MDERS Welcomes Emergency Response Specialist, Olivia Napoli

The Maryland-National Capital Region Emergency Response System (MDERS) is excited to announce that Olivia Napoli has joined our team as an Emergency Response Specialist. In this role she will serve under the Operational Support Directorate, supporting training, exercise, and planning efforts in close coordination with MDERS’s stakeholders.

Olivia joins the MDERS team after serving as the Acting Logistics Branch Chief and Regional Catastrophic Preparedness Program Manager & Resource & Logistics Section Leader of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency. In these roles she had various roles including supervising all logistical operations of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, developing and maintaining the agency’s response plan and procedures, and leading response efforts to a volcano eruption. Before this, she worked at the Alaska Department of Revenue and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. Olivia holds a Bachelor of Art in Business Administration from the University of Alaska Southeast.

The MDERS team is happy to welcome Olivia and use her expertise in emergency management to advance the development of our stakeholder’s capabilities.

MDERS Welcomes, Emergency Response Specialist, Elizabeth Adams

The Maryland-National Capital Region Emergency Response System (MDERS) is pleased to announce that Elizabeth Adams has joined our team as an Emergency Response Specialist. In this role she will serve under the Operational Support Directorate, supporting training, exercise, and planning efforts in close coordination with MDERS’s stakeholders.

Elizabeth joins the MDERS team after serving as an Emergency Management Specialist for the City of Bowie. Her work for Bowie included aiding in the creation and drafting of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Position Task Books, 2022-2023 Integrated Preparedness Plan, and various Emergency Action Plans. Elizabeth also collaborated with local partners to create exercises and training initiatives to prepare for emergency situations.

Before this, Elizabeth was an Emergency Dispatcher and Emergency Call Taker for Prince George’s County. Elizabeth has a B.A. in Criminal Justice from The University of Nevada Reno and a M.S. in Emergency Management from The University of Maryland Global Campus.

The MDERS team is happy to welcome Elizabeth and use her expertise in emergency management to advance the development of our stakeholder’s capabilities.

MDERS Welcomes Emergency Response Specialist, Katie Weber

The Maryland-National Capital Region Emergency Response System (MDERS) is thrilled to announce that Katie Weber has joined our team as an Emergency Response Specialist. In this role she will serve under the Operational Support Directorate, supporting training, exercise, and planning efforts in close coordination with MDERS’s stakeholders.

Katie joins the MDERS team after serving as an Emergency Management Specialist for Anne Arundel County. In this position she led the redrafting of Anne Arundel County’s Evacuation Plan, facilitated Baltimore’s Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) workgroup, and had an integral role in maintaining the readiness of Anne Arundel’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC). Before this role, Katie has held numerous positions in the emergency management field in private and public settings. Additionally, Katie serves as a volunteer Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) for the Bethesda Chevy Chase Rescue Squad. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Michigan and a Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security Emergency Preparedness and Response from the George Washington University.

The MDERS team is happy to welcome Katie and use her expertise in emergency management to advance the development of our stakeholder’s capabilities.

MDERS and Public Safety Stakeholders Earn the Response Project of the Year Award

The Maryland-National Capital Region Emergency Response System (MDERS) accepted the 2023 Response Project of the Year Award for the small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS) program on behalf of the Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD), Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service (MCFRS), and Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (OEMHS). This award was received at the Maryland Emergency Management Association (MDEMA) Symposium recognizing the effective deployment of the sUAS capability to enhance rescue operations.

Over the past four years, MCPD, MCFRS, and OEMHS have partnered with MDERS to develop, utilize, and expand their sUAS capabilities. By focusing on improving information gathering and situational awareness, MDERS and Montgomery County public safety agencies collaborated to establish a systematic framework that provided the planning, training, and equipment imperative to bolstering emergency response procedures. The capabilities of sUAS aid in capturing essential information and maintaining shared situational awareness among public safety agencies to formulate appropriate response measures in evolving environments.

As an illustration, the explosion and fire occurring at the Friendly Garden Apartments on Lyttonsville Road in Silver Spring, MD, exhibits the value of sUAS capabilities in emergency response operations. MCPD and MCFRS utilized their sUAS platforms to identify structural damages, locate victims, and determine critical locations within the apartment complex. Implementing sUAS capabilities minimized the risk of injury to first responders upon entering the collapsed structure to engage in fire suppression activities. MCPD, in collaboration with MCFRS, shared a live-stream view of the incident scene that strengthened their ability to devise rescue strategies, conduct a damage assessment, and investigate the cause of the fire.

Members of MDEMA recognized that the sUAS capability enhanced the overall response operations of Montgomery County public safety agencies by managing the detrimental effects of the Lyttonsville Road explosion and fire incident. Thus, the sUAS capability was awarded  MDEMA’s Response Project of the Year because of the advantages provided to public safety.

The following are remarks from all stakeholders involved in the success of the sUAS capability:

Senior Emergency Response Specialist Hannah Thomas, MDERS 

  • “It was an honor to accept this award on behalf of the Montgomery County public safety agencies. I have enjoyed working with these agencies throughout the past two years on developing their sUAS programs. The Montgomery County public safety agencies’ work with their sUAS technology is inspiring. I was honored to accept this award on their behalf.”

