Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

May 14, 2013

92 smart phone apps for public safety and emergency responders

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on May 14, 2013

The website for the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International is http://www.apcointl.org/.

A few weeks ago, they created a repository for public safety and emergency response smart phone applications. The site is called AppComm, and you can find it at http://appcomm.org/.

As of Monday, the site had links to 92 applications. Two thirds of the apps are free.

Here’s what APCO says about its AppComm site:

AppComm is APCO International’s online Application Community. Here, you will find a collection of applications related to public safety and emergency response for use by the general public and first responders.

AppComm is also a forum where public safety professionals, the general public, and app developers can discuss and rate apps, identify unmet needs, and submit ideas for apps they’d like to see built.

As you browse our growing list of apps, we encourage you to tell us which ones you’ve used, whether you liked it, and why. Additionally, if you are aware of an app that would be a good fit for our site, please use the “Submit App” tab located at the top of the page.

If you have a suggestion for an app you don’t see listed, be sure to submit your idea to AppComm by email to appcomm@apcointl.org.

We intend for this site to be your single, trusted source of public safety apps.

(h/t to GM for the lead)

May 10, 2013

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on May 10, 2013

What’s on your mind related to homeland security?

In the knowledge derived from experience.
The knowledge inposes a pattern, and falsifies,
For the pattern is new in every moment
And every moment is a new and shocking
Valuation of all we have been. We are only undeceived
Of that which, deceiving, could no longer harm.

T.S. Eliot, East Coker

May 8, 2013

Back to Boston

Filed under: Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on May 8, 2013

I was back in Boston last week. Most of my meetings were along the waterfront.

But Sunday I worshiped at Trinity Church just yards from the first bombing.  I had coffee at the Starbucks many of us saw in video footage of the second detonation.

Boylston Street was bustling despite the labyrinth of police barricades for Sunday’s Hunger Walk.  The spring weather was spectacular: perfectly sunny in the high sixties.

The blast sites are cleaned, repaved, open to the public, and — unless you know where to look — entirely inconspicuous.  I heard one man saying, “It happened somewhere close here, but I’m not sure where.”  He was less than ten feet from where the first bomb exploded.

In the three weeks since the marathon trees have begun to bud.  At the site of the second blast an entire tree was removed as part of evidence collecting.  A new tree, still sporting a bright green root bag, has been staked upright to fill the gap.

Memorials — mostly flowers, hand written notes, and running shoes — have been moved and continue to accumulate at Copley Square across from Old South Church and the Public Library.  Opposite Boylston from the memorial corner a quartet (of Berklee students?) was busking with soft jazz.

Several “Boston Strong” signs could be seen.  Even more it seemed to me thanking First Responders, one reading: “Police, Fire, EMTs, and EVERYONE!”

While we want to learn whatever there is to learn — including mistakes that can teach us — there is good cause to commend Boston’s response.  From what I could see the recovery is going well.  Monday Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick noted, “We showed the world in the immediate aftermath of the attack what a civilization looks like…”  On Sunday Boston was looking especially competent, creative, commercially vibrant, and compassionate.

In the Episcopal liturgy the Prayers of the People precede the offering of the Peace.  A wide range of intercessory prayers are offered.  Trinity has authored its own version but concludes as is traditional with a prayer for the departed.  Sunday this included: Krystle Campbell, Martin Richard, Lu Lingzi, Sean Collier,  and Tamerlan Tsarnaev.   There was a perceptible quaver in the voice of the woman leading the prayer.

The congregation responded: “Heal us and guide us.”

May 7, 2013

A video: Lilacs out of the dead land

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on May 7, 2013

I’m fortunate to work with very talented people. Last week, four of them (Kristin, Charles, Missy and James) put sound and images to the post I wrote a few weeks ago about the Boston Marathon attack and West, Texas explosion.

They produced the video in three days.

I think they did a remarkable job.

Here it is:

May 3, 2013

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on May 3, 2013

On this day in 1999 three days of violent storms began plowing across the Great Plains States.  One hundred forty-one tornadoes were confirmed over the outbreak, including an F-5 tornado with winds exceeding 301 miles-per-hour.  Fifty people died. Damages exceeded $1.9 billion.

What’s on your mind regarding homeland security?

Wildfire Projection Released

Filed under: Preparedness and Response — by Philip J. Palin on May 3, 2013

Coincident with the flames filling your television screen this morning, on Tuesday the National Interagency Fire Center released its new National Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for May-August.  In the West — and some other places — the outlook ain’t good.

May 2, 2013

Catastrophe: Should’a, Would’a, Could’a

“I should prefer Mozart. Mostly I listen to 70s hits.”

“I should eat a hot breakfast, but usually have a powerbar instead.”

“I should work-out three or four times a week, maybe I walk around the block twice.”

Should has become moralistic.  It is typically used as a kind of anti-verb, ascribing — often anticipating — non-action.

I have heard a lot of “shoulds” in regard to the explosion of the West, Texas fertilizer storage facility. The April 17 blast killed 14 and injured more than 190 in the town of 2700.

“We should regulate better.”

“We should put buffer zones in place.”

“We should be more realistic about the threat.”

“We should do a better job sharing what we know about the risk.”

“We should focus more on pre-event prevention and mitigation.”

More plural pronouns than singulars it seems.

According to a November 2012 analysis undertaken by the Congressional Research Service, 6,985 chemical facilities self-report they pose a risk to populations greater than 1,000. There are 90 that self-report a worst-case risk affecting up to 1 million people.

The West facility was not included in the CRS analysis.  They did not self-report — or evidently self-conceive — a worst case scenario that would seriously harm anyone.

As regular readers know I have for a few years worked on catastrophe preparedness.

One of the most remarkable — and absolutely predictable — aspects of this gig is the readiness — preference really — by nearly everyone to define catastrophe as something non-catastrophic.  I saw it again last week and this.  It extends across the public-private divide and every level of government.  When a few of us argue otherwise we are being pedantic, unrealistic, and wasting people’s time.

We should give regular time and energy — maybe five percent of overall effort — to truly catastrophic risks: Global pandemic, significant earthquakes and cyclonic events hitting major urban areas, sustained collapse of the electrical grid whatever the cause. Each of these could have far-reaching secondary and tertiary effects.  In some regions I would include wildfire and flooding. If you have a chemical storage or processing facility nearby that is absolutely worth worst-case thinking now not later.

In many cases the most important issues relate to the mitigation of systemic vulnerabilities that are threat-agnostic.  “Fixing” vulnerabilities can reduce consequences for a whole host of threats, including non-catastrophic threats.

USA Today editorialized, “The Boston Marathon bombings overshadowed the disaster in Texas, but what happened in West was deadlier, and preventing the next fertilizer accident should command serious attention.”

There’s that anti-verb again.


And how I wish I’d, wish I’d thought a little bit more
Now shoulda, woulda, coulda I means I’m out of time
Shoulda, woulda, coulda can’t change your mind
And I wonder, wonder what I’m going to do
Shoulda, woulda coulda are the last words of a fool

Can’t change your mind
Can’t change your mind

Beverly Knight

May 1, 2013

The Prophets of Oak Ridge

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on May 1, 2013

In the April 30 Washington Post, back in the Style section with the comics and gossip, is a remarkable piece of long-form journalism every homeland security professional should read and be ready to discuss.  The story’s substance is well within our domain.  It is also wonderfully written.  The writer has achieved a rhetoric that constantly reminds the reader, “this is one way of perceiving reality, there are others.”

Please access: The Prophets of Oak Ridge.  The twenty-second inescapable advertisement is annoying but worth waiting out.

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