Emergency Management Division
As in all counties, Dorchester County has its share of hazards. The Emergency Management Division is responsible for the mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery from natural and man-made disasters that may affect our residents and visitors. The Emergency Management Division is also responsible for the staffing, training, and operations of the Emergency Operations Center, which is a facility where allied government and community organizations can come together to coordinate different aspects of a disaster response. The Director of Emergency Services serves as the Governor-appointed, sworn Emergency Manager and is supported by a full time emergency planner.
Dorchester County Hazards and Preparedness
Dorchester County has a few hazards of which residents and visitors should be aware. Flooding, both coastal and storm/rain-event related, is the most frequently experienced hazard in the county. Other natural hazards include winter weather (ice, snow, blizzards), wind events (tornados, derechos), drought and extreme temperatures. Technological hazards, such as industrial accidents, are infrequent in the county but are still hazards for which DES plans. A portion of Dorchester County (Taylor’s Island) is within the 10 mile emergency planning zone for Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant (CCNPP), which is also poses a low possibility/high risk threat to the county. Exelon Corporation, the parent company of CCNPP, supports the planning and preparedness for radiological incidents in Dorchester as does the Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) and the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE). You can learn more about the hazards facing Dorchester County by reading the 2017 Dorchester County Hazards Mitigation Plan.
The National Weather Service Wakefield is the weather service office assigned to Dorchester County for all official weather information. A variety of terms are used to describe the hazards and threats posed to residents based on the forecast. In recognition that the terms may get confusing, NWS has made a concerted effort in recent years to improve product language, clarity, and import to its audience. In general, follow these tips when NWS Wakefield issues statements for our area:
Warnings or Advisories are issued when confidence is greater than 80% that an event will occur. Depending on the type of event, these may be issued anywhere from hours before an event to days in advance of an event. This also includes Hazardous Message (not to be confused with Hazardous Outlook) and Special Weather Statement.
Watch products associated with weather events are typically issued within a day or more of the event. The confidence level for an event to occur when a Watch is issued is 50-80%. When a Watch is issued, you should begin to gather more information about the situation and determine what actions you will need to take should a warning be issued.
Outlook products are issued days, weeks or even months in advance of the event. The confidence level for an event highlighted in an outlook to occur is less than 50%. When an Outlook is issued, you should take note. This serves as a “heads-up” that you may be impacted and gives you a general timeline of when the event could occur.
Products may be issued to keep the public and NWS partners (like DES) up to date on the latest forecast. Based on the type of weather event, these products are named different things but usually include the word Discussion or Statement (not including Special Weather Statement).
The county is low-lying and contains a large swath of tidal and non-tidal wetlands in the south, with rivers and topography in the north that also results in flooding. DES routinely monitors areas known to flood and communicates through social media when the National Weather Service has issued any type of advisories.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) encourages most citizens to obtain flood insurance. Did you know that your home owner’s insurance won’t cover damages caused by water from outside of your home? Frequently asked questions about flood insurance, including who is eligible and how to obtain it, can be found on the FEMA National Flood Insurance Program website.
FEMA and MEMA work through local jurisdictions to provide funding aid for the elevation of homes that are in certain flood zones. If you would like more information on elevating your home, please contact Steve Garvin at email@example.com or via phone at 410-228-1818.
Other Weather Hazards
Winter weather, summer storms, and other weather hazards exist in Dorchester County and the surrounding areas. For up to the minute weather, please refer to NWS Wakefield’s website.
FEMA has a number of tools to assist you in preparing for any weather hazard. Check out Ready.gov for detailed information on how to make a family emergency plan (including pets!), how to prepare your home, and other key steps you can take to make sure you are prepared for emergencies.
Radiological/Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant
While extremely low in probability, the possibility of a radiological incident or disaster stemming from Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant (CCNPP) remains a threat in Dorchester County. Residents of Taylor’s Island, as well as within the rest of the county, should be aware of the possibility of a disaster and understand the steps to take should an incident occur. Each year CCNPP develops an emergency planning brochure to assist residents with understanding the risk and how best to prepare. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission maintains information on the plant and its Unit 1 and Unit 2 reactors.
If you have specific questions about CCNPP, your risk, and how to prepare, please contact the Emergency Management office at 410-228-1818.
If you’d like to play a bigger part in your own, your family’s, or your community’s preparedness and response to emergencies, DES offers a variety of ways of getting involved.
Community Emergency Response Team (CERT)
Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) is a completely free program designed by FEMA and put on by local instructors in order to help citizens train to help their communities in disasters. Skills learned in the class include fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations.
DES hosts at least one CERT class per year, and is capable of teaching additional classes if requested. CERT can be taught in your neighborhood if facilities are available. DES also teaches at least one Teen CERT class per year at the Dorchester Career and Technology Center (DCTC) for students enrolled in the homeland security program. Contact the DES Emergency Management office at 410-228-1818 for more information on CERT or Teen CERT.
Local Emergency Planning Committee
The Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) is a federally mandated entity composed of local and state government agencies, private sector, non-profits, and the public. The LEPC is responsible for developing and reviewing emergency plans and provide information about chemicals in the community to citizens.
The Dorchester LEPC does address hazardous materials in the community, topics including hazard mitigation and seasonal preparedness have also been considered at meetings. Anyone with an interest in emergency preparedness is welcome to attend LEPC meetings which take place quarterly at DES Headquarters. Our next meeting will be July 31, 2018 from 1pm-3pm.
The Maryland Department of Health manages the Maryland Responds program, which is the Maryland Medical Reserve Corps. The program registers public health and medical volunteers who may be requested to help during a disaster. If you have medical or public health training, or are a community member who would like to support response operations, please visit the Maryland Responds website to learn more information.