Leveraging Open-Source Intelligence for Preventative Public Safety Purposes

In response to topics covered at the 2021 Maryland-National Capital Region Emergency Response System (MDERS) Virtual Symposium, the Training and Exercise Team received many requests for follow up presentations. These requests resulted in the creation of the 2021-2022 MDERS Webinar Series.

One of the requests from the MDERS stakeholders was for a follow-on conversation that elaborated in greater detail topics discussed during the 2021 MDERS Symposium. In response, on October 6th, 2021, MDERS hosted the Leveraging Open-Source Intelligence for Preventative Public Safety Purposes webinar in partnership with the New York Police Department (NYPD) Intelligence Bureau’s (IB) Global Trends & Developments Team. The event was attended by 37 stakeholders, representing 25 agencies and numerous disciplines throughout the NCR and the State of Maryland.

NYPD Intelligence Analysts briefed National Capital Region (NCR) stakeholders on current threat assessments for global terrorism and mass violence. They also expanded on topics including racially and ethnically motivated violent extremism, leveraging intelligence by law enforcement, and developing event threat assessments. NYPD utilized recent cases studies, including the January 6 events at the Capitol, to further assess how these concepts should be applied to real-world events.

MDERS collected evaluations from the participants at the end of the webinar to assess the content discussed and to inform future training opportunities. Stakeholder comments from the Leveraging Open-Source Intelligence for Preventative Public Safety Purposes webinar include:

  • “I learned about catalytic events and how these events may motivate a malicious actor, who may or may not have pre-existing ties to an extremists’ group or ideology.”
  • “The most valuable part of this training was learning about the available tools for public and private sector, about the catalytic events vs. reactive violence and about the different extremist groups.”
  • “Each presentation flowed very well into the next presenter and was all relevant without the speaker’s content duplicating. I thought it was great.”
  • “The most valuable part of this training was learning about the coordination and facilitation of the of sharing of open-source intelligence with the appropriate agencies to assist them with their missions, how to utilize appropriate intelligence information in planning efforts, and how to leverage available tools to assist public safety agencies carry out their mission.”

MDERS will host the second webinar in this training series in early 2022, which will focus on cyber threats and their impacts to homeland security and public safety.

For more information on future webinars and other training opportunities, please contact Hannah Thomas at Hannah.Thomas1@maryland.gov.

Maryland-National Capital Region Stakeholders Explore Innovative Solutions to Emerging Threats

In a time of constrained resources and ever-evolving threats across  the homeland security enterprise, utilizing emerging technology to overcome capability gaps remains a challenging process. The Maryland-National Capital Region Emergency Response System (MDERS) reserves five percent of its annual budget, to support innovative solutions that meet current capability goals or address emerging threats, as outlined in the 2020-2023 Strategic Plan. These funds support the identification, procurement, implementation, and evaluation of novel solutions through the MDERS Innovation Program.

Maryland-National Capital Region stakeholders are able to submit proposals to the Innovation Program to pilot and evaluate new technologies or other innovative solutions. These pilot programs are limited to a maximum cost of $20,000.00 and a period of performance of 180 days or fewer, as well as compliance with the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) grant requirements. All proposals for the programs are ultimately reviewed and approved by the MDERS Steering Committee prior to awarding any funds.
The initial year of the Innovation Program, FY20, made possible several enterprise-wide initiatives, including the following:


Situational Awareness Cameras for Law Enforcement Armored Vehicles

This initiative provides video cameras mounted to law enforcement armored vehicles that will live stream video footage to the incident command post. These cameras further enhance situational awareness and inform decision making by providing incident commanders with a real-time view of the incident.


PerSim Augmented Reality Patient Assessment Training System

The PerSim system provides a portable, interactive patient assessment training utilizing the Microsoft Hololens system. This system provides a realistic patient simulation, allowing the trainer to create realistic patient reactions to interventions in real time. The portability of the system provides personnel with the ability to be trained while remaining available for emergency responses.


Augment Training Systems (ATS) Virtual Reality Mass Casualty Triage Training System

The ATS training system provides a portable solution to mass casualty triage training, based on the Oculus virtual reality headset. This tool enables personnel to conduct training on mass casualty triage in any location. The system lets responders experience a large number of divers patients and a variety of scenarios without the use of traditional exercises.


Leader Search Bluetooth Listening Device

The Leader Bluetooth sensors provide structural collapse rescue teams with the ability to rapidly deploy sensors, with an increased range, to listen for trapped victims during a response. The system can be expanded across a wider search area using corded sensors for additional listening capability.


My Emergency Operations Plan (MyEOP) Application

The MyEOP application is a phone-based application designed for healthcare and other facilities to have electronic access to their emergency plans, procedures, and other information in-hand at all times.

