REISTERSTOWN, MD—The Maryland Emergency Management Agency will become the Maryland Department of Emergency Management effective Friday, October 1, 2021. It will be a principal department reporting directly to the Governor’s office, and will have greater flexibility to handle administrative functions, especially during emergencies. As part of this transition, the Maryland 9-1-1 Board will become part of the newly established department.
“These are challenging but exciting times for emergency management and this move better positions us to respond to those challenges,” said Russ Strickland, the current MEMA Executive Director who becomes Acting Secretary of Emergency Management, pending confirmation by the Maryland State Senate in 2022. “The structure of our department will help us meet those challenges more efficiently and give us greater flexibility to serve Marylanders.”
This move is part of a broader trend across the nation where emergency management agencies are moving to report directly to the chief executive in states or local communities. This direct line of communication establishes a link between emergency managers and executives within government, which reduces lag time and improves response and recovery activities. Maryland joins a growing list of states which have elevated their emergency management agencies to principal departments.
The Maryland Department of Emergency Management was enacted during the 2021 Maryland General Assembly session and signed into law by Governor Larry Hogan on May 18. The legislation also moved the Emergency Number Systems Board — also known as the Maryland 9-1-1 Board — to the new Department.
Emergency management traces its roots to 1949, when the Maryland Civil Defense Agency was created as part of the Governor’s Office to face the challenges and nuclear hazards of the Cold War. In 1989, MEMA was created as part of the Maryland Military Department to focus on all natural and man-made hazards.
Emergency management staff will still work closely with its former parent agency. The Maryland National Guard and the Maryland Defense Force will continue to be important partners in preparation, training, response, and recovery activities.
The department will continue its focus on support for local emergency managers, effective mitigation strategies, coordinating emergency response, and helping the public better prepare for, respond to, and recover from emergencies and disasters.