County plans for hurricane response
STEVENSVILLE — Emergency personnel and county staff in Queen Anne’s County participated in a tabletop exercise May 7 to hone planning and communication during disaster.
“I feel as though anytime the department as a whole can plan, train, and prepare for real emergency situations, it becomes easier in those crucial times when every day emergencies or catastrophic weather events occur. The citizens place their trust within Emergency Services in their time of need. We have to be 100 percent proficient in every call, response, mitigation, planning, and action we perform,” said Assistant Chief Scott H. Wheatley, of Queen Anne’s Emergency Ser vices.
Tabletop exercise allows responders to think through a paper scenario of either a man-made or natural disaster and allows participant to adapt their responses to a dynamic situation. This allows various agencies to practice working together and coordinating their respective emergency operations plans to find and correct flaws before an actual emergency happens.
Saturday’s emergency preparedness scenario was all too familiar — What if a Category 1 Hurricane tracks north into the Chesapeake Bay.
“This was an excellent opportunity for county departments and first responders to exercise their plans and prepare for the worst case scenario in a controlled environment,” said Scott A. Haas, director of Emergency Services. “We typically have exercises to test our ability to actually achieve what we have committed to on paper; to fix any problems that develop prior to an incident; to test responders’ ability to respond to an incident; and to demonstrate preparedness by testing and evaluating responders. I believe our Emergency Management Division did an excellent job at meeting this criteria and everyone walked away learning something new to make us stronger when disaster strikes.”
One facet of the disaster simulation is planning in advance how best to notify all county citizens.
“The exercise provides an excellent opportunity to ‘think through’ the best ways to communicate information with the public without the real-life situation pressures,” said Dr. Faith Elliott Rossing, director of Community Affairs, who attended the tabletop exercise along with Beth Malasky, who serves as emergency services public information officer.
“The department of Community Affairs strives to keep our citizens informed with information from our county government,” said Malasky. “This exercise was a chance for us to practice those efforts and find gaps in our plans to make sure when the next emergency happens we are able to reach the citizens with all the latest information from the emergency operations center.”
Rossing added, “Our recent Internet Service Survey has also helped provided insight into how to share information with the public. There is still an opportunity to help Queen nne’s County help you – take the survey at http://goo.gl/ forms/4mHkCCsSoc or call 410-758-4418 for a paper copy to be sent to you.”
The county departments that participated in the tabletop exercise are: Emergency Services, Public Works, Animal Control, Community Services and Community Affairs. Commissioners Robert Buckey and Stephen Wilson also attended.
Other agencies that participated are the: Queen Anne’s County Board of Education, Maryland Transportation Authority, State Highways Association, Md. Emergency Mangement Agency, Queen Anne’s County Sheriff’s Office, Social Services, Health Department and Queen Anne’s Emergency Center.
A disaster planning exercise was held May 7. From left are: Barry Clothiers of Md. Transportation Authority, Sheriff Gary Hoffman and Lt. Dwayne Embert.