The Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) staff, federal, local, non-profit and private-sector emergency managers and representatives from state agencies that staff the State Emergency Operations Center during emergencies convened for a day-long seminar last week to begin preparations for the upcoming hurricane season. The event included sessions on economic recovery, hurricane preparedness efforts by businesses and management of donations and volunteers following a devastating storm.
Hurricane season officially begins on June 1, although the first named tropical system – Ana – developed off the Carolinas and brought heavy rains on shore earlier this month.
“While the last two hurricane seasons have been relatively quiet, we all remember the devastation from Hurricane Sandy in 2012, especially in the New York City area and on Maryland’s lower eastern shore,” said MEMA Executive Director Clay Stamp. “It’s important for us to always be prepared because even in a quiet hurricane season, just one hurricane making landfall in our area can be devastating.”
MEMA Director of Preparedness Brendan McCluskey told Homeland Security Today that “MEMA wants to be sure Maryland residents and visitors don’t become complacent when it comes to hurricanes.”
He noted that although, “The years 2013 and 2014 didn’t have much impact, it was only 2012 when the state saw both the Derecho and Hurricane Sandy.”
Consequently, McCluskey said, “MEMA has been actively promoting preparedness with the people in Maryland, especially through social media, use of partnerships such as with Clear Channel Outdoor’s digital billboards and direct interaction at public events. MEMA works with local jurisdictions and emergency managers on mitigation projects — to both reduce the impact on homes and other buildings, and by protecting critical assets such as hospitals and emergency operations centers.”
“MEMA and partner agencies work together on a regular basis to ensure the state has an efficient response to all hazards that could impact Maryland,” McCluskey said. “Residents can practice preparedness by building an emergency kit and visiting our website to check if they reside in a flood prone area.”
Among attendees at the preparedness seminar is Chris Strong of the National Weather Service Baltimore/Washington Field Office, who provided an update on awareness products, such as alert systems and briefing packages. MEMA staff followed this by discussing new geographic information systems (GIS) tools for hurricane damage assessment following a storm.
Strong told Homeland Security Today that, “hurricane preparedness meetings are a vital part of getting the community ready for tropical storms and hurricanes during the upcoming season.”
“In Maryland, and many other areas, there are four specific weather threats that tropical events can bring,” Strong said. They are:
- Storm surge;
- Flooding rains;
- Tornadoes; and
- Residents should know which of these threats they are most vulnerable to. The National Weather Service also issues alerting packages for these threats.
MEMA External Outreach Branch Manager Chas Eby told Homeland Security Today that, “This is a time to take stock and familiarize yourself with actions that you can to stay safe prior to, during, and after these storms.”
MEMA issues hurricane-related threats, such as flash flood and tornado warnings, through social media and push alerts. State residents also can receive push alerts by downloading the free MARYLAND Prepares mobile app on either iOS or Android operating systems.