Interview: Maryland Department of Disabilities Director of Emergency Preparedness
Recent weather events have many Marylanders considering their own emergency plans and ensuring they are prepared during extraordinary circumstances. September is also emergency preparedness month emphasizing the importance for all Marylanders to have a plan. The Maryland Department of Disabilities (MDOD) is fortunate to have a fully dedicated Emergency Preparedness Director ensuring the needs of residents with disabilities are considered at every step of the emergency planning process. We sat down with Emergency Preparedness Director, Cecilia Warren, to ask a few questions about her position and her advice for Maryland residents.
What do you find to be the most interesting part of your work with MDOD?
The most interesting part of my work at MDOD is finding solutions that meet the needs of our stakeholders; including people with disabilities, emergency managers, and regional partners. Finding solutions and preparing for disasters is a process that is never closed. Policies and practices must incorporate new bodies of knowledge and lessons learned into the emergency management cycle. I enjoy collaborating with subject matter experts in multi-disciplinary teams. I am fortunate to partner with an enthusiastic and dedicated group of specialists at the Maryland Emergency Management Agency.
If someone wants to be better prepared but doesn't know where to start, what do you suggest as a first step?
Fortunately, several resources have emerged to help individuals with disabilities with preparedness planning. It is always wise to start with the local jurisdiction to see if they have developed preparedness information for the community. The local jurisdiction's Office of Emergency Management will be familiar with the threats and hazards that are known to exist in the community. The Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) has a wealth of preparedness information for residents. Also, some consumer groups within the disability community promote emergency preparedness.
Modern disasters can result in a broad range of collateral effects for communities, businesses, and individuals. When planning for a disaster, think about the most likely course of events that will occur. For example, during a severe weather event, a home could experience the loss of electricity, which could lead to power failure. A power failure could result in the inability to prepare food, receive weather alerts, and use medical devices. Preparedness involves analyzing the disaster, in advance, and determining how to mitigate the impact. As emergency managers, we want individuals and communities to build resilience.