Putting the Human Being in Security Planning

Homeland Security officials at all levels of government would be wise to embrace the concept of human factors.  As it relates to this article, Human factors apply principles of psychology focused on designing products, plans, and environments that enhance desired outcomes.  That’s a mouth-full and academic-sounding.  However, the application is real-world and accounts for what a human being may, and will do, in stressful situations.

In the past, the security managers and community planners have done a poor job of modeling how humans might render a plan useless.  A person’s personal situations or inability to manage stress conditions may cause them to freeze.  The step of accounting for the human assures a reduction of risks, enhances confidence in instructions and enables the partnerships necessary to meet security goals.  A wise and prudent path-forward for all planning should incorporate mitigation based on the propensity of humans to, well just be human.

Who Should Plan for Human Factors?

This concept applies to plan in corporations as well as municipal organizations.  During the disaster response efforts where federal, state, and municipal responders work in partnership, it is critical that each plays their expected role.  In 2005 during hurricane Katrina we witnessed expectations breaking down.  Local police departments implemented carefully crafted management plans for disasters, but they did not account for the human factor.  In this case, nearly 15% of the force, roughly 250 officers left their posts.  Most personnel said they were compelled to care for their families and to assure the safety of their loved ones.  This should have been expected and the risk should have been mitigated by planners.

The absence of response officials when they are most needed is an oversight that jurisdictions make regularly.  Recognizing that people will likely assure the safety of their families before carrying out their official duties is key to a stronger plan.  DHS is but one of many agencies that have benefited from carefully orchestrated public-private partnerships.  Many of those partnerships are with State partners.  Therefore, when one link in the partnership chain breaks, it undermines the strategic approach to national resilience.

The Good Side of Human Factor

The human factor is not always a bad thing and can enable a response effort.  The 2017 federal government response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico was initially a disaster for many reasons.  The people of Puerto Rico assisted each other helping to free trapped citizens prior to rescue officials arriving and the response gaining a stronger footing.  The human trait that emerged at the moment was called the “spirit of community.”  Puerto Rico and other disasters can be studied to create a secondary opportunity for response success.  Studying after-action reporting as a guide an assist to target training across local communities.  It can also provide tools that help put community engagement on steroids when the community most needs it.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) leads a Whole Community Approach to plan.  It includes Individuals and families, including those with access and functional needs Businesses Faith-based and community organizations Nonprofit groups Schools and academia Media outlets, and all levels of government, including state, local, tribal, territorial, and federal partners. However, this approach does not account for how humans might react when under duress.

Capturing the Audience

A case study of the citizen response can be seen in the current approach to messaging cyber threats.  Most citizens have never seen a public campaign related to cybersecurity.  In general, placards talk about seatbelts, smoking and infant mortality.  When there are public messages about cybersecurity, they usually relate to university courses or advertise a defense contractor’s capability.  Therefore, the human brain says. “why should I inconvenience myself to use best cybersecurity practices.  It must not be a big deal.”

 When governments and corporations tune in to the “human factor” they will reduce risks and derive a better return on investment from its well-crafted plans.  In some cases, a good consultant can assist an organization to build better plans.  Companies like Max Cybersecurity (dba Max Services), are skilled at helping companies build their personnel into the plan.  Max features former FBI and Secret Service, professionals.  The CEO of Max, Mike Echols, is a former Critical Infrastructure Protection and Cyber Director at the Department of Homeland Security.  We can assist any organization to build a better security and response return on investment.

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