For more information on the MDERS Innovation Program, please contact Mike Ryman at Michael.Ryman1@Maryland.Gov.

Exploring Transformational Connectivity to Foster High Performance in the Maryland-National Capital Region

Eric McNulty, Associate Director, Harvard University National Preparedness Leadership Initiative

Public safety leaders from across the Maryland-National Capital Region recently participated in a four-part leadership seminar series. These sessions focused on connectivity as one dimension of a larger meta-leadership framework, a method of leadership that uses influence rather than authority to drive change and action.  Facilitated by Eric McNulty, Harvard University’s National Preparedness Leadership Institute (NPLI) Associate Director and Co-Author of the book “You’re It,” and Darrell Darnell, NPLI affiliated faculty member and homeland security and emergency management subject matter expert, the series examined the transformational benefits of robust connectivity and identified strategies for building connectivity.

Darrell Darnell, Homeland Security and Emergency Management Subject Matter Expert and Affiliated Faculty Member, Harvard University National Preparedness Leadership Initiative

This interactive program explored approaches to forming a relationship with one’s boss, building a great team, and forging productive links within and beyond organizational boundaries. Additionally, participants learned about the “silent killers” of connectivity and how to avoid common pitfalls. Participants concluded the series by completing a scenario-based, capstone activity that drew on lessons learned from the previous three modules and applied them to a complex organizational leadership challenge currently being faced within the National Capital Region (NCR).

The Maryland-National Capital Region Emergency Response System (MDERS) partnered with NPLI to host this professional development opportunity on behalf of the NCR. MDERS collaborated closely with NPLI to tailor this program to the unique characteristics and nuances of the Maryland-National Capital Region’s emergency response enterprise. The program was well received by attendees and once again highlighted the need for continued leadership development opportunities for emergency response leaders in the Maryland-NCR.

National Capital Region Public Safety Agencies Attend the Federal Aviation Administration Unmanned Aerial Systems Symposium

In June and September 2021, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) hosted its annual Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Symposium, a two-part event sponsored in partnership with the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI). Due to ongoing public health concerns, the FAA conducted the 2021 symposium in a fully virtual format, allowing attendees to access sessions at their convenience during, and after the conclusion of, the event.

The 2021 FAA UAS Symposium aimed to connect enterprise UAS operators, as well as commercial and recreational remote pilots, directly with the regulators who enable drone integration into the National Airspace System. The symposium provided attendees the opportunity to learn, train, and troubleshoot problems with other members of the UAS community to ensure their operations remain safe and continue to grow along with new regulations.

Montgomery County UAS pilots operating in a practice environment.

Within the Maryland-National Capital Region, Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties continue to make great strides in the development and implementation of their respective UAS programs. Currently, law enforcement, fire and rescue, and emergency management agencies in Montgomery County are crafting and implementing training programs to operationalize UAS into emergency response. In Prince George’s County, the police department leads the UAS program and is actively procuring UAS equipment while concurrently designing its training program. To facilitate this process for the counties, the Maryland-National Capital Region Emergency Response System (MDERS) sponsored the attendance of nine personnel from both jurisdictions, as well as two MDERS staff members.

Attendees at this year’s symposium rated the event highly, stating that:

  • “The FAA Symposium was a great event that allowed me to to learn more about safe operations without waivers under the new operating laws for UAS beyond visible line of sight. This will directly benefit operations within my jurisdiction.”
  • “The FAA Symposium remains a very important event that allows attendees to hear directly from the FAA on new laws/regulations and what we should expect in the future.”

To learn more about the FAA UAS Symposium and view proceedings from past events, please visit the following link: https://www.auvsi.net/faa2021/proceedings.

Expanding Law Enforcement Sniper Capabilities of the Prince George’s County Police Department

Over the past seven years, the Prince George’s County Police Department (PGPD) has built a comprehensive training program for snipers, breachers, and critical incident commanders. With support from the Maryland-National Capital Region Emergency Response System (MDERS), eight officers from PGPD recently participated in a local offering of the Tacflow Academy Sniper Team Leader Course. This training assists Special Operations Division (SOD) personnel in developing and implementing a specialized sniper training program. Hosted by Prince George’s County Police, the training included participation from neighboring law enforcement agencies from around the region.

A combination of classroom and field-based training, this three-day course was designed to break through the institutional complacency that police sniper teams and sniper team leaders often encounter within their organization, providing officers with the knowledge and tools required for a successful sniper program. Students discussed the mission of the police sniper, the selection process for identifying candidates within their organization, and the process for developing qualification courses to meet state reporting requirements. An examination of relevant case law and its implication in the field was also addressed. Course participants learned about sniper mission planning and discussed weapon, scope, and ammo specifications. The course concluded with a live-fire ballistic gel test to compare ammunition currently in use by departments in the field.

