All Disasters Are Local: Rethinking Resilience at #MACoCon

A panel of experts offered best practices for aligning key roles and responsibilities when disasters strike and new ideas and policies to help counties streamline community resources in times of crisis.

Emergency management is a year-round process, a constant loop of preparation, training, testing, and revision that strengthens community preparedness and resilience. A strong partnership among federal, state, and local agencies is vital to emergency preparedness and response.

While a disaster always begins and ends at the local level, a strong partnership among federal, state, and local governments is vital to emergency preparedness and community resilience. And while many communities look to federal assistance after an emergency incident or disaster, the reality is that federal disaster assistance depends upon several factors – counties must be prepared to recover and rebuild with or without federal aid.

At this year’s MACo Summer Conference, MACo’s Emergency Managers Affiliate hosted a session on the ins and outs of disaster relief programs, best practices for aligning key roles and responsibilities when disasters strike, and new ideas and policies to help counties streamline community resources in times of crisis.

Senator Sarah Elfreth led the conversation and moderated an informative Q&A at the “All Disasters Are Local: Rethinking Resilience” session.

Panel speakers included:

  • Preeti Emrick, Director of Emergency Management, Anne Arundel County
  • Michael Hinson, Director, Office of Emergency Management, Howard County
  • Jack Markey, Director of Emergency Management, Frederick County
  • Anna Sierra, Chief Development Officer, Maryland Department of Emergency Management (MDEM)

Anna Sierra explained how MDEM leverages relationships with counties and FEMA to prepare for, respond to, and mitigate disasters. Sierra also talked about the importance of investing in emergency management and engaging emergency managers in discussions about planning, resilience, et cetera. Sierra also told attendees about the Maryland Revolving Loan Fund and other tools at MDEM’s disposal.

Director Hinson described how Howard County converted private donations to community assistance in the wake of two catastrophic floods in Ellicott City. Hinson also explained the ins and outs of federal disaster declarations and why counties need additional tools — even when federal aid is available.

Director Emrick described what happens when the federal government does not declare a disaster, as was the case for Anne Arundel County in the wake of a devastating tropical storm and tornado last year.

Emrick explained how Anne Arundel County had to think outside the box to streamline assistance to residents and businesses. Additionally, Emrick stressed the importance of planning as counties undertake hazard mitigation projects, reducing the risks they face from disasters and natural hazards.

Director Markey talked about timing gaps in the wake of disasters, communicating with constituents, and setting expectations. Markey also discussed the importance of developing new State tools and partnerships for counties to call on before, during, and after disasters. In addition, Markey stressed why Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) funding is critical for bolstering capability- and capacity-building.

The session was on August 19, 2022, at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, Maryland.

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

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