Disaster Zone

2016 Predictions for Emergency Management

It's risky to make predictions, but here are mine for 2016.

by Eric Holdeman / December 30, 2015

If I was really good at accurate predictions, I'd play the stock market. Without a super-human power, I'll make my best guesses at what will happen in the next 12 months, also called 2016.

Natural Disasters -- If December of 2015 is a prognosticator, we can expect that El Nino will continue to rain down heat, flooding and tornadoes on the Central and Southern United States. We have seen a springlike breakout of storms already in a time of year where snow and ice should dominate the news. With these warm, moist conditions persisting in the new year, it will be a long six months until El Nino's impacts start to dwindle. We must remember that the major impacts of an El Nino are normally not seen until after the new year.

California already had one major wildfire in December. Their fire season is now 12 months long. And, winter storms could wreck havoc on the coast of California and bring mudslides to the hillsides of the state.

We have had two record years for wildland fires in the West. There is nothing to say that the streak of hot dry weather will change anything.

Climate -- 2015 was the hottest year on record around the world. With that trend continuing, we can expect to see heat outbreaks in various parts of the world that cause many thousands of deaths. The urbanized parts of earth are not immune. You only need to look at previous heat waves in Chicago, Paris and Russia. It is an eventuality that every part of the Southern and Northern hemispheres need to be prepared to cope with.

Terrorism -- Soft targets abound, and recent successes in garnering worldwide attention to these types of attacks will likely generate more of them. Wherever there are people and less security present, you can expect these types of locations that have crowds of people present to be inviting targets. Shopping malls and sporting events that don't have metal detectors or screening procedures in place will be possible targets. The one question I have is if terrorists will recognize that it is not only the big cities of the world that are inviting targets.  

Technology -- The onward march and pace of technology will pick up even more. More systems will be fielded and they will require connectivity. We are a year away from FirstNet having identified a contractor(s) to build out the dedicated digital wireless first responder network, but it can't come too soon. Bandwidth for all the new tools is desperately needed and will only become more accentuated as more technology is piled on people and vehicles.  

People and agencies will need to make their best guesses on which technology to adopt. You can't wait for the "proven system" since the technology is changing too fast. You will need to jump in when the tool or application looks right for your organization; recognizing, that it won't last for 10, 15 or even five years before it needs to be replaced.

Cybersecurity -- It is not going away. With more technology and connectivity comes more risk to penetration by those who would exploit our weaknesses. There is plenty of evidence to show that the capability to disrupt our critical infrastructure already exists. The only question is if 2016 will be the year that someone flips the switch to act on their capability to disrupt our systems.

Politics -- For 2016 politics will be both a spectator and participant sport. As citizens we'll participate by expressing our own individual choices by voting. As public administrators, for those in government, the national race for president will be the one to watch, especially in the first six months of the year. Homeland security is finally part of the presidential debates and the choices between the type of leadership you want for the United States could not be more dramatic. Depending on the Republican nominee, the final months following the national political conventions might be one for the record books.