U.S. facing earlier, more damaging wildfire season

As firefighters battle multiple wildland fires across the western U.S., government officials are warning that California could be facing one of the costliest and most damaging wildland fire seasons on record. Five years of severe drought conditions and ongoing bark beetle infestation have left an estimated 40 million dead and dried-out trees in California, 29 million of which died last year alone. Despite lower than expected rainfalls last year, El-Nino precipitation was enough to spur the growth of weeds, grass and brush. With temperatures now spiking into triple digits, that brush is dying and drying out, creating a flame propellant that allows wildfires to spread faster and burn hotter.

Dense vegetation and heavy timber surrounding many of the recent fires have forced firefighters to initially depend on low-flying air tankers and helicopters carrying fire retardant and smoke jumpers. Those firefighting aircraft been repeatedly grounded by recreational aerial drones spotted flying in the area against FAA flight restrictions. Although not a new challenge, such delays can significantly hamper the containment of these rapidly spreading fires.

California experienced two of its worst wildland fires in history in 2015. The Valley Fire burned 1,958 structures totaling at least $1.5 billion in economic loss. The Butte Fire burned 818 structures totaling at least $450 million in economic loss. At least 40 wildland fires larger than 200,000 acres – so-called “megafires” – burned over the past ten years in the U.S. compared with 21 in the decade earlier, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. About 70 million total acres burned in the U.S. over the past decade, compared with 55 million in the prior decade; 30 million acres burned from 1986 to 1995, according to the center.

Federal officials say wildfire danger nationwide has increased with climate change. Fire seasons have lengthened by an average of 78 days since 1970, and the average number of acres burned annually has doubled since 1980. Last year, a record 10.1 million acres burned nationwide and 4,500 homes were damaged or destroyed. The National Interagency Fire Coordinating Center said that Hawaii, Alaska, California and other parts of the Southwest face an above-average threat this season.

 

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Slight uptick in seasonal hurricane activity anticipated

Meteorologists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center and Colorado State University (CSU) are anticipating a near-normal Atlantic hurricane season this year. NOAA’s hurricane outlook sees a 70% probability that there will be 10-16 named storms, 4-8 hurricanes with 1-4 of those being major hurricanes. CSU’s forecast similarly predicts that 12 tropical storms will form with five of those becoming hurricanes. A typical hurricane season has 12 tropical storms, of which seven become hurricanes. Tropical storms, which have sustained winds of 39 mph, become hurricanes when winds reach 74 mph.

Although the past three Atlantic hurricane seasons have seen below-average numbers of tropical storms and hurricanes, both NOAA’s and CSU’s forecasts show a possible uptick, citing both a weakening El Niño and the possible onset of the cooling La Niña pattern. During El Niño years, strong upper-level westerly winds suppress Atlantic hurricane formation. A weakening El Niño pattern would mean lower sea surface temperatures and rising air, which is needed for
storm formation.

These annual forecasts are only estimates of tropical storm activity in the upcoming season. CSU’s forecast has only been considered accurate – where the prediction fell within two hurricanes of what the year actually recorded – six of the past 16 years. There is not a strong correlation between the number of storms and hurricanes and the number that make landfall in the U.S., which means even one hurricane can have a devastating impact. In 2012, for example, a year where CSU called for landfall probabilities lower than the climatological average, both Hurricane Isaac and Hurricane Sandy struck with Sandy causing an estimated $67 billion in damages and 159 related deaths.

This year, NOAA plans to fly up to eight aerial drones directly into tropical storms, gathering new types of hurricane related data that planes have been unable to previously capture. NOAA believes this data can help increase the accuracy of hurricane outlooks in future seasons. Although just estimates, hurricane outlooks are useful guides for emergency managers, insurance companies and organizations who need to prepare their people and pre-position resources for major tropical storms and hurricanes.

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Posted in Hurricanes, NOAA, Uncategorized

Congratulations to RC3 Members – NIPP Challenge Selections

The National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP) Challenge is an important next step in our partnership with DHS. We know many of our member organizations have new or innovative ideas for making near-term, high-impact improvements to critical infrastructure resilience, but the innovative aspects of these ideas often makes them a higher risk for potential funders. The NIPP Challenge offers our member organizations a chance to compete for the funding needed to kick start these projects.  The Challenge is unique in that it helps identify and allows funding for innovative ideas that can provide technologies and tools to the critical infrastructure community that are ready or nearly ready to use.

