Community Prepping

What Is Civil Defense? What Is Civil Defense Virginia?

Civil Defense Virginia

 

Guest Post:

By Preston Le Roy Schleinkofer

Introduction to Civil Defense

and Civil Defense Virginia

Ever since the demise of the U.S. Civil Defense Administration in the 1990’s, the community has been largely excluded from the process of emergency management. But since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the increasingly serious threats to the U.S. from both state actors and non-state actors, there has been a growing call for the resurrection of some form of civil defense structure in the United States.

Among those calling for this resurrection was a bi-partisan group in the U.S. House of Representatives. In August of 2012 two Republicans and two Democrats introduced House Resolution 762: “Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives regarding community-based civil defense and power generation.” Even though the resolution never made it out of committee to see a vote, the sense of the Congress is still important. This bi-partisan group believed that a community-based civil defense program is a good idea for the modern community.

Proposed House Resolution 762:

  1. Encourages every community to develop its own “civil defense program” working with citizens, leaders, and institutions, ranging from local fire halls, schools, and faith-based organizations, to create sustainable local infrastructure and planning capacity, so that it might mitigate high-impact scenarios and be better prepared to survive and recover from these worst-case disaster scenarios and be better able to affordably and sustainably meet the needs of the community in times of peace and tranquility;
  2. Encourages every citizen to develop an individual emergency plan to prepare for the absence of government assistance for extended periods;
  3. Encourages each local community to foster the capability of providing at least 20 percent of its own critical needs, such as local power generation, food, and water, while protecting local infrastructure whenever possible from the threats that threaten centralized infrastructure; and to do so with the urgency and importance inherent in an all-of-nation civil defense program developed by citizens and their local communities; and
  4. Encourages state governments and federal agencies to support the ability of local communities to become stronger, self-reliant, and better able to assist neighboring communities in times of great need.
Civil Defense Virginia

Brock Long – Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency

FEMA Administrator Brock Long told a Congressional subcommittee in November 2017, “let’s hit the reset button” and “the nation needs to stop and take a deep breath and figure out how we can become more resilient.” He also said “I’m ready to change the face of emergency management and how we tackle resiliency.”

Most recently in an interview with EM Weekly, Administrator Long said:

“One thing I have been very vocal about is we’ve got to stop looking at citizens as liabilities and start looking at citizens as the true first responders. How are we training them to take actions that are low to no cost actions they can take to be better prepared? How are we actually going back to the old civil defense in the 1950s of incorporating them into our activities and response plans like basically putting CERT teams on steroids and teaching citizens practical skills?”

The answer to Administrator Long’s dilemma is in Resolution 762 – a local community civil defense organization. This is the answer FEMA has been looking for. By organizing and training the citizens in planning, preparedness, rescue and recovery, the community is more resilient, and the nation as a whole is stronger when each community takes the responsibility for themselves and their neighbors. The many heroes in Houston, Texas after Hurricane Harvey in 2017 is a perfect example. That was the spirit of continuity of community (civil defense) in action.

On January 18, 2018, Time magazine online published an article entitled “Hawaii’s False Alarm Exposes U.S. Civil Defense Gaps.” The article points out that civil defense programs are designed to limit panic in the population. But, as we saw, the false alarm created a lot of panic and exposed the vulnerable underbelly of our current emergency management programs and true lack of any continuity of community.

We must do better.

What is civil defense?

There isn’t a modern definition of “civil defense” and for many, the term harkens back to the cold war era. This is the definition that Civil Defense Virginia has created and uses:

Civil Defense VirginiaCivil Defense is the system of civilians and civilian government authorities within cities and counties partnering in protective measures and emergency relief activities conducted by community members for their own safety and protection in case of severe natural or man-made disasters, including:

a. protecting families, neighborhoods and communities,

b. training members in disaster preparedness, response and recovery measures,

c. maintaining Continuity of Community by preserving safety, security and constitutional governmental functions and, restoration and protection of critical infrastructure.