PGPD has made great strides in recent years by expanding its sniper capabilities to include urban areas, high-angle, and aerial sniping. While the sniper capability is highly focused on marksmanship, it requires mastery in observation, intelligence gathering, and operational planning. The local delivery of the TacFlow Sniper Team Leader course additionally allowed PGPD to train officers as a group and highlighted the need for more team-based training.

With the completion of the TacFlow Sniper Team Leader Course, PGPD has a better understanding of the need for proficiency in key areas. The department is working towards modifying its training curriculum to emphasize the development of certain skillsets by providing opportunities for officers to build and refine their sniper marksmanship skills, and gain the operational experience needed to perform in high-stress austere environments.

MDERS Provides Public Access Trauma Care (PATC) Training to Montgomery County School Health Services

With the new school year starting, and a return to in-person instruction, the Maryland-National Capital Region Emergency Response System (MDERS) team delivered a presentation about the Public Access Trauma Care (PATC) program to the nurses of Montgomery County Public Schools Health Services.

The PATC program aims to empower civilians to treat severe injuries in the critical time period between injury and the arrival of medical professionals. During this period, proactive aid can help mitigate fatal injuries to a victim, such as extremity bleeding, compromised airways, sucking chest wounds, and hypothermia.

PATC Kit display in a Montgomery County Public School

The presentation outlined the resources available to nurses in every public school to respond to such injuries. In total, MDERS has placed 754 PATC bags inside Montgomery County Public Schools, with at least one bag located in each school building. Included in each bag are five individual kits, each containing a tourniquet, chest seal, survival blanket, compressed gauze, trauma shears, gloves, medical tape, and other supplies to address these injuries.

To understand how to utilize these items and identify the injury patterns that would necessitate their use, the nurses were shown several training videos that covered wound packing, tourniquet application, direct pressure, chest seal application, and body positioning. The videos are accessible for the nurses and the public to review on YouTube.

As the PATC program continues to evolve, opportunities for hands-on practice of these skills will be accessible to nurses and students. If you have any questions about the PATC program, please contact us at mders@maryland.gov.

Welcome to Sam Ascunce, Planning and Organization Program Manager of the Maryland-National Capital Region Emergency Response System

The Maryland-National Capital Region Emergency Response System (MDERS) is pleased to welcome Sam Ascunce as our new Planning and Organization Program Manager. Sam joins the team with over seven years of experience in the field of Emergency Management, most recently serving at Hagerty Consulting, where he worked as a project manager on a variety of planning, training, and exercise initiatives for local, state, federal, and private sector organizations. During his time at Hagerty, Sam led the development of active threat response capabilities across the United States, building emergency preparedness capabilities within large, private sector organizations, and helping organizations respond to and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prior to his consulting role, Sam served as a Public Safety and Health Preparedness Planner with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) where he supported numerous stakeholder committees focused on addressing the National Capital Region’s unique response challenges and priorities. Before joining COG, Sam led the creation of professional development curriculum and training for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Qualification System (FQS).

Sam holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration with a concentration in Emergency Management from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Missouri.

As the Planning and Organization Program Manager for MDERS, Sam will be charged with laying the groundwork for all initiatives undertaken by the organization. He will lead a team of planners who will be responsible for crafting Capability Development Plans, which establish the path for achieving the target outcomes and metrics that constitute a new or enhanced emergency response capability in our region. Sam will also organize and lead the various workgroups that, through coalition building and collective subject matter expertise, achieve the complex interdisciplinary and interjurisdictional capabilities that MDERS is charged to develop. Sam will work closely with his fellow program managers, the MDERS staff, and stakeholders to execute the plans, continuing to build the sophisticated response capabilities and capacities that our regional response agencies maintain to best protect and serve the residents and visitors of the Maryland-National Capital Region.

How the Finance & Logistics Program plays an integral role in the Maryland-National Capital Region Emergency Response System

The goal of the Finance & Logistics (F&L) Program is to develop, maintain, improve, and coordinate the fiscal, procurement, and resource management responsibilities of the Maryland-National Capital Region Emergency Response System (MDERS) staff and stakeholders.

The F&L Program works through the entire capability development cycle. From generating budgets to submitting grant proposals to purchasing equipment, the program is a vital and integral contributor to the process. Once the equipment and supplies are purchased, the program tracks, oversees deployment, and plans for maintenance and replacement of all items. The program also handles all financial matters, including seeking grant reimbursement for organization expenditures.

