What would the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) do if a terrorist group released radioactive material in Baltimore City with large-scale contamination and mass casualties? How would UMB’s local, state, and federal partners help in such an emergency?
This scary thought was the basis for the Inner Harbor Thunder emergency exercise held Jan. 17 at the SMC Campus Center.
The all-day tabletop exercise created by the U.S. Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and the FBI “to build an in-depth understanding of responding to a terrorism incident involving radiological, nuclear, or other weapons of mass destruction” drew more than 130 participants.
They represented local, state, and federal law enforcement, the Baltimore City Fire Department, state and federal emergency response and regulatory agencies, UMB and other local universities, the University of Maryland Medical Center, and congressional staff members.
UMB and Yale are the two university sites where such exercises are being held this year.
“I think the exercise was a huge success,” said Steven Deck, DM, MBA, director of UMB’s Department of Environmental Health and Safety, who organized and coordinated the tabletop exercise. “Participants increased their understanding of each agency’s and organization’s role as members of a regional team responding to a radiological incident.”
Added Laura Kozak, MA, associate vice president, Office of Communications and Public Affairs, “The most interesting thing to me was the contacts that I made — these were people we would actually be working with if an emergency of this magnitude occurred — but also the number of agencies that are available to respond.
“Of course, you hope we never confront such an emergency,” said Kozak, one of more than a dozen UMB people who took part in the exercise, “but this kind of preparation and being aware of the expertise of your partners can prove invaluable.”
According to the NNSA, nearly 7,000 people from across the country have participated in such Thunder tabletop exercises. Follow-up discussions are planned in Baltimore to further improve the region’s ability to respond to a radiological incident.
— Chris Zang