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Emergency evacuation plans need multi-state cooperation

November 18, 2005

If and when disaster strikes - natural or man-made - how will state officials make sure Maryland citizens can reach safety?

They're not sure yet. John Droneburg, director of the Maryland Emergency Management Administration, didn't say it that way when he talked to state lawmakers Wednesday.

But four years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, those plans are just coming together. As irritating as that might be, spending time lamenting what hasn't been done will only delay completion of an evacuation plan.

The House Environmental Matters Committee heard Droneburg say that parts of the plan relating to the evacuation of Baltimore and the Washington, D.C. suburbs have been done.

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What we haven't heard much about is where those people would go. In July, Jim Spears, West Virginia's director of military affairs and public safety, said that if metro area residents flee west, at present there is no state plan to house them.

There was such a plan in the 1980s, Spears said, but officials of the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management told The Associated Press they were unfamiliar with the document.

At the same time, Spears said he was proposing a multi-state coordinated effort, but FEMA officials told AP that each state must develop its own plan.

The House committee talked to Droneburg to get an update of how ready Maryland is for hurricanes such as those that struck the Gulf Coast this year.

What has not gotten nearly as much thought, apparently, is the possibility that the nation's capital and its suburbs might have to be evacuated following a terrorist attack.

As we said at the beginning of this editorial, spending time placing blame for what hasn't been done is a waste of time.

What must happen now is that the states within a day's drive of Washington, D.C., must finish their plans, and, despite FEMA's discouragement, look at how they could work together if the worst happens.

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