RD698 - 2016 Virginia Emergency Support Team Exercise Report

Executive Summary:

The annual VESTEX is intended to prepare the Commonwealth of Virginia for potential threats by measuring current capabilities, policies, and procedures against the requirements to properly mitigate, respond to, and recover from man-made and natural disasters impacting the Commonwealth. The overarching purpose of the 2016 VESTEX was to conduct a blended approach to training and exercises that engaged the "Whole Community" with the Commonwealth; and built on the scenario posed in the 2015 VERTEX series, thus setting the basis for transitioning to the phases of recovery from a hurricane.

The 2016 Virginia Emergency Support Team Exercise (VESTEX) was conducted March 22-24, 2016 with 126 participants from various state agencies, FEMA Region III, Virginia Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters, private sector and the localities of Chesapeake, Richmond, and Newport News. Adjunct instructors from the FEMA Emergency Management Institute and subject matter experts from within Virginia designed and supervised this exercise. The exercise, tailored for Virginia-specific hazards, policies, and issues, placed emphasis on short-term to intermediate recovery issues, framed within the context of a Category 3 hurricane having impacted Virginia. It was a continuation of the scenario played out during the 2015 Virginia Emergency Response Team Exercise. Through a combination of classroom instruction, planning sessions, and exercises, participants developed an understanding of their respective roles during recovery, as well as the resources available at the state and federal level to assist localities during recovery.

The course methodologies of classroom instruction, planning sessions, and exercises allowed for a structured decision-making in learning, yet realistic, environment. A key outcome of this Integrated Emergency Management Course was to provide participants with the ability to carry out their respective functions related to disaster recovery and assist with making the transition recovery. These actions allow the Commonwealth to position itself better for long-term recovery.

The following key themes for improvement emerged from the course discussions and exercise outputs:

• Identify and determine when provisions and waivers in the emergency declaration stop and determine provisions for long-term issues such as waivers for the Certificate of Public Need process for hospital and health care infrastructure rebuilding.

• Establish a long-term housing concept and identify all partners; conduct follow-up on planning meetings; and conduct a tabletop exercise focusing on the housing aspects of a catastrophic event.

• Develop and conduct training across the state to educate localities on recovery; how organization occurs at the state level; and how interdependencies such as water/wastewater and other critical infrastructure function.