Homeland Security Today’s annual Holiday Hero Awards honor those who have made lasting contributions to our nation’s security and risen to meet myriad challenges, recognizing those who have dedicated their careers to making our nation safer within the homeland security enterprise and those who have used their talents, determination, or platform to contribute to a safer country.
PERSON OF THE YEAR: STATE
Maryland Active Assailant Interdisciplinary Work Group
Ten years ago, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley created an ad hoc working group to develop a guidance document for response to active shooter incidents in the state. This led to the creation of the Active Assailant Interdisciplinary Work Group, drawing from all corners of state and local government, professional associations, and the private sector, and is co-chaired by the Maryland State Police (MSP) and the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems (MIEMSS). In 2014, the AAIWG published a guidance document that changed how law enforcement, fire, and EMS responds to such incidents.
For the last decade, Sergeant Travis Nelson (MSP) and Randy Linthicum (MIEMSS), together with the administrative support of Ms. Leesa Radja, have guided the work group in what is one of the most comprehensive and proactive security programs geared toward the general public.
After the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, then-Governor Larry Hogan issued Executive Order 01.01.2018.08 that codified the group and provided a Charter and Work Plan to implement its work objectives. The AAIWG brings a multidisciplinary approach to prevention, intervention, and response to active assailant incidents and overall public safety and emergency management planning. This collaborative effort helps to ensure the safety, security, and resiliency of Maryland’s diverse communities extending from the Eastern Shore to Western Maryland. The AAIWG emphasizes a “whole community approach” to public safety, which is defined by FEMA as “a means by which residents, emergency management practitioners, organizational and community leaders, and government officials can collectively understand and assess the needs of their respective communities and determine the best ways to organize and strengthen their assets, capabilities, and interests.”
The Charter and Work Plan are living documents that may be updated as needed to serve the overall objectives outlined in the Executive Order. Highlights of the work include:
Enhanced information-sharing and communication protocols and procedures.
Identifying, collecting, and enhancing best practices. Providing guidance on prevention, planning, training, and response to stakeholders. Consulting with stakeholders on guidance, updates, emergency plans, and procedures. The work group continues the work they started a decade ago to further the education of the public about these homeland priorities, threats, and vulnerabilities. It is a critical part of our security equation for the citizens of the State of Maryland.
PERSON OF THE YEAR: LOCAL
Department of Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management/ Department of Technology Solutions, Arlington County Government
In a nation that champions innovation and community involvement, few local public servants stand out as distinctly as Sydney McKenna, John Paras, Hawaya Abby, and Patrick Nguyen. In the vast spectrum of homeland security, where educating the public is a vital defensive measure, this cross-departmental team, representing Arlington County Emergency Management and Arlington County Technology Services, has set an unparalleled benchmark for innovative local government cyber security services. The group developed a “Continuity of Operations during Cyber Disruptions campaign to integrate both cyber security planning and contingency of operations planning – bring two critical functions together for the first time. They moved beyond traditional one-way workplace education campaigns by involving over 400 county employees across 16 departments in interactive cyber continuity of operations tabletop discussion exercises. Their approach of in-person tabletop exercises, encompassing everyone from frontline staff to the County Board, is innovative in participative learning and grounds their work in proven emergency management practices. Such face-to-face interactions foster a sense of unity, immediacy, and shared responsibility that virtual campaigns might struggle to emulate, and result in sustainable, locally-owned solutions for every County department to continue to deliver essential services during cyber attacks.
Captain Michael Leo, Special Operations Command Robotics, New York City Fire Department
Captain Michael Leo of the FDNY stands at the vanguard of robotics innovation in emergency response. With an unparalleled commitment, he has architected a comprehensive robotics program encompassing air, land, and marine platforms, earning international acclaim. Michael’s work is a linchpin in enhancing homeland security and public safety, as he adeptly deploys cutting-edge technologies tailored to specific emergencies.
In addition to his pivotal role in the FDNY, Michael serves with distinction on the FEMA NY USAR Task Force 1 and holds the esteemed position of Fire Commissioner for Islip, NY. As a trailblazer, he played an essential role in forging one of the world’s pioneering staffed robotics teams. A seasoned speaker, Michael has shared his profound expertise – spanning firefighting, hazmat, building collapses, disaster response, and homeland security – with global audiences, continuously pushing the envelope in the realm of emergency response robotics
EXCELLENCE IN OUTREACH
Much of partnership requires knowledge and understanding. Communication between industry and government to achieve the best products and services requires outreach in all stages: requirements building, request for information, effective industry days, outreach through engagement and much more. The Excellence in Outreach award recognizes the agency, department, or individual that has excelled at engaging, explaining and educating to benefit the mission of securing the nation.
