Publisher note: Baltimore City is the 26th most populous city in the United States, comparable in size to cities such as Las Vegas, Nevada, and Boston, Massachusetts. DomPrep has had the distinct privilege to observe the Baltimore Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management during a ten-month project that goes behind the scenes of emergency management and public safety. Many other cities must prepare for similar incidents and special events, involving corresponding tasks and responsibilities. This is the final installment of a five-part series, each part addressing a different component of the emergency management process, and each component having the ability to overwhelm a city. Please send me a note and let me know if you find this subject matter reporting to be helpful. – Martin Masiuk, Publisher, firstname.lastname@example.org
“We try not to take anything for granted,” said Deputy Mayor Robert Maloney in a DomPrep interview on 22 September 2014. He was referring to the need for Brian Bovaird, lead planner at the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management (MOEM) for the Star-Spangled Spectacular, to visit the Unified Area Command, an interagency command center hosted at the Maryland Emergency Management Agency’s (MEMA) State Emergency Operations Center, to get a different perspective of the entire event, and to see how his role fits into the overall plan. It was important that Bovaird understand the magnitude of the event because collaborating with various agencies becomes more complicated when those agencies are located in different jurisdictions. “The unified command presence was terrific. They were so organized,” said Maloney.
Unifying Command in Maryland
Kyle Overly, who joined MEMA in August 2013, was assigned the same month as lead planner at the state level for the Star-Spangled Spectacular. He helped facilitate the process for state agencies and coordinated efforts with Bovaird and Baltimore City. Together, Bovaird and Overly helped to develop a plan for the entire project. Elements of that plan included: management structures; resource management procedures; organizational strategies; and overall event management. In consultation with senior leadership from MEMA and MOEM, they decided to employ a unified area command structure, where each jurisdiction – Baltimore City, Baltimore County, the National Parks Service, U.S. Coast Guard, and U.S. Navy – would have an area command and a lead. Bovaird led planning efforts for the Baltimore Area Command, overseeing all the city efforts, and Overly oversaw planning efforts statewide, regionally, and for the remaining jurisdictions. Throughout the event, MEMA, federal agencies, and local agencies were present at the Unified Area Command, which supported information sharing and resource management throughout the event.
With a structure and plan in place, the official launch of the multiagency effort began with a meeting of city, state, and federal partners in January 2014 and continued monthly until the start of the public event in September. “We knew that the planning process would be large and complex, and require a lot of support from both agencies. Internally, I assembled a team to help me (as the project manager); Brian [Bovaird] divided the labor for his agency as well,” said Overly in an interview on 21 October 2014. Throughout the process, Bovaird and Overly maintained close contact to stay informed about the efforts of each agency. Additionally, approximately 15 working groups met at different interims to focus on their subject matter expertise.
One of the main deliverables from MEMA was the SSS14 Concept of Operations Plan (SSS14 CONOPS) that addressed the entire project, described how all the agencies fit together, and included appendices for: (a) each area command; (b) evacuation/shelter-in-place procedures; and (c) a public information plan. MEMA and MOEM modeled the plan and the planning effort after the National Plan Development Process, which is used in Maryland for project management purposes and planning efforts. In addition to several smaller supporting initiatives, MEMA conducted several exercises in August and September 2014: (a) a general all-hands tabletop exercise; (b) a senior-leader tabletop exercise focused on the larger management issues and concepts laid out in the plan; and (c) a communications drill the week of the event, which included radios, Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN) Connect, basic landlines, and web programs.
By the time the event began, all the agencies involved knew their roles and responsibilities. At Unified Area Command, the few small incidents that arose during the event were handled quickly with no major consequences. Overly explained that, for the most part, “It was quiet, which was a good thing. However, if something did happen, we would have been ready.”
An Ongoing Local-State Relationship
Through the Maryland Emergency Preparedness Program, which “emphasizes an all-hazards approach to the delivery of 31 specific capabilities across four mission areas (prevent/protect, mitigate, respond, recover) in order to address the state’s risk,” MEMA already had a strong relationship with Baltimore City and all other local jurisdictions in Maryland; however, the close collaboration for the Star-Spangled Spectacular solidified that relationship. The liaison assigned by MEMA through a regional liaison program, which is funded through UASI grants, maintains the connection between MEMA and MOEM throughout the year by attending meetings and providing input.
