CHHS Assists Local College in Emergency Continuity Preparations
Today the University of Maryland Center for Health and Homeland Security (CHHS) hosted a Continuity of Operations (COOP) tabletop exercise for the College of Southern Maryland (CSM). Held on its La Plata campus, CSM participants included representatives from the President’s Council, administrative and support areas, as well as academic staff. The exercise assessed CSM’s level of emergency preparedness, evaluated the effectiveness of CSM’s policies and procedures, and trained CSM staff on roles and responsibilities during an emergency.
COOP plans help agencies resume essential functions within 12 hours of an emergency, and sustain functions for up to 30 days. CHHS has been working for the past 6 months under a contract with CSM to collect information from various stakeholders about the college’s essential functions and develop a robust COOP plan that will ensure continued operations during a wide-range of emergencies that could potentially impact their campuses.
Having plans in place to deal with public health issues, weather catastrophes, or man-made threats is critical, but of equal importance is walking through real-world-like scenarios to test the capabilities of staff and the effect on personnel, equipment, and infrastructure. Today’s tabletop exercise, also developed and facilitated by CHHS, simulated a prolonged emergency that inhibited CSM’s ability to operate as normal.
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 organizations from the District of Columbia. 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.