Infrastructure Protection 101
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the nation’s awareness of the vulnerability of critical infrastructure and resources has increased. There is a continuing need among emergency responders, government and private sector security officials to develop a unified approach to protection. Because emergency situations – whether caused by a terrorist incident or a natural disaster – can rarely be predicted, comprehensive training that addresses the key facets of infrastructure protection is recommended, if not necessary. To fulfill this need, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Infrastructure Protection along with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) now offers a Web-based training course that introduces the concept of infrastructure protection.
Introduction to the National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP) (IS-860) provides an orientation to the key concepts of the NIPP. Released last June, the NIPP was formulated to set national priorities, goals and requirements for effective distribution of funding and resources to ensure that government, the economy and public services continue in the event of a terrorist attack or natural disaster. The plan identifies resource protection roles and responsibilities for federal, state, local, tribal and private sector security partners and emphasizes strong public and private partnerships, multi-directional information sharing and an interoperable risk management framework.
The NIPP Web-based course is designed to teach security professionals about the benefits of participating in NIPP processes. Students learn:
how the NIPP’s unifying structure integrates critical infrastructure and key resource (CI/KR) protection efforts;
how to define CI/KR and protection in the context of NIPP;
how to identify relevant authorities and roles of NIPP security partners;
how the use of the risk management framework ensures a steady state of protection within and across the CI/KR sectors;
how to identify risk management activities implemented by NIPP security partners; and
how the NIPP fosters information sharing, provides guidance on the content of CI/KR protection-related aspects of Homeland security plans, and helps to ensure an effective long-term protection plan.
The course also describes 17 sector-specific plans that address the characteristics, risks and activities of each sector and applies the NIPP’s risk management framework to each. Among the different sectors are information technology, banking and finance, telecommunication, transportation systems, public health, government facilities and emergency services.
In addition, the course provides government security officials with a better understanding of the Homeland Security Information Network, a computer-based anti-terrorism communications system; and the National Asset Database, a catalog of systems that make up the nation’s critical infrastructure.
“The course is structured so the participant can either complete the course quickly or spend more time focusing on specific details or areas of concern,” says Col. Robert Stephan, assistant secretary of Homeland Security for Infrastructure Protection. Participants may choose to take a final exam after completing the course and receive a certificate of completion from the DHS Emergency Management Institute (EMI), or they may “audit” the course.
Stephan says the course has been well-received thus far, with more than 3,000 people taking the two-hour course since it was posted on the Web earlier this year.
“The key benefits of this program are reducing risk and preventing the loss and interruption of essential functions in the face of terrorist threats, attacks or natural disasters,” he says. “The training includes interviews and observations from various public and private sector security partners, and we believe that including this first-person discussion of experience brings it to life.”
Rebecca Denlinger, fire and emergency services chief of Cobb County, Ga., endorses the NIPP course and its sector training modules to maximize interoperability. “I personally believe that local public safety officials should get a copy of the National Infrastructure Protection Plan; they should read it, learn it and make sure they understand it,” Denlinger says. “If we approach this problem individually, we will come up with a lot of good ideas, but they will not match up. Our best bet is to use the NIPP to create local, regional, state, and, ultimately, a national protection plan for our own security and safety.”
The course is offered though the EMI free of charge and can be accessed by visiting the EMI online learning center at http://training.fema.gov/EMIWeb/IS/crslist.asp.