RICHMOND – The Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) today announced the departure of State Coordinator Curtis Brown. Appointed to the position by Governor Northam in June 2020, Brown led the agency during its most active period in history. He has served in homeland security and emergency management roles in three gubernatorial administrations. During his appointment as state coordinator, he led the agency during numerous events including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, hurricane responses, civil unrest/protests, the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack, and several special events and efforts, such as the Afghan Repatriation. During the summer of 2020, he led the coordination of three simultaneous disaster declarations. A first in Virginia’s history.
Brown has served at VDEM for six years helping to lead a re-organization that improved processes and increased the agency’s capacity to respond to more frequent and impactful disaster events. A national thought leader in diversity, equity, and inclusion in emergency management, Brown has been at the forefront of using data-driven metrics to drive equitable support to under-resourced and disproportionately impacted communities and individuals.
“It has been an honor to work with the dedicated team at VDEM. They have been willing to innovate and go the extra mile to equitably serve Virginians and our local government partners. We have been able to partner with our federal, state, local, private and non-profit emergency management stakeholders to collaboratively respond to numerous challenges,” said Curtis Brown, State Coordinator of Emergency Management.
“Essential to our efforts has been the integration of equity in emergency management. I am proud that VDEM has served as a model for operationalizing equity and prioritizing the needs of those communities and individuals most at-risk. As we continue to face the threat of climate change and more frequent disasters, I know that these efforts will help to reduce suffering and build resilience in frontline communities.”
Through Brown’s leadership, VDEM established the new Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (ODEI), the first in the nation at a State Emergency Agency, which will spearhead internal and external agency initiatives to achieve goals outlined in the strategic roadmap. In coordination with the COVID-19 Health Equity Leadership Taskforce, Brown led efforts to equitably distribute personal protective equipment (PPE) through the Health Equity Pilot Project, conduct hyperlocal vaccine outreach efforts in marginalized communities, and support equity training for Unified Command and local government partners.
Other signature achievements of his tenure include the following.
- Significantly increased regional staffing to enhance support for local governments before, during, and after disasters.
- Spearheaded efforts to identify funding to update the Integrated Flood Observing and Warning System (IFLOWS).
- Updated more than 250 policies, procedures, processes, job aids, and manuals to ensure seamless transition to the COVID-19 environment while continuing critical services.
- Formally established State Incident Management Team (IMT) leveraging support from other state agencies; and secured sustainable funding for statewide Search and Rescue (SAR) program.
- Successfully provided oversight of more than $600 million in funding. The largest infusion of disaster funding in the agency’s history, while ensuring clean audits and responsible fiscal management.
- Implemented organizational changes to promote/increase diversity and ensure equitable pay through a comprehensive study. VDEM has the largest representation of women and people of color, including in positions of leadership, in the agency’s history.
- Operationalized the integration equity in the agency’s Strategic Roadmap to prioritize marginalized and under resourced communities in preparedness, mitigation, response, and recovery efforts. VDEM utilized equity indicators to distribute preparedness and mitigation grant funding.
- Worked with Virginia’s seven federally recognized tribes to promote sustained collaboration:
- Hosted the first ever Tribal Summit in coordination with FEMA Region III at the State Emergency Operations Center.
- Held a meeting between state emergency management staff and federally recognized tribes to open dialogue and offer assistance to them in building their emergency management programs.
- Initiated a tribal inclusion project, currently underway, to ensure tribes and tribal needs are integrated in all agency programs.
Brown is the co-founder of the Institute for Diversity and Inclusion in Emergency Management (I-DIEM) and looks forward to furthering efforts to support marginalized communities.
Shawn Talmadge has been appointed as the new state coordinator by Governor-elect Youngkin. Talmadge currently serves as the Deputy Secretary for Public Safety and Homeland Security and will begin his role with VDEM on Saturday, January 15, 2022