Natural disasters and other emergencies always present challenges for local governments as they must continue to operate and provide needed services to their constituents during these difficult times. This panel, titled “When Disaster Strikes…” discussed the need for continuity of operations plans, challenges and obstacles that may occur, and legal and liability issues to be considered.
Teresa Chapman, Emergency Management Planner, Anne Arundel County, spoke of the importance of elected officials building relationships with emergency management staff, state partners such as the police, health, highway, social service personnel, and other private partners such as the Red Cross. She also spoke of the importance of investing in mitigation and preparedness now to be ready when a disaster occurs.
Douglas Devenyns, the Director of the Talbot County Department of Corrections, spoke of the necessity to plan and prepare to ensure correctional facilities can continue to securely house inmates and provide needed services. This may involved developing memoranda of understanding with other facilities and support agencies meet these needs. In some cases, it could mean housing inmates elsewhere.
The last speaker, Robert McCord, County Attorney for Harford County, shared some of the lessons learned through his experiences of volunteering in an Emergency Operations Center. These included the liability issues associated with the use of county volunteers responding to phone calls and the need to do payroll when emergency situations take precedent.
Senator Richard Colburn moderated this session.