RD151 - Planning for a Resilient Commonwealth: A Summary of Collaborative Efforts in 2017

Executive Summary:

This report summarizes the actions taken during 2017 to improve disaster response and recovery through the development of state and local plans, training, exercises, and technology. VDEM is responsible for developing and coordinating state level plans to support localities, providing technical support to state agencies and public institutions of higher education regarding disaster preparedness, and coordinating state resources requested by localities, other states, and U.S. territories.

VDEM’s seven regional offices are fully operational and are providing enhanced coordination and support to localities before, during, and after disaster operations. Local requests for assistance are being coordinated by regional staff to expedite delivery and provide overall situational awareness of available resources during an incident affecting multiple localities. During non-disaster operations, regional staff are contributing to planning meetings, exercises, and providing much needed technical support to both localities and institutions of higher education.

Accomplishments this year include more local, state, and federal collaborative planning, including special event planning for dignitary visits and protests, and the implementation and enhanced use of new technology. Crisis Track software will enable localities to more effectively collect damage assessment data post-disaster, and planning software will promote consistent and collaborative planning among stakeholders and serve as the central library of disaster planning resources and guidance within the Commonwealth

This year, public safety personnel within the Commonwealth answered the call for help from Texas, Florida, and the Territories of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, which were impacted by hurricanes Harvey, Maria, and Irma. These storms brought devastation of historic proportion that has destroyed residential structures and the critical infrastructure necessary to recover. Virginia also assisted in the recent wildfires in California that resulted in significant damage and prompted massive sheltering operations. In addition to providing much needed assistance, staff gained valuable insight and experience that directly benefits emergency management programs in the Commonwealth.

Other initiatives of significance in 2017 include the “Know Your Zone" tiered evacuation model for the Hampton Roads region. This program lets residents know whether an address is vulnerable to flooding during a storm and provides residents with precise information based on the most up-to-date engineering data for the region. Citizens can use this data to determine if they should evacuate or shelter in place.

Several collaborative efforts among public safety agencies resulted in the Commonwealth receiving an award of $3,831,556 in federal funds from the Program to Prepare Communities for Complex Coordinated Terrorist Attacks Grant Program through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Virginia applied for and received the largest allocation of the eastern states, with VDEM receiving $2,001,568, Arlington County receiving $1,224,890, and the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority receiving $595,098. The programs funded by this grant will be implemented over the next three years beginning in 2018, and will directly improve public safety by enhancing security and building capacity to prepare for, prevent, and respond to complex coordinated terrorist attacks and the emerging threats faced by the Commonwealth.

If funded, VDEM and VDSS will implement state plans to support mass shelter operations during a large-scale disaster, such as Hurricane Harvey that affected Texas. This enhanced capability includes pre-purchasing commodities, training for shelter staff and volunteers, and retrofitting existing shelters to accommodate individuals with disabilities and access and functional needs.

In 2018, state public safety agencies will increase efforts to engage the whole community is all aspects of emergency management. This will include collaborative planning and information sharing with critical infrastructure owners and operators and coordinating logistics support and re-entry processes with large retailers critical to response and recovery efforts.