In Times of Trouble...
They refer to themselves as the “silent partners" of the Division of Emergency Services of Washington County. Although Emergency Management is busy year-round anticipating the future needs of the community, it’s in times of crisis that you actually see all their hard work pay off.
“We’re responsible for recognition of those threats that potentially impact our everyday lives within Washington County,” stated Director Kevin Lewis.
One of those threats recently felt was the flooding in Clear Spring, Maryland.
"Clear Spring…now we’re in recovery stage. It’s not something we get into very often,” Lewis said. "My concern is the long term as we know citizens are going to be displaced…the mitigation that’s going to take place.”
Recovery is the final step Emergency Management completes during a crisis. First comes preparedness, mitigation, and response.
In this situation, Emergency Management feels they were able to meet the needs of the residents of Clear Spring, especially from an emergency response standpoint.
"Looking at the plan and looking at how quickly we are able to mobilize in the rescue phase...that all was done in the first hour they were responding,” said Verna Brown, Emergency Management Coordinator.
As Emergency Management continues to focus on recovery and reimbursement from federal organizations, staff is also preparing for more events like this.
“How do we make sure this doesn’t occur again? How do we make sure it doesn’t happen in the middle of the night while my children are sleeping?” asked Lewis.
The division works throughout the year to develop plans and pull partnering agencies together to make sure everyone knows exactly what will be needed of them should a disaster happen. That preparedness and training had a positive effect on response in Clear Spring.
“People had clear lines of their responsibilities,” said Sam Anderson, Emergency Management Planner. “As a system, each component came together with the spokes and the wheels turning...and that’s what you want.”
"We can’t stop everything from happening, but we can try to lessen the impact,” Brown added.
Emergency Management offers Community Emergency Response Training to give local residents the necessary skills to help emergency responders save lives and protect property (see insert). In the ten years the training has been offered, approximately 2,500 people in Washington County have taken the course and are better able to help themselves, their families, and neighbors in times of disaster.
"Preparedness is everyone’s responsibility,“ said Brown, who coordinates CERT training for Washington County, “You can’t necessarily count that the government's going to be there to take care of every little thing.”
In addition to Emergency Management, the Division of Emergency Services is also an umbrella for Emergency Communications Center (911), Special Operations Technical Rescue, Emergency Air Unit, and Emergency Medical Services. The Division strives to provide the highest quality service to the citizens, businesses, and visitors of the community. Verna Brown summed up this idea nicely, promising “We’re in it together…together we will go forward.”