The Virginia Office of Emergency Services was created in July 1973 and was tasked with the duty of protecting the Commonwealth and its residents from the effects of both natural and human-caused disasters. That office, now called the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) (Va. Code Ann. § 44-146.18), works with local, state and federal agencies and voluntary organizations to provide resources during emergencies. VDEM’s mission is to save lives through effective emergency management and homeland security. We do this by coordinating the state’s emergency preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery in partnership with government and private sector parties.
From hurricanes to terror threats, cybersecurity risks to flooding, the Commonwealth continues to face a dynamic risk environment that reflects new threats and increasing vulnerabilities. The department is constantly evolving to address each new challenge. Some threats strike with little to no warning, while others provide time so that the department can work with its federal and local partners to prepare, mitigate and respond to the event. VDEM continues to improve its readiness by planning for all hazards and improving our statewide response system by providing training, equipping teams with the best technology and exercising together with local, state and federal governments, private-sector partners and non-governmental organizations.
Budget and Finance
VDEM’s total annual budget is made-up of two main components: the operating budget and pass-through funding consisting of homeland security grants and disaster reimbursements to Virginia’s localities. The annual operating budget for FY17 is $32.6 million, 50.02 percent of the department’s budget, and is a combination of federal and state funds and receipts.
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In 2017, the agency streamlined its business practices to clean up and close out more than 1,000 old disaster projects and return over $74 million back to the Commonwealth and to local governments from FEMA. VDEM expedited payout of more than $43 million Winter Storm Jonas FEMA public assistance grants and $20 million in Hurricane Matthew FEMA public assistance grants.
The Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) is an executive branch agency under the Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security. The department is nationally accredited through the Emergency Management Accreditation Program (EMAP) and has maintained this accreditation since 2005. VDEM is divided into two bureaus, Mission Support and Disaster Services, 11 divisions, and the Homeland Security and Resilience Group located in the governor’s office.
Employees have over 137 professional certifications and 133 emergency management certifications combined, including eight Certified Emergency Managers. Under the leadership of State Coordinator Dr. Stern, all departmental personnel are now trained as emergency managers regardless of their day-to-day job and have an operational or support role in emergency management during an activation.
VDEM has a diverse workforce and the department received the Virginia Values Veterans (V3) certification in 2016. As a result, in the last two years VDEM hired 24 veterans and has four active members of the National Guard. In 2017, three employees actively deployed to the National Guard and Reserve assignments.
In addition to deployments within Virginia, VDEM assists other U.S. states and territories through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC). These missions included supporting logistics, sheltering, and public assistance efforts for victims of the California wildfires, Hurricane Harvey in Texas, Hurricane Irma in Florida and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.
VDEM opened regional offices in each of its seven operating regions. Each office, led by a Chief Regional Coordinator and a team of professional emergency managers, was developed to ensure a fast, agile and integrated approach with local partners when responding to and recovering from disasters.
Prior to reorganizing, less than 10 percent of VDEM staff were located outside of Richmond. Now, over 25 percent of staff are located across the state. Increasing the department’s regional capacity has put VDEM in a better position to support local and regional planning, response and recovery operations.