role of the Mitigation Framework Leadership Group (MitFLG) in achieving the mitigation core capabilities of the National Mitigation Framework. The MitFLG is responsible for coordinating the implementation of the National Mitigation Investment Strategy (NMIS/Investment Strategy), and also evaluating the implementation process and results. In order to bring the Investment Strategy’s goals to reality, the MitFLG is using a three-pronged approach:

  1. Show How Mitigation Investments Reduce Risk
  2. Coordinate Mitigation Investments to Reduce Risk
  3. Make Mitigation Investment Standard Practice

The Investment Strategy comes three years after a Government Accountability Office (GAO) Report in which GAO found that mitigation investments in the post-Hurricane Sandy response were not coordinated within the Federal Government nor the whole community (which includes the Federal Government, nonfederal partners, and individuals). But even prior to Hurricane Sandy, the report finds that, “since 1980, 246 weather-related disasters in the United States caused at least $1 billion in damage each. Damage from these ‘billion-dollar disasters’ together totaled over $1.6 trillion.” As such, the National Mitigation Investment Strategy can save both lives and money through direct investments and property buy-outs in high-risk areas, investing in safety and security measures, and investing in the collection and sharing of data. The report admits that the Investment Strategy has “ambitious but achievable goals”, citing that success requires “maximum participation from the whole community”. Yet, as risks and damage from natural hazards both continue the increase, the Investment Strategy and the efforts of the Mitigation Framework Leadership Group will lead to greater resilience for the livelihood of citizens, the economy, and the environment.

The HSDL offers many additional resources, including Featured Topics on Climate ChangeHurricanes, Mass Evacuations, and Social Media Use in Emergencies. Please note than an HSDL login is required to view some of these resources.

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Author: Kendall Scherr


Mass Violence in America

As commissioned by the National Council for Behavioral Health (National Council), the Medical Director Institute (MDI) convened a panel of experts in the field of mental health care and violence for a two-day meeting to analyze violence and its contributing factors. In particular, the panel focused on mental illness as a potential contributing factor to this phenomenon. The resulting report, Mass Violence in America, offers an in-depth root cause analysis and offers recommendations for policy makers and other stakeholders.

The report provides a set of key insights, including:

  • Despite the most tragic outcomes, mass violence are statistically rare events;
  • The perpetrators tend to share similar characteristics and tendencies, including being a male and harboring personal grievances while expressing indifference to life;
  • While there is a modest link between mental illness and violence, having a psychiatric diagnosis is “neither necessary nor sufficient as a risk factor for committing an act of mass violence.”

The last point is particularly significant as the events of mass violence often reinforce a “widespread public belief that mentally ill individuals in general pose a danger to others.” As such, the report aims to reshape the current rhetoric to include other complex contributing social and psychological factors.

Drawing from these observations, the report provides the following suggestions:

  • Establish threat assessment teams within a business or school that includes law enforcement, behavioral health care, human resources, legal and management;
  • Reduce excessive security measures at schools, as well as unnecessary policies, such as zero-tolerance for minor misbehaviors;
  • Create and support broad community partnerships that interact with individuals who have mental illnesses and addictions; and
  • Enact state red flag or extreme-risk protection orders that allow the temporary removal of guns from high-risk individuals.

For more information on topics related to this piece, visit the HSDL Featured Topics on Lone Wolf TerrorismDomestic (U.S.) TerrorismSchool ViolenceMass Gatherings, and Active Shooters. Please note:you will need HSDL login to view some of these resources.

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Author: Julia West

State of the Climate in 2018

iceberg melting in a body of waterThe American Meteorological Society (AMS) released a new State of the Climate report confirming that 2018 climate indicators “reached new highs for their observational histories.” According to the report, 2018 was the fourth warmest year in records dating to the mid-1800s. Led by NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, this report provides a detailed update on the global climate change phenomenon, as well as significant weather trends. 

The main objective of this report is to “show patterns, changes, and trends of the global climate system.” The observations include measurements of greenhouse gases; land and ocean temperatures; cloud and snow cover; sea levels; ocean salinity; and sea ice extent. In addition to global indicators, the report provides an overview of geographical regional highlights and extreme weather patterns. In addition, the report provides a discussion on the economic impact of these conditions.

