DHR, MEMA, the LEMs & Maryland's WST Example

“The most important responsibility of any government is to protect the lives of its citizens, and the O’Malley-Brown Administration has worked hard with the dedicated staff to fulfill that great responsibility. With strong emergency preparedness and response plans, and the partnership of the men and women of Maryland, we can help save lives and property in the event of a disaster, whether it is an unplanned event such as a tornado, or an event with some warning such as our December 2009 snow storm. Together with first responders around Maryland, State agencies, our National Guard, 26 local emergency management directors, and our partners in neighboring states, our emergency management team works hard to plan for, respond to, and recover from any catastrophic event that could threaten Maryland’s families.”

–Governor Martin O’Malley (Maryland Emergency Management Agency Annual Report)

In the State of Maryland, the Department of Human Resources, the state’s principal social services provider, is the primary agency responsible for coordinating Emergency Support Function #6 – Mass Care and Sheltering, Emergency Assistance, Housing, Feeding, and Human Services.

Prior to 2008, Maryland did not have the state shelters needed to support the mass care and sheltering of citizens from local jurisdictions, and/or surrounding states, in the event of a large-scale natural or manmade disaster. In early 2008, the Maryland Department of Human Resources (DHR), the Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA), the Maryland Department of Disabilities (MDOD), and the American Red Cross (ARC) met with local emergency managers (LEMs) and representatives of other local agencies statewide who were involved with shelter operations.

These meetings were held toentify strengths and weaknesses within the area of regional mass care and sheltering. One major weakness addressed was the lack of a statewide mass-care and shelter strategy for catastrophic events. For example, if a regional evacuation was required, hundreds to thousands of people may require emergency sheltering, which would make the use of large facilities more economical. Thanks in large part to this collaboration, Marylandentified the need to develop a Statewide Mass-Care Shelter Strategy for the delivery of mass-care sheltering during events that exceed local jurisdictions’ capabilities.

Evacuation Needs – With Special Focus on the ISW During a Notification, Evacuation, and Sheltering (NES) workshop in August 2008, one of the more important recommendationsentified was the need for local jurisdictions to support state shelters throughout the region. That recommendation was partially predicated on an example provided by the LEM in Ocean City, Maryland, where there are 5,000–7,000 seasonal employees of the International Student Workforce (ISW) – who typically do not have either transportation or family in the area. It was determined that, if a hurricane or other severe weather event was predicted that might adversely affect the area, the ISW group would be evacuated early.

That same month, the Ocean City LEM approached the state and requested assistance in developing a plan to evacuate the ISW. Local and state officials including the MEMA Regional Administrator and representatives from a number of agencies – DHR, the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT), the Ocean City Town Council, and the Ocean City Chamber of Commerce, for example – met on numerous occasions to plan for the evacuation and sheltering of ISW members, who are primarily from Eastern Europe and Russia and rely heavily on public transportation.

Maryland’s 12 December 2008 Evacuation and Relocation Plan for the Ocean City ISW was the beginning of an extensive effort toentify a long list of other facilities that could be utilized by DHR as state shelters. Among the numerous factors considered in selecting sites to be used for shelters were location, accessibility, compliance with ADA (the Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements, facility layout, back-up power, kitchen and restroom facilities, security, surrounding area, parking lot size, communications, proximity to evacuation routes and hospitals, and both ingress and egress.

After many such sites had beenentified, the negotiation of numerous Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) was a timely effort. Many local universities and colleges met the criteria that had been developed. In some cases, DHR, MDA, MEMA, and the LEM met with university officials to address issues and concerns through presentations and open question-and-answer sessions. The inclusion of LEMs was vital because most were familiar with the facilities – and some may have already been working under MOUs between the LEMs and the facilities.

Pet Projects vs. Usage Priorities vs. Signed MOUs The MOU specifics varied from one facility to another. The sheltering of pets was an important issue, for example – some facilities were receptive to theea and had areasentified for the sheltering of pets, but others were adamant about not having pets in their facilities. Both public and private facilities raised concerns about such matters as liability, control of the facility, security, the displacement and/or relocation of previously scheduled events, and the effect on students at the universities. In addition, some facilities were concerned about rental/usage fees and other costs associated with the use of utilities during shelter operations. Key players from all of the facilities represented participated in the walkthrough assessments and negotiations. Additional concerns were raised about usage “priority” – e.g., medical surge needs vs. sheltering requirements. In addition, although some facilities already had MOUs in place governing medical surge, some LEMs asked who would have priority of usage in the event that both medical surge and sheltering were needed within the same facility at the same time.

