A Resilient World? Understanding vulnerability in a changing climate

A recent report is the second report about the 2021 World Risk Poll findings and it shows how financial insecurity undermines resilience in the face of climate change-related disasters. Communities across the world are feeling the impact of natural and human-made hazards, whether that’s severe weather and its link with climate change, or the result of industrial, social, or environmental impacts. Revealing how people worldwide feel their country’s infrastructure and government can cope in the face of disasters, the report provides global insights into how prepared and resilient individuals believe their communities, countries, and institutions are in dealing with hazards. The findings can be used by governments, development agencies, businesses, and researchers to help them identify vulnerabilities and take action to make people safer.

Key findings of the report include:

- Over a third (34%) of people across the world said they could only cover their basic needs for less than a month if they lost all their income.
- People from lower income countries also have less confidence in their ability to protect themselves from a disaster.
- Results from the World Risk Poll global Resilience Index reveals which countries are most resilient to climate change-related and other disasters.
- 125,000 people in 121 countries were polled as part of the study.

Building resilience in Palau through early warning systems

The residents of Palau have benefitted from effective and low-cost, low-tech early warning systems, installed through the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems (CREWS) Pilot Project.

Palau initially received sirens which were installed as part of their early warning systems. However, the residents soon realised that these technologies also came with a myriad of challenges, including the sirens breaking down, difficulties in finding back ups or replacement parts, and the cost of maintenance.

These challenges were especially hard on the outlying islands, which did not have regular access to the necessary tools and resources needed to support and maintain the warning sirens.

The CREWS Pacific SIDS Pilot Project introduced the use of low-cost, low-tech early warning systems as a solution. These consisted mainly of bells that were strategically placed around the three initial areas of Ngaraard, Ngiwal and Kayangel.

The Palau National Weather Service took the lead in the implementation of the pilot project, in partnership with the National Emergency Management Office and the Palau Red Cross Society, which was already well established in the community through their Red Cross Disaster Action teams scattered throughout all 16 states of Palau.

Executive Director of the Palau Red Cross Society, Ms Maireng Sengebau, said they had to work with the community and build their capacity to understand what early warning systems are.

“We had to get them to accept these systems and show their support by providing us with a piece of land on which the bells would be installed,” she said.

Once the bells were installed, the Palau Meteorological Service, working in partnership with the Palau Red Cross Society, would meet with various communities and conduct table-top exercises and drills to familiarise them with the early warning systems and to demonstrate how and when they should be used.

"These activities empowered the people in communities. As a result of these meetings, they are now aware of what early warning systems are and why they are important, and also what to do when there is a disaster coming. They have now taken ownership the system and are the ones who operate it and they report to the state government if it needs maintenance.”

These simple early warning systems have contributed greatly to the resilience of the people of Palau.

“I joined the Palau Red Cross in 2017, and growing up, if there was a typhoon we would just buckle down in our houses and pray. Once the typhoon passes, we would wake up the next morning and just wait for government officials to come and bring help,” said Ms Sengebau.

“That is no longer the case. Now, before the typhoon even hits, families know when and how to act. If your house is not strong enough, they need to move to the evacuation shelter. If your house is strong, make sure that your family has a disaster kit.

“There are now things they can do to minimise the damage. Instead of waiting, we can now take action even before a disaster occurs. This is made possible through these early warning systems, and how they have empowered people in communities to act during natural disasters.”

UNOCT launches five new thematic guides on Protecting Vulnerable Targets Against Terrorist Attacks

The United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT) hosted a high-level virtual event to launch five new specialized guides (modules) dedicated to the protection of particularly vulnerable targets against terrorist attacks, on 6 September 2022. “Vulnerable targets” refers to public places (e.g. tourist venues, urban centers, religious sites) or critical infrastructure (e.g. public transportation systems, energy sector) which are easily accessible and relatively unprotected, and therefore vulnerable to terrorist attacks.

The online launch event was opened by the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT), Mr. Vladimir Voronkov, along with the Permanent Representative of Qatar to the United Nations, H.E. Ambassador Alya Ahmed Saif Al-Thani; Acting Executive Director of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), Mr. Weixiong Chen; Director of the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Institute (UNICRI) Ms. Antonia Marie De Meo; and Chief of Cabinet of the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), Ms. Nihal Saad.

