Baltimore region communications exercise

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(Photos courtesy of Scott Brillman/Baltimore City Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management)

When responding to emergencies in our community, first responders often face challenges when they communicate with other jurisdictions. Over the past few years, homeland security funds have allowed our local fire and police departments to purchase new communications equipment, greatly increasing the ability of different agencies to communicate effectively during a major incident. However, these communication systems are so new that many of them have never been tested during a real event.

To ensure that responders can work together when the need arises, CHHS worked with the Baltimore Metropolitan Incident Management Team to develop an exercise enabling responders to test the effectiveness of their communications in a realistic simulation. On April 10, 2010, participating agencies from Baltimore City and its surrounding counties brought their command vehicles to the Anne Arundel County Fire Headquarters, where CHHS staff guided them through a daylong drill evaluating their ability to transmit both voice and data to their partner jurisdictions. Participating departments demonstrated the use of novel technologies including the transmission of on-scene video and satellite imagery, which are revolutionizing the type of information available to incident commanders.

Without exercising these capabilities, it is impossible to know whether they will prove effective when they are needed most. CHHS staff provided the exercise framework and expert evaluators to Baltimore-area responders, giving them an understanding of areas for further investment and the confidence to use cutting-edge communication systems during a major incident.

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