My Day Job in 2020

If you wondered what I do when not blogging.

I've been privileged to work for the Pacific Northwest Economic Region (PNWER) since 2013, almost eight years. PNWER is a statutory nonprofit which makes it a government associated nonprofit. The jurisdictions that make up PNWER are five states and five Canadian provinces and territories. An element of PNWER is the Center for Regional Disaster Resilience that I lead as the director. The center and the name has existed since 2001, so the organization was not a late comer to the world of disaster resilience. 

A "roundup" of CRDR activities was prepared for the end of 2020. I thought I'd share that with you here. Excuse any formatting issues. I do think you might find some of the topics and recorded webinars of interest. For emergency management professionals, I don't think we have had enough exposure to the issue of cybersecurity and there are some good resources provided below. 

So, when I'm not blogging these are the types of things the team (it is not just me) are working on. 


CRDR 2020 Roundup


As anyone will tell you, 2020 was an unprecedented year in so many ways. The February-March arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States set the tone for the rest of this year, and it will continue into 2021. The Center for Regional Disaster Resilience (CRDR), like many other organizations, had to do things a little differently this year, but was uniquely positioned to help our region begin responding to and addressing the issues of this ongoing pandemic. January started out “normal” with our annual networking reception for emergency managers and business continuity professionals. This reception was a great place for those new to the Seattle region to meet their peers and for others to renew their relationships at the start of the year. Unfortunately, this was the last “in-person” event we hosted in 2020. The CRDR/PNWER staff transitioned to working from home in mid-March.


COVID-19 Recovery Calls

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, PNWER assembled calls of elected officials and economic development leaders across the Pacific Northwest, providing them opportunities to discuss best practices and lessons learned during the crisis. Experts from the U.S. and Canada discussed new and emerging issues, and ways our region can recover from the pandemic’s far-reaching consequences. 

The Rapid COVID Testing in the U.S. and Canada call included a presentation by experts about what rapid COVID testing is, limitations on this technology, and how it might be deployed in airports to ensure safer travel. The Contact Tracing and Exposure Notification Apps call highlighted Alberta’s ABTraceTogether app, Virginia’s COVIDWISE app, and Canada’s federal exposure notification app COVID Alert, discussing the technology, privacy concerns, issues around uptake and ways this technology could help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Some of these calls focus on tools for recovery, including Economic Recovery Dashboards in Washington State, examining how the Washington Department of Commerce plans to utilize this new tool for equitable economic recovery. The Broadband Access as a Tool for Economic Recovery call discussed Canada’s federal broadband initiatives, and examined the positive economic and educational impacts of broadband expansion on rural communities in Idaho and Alaska.


COVID-19 Resources Page


Finding reliable information in the COVID era has been overwhelming. Hoping to cut through the noise and give people easy access to difficult-to-find resources, CRDR began compiling a COVID-19 Resources page in mid-March. This evolving catalogue includes general resources for the pandemic, specific information on the U.S.-Canada border closure, essential workforce, public health, and economic impact. This page allowed CRDR to share binational best practices and regulations to maintain the resilience of the region.


Cybersecurity in Washington State

Cybersecurity remains a high priority - even more so as people and organizations switched to working from home. All of our planned cybersecurity events ended up going virtual. We hosted two different cybersecurity workshop series with funding from Washington and Idaho.

Our April 2020 King County Region 6 Critical Infrastructure Working Group Cybersecurity Workshop was converted into a three webinar series, coordinated by Nate Weigel:


The Ever-Changing Role of the CISO & Future of Cybersecurity

Leadership during a crisis is crucial. The Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) is an essential and dynamic position that guides organizations towards safe IT operations in today’s digital workplaces. This webinar hosted a panel of expert CISOs from the public and private sector to discuss the changing role of the position and the future of these organizations in the virtual world.

Speakers explored the impact of COVID-19 on how organizations are assessing cyber risk, security, and workforce challenges, and the impact this has on the role of a CISO. They discussed ways to create more resilient organizations with better cyber hygiene in part through clear communication from leadership.


Watch Recording

Cyber Threats & Trends: Impacts to the Connected Worker

Today’s workforce is more connected than ever before. The onset of COVID-19 has brought about new challenges and vulnerabilities. There has been a massive shift in the workforce to employees working from home.

This webinar explored the latest threats and trends that cybersecurity professionals, policymakers, business owners, emergency managers, first responders, critical infrastructure operators, and all public and private sector stakeholders should be aware of. Experts discussed how employers can safeguard connected devices and protect employees. They explored the future of cybersecurity, latest threats, updates, resources, and cyber best practices.


Watch Recording



Cybersecurity: Privacy & Risk

Ginger Armbruster, Chief Privacy Officer for the City of Seattle, and Katy Ruckle, Chief Privacy Officer for the State of Washington, explored the nexus of cybersecurity, privacy, and managing risks in today's connected world during this dynamic webinar. Safeguarding privacy and protecting our sensitive data in the digital world is something that has garnered much attention in recent years and will continue to be an important issue in the future.

