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Target volunteers to help in Md. emergencies

When Maryland declares a state of emergency, Target Corp. and 19 other businesses say they will lend a hand.

Target will donate inventory, and its staff members will volunteer as part of a statewide plan to incorporate private businesses and their services during catastrophes.

The deal with Target was brokered by the University of Maryland Center for Health and Homeland Security under a $1.8 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said JoAnne Knapp, senior policy analyst for the Center for Health and Homeland Security. The center is directed by Michael Greenberger, a professor from the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law.

In the wake of devastating damage, as was done by tornadoes throughout the Southeastern United States last week, Maryland Emergency Management Agency officials could ask for resources, like baby supplies for emergency shelters, that it doesn’t have.

“This is a very good thing especially when governments have a budget shortfall,” Greenberger said. “There’s a lot to be gained by having private corporations to back the state up.”

Knapp said she had been working on the deal with Target since January 2010. The CHHS had met with other emergency management directors in neighboring states, deemed FEMA Region III, to figure out what was lacking in meeting emergency response and disaster recovery needs.

Knapp has been working on developing and implementing private and nonprofit partnerships to minimize gaps in those services and needs. Since working with Target on the project, called the Regional Catastrophic Preparedness Grant Program, the center has been able to sign deals with Best Buy, Coastal Pet Products, Crystal Geyser Alpine Spring Water/CG Roxane LLC, ECO-Block Insulated Concrete Form, EMS Innovations Inc., Hill’s Pet Nutrition and VIP Grand Events Catering.

Other companies have partnered in a less formal way, expressing an interest in helping during a disaster. Those companies include Bridgford Foods Corp., GMPCS Personal Communications Inc., Incident Catering Services, Integrity Medical Solutions, Mars Super Markets, Maryland Retailers Association, OK’s Cascade Co., Proteus On-Demand Facilities, Royal Restrooms, Sprint, StormTec and Sysco Corp.

MEMA Executive Director Richard Muth said that the grant was necessary because events like Hurricanes Katrina, Ike and Gustav, as well as the 2010 blizzard and localized flooding, have shown a shift in recovery being managed by governments.

“During catastrophic events, our citizens often believe they have a very limited role in helping their community recover,” Muth said. “The reality is that recovery is and must be a unified effort between government, business and our communities.”

Muth said a similar partnership with Target in California was developed in response to the 2007 wildfires. A “Business Operations Center” will be created, much like the one in California, to directly manage efforts with businesses when a state of emergency is declared.

The grant money has been spent on creating and implementing the partnerships. About $500,000 remains, but Knapp declined to comment on what will happen once that money runs out. There is also no sunset provision in the deals with Target or the other businesses, she said.

None of the grant money has gone to the businesses, Knapp said.

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