What is Civil Defense Virginia

Civil Defense Virginia (CDVA) is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt education and training organization leading in civil defense thought and application. CDVA assists jurisdictions in developing their community-based civil defense organization. We can assist in developing the structure and organization for an effective community response to natural and man-made disasters. We can help tie the local emergency management plan to the residents of the community through a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt community organization or a coalition of organizations dedicated to building continuity of community. Whether there is one organization or a coalition of organizations participating, there should be a lead civil defense organization named for that jurisdiction.

The exact structure of the organization may differ somewhat between jurisdictions as they each will have different requirements, resources and challenges. In one model, the civil defense organization’s board of directors can reserve a permanent position for the emergency manager and possibly one other official from the jurisdiction (a County Supervisor, City Councilman, the Administrator’s office, Police department /Sheriff’s office, etc.). The board should have enough members (six to eight members) to insure a balance of members between the jurisdiction and its citizens for true collaboration.

There should be a leadership council to assist the board with the overall management of the CD organization. Most jurisdictions are divided into various political subdivisions, for which there are councilmen or supervisors, etc., that represent the citizens of their subdivision. The council will have representatives from each of the subdivisions (or districts). For example: Spotsylvania County Virginia is divided into 7 separate districts, each with supervisory representation. The leadership council of the “Spotsylvania County Civil Defense Association” should have a member representing each of the seven districts. Each district will in turn have a leadership contingent that actually works to build the continuity of community within their communities.

The key point is that, however it is structured, a non-profit civil defense organization in your town can provide solutions and resources in the event of an emergency – solutions and resources that you do not currently have in your budget. A non-profit civil defense organization is a resource multiplier for your community.

How can emergency managers prepare for civil defense?

Local emergency managers and their staff have a tough job in today’s environment. There are a number of potential threats, and some of the most devastating haven’t been considered or exercised – such as the local effects of a long-term national outage of the electric grid. If our cities and counties started planning and exercising for the worst-case scenarios, then we would have a better idea of how to prepare our jurisdictions and our citizens for them.

Civil Defense Virginia

Craig Fugate

Former FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate talks about what he calls “The Seven Deadly Sins of Emergency Management.” One of these is the common belief in the emergency management profession that “we think our emergency response system can scale up from emergency response to disasters.”

Unfortunately, as Mr. Fugate notes, this may not be how it works.

I am sure that most emergency managers have studied the man-made and natural threats for their geographical area and also consulted the state and federal lists to see what is advised for their plans. The problem is that most don’t include the worse-case scenarios in their list of threats.

The emergency management team needs to do a thorough analysis of all-hazards threats, to include high-impact, low-frequency (HILF) events like an electromagnetic pulse (EMP), coronal mass ejection (CME), cyber and physical attacks on the power grid that disables it for extended periods without state, federal or local mutual aid. Large multi-regional blackouts and entire nation blackout from these threats lasting months to years must be exercised in order to fully understand what such a threat could and would present to the community.

Without doing this we fail to see the reality of the threats. In fact, we commit another one of the 7 Deadly Sins by former Administrator Fugate: “we exercise to success.” We must not be afraid to “exercise to failure,” and then go further into the abyss to discover what we don’t know and how to prepare for it. We also should not worry about being politically correct in our assessment and response to the threat. We must organize and prepare for the true threats, no matter how dire they may be. Once that is accomplished, then all other threats are scalable downward. You cannot scale up to a point you have never known, but once you know the worst-case disaster (total national grid-down for 12-24 months with no outside assistance), then you can scale up or down to any point that is required to meet any threat.

There is a lot that can be done to mitigate the effects of disasters, including long-term cataclysmic disasters that could affect the community, region and nation. The answer lies in the citizens of the community partnering with their local government to work together on the answers. To do this, the jurisdiction would have to properly inform the community of the threats, why they should be concerned and what needs to be done to mitigate the threats, especially possible worse-case scenarios. The limitations of our budgets means we can only do so much with existing resources. The key is leveraging resources by participation of the citizenry. It can and must be done! The emergency management process needs a Civil Defense component as this is the way to focus on organizing the citizens to help themselves and their neighbors – and communities – during emergencies. This is a community-based approach, rather than a top-down, government controlled process that is limited by budgets and government manpower.

