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Communications, especially in the security sector is fundamental for efficiency improvement and effectiveness of operations. The Homeland Security relies on communications for its rescue and protection abilities. As an example, Hurricane Katrina represented the communications crisis at Homeland Security. An investigation of disaster background readiness and response reveals failures in communications technologies. They have facilitated the crisis and prevented quick rescue. During the Katrina crisis, hundreds of responders from New Orleans tried to communicate on only two-way radios, which were on a backup system. The first responder would basically have to wait for the communications traffic to open up in order to transmit or receive critical information. The day after the Hurricane Katrina, more than two million telephone calls could not go through. In addition to other damages associated with communications and technology during the Katrina, local wireless networks maintained significant damage with over two thousand cells out of service. These are just several examples of the information technology and communications related problems that Homeland Security has faced. In addition to the above, the organization faces issues related to information leakage through communication interceptions and system intruders (hackers).
Information systems should help an organization such as Homeland Security to internally organize its operations, in order to response to security issues effectively, and facilitate recovery. While it is clear the above communications problems arose as a result of water and mismanagement, technology and information systems may also have negative impact on the organization’s communication. Information technology and systems have made it easy for people to steal or access information illegally. Homeland security is mandated to store and access personal information, which may be helpful in countering crimes and protecting lives. When technology makes it easy for other people to access such information, it makes it difficult for Homeland Security to ensure the individual or country’s safety. Because technology makes it easy for people to access information at Homeland security, it is also easy for the intruders to intercept telephone calls, block communication or make communication dysfunctional. As noted before, a mishap in the communications network poses critical dangers, especially in emergency situations.
Some of the major threats that concern Homeland Security include terrorist threats, chemical attacks and biohazard attacks. Other less likely risks include nuclear, radiological and the use of airplanes as bombs. In response to this, homeland security obtained technological equipments and implemented information systems that would help counter these concerns. These devices include surveillance devices, identification controls, access control devices and information technology devices, HAZMAT suits and apparatuses. In cases of terrorism, technology and information systems have made it easy for terrorist groups to obtain private information from Homeland Security, which weakens the organization’s ability to prevent terrorist actions. Most terrorist groups also have advanced systems and technologies, which help them transmit information easily, effectively and quickly.
In order to counter these negative influences of technology, Homeland Security needs to develop and implement privatized systems and technologies, tailored to its specific security needs. The organization should guard against copyrights to these systems and ensure that people with access to their systems are only those authorized. To maintain such systems, the organization needs to change and manage the systems regularly, and perform frequent system checks. Despite all these, the organization must deal with mismanagement of technological equipments, systems and software, in order to prevent recurrence of problems associated with its technology.
Information technology and systems have diverse positive influences on the general operations of organizations, especially through the enhancement of communication and ease of operations. Despite these, there are a few other negative influences. Homeland security face several communications problems, some are unrelated to information technology while a few such as communication mishap are products of the advancement in IT and systems.