Baltimore County News
Web feature enables residents to report issues directly to emergency managers
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced that County residents will have a direct line to communicate storm-related concerns to the County’s emergency managers beginning this winter season. He made the announcement during the County’s annual winter storm exercise in the Emergency Operations Center, where representatives from County agencies and regional partners work together to coordinate the County’s response to a hypothetical severe winter storm.
After last January’s record-breaking snowfall and extremely high call volumes that frustrated residents, County Executive Kamenetz directed County agencies to re-examine their constituent communication mechanisms for severe storm situations. At this morning’s press briefing, he announced Stormfighter, a new interactive web-based storm reporting feature on the County website that allows residents to self-report storm-related issues, rather than phoning the Department of Public Works (DPW). This system integrates with GIS mapping applications and provides real-time visual map-based data to assist DPW and emergency managers in responding to severe storms or other localized or regional emergencies.
“We know how frustrating it is to be unable to get through on the phone, so our award-winning Office of Information Technology has created a new web feature that is very user-friendly and is the best way to communicate with us in case of a major storm,” said Kamenetz. “When we experience very heavy snowfalls, it is important that we communicate realistic expectations to our residents that it can take many days until crews can move from the main roads and get into the neighborhood streets.”
In addition, Kamenetz announced that the County has upgraded DPW’s phone system to greatly expand the number of callers held in the queue and to enable quick mobilization of call-takers to respond to any need with little advance notice. The phone system includes a function that will advise callers of their estimated wait time to speak with someone and will invite them to submit their concerns on the website instead of waiting on hold. Kamenetz explained that the new web-based reporting form available to the public is the same form as County call-takers will use to input callers’ concerns.
County officials remind residents that in cases of true medical or other emergencies, they should always call 911. During major storm emergencies, first responders coordinate with DPW and other resources to continue responding to fires, urgent medical needs and other emergency situations.
Real-time updates available on the County’s website and social media platforms
Kamenetz also encouraged people to go to Twitter or the County website for Stormfighter updates. The County website offers the latest on road conditions, current plowing operations, winter storm tips and more at baltimorecountymd.gov/storm, which also includes Twitter updates from Baltimore County Emergency Management. These updates are also available on Twitter by using the Twitter handle, @bacoemergency.
The County Stormfighter web page now provides a link to live traffic camera feeds from the Maryland Department of Transportation’s Coordinated Highways Action Response Team (CHART). It also offers a link to the County’s list of road closures, which provides details on roads that are currently closed due to repairs, accidents, weather or other hazards. This list is updated frequently, so people are advised to check back often for the latest status. State roads and interstates are not included. Information on those roads can be found on the Maryland Department of Transportation’s travel advisories and road closures web page at http://www.chart.md.gov/TravInfo/Default.aspx.
“The really big snowstorms can try all of our patience, and I am pleased that the County is taking these positive steps to better facilitate communication with our constituents during storm emergencies,” said County Council Chair Vicki Almond.
Baltimore County Fire Chief, John Hohman
One of the best parts of my job is to promote our best and brightest firefighters and emergency medical personnel. This year I had the honor of promoting the very first woman to the rank of Assistant Chief, the second highest position in the department. Jennifer Aubert-Utz is now the highest ranking woman in the history of the Department, as one of three Assistant Chiefs.
I can remember when I first started in the department in February 1977. That year, the U.S. returned the Panama Canal to Panama, the first Apple II computers went on the market and the winter was so cold that the Chesapeake Bay froze over and they had to bring in ice-breakers. Also, it’s hard to believe, but at the time there was not a single female firefighter or paramedic in the Baltimore County Fire Department. I’m proud to say that we are now one of the top departments in the country in hiring females. The department has approximately 1,000 sworn members; 20 percent are women, while the national average for women in fire departments is 3 percent.
Assistant Chief Jennifer L. Aubert-Utz
Jennifer Aubert-Utz has spent nearly 17 years in the department. She has steadily moved up the ranks, starting as a Firefighter/EMT. Recently she served as commander of the Fire-Rescue Academy. She earned a Master’s degree in Management at Johns Hopkins University, and completed the National Fire Academy’s challenging four-year applied research program to attain the Executive Fire Officer designation. She has devoted time to Mothers Against Drunk Driving and has taken a particular interest in pedestrian safety concerns, serving on pedestrian safety committees for the County and the Baltimore Metropolitan Council.
“I feel honored to be chosen as the first woman to attain the rank of Assistant Chief. I hope I can inspire other young women to pursue careers in community service,” Aubert-Utz said. She has earned the respect of our personnel with her vision and skills, and it is not so remarkable that she is a woman, but that she is so talented. She is recognized across the country for her leadership. She is a role model and leader for both men and women in the fire service.
