Our next set of homeland security goals focus on the need to always be prepared and have the ability to handle any type of security challenge.
As part of the planning process, every region of Maryland should have the equipment, personnel, supplies, and plans for no-notice and advance-notice evacuation of its population, including special needs populations, those reliant on public transportation, and residents of hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living centers. And every region should have plans to shelter these evacuees.
Today we have agreements with eight sites to act as mass care, state run shelters in an emergency. We have plans to evacuate vulnerable populations. At MEMA, we reestablished the planning division, and made every local jurisdiction’s plan available. We now have an updated continuity of operations plan for every state agency. In addition, we completely rewrote our State’s core emergency operations plan and our hurricane plan, and developed checklists for key events like hurricanes.
But we know that plans don’t matter unless you train and exercise those plans regularly.
We set the goal for every region in Maryland to have a fully funded program of annual training and preparedness exercises, which address the most likely hazards and threats for that area. This includes drills with partner jurisdictions who may provide mutual aid at least twice a year, refresher training courses on specialized and personal protective equipment and exercise in core competency areas such as the use of interoperable communications equipment.
To accomplish those goals, we developed a statewide multi-year exercise and training program. Last year alone, our State Emergency Management Agency, MEMA, provided more than 60 homeland security exercises for local jurisdictions. But we know we can do more and working together, we are now developing a common GIS-powered smart map that integrates useful information from local jurisdictions around our state and that is open to everyone.
Every region in Maryland should have an inventory of critical facilities, including privately owned facilities, and an up to date assessment of their backup power capabilities. Our most critical facilities should have permanent backup generators or be prewired for power from mobile units, and a stockpile of publicly owned generators should be available and an inventory of privately-owned generators should be maintained. Every region should have a backup 911 system, whether it is an alternate facility or the means to roll calls over to a neighboring jurisdiction.
We’re making progress. We now require–and enforce–that all nursing homes have backup-power generation and every new school construction be equipped with back up power. We’ve ensured that facilities like emergency operations centers have access to mobile backup power generators or are pre-wired to accept power from mobile generators. And we will continue to work to ensure that all of our critical facilities have a backup plan when they need it most.
Protecting Public Health
The last two goals focus on our public health and ability to prevent, monitor and accommodate large groups of people during health related emergencies.
Every region in Maryland should have access to a real-time, 24/7 statewide biosurveillance system that incorporates a wide span of data. Prior to September 11, we had a lot of information, but we didn’t know how to leverage it. At the time, our best line of defense was that a doctor might notice something out of the ordinary.
Today, we’re one of the first states to connect all of our acute care hospitals to a single, electronic biosurveillance system, named ESSENCE. Every day, ESSENCE collects the symptoms of patients reporting to Emergency Rooms and to paramedics, prescription drugs and the sale of over-the-counter medicines like cough syrup.
Every region in Maryland should have the equipment, supplies, and training to respond to a mass casualty event.
Today, we’ve built an integrated health and medical dashboard that automates what used to be separate critical systems and puts them into one place.
And we’re equipping ambulances in our metro areas with handheld patient tracking devices. These enable a paramedic to take a photograph of a patient, record vital statistics like blood pressure and pulse, document injuries, and send all of this information directly to our hospitals and EMS departments.
In addition, we created a Disaster Medical Assistance Team prepared to deploy mobile hospital services in the event of an emergency.