The following key indicators suggest continuous trends towards planet warming:

  • The major greenhouse gas concentrations, including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, and nitrous oxide, rose to new record high values during 2018;
  • Global surface temperature was near-record high with the four warmest years on record all occurring since 2015;
  • Sea surface temperature was near-record high while the deeper ocean continues to warm year after year;
  • Global sea level was highest on record rising at an average rate of 1.2 inches (3.1 cm) per decade;
  • The Arctic and Antarctic continued to warm with maximum sea ice extent measured at near-record low; and
  • Tropical cyclone activity was well above average overall.

The HSDL offers many additional resources related to global climate issues in our special featured topics Climate ChangeHurricanes, Mass Evacuations, and Social Media Use in Emergencies. Please note: you will need HSDL login to view some of these resources.

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Author: Julia West

Could AI’s Predictive Capability Be the Key to Counterterrorism?

computer hardwareIn a new report from the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Kathleen McKendrick discusses the theoretical contributions of artificial intelligence (AI) in the realm of counterterrorism operations. In “Artificial Intelligence Prediction and Counterterrorism“, the author examines how artificial intelligence is already used, how it could potentially be used, and the elements of creating a framework that supports security, privacy, and human rights considerations.

Artificial intelligence can use aggregated data from communications metadata, financial transaction information, travel patterns, and internet browsing and social media activity to create a prediction. While “uses of AI in counterterrorism centre on generating accurate predictions that help direct resources for countering terrorism more effectively”, risks still exist via inherent or learned biases and the sheer lack of public oversight, due, in part, to security concerns. Yet, from a counterterrorism perspective, artificial intelligence could provide a greater analysis of larger volumes of data, and perhaps reveal  previously unknown or unrecognized patterns. “The impact of this is that traditional methods of investigation that work outwards from known suspects may be supplemented by methods that analyse the activity of a broad section of an entire population to identify previously unknown threats.” Kendrick also argues that the use of AI’s predictive capability as it relates to counterterrorism in the discretionary application of preventive measures would not only minimize the effects of such measures on the whole population, but would also improve resource allocation to perceived targets.

However, several moral, ethical, and practical pillars serve as obstacles to the full application of AI within counterterrorism operations. The author cites the following as some of the major factors:

  • Lack of well-established norms for the use of AI technology
  • Inherent disproportionality
  • An expanding, but weakly regulated, private sector role
  • Lack of redress
  • The ability of AI to achieve adequate predictive value
  • Access to data
  • Performance in adversarial environments

Even though there is a strong list of true challenges, Kendrick argues there is a similar amount of opportunity under the right circumstances.  She argues that the predictive capability is neither good, nor bad, inherently. “The infringement of privacy associated with the automated analysis of certain types of public data is not wrong in principle, but the analysis must be conducted within a robust legal and policy framework that places sensible limitations on interventions based on its results.” However, the present situation is a bit of a no man’s land. “The current constructs that regulate the use of predictive AI in countering terrorism seem unlikely to either safeguard against misuse or to enable the most beneficial use of these technologies, both in terms of operational performance and adherence to human rights principles.”

For more information, visit the HSDL Featured Topics on Electronic Surveillance and Cyber Policy. Please note that an HSDL login is required to view some of these resources.

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Author: Kendall Scherr

Tracking Gun Violence in America (2019)

The Black automatic assault rifle against a colorful background riddled with bullet holes while the red section of the background "bleeds"Gun Violence Archive, an online database started in 2013, compiles information on gun violence and provides up-to-date statistics on all gun-related incidents in the United States (omitting suicide).

A real-time, quick-access chart on the homepage includes links to total number of incidents (33,510 as of August 7, 2019), number of deaths, number of injuries, number of children and teens killed, mass shooting information, officer-involved incidents, home invasion statistics, defensive shooting incidents, and unintentional shootings. Each feature links to detailed reports, sources, and maps from the relative category.

More detailed sections of the website include links to a variety of maps which indicate the location of each event, a running list of incidents that have occurred in the past 72 hours, and links to analysis and opinion reports from varying sources. Local statistics are available under “Congressional Reports,” which features a search component for each state’s gun violence events with interactive categories by district, plus contact information for each district’s senators and representatives.

