Situational awareness is a critical priority for emergency response partners in the Maryland-National Capital Region. Small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS) provides an aerial viewpoint of an incident in an efficient and effective manner without the use of costly standard aviation resources such as helicopters that can be easily managed at an agency level. sUAS assists incident commanders in gathering information to assist decision making at complex incidents. In recent years, the utilization of sUAS, often referred to as drones, has become prevalent in many areas of the United States to support emergency responders.
In addition to situational awareness, many sUAS platforms provide the capability for a variety of specific operations to include explosive detection, night vision, radiological detection, thermal imaging, search and rescue operations, and damage assessment.
In late 2018, Maryland-National Capital Region Emergency Response System (MDERS) began the sUAS capability development planning process with stakeholder agencies in Montgomery County following several high-profile incidents where an sUAS capability could have played a substantive role in the response. This planning process consisted of initiating capability development plan, developing policies and procedures, identifying training opportunities, developing operations manuals, and purchasing necessary equipment to meet agency needs. This process was expanded to include Prince George’s County agencies in 2019. Due to the regulations surrounding federal grant funding, each agency’s policy and equipment purchases must be submitted and approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) prior to the purchase of any equipment.
As of June 2020, the sUAS capability has been operationalized by the Montgomery County Police Department, and the Prince George’s County Police Department is actively procuring sUAS equipment to begin their sUAS program.
Both the Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security and the Montgomery County Fire Rescue Service have submitted their policies and equipment justification lists and are currently awaiting future approval to being procurement to operationalize their sUAS programs.
Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams are a critical law enforcement resource in the Maryland-National Capital Region. Their preparation for response to high threat, escalating law enforcement or terrorism incidents requires significant training, organization, and specialized equipment to efficiently and effectively neutralize or de-escalate threats.
Working with the Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD) Special Operations Division (SOD) Tactical Team and the Prince George’s County Police Department (PGPD) Special Operations Division (SOD) Emergency Services Team (EST), MDERS personnel have identified four sub-capabilities to form the overall SWAT Operations Capability Development. These sub-capabilities are breaching, command, close quarter battle (CQB) and sniper operations.
The breaching sub-capability includes supplies and training to support the use of hand tools, hydraulic breaching tools, and explosives. Each team established a minimum number of personnel to receive this technical training.
The command component consists of SWAT Operations specific Incident Command training ranging from tactical decision-making to escalating, expanding incidents.
CQB provides personnel with the ability to efficiently and effectively clear rooms and buildings of threats in the safest manner possible. This requires substantial team coordination.
Finally, sniper operations ensure each team can provide longer range protection for personnel from threats and the ability to safely neutralize threats from a concealed location or position some distance away. This includes training on various concealment techniques and long-range marksmanship.
MDERS has supported approximately 30+ SWAT trainings in the last several years. The addition of specialized training and equipment is necessary to fulfill the capability in both counties. Enhancement in both areas is financially intensive, requiring a multi- year, phased approach to continue development of the SWAT Operations capability.
Strategic leadership development is critical to best meet the complex and evolving demands of homeland security. Recognizing this, the Maryland-National Capital Region Emergency Response System (MDERS) recently brought together a select group of mid-to senior-level leaders from in and around the Maryland-National Capital Region response community to explore core leadership principles and skills proven to have an impact in times of crisis.
The first inaugural Leadership Seminar was held on October 9, 2019 at the William F. Bolger Center in Potomac, MD.
The event featured presentations from two world renown leadership scholars; Dr. Kathleen Kiernan, homeland security expert and founder and CEO of Kiernan Group Holdings, Inc. and Eric McNulty, Associate Director of the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative at Harvard University.
The event was well received by attendees and highlighted the need for further leadership development opportunities for emergency response leaders in the Maryland-NCR.
MDERS will continue to provide opportunities for our stakeholders that will foster creativity and innovation to address the many response complexities facing organizations and the broader homeland security enterprise.