Workshop ties business to disaster preparation

Carroll first in state to use federally funded program

September 26, 2004|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

From celebrity visits to weather to terrorists, any number of events could pause or paralyze public services and private businesses in Carroll County.

These and other scenarios were mentioned Friday in the first of several sessions of a federally funded disaster-preparedness program under the direction of Michigan State University's School of Criminal Justice.

The program emphasizes a disaster's impact on businesses, which are often left out of planning but can be damaged or destroyed by natural or man-made events.

"We take an all-hazards approach. It's not just terrorism or weapons of mass destruction," said Brit Weber, manager of the program, Critical Incident Protocol.

About 60 people met for the first session at Carroll Community College, a co-sponsor of the program.

It was the CIP program's emphasis on business that appealed to Bonnie J. Grady, president and chief executive officer of the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce, and William E. Martin, the county's emergency management coordinator.

After Martin heard about it, Carroll became the first county in Maryland to take advantage of the free program, funded by the Office for Domestic Preparedness of the Department of Homeland Security.

The first meeting was intended to begin "setting up a foundation," Weber told attendees. The meetings will culminate in the spring with an exercise during which the participants will react to some unexpected crisis.

Preparation is "the name of the game for everybody in this room," Weber said.

Sometimes it might be as simple as exchanging contact information, he said, recounting how "just a name and a phone number" enabled officials in Columbus, Ohio, to determine that last year's power grid failure was not terrorist-related, quelling the fears of many in the area.

Business representatives mentioned internal security, such as workplace violence or labor strife, and their employees' ability to get to work in the event of a blizzard or a power failure.

George A. Morgan, fire protection and safety manager for Northrop Grumman's eastern sector, which includes a site in Sykesville, said anything from a ballgame to an event like the Baltimore tunnel fire can disrupt a large area.

Morgan said there is a need to plan and share information "from the top down and the bottom up."

"This is why the federal government funded this program," he said.

Grady said she was "pleased with the cross section of the people that attended, both the public and private sides were well represented."

Martin agreed. "I'm very pleased with the turnout," he said. "We've met a lot of new people that I look forward to working with. It's a lot about team building, a good cross section of business and the public."

Anyone who missed Friday's session can attend the next, which likely will be scheduled for next month, Martin said.

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