(Nov. 9, 2018) Maryland National Guard members, along with a host of other agencies, seized control of the inlet parking lot during “Operation Tourist Boom,” an all-day disaster response exercise last Saturday.
Maj. Kurt Rauschenberg, National Guard Bureau public affairs officer, said an array of catastrophic scenarios were explored for emergency management teams to test their readiness for local and state disasters or civil unrest.
Joining the Maryland National Guard, in addition to police, fire and EMS personnel from Ocean City, were the Maryland State Police, Worcester County Sheriff’s Department, U.S. Park Police, Maryland Department of Natural Resources Police, U.S. Coast Guard, Wicomico Civil Air Patrol, Worcester County Schools and Atlantic General Hospital.
“The National Guard is always the first military responder for domestic response,” Rauschenberg said. “We’re easily called up and at the ready, as far as capabilities, resources, and personnel, to the state governor.”
Scheduled during the National Guard’s regular drill weekend, “Operation Tourist Boom,” which was under development since February, featured live demonstrations and exercises at the inlet parking lot, the Boardwalk and beach.
Disaster response training events are done on a predictable basis to help the National Guard synchronize with first responders from federal, state and local governments.
“This is everything the Maryland National Guard does with the civil authority here in the state at the local level,” he said. “That includes providing security efforts, augmenting law enforcement, medical assistance and also decontamination if there is a chemical/biological type scenario.”
Among the complex scenarios used to test emergency decision-making were simulated dirty bomb explosions, landmine sweeps on the beach, riot containment, as well as active shooter and attacks by vehicle assailants.
In addition to soldiers, airmen were also stationed in the resort, including U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Matt Crabill, 175th Wing Emergency Management superintendent for the Maryland Air National Guard, who oversaw the units from the Mobile Emergency Operations Center trailer. Maryland’s National Guard deploys the MEOC trailer from Warfield Air National Guard Base in Baltimore. The mobile unit features half dozen workstations, conference area, dedicated generator, and also contains satellite, Internet, and television feeds.
Crabill, a certified MEOC operator, said the apparatus provides efficient response support for domestic operations but requires about a seven-figure investment.
“That’s an initial cost because once you have technology you chase technology,” he said. “To ask a local jurisdiction to cough up a million dollars and then to continue to support this with technology as it advances, it’s a lot to ask.”
The fiscal challenges vary by locale, with Crabill noting Worcester County, which owns comparable equipment, is located within Federal Emergency Management Agency region three.
“That’s a fairly wealthy region because it’s around D.C, and Philadelphia,” he said. “As you start to go south and west not necessarily can they afford this type of technology at a local level.”
Crabill said the National Guard has 21 MEOC trailers to assist local emergency management agencies during times of need.
Rauschenberg said both Air and Army National Guard branches serve a dual mission at the state level and the federal level.
“While we’re protecting the homeland, we’re also fighting America’s wars,” he said. “But while we’re doing both, we’re sustaining enduring partnerships.”