Moderated by Eric Holdeman, this session discussed best practices and resources to understanding, assessing, and managing risks.

Watch Recording


Idaho Cybersecurity

PNWER via the CRDR has partnered with Idaho’s Office of Emergency Management for the past six years to develop their public-private sector coordination on cybersecurity through an annual statewide cyber summit. The annual Idaho cybersecurity summit that has attracted over 300 in-person attendees transitioned to a virtual webinar series that covered the topics below:


Tools, Resources, & Best Practices for Small & Medium Sized Organizations

Strong cyber practices are necessary for today's businesses, but finding the right tools can be challenging for organizations. This webinar explored how organizations can address cyber threats and weaknesses through readily-available and existing low-cost resources, toolkits, and training programs. Speakers discussed the challenges and solutions for small to medium sized organizations to prepare for and respond to the challenges of working from home.

Moderated by Brandon Hardenbrook, speakers included Jon Hanian, Public-Private Partnerships Program Manager, Idaho Office of Emergency Management; Barrett Adams-Simmons, Regional Sector Outreach Coordinator, Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA); Brennan Bouchard, Security Architect, Cisco; Yvonne Vega, Security Account Manager, Cisco.

Watch Recording

Cybersecurity Pandemic Planning for Small & Medium Sized Organizations

Small and medium sized organizations - including businesses, state agencies, county and city governments, local districts, educational and healthcare institutions - all need guidance and suggestions for cybersecurity planning during the time of COVID-19 and the shift to working from home.

During this webinar, speakers suggested templates, tools, and best practices for cyber continuity and cyber pandemic planning as employees continue working at home. Speakers included Jeff Weak, Administrator, Idaho Information Technology Services; Keith Tresh, CISO, Idaho Information Technology Services, Lance Wyatt, Deputy CISO, Idaho Information Technology Services and Matt Aslett, Chief of Compliance, Idaho Information Technology Services.

Watch Recording



Vulnerabilities When Working From Home

The shift to working from home has created numerous cyber vulnerabilities and Human Resources challenges. Speakers Sarah Griffin, VP, Human Resources, Idaho Power; Susan Buxton, Administrator, Idaho Division of Human Resources; and Greg Zickau, Deputy Administrator/Chief Information Officer, Idaho Office of Information Technology explored the dynamic challenges of working from the home office. With employees when sharing networks and devices with family and/or roommates for work, education, and entertainment, this creates unique security challenges for companies to work through. The human element of our changing work realities was another major topic, especially roller coaster productivity, mental health, and stress of learning everything at once, combined with the psychology of working remotely and not physically with peers. This webinar also explored the successes and challenges of serving public expectations of performance in a different reality.

Watch the Webinar

Upcoming Projects for 2021

Moving into 2021, we are facilitating a Region 6 Critical Infrastructure Workgroup project that is just getting started, and looking forward to additional cybersecurity workshops in Idaho and Washington. 

The interdependencies between critical infrastructures is something that we continue to focus on as a high priority for regional planning. One of these critical sectors that we will focus on in 2021 is the supply of liquid fuels of all types, gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, etc. King County and PNWER/CRDR are leading a planning effort to look at regional resilience planning as it relates to the availability and allocation of these fuels after a major disaster. Disruptions to the few pipelines supplying Western Washington, extending down to and including the Portland metro area could have devastating cascading impacts across the region. Understanding our risks is the first step in planning. We will also explore what the priority uses of a limited fuel supply will be after a major event. Everyone and every function can’t be a priority one. 

Continuing our cybersecurity theme, the Critical Infrastructure working group determined that more effort was needed to reach out to elected officials to educate them on the ever-present threats from nefarious actors, both foreign and domestic. We anticipate that we will be able to offer an in-person workshop by the fall of 2021 on this topic. Another element of this body of work will be looking at the security of elections here in the urban area of Puget Sound. Likewise, we plan to continue to build on our six year workshop series with the state of Idaho to develop a 2021 Idaho Cyber Resilience Summit in Boise. This annual event attracts over 300 participants and includes the Governor and many of his cabinet members. We are hopeful that we will be back to hosting an in person meeting for this event in 2021.  

Another planning project that will start in early 2021 is the Maritime Disaster Resilience Planning project that an eight county, Central Puget Sound team has received funding via a FEMA Regional Catastrophic Preparedness Grant (RCPG). Washington is a maritime state and following a major earthquake, we can expect roads and bridges to be impacted for weeks and likely even months if the damages are severe. This project will look at how the maritime sector in Puget Sound can be used to move people, goods, and supplies in the immediate disaster response, and also during the reconstruction and recovery period. 



In Conclusion...

It is important to note that the coronavirus pandemic is continuing. While some vaccines have recently been approved for emergency use, with more versions to follow, it will be many more months before we can resume normal activities as individuals, families and organizations. Here at the CRDR, we encourage everyone to wear a mask, social distance, wash your hands, and follow the instructions of local public health authorities.

When it does become available, we suggest everyone get vaccinated to protect yourself and others in the community. 


Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.