To take a multidisciplinary, multijurisdictional approach to disaster preparedness and response, agencies and organizations must connect both in person and virtually. Mutual aid agreements enable agencies to share resources and develop a collaborative strategy for addressing emerging threats. Although predicted by experts, the threats that presented over the past year – namely, a global pandemic and large-scale cyberattacks on critical infrastructure – still caught many communities by surprise.

As many people who were still able to work were forced to suddenly do so from home, the social and connectivity challenges were quickly realized. Virtual platforms experienced glitches and overloads, technologies at home were insufficient or absent, and the lack of in-person gatherings have had long-term consequences that are still yet to be fully understood. Professional and personal lives melded, yet goals and objectives still needed to be met.

This edition of the DomPrep Journal is about connecting, which is a critical part of work and society, yet it is not without risk. Public-private partnerships and agreements can bring together valuable resources such as command trucks that can be repurposed to support volunteer efforts that supplement government operations. These connections also ensure that these critical resources are ready and available with trained personnel when needed during a disaster.

Similarly, the healthcare supply chain requires routine collaboration by both public and private entities during non-emergencies to safeguard continuous operations when the supply chain demand is overwhelming. By connecting manufacturer supply with end user demand, government agencies can help make sure supplies continue when they are needed the most.

The past year has provided many workplace lessons learned to help prevent future broken connections from causing resource shortages and communication delays. However, the dependence in online technologies and critical infrastructure resources has caused bad actors to intervene and access operations of both virtual and physical assets.

The growing online presence for building work, school, and personal connections has also had its downsides. The dependence on virtual interaction has increased the risk to vulnerable populations, especially children. The virtual platform provides more opportunities for child predators and human traffickers. As such, it is critical that all community stakeholders communicate and work together to rebuild lost connections and create new ones that benefit the whole community.

Catherine L. Feinman

Catherine L. Feinman, M.A., joined Domestic Preparedness in January 2010. She has more than 35 years of publishing experience and currently serves as editor of the Domestic Preparedness Journal, DomesticPreparedness.com, and The Weekly Brief. She works with writers and other contributors to build and create new content that is relevant to the emergency preparedness, response, and recovery communities. She received a bachelor’s degree in International Business from the University of Maryland, College Park, and a master’s degree in Emergency and Disaster Management from American Military University.

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