Irene Lumpkins

[ Age 54 ] A city health official, she helped develop a regional disaster response plan to counter terrorist attacks

October 15, 2006|By Gina Davis | Gina Davis,SUN REPORTER

Irene Theresa Lumpkins, director of field health services for the Baltimore City Health Department who helped develop a regional disaster response plan, died of cancer Oct. 8 at Stella Maris Hospice in Timonium. She was 54.

A lifelong Baltimorean, Irene Theresa Smith grew up in Claremont and Armistead Gardens, said her son, Donald Lumpkins of Carney.

She graduated in the 1960s from Mergenthaler Vocational Technical High School and attended Baltimore City Community College in the 1980s. In 1994, she earned a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Baltimore.

In 1971, she married Charles H. Lumpkins, who died in 1997.

Mrs. Lumpkins began her career in the early 1980s with the city health department, where she was regarded as a pioneer in emergency preparedness.

"She was involved with laying the groundwork when she wrote [the health department's piece of] the original response plan for a chemical attack" in 1998, said Pamela Somers of Baltimore, who met Mrs. Lumpkins 30 years ago when the two were volunteers with the American Red Cross.

"Irene was a perfectionist," said Mrs. Somers, who became Mrs. Lumpkin's assistant director with the field services unit when it was created in 1981. "She wanted things right, and she went to great lengths to make sure they were right."

Mrs. Somers recalled how Mrs. Lumpkins developed the idea in 1976 for a first-aid station at the Inner Harbor.

"A child had fallen and skinned his knee," she said. "No one had a Band-Aid, and Irene jumped into the idea of having a first-aid station." Soon after, the American Red Cross opened the station and Mrs. Somers, who was a Red Cross instructor, oversaw it until Mrs. Lumpkins could complete first-aid training.

The group ran a full-time first-aid station there until the late 1980s, Mrs. Somers said.

During a huge snowstorm in 1996, a Sun article documented Mrs. Lumpkin's perseverance and the efforts of her team at the health department's field health services unit to transport hundreds of Medicaid patients in need of dialysis, chemotherapy and other medical treatments.

"We will just keep on trucking," the article quoted Mrs. Lumpkins, who oversaw the city's medical transportation. She coordinated rides to treatment facilities for patients who included a Baltimore woman who had to be carted on a portable stretcher down a street covered by 3 feet of snow to a waiting ambulance.

Mrs. Lumpkins served on the team that established the Metropolitan Medical Response System in the Baltimore region to formulate a cohesive response to a possible terrorist attack, according to her son. She also was chairwoman of the Health and Safety Function Group, Chemical Weapons Improved Response Program for the Domestic Preparedness Program -- a panel that made national recommendations for responding to terrorist attacks that involve chemical weapons, her son said.

Mrs. Lumpkins raised German shepherds and bred them for police canine units. She was a member of Mid-Atlantic German Shepherd Rescue, a nonprofit volunteer organization that rescues and places surrendered, abandoned, neglected or abused German shepherds and shepherd mixes in Maryland, Northern Virginia, the District of Columbia and south-central Pennsylvania.

"Mom was a remarkable woman," her son said. "She brought her strength, dedication and sense of humor to everything -- work, school, hobbies and even her fight against cancer."

Services were held Friday.

In addition to her son, Mrs. Lumpkins is survived by a stepdaughter, Jacqueline Conn of Abingdon; a stepson, Daniel Lumpkins of Abingdon; a sister, Joan Reuter of Lutherville; and two brothers, David Smith of Sparrows Point and Howard Heaney of Buffalo, N.Y.

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