Local Emergency Response Takes the Lead at MACo Conference

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At the MACo Winter Conference 2013, a panel of experts discuss the practices, partnerships, and innovations that allow local governments to get the most from state, federal, and private sector players in times of trouble.  Local government is the front line of defense when a disaster strikes, as was recently demonstrated in Hurricane Sandy that battered New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.  This panel focused on best practices that local governments may use to better serve their citizens in times of need.

As described by Roger Berliner, Councilmember, Montgomery County Council, the role of a local elected official in an emergency includes developing vision for better infrastructure, especially the power grid.  Councilmember Berliner described his aims for the future of power generation and distribution to be more decentralized, sustainable, and resilient.

Teresa Owens, Director, Worcester County Emergency Services provided the perspective that local emergency management needs to improve public education for improved preparedness, including awareness regarding disaster expenses that fall outside of typical insurance policies, and beyond the reach of federal aid.  Director Owens told the story of families affected by a flooding event in Berlin, Maryland caused by a sudden isolated downpour to illustrate this need.

The private sector sees challenges of emergency management from a different perspective.  Thomas Ryan, Partner, Davies Consulting, shared hurdles in coordination between the private utilities and the public sector in the northeast, including language barriers between the ways that private and public sector responders talk about emergency resources. Mr. Ryan highlighted the need to incorporate private sector responders, such as linemen, into the description of “first responders,” and other changes that reinforce the shared mission of all involved in the emergency response and recovery.

Michael Greenberger, Founder and Director, University of Maryland Center for Health and Homeland Security reflected on developments in the emergency management apparatus since 9/11, including a strengthening of the relationships between local, state, and federal responders and the private sector.  Professor Greenberger highlighted achievements in Maryland such as memoranda of understanding between the Maryland Emergency Management Agency and private suppliers of emergency resources.  Mr. Greenberger also pointed out the need for increased integration between health and emergency management response structures to prepare for public health emergencies.

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