Assistant Chief Paul S. Lurz
Paul Lurz joined the department in 1990 and spent six years as a member of the department’s Hazardous Materials Response Team. He has worked in all three geographic divisions of the county, with his most recent assignment as the Division Chief for all of D Shift. In addition to his new role as Assistant Chief, he is also the Deputy Director of Emergency Management for Baltimore County, focusing on citizen preparedness, grants management, and planning. One area of interest is in ensuring that our vulnerable populations are properly served. Lurz earned a Master’s Degree in Management from Johns Hopkins University.
Division Chief Wayne L. Tome Sr.
Wayne Tome joined the Baltimore County Fire Department in 1983. He served as a paramedic until his 1986 promotion to EMS District Officer (Field Supervisor/ Lieutenant). He was subsequently named EMS Shift Commander (Captain), Fire Director for Emergency Medical Services, and has served as a Battalion Chief since 2012. He is also the mayor of Port Deposit, Maryland.
Battalion Chief Lonnie D. Ledford
Lonnie Ledford joined BCoFD in 2000 as a member of the 81st Recruit class. He has spent much of his career serving communities on the east side of the county, serving as a Fire Specialist, EMS Lieutenant and Fire Captain in Dundalk, Fullerton, and Towson. In 2015, Ledford worked as the Operations Captain of the Fire-Rescue Academy and as a Public Information Officer. He completed a Master’s degree in Management at Johns Hopkins University.
Battalion Chief Thomas G. Ramey
Tom Ramey joined the BCoFD in 1999 as a member of the 78th Recruit Class. He has held multiple positions including Firefighter/EMT, Paramedic/Firefighter, and EMS Lieutenant. He most recently was a Fire Captain at the Fullerton Fire Station, also serving as a Peer Fitness Trainer. He has been active with the Professional Firefighters of Maryland and earlier this year completed a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Baltimore.
Battalion Chief David Bycoffe
Office of Emergency Management
While Tropical Storm Hermine hasn’t quite confirmed her East Coast reservations yet, current forecasts as of midday Friday look like she’ll give the Baltimore region a pass. Even so, it’s still a timely reminder for all of us to make sure we have a plan in place to keep our families safe for any emergency that could come up.
The Baltimore County Office of Emergency Management (OEM) is closely watching the radar and continuing to prepare for the final months of hurricane season. One of the most important things to do when hurricane weather is threatening is to stay informed. We have several ways to provide you with up-to-the minute information. You can follow us on Twitter @BACOemergency or like our official Police and Fire Facebook page. Residents are also encouraged to visit our web site regularly at http://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/Agencies/emergency_prep/index.html for updated information as well as tips and information on preparation. Shelter information, evacuation orders and recovery resources will be publicized through these platforms.
No Twitter account or login is required to view @BACOemergency updates – just visit https://twitter.com/BACOemergency. As with many organizational social media accounts, the County’s emergency managers provide outgoing messages but are not in a position to respond to followers.
A hurricane is a significant storm that typically develops in the Caribbean and moves west, often landing in the Gulf of Mexico or the eastern coast of the United States. Meteorologists separate Hurricanes from other tropical storms by wind speed, damage potential, and other technical measurements. Hurricane season runs from May through November each year, and 2016 has already seen several named storms.
Ready? Set? Good!
There are a number of important measures you can take to prepare for a hurricane, and the best time to do it is when the skies are still clear. Families should prepare a disaster supply kit that includes a flashlight, batteries, cash and copies of critical information, such as insurance information. In addition residents are encouraged to have a supplemental power source for charging communication devices. Those living in homes with well water should have several gallon jugs of water on hand. More information on storm readiness can be found on the County website at http://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/Agencies/emergency_prep/index.html.
County residents are also encouraged to have a family disaster plan. This plan should include a predetermined meeting area and shelter location in case family members are away from home when the weather turns ugly. Baltimore County has several sheltering locations available throughout the County that are opened as needed during disaster events.
In addition, a family communication plan should be prepared which includes a single contact person for all members to call if separated during emergencies. If possible, choose a contact from another region not likely to be impacted by the weather event.
All Hands on Deck
The Baltimore County Office of Emergency Management is constantly preparing to respond, should our community be hit with hurricane activity. OEM believes in a whole community response to disasters, which includes multiple agencies working together to serve all of our stakeholders. This includes not only the County Fire and Police departments, but the departments of Health, Parks and Recreation, Public Works, Health and Human Services, the school system and others. We also coordinate with state and federal resources and our regional partners like BGE, the Red Cross and more. These agencies are ready to provide preparedness, response and recovery assistance to all of our citizens, visitors and business owners. This plan ensures a quick and effective response to the needs of all those we serve.
The Mid-Atlantic region is no stranger to hurricane activity. Taking the time to be prepared and informed will have a great impact on response and recovery whenever the next storm makes landfall in Baltimore County.