The F&L Program staff consists of a Program Manager, a Financial Administrator, and a Logistician. The Program Manager oversees the financial and logistical aspects of all capability development and project management plans. She also manages the purchases of equipment and resources to support the MDERS staff and its mission, and directs all related financial and logistical tracking and reporting responsibilities. The Financial Administrator fulfills multiple accounting, budgetary, and procurement responsibilities. The Logistician fulfills various duties including equipment and supply acquisition, distribution, tracking, maintenance, and replenishment.

For more information about the MDERS Finance and Logistics Program please contact info@mders.org.

Embracing Remote Learning in the Height of a Global Pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has significantly impacted the training and exercise world, forcing many organizations to transition to online mediums, accelerating the evolution of e-learning. Prior to the pandemic, virtual learning made up approximately 10% of the MDERS training program. At the onset of the pandemic, 90% of the MDERS sponsored/funded training was either canceled or postponed. The MDERS Training and Exercise (T&E) Program shifted gears and sought virtual learning opportunities that enabled collaborative, interactive social learning experiences while still offering the same quality of instruction as one would find in an in-person instructor-led course. The T&E Program set its sights on cross-disciplinary training that supported the MDERS strategic goals and objectives.

At the onset of the pandemic, the MDERS T&E Program quickly pivoted to designing and executing virtual tabletop exercises (TTX) and workshops to accommodate social distancing requirements.  Since September 2020, the MDERS exercise planning team has successfully delivered several virtual TTXs to the ERS stakeholder community, including fire/EMS and public health.

In the last 15 months, MDERS has collaborated with Harvard’s National Preparedness Leadership Initiative (NPLI) to provide two four-part seminar series focused on various aspects of meta-leadership, including negotiation and conflict resolution. MDERS and NPLI staff are currently in the final planning phase to deliver a third four-part seminar series highlighting transformational connectivity to foster high performance in the workplace.

MDERS teamed up with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Short Programs to offer a two-part instructor-led online crisis management and resiliency training to the ERS stakeholder community. These courses provided ERS stakeholders with the knowledge and tools necessary to benchmark, assess, and improve their organization’s business continuity, disaster recovery, and crisis management programs.

Partnering with Antioch University, MDERS provided a series of online courses highlighting the impacts of climate change and what the emergency response community can do to become more resilient. MDERS joined forces with the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation (ICISF) Speakers Bureau to deliver training to ERS stakeholders to help them navigate the many complexities of critical incident stress management and crisis intervention.

Capitalizing on the momentum gained from the virtual TTX’s and leadership seminar series, the MDERS T&E Program launched its first-ever virtual Emergency Response Symposium in May 2021. Leveraging a virtual conferencing platform, MDERS delivered an immersive and engaging experience to a wider audience, promoting inclusivity in an online environment.

The transition to virtual training and exercises is not without its challenges, and each instance has allowed the T&E Program to adjust and improve future offerings. While it will not completely replace face-to-face instruction, e-learning is here to stay, and the MDERS community will continue to adapt.

For more information about the MDERS Training & Exercise Program, please contact Training and Exercise Program Manager Nicole Markuski at Nicole.Markuski1@Maryland.gov.

Montgomery County Collaborates on small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS)

In 2018, the Maryland-National Capital Region Emergency Response System Steering Committee identified small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS) as a funding priority for capability development. To achieve this capability for the public safety agencies in Montgomery County, Maryland, a workgroup was established consisting of representatives from the Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD), Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service (MCFRS), and the Montgomery County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (OEMHS). This provided collaboration opportunities for policy development, equipment specification, and the coordination of future training.

MCPD was the first agency to work through internal processes to implement a policy and achieve the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) approval to purchase equipment: a required step for the purchase of any sUAS utilizing federal grant funds. Following approval of the policy, the department purchased various equipment and began its program.


The group continued to gain momentum in 2020, with MCFRS and OEMHS gaining FEMA approval. Both agencies then began the process of procuring equipment. All three agencies are actively crafting and implementing training programs to operationalize sUAS operations for emergency response throughout Montgomery County.


To add to the complexity of this project, a majority of Montgomery County falls within the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Flight Restricted Zone (FRZ) around Washington, D.C. The public safety agencies within this zone must work with the FAA to obtain waivers that allow them to operate sUAS within this airspace. To date, MCPD has already received a waiver, leading the way for other agencies within their jurisdiction.


As of Spring 2021, all three agencies are now working with the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), a federal entity headquartered in Montgomery County. NIST personnel have been collaborating with public safety agencies nationwide to assist with training and mobilization of sUAS programs. Specifically, NIST provides a scalable, quantifiable framework for operator training, which the agencies are working to implement as part of their pilot training programs.