When civil unrest erupts, emergency planners must look beyond the riot itself to understand how the riots culminated, who the key antagonists were, and what can be done to improve planning and response for future outbreaks of violence. In Baltimore, officials are talking in order to accomplish all three of these goals.
In any emergency or disaster incident, some tasks will be done well and others will be the basis for lessons to learn and changes to implement after the smoke clears. The Baltimore riot is one example. Law enforcement officers quickly learned that, even with multidiscipline planning and training for special events, they were not fully prepared for the unplanned events that unfolded.
From the Occupy movement to burning cars and looting pharmacies, Baltimore, Maryland, has seen its share of peaceful (and not-so-peaceful) protests. In light of recent publicized civil unrest, cities across the country continue to seek a balance between protecting First Amendment rights and protecting the communities and residents for which these rights were intended.
The Maryland National Guard was recently activated to quell the riot-induced violence in Baltimore. The National Guard's roles, responsibilities, powers, and chain of command differ significantly from other military components in that they provide military services to support overwhelmed civil authorities under the command and control of the state governor.
For underserved communities, every day is difficult. However, during a civil disturbance, these difficulties multiply especially in times of civil unrest, when volunteers may be too afraid to work. In Baltimore, the solution to fill the volunteer gap came from social media use and a mobile app used by the mayors offices.
Unlike responses to hurricanes, floods, or other natural hazards, civil disturbances are more likely to place emergency responders in harm's way as the situation rapidly and unpredictably changes. To avoid becoming a target for angry crowds with projectiles and gunfire, personnel within the area of active fighting or unrest must be able to make decisions and triage incidents without hesitation.
The recent civil unrest in Baltimore, Maryland, highlights a not-so-new divide between law enforcement and the communities they serve. CNA Corporation has spent years talking with police officers from more than 50 police agencies to find ways to build mutual trust and respect between these two groups. Its findings are now available.
A peaceful protest can quickly turn to violence, as was seen recently in Ferguson, Missouri, and in Baltimore, Maryland. One industry-leading company applied lessons learned from its previous experiences with civil unrest to ensure the safety of its personnel and promote resilience within the thousands of communities it serves.
Mass media can be allies or adversaries to emergency management agencies. The key for these agencies is to ensure that media outlets are sharing accurate public safety and incident-related information from trusted and reliable sources. This means that emergency managers must understand news media objectives and develop mutually beneficial working relationships.
On 15 April 2015, a 61-year-old mailman from Florida breached restricted airspace over the nation's capital and landed a gyrocopter on the West lawn of the U.S. Capitol building. Although this event did not involve explosives or other hazardous materials, the next incident may not be benign. Communication gaps must be closed.