A chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) catastrophe is not something most people think about on a regular basis, but for a special office within the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), it is on their minds daily.
The FEMA CBRN Office’s 10-year anniversary marked a decade of interagency partnership, technological development, and community outreach – all in the name of national preparedness. David Hoagland, NNSA’s Acting Deputy Associate Administrator for the Office of Counterterrorism and Counterproliferation joined colleagues from the departments of Homeland Security, Defense, and Health and Human Services, among others to recognize the past achievements of this vital capability, while also discussing current and future challenges to the mission.
“NNSA understands that partnership is the only way our technical insights can be used to inform policies, strengthen security, and counter threats by state and non-state actors,” Hoagland said. “You don’t find a better partner than FEMA when working to prepare the nation for WMD (weapon of mass destruction) threats.”
The formation of FEMA’s CBRN Office can be directly tied to post-September 11 attack efforts to improve readiness, coordination, and capability to protect the United States. The office is responsible for strategies used to prepare, protect, respond, and recover in the face of CBRN incidents and attacks.
You don’t find a better partner than FEMA when working to prepare the nation for WMD (weapon of mass destruction) threats.
The highly trained experts in this line of work have used lessons learned from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant accident, and 2014 Ebola virus epidemic to develop sophisticated tools and procedures for handling whatever the world throws their way.
One such tool is RadResponder – a web-based data management system and mobile app developed with support from NNSA. During a radiological or nuclear emergency, federal, state, local tribal, and territorial responders would be able to rapidly and securely record, share, and aggregate large quantities of data while managing their equipment, personnel, interagency partnerships, and multijurisdictional efforts on a free, cloud-based system. RadResponder has more than 7,600 users from over 1,500 organizations – all leveraging its efficiency and improving its functionality as they offer feedback on its interface and capabilities.
During a “Preparedness through Partnership” panel discussion, Hoagland identified technologies that enable the rapid collection and analysis of large amounts of data as an important CBRN pursuit. He also mentioned risk communication as a top priority for the future.
“The best advice from the Federal government is worthless if no one receives it or too few people understand what we’re saying. We need better, faster, and more tested methods to communicate with targeted populations,” Hoagland said.