The site also archives all gun violence data in easy-to-read, interactive charts from previous years, going back to 2014.

For more information on topics related to this piece, visit the HSDL Featured Topics on and Lone Wolf Terrorism, Domestic (U.S.) Terrorism, School Violence, Mass Gatherings, and Active Shooters.

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Author: Emily Bruza

Protecting Yourself from an Active Shooter

Flag at half mast at a high schoolIn one week alone, 34 people were killed and 63 injured in active shooting incidents in Gilroy, CA (July 28), El Paso, TX (Aug 1) and Dayton, OH (Aug 2). In light of these tragic events, the Ready Campaign of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would like to highlight the resources they provide to help you to protect yourself and your loved ones in an active shooting incident. The webpage, Active Shooter, provides concise instructions on what to do during an incident.

Current guidelines recommend that individuals Run, Hide or Fight, in that order.

If it is possible to flee safely, experts recommend that people run and herd others away from danger. If running is not possible, individuals should attempt to find a hiding place and secure it from entry by the active shooter (if possible). It is not recommended that people hide in groups.

If all else fails, the final recommendation is to fight back. Many active shooters have been unarmed by bystanders who had no choice but to fight. This is suggested only as a last resort as the risk of fatality is high.

Some of the links in this blog require institutional access, click here to view the website directly.

More resources and reports on Active Shooters can be found at the Homeland Security Digital Library (HSDL).

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Author: Andrea Page

Just Released: Report to the Nation on Hate and Extremism

explosive burning carsThe Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University San Bernardino has released the “Report to the Nation: 2019 Factbook on Hate & Extremism in the U.S. & Internationally.” In the more than 100 pages of the report, the Center ‘s empirical findings put a spotlight on the targeted violence and victims in our society. Several sections divide the publication for clarity, such as Latest 2018 Major U.S. City Data, Bias by City in 2018, Hate Migrates and Increases Online, Russian Social Media Manipulation Continues, and U.S. NGO Data — Emerging Hatreds: Homeless, Transgender & Journalists. Some salient findings from this year’s Factbook include the following:

  • In data collected from 30 major U.S. cities, the Center reports that hate crimes have continued to rise for the fifth year in a row.  Not only did hate crimes increase by a total of 9%, but the number of cities that experienced increases in hate crimes doubled those cities which experienced declines.
  • The most common hate crime victim groups were African Americans, Jews, and Gays. However, the report notes that Whites and Jews experienced a significant increase in hate crime violence. According to the report, “Jews were the direct target of half of the bias/extremist homicides in 2018, in the worst year ever for anti-Semitic killings in the United States.”
  • White nationalism and far right extremism continues to be a dominant source of hate crimes, and, as noted, these crimes were committed around the time of mid-term elections.
  • 47 states, as well as D.C., Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands now have active hate crime laws, and many of these have current legislation to reform existing laws in order to expand victim categories and protections.
  • Cyberspace and social media continue to be a breeding ground for hatemongers, supremacists, neo-Nazis, unaffiliated extremists, and loners. The report also warns that “Social media has also
    been weaponized, not only by domestic and foreign extremists, but also by state actors like Russia seeking to ‘sow discord’ and launch conspiracy theories amongst the electorate to advance prejudice and political division.”

Brian Levin, Director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, and a primary author of the report, offers some poignant reflection on what the many pages of data actually means. “The overall data show polarization and fragmentation amidst sustained multi-year increases in hate crime and bigoted digital speech. In particular, both overt and shrouded xenophobia and anti-Semitism are key socio-political levers internationally, as societies become less unified, open, trusting in communal institutions, flexible on immigration, and tolerant. The most pronounced spikes occurred around domestic catalysts and international conflicts, but increasingly over the last decade, the worst months for both bias crime and fatal extremist violence were clustered around highly charged political events and conflicts relating to terrorism and immigration. […] Moreover, identified foreign and domestic malefactors still seek leverage by manipulating the widening fissures that divide us.”

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Author: Kendall Scherr

FEMA Releases Protective Actions Guidance

hurricane floods covering a boatThe Federal Emergency Management Agency released the latest guidance on protective actions during natural disasters. According to the report, “evacuation and shelter-in-place have become more important to emergency management operations in previous years.” To address these developments, the document provides a tailored overview of evacuation and shelter-in-place operations by drawing from recent events and experiences.

