Communities across the state may experience faster local responses to natural disasters and emergencies thanks to new guidelines being formed by Laurel emergency management officials.
Martin Flemion, Laurel’s emergency services director, and Councilman Edward Ricks (Ward 1) are spearheading the effort through the Maryland Municipal League’s emergency management committee, which Laurel Mayor Craig Moe formed when he was league president five years ago.
It is important for municipalities to be as self-sufficient as possible in emergencies because state and county aid may not always be readily available, Ricks said.
“Sometimes big government has so many things to do, you’re the last thing on the totem pole,” he said. “You have to be prepared on your own and set up a plan. So what we’re doing is coming up with that plan.”
Tom Reynolds, MML’s director of education services and staff liaison to the committee, said emergency management is one of Laurel’s strengths.
“Laurel does a particularly good job on that front,” he said. “A large part of it has to do with Mayor Moe, who has a lot of experience in that field.”
Both Moe and Flemion are members of the Laurel Volunteer Fire Department, and Moe has served as both president and fire chief, Ricks said.
“[Flemion] lives and breathes public safety and emergency preparedness,” Reynolds said. “The guy really knows his stuff.”
Ricks has been a member of the fire department for 50 years and volunteered with the Laurel Rescue Squad for 24 years.
The emergency operations guidance document that Ricks, Flemion and the committee will prepare will outline specific ways municipalities can prepare for emergencies and meet federal standards that will make them eligible for disaster assistance funds, Flemion said.
Ricks said he hopes the committee’s new guidelines will promote awareness and discussion about natural disasters and emergencies and how cities can be prepared.
“Elected officials need to deal with so many pressing issues,” Ricks said. “Emergency preparedness, because it responds to a unique event, tends to get pushed by the wayside. The primary goal of this committee is to create an awareness of the need to prepare.”