Home Emergency Management News EDM Monday Briefing: Terrorist Attack in New York City, Thomas Fire Explodes in Size

EDM Monday Briefing: Terrorist Attack in New York City, Thomas Fire Explodes in Size

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Emergency and disaster management briefing for December 11, 2017: A terrorist attack rocks New York City during Monday's morning rush hour; explosive growth of the Thomas Fire in California forces thousands to evacuate; the Thomas Fire becomes the fifth largest wildfire in the state's history; President Trump approves the emergency declaration for California's wildfires; Hawaii's siren warning test reveals gaps in communication and reach; New Hampshire becomes the first state to opt out of FirstNet; the State Department unveils a new travel security alert system; and a winter storm watch is in effect for central New York and areas north until Wednesday evening.

1. Authorities in New York City have confirmed that a pipe bomb was detonated near Times Square in a Port Authority subway underground passageway and at least four people have been injured in the blast, including the suspect, who has been arrested. The bomb was strapped to the suspect's chest and the explosion occurred during rush hour near 42nd and Eighth Avenue. Service on eight lines were suspended and the streets around Times Square were evacuated. Authorities stated that the improvised explosive device (IED) was low tech and strapped to 27-year-old Akayad Ullah, reportedly from Bangladesh, who allegedly lives in Brooklyn and has been in the United States for seven years.

2. In Southern California on Sunday, the Thomas Fire exploded in size, pushing toward the coast and threatening new areas, including Montecito and Carpinteria in Santa Barbara County. High, unpredictable winds sparked the wildfire's rapid expansion and has forced thousands of additional evacuations. Firefighters are receiving help from air crews, including helicopters and water bomber aircraft, to fight the fire and try to protect homes as wind-fanned flames pushed the blaze into old-growth brush in Santa Barbara County.

3. The Thomas Fire has now reached the rank of the fifth largest wildfire in modern California history, since the blaze grew by more than 50,000 acres on Sunday. The out-of-control fire has now consumed at least 230,000 acres, forcing thousands to flee their homes, and is only 10 percent contained. The wildfire has destroyed 788 structures and damaged another 191 in the city of Ventura and its surrounding unincorporated areas.

4. President Trump has approved the emergency declaration for California for the current wildfires burning across the southern portion of the state. The declaration authorizes federal assistance to supplement state, tribal, and local response efforts to help protect property, public health and safety, from the wildfires that began on December 4, 2017. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will coordinate all disaster relief efforts under the direction of Mark Armstrong, who has been named as the Federal Coordinating Officer for Federal recovery operations in the affected area. 

5. Emergency management officials in Hawaii are concerned that a recent test of an attack warning siren was barely audible on the beaches of Waikiki"], one of the state's tourist meccas. Multiple complaints indicated that the sirens were distant and hardly noticed because they were largely drowned out by winds and crashing waves throughout the beach area. Other concerns included the need for emergency management officials to improve the communication of the tests to tourists in various languages"] to help ensure understanding and compliance.

6. New Hampshire became the first state to opt out of FirstNet, the nationwide public safety communications system that has been accepted and approved by two-thirds of the rest of the nation. A decision by each state and territory is required by December 28. To date, 33 states have chosen to opt in, while eight other states have explored alternate options. The nationwide system, being developed and implemented by AT&T, is in response to the inability of first responder departments to communicate during the events of 9/11 due to incompatible radio systems.

7. On Friday, the U.S. Department of State unveiled a new travel alert system to better communicate the risks of travel to a country for United States citizens. The new system has four levels that will communicate security risks, not political or diplomatic considerations, in an effort to provide accurate security risk information for travelers. Security risks factors driving the alerts will include crime, terrorism, civil unrest, health considerations, or time-limited events, including protests or elections.

8. A winter storm watch has been issued for central New York and areas north, beginning on Monday evening until Wednesday, and including among others, Onandanga, Madison, Jefferson, and Cayuga counties. The new system approaching the area is set to drop anywhere from one to three inches of snow, with lake effect snow increasing the chances of higher amounts from Tuesday to Wednesday. Temperatures are expected to plummet to the teens, likely making the salt brine less effective in melting roadway snow and ice, and gusty winds will produce areas of blowing and drifting snow.

Kimberly Arsenault Kimberly Arsenault serves as an intern at the Cleveland/Bradley County Emergency Management Agency where she works on plan revisions and special projects. Previously, Kimberly spent 15 years in commercial and business aviation. Her positions included station manager at the former Midwest Express Airlines, as well as corporate flight attendant, inflight manager, and charter flight coordinator. Kimberly currently holds a master's degree in emergency and disaster management from American Public University.