Agricultural Terrorism and the EMR Sector
Considering the possibility and consequences of a terrorist attack on the Agriculture and Food Sector of the United States, the Emergency Management and Response-Information Sharing and Analysis Center (EMR-ISAC), the source of this INFOGRAM document, examined the relationship between agricultural terrorism and the Emergency Management and Response (EMR) Sector. The findings are briefly summarized in the following paragraphs.
According to the National Strategy for the Physical Protection of Critical Infrastructures and Key Assets, the Agriculture and Food Sector consists of the supply chains for seed, fertilizer, feed, animals, animal products, and other related materials. It also includes the post-harvesting components of the food supply chain, from processing, production, and packaging through storage and distribution to retail sales, institutional food services, and restaurant or home consumption. Because of the increased susceptibility of livestock to disease, a general lack of farm and food related security, a passive reporting system, etc., several critical infrastructure protection (CIP) specialists believe that the Agriculture and Food Sector is vulnerable to intentional and accidental disruption of operations and services.
CIP specialists postulate that the impact of an attack on the Agriculture and Food Sector would be significant and easily extend to other sectors of the nation including the EMR Sector. The EMR-ISAC agrees that the EMR Sector will be affected because in most states the overall responsibility for response preparedness rests primarily with an emergency management agency followed by the public health department. Furthermore, besides the medical and veterinary communities, other stakeholders such as fire and rescue organizations will be necessarily engaged in preparedness planning and actual response operations.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that preparedness activities for agriculture and food terrorist incidents need to be integrated within existing emergency response plans and systems, and tested in exercises involving all agencies responsible to respond. Therefore, the EMR-ISAC suggests that emergency managers and responders in those states and localities containing agricultural and food industries accept the possibility of contamination and consider the following basic preparedness actions:
- Initiate contact with the state agricultural service and the resident agricultural and food industries.
- Ascertain and support state reporting and response requirements for agriculture and food contamination incidents.
- Commence coordination among those organizations responsible to report and respond.
- Identify and eliminate gaps in existing plans and systems of responsible agencies.
- Prepare or revise emergency response plans to ensure relevant agencies can quickly and effectively communicate and respond to an incident.
- Test the effectiveness of the response plans and systems using simulated exercises or case studies.
A growing number of government and security officials admit that we may never be able to know with certainty when, where, and how terrorists will attack the critical infrastructures of the United States. Many of these individuals confide that there is no truly effective way to protect the thousands of components that comprise national critical infrastructures. They maintain that American technology, tools, and methodologies are only partially useful in addressing our numerous domestic vulnerabilities.
Although there may be some truth to the opinions of these skeptics, the EMR-ISAC promotes a positive and hopeful approach to the protection of the EMR Sector critical infrastructures. The EMR-ISAC proposes a comprehensive regional approach to emergency planning and preparedness as well as critical infrastructure protection. More can be accomplished with a regional approach that synergizes capabilities and minimizes municipal boundaries and associated cross-jurisdictional difficulties and challenges.
To implement a regional approach, the EMR-ISAC advises that EMR sector leaders foster the following recommendations among the key leaders of their community, and also the decision-makers of nearby or adjacent communities. (An article by Paula L. Scalingi, former director of the Department of Energy CIP Office, provided ideas for some of these recommendations.)
- Formulate a Regional Preparedness Planning Group (RPPG), with functions similar to a Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC).
- Identify the regional threatened and vulnerable critical infrastructures as determined by the application of the CIP process.
- Develop a regional preparedness and protection strategy that addresses all man-made and natural hazards.
- Review, coordinate, and synthesize the preparedness and protection plans of those municipalities within the geographic region represented by the RPPG.
- Prepare and rehearse a preparedness and protection plan for the region that is fully harmonized with the plans of the partner municipalities.
- Designate a regional emergency operations center that performs duties as an information clearinghouse and database with essential security and access protocols.
- Collect the tools and experience to assess and control damage, and to facilitate reconstitution as necessary.
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