We are very pleased to report that four of our members submitted proposals that were selected for funding in 2016:

  • Bay Area Center for Regional Disaster Resilience – Toolbox to Enable Risk-Based, Cross-Sector Decision-Making for Regional Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience (Regional Consortium Coordinating Council Charter (RC3))
  • ChicagoFIRST – Secure Regional Coalition Web Portal (Financial SCC and RC3)
  • All Hazards Consortium – Building Common Regional Operating Picture for Disaster Resilience (RC3)
  • Cyber Resilience Institute – Cyber Market Development (RC3)

We look forward to learning from these and all of the NIPP Challenge initiatives. Please join us in congratulating them on their leadership, drive and innovation!

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FEMA Smartphone App

FEMA recently launched a new feature to its free smartphone app that will enable users to receive push notifications to their devices to remind them to take important steps to prepare their homes and families for disasters. The reminder feature allows users to receive pre-scheduled safety and preparedness tips, including testing smoke alarms, practicing a fire escape plan, updating emergency kits and replacing smoke alarm batteries.

The app also provides a customizable checklist of emergency supplies, maps of open shelters and open recovery centers, and tips on how to survive natural and manmade disasters. The FEMA app offers a feature that enables users to receive push notifications of weather alerts from the National Weather Service for up to five locations across the nation. Go to the FEMA Mobile App site for more information.

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Hurricane season preparedness webinar

You are cordially invited to participate in the National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) 2016 Hurricane Season Preparedness Webinar. This webinar will focus on providing awareness of NPPD’s role and resources in hurricane preparedness and response activities associated with systems that make landfall on the continental U.S. or U.S. territories.

The webinar will take place on Thursday, June 2, 2016 from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. EDT via HSIN Connect. Presentations will be provided from:

  • NOAA Liaison to National Operations Center
  • Office of Infrastructure Protection
  • Office of Cyber & Infrastructure Analysis
  • Office of Cybersecurity & Communications
  • Federal Protective Service

There will be a Question & Answer Period following the presentations.

To register for the webinar please go to NPPD Hurricane Webinar Registration (link also located in the registration section of the attached flyer). Once registered, you will be sent a calendar invite for the webinar that includes a link for the webinar and a teleconference phone number with accompanying PIN.

FLYER: NPPD 2016 Hurricane Webinar Flyer – 2 June 16

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Mosquito season and the Zika virus

Temperatures are quickly rising and summer weather is almost here, bringing with it mosquito season. This year, it is important that we all learn about and take necessary precautions against Zika virus, a mosquito-borne illness – prevention is the key to combating the threat of Zika.

Although Zika virus illness is usually mild, lasting for several days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito, and severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirms there is a direct link between Zika virus infection in pregnant women and birth defects. Sexual transmission has also been documented. There is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat Zika virus.

Zika virus protection starts with the individual. There are many simple actions people can take to minimize the risk of Zika virus disease to themselves and their communities:

  • The best way to prevent diseases spread by mosquitos is to protect yourself from mosquito bites. You can do this by wearing protective clothing, using insect repellent and staying in places with air-conditioning and window and door screens to keep mosquitos outside.
  • Buy insect repellent that is EPA registered and that contains one of the following ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemoneucalyptus, or para-menthane-diol.
  • When applying mosquito repellent, follow the directions carefully and know how often to reapply.
  • Check the screens on your doors and windows for holes or areas of fraying. Patch them or replace them to make sure mosquitos are kept out.
  • Get rid of standing water in gutters, birdbaths, flower pots and other receptacles where mosquitoes lay their eggs. “Tip and Toss” any standing water.
  • Pregnant women are strongly encouraged to avoid travel to areas of the world with active Zika virus transmission if they can; up-to-date travel advisory information can be found on the CDC website.
  • It’s important that travelers returning to the U.S. from affected areas of the world take steps to prevent mosquito bites for 3 weeks so they do not pass Zika virus to mosquitos that could spread the virus to other people.
  • Stay up to date on ways to prevent sexual transmission of Zika virus disease.

