Month: June 2024

MDERS Presentations at the MDEMA Symposium

The Maryland Emergency Management Association (MDEMA) Symposium is an effort to bring together emergency management professionals and associated agencies to discuss various topics to enhance all phases of response efforts. To support this effort, at the 2024 iteration of this symposium representatives from the Maryland-National Capital Region Emergency Response System (MDERS) and partner agencies showcased five initiatives that have significantly enhanced response capabilities in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties.  These presentations covered the incorporation of small unmanned aerial systems (sUASs) as first responders for the Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD), integration of the Public Access Trauma Care (PATC) program into the public school systems in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties, enhancement of the Prince George’s Couty Police Department’s (PGPD) Patrol Scenario Training (PST), reinforcement of incident command system (ICS) principles during training for MCPD officers, and strengthening inter-jurisdictional structural collapse response. These initiatives have collectively bolstered response capabilities for first responders in the Maryland-National Capital Region (MD-NCR).

On the first day of the conference, as part of the main session, MDERS Senior Emergency Response Specialist Hannah Thomas was joined by MCPD Captain Jason Cokinos and Lieutenant Doug Miller to present on the department’s innovative Drone as a First Responder (DFR). This program prepositions sUAS platforms, commonly known as drones, to provide rapid situational assessments to emergency calls in Silver Spring. The presenters highlighted the program’s achievements in tracking suspects involved in various crimes and outlined the financial costs, operational logistics, data collection, and transparency efforts required for sustaining the program. Due to its success, MCPD plans to expand the DFR program to several other locations in the county.

 

The next presentation examined the inclusion of the PATC program into Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) and Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS). MDERS Senior Emergency Response Specialist Peter McCullough and MDERS Emergency Response Specialist Katie Weber provided information to the audience about the supplies distributed and the incorporation of PATC into the school’s curriculum. To date, MDERS has provided 774 5-pack kits to MCPS and 253 5-pack kits to PGCPS. This is in addition to 84 training bags for each jurisdiction to assist with hands-on training for students. Although the program is well received by MCPS and PGCPS, the speakers identified several factors that MDERS had to navigate to get PATC into the schools. Issues such as replenishment of supplies, installation of wall-mounted cabinets, appropriateness of the content for students, and adherence to regulations all were discussed with partners before the adoption of PATC into each public school system.

After that presentation, MDERS Emergency Response Specialist Elizabeth Adams and PGPD Corporal Juan Penafiel detailed the advancements made to PGPD’s PST curriculum. This program is an aspect of the mandated training for student officers that tests their ability to demonstrate skills, tactics, and techniques learned during the training academy. In coordination with PGPD, MDERS revamped their evaluation process and documentation process to create a more streamlined and objective evaluation process. These amendments have alleviated previous concerns to allow evaluators to closely focus on the actions of student officers and capture all needed data points for assessment.

Subsequent to that presentation, former MDERS Co-Director Nicole Markuski and MCPD Lt. Chris Hackley shared the joint effort between both agencies to provide an ICS refresher to all MCPD sergeants. This effort entailed two tabletop exercises that challenged participants to navigate the complexities of an active assailant incident at a mall and school. The participants were continuously fed new information throughout the exercises to test and evaluate their ability to exert control over a complex emergency. The exercises provided invaluable information for MCPD to identify gaps and improve their overall response capabilities.

Lastly, Prince George’s County Fire Department (PGFD) Assistant Chief Jon Bender and Montgomery County Fire Rescue Service (MCFRS) Battalion Chief Doug Hinkle discussed progress in cross-jurisdictional structural collapse response. Both departments have intensified joint training efforts and have made strides to closely align their equipment caches to promote familiarity during large-scale incidents. MDERS has supported equipment acquisitions for both departments and training initiatives which will culminate in a two-day full-scale exercise in the spring of 2025.

The MDEMA Conference served as a platform to showcase MDERS and partner agencies’ endeavors in bolstering response capabilities in the Maryland-National Capital Region. MDERS staff eagerly anticipate sharing further advancements at the next conference.