In future posts we will look more at ways the CD organization can be formed and their duties. We will also provide a reading list and websites that are helpful. One organization I will highly recommend here is InfraGard, especially their Electromagnetic Pulse Special Interest Group (EMP-SIG). Checkout their website and consider joining the chapter in your area.

 

For more information on Civil Defense Virginia, click here.

For the book on how to start a civil defense organization, click here.

For InfraGard’s book with table top exercises for a grid-down event, click here.

 


Civil Defense VirginiaPreston Le Roy Schleinkofer is a retired federal law enforcement officer who served 27 years in the U.S. Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). He is also a retired Army senior non-commissioned officer (NCO) with 22 years in the Army, Army Reserve and National Guard. He is the founding president of Civil Defense Virginia,  a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization, a member of InfraGard and an affiliate of the Secure The Grid Coalition. You can connect with him on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

 


 


What we should take from the Hawaii false missile alert

Hawaii false missile alert: “Nobody knew what to do”

CBS News, in its reporting of the Hawaii false missile alert, quoted a Honolulu resident:

“Clearly, there is a massive gap between letting people know something’s coming and having something for them to do. Nobody knew what to do.”

Well said.

Besides the fact that there was a catastrophic failure of the emergency alert system which caused widespread panic, this quote says something much deeper and quite painful. “Nobody knew what to do.”

And this message applies to our whole country. We don’t know what to do. The last time I was in a “nuclear attack drill” as a civilian was in the early 70’s when I was in grade school in Ohio. We called these “tornado drills” but I always suspected they were thinly veiled “duck and cover” drills. Yes, there are tornadoes in Ohio so perhaps I’ve never actually been in a nuclear attack drill as a civilian at all.

As an adult, I have owned houses in three states. Not once has anybody ever rang my bell to talk about emergency preparedness. I think in my adult life I might once have received an emergency preparedness pamphlet in the mail. Obviously because of my military and emergency response experience, I have a leg-up in terms of knowledge, but I am not most people.

As a country, we don’t know what to do

FEMA Administrator Brock Long told Congress on November 30, 2017 that “we do not have a true culture of preparedness in this country.” So let me ask you a question: Do your people know what to do?

Definition: the term “your people” means the people in your community. The civilians.

Hawaii false missile alertIf this message comes over everybody’s cell phones right now, do your people know what to do? Are they prepared?

And by the way, for those of you who are thinking “well we’re way up here in Northern ___ and there isn’t a target for hundreds of miles” do you think that nothing will happen to you? Likely you will lose power for months (or longer) and not see any food or fuel deliveries for months (or longer). Your community will possibly find itself host to hundreds or thousands of desperate, sick and starving refugees.  Are you prepared for that?

I have been writing about the need for us to return to having community level civil defense for several years now. I recently wrote more detailed articles (and a book) on this:

What if I told you that there is very little cost to starting a civil defense organization in your town? That it would not “cost” resources but multiply your resources? There are no downsides to preparing your community.

What we should take from the Hawaii false missile alert? It is unacceptable that in the U.S. we have an emergency alert and “nobody knew what to do.” We must fix this. Building a culture of preparedness – a civil defense culture – is a critical task for the national security of the country.


All Roads Lead to Civil Defense

All Roads Lead to Civil Defense: Survival is a local Issue.

Civil DefenseCivil defense is the organizing and training of civilians to play key roles in a community’s survival. Another term for this, coined by Civil Defense Virginia, is “continuity of community.” The concept is simple: A community’s citizens, in partnership with their emergency management and local government, planning and preparing for disasters and having the ability to take care of their own. This is something that currently is not in common practice – and this needs to change.