The participants included decision-makers, practitioners and experts on vulnerable targets protection from Member States, international and regional organizations, the private sector, civil society and academia, including members of the United Nations Global Expert Network to Protect Vulnerable Targets against Terrorist Attacks.

The high-level opening was streamed live via UN WebTV. It will be followed by an expert session, during which Member States will share experiences, good practices and tools related to the themes of the five modules:

1. The protection of “soft" targets;
2. The protection of touristic sites;
3. The protection of religious sites and places of worship;
4. The protection of urban centres; and
5. Threats posed by unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to vulnerable targets.

The 5 modules are published in Arabic, English, French and Russian and are presented by the United Nations Global Programme on Countering Terrorist Threats Against Vulnerable Targets, which is led by UNOCT and jointly implemented with CTED, UNICRI and UNAOC.

The new guides present the knowledge and resources and lessons learned identified during the three Expert Group Meetings held by UNOCT with partners CTED, UNAOC and UNICRI in 2021. They also complement the 2018 United Nations Compendium of Good Practices on the Protection of Critical Infrastructure (CIP) against Terrorist AttacksPDF by focusing on public places/"soft" targets as distinct types of sites worthy of a dedicated security approach. The guides feature specific case studies, good practices and recommended tools from around the world to support both the public and private sectors to further strengthen the safety and security of their public places, keeping them open and accessible and promoting shared responsibility.

New IAEA Safety Guide on Emergency Preparedness and Response for the Transport of Radioactive Material

Historically, emergencies during the transport of radioactive material have had none or very limited radiological consequences, which have been resolved quickly. However, no matter how safe packages for the transport of radioactive material are, emergencies can still occur during transit, for which prompt action is required to ensure that the public and the environment are protected effectively. A newly released IAEA Safety Guide — Specific Safety Guide on Preparedness and Response for a Nuclear or Radiological Emergency Involving the Transport of Radioactive Material — addresses a wide range of possible emergencies, including those associated with very low probability events which might have significant radiological consequences.

"The field of transportation of radioactive material is one where radioactive material is intentionally moved across the public domain. Hence, transport activities involving radioactive material should be carried out in accordance with safety requirements and security guidance,” said Farid Abdelmounim, Senior Engineer at the Centre National de Radioprotection, Ministry of Health, Morocco. “This new guide addresses important emergency preparedness and response (EPR) concepts such as the protection strategy, the concept of operations and the interface with nuclear security. “

This publication, co-sponsored with the International Civil Aviation Organization and the International Maritime Organization, provides recommendations on preparedness and response for a nuclear or radiological emergency involving the transport of radioactive material.
Preparedness and response for transport emergencies

The recommendations in this guide are aimed at countries; “consignors”, who prepare shipments for transport, carriers, who transport them; “consignees”, who receive them; regulatory bodies; and, response organizations.

Each of these roles are vital in emergency preparedness and response and their responsibilities include the following:

governments, for example, should ensure that the responsibilities of national and local government for a transport emergency are clearly defined, and that the national coordinating mechanism for nuclear and radiological emergencies includes the authorities responsible for transport safety and security;

consignors and carriers have the primary responsibility to ensure that adequate emergency arrangements are in place for a given shipment, and that those arrangements follow the national emergency arrangements of all the States relevant to the shipment; and,

carriers should ensure that emergency instructions and information applicable to the consignment are carried with the consignment on the conveyance (road vehicle, train, aircraft or sea vessel) at all times, and that this information is readily available to response organizations in the event of an emergency.

“The main objectives of the publication, and the associated training, are to bring together the emergency preparedness and response community and the transport community, to exchange ideas and experiences including on how best to coordinate and integrate emergency arrangements with safety and security measures in protecting the public and the environment from harmful effects of exposure to ionizing radiation,” said Svetlana Nestoroska Madjunarova, Emergency Preparedness Coordinator at the IAEA’s Incident and Emergency Centre.
Bridging the transport and emergency preparedness and response (EPR) communities

Radioactive material has a wide range of applications, and as a result, millions of packages containing radioactive material are transported every year by rail, road, sea, air or inland waterway. This includes the movement of containers (casks) carrying spent nuclear fuel from operating and decommissioning nuclear reactors and sealed radioactive sources, which are used widely in medicine, industry, and agriculture.

Effective preparedness and response for transport emergencies involving radioactive material is thus a topic that has broad relevance for all countries, irrespective of whether they have a nuclear power programme.

To heighten awareness of this topic, two trainings on the new guide were carried out last year, with at least two more planned for 2022.

