Month: March 2023

Multidisciplinary Partners Engage in Emergency Response and Recovery Through a Virtual Tabletop Exercise

In February 2023, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Emergency Management Institute (EMI) hosted a Virtual Tabletop Exercise (VTTX) at the Prince George’s County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (PGOHSEM). The exercise brought together governmental and nongovernmental partners to partake in a hypothetical dam failure at the Ashcroft Drive Dam. Staff from the Maryland-National Capital Region Emergency Response System (MDERS), in collaboration with exercise participants, provided evaluation support to assess the strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement exhibited during the exercise. This feedback will help improve and prepare participating agencies for a multifaceted response to a potential dam failure.

Exercise participants from state and local governmental offices collaborated with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to simulate response efforts to a large-scale flood. Agencies involved in the exercise specialized in community relations, public communication, environmental protection, homeland security, law enforcement, fire/rescue/EMS, healthcare, family services, social services, public works, and dam safety.

The exercise scenario simulated a dam failure that caused significant flooding in the community and risks to public safety. The inundation of roadways, property damage, unsecured utilities, hazardous material concerns, and displacement of residents presented short and long-term effects that required multiple response activities.

Throughout the exercise, participants were arranged into three groups to review key events and issues occurring during the notification, response, and recovery stage. Each module began with an update to provide exercise participants with situational awareness of the overall damages and safety hazards occurring at different time periods. Once briefed, exercise participants discussed roles, resource requirements, communication methods, mutual aid, and information-sharing needs. Group discussions allowed exercise participants to test their knowledge of available capabilities beneficial to conduct emergency response and recovery operations.

During each new phase of the response, exercise participants analyzed the area and population affected to identify pertinent agencies that should be involved in planning the response and recovery steps. All groups agreed to establish a joint information system (JIS) to streamline information sharing and ensure efficient communication among responding agencies. A public information officer (PIO) was assigned to maintain accuracy in disseminating essential messages to guide response partners and answer questions from the media to share with the public. Participating agencies prioritized activating mutual aid and other interjurisdictional agreements to facilitate evacuation, rescue operations, and mass care to victims. After the initial response, exercise participants collectively identified the secondary measures needed to initiate road repairs, restore local waterways, reconstruction of public/private property, and removal of debris. Lastly, during the recovery phase, participants established emergency shelters with the support of social services to aid displaced families and alleviate food, water, and safety insecurities.

At the conclusion of the exercise, MDERS staff help conducted an evaluation to find if the VTTX allowed participants to understand when to execute emergency response plans, policies, and procedures. MDERS staff and participants identified operational barriers, delegation of tasks, communication hurdles, and integration of Incident Command System (ICS) principles as areas to improve response efforts. By identifying these areas for improvement, participant agencies can learn and prepare for large-scale flooding resulting from a dam failure.

For more information regarding this exercise, please contact

The Maryland-National Capital Region Emergency Response System Hosts HSEEP Course

In partnership with the Prince George’s County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (PGOHSEM), the Maryland-National Capital Region Emergency Response System (MDERS) recently held a Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) course at the PGOHSEM headquarters in Hyattsville, Maryland. HSEEP is a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) program that consists of fundamental concepts and a common approach to exercises (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2020). The goal of HSEEP is to assist exercise planning team members with incorporating standardized methodologies used to create, conduct, and analyze exercises.

The HSEEP course is an interactive two-day training with eight hours of instructor-led classroom lectures and group discussions. This training was attended by 22 students from various disciplines, backgrounds, and departments to learn about the planning, design, and evaluation of exercises. Participants were from the Prince George’s County Police Department (PGPD), the Prince George’s County Fire and EMS Department (PGFD), the City of Bowie Emergency Management, Fredrick County Health Department (FCHD), University of Maryland Baltimore (UMB), Charles County Department of Emergency Services (DES), the United States Army, Department of Defense (DOD), United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), MDERS, and PGOHSEM.

Before instruction began, students took a pre-test to assess the students’ knowledge and understanding of the exercise design and development. During classroom discussions, students learned about HSEEP fundamentals, including exercise program management, design, development, evaluation, and improvement planning. These principles helped students understand the purpose and intended outcomes of conducting exercises. Through the HSEEP training course, students were divided into small groups to participate and discuss response efforts to small-scale tabletop scenarios. This structure helped students identify emergency preparedness priorities and recommend the necessary aid to mitigate the effects of incident scenarios. Students emphasized the benefits of building relationships to promptly request resources and mutual aid.

The HSEEP training course concluded with a large-scale capstone project to enhance students’ understanding of exercise preparation. Students received information on an emergency incident scenario consisting of mass casualties and community disruption. This activity encouraged students to implement concepts learned to further develop and refine their skills in exercise planning. The exercise allowed students to demonstrate their understanding of the material taught and practice teamwork, communication, and strategic thinking in a realistic environment. After completion of the capstone, students evaluated their identified roles, procedures, and mutual aid activities to determine if the appropriate response measures were taken. The evaluation phase was important to assess areas for improvement to identify shortfalls and gaps in the exercise scenario.

After completing the course, students gained a better understanding of how to use HSEEP exercise principles and methods to prevent, respond, and recover from different hazards. MDERS is committed to ensuring that our stakeholders continue to gain the knowledge needed to conduct response operations through attending specialized training courses among many public safety disciplines.

For more information on HSEEP, please click here.


U.S. Department of Homeland Security. (2020, January). Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP). Retrieved from Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) (


MDERS is Hiring!

Are you looking to join an innovative and dynamic team? The Maryland-National Capital Region Emergency Response System (MDERS) is now hiring! We seek highly qualified Emergency Response Specialists to support both internal and external planning, training, and exercise initiatives related to emergency response capabilities and operational procedures for planned and unplanned events within Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties.

Interested parties are encouraged to apply via the link below!

Active Recruitments – Emergency Response Specialist