VDEM’s Hazardous Materials Program provides a robust technical assistance and response capability to the jurisdictions of the Commonwealth in emergency situations involving hazardous materials and weapons of mass destruction. In 2017, the VDEM received 1,605 notifications of releases involving hazardous materials, resulting in 298 assists by VDEM. Of these notifications, 103 required telephone assistance from a Regional Hazardous Materials Officer and 195 required a RHMO on-scene presence. State hazardous materials teams responded to 39 of these events.
Wilderness Search and Rescue | With the help of nearly 500 volunteers in 21 teams, the SAR program deploys quick, competent responses to search and rescue incidents. SAR teams received 104 requests for service and assistance statewide, including 72 missing persons in 2017 of which 53 were recovered alive.

Communications Cache

VDEM coordinates five radio communications caches strategically located to support first responder communications during large-scale events. Communications caches support public safety communications needs within the Commonwealth for emergency incidents or scheduled events.

Urban Search and Rescue

In coordination with the Virginia Department of Fire Programs, VDEM established program management for our seven state Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) teams. US&R conduct search, rescue, recovery efforts for wide-area search, structural collapse assessment search and rescue, and rigging in light through heavy frame construction. Some teams also have swift water rescue capabilities.


VDEM supports four regional Incident Management Teams (IMT) located in Hampton Roads, Northern Virginia, Central Virginia and Southwest Virginia. In 2017, the Virginia IMTs responded to six state missions, three major planned events and two extensive deployments to Texas and Florida. The most complex incidents of 2017 were to assist the U.S. Coast Guard IMAT in a 94,000 gallon fuel spill in Virginia Beach, the Hurricane Harvey response in Texas, the Hurricane Irma response in the Florida Keys, and the civil unrest in Charlottesville.


In close coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration, VDEM established an Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) program, one of the nation’s first public safety drone programs for a state emergency management agency. The program is designed to support and provide capabilities in search and rescue, damage assessment, incident response, and situational awareness to our local and state agency partners. VDEM continues to work with localities and state agencies to explore, integrate and operate UAS in planning, response and recovery operations.