Homeland Security



What the Department of Homeland Security do and what the term means

To begin the term “Homeland Security" is not used in any other English-speaking country except the U.S. It refers officially to the United States Department of Homeland Security and unofficially to the set of efforts to protect, secure and prepare America against internal and external threats. The DHS was put together during the Bush administration in 2002. The term applies also to the joint efforts of the American people to protect and secure themselves and their homeland.

The DHS was created to help prepare and disclose emergency information to secure America against internal and external threats.

Briefly, an external threat may be a nuclear menace from another group or country, chemical and biological hazards and even pandemic level diseases like the very recent influenza. Among the internal threats there are all kinds of natural disasters, weather cataclysmic events, uncontrolled fires, earthquakes that may not pose a national level risk, but do present local devastation.

External Threats

Nuclear menace

A nuclear threat is something the USA is very concerned about because in these days any relatively small group may acquire a small nuclear device and produce a nuclear devastation in American's homeland. Since the days of the cold war a nuclear menace is something of major interest for the United States government (and of main interest for the Department), only that now small terrorist groups occupies the places of former armed countries and therefor the severity of the emergency. Perhaps the fear to a nuclear war is no longer sustained, because the world seems to be “growing” in some respect, but now terrorist groups fires the alarms of the states.

Chemical Hazard

A chemical hazard is by definition an external menace (provided it is generated by a foreign group or country), it is the release of substances potentially dangerous for humans and / or the environment in the short or long term. A chemical hazard may be produced as a terrorist act or war act, but also could be an unfortunate incident, both are the competency of Homeland Security.
Chemical accidents occur more often in industrial facilities where toxic materials are kept.

Biological Hazard

A biological hazard also know as “biohazard” is any substance that it is an organism or derived from an organism that actually posses a threat to the human life or to other forms of life. This hazardous substance is spilled in the environment and from there it affects life, causing horrific deaths most of the times by disease.
There are 4 levels of Biological Hazard.

  1. In this level the precautions for the biohazard are minimum. This are like daily viruses.

  2. The diseases derived from the biological hazard are mild and easily containable.

  3. Viruses causing severe diseases including death. Vaccines are available.

  4. Bacteria or viruses producing severe and fatal disease for which there is no vaccine or antidote.

Pandemic Level Diseases

Pandemic diseases (like Influenza H1N1) are not from outside terrorist groups or countries, but mainly because of infectious diseases that spreads among large regions of human occupied territory. The Dept of Homeland Security takes care of this kind of emergencies very carefully. Often, the best source to counterattack pandemic diseases is accurate emergency information.
The recent influenza H1N1 has been one the latest pandemic level diseases. Pandemic threats are almost always naturally generated, Influenza H1N1 was controlled effectively.
Some of the most spread pandemic diseases across history:

Homeland Defense connotes the military facet, but Homeland Security also carries a “civilian” meaning. It means the efforts made by the American population to assert the safety of the homeland.

The concept of, at least in the United States, combines the efforts of several agencies that, back in 2002, were reconditioned by the George W. Bush administration to conform a more centralized dependency. Those agencies forming the Department are, among others:

  • United States National Guard

  • United States Secret Service

  • United States Coast Guard

  • Federal Emergency Management Agency

  • Secret Service

But this agencies are not the whole Department, a lot of the work is done in another dependencies such as the CIA and FBI.

According to the White House's web page on Homeland Security, the president of the United States is “committed to securing the homeland against 21st century threats...” and that, according to the document includes mainly terrorist attacks, all kind of emergencies and investing in “strong” responses where they are needed. What the document does not clearly state is what is a “threat” and who defines it.


Hernan Moreno
Consultant on the field of home security.

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