With the Atlantic hurricane season off to an unusually fast start, State Coordinator of Emergency Management Curtis Brown and senior staff at the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) held a briefing on August 7 for VACo’s Board of Directors and county administrators on preparations underway at the state level, planning work made more challenging this year by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr. Brown reminded briefing attendees that the most-active period of hurricane season still lies ahead, and that hurricanes can pose a threat to inland areas as well as the coast. He emphasized VDEM’s close working relationship with local emergency managers, noting that emergency response is a “whole of government” effort. He encouraged local elected officials and senior staff to be familiar with neighboring jurisdictions’ resources and to have memoranda of understanding in place to facilitate cooperation in case of emergencies.
VDEM staff outlined the particular challenges inherent in emergency planning during the coronavirus pandemic, including expected resource limitations (such as personal protective equipment), government finances that are already stressed by the economic shock of the pandemic, and the need for extensive public health considerations in planning (such as developing alternatives to traditional congregate shelters), which add complexity and cost. VDEM is working with partner agencies to establish contracts for non-congregate sheltering, as well as to prepare for congregate sheltering, with appropriate sanitation and social distancing, if a catastrophic event made such preparations necessary.
VDEM staff also provided updates on efforts to improve communication, such as building relationships with local public information officers and nonprofit organizations to disseminate information, and providing materials in multiple languages.
The slides from the briefing are available at this link.
VACo Contact: Katie Boyle