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.

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.

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.

Australian Government Invites Feedback on Critical Technologies

The Australian Federal Government will begin consulting businesses, researchers and the community at large to identify critical technologies of national importance.

The List of Critical Technologies in the National Interest will clarify technologies the government considers to be vital to present and future demands.

The 2022 List of Critical Technologies in the National Interest will build on the 2021 List, which featured 63 technologies across seven categories including:

- Advanced materials and manufacturing
- AI, computing and communications
- Biotechnology, gene technology and vaccines
- Energy and environment
- Quantum; Sensing, timing and navigation
- Transportation, robotics and space

The consultation will run until Friday 30 September.

Federal Minister for Industry and Science, Ed Husic, said it is vital for Australia’s continued and future prosperity that emerging and critical technologies are promoted and protected.

“We know the development of critical technologies present enormous potential opportunities as well as risks for Australians,” Mr Husic said.

“It is vital we understand and send a clear signal about what technologies we should be focusing on and where our strengths lie – and that is exactly what this consultation is all about.”

The Federal Government has promised to invest $1 billion into critical technologies through its National Reconstruction Fund and will aim to reach 1.2 million tech industry jobs by 2030.

“This work is also part of our goal to reach 1.2 million tech jobs by 2030, as well as securing our supply chains and promoting Australia as a secure destination of excellence for investment, development and adoption of critical technologies,” Mr Husic said.

“The Government is also investing $1 billion in critical technologies as part of the National Reconstruction Fund, to build our strategic capability and power the economic growth we need to create jobs.”

China loses hydropower As drought dries up Yangtze River

No rain and a 70-day heat wave spur crop failures, power cuts, and dangerously-low reservoirs across parts of China.

A historic drought in the southwest of China is drying up rivers, intensifying forest fires, damaging crops, and severely curtailing electricity in a region highly dependent on hydropower.

The Yangtze River, the third largest in the world, has dropped to half its average water levels, affecting shipping routes, limiting drinking water supplies, causing rolling blackouts, and even exposing long-submerged Buddhist statues. Some 66 rivers across 34 counties in Chongqing were dried up. The province of Sichuan, which gets more than 80 percent of its energy from hydropower, cut or limited electricity to thousands of factories in an effort to “leave power for the people.” Poyang Lake, the largest freshwater lake in China, is just a quarter of its normal size for this time of year.

China issued its first national drought alert in nine years. Rainfall in the Yangtze River Basin is down 45 percent from last July, the lowest it has been since 1961.

Sichuan is a major manufacturing hub and the curbing of electricity to factories has had global impacts, affecting suppliers of Toyota, Volkswagen, Tesla, Intel and Apple, as well as pesticide and solar panel manufacturers. Companies have been asked to continue rationing electricity. Toyota has slowly resumed operations using a generator; Tesla asked the government of Shanghai to ensure that its suppliers received enough power, saying it faced shortages of components as plants scaled back production. Other areas that source power from Sichuan have also made cuts, including Shanghai, China’s largest city, which turned off decorative lighting as a symbolic gesture.

Drought’s impact on the agriculture sector has also been severe, with thousands of acres of crops damaged in Sichuan and the neighboring Hubei province. In response, the Chinese government discharged water from several large upstream reservoirs, and the Ministry of Agriculture said it will try to artificially increase rainfall through cloud seeding, as well as spray crops with a water-retaining agent.

[Source: UNDRR]

Cyber Attack on Greece’s Gas Operator

A group of cyber extortionists called Ragnar Locker claimed responsibility for the recent cyber-attack against the National Gas System Operator (DESFA) in Greece.

DESFA announced that it had suffered a cyber-attack on part of its IT infrastructure, which resulted in a “confirmed impact on the availability of certain systems and the possible leakage of a number of files and data.”

DESFA is responsible for the operation, management, exploitation, and development of the National Natural Gas System and its interconnections.

The statement said that IT services were proactively deactivated to limit any potential spillage and to investigate the incident while ensuring the adequate operation of the national gas supply system at all entry and exit points of the country without any complications.

The FBI has linked the Ragnar Locker group to attacks on at least fifty-two organizations and companies related to critical infrastructure in the US over the last two years.

DOE Announces $45 Million for Power Grid Cyber Resilience

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced $45 million to create, accelerate, and test technology that will protect the electric grid from cyber attacks.

Cyber threats to American energy systems can shut down critical energy infrastructure and disrupt energy supply, the economy, and the health of American consumers. Cybersecurity remains a priority as clean energy technologies deployed on the grid become highly automated.

Earlier this year, Supervisory Special Agent Ted P. Delacourt, a federal civilian working in the Mission Critical Engagement Unit of the Cyber Division at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, wrote that a cyber attack on one critical infrastructure sector may initiate a failure in another or cascade to the entire interconnected critical infrastructure network.

“The ubiquitous nature of these critical infrastructure sectors and the distribution of their physical and networked assets across a wide geographical area, often spanning the entire country, make them attractive targets,” Delacourt wrote for HSToday. “State, non-state, and criminal actors continually seek victims of opportunity across all critical infrastructure sectors for monetary and strategic gain.”

Delacourt warned that cyber attacks on critical infrastructure will continue to grow in number and frequency and continue to escalate in severity.

Combined with the additional grid upgrades funded in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act, the latest DOE announcement means the United States will have an opportunity to build greater cyber defenses into its energy sector. The $45 million funding announced on August 17 will support up to 15 research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) projects that will focus on developing new cybersecurity tools and technologies designed to reduce cyber risks for energy delivery infrastructure. Building strong and secure energy infrastructure across the country is a key component of reaching President Biden’s goal of a net-zero carbon economy by 2050.

“As DOE builds out America’s clean energy infrastructure, this funding will provide the tools for a strong, resilient, and secure electricity grid that can withstand modern cyberthreats and deliver energy to every pocket of America,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “DOE will use this investment to continue delivering on the Biden Administration’s commitment to making energy cheaper, cleaner, and more reliable.”

DOE’s Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER) will fund up to 15 research projects that will establish or strengthen existing research partnerships with energy sector utilities, vendors, universities, national laboratories, and service providers working toward resilient energy delivery systems. The effort will lead to the creation of next-generation tools and technologies designed to reduce cyber incident disruption to energy delivery. Researchers will aim to develop tools and technologies that enable energy systems to autonomously recognize a cyber attack, attempt to prevent it, and automatically isolate and eradicate it with no disruption to energy delivery.

There are six proposed topic areas for the projects, which include:

- Automated Cyber Attack Prevention and Mitigation: This topic area will focus on tools and technologies that enable energy systems to autonomously recognize and prevent cyber attacks from disrupting energy.
- Security and Resiliency by Design: This topic area will focus on tools and technologies that build cybersecurity and resilience features into technologies through a cybersecurity-by-design approach.
- Authentication Mechanisms for Energy Delivery Systems: This topic area will focus on tools and technologies that strengthen energy sector authentication.
- Automated Methods to Discover and Mitigate Vulnerabilities: This topic area will focus on tools and technologies that address vulnerabilities in energy delivery control system applications.
- Cybersecurity through Advanced Software Solutions: This topic area will focus on developing software tools and technologies that can be tested in a holistic testing environment that includes a development feedback cycle.
- Integration of New Concepts and Technologies with Existing Infrastructure: This topic area will require applicants to partner with energy asset owners and operators to validate and demonstrate cutting-edge cybersecurity technology that can be retrofitted into existing infrastructure.

[source: HS Today]
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