Lieutenant Victor Galladora, MCPD

  • “One big takeaway for me from this was how important the work group was leading up to this incident. Working together with Chief Hinkle (and Fire/Rescue in general) prior to the explosion was a major advantage. Knowing this was a major incident, we responded with the sUAS capability. Upon checking in with Chief Hinkle the day of the incident, he was already well aware of our capabilities, personnel and equipment. He immediately approved the sUAS operation, which I am not sure would have happened without the work group and prior coordination.”

Captain Shelley Wheeler, MCFRS

  • “The biggest takeaway is the importance of collaboration and teamwork. Thanks to the relationship between MDERS, MCFRS, and MCPD, we gained an invaluable resource to help with planning the best way to approach a complicated situation in a manner that led to an efficient, effective response that involved multiple agencies working together.”

Mitchell Dinowitz, OEMHS

  • “The use of the sUAS for the Lyttonsville building explosion was crucial to allow the command team to make real-time decisions and direct tactical resources. The use of streaming software, that was able to be purchased through the ERS mechanism, made the transmission of the situational awareness from the incident to the command post and other county public safety leaders that needed to view this information possible.  Since this incident, additional agencies (beyond police) have been able to acquire this streaming software to stream live incidents into the incident command posts, or the Emergency Operations Center. The collaboration of this workgroup and its partners has led to a close-knit team which can call upon each other’s resources and experiences with each respective sUAS project to help each agency move forward.”

MDERS is proud to work with Montgomery County public safety agencies to improve various response capabilities in the National-Capital Region (NCR). More importantly, MDERS looks forward to further expanding the sUAS capability in Montgomery County in preparation for future complex incidents.

MCFRS and PGFD Train to Prepare for Technical Search and Rescue

The Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service (MCFRS) and Prince George’s Fire Department (PGFD) participated in the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Technical Search and Rescue class to enhance the life-saving skills of firefighters during a complex rescue event. The course provides practical knowledge of technical rescue techniques by incorporating advanced technology that helps locate, remove, and recover trapped victims. The Maryland-National Capital Region Emergency Response System (MDERS) supported MCFRS and PGFD personnel attending the technical search and rescue course to enhance firefighter safety, equipment deployment, and victim management.

The purpose of technical rescue serves to provide an immediate rescue process that deploys skilled firefighters and appropriate equipment to ensure an effective response operation. Technical rescue is the use of special knowledge, skills, and equipment to safely resolve complicated rescue situations (PGPD Special Operations, 2010). Technical rescue encompasses specialized subsets, including structural collapse rescue, rope rescue, confined space rescue, trench rescue, rope rescue, vehicle/machinery rescue, and water rescue.

In the National Capital Region (NCR), structural collapse incidents require specialized response efforts from firefighters to maintain public safety. MDERS provided an opportunity for 18 participants from MCFRS and PGFD to attend FEMA’s Technical Search and Rescue class to improve their abilities in the rescue process. The technical rescue class is designed to provide personnel with the expertise and abilities necessary to perform technical search functions (TEEX, 2023). This course provides an engaging learning experience for participants to approach any rescue situation safely. Beginning with an introduction to technical rescue and subsequent field exercises, the instructors discuss the necessary tools, equipment, and search operations to reinforce proper response techniques. Participants were introduced to the concepts of using the rescue equipment through real-world examples to perform exploration strategies.

More specifically, participants learned about the principles of technical rescue surrounding the different environments in which first responders may respond. Discussions consisting of technical search procedures and innovative rescue equipment allowed participants to recognize certain methods that help bolster the identification of trapped individuals. The instructors presented in-depth coverage of the collapsed building types, confined spaces, hazards, and personal protective equipment (PPE) that first responders must consider during a technical rescue event. Participants learned about operating listening devices, camera systems, and sensor technology to improve scene management.

During the field exercises, participants worked collaboratively to deploy search equipment within the parameters of a simulated structural collapse incident. Participants conducted a preliminary assessment of the collapsed structure to determine hazards, points of entry, exposures for collateral damage, and possible locations of victims. This information allowed participants to strategically position cameras and use life detection devices near trapped individuals to increase situational awareness. These technologies provided the ability to develop more informed and accurate decisions that make the response phase less labor intensive.

The Technical Search and Rescue class offers the practical knowledge that all NCR first responders continue to train on for future structural collapse events. As a part of our mission, MDERS places significant emphasis on providing joint training opportunities to first responders from Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties to mitigate public safety threats collectively. MDERS will continue supporting integrated training courses to ensure a higher quality of preparedness and response.

Welcome Melinda Lacek, Administrative Specialist for the Maryland-National Capital Region Emergency Response System

The Maryland-National Capital Region Emergency Response System (MDERS) is delighted to announce that Melinda Lacek has joined our team as the new Administrative Specialist. She will work within the Finance & Administration Directorate with her efforts focused on MDERS-related grants, including assisting stakeholders with their travel coordination and reimbursements for training and conferences.

