Elizabeth Daigneau is GOVERNING's managing editor.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
During disasters, the private sector is as crucial as the government in offering relief.
When Hurricane Isabel struck Maryland in 2003, Duck tour boats were used to evacuate residents from flooded coastal areas. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Wal-Mart not only provided water but food, clothes and $20 million in donations. During disasters, the private sector is as crucial as the government in offering much needed relief. To formalize these partnerships, Maryland is creating a "Civic Guard," a cooperative effort among state and local governments and the University of Maryland's Center for Health and Homeland Security to tap private and nonprofit organizations for assistance during a major emergency or disaster. To get started, officials are asking businesses and nonprofit organizations to log on to the MEMA's Web site to submit information on what they may be able to offer during an emergency. Once business and nonprofits register, the state plans to create a credentialing system for Civic Guard volunteers and provide training. The Civic Guard is modeled after an agreement Governor Martin O'Malley made with construction unions when he was mayor of Baltimore to allow heavy equipment operators to be pre-qualified to work disaster sites. The program is funded through a $2.7 million federal grant to support coordination of regional disaster planning.