County plans for hur­ri­cane re­sponse

Record Observer - - News -

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.

CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO

A dis­as­ter plan­ning ex­er­cise was held May 7. From left are: Barry Cloth­iers of Md. Trans­porta­tion Author­ity, Sher­iff Gary Hoff­man and Lt. Dwayne Em­bert.

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