The 18 member jurisdictions of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG), in a major step that strengthens homeland security preparedness in the National Capital Region, last week officially agreed to use, maintain and participate in the Regional Emergency Coordination Plan (RECP) developed through COG by signing a memorandum of understanding.
The RECP facilitates communication and coordinates planning among local, state and federal officials in the event of emergencies including terrorist attacks, political demonstrations, criminal activity, severe weather or environmental problems. The plan is being used regularly and was an important factor in responding to the sniper incident last fall, the recent collaboration among health officials regarding severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), last year’s drought and the region’s record February snowstorm.
“The COG Board is gratified that so many of our local elected officials and emergency planners have told us the plan and its centerpiece, the Regional Incident Communications and Coordination System (RICCS) is the best innovation the National Capital Region has seen in recent years,” said COG Board Chair Mary K. Hill. “The RECP is a living document which will be continually improved and updated, so it will always be a valuable asset,” she added.
The National Capital Region Emergency Planning Council, created by COG in November 2002, is responsible for the oversight of the RECP. Currently, the Council is working to complete a disease surveillance project as well as more detailed regional plans to carry out evacuation or “shelter-in-place” orders if necessary. The Council also anticipates aggressively seeking congressional action to address liability concerns for first responders who come to the aid of citizens in neighboring communities. The Council will continue to hold training exercises to ensure that emergency agencies and local officials understand their roles and responsibilities under the RECP.
COG is now working with federal and state agencies to obtain formal endorsement of the RECP, along with the authorities that control the region’s infrastructure and private and non-profit stakeholders. The entire RECP can be obtained from COG’s Web site, www.mwcog.org.