Message from the State Coordinator
In the last several years, VDEM helped coordinate response and recovery from the busiest period of Virginia disasters and emergencies in the past 25 years, including train derailments, search and rescue missions, HAZMAT responses, record-setting snowstorms, dozens of tornadoes, tropical weather systems, hurricanes, and civil unrest. Last year, VDEM was called upon to assist with emergencies in all corners of the Commonwealth, as well as to assist our fellow citizens in Texas, Florida, California, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
While Virginia was not directly hit by a major hurricane this year, the department initiated the most comprehensive change to hurricane preparedness in decades by establishing regional, tiered evacuations zones (A, B, C, and D) for coastal Virginia. For the first time, coastal mayors, emergency managers, council members, city managers, and governors can speak with one unified voice about how to evacuate the region regardless of jurisdictional boundaries. This provides Virginians with a clear and consistent public safety message. We also conducted a significant marketing campaign to ensure coastal Virginia citizens “Know Your Zone.”
VDEM continued to solidify our new decentralized organizational structure to fulfill our mission to save lives through effective emergency management and homeland security. This bottom-to-top reorganization has enabled us to better serve the citizens of the Commonwealth.
All VDEM personnel are now trained as emergency managers and are able to fulfill critical roles in the Virginia Emergency Operations Center during activations regardless of their day-to-day job. The agency was streamlined from 12 divisions into two bureaus, Disaster Services and Mission Support, and additional leadership capacity has been developed. We opened six new regional offices to decentralize staff from the Richmond headquarters to all corners of the Commonwealth and doubled staff in rural areas.
Our emergency management professionals will continue to adapt to new and emerging risks facing the Commonwealth.
Jeffrey D. Stern, Ph.D.