“A transport emergency is different than an emergency in a fixed facility. A transport emergency can take place anywhere, in the middle of a busy city, or in a remote location where first responders may be hours away,” said Luis Portugal, Head of the Emergency Preparedness and Response Unit of the Portuguese Environment Agency, who contributed to the development of the training in conjunction with the IAEA. “When we designed the training, we wanted to raise awareness in the emergency preparedness and response community, and the transport safety community, of the particularities of an emergency occurring during the transport of radioactive materials and how these can impact the planning for, and response to, any event,” he added.

“The transport safety regulatory requirements set out in the IAEA Safety Standard Series — SSR-6 (Rev.1) — have benefitted from continuous review and development since they were first introduced in 1961. Complemented by the IAEA safety requirements in the IAEA General Safety Requirements Part 7, they help in effective regulation of transport safety and establishment of effective emergency arrangements during the transport of radioactive material,” said Stephen Whittingham, former Head of the Transport Safety Unit in the Division of Radiation, Transport and Waste Safety. “With this Safety Guide and associated training material supporting the implementation of these two sets of safety requirements, we contribute further to their practical implementation in countries to protect the public and the environment effectively from the harmful effects of ionizing radiation.”

USDA invests more than $698,000 in critical infrastructure to combat climate change

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced this week that USDA Rural Development will invest more than $698,000 in critical infrastructure to combat climate change across rural Missouri.

Among the funded projects is Macon Coca-Cola Bottling Company's installation of a 46.98 kilowatt solar array system. The company will use a $20,000 Rural Energy for America Program grant to replace 71,831 killowatt hours (100% of the company's energy use) per year, saving the company more than $6,000.

The investments reflect the goals of President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, which addresses immediate economic needs and includes the largest ever federal investment in clean energy for the future, the USDA said.

For example, the Act includes $14 billion in funding for USDA programs that support the expansion of biofuels and help rural businesses and electric cooperatives transition to renewable energy and zero-emission systems.

USDA is making these investments through Community Facilities Disaster Grants, Rural Energy for America Program Renewable Energy Systems & Energy Efficiency Improvement Guaranteed Loans & Grants, and Rural Energy for America Program Energy Audits and Renewable Energy Development Grants.

French hospital forced to transfer patients following Ransomware attack

The Centre Hospitalier Sud Francilien (CHSF) said an attack on its computer network was detected in August. The hospital has referred patients elsewhere as the cyberattack rendered various technical systems ‘inaccessible’.

The cyberattack made various systems “inaccessible” including business software, storage systems in areas such as medical imaging, and the info systems on patient admissions, according to a CHSF statement.

As a result of the attack, patients whose care requires access to the hospital’s technical systems have been redirected to other hospitals in the area. Those who present themselves to the emergency room are being evaluated by CHSF’s medical staff, and being transferred to other institutions if necessary.

The hospital, which serves an area of around 600,000 people, said that measures have been taken to care for those already hospitalised there. However, the “exceptional situation” is expected to have an impact on the operating room, as it is closely linked to the affected technical platform.

French paper Le Monde reports that a ransom of $10m was demanded by the hackers responsible.

CISA Releases New Insight on Preparing Critical Infrastructure for the Transition to Post-Quantum Cryptography

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) released a new CISA Insight, Preparing Critical Infrastructure for Post-Quantum Cryptography, which provides critical infrastructure and government network owners and operators an overview of the potential impacts from quantum computing to National Critical Functions (NCFs) and the recommended actions they should take now to begin preparing for the transition.

While quantum computing promises greater computing speed and power, it also poses new risks to critical infrastructure systems across the 55 NCFs. This CISA Insight incorporates findings from an assessment conducted on quantum vulnerabilities to the NCFs to understand the urgent vulnerabilities and NCFs that are most important to address first and the three NCF areas to prioritize for public-private engagement and collaboration.

“While post-quantum computing is expected to produce significant benefits, we must take action now to manage potential risks, including the ability to break public key encryption that U.S. networks rely on to secure sensitive information,” said Mona Harrington, acting Assistant Director National Risk Management Center, CISA. “Critical infrastructure and government leaders must be proactive and begin preparing for the transition to post-quantum cryptography now.”

In March 2021, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas outlined his vision for cybersecurity resilience and identified the transition to post-quantum encryption as a priority.