The continental U.S. has reported no local mosquito-borne Zika virus disease cases, but there have been 503 travel-associated cases. With the recent outbreaks, the number of Zika cases among travelers visiting or returning to the United States will likely increase. These imported cases could result in local spread of the virus in some areas of the United States. It is unknown whether the mosquito-borne disease will start to develop in the United States this year. But it is important to follow prevention measures either way.

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Regional Cyber Resilience Workshop

From our partners at the MITRE Corporation Organization –

There is a considerable body of knowledge, governance structure, tools and techniques that have been developed to address regional resilience from a physical infrastructure perspective.  However, there has been little done to date to understand and address cyber resilience at a regional level. Even the definition of what constitutes regional cyber infrastructure and whether that is a useful context for examining regional resilience are open questions.  As a result, a number of regional consortia, organizations, and programs have begun to focus on this regional cyber challenge and are considering options for addressing regional cyber resilience in a meaningful manner. Please join us on June 23-24 2016, for the inaugural Regional Cyber Resilience Workshop. The workshop will be held at the NCCOE facility located at 9700 Great Seneca Highway, Rockville, MD 20850.

You will:

  • learn how regions are defining and tackling regional cyber resilience
  • acquire information on emerging research, tools and techniques you can use at the regional level
  • have a chance to meet with thought leaders from other regions to compare needs and requirements

The registration website is now open. Please register at https://register.mitre.org/regionalcyber/

If you have any questions, please contact Stacey Stanchfield, sstanchfield@mitre.org or 703-983-5225.

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RC3 and SLTTGCC Cyber Webinar Series

Participate in a joint Council Cyber Webinar Series sponsored by the Regional Consortium Coordinating Council (RC3), and State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial Government Coordinating Council (SLTTGCC), in conjunction with the DHS Office of Infrastructure Protection (IP).

With the growing cyber security concerns and evolving cyber threats across the United States, organizations in both the government and private sector are working to better understand cyber vulnerabilities, cyber threats, and methods used to protect critical infrastructure networks.

We look forward to your participation in this webinar series and encourage you to share this invitation with your partners and colleagues.

“Federal Cyber Resources and How to Tap  Into Them” 

presented by Howard Tsai

“Building the CyberMaryland Initiative” 

presented by David Powell

Date:  June 2, 2016

Time: 3:00 – 4:00 PM (EDT)

Registration Link: https://www.govevents.com/pub/20177/503ab/

Cyber Webinar Series Flyer

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Hurricane Preparedness Webinar

Register for free Hurricane Preparedness Week Webinar and

Learn How to Protect Your Business This Hurricane Season

When:       Tuesday, May 17th from 2:00pm to 2:30pm (EDST)

Register:   http://tinyurl.com/zlycf2u

This week is Hurricane Preparedness Week (May 15-21.) Join the SBA and PrepareMyBusiness co-sponsor Agility Recovery, as they share lessons learned and the best methods to prepare your organization for the upcoming Hurricane season.  The start of the 2016 season is only days away so the time for preparation is now. Your organization is more than just a place of business to your customers, employees and stakeholders. Your organization is a key aspect of their lives, and one that must be protected. If your organization is affected by a storm, how well will you be prepared to serve those who depend on you in their time of need?

Topics covered will include:

  • Preparing Employees
  • Practical Steps to organize & prepare your business
  • Simple tools & takeaways any organization can use TODAY.

The SBA has partnered with Agility to offer business continuity strategies through its “PrepareMyBusiness” website. Visit www.preparemybusiness.org to access previous webinars and for additional preparedness tips.

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Posted in FEMA, Hurricanes, Preparedness, Uncategorized, Webinar

2016 Building Resilience through Public Private Partnerships Conference – Call for P3 Talks

The Public-Private Partnership Planning Committee has created an opportunity for participants to provide a brief presentation as a Public-Private Partnership Talk or “P3 Talk”.  Please find the attached Fact Sheet detailing the submission guidelines – proposals should be submitted to PPPConference@hq.dhs.gov by May 27, 2016.

2016 PPP Conference Save the Date

Public-Private Partnership Talks Fact Sheet

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Next Membership Meeting
June 2016 MeetingJune 21st, 2016

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