The most recent examples of natural disasters, including flooding near the Oroville Dam, California, hurricanes Harvey and Irma, as well as California wildfires, suggest that the needs for evacuation do no follow an “all-or-nothing approach.” While the use of evacuation and shelter-in-place are common during most natural disaster events, incident-specific circumstances are essential when conducting emergency response operations. As such, the ability to tailor protective actions depending on a variety of factors is the primary challenge in responding to catastrophic events. The main points of consideration include community’s demographics, location, infrastructure, resources, authorities, and decision-making processes. 

The latest guidance expands upon the Comprehensive Preparedness Guide (CPG) 101: Developing and Maintaining Emergency Operations Plans by highlighting key considerations of evacuation and shelter-in-place operations. Of particular importance are updates on vulnerable populations, including children, domestic violence shelter residents, people with access and functional needs, as well as jails. In addition, the document includes a Command Job Aid tool offering clear guidance on jurisdiction, as well as the reminders of key actions when implementing protective actions. The primary objective of this tool is to streamline decision-making and to operationalize protective actions in a timely manner.

The HSDL offers many additional resources related to environmental disasters in our special featured topics Climate ChangeHurricanes, Mass Evacuations, and Social Media Use in Emergencies. Please note: you will need the HSDL login to view some of these resources.

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Author: Julia West

Developing Capabilities-Based Emergency Management

flooded town rescue teams

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of the Department of Homeland Security has released the 2019 National Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (THIRA) report as part of requirements for the Disaster Recovery and Reform Act of 2018. The purpose of this assessment was to identify the threats and hazards that pose the greatest challenge to the Nation, evaluate the risk these hazards present, and recognize the capabilities necessary to manage and mitigate those threats during an event.

THIRA comes as part of the Nation’s transition to capabilities-based emergency management in which the five core capabilities are applied: prevention, protection, mitigation, response and recovery. It specifically explains the process of developing a capabilities-based framework for emergency management agencies to model, which will encourage more effective intercommunication between agencies during an incident.

Some of the links in this blog require institutional access, click here to view the report directly.

More resources and reports on can be found at the Homeland Security Digital Library (HSDL).

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Author: Andrea Page

Global Food Security Goals Off-Target

Food vendor in VietnamThe Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme, the World Health Organization, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development released its annual State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) report.

The SOFI report highlights increasing global food insecurity driven predominantly by increases in Africa and Latin America. Nearly 11% of the global population is hungry. In Africa, 20% of the population is undernourished. Over 60% (514 million people) of the total undernourished population lives in Asia where they represent slightly more than 11% of the total Asian population. This report shows that even high-income countries exhibit insecurity about food resources; and global economies and extreme weather events have a strong influence on nutrition trends. Women globally have a higher prevalence of food insecurity than men, though the discrepancy is highest in Latin America.

SOFI also considered the trends in overweight and obesity and found that all global regions exhibit increasing trends in both. Obesity and overweight are increasing in school-age children as well, resulting from poor diets and inactivity. In 2016, the global number of obese people exceeded the number of undernourished.

The numbers of people suffering from hunger and food insecurity are no longer declining – on the contrary, they have been slowly on the rise in the last few years. While progress in bringing down the prevalence of stunting in children and increasing the rate of exclusive breastfeeding is to be commended, the rapid increase in obesity is alarming, and no region or income group is exempt from this problem.

For the first time, the SOFI report evaluated birthweight trends and found that 14% of babies have low birthweights, increasing the risk of premature death in the first 28 days of life, low intelligent quotient, stunted growth, and adult-onset illnesses such as obesity and diabetes.

Data across seven nutrition indicators show that improvements in global food security are too slow to reach 2025 Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets, many of which have been extended to 2030 to align with the SDG. These indicators are birthweight, breastfeeding, stunting, wasting, overweight, anemia, and obesity.

Part 2 of the SOFI report examines the economics of food insecurity and discusses means for creating more resilience in food systems.

Some of the links in this blog require institutional access, click here to view the report directly.

More resources and reports on can be found at the Homeland Security Digital Library (HSDL).

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Author: Andrea Page