Summary of the presentation to the NSF on….
This is What Keeps Me Up at Night!
Homeland Security threats from the Nevada Perspective
Caleb S. Cage
When you drift off to sleep at night do you worry about bioterrorism, nuclear attacks, earthquakes, floods or just how early you need to take the trash out tomorrow morning? Caleb S. Cage, Nevada’s Chief of Emergency Management and the Governor’s Homeland Security Advisor, loses enough sleep for all of us as he protects Nevada from catastrophic natural hazards, criminal acts, and terrorism. Caleb is a graduate of West Point, commissioned as a Field Artillery officer assigned to the 1st Infantry Division Bamberg, Germany, and a veteran who served two tours of duty in Iraq. That alone should give him plenty of sleepless nights!
Sharing his unique perspective of what really makes Nevada resilient to a diverse spectrum of potential emergencies, Cage made us think about more than just external threats. Instead, he encouraged us to reflect on what it takes for us as a community, Nevadans, and citizens, to be prepared to weather all storms. Guided by two books that share diametrically opposed and equally insightful views on terrorism, “Failures of Imagination” by Michael McCaul, and “Chasing Ghosts” by John Mueller and Mark Stewart, Caleb insightfully shared what really keeps him up at night: 1) Crises that result from system failures during emergency response; 2) Failures of imagination on the part of national and community leaders, and 3) The politicalization of emergencies and disasters that lead to additional crises. Hmmm…not exactly what we were expecting to hear. Sounds like there is more work that all of us can do together to make our communities more resilient.
Cage explained that how our leaders respond during a crisis or emergency, and by extension how we respond, sets the stage for how effective our emergency response will be, and in turn, how unified and resilient our communities really are. Using the Las Vegas mass shooting as an example, he underscored the critical role that Governor Sandoval played in quickly releasing a calm and unifying message that encouraged Nevadans and the world to stay focused on supporting each other during and after the crisis. Harkening back to his sleepless nights, Caleb then posed a question to the audience–What would have happened if the Las Vegas shooting was politically motivated….would we have still stayed calm and carried on?
In the discussion following his presentation, Caleb further elaborated on specific threats he believes could destabilize Nevada and strain our resilience. These include, 1) Complex coordinated terrorist attacks similar to the Mumbai terrorist attacks in 2011; 2) Civil unrest following emergencies that disrupts or distracts emergency management and undermines community cohesion; and 3) “The Big One” – following warnings from Dr. Graham Kent and the Nevada Seismological Laboratory that Nevada is overdue for a 7.0 or greater earthquake. (By the way, did anyone feel the swarm of tremors here over the last couple of weeks?)
Voicing confidence in Nevada’s emergency response capabilities, Caleb felt that our State is prepared to respond to a range of threats from criminal attacks similar to the Las Vegas shooting as well as natural disasters such as floods and fires. Nevada is also organized to quickly request federal support for future crises that would surpass the State’s ability to respond, including mass disruptions to communications systems and other critical infrastructure from an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack, potentially from North Korea; isolated or coordinated politically-motivated attacks; and cascading impacts and mass casualties and displacements resulting from a large earthquake.
So, what are we as Nevadans to do about threats to our State and country? Caleb encourages us to leave the sleepless nights to him and his colleagues and for all of us to be a responsible, prepared, vigilant, and informed citizenry. Good advice for all of us serving as national security warriors at home.
Caleb S. Cage, Nevada Chief, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Advisor to the Governor, and author of books and short stories about war and desert life penned in his hometown Reno, Nevada.
Caleb’s comprehensive PowerPoint presentation can be found at this link: