• PLANETARY SECURITYCan We Really Deflect an Asteroid by Crashing into It? Nobody Knows, but We Are Excited to Try

    By Stefania Soldini

    Nasa’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (Dart) spacecraft is designed to be a one hit wonder. It will end its days by crashing into an asteroid at 24,000 kilometers per hour on 26 September. Launched from Earth in November 2021, Dart is about the size of a bus and was created to test and prove our ability to defend the Earth from a dangerous asteroid.

  • EMERGENCY RESPONSEThe Evolution of U.S. Emergency Risk Assessment and Response

    The U.S. emergency management system evolved from responses to many past situations, including the Great Depression and the Cold War. The current system formed as a seeming patchwork of federal, local, nonprofit and other agencies. While the current system has advantages and weaknesses, understanding its makeup can help us address current crises, including pandemics and climate change.

  • FORECASTINGNobody Saw It Coming: How Scenarios Can Help Us Prepare for the Future in an Uncertain World

    By Mann Virdee and Megan Hughes

    The problem with planning for the future is that it is fundamentally uncertain, and predictions often fall flat when compared with reality. This gap—between the limits of what we can know about the future and the need to plan for it—has led to the development of a variety of tools for futures thinking.

  • PreparednessPreventing and Responding to High-Consequence Biological Threats

    A new report offers actionable recommendations for the international community to bolster prevention and response capabilities for high-consequence biological events.

  • PreparednessThe U.K. Government’s Preparedness for COVID-19: Risk-Management Lessons

    A new report from the U.K. National Audit Office (NAO) examines the government’s risk analysis, planning, and mitigation strategies prior to the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic. The report notes that the pandemic has exposed a vulnerability to whole-system emergencies – that is, emergencies which are so broad that they require the engagement of the entire system.

  • Climate ChallengesCities Worldwide Aren’t Adapting to Climate Change Quickly Enough

    By John Rennie Short

    Climate change is magnifying threats such as flooding, wildfires, tropical storms and drought. cities are quickly becoming more vulnerable to extreme weather events and permanent shifts in their climate zones. The problem is that the pace of climate change is accelerating much more rapidly than urban areas are taking steps to adapt to it.

  • DisastersPredicting, Managing, and Preparing for Disasters Like Hurricane Ida

    By Megan Lowry

    Since Hurricane Katrina swept through Louisiana almost exactly 16 years ago, the National Academies have helped produce scientific insights and recommendations through initiatives to help policymakers avoid the worst impacts of future disasters.

  • Disaster responseDisaster Response and Mitigation in an AI World

    Accurately forecasting the movement of natural disasters—wildfires, floods, hurricanes, windstorms, tornados, and earthquakes—gives first responders a jump, allowing them to take measures to reduce damage, conduct advanced resource planning, and increase infrastructure restoration time.

  • Radiological threatsHomeland Security for Radiological and Nuclear Threats

    Radiation exposure events are complicated: there is a variety of radiation sources, and since radiation is invisible, and its effect may not always be immediately apparent, first responders and emergency services must prepare for a “worried well” of people requiring attention: individuals who do not have other physical injuries but are concerned about whether they have received a radiation exposure.

  • Disaster responsePlanetSense: Stepping in When Disaster Strikes

    As Hurricane Dorian raged through the Bahamas, researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory worked around the clock to aid recovery efforts for one of the Caribbean’s worst storms ever. The researchers helped direct that relief, churning out geographic data that guided decisions on everything from where to open emergency shelters to how to staff first-aid centers.

  • Emergency preparednessThe Strategic Stockpile Failed; Experts Propose New Approach to Emergency Preparedness

    A new analysis of the United States government’s response to COVID-19 highlights myriad problems with an approach that relied, in large part, on international supply chains and the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS). A panel of academic and military experts is instead calling for a more dynamic, flexible approach to emergency preparedness at the national level.

  • Pandemic preparednessBuilding Pandemic Preparedness and Resilience to Confront Future Pandemics

    By Sally Huang

    With the current COVID-19 pandemic revealing major gaps in national readiness, the Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense brought together members of the legislative and scientific community for a virtual discussion on the need to increase and optimize resource investments to promote changes in US policy and strengthen national pandemic preparedness and response.

  • Dust explosionsReal-time Imaging to Help Prevent Deadly Dust Explosions

    Dust explosions can be among the most dangerous and costly workplace incidents. Dust builds up in agricultural, powder-handling or manufacturing settings, causing hazards to employees and posing the risk of exploding. Researchers have developed an image- and video-based application using OpenCV algorithms that detect explosible suspended dust concentration.

  • PreparednessPoliticians Ignore Far-Out Risks: They Need to Up Their Game

    Asteroid strikes are an extreme example of the world’s willful ignorance of the need to prepare for catastrophes — but not an atypical one. Low-probability, high-impact events are a fact of life. Individual humans look for protection from them to governments and, if they can afford it, insurers. Humanity, at least as represented by the world’s governments, reveals instead a preference to ignore them until forced to react—even when foresight’s price-tag is small. It is an abdication of responsibility and a betrayal of the future. The Economist writes that COVID-19 offers a tragic example. Virologists, epidemiologists and ecologists have warned for decades of the dangers of a flu-like disease spilling over from wild animals. But when sars-cov-2 began to spread very few countries had the winning combination of practical plans, the kit those plans required in place and the bureaucratic capacity to enact them. Those that did benefited greatly. Taiwan has, to date, seen just seven COVID-19 deaths; its economy has suffered correspondingly less. Pandemics are disasters that governments have experience of. What therefore of truly novel threats?

  • ArgumentCrisis Response When the Status Quo Is a Crisis

    As the world experiences a global pandemic in the form of the novel coronavirus, the focus of most governments has understandably been on the health implications of this virus, and on the economic fallout of the lockdowns and other mitigation measures taken to stop its spread. Tellis Bethel and Ian Ralby write that there are two major issues whose careful consideration becomes more necessary by the day: security matters and natural disasters. “If the status quo is a pervasive disaster, how can we cope with incidental or episodic emergencies? Few states, if any, are ready for the challenge,” they write.