Current FEMA Administrator Brock Long and former FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate – emergency management leaders serving in vastly different administrations – have both told Congress essentially the same thing. It has been rare to see bipartisan agreement on any subject in the past decade, so we should all pay attention.

On November 30, 2017, current FEMA Administrator Brock Long told Congress:

We have to do more pre-disaster mitigation. Pre-disaster mitigation is the key to becoming more resilient and reducing disaster impact. We have to ensure that state and local governments…have their own life sustainment commodities capabilities and the federal government is not shouldering the entire burden…The key resiliency is held at the local level of government…it’s going to have to be a whole community effort on the pre-disaster side.

On March 30, 2011, then FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate told Congress:

Government can and will continue to serve disaster survivors. However, we fully recognize that a government-centric- approach to disaster management will not be enough to meet the challenges posed by a catastrophic incident. That is why we must fully engage our entire societal capacity, leveraging trade associations, non-governmental organizations including those that represent different linguistic and ethnic minority groups, faith-based organizations, private industry, and social and fraternal organizations. These are the organizations that provide the bulk of services to communities every day, and to the extent that they are able, they should continue to be the primary provider of such services in a disaster. The quicker these entities are able to get back on their feet, the faster communities as a whole will be able to recover.

FEMA’s underlying message has not changed in the last two administrations: survival is a local issue. This is especially true if we suffer a national-scale disaster in the United States. If we are preparing for a “worst-case scenario” this message means we need local government and communities to be able to take care of themselves for long periods – weeks or months – when no outside assistance is available.

All Roads Lead to Civil Defense: This is a national security issue.

Local preparedness and resilience is essential to the national security of the United States: If there is a national-scale disaster, such as a loss of the electric grid for a substantial period, FEMA cannot helicopter in MREs and water to 35,000 towns and cities in the U.S.

To the extent that 35,000 towns and cities would be looking to the state and federal government to rescue them, the outcome would be cataclysmic. Millions of people will die of starvation, disease, and exposure waiting to be rescued.

Therefore, each local government, emergency manager and citizen plays a crucial role in the preparedness and resilience of the U.S. as a whole. And they must do this by working to make their local community prepared and resilient.

Developing local civil defense organizations is a resource multiplier for communities – and for the country. We cannot prepare 35,000 towns and cities and over 323 million people from the federal level. We cannot do it from the state level. It must be done from the community level by each individual community.

All Roads Lead to Civil Defense: The writing is on the wall – we must read it.

This is not a new philosophy. For one, FEMA has been stressing the importance of community preparedness for years. Exhibit A is an oldie but goodie from FEMA in 2011: “A Whole Community Approach to Emergency Management: Principles, Themes, and Pathways for Action.” So, in 2011 FEMA said:

FEMA began its national dialogue with a proposition: A community-centric approach for emergency management that focuses on strengthening and leveraging what works well in communities on a daily basis offers a more effective path to building societal security and resilience. By focusing on core elements of successful, connected, and committed communities, emergency management can collectively achieve better outcomes in times of crisis, while enhancing the resilience of our communities and the Nation.

Here’s exhibit B. In August of 2012, a bipartisan group of representatives in Congress introduced House Resolution 762. Unfortunately, the resolution never saw a vote and died with the 112th Congress.

The proposed resolution:

  1. encourages every community to develop its own “civil defense program” working with citizens, leaders, and institutions, ranging from local fire halls, schools, and faith-based organizations, to create sustainable local infrastructure and planning capacity, so that it might mitigate high-impact scenarios and be better prepared to survive and recover from these worst-case disaster scenarios and be better able to affordably and sustainably meet the needs of the community in times of peace and tranquility;
  2. encourages every citizen to develop an individual emergency plan to prepare for the absence of government assistance for extended periods;
  3. encourages each local community to foster the capability of providing at least 20 percent of its own critical needs, such as local power generation, food, and water, while protecting local infrastructure whenever possible from the threats that threaten centralized infrastructure; and to do so with the urgency and importance inherent in an all-of-nation civil defense program developed by citizens and their local communities; and
  4. encourages state governments and federal agencies to support the ability of local communities to become stronger, self-reliant, and better able to assist neighboring communities in times of great need.

