Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

May 5, 2009

Risk ready: Sleep well, eat right, drink plenty of water, and exercise regularly

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on May 5, 2009
The President participates in the hurricane exercise. Official White House photograph by Pete Souza

(Above) The President participates in the hurricane exercise. Official White House photograph by Pete Souza

On Monday the Obama administration engaged in a cabinet-level exercise anticipating the hurricane season.  Vice-President Biden opened the session congratulating everyone for last-week’s creative, compelling, and very realistic pandemic exercise. “I learned alot,” he said.  (Irony alert or just a plain old zing).

Politico reports that the President joined the exercise shortly after 4pm.  The President’s daily schedule indicated, “the Homeland Security Council will convene an exercise, including a number of Cabinet Secretaries, at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in preparation for the upcoming hurricane season.” In the photograph, John Brennan, Special Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, is seated to Mr. Obama’s immediate right.  The exercise was closed to the media. 

Hurricane season begins officially on June 1 and extends through November 30.  The Tropical Meteorology Project at Colorado State University has forecast an “average” 2009 hurricane season, projecting 12 named storms and two intense hurricanes.  Their complete report is available in pdf.

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Comment by Quin

May 5, 2009 @ 7:53 am

Hopefully they used the opportunity to realize that while we have developed national strategies for response and mitigation, we have yet to develop any comprehensive national strategy for recovery. Response serves two purposes, one, to provide immediately relief and shelter to protect and minimize damage to life and property, but second (and just as important) to set the table for recovery. You can quantify response. You can count the people you save, the number of homes behind levees, the numbers evacuated, but its horribly difficult to quantify when someone’s life is back to “normal” or that a community has returned.

Unfortunately these exercises seem to concentrate entirely on response with little thought to the long term effects. But without a viable national strategy on recovery, including the prioritization and funding of rebuilding efforts, and a determination of what exactly is the goal of recovery (back to the same, back to a basic level, up to a new and improved position?) and its division between local, state and national resources, that’s a nearly impossible goal.

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 5, 2009 @ 9:01 am

FEMA during my time (1979-1999) constantly downgraded the difficulty of Exercise Scenarios in order to prevent failing deficiencies in either plans or performance to be identified. This included a downward slope in REP (Radiological Preparedness Execercises) mandated by 10 CFR Part 50 Appendix E (NRC reg) and 44 CFR Part 350 (FEMA Reg) in particulary it is my opinion that after the failing deficiency of the first Shoreham Nuclear Power Station Exercise (1986) no Nuclear Power Plant has received a failing deficiency from FEMA or if it did that deficiency for off-site saftey was overturned administratively or through litigation by NRC.
Interesting that after denying after 9/11/01 that airstrikes could harm reactors, NRC has finally conceded that crashing airliners among other threats could cause severe damage to operating reactors and their on-site storage facilities.
To my knowledge this is the first time ever a sitting President has sat in on some kind of table top exercise on hurricanes. And of course we do know that Mother Nature does NOT grant variances. Does this mean that President Obama will be his own domestic civil crisis manager?

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