Homeland Security: A Local Concern
The term “homeland security” tends to be applied exclusively to national initiatives. After all, the term rose to popular usage in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 9/11 when the federal government enacted the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and merged several agencies to create the United States Department of Homeland Security. Since then, Homeland Security has worked to prevent terrorist incidents and to respond to various emergencies across the country. The department encompasses such wide-ranging agencies as the Coast Guard, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Secret Service, and the Transportation Security Administration. But like most other federal departments, Homeland Security relies upon support from communities all over the nation.
National security and emergency responsiveness begins at the local level. This point is especially true for emergency planning professionals who work to prepare communities for foreseeable natural disasters. For example, emergency planners in California would certainly need to think about what would happen if an earthquake struck. In coastal communities, the threat might be a flood. Cities in the Great Plains would plan for tornadoes.
There’s no way to prevent an earthquake or a tornado, but effective emergency planners will work to minimize the damage caused by these events. The top priority is always to reduce the risk of human casualties. Emergency planners will also strive to protect vital resources communities will need in the event of a natural disaster. Necessities include food, a water supply, and energy sources. Emergency planners might also look at infrastructure issues such as building seawalls in flood zones and retrofitting buildings in earthquake areas.
Emergency response managers help communities work through these situations. They must plan for all types of crises, from natural disasters to hostage situations and chemical spills. Proactively, emergency response managers will create crisis response plans based on available resources, and they will coordinate disaster preparedness training for communities.
After a crisis situation arises, emergency response managers switch gears to reactive work. Working with local law enforcement and emergency personnel, the emergency response manager will lead response efforts. Depending on the situation, tasks could include ordering evacuations, coordinating rescues, and establishing safe zones and shelters. Finally, the emergency manager will address damages caused by the emergency. All of these responses will then be used to shape crisis plans for future emergencies.
But it’s not just public entities that are concerned with issues of homeland security and emergency management. Many private businesses have also taken up the tasks of threat prevention and response. The tasks are similar to job duties performed by governmental emergency managers, but they focus on protecting the people and assets within a business.
Of special interest to the private sector are cyberattacks, which could include the theft of intellectual property, hacking, and the planting of malware. The hacking of the corporate email servers at Sony Pictures Entertainment and other major companies highlighted just how damaging – and embarrassing – cyberattacks can be. Fears over such attacks have spurred job growth for security analysts and other professionals who work to spot and plug weaknesses in computer networks.
Businesses and communities of all sizes can benefit from the practices and principles that the Department of Homeland Security uses on the national and international level. If you would like to learn more about how you can help protect people locally, consider a degree in Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
Written by Erik Siwak, Communications Manager for Bridgepoint Education
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