Planning for Public Safety During a Special Event

Photo Courtesy of the Annapolis Office of Emergency Management

March 2nd, 2015 by Patrick Donlan

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The Gubernatorial Inauguration of Larry Hogan, Maryland’s 62nd Governor, took place on January 21st, 2015. While the ceremony lasted a total of 3 hours, the planning process spanned over 2 months.

It’s difficult to predict when or where an emergency or disaster might take place. Special events however, are known ahead of time and allow for planning and preparation in advance. In today’s emergency management conscious world planning for the unexpected is routine, but for special events, up to date plans and situational awareness is key.

Maryland’s Inauguration planning process began in early December of 2014, when the event’s major players met to establish responsibilities. More than 14 state agencies and local departments were involved in planning. The City of Annapolis Office of Emergency Management (OEM) undertook the task of coordinating the Unified Command for the Public Safety Operation. The main goal was to ensure the safety of more than 1,500 attendees who would watch the new Maryland Governor be sworn into Office.

At this first meeting, the biggest obstacle was creating overarching objectives and getting everyone on the same page. Subcommittees were formed to encourage coordination of similar resources, and better understand the capabilities of participating players. The Operations Branch was organized into Law Enforcement, EMS/Fire Services, and Emergency Transportation and Sheltering.

By the next Operations Meeting on January 7th, the objectives of each department and agency had been delegated, and it was now their responsibility to develop strategies and tactics. The City of Annapolis OEM was responsible for collecting information from each agency and department to finalize Assignments Lists for the Incident Action Plan (IAP). These Assignment Lists were responsible for tracking duties of more than 200 public safety personnel being designated to work the Inauguration. Along with personnel, there were multiple mobile command centers for field level coordination, and two dump trucks filled with sand used as mobile barriers.

Supporting the Annapolis OEM as the Emergency Planner, it was my job to communicate with all of the involved agencies and departments to make sure their information was accurate. Once the appropriate information was received, it was transferred into the IAP.

The final, 34-page IAP was distributed and reviewed at an Operations Briefing a few days before the January 21st Inauguration. Questions that remained unclear were discussed, and finalized. Everyone had their job. The only thing left unanswered, was whether there would be an unforeseen threat to test the plan put in place.

As best practices for departments and agencies may change, the significance of situational awareness is important for the overall success of event planning. Understanding the role of each department allows for better understanding of response in the event of an emergency. The tracking of responsibilities and resources is a dynamic and arduous task, but having the numbers of available resources is invaluable to decision makers in high stress situations.

Thankfully, no incidents outside a few snowflakes impacted the 2015 Inauguration events. The City of Annapolis, and all the state and local agencies involved, did a tremendous job in working together seamlessly to plan ahead for the unexpected, monitor events in real-time, and wrap-up a successful large-scale special event.

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