Presidential Response

How North Carolina’s busiest EMS agency handled its regular duties and the 2012 Democratic National Convention

Tuesday, February 1, 2011 was a big day for Charlotte, NC. That’s when the Democratic National Committee announced the Democratic National Convention (DNC) would take over North Carolina’s Queen City during the first week of September 2012.

With the announcement came a sense of excitement and pride for residents of the greater Charlotte area, including the 500-plus employees of Mecklenburg EMS Agency (Medic) who are responsible for providing EMS service to all 542 square miles of Mecklenburg County, including the city of Charlotte.

After a few days of celebration, once the initial rush of excitement wore off, the realities associated with the task began to set in. In addition to maintaining daily operations at the busiest EMS agency in North Carolina, Medic leadership now had to set aside enough time and resources to plan for one of the most complicated special events an EMS agency can take on.

Medic started by designating Deputy Director Kevin Staley as the agency’s lead for the event. Staley has a master’s degree in public administration, is a certified emergency manager and has 25 years of EMS experience as a paramedic. He also has a great deal of experience interfacing with numerous state, local and federal agencies, including the U.S. Secret Service, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the North Carolina Office of EMS (NCOEMS). This experience, along with the many relationships he has built as a result of his work, would prove invaluable.

Staley did what every good leader does when faced with a monumental task: He enlisted some help. Michael Stanford, a 15-year EMS veteran and Medic’s supervisor of emergency preparedness and special operations, was brought on board to help share the load. The two would essentially eat, drink and sleep all things DNC for the next 16 months.

Despite the agency’s considerable experience with special events and disaster preparedness, the 2012 DNC was clearly unique. It combined all of the elements of a multi-day mass gathering with the complexities of a national special security event (NSSE) thanks to the fact that a sitting president would be on hand to accept the Democratic nomination. It didn’t take long to assemble a list of questions, which, when answered, could help the agency get a much clearer picture of what needed to be planned.

Medic quickly reached out to Denver EMS Assistant Chief James Robinson, as his agency had been down this road just four years earlier when the DNC was held in the Rocky Mountain state. Robinson graciously accepted an invitation to travel to Charlotte and share his experience with an audience that included Medic leadership, NCOEMS officials and leadership from various area hospitals and emergency responders.

Robinson presented a thorough summary outlining his agency’s experience from 2008, and he patiently answered every question the audience could muster. Although Medic’s team felt like they had more clarity regarding the impending task, the “drinking from a fire hose” effect was also kicking in. It was time to start leaning on the 30-plus years of experience and knowledge that existed within the agency and begin putting some plans on paper.

The Host City

Charlotte is the smallest city in modern times to serve as host to one of the national political conventions. Despite this, the city’s emergency responders had the training, resources and experience to take on this event.

Medic personnel regularly serve and train with their counterparts in and around the city of Charlotte; this includes the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) and the Charlotte Fire Department (CFD). In addition to daily emergency response, these agencies also serve together on several special operations teams including the Civil Emergency Unit (CEU), Advanced Local Emergency Response Team (ALERT) and Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams.

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