Virginia Emergency Operations Center
When disaster strikes, response needs to be fast, efficient and effective. The Virginia Department of Emergency Management manages and staffs the Virginia Emergency Operations Center, which serves as the operations center for state efforts before, during and after emergencies and disasters strike or threaten Virginia.
Located in a secure facility on the grounds of the Virginia State Police Headquarters in Chesterfield County, Va., the VEOC responds to calls for assistance from 141 local governments throughout the Commonwealth.
As the state’s Search and Rescue Coordination Center, the VEOC provides a central coordination point for a statewide search and rescue response. The VEOC also provides the emergency communications support for the agency's Hazardous Materials Emergency Response Program, receiving calls, dispatching Regional Hazmat Officers and coordinating the response to local hazardous materials emergencies.
During a disaster, representatives from state and federal agencies along with private and nonprofit organizations work at the VEOC to form the Virginia Emergency Response Team. VERT personnel ensure needed resources are provided to disaster stricken areas, coordinating everything from sandbags and generators to bulldozers for debris removal and helicopters for rooftop rescues. A state-of-the-art mobile command post is also available to assist with extended field operations.
Major VEOC Functions
Watch Center: The Watch Center is the emergency point of contact for the Commonwealth, connecting the VEOC to local emergency managers across Virginia, to other state emergency operations centers across the country, and to partner agencies at the federal level. Staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the Watch Center coordinates day-to-day situational assessment, alerts and warnings, resource management, operational planning and reporting, and external relations.
- Localities can contact the Watch Center with unmet needs during an event. Their local liaison in the VEOC will ensure that requests for assistance are assigned to an appropriate resource provider.
- Instaphones provide the Watch Center staff with the ability to communicate instantly with Surry and North Anna Power Station emergency operations facilities, as well as emergency operations centers in the area.
Planning Section: During a disaster, critical information is distilled at regular intervals to document past, present and future actions, plans and decisions of responders at the local, state and federal levels. This data is funneled into situation reports, spot reports and briefings for the governor, his cabinet and other decision makers.
External Affairs: In the Joint Information Center, Public Information Officers from state agencies work together to ensure the most accurate, up-to-date information is available to the public. These officers represent each organization involved in a response effort. Information is disseminated from the JIC through press releases, Emergency Alert System messages, and interviews with the media.
- JIC staff monitors the media to confirm that the message is consistent and correct. Inaccurate reports and rumors are addressed quickly, thanks to eight television monitors that can display up to 35 different broadcasts simultaneously. The JIC is able to monitor broadcasts from northern Virginia, the Hampton Roads area, Richmond and Roanoke.
- Virginia Public Inquiry Center: JIC staff also operates the Virginia Public Inquiry Center, where citizens can call to ask specific questions during a disaster.
- Legislative Affairs: Public information officers keep local elected officials, members of the General Assembly and members of Congress apprised of ongoing relief efforts during disasters and conduct VIP tours as needed.
Operations Section: Emergency response efforts are categorized into emergency support functions, which cover every response task from sheltering disaster victims to long-term community recovery. There are 17 ESFs in Virginia, and, they work together on the Operations Floor during an emergency.
ESF staff receives status updates, document actions and track resource requests. The Virginia Interoperability Picture for Emergency Response, or VIPER, is Virginia’s common operating picture on a geospatial platform that can display near real-time information in multiple functional areas.
Logistics Section: Local requests for assistance involve the flow of goods and resources (personnel, equipment and services) from place to place. The Logistics Section integrates technology, information, transportation, inventory, warehousing, material handling, and packaging to fulfill requests.