“John Dulina, the regional liaison for Maryland’s central region, which includes Baltimore, is hugely integral in what we do. He works within all the other agencies in our region and will plug into the planning process as needed,” said Connor Scott, deputy director of MOEM, in a DomPrep interview on 21 October 2014. MEMA’s Preparedness Directorate staff members also support any of MOEM’s initiatives as needed.
Each jurisdiction’s Office of Emergency Management is different, with a structure that operates under a mayor’s office, a fire department, a law enforcement agency, or another independent agency. MEMA continuously builds relationships with local jurisdictions to understand what to expect and how each jurisdiction operates during a disaster. Given the size and population of Baltimore, close coordination between MEMA and MOEM is critical. In recent years, MEMA has taken a more proactive approach, through a strategic and sustained focus on preparedness, to reach out to the various jurisdictions in Maryland, which makes it easier for local jurisdictions to identify: (a) who to talk to for specific issues; (b) training opportunities and exercises that MEMA offers; (c) services MEMA provides; (d) the level of proficiency of staff members; and (e) overall operations.
Although Baltimore City is self-sustaining for small incidents and events, there are times when the state must be involved. For instance, when Baltimore needs multiple state-level resources for large-scale events, MOEM may reach out to MEMA to access buses from the Maryland Transit Administration and mutual aid with state law enforcement agencies. The Star-Spangled Spectacular provided an opportunity for the local and state agencies to work together on the entire planning process from beginning to end. “Some plans you write and, hopefully, never need. However, it was great to go through the entire planning process, use the plan operationally, and evaluate it afterwards, as well as build our relationship, so now we are ready to work on whatever comes next,” said Scott.
Protecting the Nation’s Critical Infrastructure
For MOEM, the regular planning process and relationship building goes beyond local, regional, and state partners. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) InfraGard website, “InfraGard’s Sector Chief Program escalates communication across the organization by enlisting industry’s top subject matter experts as liaisons to facilitate information sharing and communication between the FBI and local InfraGard Members Alliances. This added exchange fuels the ability of the FBI and government partners to address threats to the 16 recognized sectors of the nation’s critical infrastructure.”
Donald Gerkin Jr., Lieutenant in the Baltimore Police Department and part-time MOEM employee, shared in an email, on 6 October 2014, the benefits of being part of InfraGard’s Sector Chief Program, “I am able to use the national reach and platform to bring training to the city, as well as to tap into the knowledge of subject matter experts in a variety of disciplines to help solve any issues we may have here.” Information sharing between agencies is crucial, so MOEM has many methods, including InfraGard, to connect and communicate outside its jurisdiction.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which has 97 protective security advisors (PSAs), also is critical for infrastructure protection. With at least one PSA in each state, most of these advisors work primarily with their state emergency operations centers and, to a lesser extent, with other city or county offices of emergency management. In the case of Baltimore, though, MOEM reaches out to DHS to leverage existing tools, assessments, training, and subject matter knowledge. The agency also wanted to build a relationship with DHS to provide two-way communication that is timely, accurate, and reliable.
In an interview with DomPrep on 14 October 2014, Raymond Hanna, PSA to Baltimore for almost 10 years, stated that, “Incidents start local and they end local. However, Baltimore is unique because they handle most of their own incidents.” During a very heavy thunderstorm that occurred on 30 April 2014 in North Baltimore, for example, a retaining wall gave way as cars and debris slid onto the railroad tracks below. DHS was concerned because the blocked Amtrak train tracks were affecting regional travel up and down the Northeast Corridor and a critical east coast supply chain. By going straight to MOEM, Hanna was able to receive the most up-to-date information throughout the response efforts. “I would suggest both the major cities’ OEM offices, as well as the PSAs themselves, reach out to each other because it’s a mutually beneficial relationship,” said Hanna.
