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MJ Podcast #232 Emergency Management/Social Media

A conversation with Emergency Management/Social Media blogger, Todd Jasper

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I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Mr. Todd Jasper on the topic of emergency management myths and realities, social media, and emergency notification. Todd is the Associate Director of the Homeland Security Division of MSA and has added his expertise in preparedness to the social media world through his blog,

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  1. Anonymous6:29 PM

    Hey Rick, I listened to your interview with Todd Jasper. I'd like to address this from a different tack.
    Community disaster planning anticipates an event such as a tornado or massive flooding. I understand there may be value to using social media in a disaster, but there are two scenarios that worry me. I don't hear about domestic disaster preparedness addressing these vulnerabilities.
    1. I worry about a cyber attack by a fringe group like Anonymous, or an enemy such as China, North Korea, or Bulgaria for that matter.
    Additionally, the most recent edition of "Scientific American" magazine describes how Egypt shut down all their servers in a matter of minutes. The entire country went black. There was no access to the internet, much less Twittter.
    A government has the power, with one phone call, to eliminate this ability to connect the citizens.

    2. Iran doesn't need to drop a nuclear bomb on NYC to have a devastating effect. An air burst may send out an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that would destroy the equipment that provides internet access, social media, and radio communication.
    This would be a direct attack on our society.

    The first scenario would be a software attack. The second a hardware attack.
    Both are a Weapon of Disruption.
    There wouldn't be physical destruction.
    There doesn't need to be.
    Mr. Jasper downplays the chance of one of us being a victim of a terrorist attack. I disagree.
    Additionally, I'm concerned about the vulnerablility to a different type of natural diaster such as a solar flare.

    Or maybe I'm just paranoid and just wear my aluminum foil hat.

    Steve Erb

  2. Thanks for the thoughtful points, Steve.

    In regards to your first point about cyber attack, if we are to use a risk-based assessment, then cyber attack is the most prevalent. For example, everyday the Federal government is the victim of thousands of cyber attacks. Usually the disruption is minimal. In fact, the Feds take it pretty seriously. Every Federal agency this year will be required to examine their cyber security plans. While there's always more than can be done, I think the US government has done a pretty respectable job preparing for cyber threats (especially utilizing agencies like NSA and developing a Cyber Command and the US Computer Emergency Response Team). In the US, even if there were a cyber-related incident that resulting in disruption, most experts estimate that we would return to normal pretty quickly. The financial industry is based on confidence and has extraordinary redundancy and resiliency.

    Your second concern is regarding EMP (often the result of the high-altitude detonation of an improvised nuclear device). This would be akin to nuclear war (since the US military would rapidly seek retaliation and,as a nation, we would be thrust into war almost immediately). With advancing missile defense, the reality of an EMP diminishes every year.

    In regards to downplaying terrorism, the numbers speak for themselves. You have a one in 20 million chance of being killed by terrorists ( Your chances of being hit by lightning are 1 in 5,500,000 (seriously, lightning is really a lot more dangerous than people think).

    At the end of the day, the biggest issue is likely economics. There's a huge number of hazards that demand a lot of preparedness. Preparedness is in relative short supply. How do we strategically distribute our preparedness to best protect against the hazards that occur the most frequently?

    Don't get me wrong, we need to think big and untraditional (like INDs, EMPs, etc)--but a lot of that is handled at the Federal level so that the regional, state, and local folks can focus on improving preparedness for more frequent disasters.


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