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Keyword: hurricane

Local emergency management experts will conduct a severe storm preparedness exercise tomorrow morning, May 15, for agency representatives to Baltimore County's Emergency Operations Center. 

The exercise, hosted by the Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Management, will pause at 10:30 a.m. for a press briefing in the EOC with County Executive Johnny Olszewski and the heads of agencies involved with emergency response. **Media should report to the Security Desk in the Historic Courthouse, 400 Washington Ave., 21204, to be escorted to the EOC.

The exercise will feature a realistic hypothetical scenario involving flooding from a Category 1 or 2 level hurricane impacting the County's coastal east side communities.

"Recent history shows that coastal areas like Bowleys Quarters, Turner Station and Miller's Island are extremely vulnerable to tropical systems affecting the mid-Atlantic. An effective response to these events requires preparation and partnership with our residents and businesses," Olszewski said.  

National Weather Service Meteorologist Chris Strong is scheduled to attend the exercise and present an overview of the forecast for the 2019 Atlantic storm season. Hurricane season begins June 1 and continues through November 30.

Threats to Baltimore County

Threats to Baltimore County during hurricane season include coastal flooding and storm surge, the subject of tomorrow's exercise. 

Inland communities along creeks and rivers are vulnerable to flooding during heavy rain events.

High winds with the potential to bring down power lines and trees can cause power outages anywhere in Baltimore County.

The Olszewski Administration believes it is crucial to prepare for flooding events that are becoming more frequent and intense due to climate change and rising sea levels. 

Preparation and Response

Disaster response training for first responders --including swiftwater and dive teams, helicopter rescue units and other specialized units -- occurs throughout the year. Prior to an approaching storm, routine preparedness includes equipment checks and outreach to mutual aid and private partners to ensure contacts and mutual aid agreements are current.

Exercises like the one tomorrow are held several times a year in the EOC to refresh agency representatives on processes and procedures used during an activation. EOC activations occur when an emergency requires a coordinated multi-agency response.

Public education and outreach occurs continually. "Prepared, engaged residents are essential to our ability to respond to disasters," said Jay Ringgold, Director of HSEM; the greater the number of households that assemble emergency kits, secure flood insurance and plan for pets and vulnerable family members, the better the County's ability to withstand a severe weather event.

Emergency Communications Platforms

Before, during and after emergencies, Baltimore County provides information via Twitter, @BaltCoEmergency. For those who choose not to register for Twitter, posts are shared on the County's "Stormfighter" web page.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management oversees disaster response.

Baltimore County Emergency Management officials are preparing for Hurricane Florence to bring heavy rains and serious inland and/or coastal flooding to our area.

The potential for flooding and for trees to topple and bring down power lines is greater because soils are saturated already from months of above-average rainfall. Residents should prepare now to get along for seven days without power, said BCoFD Division Chief Jay Ringgold, who oversees the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

"This is a serious, potentially catastrophic storm," Ringgold said. "Don't wait until the last minute to buy supplies and think about how you will get along if the worst happens and power goes out for an extended period. Take steps today to prepare."

NWS Forecast Update

Local emergency management officials participated this morning in the National Weather Service's telephone update on the Florence forecast. Here is the latest:

  • Forecasters are increasingly confident that Florence -- now a Category 4 storm -- will make landfall in the Carolinas, probably late Thursday. The storm is expected to be at least a Category 3 at landfall, with significant storm surge.
  • Forecasters are less certain where the storm will track and how fast it will move once it moves inland. Right now, most expect our area to feel the first effects of the storm late Thursday. The NWS believes the storm will stall, dumping heavy rains. The storm's wind speeds, once it moves inland, are difficult to predict; the amount of wind depends on where and how quickly (or slowly) it moves.
  • Because the storm is expected to stall and produce heavy rains, inland and coastal flooding are major threats throughout the south and the mid-Atlantic. In some areas, flooding could be historic and catastrophic.
  • The emergency from Florence is exacerbated because the ground is already so saturated. Trees are expected to fall, especially in areas that experience heavy wind, causing power outages and posing at threat to life and property.

