Emergency management is all about working together — and that is the focus of the Communications Division. This team is responsible for external communications, public messaging and warning, cross-bureau/cross-divisional communications, community outreach and inclusion, and stakeholder engagement.
The Communications division works to educate the public about emergency preparedness, and spreads awareness of VDEM’s activities to prepare for, respond to, and recover from all hazards. The division heads up comprehensive public outreach programs, preparedness marketing efforts, social media, news releases, the VDEM website, media relations, and outreach to elected officials. Communications staff manage the state’s Joint Information Center and work to ensure that messaging is looked at from a community impact lens to promote accessibility of information for all Virginians and visitors. The division is also responsible for managing the Office of Community Impact.
Office of Community Impact
We know that vulnerable and at-risk communities are disproportionately impacted during an event. The Office of Community Impact is focused on ensuring that all communications, plans, and programs in regards to emergency management are thoughtfully and inclusively crafted to provide access and opportunity for all residents and visitors of the commonwealth; especially historically underrepresented communities, while addressing gaps in operations and existing imbalances within our communities. This work spans all phases of emergency management: prevention, preparedness, mitigation, response, and recovery.
Here are some of the ways that the Office of Community Impact is working to create an inclusive commonwealth:
An important piece of the communication aspect is ensuring that we were providing inclusive community outreach to the residents and visitors of Virginia. Partners in Preparedness is a program of VDEM that is focused on taking community outreach a step further. The program is partnering with non-profit organizations, faith-based leaders, businesses, education, health care, community advocates and community centers, local governments and more to understand the communities that these groups serve, their unique needs, and how we can work together to best communicate information to these communities through all phases of a disaster. The program aims to provide the tools and resources for every Virginian to know about the risks that we face, and how to prepare for them. Learn more at vaemergency.gov/Partners-In-Preparedness, and sign up to be a Partner today.
The Office of Community Impact works internally within the agency and externally with agency partners and local, regional, tribal organizations to provide logistical support before, during, and after emergencies. The team is focused on two major projects written into the Code of Virginia. They are:
Establishing and maintaining the Emergency Management Equity Working Group
Code of Virginia (§ 44-146.18 (B19))
“The Emergency Management Equity Work Group is made up of representatives from the Governor’s Office of Diversity, Opportunity, and Inclusion and other state agencies, the public at large, and the private sector who have expertise related to at-risk and vulnerable populations and the threats faced by such populations in a disaster. The working group serves to provide tailored and structured guidance to ensure that emergency management programs and plans provide support to at-risk individuals and populations disproportionately impacted by disasters. Through a centrally administered approach, the work group provides recommendations to the State Coordinator.”
**Note: The first Emergency Management Equity Working Group meeting will be held on Monday, March 13 from 2-4pm at Meadowdale Library, 4301 Meadowdale Boulevard, N. Chesterfield, 23234. The agenda, along with the quarterly meeting announcements, will be posted here and on the Commonwealth Calendar website, https://commonwealthcalendar.virginia.gov/.
Embedding equity into local emergency operation plans
Code of Virginia (§ 44-146.19 (E))
“Each local and interjurisdictional agency shall prepare and keep current a local or interjurisdictional emergency operations plan for its area…. Such plan shall also contain provisions to ensure that the plan is applied equitably and that the needs of minority and vulnerable communities are met during emergencies.”
Some of the historically underrepresented communities we serve include: recognized BIPOC groups, women, LGBTQIA+ communities, the aging population, individuals with access and functional needs, disabled individuals, limited English proficiency and English as a second language, communities with limited or no broadband access, communities with limited transportation, rural communities, urban communities, low-income communities, and more.
Equity Working Group Documents