EDM Friday Briefing: State of Emergency Declared in Florida Due to Zika Virus, U.S. Power Grid Concerns Grow
Emergency and disaster management briefing for February 5, 2016: Florida declares a state of emergency due to Zika virus, concerns about Zika and the upcoming summer Olympics in Brazil grow, and U.S. experts find evidence of an unprecedented cyber attack on Ukraine's power grid.
- Florida Governor Rick Scott has now declared a state of emergency in five Florida counties due to Zika virus. Scott originally made the declaration in the four state counties that had confirmed cases of Zika, and added a fifth county yesterday after the discovery of cases there.
- Some are questioning whether it would be wise to cancel the Rio Olympics that will take place this summer, in about six months. Researchers are currently weighing the risks of Zika spreading at the Rio Olympics but International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach has already come out and said that he is 'confident' in handling of Zika virus ahead of the summer games. Much is still unknown about the virus and exactly how dangerous it is.
- U.S. experts discovered evidence of an unprecedented cyber attack on the Ukraine power grid that occurred last December. The U.S. sent investigators from Homeland Security and the FBI to investigate the alleged cyber attack that caused a blackout for hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian citizens. The investigators discovered that it was a sophisticated attack using destructive malware. While Ukraine has blamed Russia for the attack, U.S. officials said that the question of who carried out the attack remains unanswered.
- A new Senate energy bill includes a number of cyber security provisions looking to combat power grid hackers. The new legislation comes as concerns about U.S. power grid vulnerability continue to grow. One major part of the bill aims to allow the Department of Energy (DOE) to take quick action in the event of a cyber crisis.
- An explosion on a flight from Somalia was likely caused by a bomb, U.S. officials said. An explosion created a hole in the passenger cabin, and at least one person died. The plane made emergency landing in Mogadishu, where at least two injured passengers were taken to the hospital with injuries. U.S. officials said that hard forensic evidence is lacking, and there have been no reports of any group claiming responsibility for the blast.
- President Barack Obama signed a disaster declaration that made federal assistance available to 10 Washington state counties that suffered severe damage in December storms. Strong winds, flooding, landslides, mudslides, and even a tornado hit the state in the first two weeks of December 2015. Federal funding is now available in the following counties: Clallam, Clark, Cowlitz, Grays Harbor, Jefferson, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, Skamania, and Wahkiakum.
- As Justice Department investigations of police departments are underway in cities like Chicago and
San Francisco, Southern California police are receiving the opposite form of attention -- praise for the handling of the San Bernardino terrorist attack in December. San Bernardino police have been widely commended for their quick and effective response to the attack that ended with 14 dead. Despite the praise, San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said that while it may have appeared to be the "perfect" or "textbook" response, the department is still looking for ways to improve.
- A congressional committee issued a subpoena to former Flint, MI Emergency Manager Darnell Earley requesting that he meet with members of Congress to discuss the Flint water contamination crisis in detail. Earley was the state-appointed financial manager in Flint when the city switched its water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River in 2014 .
- A recent federal audit found that the city of San Diego misused $1.2 million in disaster relief funds provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for recovery from flooding and mudslides that occurred in 2011. The city reportedly did not follow FEMA guidelines on how the money could be used, and ended up misusing $1.2 million of the $6 million provided in disaster relief. The city reportedly spent $654,348 on excessive landfill costs and $393,704 in fees unrelated to the disaster, among other things.
- Despite widespread protests this week in opposition of an extension of the current state of emergency, French authorities confirmed that they will seek a three-month extension. The state of emergency was introduced following the November 13, 2015 terrorist attacks that left 130 dead. Activists argue that the declaration places 'excessive and disproportionate' restrictions on key rights, but French authorities still feel that the risk of attacks is high enough to keep the state of emergency in effect.