Baltimore County emergency managers will continue to receive regular updates throughout this weather event. Follow this blog and our social media accounts -- @BaltCoemergency on Twitter and @BaltCoFire on Facebook --  for updated  information.

What You Need to Do

Every household should prepare for this weather emergency as soon as possible.

"The exact track of a hurricane is difficult to predict the exact track of a hurricane, and we could very well find ourselves affected by dangerous flooding and strong winds later this week," said County Executive Don Mohler. "It is imperative for each of us to think ahead and prepare to provide for the needs of our loved ones, especially the elderly, children and pets.”

Think about how you will manage if the power goes out for an extended period. Steps to take now:

  • Locate and purchase supplies. You need non-perishable food, a manual can opener, medications, supplies for infants and vulnerable adults, pet supplies, flashlights/batteries and a battery-powered radio.
  • Buy or store extra water -- at least a gallon per person, per day, plus extra for pets.
  • Fully charge all your electric devices. If power goes out, use them sparingly to make them last as long as possible.
  • Get cash. ATMs will not work during a power outage, so visit one now.
  • Secure boats and outdoor furniture.
  • Plan where you will evacuate if you live in a flood-prone area and need to move to higher ground.
  • Assist vulnerable family, neighbors with storm preparations. This is critical; many vulnerable people, including older people cannot prepare by themselves.
  • Stay informed about the track of this storm. Follow weather forecasts and our social media posts, @BaltCoEmergency on Twitter and @BaltCoFire on Facebook.

BCoFD's Preparations

BCoFD and the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management have been monitoring this storm for days and preparing for a "worst-case scenario" response. These preparations include:

  • Inspecting swiftwater and high-water rescue equipment; pumps and other apparatus.
  • Reviewing staffing and operational plans.
  • Preparing  to open and staff the Emergency Operations Center, in case this becomes an emergency requiring a coordinated, multi-agency response.
  • Contacting our mutual aid partners in case we need additional resources.
  • Regular updates with National Weather Service regarding the forecast.

Update, September 11:

Fire Capt. John Amrhein, who has been serving with Maryland 1-Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT) in Texas, has been redeployed to Florida to assist victims of Hurricane Irma.

Five Fire Department personnel remain deployed in the South -- Captain Amrhein and four members assigned to FEMA's Pennsylvania Task Force #1, a search and rescue team.

Original release:

Baltimore County Fire personnel continue to play a role in emergency response in Texas and now Florida, where Hurricane Irma -- a massive Category 5 storm -- threatens the entire state.

Three BCoFD members were deployed yesterday to Alabama as part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Pennsylvania Task Force #1 to prepare to respond to rescue and recovery needs associated with Irma.

Fire Lt. David Gouak, Fire Lt. Brandon Watkins and Fire Apparatus Driver Operator Shawn Drees will join Fire Lt. Byron Welker in Alabama. Lieutenant Welker, also a member of the Philadelphia-based Pennsylvania Task Force #1, has been deployed in Texas to assist with the response to Hurricane Harvey. The task force currently is demobilizing operations in that area.

Task Force member Fire Apparatus Driver Operator Steve Yealdhall, who was deployed to Texas, is returning home shortly.

Three BCoFD and one Health and Human Services personnel who have been serving in Texas as part of the Maryland 1-Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT) also have been demobilized and are on their way home: Fire Capt. Jack Amrhein, EMS Lt. Kevin Palmer, EMS Lt. Rick Blubaugh and Terry Sapp, Coordinator of Public Health Emergency Preparedness for the Department of Health and Human Services and an EMT.

"These are skilled professionals who have shown tremendous caring and heart. We are proud of them and happy to see them return safely," said County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. "We continue to keep the people of Texas, and now everyone in Irma's path, in our thoughts."

Preparing for Irma

Baltimore County agencies continue to monitor Hurricane Irma's track and prepare accordingly. "We are fortunate to have well-trained personnel and state-of-the-art equipment for our response, should this storm affect us," said Fire Chief Kyrle W. Preis III. "In the meantime, this is the right time for our citizens to take stock of their own emergency kits and other personal preparedness needs."

 
 
Revised June 27, 2017