The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has released the 2021 National Preparedness Report (NPR), which chronicles the successes and challenges of mitigating and responding to national security risks in the past year.
The NPR analyzed data from open-source research, FEMA products and over 75 federal agencies to outline important risks, capabilities and management opportunities for U.S. organizations. As part of the report, FEMA highlighted three types of risk and how they present themselves in the United States.
Catastrophic risks are distinguished by the size of national response needed to mitigate or prevent them. This type of risk necessitates a response from across nations and has the potential to incur resource shortages and other national emergencies. The NPR names the COVID-19 pandemic as an example of this risk, along with hurricanes, earthquakes and space weather.
Balancing adaptability with efficiency may help mitigate these risks. According to the report, organizations that prioritized efficiency in non-emergency situations were frequently unable to adapt quickly to the evolving circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Consolidating infrastructure and other services has long been a goal of many U.S. organizations, but, according to the NPR, this may leave businesses and other groups vulnerable to systemic risks. This type of risk involves the interconnected nature of physical and cyber environments — when many systems rely upon one another to operate, a breach or malfunction in one system can have widespread effects.
Supply chain shortages are representative of this risk type, and the energy and agriculture sectors are especially vulnerable to systemic risk, says the FEMA report. Disease, cyber vulnerabilities and climate change are all systemic issues that security leaders must face.
The report also outlined emerging risks facing the United States, including bio-threats, climate change and the expanded use of technology. As remote and hybrid work has increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, so have cybersecurity vulnerabilities. According to the report, the continued transmission and mutation of Coronavirus variants also presents an emerging risk to the United States. Climate change is defined as both a "driver and multiplier of risk" in the report, which discusses how smaller incidents can be magnified by climate disasters.
For more information on risk and how to prepare for disaster situations, read the full FEMA report.