CHHS Supports Continuity Exercise for DC Government
Through an ongoing project with the District of Columbia (D.C.) to enhance Continuity of Operations (COOP) planning for all City agencies, the University of Maryland Center for Health and Homeland Security (CHHS) led a tabletop exercise today for the D.C. Department of Forensic Sciences. Prior to actual man-made or natural disasters, discussion-based tabletop exercises help evaluate policies and procedures, while giving key staff the opportunity to talk through roles and responsibilities.
Held at the City’s new Consolidated Forensic Laboratory, the exercise included participants from the Forensic Science Laboratory Division, the Public Health Laboratory Division, and the Crime Scene Sciences Division. CHHS has conducted several workshops over the past year to draft a COOP plan in collaboration with Department of Forensic Sciences. COOP plans aid agencies in resuming essential functions within 12 hours of an emergency, and sustain functions for up to 30 days. Today’s exercise, also developed and facilitated by CHHS, helped personnel determine how to continue critical forensic functions for the City in the aftermath of the loss of an entire operating facility.
CHHS recently completed a COOP tabletop exercise for the College of Southern Maryland, and began working in Dallas, Texas to update an all-hazards COOP plan. Past COOP planning service clients have included the University System of Maryland and the University of Maryland, Baltimore, all cabinet level agencies in the state of Maryland, as well as local and federal organizations in D.C. CHHS was also a pioneer in adapting federal guidance regarding continuity planning for state and local government use –in 2005 the Center was awarded the first in a series of grants from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Training and Exercise Division to develop and offer the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)-certified course Preparing the States: Implementing Continuity of Operations Planning. CHHS trained more than 100 jurisdictions from Maryland to Guam before federal funding ended in 2013, and continues to offer similar courses to interested clients.