Government Leaders, First Responders Gather to Assess, Strengthen Emergency Preparedness
Two days before the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, on a day the country learned about a "specific and credible" terrorism threat, and while parts of Maryland were literally underwater after days of heavy rain, the University of Maryland Center for Health and Homeland Security hosted a conference to share best practices and determine next steps in disaster preparedness and response.
First responders from local and state agencies filled a ballroom in the Southern Management Corporation Campus Center on Sept. 9 to discuss "Building Local Resilience" and "Intelligence Sharing and Interoperability." Among the panelists were Richard Muth, executive director of the Maryland Emergency Management Agency; Joshua Sharfstein, MD, secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; Marcus Brown, JD, superintendent of the Maryland State Police; and Frederick Bealefeld III, commissioner of the Baltimore Police Department.
They were welcomed by U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings, JD, '76, and U.S. Senator Benjamin Cardin, JD, '67, alumni of the Francis King Carey School of Law, who spoke of the need for vigilance and preparedness in the face of man-made and natural threats to the state. Cardin said that Maryland is a national model for security and preparedness, and emphasized that the Center for Health and Homeland Security-as well as its director, Michael Greenberger, JD, a professor at the law school-are invaluable resources for federal as well as state and local agencies and even private enterprises.
Governor Martin O'Malley, JD, '88, another law school alum, began his keynote address by recalling his frustration on 9/11 when, as Baltimore's mayor, he couldn't find anyone in Washington, D.C., to advise him regarding how to respond and protect the city against any further terror attacks. He finally reached a mentor, former Senator Gary Hart of Colorado, who told O'Malley that instead of turning to Washington, he should instead gather his own local leaders and experts and develop a plan to make Baltimore the best-prepared city in America as quickly as possible.
What followed was the preparation of a 12-point plan that O'Malley has taken to the state level. The plan covers everything from interoperable communications, so that first responders in different agencies and even in different jurisdictions can talk to each other, to making sure the state's hospitals and health systems are prepared for mass casualties or public health threats.
O'Malley said the state has met most of its goals, but added that assessment and preparedness can never be considered complete. He drew parallels from the natural disasters and terror threats of today back to some of the earliest threats facing the city and nation, during the War of 1812, when local leaders and citizens faced down threats from foreign invaders.
While times have changed, he added, the need to be mindful and vigilant remains.