TAKOMA PARK — Takoma Park residents can be assured that their elected officials have a plan in place in the event an emergency strikes the city.
Reviewed by the City Council on Feb. 6, the city’s Emergency Operations Plan establishes a comprehensive framework for managing major emergencies and disasters within the city and is implemented to save lives and protect property and infrastructure.
Takoma Park Emergency Preparedness Manager Ron Hardy called it a “multidiscipline plan,” adding that “it mobilizes the city’s departments and gives us the opportunity, through [memorandums of understanding], to work with other organizations, agencies, the city, other municipalities, the county [and] the state.”
With 17 functions, the plan delegates eight to the city; the county is responsible for the remaining nine.
The city would be responsible for transportation, communications, public works, emergency management, police, long-term recovery, public affairs and damage assessment.
Because the city does not have a dedicated health and human services or fire department, Hardy explained the county would handle functions such as search and rescue, mass care, logistics, hazardous material management, agriculture, energy, public health and volunteer donations.
Using the “Incident Command System” method —which divides such tasks as operations, planning, logistics and finance — the plan designates an incident commander and liaison, safety and public information officer to oversee any implementation should the need arise.
“For the most part, police and public works are the lead on most of the items that we are responsible for in the city,” Hardy said, while adding that other departments and agencies can also take leadership roles.
Hardy, a former Montgomery County Police officer, explained that each department has more detailed plans, in addition to the Emergency Operations Plan.
“The police would have their general orders on how they are going to do things, while public works has their [standard operating procedures] on how they are going to do garbage collection, recycling [and] snow removal.”
In addition, the plan stipulates that the finance department would be “responsible for procuring equipment, supplies and services to support emergency operations” while the Housing and Community Development department would “assist departments with geographic information system (GIS) services in supporting incident response, recovery and mitigation activities.”
The city attorney would serve to “advise the City Manager concerning legal responsibilities.”
The plan stems from a Jan. 2005 executive order signed by then-Gov. Robert Ehrlich (R), which mandates that counties and municipalities in the state have emergency management plans in place, consistent with the federal government’s National Incident Management System.
Earl Stoddard, director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security for the county, explained that the federal government would “overlay” a local response to in the event of an emergency through the Federal Emergency Management Agency or the military.
He added that all 19 of the county’s municipalities are integrated into a countywide Emergency Operations Plan, Emergency Management Group and an alert system to allow for preplanning and coordination of resources in the event of an emergency.
“We meet regularly, and whatever the issue of the day is, we’ll discuss it,” Stoddard said.
During the record-breaking snowfall of January 2016, Stoddard explained, the City of Gaithersburg, the county, state, and federal government responders coordinated after a utility outage displaced approximately 40-50 residents at an apartment complex.
“The county serves a conduit between the municipalities and the state,” he said. “Similarly, the state serves as a conduit between the county and the federal government.”
City Manager Suzanne Ludlow said that the city uses “aspects of the plan every year, in response to storms, floods, (and) fires,” and “(we) haven’t always needed to declare an emergency, but we need to know the steps to take if needed.”
The city council will vote whether to adopt the plan on Feb. 6.