Federal Support for City Events
PSAs are responsible for identifying and assessing critical infrastructure, interdependencies, and vulnerabilities to help raise awareness and lower risk. During the Star-Spangled Spectacular, there were many vulnerable city assets within the event’s footprint: stadiums, convention center, aquarium, hotels, Federal Reserve Bank, World Trade Center, bridges, tunnels, and other landmarks. Through the Baltimore PSA (Hanna), MOEM was able to leverage DHS resources to assemble geospatial critical infrastructure map books and wall maps that identified and mapped all possible targets within the footprint. DHS printed copies that were accessible at each of the command posts during the event.
Equipped with the vulnerability and risk assessments, Hanna worked closely with MOEM to discuss the Star-Spangled Spectacular and other city events to ensure that they received the proper level of federal support. Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley then submitted the request to DHS for consideration of the event as a National Special Security Event (NSSE). Although the Star-Spangled Spectacular did not qualify for that designation, which would make the U.S. Secret Service the lead agency for event security, it did qualify for a Special Event Assessment Rating of 2, which justified DHS designating a federal coordinator for the event, which was the special agent in charge of the U.S. Secret Service’s Baltimore Field Office.
During the Star-Spangled Spectacular, Hanna maintained a work station within the Baltimore City Area Command Post and reached out to the DHS National Infrastructure Coordinating Center (NICC) several times a day to be able to provide situational reports to DHS, and to learn about local, regional, and national issues and/or threats that potentially could affect the current event. Further, that information was passed to the incident commanders in Baltimore for required actions or response. However, regardless of the event rating, the relationship between MOEM and DHS is well-established and DHS’s Hanna is available to assist MOEM with any Baltimore event – Preakness, Grand Prix, Baltimore Marathon, Fireworks on New Year’s Eve, to name a few – when needed.
Federal Tools & Trainings
The Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN) is another tool that DHS provides for government agencies, private sector utility companies, and other stakeholders to share information. Using MEMA’s established relationship with DHS, all area commands during the Star-Spangled Spectacular, for the first time, used all the different capabilities that HSIN offers as an information-sharing platform for hosting documents and reference guides, as well as for coordinating real-time communication through chat-room and teleconference functions. Each area command post, the unified area command, and the multiagency communication center logged into the event’s situational awareness room, which included a chat feature, maps, traffic, weather, and closed-circuit television. Back-up systems were in place in case of a major technological failure. Although HSIN is not yet widely used throughout the city, it worked well and plans are in place to use the network again in the future.
On 17 December 2014, Baltimore will host the Army-Navy game at M&T Bank Stadium, home of the Baltimore Ravens. Hanna at DHS, the director of security from Maryland Stadium Authority, and the vice president of stadium operations for the Ravens wanted to conduct a tabletop exercise in Baltimore similar to one held in Philadelphia, where the Army-Navy game has been held the past two years. Because DHS recently had funded a similar exercise in Baltimore, it could not approve another one at that time. Hanna called MOEM, explained the situation, shared information about the tabletop exercise in Philadelphia, described what the Baltimore security directors would like to do with their personnel, and asked MOEM to take the lead. Connor Scott at MOEM immediately agreed and began planning the exercise.
The Army-Navy games are nationally significant because, in light of situations involving U.S. soldiers around the world, they involve: the U.S. Army and the U.S. Navy; close proximity to Washington, D.C., West Point, and the U.S. Naval Academy; and international television coverage. This event involves many moving parts that require exercises with nontraditional participants such as hotels and transportation. It is a true team effort for all stakeholders.
The upcoming exercise, scheduled for 3 November 2014, will focus on improving response, increasing coordination, and determining best practices and areas for improvement. MOEM is expanding the scope and ensuring that everybody involved in the decision-making process – not just the first responders and emergency personnel – for any type of emergency involving the Army-Navy game are involved in the exercise. The scenarios will involve the team leadership, the athletic association, and all other partners to walk through the entire decision-making process.
