American citizens often confuse national security policy with defense policy. Unfortunately, the events in France, Belgium, San Bernardino, Orlando, Aurora, etc., show that a strong defense policy does not ensure national security. The tactics have shifted from large scale attacks to small, inexpensive attacks. This new breed of terrorism utilizes vehicles and weapons available cheaply and publicly.
This summer I interned in the Emergency Management Division for City of Chesapeake, Virginia. Emergency management, specifically FEMA came into the national conversation following Hurricane Katrina. However, hurricane preparation and recovery only constitute a small portion of emergency management.
I chose emergency management because it is at the intersectionality of local government, public service, and national security. Additionally, it provided a healthy mix of desk and field work. During my time, I worked on city plans and procedures, which constitute preparation, mitigation, response, and recovery for a natural or man-made disaster.
With a large number military installations and large tourist population, Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, Hampton, Newport News, and Norfolk are continually planning for a terrorist event. During the internship, I participated in a Joint Counter-Terrorism Awareness Workshop (JCTAWS) run by the National Counter-Terrorism Center. At the workshop, we identified gaps in each city’s plans and procedures. Using those identified gaps, we improved our cities plans and procedures.
The city put those recovery plans into action when a lightning strike set an elderly apartment complex on fire by a lightning strike. The fire and water damage displaced 150 people and permanently destroyed 20 apartments. I was put in charge of organizing the Disaster Resource Center, where I coordinated with the Red Cross to provide resources (food, shelter, water, IDs, transportation, etc.) for those who were displaced.
Finally, a shameless plug. Plan for a hurricane now, before it hits. Find your evacuation zone at www.knowyourzoneva.org.