To ensure a smooth and efficient transition, CISA encourages all critical infrastructure owners to follow the Post-Quantum Cryptography Roadmap along with the guidance in this CISA Insight. The roadmap includes actionable steps organizations should take, such as conducting an inventory of their current cryptographic technologies, creating acquisition policies regarding post-quantum cryptography, and educating their organization’s workforce about the upcoming transition.

Police Committee Initiates Process to Consider the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act Regulations

The Portfolio Committee on Police in South Africa has resolved to allow the Civilian Secretariat for Police Service (CSPS) to table part of the regulations of the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act (CIPA) 2019, which deals directly with the functions of the Critical Infrastructure Council to enable the council to start performing its functions immediately. The committee today met the Ministry of Police and representatives of the CSPS.

The committee has urged the CSPS to move with speed to table the regulations to ensure that Parliament completes the process of considering them. “We have raised a concern that the committee undertook an extensive process of interviews for the council in 2021 and to date, the Council has not been able to move and implement their mandate. This is the reason we will move with speed to consider the regulations and ensure the effectiveness of the Council,” said Ms Tina Joemat-Pettersson, the Chairperson of the committee.

Meanwhile, the committee deliberated on various issues affecting policing, including crime statistics, morale within the South African Police Service (SAPS), the increase in illegal mining, and challenges with gender-based violence. As a result, the committee agreed on the need for a two-day session, where the Minister of Police together with the National Commissioner and senior leadership of the SAPS outline strategies to remedy these concerns. The session’s intentions are to work together to find solutions to the crime challenge facing the country in order to create a safe environment that fosters socio-economic development.

Emergency telecommunications preparedness: Return on investments model

In a world increasingly characterized by uncertainty, emergency preparedness is a powerful way to improve the capacity of communities and countries to withstand disasters. Investment in emergency preparedness builds resilience, thereby limiting the loss of life and protecting infrastructure.

The Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC) has developed a model to assess the benefits of investment in emergency telecommunications preparedness. This will build a pool of evidence to promote preparedness, ultimately encouraging stakeholders to build disaster-resilient telecommunications in high-risk countries across the globe.

The new Return on Investment (ROI) model aims to quantify and qualify the benefits of investments in emergency telecommunications preparedness. It can be used by all humanitarian partners engaged in emergency telecommunications preparedness. It is built on the practical emergency preparedness expertise and experiences of the ETC in different countries.

IOM supports Palau to build community resilience and preparedness to natural hazards

The Republic of Palau is exposed to natural hazards such as storm surges, typhoons, earthquakes, and tsunamis that can result in localized and national emergencies as well as population displacement.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM), in partnership with the National Emergency Management Office (NEMO), has been working closely with the Government of the Republic of Palau (Palau) and community members to prepare for, and respond in a timely manner to, lifesaving needs during natural hazards and shocks.

IOM, under the Palau Emergency Preparedness and Enhanced Resilience project, funded by the United States Agency for International Development’s Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance, engaged the Government of the Republic of Palau, NEMO, Palau Red Cross Society, Ministry of Education, and community members in tabletop exercises to test emergency response plans and procedures and address operational gaps by working closely with relevant authorities.

"Employing a comprehensive approach to disaster risk management requires the contribution and engagement of various government actors as well as community group representatives at all stages of the preparedness, response and recovery process," says Salvatore Sortino, Chief of Mission to IOM Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands, and Republic of Palau.

"Tabletop exercises like these are key to ensuring comprehensive understanding and full ownership of respective roles and responsibilities. We are extremely grateful to NEMO for their leadership in these exercises," Sortino added.

IOM together with key government and non-government representatives reviewed Early Warning Processes to improve early warning systems, underlining roles and responsibilities of stakeholders in the event of a natural hazard.

In Melekeok State, where tsunami preparedness systems need strengthening, IOM conducted a tabletop exercise to simulate hazard events and enable coordination on effective use of emergency communication channels, emergency evacuation routes, and school evacuation procedures among other critical aspects of tsunami response.

These tabletop exercises complement ongoing efforts to address critical needs by improving evacuation shelters and their management to minimize injury and loss of life, as well as testing government response structures and pre-positioning relief items.

IOM revamped five emergency evacuation shelters (EES) including the installation of typhoon shutters, and provision of water tanks, generators, and solar lights.

Additionally, through the project, more than 80 community representatives in five states have been trained on EES management, and five water quality management teams have been established and trained.

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