In the past three years, Central Maryland has experienced back-to-back snowstorms that left the county under more than 2 feet of snow, dealt with widespread power outages and some flooding caused by Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy, felt the after-effects of the 5.8 earthquake in Virginia, and added "derecho" to our vocabulary - a term to describe a long-lived, straight-lined wind storm associated with a fast-moving band of thunderstorms.

And those are just a few of the natural disasters.

There have been other types of emergencies as well. Nationally, we've watched the country react to mass destruction from Hurricane Sandy in New York and New Jersey, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., and watched the continuous clean up of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

More locally, we've seen six Westminster schools put on lockdown because of a reported shooter in the area that turned out to be a false alarm, a plane crashed at Carroll County Regional Airport killing a pilot from Rockville, and the Sykesville-Freedom District fire house had its roof collapse from the massive snowstorms two years ago - and just will be reopening its doors in January.

When emergencies like these happen, however, they don't necessarily feel like emergencies, thanks to well-trained emergency responders and the plans the institutions that manage these situations have in place.

In this series, "In Case of Emergency," the Carroll County Times will review some of the emergency plans and procedures in place, introduce some of the people are that are trained to handle these emergencies, reveal what communication takes place to spread the word about emergency situations, take a look at the critical infrastructure and facilities that keep us going during tough times and examine how much these emergency responses cost.

We also would like you to take a look at your own family's personal preparedness - do you have an emergency kit? An evacuation plan? A disaster communications plan for you and your loved ones? If not, we have included some checklists to get you started toward being more prepared.

You know, "in case of emergency."