COOP Planning at the University of Maryland, Baltimore

Testing Continuity Of Operations (COOP) planning, the University of Maryland Center for Health and Homeland Security (CHHS) conducted a tabletop exercise today for the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB).  The discussion-based exercise brought together representatives from the University Police Force, Environmental Health and Safety, Communications and Public Affairs, Academic Affairs, Veterinary Resources, Operations and Maintenance, and Administration and Finance, as well as staff from all six academic schools, to assess the campus’ ability to resume essential functions within 12 hours of an emergency, and sustain functions for up to 30 days.

For the past two years CHHS has worked with UMB on an emergency preparedness and planning contract, facilitating the development of policies and procedures to address both potential natural disasters and man-made threats to the campus in West Baltimore. CHHS’ Exercise and Training team has also conducted a series of exercises to evaluate operational proficiency and train staff on their roles and responsibilities during an emergency.

Simulating a prolonged emergency following a train derailment and loss of power that impacted normal functions of staff, students, and visitors, today’s exercise emphasized the importance of having robust emergency plans in place, while also testing capabilities prior to a real-world disaster. A total of 75 participants, including CHHS evaluators and facilitators, were on hand. Additional work under the contract, which runs through fall 2015, will focus on evaluating campus security, including building evaluations and critical asset management.

CHHS recently completed a similar COOP planning and exercise project for the College of Southern Maryland,and is in the process of working with the City of Dallasto update all-hazard COOP plans. Additional COOP planning service clients have included the University System of Maryland, all cabinet level agencies in the state of Maryland, local organizations from the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as training foreign governments in the tenants of COOP.  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.

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