Emergency Services Hosts Tabletop Exercise, and Awaits Approval of Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) from County Council

01/23/2024

Category: Emergency Services

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Partners from County Departments, nonprofit organizations, fire and rescue, state departments, and more joined to participate in the tabletop exercise to review the Emergency Operations Plan on January 18, 2024.

Partners from County Departments, nonprofit organizations, fire and rescue, state departments, and more joined to participate in the tabletop exercise to review the Emergency Operations Plan on January 18, 2024.

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Department of Human Services (DHS), Talbot Director Linda Webb, and Assistant Director Ben Pittsley speak to how the county would address emergency shelter during a hypothetical hurricane in the tabletop exercise.

Department of Human Services (DHS), Talbot Director Linda Webb, and Assistant Director Ben Pittsley speak to how the county would address emergency shelter during a hypothetical hurricane in the tabletop exercise.

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Town of Easton staff weigh in the Emergency Operations Plan.

Town of Easton staff weigh in the Emergency Operations Plan.

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Emergency Management Division Chief, Geneva Schaffle discusses the tabletop exercise.

Emergency Management Division Chief, Geneva Schaffle discusses the tabletop exercise.

On January 18, 2024, first responders, directors, and other partners packed into a crowded auditorium at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum to consider the impact that “Hurricane Toby” would have on the residents and visitors of the Eastern Shore.

This entirely hypothetical scenario, in this case presented in the form of a tabletop exercise, is an important step in the process of updating Talbot County’s EOP.

The EOP, maintained by the Talbot County Department of Emergency Services (DES) Emergency Management Division, serves as a critical reference that is designed to guide actions before, during, and following major emergencies or disasters in Talbot County.

“The goal of the EOP is to create a comprehensible and flexible plan from which our partners can work together to identify hazard, determine capabilities, reduce impact, and effectively respond to and recover from a disaster or major emergency.” said Brian LeCates, Director of Emergency Services.

When asked why the Plan was being updated now, LeCates recalled the impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic had on the community, and how it shifted the nation’s view on emergency response.

“The pandemic taught us a lot about how we work together as a community during a period of crisis, and we learned a lot about how to improve our emergency operations during that time. We felt that should be reflected in the update of the EOP.”

The document is divided into three sections: Basic Plan, County Coordinating Functions, and Appendixes.

The Basic Plan includes federal, State, local laws and authorities, and other references that provide the foundation and basis for the EOP. It also establishes the purpose, scope, and planning assumptions.

The County Coordinating Functions (CCF) lay out the major areas of operations in an emergency, including Sheltering and Evacuation, Government Services, Historical and Natural Resources, etc. Relevant supporting data, laws and authorities, and references to other plans and operating procedures are included when appropriate.

The Appendices dive deeper into specific details for essential tasks and other information not directly included in the basis EOP.

The County contracted with the University of Maryland Center for Health and Homeland Security (CHHS) to assist with rewriting the Plan, coordinate and facilitate the tabletop exercise, and to conduct a functional exercise in the spring.

In addition to looking at national best practices, federal guidance, State and other local EOPs, the updated Talbot County EOP also integrates what was learned during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the tabletop exercise allows participants to evaluate the Plan in a relaxed setting, the functional exercise will ask participants to physically act out the Plan, which may include tasks such as moving resources around the county, tracking the response time or activating an Emergency Operations Center, and evaluating the communication procedures. Emergency Services will work with CHHS to provide a scenario that will focus on specific areas of the Plan they want to test out.

“While the document does get approved by the Council, it is important to remember that the EOP is a living document, meaning it will be adjusted from time to time based on new information, simulations, and emergency response critiques,” said County Manager Clay Stamp.

“At the end of the day, the adoption of a new EOP by the County government, and in collaboration with the municipalities, is a testament to the highly effective and collaborative emergency management organization that has proven itself over time. With our planning efforts and strong collaboration, I am confident we will be Talbot Ready if and when we are faced with emergency situations.”

The EOP is expected to go before the Council for approval and adoption on January 23, 2024. Following adoption, the updated Plan will be shared publicly and distributed amongst stakeholders.

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Page last modified Friday, May 26, 2023 11:22:37 AM