RD550 - Commonwealth of Virginia Emergency Shelter Capabilities and Readiness – October 2021
Virginia is susceptible to many types of hazards. Agencies at the state, regional, and local level work to identify and plan for all hazards that may result in emergency shelter operations, although much of that planning is siloed within various jurisdictional levels of government. Efforts are being made to identify and engage in opportunities to increase collaboration between these various entities.
While Hurricane Florence in 2018 provided an opportunity to put the State Coordinated Regional Shelter (SCRS) plans into action, the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020-2021 brought challenges that required new thinking and expanded planning. The health and safety of staff and evacuees is always the top priority in shelter operations, and much planning has been done to meet the challenges, resulting in flexible sheltering options to support both local shelter overflow and catastrophic statewide shelter needs while working with a limited pool of staffing resources. These plans require significant support from all stakeholders and contract resources.
This report identifies actions taken and challenges encountered and, where possible, how those challenges are being met. Of the many issues discussed, the most critical challenges include:
• Funding for shelter site assessments, to include ensuring building readiness for sheltering and appropriate access for all populations; updating existing and developing new Computer Aided Drafting (CAD) maps to address the layout of the shelter operation within each facility; and identifying new facilities to increase capacity.
• Full contract support for non-congregate shelter operations, to include all wrap-around services necessary to support evacuee needs during the event and to facilitate evacuees’ quick return to their home base to start their recovery afterwards.
• Funding to support acquisition of appropriate basic resources for sheltering; expanding the existing supplies push pack in order to either support local/regional shelter needs or quickly stand up a state shelter while the remaining commodities are enroute.
• Completing development of the Electronic Tracking Network (ETN) shelter registration system to support data collection for local, regional and state partners.
Amidst these challenges, we have also made great strides forward. Noteworthy accomplishments discussed herein include the development of a non-congregate shelter plan; updating the congregate shelter site addendums; a complete update of the shelter commodity lists for each site; a temporary workaround addressing setbacks in implementing the shelter registration management system; and an exercise testing staffing capability.
A substantial amount of work has been completed, yet there is still much in progress, to meet these various challenges and identify emerging needs. While VDSS has been tasked with developing and maintaining the SCRS plan, state agency and Institutes of Higher Education (IHE) partners are to be commended for their flexibility and support of the expansion of both the plan and planning during these extraordinary times.