The choice of shelter sites and the operation of state shelters within local jurisdictions obviously would affect evacuation and transportation in those areas. It was quickly apparent, therefore, that the LEMs’ support and collaboration were of paramount importance inentifying and selecting the facility. The use of a collaborative effort was extremely important, therefore, particularly when developing MOUs for transfer points along evacuation routes.

An Historic Inauguration – Plus Mandatory Training The 2009 inauguration of President Barack Obama, working from initial estimates of several million people attending, served as another call to action for the team. The so-called Whistle Stop Tour (WST) prior to the inauguration came through Baltimore, the state’s largest city, which hosted a scheduled National Secret Service Event (NSSE) at the city’s War Memorial Plaza. The NSSE events required an unprecedented level of regional collaboration and extensive pre-planning and coordination with the surrounding states and jurisdictions.

For the first time, a provisional state sheltering plan was created to deal with a possible disaster or evacuation during the inaugural week. Maryland did not initiate its own planning process for the inauguration until October 2008, however. The Presidential Inauguration Committee announced the WST specifics on 10 December 2008, and MEMA hosted the kickoff meeting for the tour on 19 December 2008. As the state’s lead agency for sheltering requirements, DHR had a short time frame in which to plan and coordinate with both the public and private sectors. The first state shelters were opened to support Washington, D.C., in the event of a natural or manmade disaster.

DHR and MEMA met with LEMs in the counties bordering: (a) the District of Columbia; and (b) Baltimore City – where the local WST event would take place. The D.C. evacuation plan called for attendees at the events scheduled in D.C. to evacuate into Maryland and Virginia. Shelters were opened at the University of Maryland at College Park (UMCP) and the University of Maryland at Baltimore County (UMBC), at the Level Fire Hall for the inauguration itself, and at UMBC for the WST in the event of an incident during the weeklong inaugural activities. The MOUs needed were aggressively pursued because time was of the essence. DHR was given short notice to have its shelters operational with prepositioned resources and staff. The initial MOUs established with the universities were short-term, but there was an understanding that long-term MOUs would be established after the event.

Concerns about January’s extreme weather conditions and to help oxygen-dependent evacuees raised the need for backup generators to be installed at shelter sites as part of the preparations for a worst-case scenario. An emergency procurement was completed and both universities were pre-wired for backup power.

DHR has completed a state shelter plan that includes procedures for pets, special medical needs, feeding, and sheltering during a pandemic. Maryland currently has MOUs completed with eight public and private facilities for mass care and sheltering, plus two transfer points on the Eastern Shore. Again, all of these sites have beenentified in conjunction with the local LEMs. In addition, Maryland is currently working with surrounding states to establish MOUs for host shelters.

In an effort to fulfill its mission to protect the citizens of Maryland, DHR Secretary Brenda Donald has mandated that all of the agency’s 7,000 employees be trained in, among other skills, emergency preparedness, shelter management operations, and disaster mental health. She also has mandated that such training be part of a greater effort – to build a well trained and equipped workforce throughout the entire state to ensure that Maryland has the surge capacity needed to respond to a large-scale event.

Pamela Spring

Pamela Spring, director of the Office of Emergency Operations within the Maryland Department of Human Resources, oversees the state's emergency and disaster response operations – her office also represents the Maryland Department of Human Resources at the State Emergency Operations Center (EOC) during an activation. Spring began her career in 1987 as a social worker with the Baltimore County Department of Social Services (DSS) served for 10 years as the primary EOC representative from DSS to Baltimore County’s EOC. She has participated in numerous activations – including the Presidents’ Day snowstorm, Hurricanes Floyd and Isabel, and the 2009 Presidential Whistle Stop Tour/Inauguration – and a large number of training exercises. She also has served on the Maryland H1N1 Leadership Task Force, and continues to serve on various high-level committees in Maryland and the National Capitol Region.

Rainier C. Harvey, Sr.

Rainier C. Harvey Sr. is chief of the Division of Administrative Operations for the Maryland Department of Human Resources. Prior to assuming that position he served as executive assistant for the Baltimore City Department of Social Services Bureau of Human Resources and Facilities Management. He graduated from Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia, then served as a Law Enforcement Officer for the Baltimore County Police Department. After retiring, he joined the Maryland Department of Juvenile Justice as a shift commander, supervisor of group living, and superintendent. A certified Bio-Hazard Recovery Technician, Harvey also is certified in Homeland Security Level III and holds memberships in the American Bio-Recovery Association, the American College of Forensic Examiners, and the Fraternal Order of Police.



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