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Spotlight on Walden // Aug 28, 2014

Getting Businesses Past Disaster: Another Facet of Homeland Security

When people think about homeland security, the first thing that usually comes to mind is an airport security line. But there’s another aspect to homeland security: helping businesses prepare for and survive natural and manmade threats.

Homeland security business continuity professionals focus on helping organizations address the effects of external disasters—emergency situations that occur outside of the business—such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Hurricane Katrina, and destructive tornadoes in Oklahoma. They also plan for internal threats, such as computer system hackers attempting to obtain personal information. After a natural or manmade disaster strikes, homeland security business planners help companies get back to business.

Their work is essential. Just look at what happened when Superstorm Sandy caused extensive damage along the East Coast of the U.S. in October 2012. Months later, many businesses were still closed, adding to the financial instability of those devastated communities. This economic aftermath is typical, as only about 20 percent of businesses survive and recover following a disaster. Internationally, the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan created massive economic destruction, with 138,000 buildings destroyed and $360 billion in economic losses, according to The Brookings Institution.

To help people become skilled in this type of business continuity planning, Walden University has created a new Homeland Security specialization for its Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) program. Dr. James Savard, a faculty member in Walden University’s School of Management, explains, “Our DBA specialization focuses on the disruptive impact of disasters on businesses and how to formulate and execute effective solutions to minimize this impact, both before a disaster and in the aftermath. We’ve looked at business planning in emergency situations from both manmade issues and natural disasters, and adapted it to a homeland security environment.”

Dr. Savard knows that effective business continuity planning can help companies end up among the 20 percent that survive a disaster. A former Navy and commercial airline pilot, he would focus on the five Ps—“proper preparation prevents poor performance”—before takeoff to guide his response if anything went wrong in the air. The same approach should apply to homeland security measures for businesses, he says.

“You have to think about the ‘what ifs.’ Individual businesses are responsible for planning for a natural disaster or terrorist attack because 85 percent of our national infrastructure—hospitals, shopping centers, transportation, and technology—is privately owned,” says Dr. Savard.

Coursework in the DBA Homeland Security specialization will help students prepare for this responsibility by having them consider the impact of homeland security policies on business continuity and design a business plan for either their own company or a fictitious one. They’ll also examine and analyze the business infrastructure and vulnerability of border security, oil refineries, nuclear power plants, aviation facilities, and other environments where homeland security business continuity experts can contribute as consultants or executives.

Potential career paths in homeland security exist with public and private entities that provide services in the air, on land, or at sea. The need for business continuity planning with a homeland security emphasis also extends beyond U.S. borders, made evident by events such as the deadly earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the 2004 train bombings in Madrid, and the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

As Dr. Savard explains, “Terrorism and natural disasters are global issues. The difference is in the definition of homeland.”

Walden University offers a portfolio of online degree program options to support a variety of homeland security career paths. For more information, visit