Stacy Irving, Senior Advisor, Homeland Security Planning, Programs and Strategic Partnerships at the Delaware Valley Intelligence Center (DVIC), Philadelphia Police Department
Ms. Stacy Irving, Senior Advisor, Homeland Security Planning, Programs and Strategic Partnerships at the Delaware Valley Intelligence Center (DVIC) is forging working partnerships between the public and private sectors is critical to fighting terrorism and crime. When an incident with terrorist implications occurs overseas or on U.S. soil it, Stacy recognizes that it is our utmost responsibility to ensure that our private sector partners have accurate and timely information regarding that event in an effort to protect critical national infrastructure. Since 2015, Ms. Irving has served as the Senior Advisor, Homeland Security Programs and Strategic Partnerships for the Delaware Valley Intelligence Center under the institutional umbrella of the Philadelphia Police Department. She has developed a wide range of successful outreach and information-sharing initiatives that open important lines of communication between the fusion center, law enforcement and the business and faith-based communities on matters of crime and terrorism.
In addition, Stacy established the Delaware Valley Regional Roundtable, a regional forum for corporate security and federal, state and local law enforcement leaders, which has emerged as a key regional network of robust dialogue and information-sharing among these two critical partners. From the outset, Stacy’s outreach efforts have been designed to take advantage of robust public/private partnerships that emphasize and rely upon the key role communities play in addressing homeland security and crime issues at both the national and local levels.
In addition to the Roundtable, Stacy has organized an ongoing series of awareness trainings and briefings to further expand the DVIC’s regional distribution network and share critical intelligence for various business sectors that include the banking community, cultural institutions, religious organizations, contract security providers, performance venues and the hotel and hospitality sector. Stacy has served as the key point of contact between the business and non-profit community and law enforcement. She is working with the private sector on a CCTV camera sharing initiative throughout the city. As the fusion center, she supports 12 counties in addition to supporting the Philadelphia Police Department. She hosts a number of meetings for various sectors to ensure the partnerships are strong and information sharing is occurring in real-time. Ms. Irving is internationally recognized for her unique ability to forge partnerships and a mutual understanding of complex crime and terrorism matters between law enforcement and the business and residential communities. Stacy has presented at conferences throughout the United States, and in the Netherlands, Scotland, United Kingdom and Canada.
She’s also worked with the PA Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and the Faith-Based ISAO to coordinate a series of faith-based webinar with the two other fusion centers in Pennsylvania in order to reach and connect law enforcement and the faith-based communities across the commonwealth. Stacy’s work supporting the private sector utilizing the Homeland Security Information Network has been highlighted by DHS and HSIN, most recently in the July/August 2023 edition.
The DVIC also has a HSIN room for Law Enforcement. And Stacy was recently recognized by the Philadelphia Police Department for sharing information regarding a dangerous suspect wanted for crimes in two states that was shared by a hotelier, as a result of building trusted relationships between the public and private sector. As a result, Stacy’s quick response in notifying both Philadelphia Police and the private sector, an investigation was undertaken, and the suspect was apprehended without incident. The commendation read- The notification of this criminal activity to you was a result of your tireless efforts of building collaborated trusted relationship between the Philadelphia Police Department and a multitude of private sector partners throughout Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley Region.
Ms. Irving is an acknowledged Crime Prevention Leader and Partnership Strategist with a successful record of accomplishments developing tools and solutions for the private and public sectors in Philadelphia for more than forty-five years.
CITIZEN OF MISSION
The Citizen of Mission award goes to an individual who devotes their personal time, energy, and resources to work for causes related to homeland security. Volunteers, nonprofit leaders, corporate employees — anyone is eligible for nomination as long as they devote time and dedicated effort to supporting the homeland mission.
Carol Adams, MPM, CEM, MEP, CBCP, Senior Systems Analyst, Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity Coordinator, Management Information Systems, Alleghany County Sanitary Authority
Carol Adams works in critical infrastructure as her day-job, but lives it as her passion beyond her responsibilities. Our Citizen of mission is awarded to someone who devotes volunteer time and energy to keep the country safe, and Carol is a busy, busy bee doing just that. She is a Senior Systems Analyst and Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity Coordinator for Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and leverages this position to share information and work tirelessly to protect our nation’s critical infrastructure.
One of her labors of love includes volunteer leadership for ALCOSAN to work collaboratively with Federal, State, and Local Partners, with an emphasis on Critical Infrastructure and Homeland Security stratagems. Annually she is the force behind one of the most important meetings regarding critical infrastructure on the east coast: The Security & Rick Management Symposium. Carol has organized and grown the event to over 600 participants and nurtured an incredibly important touchpoint for critical infrastructure owners. She remains focused on our nation’s critical infrastructure protection through Homeland Security and Emergency Management initiatives while serving on various executive boards, work groups, and think tanks. She has spoken at numerous conferences, workshops, seminars, and forums throughout the United States. Carol has designed and participated in many federal-level exercises to evaluate the continuity of government (COG/COOP), emergency operations protocols, and organizational resilience. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Carlow College (University) and a Master of Public Management (MPM) degree from Carnegie Mellon University. Carol is a graduate of the FBI Citizens Academy (2008) and has served on numerous boards. All as a volunteer.
Carol is the 2017 recipient of the American Red Cross Lifetime Commitment to the Red Cross Award. In 2018, she received the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation Walk of Honor Award from the Pennsylvania Association of Hazardous Materials Technicians. And this year, HSToday’s Citizen of Mission. Carol has served the region for 36 years as a career professional with ALCOSAN.