Melinda joins MDERS from Prince George’s County Government, Department of Homeland Security in their Public Safety Communications Center as a Police Dispatcher. There she managed several high-priority tasks in emergency response as well as managing between 15-50 Police Officers with a variety of active emergency 911 calls for service in real-time. In this role, Melinda also held the responsibility of being the lead point of contact between First Responders on the scene of emergency incidents and surrounding agencies, ensuring all information was accurately relayed. While actively processing emergency responses, she simultaneously helped to determine the appropriate course of action including gathering specialty units such as K9 Officers, aviation units, and detectives ranging from station-level to major crimes. Melinda possesses knowledge from the first responder level point of view and how emergency incidents are coordinated. Melinda also has a background in Business Administration, holding a Bachelor of Science in Business Management from Penn Foster in Scottsdale, Arizona.

We are excited to have Melinda join the MDERS Team.

Paratech Guardian System for Structural Collapse Incidents

The Maryland-National Capital Region Emergency Response System (MDERS) partnered with Montgomery Country Fire and Rescue Service (MCFRS) and Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department (PGFD) to procure a Paratech Guardian system for each department. The Paratech Guardian system monitors and alerts fire personnel to a change in dynamics during a structural collapse incident. Adding this device to the structural collapse capabilities in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties will improve on-scene intelligence and safety for department members and civilians.

A structural collapse event is a precarious incident to respond to for fire departments. The on-scene emergency responders have to investigate and understand the configuration of a comprised building before crafting a rescue and stabilization plan. However, the dynamics of the building can quickly shift to compromise and impede rescue efforts. The equipment currently deployed by MCFRS and PGFD cannot detect sudden structural changes. Without that capability, any significant shift can threaten the safety of trapped individuals or fire personnel operating within the collapsed structure.

MCFRS and PGFD have tested and incorporated the Paratech Guardian system into their structural collapse equipment inventory to enhance monitoring capabilities and provide immediate notification of changes to a comprised building. This device integrates into scaffolding constructed within a building collapse to alert for changes in weight load, detect vibrations, and changes to angle inclines. In consultation with engineers, the user configures the Paratech Guardian to monitor for alterations outside of a preset range. If the system detects a shift outside of the determined range, an alarm is triggered, and an alert is sent to a mobile device monitored by fire personnel. The instantaneous notification will allow fire personnel to exit a structure before a potential secondary collapse. After firefighters exit the structure, emergency responders can reevaluate the scene and adjust the Paratech Guardian system accordingly.

Incorporating the Paratech Guardian will bolster the monitoring capabilities of MCFRS and PGFD to improve the safety of all individuals during a structural collapse response.

The Paratech Guardian was procured through MDERS’s Innovation Fund. This program supports innovative solutions to meet MDERS’s strategic goals and confront emerging threats. The procurement of the Paratech Guardian underwent testing and approval by MCFRS and PGFD personnel. This project is scalable and future funding may be available to further grow the capability within each department.

Enhancing Law Enforcement Interoperability Through Public Safety Training and Initiatives

The Maryland-National Capital Region Emergency Response System (MDERS) aims to improve interoperability between the Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD) and the Prince George’s County Police Department (PGPD) by enhancing coordination on response capabilities. MDERS provides similar tools, training, and exercises that more directly align the two departments’ policies, plans, and procedures. This closer association encourages and develops various interjurisdictional law enforcement response efforts.


MCPD and PGPD operate in neighboring jurisdictions which leads to frequent overlap on emergency calls. Additionally, large-scale, or specialized emergencies often require interjurisdictional cooperation. The high frequency of these joint deployments necessitates a greater need for collaboration on procuring similar equipment, participating in identical trainings, and joint participating in MDERS-sponsored exercises.


Every fiscal year, MCPD and PGPD propose equipment purchases to enhance or develop capabilities. Both departments create their proposals cognizant of what the other department has or will seek. MDERS works with the department to closely align the requests with similar equipment such as night vision goggles, infrared cameras, personal protective equipment, and operational vehicles. This parallel procurement effort promotes a greater familiarity of each department’s resources to allow for greater interjurisdictional integration.

To further promote regional law enforcement cohesion, MDERS has sent MCPD and PGPD officers to various training initiatives. The courses include topics such as technical breaching, tactical emergency medical services (TEMS), public order, active shooter mitigation, first receiver operations training (FROT), command-level leadership, and other law enforcement learning opportunities. The joint participation and breadth of these training opportunities will help the departments prepare for a variety of emergencies and strengthen interoperability capabilities in the Maryland-National Capital Region.


The culmination of the similar procurement and training is the discussion and practical deployment of joint MCPD and PGPD responses. MDERS has created workshops, tabletop sessions, and full-scale exercises to allow personnel to strategize and rehearse interoperable deployments. These discussions help identify areas for improvement to bolster their interjurisdictional response.

The similar equipment, training, and exercises enhances interoperability between MCPD and PGPD. MDERS will continue to provide financial and logistical support to continue to ensure MCPD and PGPD are adequately equipped and trained to confront evolving threats to public safety.

For more information regarding MDERS sponsored procurement efforts and training initiatives, please reach out to the Operational Support Team at

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) (