I believe this resolution speaks for itself, and it is unfortunate that it didn’t pass. However, a good idea does not need to pass Congress to be a good idea. This is a great start for a local resolution in your town or a state resolution. The message is clear.

All Roads Lead to Civil Defense: Threats have evolved, and so must we.

For over two decades, the federal government and Congress have studied, researched, and held hearings on threats to the electric grid. (Click here for a comprehensive list of federal government documents on threats to the grid.) There can be no debate that a loss of the electric grid for any length of time – whether from natural or man-made cases – would be a catastrophic disaster. And one for which we are woefully unprepared. And threats to the grid continue to emerge.

Civil Defense Book 1966We face the increasing threat of a cyber-attack, such as the one that caused the Ukraine blackout in 2015. We face the 100% certain future threat of “space weather” or geomagnetic disturbance (GMD) such as the Quebec blackout of 1989. We face the threat of a coordinated attack by terrorists on key grid facilities (see the attack on the Metcalf substation). We face the threat of extreme weather as well as the fragility and complexity grid – remember, the Great Northeast Blackout of 2003. These threats are now joined by a nuclear North Korea which has specifically threatened an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack, and other state and non-state actors such as Iran and terrorist organizations.

America – 35,000 towns and cities and over 323 million people – face existential threats. And yet, we generally prepare only for local and regional disasters that we have seen in the past (e.g., floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc.). As former FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate notes: “We plan for what we are capable of responding to.” We are not truly preparing for “all hazards” unless we begin to prepare for a nation-wide disaster such as the loss of the electric grid.

All Roads Lead to Civil Defense: Serving the under-served

I read a recent article that asked: “Is FEMA’s new preparedness posture a death sentence for the underserved?” It is a great question but I would argue that the opposite is true.

As Brock Long told Congress on November 30, 2017 we do not have a true culture of preparedness in the United States. I doubt many of us would argue this point. So if the baseline right now is that 99% of communities are unprepared to “help themselves” for a long period of time in a national-scale disaster (pick whatever percentage you think is accurate), this means that 99% of the country is expecting to be rescued – immediately after a disaster – with state and federal resources that we all know won’t stretch to fit this bill. This present result of our lack of a preparedness culture endangers the entire country. This does an even greater disservice to the under-served. Everybody in the country is in line for “rescue” right now.

So let’s say that all of us take up the call and build a true culture of preparedness at the community level. One at a time across the country we see community non-profit civil defense organizations form where citizens, their local governments, civic groups, businesses – all stakeholders in the community – work together to change the preparedness culture in their particular community. One by one at first, but with the momentum that we the local leadership can provide, soon we see scores, then hundreds, then thousands of communities across the country taking ownership of their pre-disaster mitigation, preparedness and resiliency. This benefits the under-served within those communities. Not only does it make more and more of America prepared and resilient to survive for a long period of time, it also leaves more state and federal resources available for places where they are really needed – including the truly under-served and challenged areas.

And if these individual communities are more prepared and more self-reliant, they are more able to assist neighboring communities that need help.

All Roads Lead to Civil Defense: Conclusion

What is the downside to building a culture or preparedness in the United States? I see none. What is the downside to new non-profit local civil defense organizations playing a key role in doing this? I see none. In fact, I see this as strengthening the resilience of the entire nation. Each community that works towards this goal is contributing to the overall national security of the whole.

If we are 99% unprepared across all communities now – the under-served are in the same “rescue me” line with every other community. If we substantially shorten the line, we are serving everybody and making more state and federal resources available to communities where they are immediately needed.

Our very survival as a nation in a (plausible) worst-case scenario depends on each individual community working to be as prepared and as resilient as it can be. As Aristotle noted: “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”