Allegany County leans on strong local response system for biological situations

Emergency Management for Allegany County in Maryland utilizes resources at every level, from national to local. This hierarchy of response gives the county a strong foundation of bio-preparedness. “We kind of have a multipronged approach to this,” Chief of Emergency Management for Allegany County Susan Lee told BioPrepWatch. “We stay informed. We try to stay ahead of the curve on emergency threats.”

At the state level, the county works with the Maryland Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Mental Health and Hygiene. The department coordinates nationally with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Locally, Allegany County has a portable decontamination unit, mass casualty unit, hazardous materials group and appropriate protective attire. An emergency preparedness work group, consisting of law enforcement, EMS providers and special operations, meets at least once each month to coordinate efforts. “We can just take Ebola as an example,” Lee told BioPrepWatch. “We already have a plan put in place on how to respond, transport, decontaminate and report these issues.”

Lee, who has experience working in the military, as a government contractor and as a safety, security and special project manager, said she briefs the community at least six times a year on emergency preparedness. The county’s other primary form of communication is Facebook. “For a very small jurisdiction we have a pretty good following, and the reach for that alone is very extensive,” she told BioPrepWatch.

Emergency Management takes external factors into consideration when planning for response, such as the location. “We really don’t view ourselves as ground zero, but obviously you can’t tell where something is going to happen,” Lee told BioPrepWatch. “We do view ourselves, however, as a place where people may self-evacuate to. We’re about midpoint between Washington, D.C., and Pittsburgh, so we could be a recipient area.”