RD666 - Virginia Comprehensive Emergency Management 2019 Annual Report
Over the past two years, the Commonwealth of Virginia experienced one of our busiest disaster periods on record. The Virginia Department of Emergency Management supported 92 local governments through 18 disaster events and 133 recovery operations across the Commonwealth. Uninsured disaster damages and costs exceeded $187 million in 2018, and 12 people lost their lives due to storm-related inland flooding, high winds, and tornadoes.
Hurricanes Florence and Michael wreaked havoc along the mid-Atlantic, and the predicted catastrophic path of Florence forced the Commonwealth to initiate evacuation orders for 245,000 people from coastal areas. As we witnessed the breadth of the storms’ impacts, which exceeded $100 million in damages and costs, they served to remind us that hurricanes are not just a problem for Virginia’s coastal region – the impacts reached from Southwest Virginia to the National Capitol Region, and from the Shenandoah Valley to the Eastern Shore. Further, this year is the 50th anniversary of Hurricane Camille, which killed more than 150 Virginians. Our nation is also experiencing stronger and more frequent disasters, as many states have experienced catastrophic events, such as historic flooding in the Mid-West, severe wildfires in California, notable long-term droughts in the West and Southwest, and a spike in tornado activity across the South and the Mid-Atlantic, in addition to record-setting hurricanes and flooding.
Documented sea level rise, decaying infrastructure, recurrent inland flooding, international terrorism, cybersecurity threats, increased domestic terrorism and mass shootings, and civil unrest are a present-day reality facing Virginia. Our risks have dramatically increased in the post 9/11 era, as the number, frequency, and types of threats have multiplied, our vulnerability to those risks increases, and the consequences of their impact on our communities grow, all as federal support for emergency management and homeland security remains at a fraction of what was available compared to a decade ago.
The Virginia Department of Emergency Management remains committed to our citizens to adapt to these risks. We continue to ensure our programs are strategic and sustainable, working to build regional capacity among our partners to prepare and respond to emergencies, to improve opportunities for professional development of state and local emergency managers, and to ensure a quick, integrated response to emergencies.
Examples of our success include the successful consolidation of our recovery programs under our Chief Financial Officer, resulting in the completion of nearly 2,000 disaster projects and the recovery of over $170 million in FEMA public assistance disaster aid for our local and state governments, the training of over 737 students to face complex coordinated attacks across our seven VDEM regions, educating over 250 local and state personnel through our basic and advanced emergency management academies, and responding to two Presidential Disaster Declarations and dozens of other incidents every day. Our hazardous materials officers ensure expert technical advice is available to local first responders handling a wide variety of toxic hazards; our search and rescue personnel and dedicated volunteer search groups have responded to nearly 120 searches for missing and lost children, adults, and elderly; and our regional all-hazard planners work side-by-side with localities to update nearly 200 local emergency operations, mitigation, and special event incident plans.
Virginia’s emergency management system is a shared function of local government, state government, and the private and non-profit sectors. With this in mind, this year VDEM worked with the Governor’s Office to streamline the emergency declaration process, update two Executive Orders (41 & 42), and bolster our state agency partners’ involvement in emergency management. VDEM also promulgated significant updates to the Commonwealth Emergency Operations Plan (COVEOP), which is the central statewide emergency management plan for Virginia.
As this report indicates, we have made incredible strides to enhance our preparation, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery efforts for a wide variety of emergency management and homeland security missions. Much work remains, however, as the dynamic nature of the ever-changing world brings a persistent challenge to our risk management efforts; managing those risks across multiple hazards remains our focus.
/s/ Jeffrey D. Stern, Ph.D.