Officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security late yesterday briefed the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners’ committees on telecommunications and critical infrastructure on efforts to improve and standardize access and re-entry to areas that have been affected by an emergency during the group’s Winter Policy Summit this week.
George Renteria, acting chief-emergency services section at DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, called the department’s Crisis Event Response and Recovery Access (CERRA) effort a “good news story” and “something that has really been a good effort out of the Department of Homeland Security.” He explained that the effort focused on how a state could manage the flow of resources for recovery when a community that experienced a natural disaster or similar situation wasn’t ready for the recovery to begin. He said 80% of recovery assets may come from outside the community.
“Access is ensuring the right assets get in, while limiting access to nonessential personnel,” Mr. Renteria said. “To enable safe, fast, effective recovery … controlling access and reentry is critical. The community benefits from a more managed flow of recovery efforts.”
James Byrne, executive director of CERRA, said the problem with access was that the “people who want to get and need to get in have trouble. And the people who don’t really need to get in sometimes do.” The CERRA framework, which was released in March 2018, is essentially a best practices guide, Mr. Byrne said. “It’s a document that says if you’re going to start a program, here’s where you start.”
The best way to think about the approach, he said, is that it allows a jurisdiction to establish a set of rules for who it wants to get in and then gives those entities a valid access document that means the entity has been approved by the local jurisdiction to get in. “When an event first happens, there’s people running toward and people running away. The people running toward need to be trained. And the people running away need to be facilitated,” Mr. Byrne explained.
Mr. Byrne said that several local jurisdictions had already adopted the CERRA framework, including Harris County, Texas. The framework, which is largely based on post-Hurricane Katrina efforts in Louisiana, was most recently implemented in Virginia to handle Hurricane Michael’s impact on the state, he said.
“Ultimately this is a local jurisdiction thing,” he added. “The federal government doesn’t have jurisdiction over entry and re-entry. So this is a voluntary program.” -Carrie DeLeon, firstname.lastname@example.org