April 16, 2024
Annapolis, US 64 F

County Agencies Prepare For Worst

The emergency services we have in Anne Arundel County are some of the most respected in the nation. It does not come easy and the training and education is never ending. We have had the opportunity to witness some of the training exercises over the past year and it is painfully obvious that this County is prepared for virtually anything that is thrown its way.

With the recent headline news about the tornadoes in Joplin, MO, the County arranged an inter-agency exercise on June 17, 2011 to simulate such an emergency.

Scenario

The scenario was that a series of  tornadoes came up from South County and essentially obliterated Edgewater, Davidsonville, Riva, and parts of Annapolis. The primary shelter for residents in that area, Annapolis High School, was demolished and a back up shelter was quickly mobilized at Arundel High School in Gambrills.

More than a hundred volunteers came to be the “evacuees” and each had a role to play in the scenario which was unknown to the emergency responders and volunteers manning the shelter.  After they were checked in and identified, the evacuees were milling about in the cafeteria of the school. During this time, we witnessed drunks, several fights, a woman with chest pains, a busybody photographer getting in the way, a mentally unstable woman, people with pets, and much more.  A note on pets–bring them to the shelter and they will be accommodated in a separate area. You must remain in the shelter if your pet is there and you must provide food and medicine.

For rest, a separate sleeping area was set up in the gymnasium. The exercise was set up for 100 beds and was prepared to expand as needed. For the sleeping quarters, the general rule is to keep quiet and allow others to rest if they want.

Capability

According to Division Chief, Michael E. Cox, the County can mobilize the shelter in just a few hours and is prepared to handle upwards of 2000 residents without the need for mutual aid from Baltimore or surrounding jurisdictions. Cox was quick to note that the few times the county has opened shelters–most recently an ice storm a few years back and for Tropical Storm Isabel–very few residents were served. “We have a pretty self sustaining population and they can fend for themselves to a degree. But, there is a big difference between being without electricity for a few days and having your home and neighborhood completely destroyed,” said Cox. While the shelters have been under-used, the County must be prepared for any eventuality.

In addition to the video above, we took several photos.

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