DHS offers several free anti-terrorism awareness training opportunities for local and state agencies and private sector security partners in Maryland. The Camden Yards Sports Complex (Oriole Park and M&T Bank Stadium) has hosted many of these courses. One of the courses the stadium hosted was a three-day Hostile Surveillance Detection Course, which was important to the city because of the nearby and recent Columbia Mall shooting in January 2014, coupled with the upcoming Star-Spangled Spectacular in September and Army-Navy Game in December. Following the shooting, MOEM contacted DHS to request an active-shooter seminar and leverage the lessons learned from the commander for the Howard County SWAT team. Within three weeks, Hanna at DHS and Scott at MOEM were able to arrange a free ballroom at the Renaissance Hotel, breakfast for all attendees, the SWAT team commander from Howard County as a speaker, and MOEM as the sponsor. They had hoped to get at least 200 people for the even but, after only three days, they had such an overwhelming response they had to turn people away.
The first three hours of the seminar included a panel discussion with responders involved in the Columbia Mall shooting, as well as the incident commander (LTC Melissa Hyatt, Area 1 commander for the Baltimore Police Department) and lead coordinator (Brian Bovaird, lieutenant in the Baltimore City Fire Department assigned to MOEM) for the Star-Spangled Spectacular. A six-hour training course followed. In the 14 October 2014 interview, Hanna expressed his appreciation for MOEM’s ongoing assistance to DHS as well, “I am one person, and I need a force multiplier. When I need something from the city – for example, a tabletop exercise – MOEM answers the call.”
Reaching Across Borders
With strong city leadership and domestic partnerships, Baltimore’s MOEM also is able to extend its assistance beyond U.S. borders. Chi-poe Hsia, director of planning at MOEM, volunteered to deploy to the Philippines to assist with relief efforts following Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013. The trip was sponsored by the MOEM and offered Hsia a firsthand experience in the aftermath of such a devastating disaster. His biggest takeaway was flexibility.
Most of his team, which were chosen for various specialties, did not know each other. Upon arrival, the team realized that the situation was a little different than had been advertised. Hsia described his experience in an interview on 6 October 2014, “We just had to adapt to the situation. It was an inspiring experience to see that level of devastation and the response that was needed, and talk to the people who had been through it.” Because the political environment is different than the United States, not every lesson can be applied in Baltimore but, at the same time, a large storm in a certain direction could cause the same type of damage.
Emergency management of a large urban area is an ongoing challenge, a monumental task that MOEM takes very seriously. Building strong partnerships, with everyone from individual citizens to federal agencies, is the key to MOEM’s success, but the personnel acknowledge that there are always areas for improvement and no room for complacency. Deputy Mayor Robert Maloney, in an interview on 22 September 2014, commented on the future of emergency management, “I often wonder if, after there is no more homeland security threat and the amount of emergencies goes down – because things tend to be cyclical – emergency management will be the easy budget cut. Hopefully, it won’t if the agency is performing and continues to demonstrate value.”
MOEM’s vision for a prepared Baltimore is to have resilient citizens, businesses, and communities, as well as integrated, efficient, and rapid response and recovery. Responsible for citywide, interagency preparedness, MOEM: implements programs that prepare the city for major emergencies; ensures that the city’s emergency plans integrate the procedures and resources of agencies and organizations; and serves as the link between the city and its regional, state, federal, nonprofit, and private sector partners for emergency planning and operations.
With only 13 full-time personnel, and 20 part-time and fill-in shifts for 24/7 response and special events, MOEM leverages larger community groups to serve as liaisons to disseminate information to all community members. By collaborating with local, regional, state, and federal partners and managing all responses and events with an effective and consistent use of the Incident Command System, Baltimore’s MOEM builds capacity and maximizes resources. The men and women who serve at MOEM understand the true meaning of community preparedness, which was summed up by Maloney, “We call ourselves ‘Team Baltimore,’ but it’s not just MOEM and the other public safety agencies. It’s everyone working together.”
For additional information on any of the citywide efforts and initiatives mentioned in this report, please contact Connor Scott at Connor.Scott@baltimorecity.gov
Catherine L. Feinman
Catherine L. Feinman, M.A., joined Domestic Preparedness in January 2010. She has more than 30 years of publishing experience and currently serves as editor of the Domestic Preparedness Journal, DomesticPreparedness.com, and the DPJ Weekly Brief, and works with writers and other contributors to build and create new content that is relevant to the emergency preparedness, response, and recovery communities. She received a bachelor’s degree in international business from the University of Maryland, College Park, and a master’s degree in emergency and disaster management from American Military University.