Disaster Survivor Assistant Teams go door-to-door throughout neighborhoods impacted by flooding in Scott, Ark., on June 12, 2019. (Jocelyn Augustino/FEMA)

How States Are Changing the Face of Emergency Management

Every disaster or emergency presents a challenge to emergency managers – what resources to commit, who is needed to respond, when to pull what levers for support, where to put people, and how to recover. Lessons from past events inform how we respond to future emergencies but are only part of the equation. As emergency managers, we need to look at innovative methods, technologies, and tools to prepare for disasters and make our communities more resilient. It takes a village, and our roles are unique in that we work every day to pull that village together.

Part of how emergency managers innovate and improve is through networking, identifying best practices, and working with our counterparts across the country to learn from one another. The National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) is one organization and gathering that allows emergency managers to do just that. Meeting annually, the group allows members to come together and examine recent disaster response and recovery operations and talk about the ways we are preparing for the next one. The same is true of public information officers in emergency management. From July 17-18, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region III office in Philadelphia is hosting the annual NEMA PIO Meeting to share skillsets, identify new opportunities for growth in the field of public information, and develop new practices to take back to our jurisdictions for the next emergency.

In preparation for this meeting, FEMA asked our state counterparts in emergency management to answer a simple question: How is your state changing emergency management? By pulling together these responses, our hope is to show the progress we are making and the change in focus across the nation on emergency preparedness. Not only looking at what went right in an emergency, but what we are doing before the next one to prepare our communities. Whether it’s unique websites, school curriculum programs, or a focus on exercises and training (to name a few), every day new things are being done to help prepare for tomorrow’s emergency. One disaster can affect a community forever, and our job has never been more important, but we continue to make strides in how well we can respond. Our communities, families, and nation depend on it.

And with that, we are proud to share how FEMA and our state partners are changing emergency management.

ARIZONA

Wendy Smith-Reeve
Deputy Director, Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs (DEMA); Director, Division of Emergency Management

“A common operating picture among partners and stakeholders is critical to an effective and efficient emergency response. Arizona developed an Operations Dashboard that provides a dynamic, visual snapshot of situational awareness in the state.

DEMA’s Situation Unit created the dashboard, an ESRI/ArcGIS tool, that packages roughly 145 raw, public data sets and represents them visually in maps, charts, and multimedia. The dashboard facilitates faster, more effective data-driven decision making in blue sky and grey sky days.

We’re dialing in our emergency response capabilities by putting highly consumable data in the hands of key decision makers.

Part of the elegance of the dashboard is that it’s useful across agencies and levels — from the governor to local emergency management — which means more efficient, smarter decisions are being made statewide to better prepare the whole community.

All data is location-based. A burn permit issued by the department of environmental quality is one example of data that the dashboard utilizes. The permit is for a specific location, but fails to capture the significance of that location. The dashboard locates that permit geographically, giving it greater context, and transforming it into a decision-making tool.”

ARKANSAS

AJ Gary
Director, Arkansas Department of Emergency Management

“Arkansas is making huge strides in the areas of youth preparedness and cybersecurity awareness. The state is home to not only the first state-level youth preparedness council, but now has more than a dozen county-level youth preparedness councils. These teen councils are emerging as a new, younger faces through education and outreach in both their peer groups, but also in younger students. The younger students will eventually be old enough to join the youth preparedness councils, creating an endless cycle of emergency management education in our younger generations.

Recently Arkansas added cybersecurity to its list of Emergency Support Functions as ESF 16. In a world where technology is changing on a daily basis, and cybercrime is on the rise, Arkansas has pledged to take a stand and give this threat the attention that it deserves in order to protect our stakeholders: the citizens of Arkansas. In October 2018, the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management hosted a cybersecurity exercise, one of the first of its kind in the state, with more than 70 participants in attendance.”

COLORADO

Mike Willis
Director, Colorado Office of Emergency Management

“Colorado focuses on three overarching areas: alert and warning, mitigation and exercises to build a prepared, safe and resilient Colorado!

  • Alert and warning. Less than 20 percent of our community are registered for local community alert and notifications and fewer than half of Colorado counties are approved to use the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS). Redundant, multisystem alert and warning capability is the exception. Most counties haven’t rigorously tested their alert and warning plans and too many don’t even have plans.
  • Mitigation. We know disasters are going to happen in Colorado. First, we have to prepare and submit highly competitive projects to FEMA. Second, we have to find ways to meet the 25 percent funding match that mitigation projects require. This won’t be easy, but resilient Colorado communities will be worth it.
  • Exercises. Robust, rigorous exercises are how we test the limits of ourselves and our plans. At every opportunity, we should conduct multifunctional exercises that compel us to work with our partners including mass care, firefighting, law enforcement, agriculture and others. Our exercises must make us uncomfortable and stretch us beyond our current limits. They should find our point of failure – and push us just a little further.”

DELAWARE

A.J. Schall
Director, Delaware Emergency Management Agency

“The Delaware Emergency Management Agency (DEMA) is transitioning into a more efficient, problem-solving organization that builds upon current relationships by utilizing customer-centric principles. The goal is to work together to transform existing problems into opportunities:

  • Opportunities to establish better and more consistent lines of communication
  • Opportunities to work together more efficiently
  • Opportunities to improve overall preparedness
  • Opportunities to better serve the public prior to and during a disaster

While spheres of responsibility based upon geography vary among our partners, overall we share the overarching goal of protecting lives and property. Communication is a critical part of establishing and maintaining an efficient, effective partnership. And, while we continue to respond to events, we are better enabled to help those who are truly in need of assistance when the people living in Delaware are prepared to deal with hazards individually.

More openness with our partners and the public aids in the transformation of DEMA from having the image of a government agency that is called upon to provide adequate assistance after an event, to that of an organization that is there prior to a disaster with information and expertise.”

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Dr. Christopher Rodriguez
Director, DC Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (DC HSEMA)

“The District of Columbia Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (HSEMA) is responsible for leading the planning and coordination efforts for homeland security and emergency management in the nation’s capital. HSEMA works closely with local, regional, and federal partners to make sure the District is prepared to prevent, respond to, and recover from all threats and all hazards.

One of the things that makes HSEMA unique is its integration of intelligence and emergency management. In addition to the District’s Emergency Operation Center, HSEMA houses the D.C. fusion center, otherwise known as the National Capital Region Threat Intelligence Consortium (NTIC). As one of the nation’s few civilian-led fusion centers, the NTIC employs an all-hazards approach, serving law enforcement, first responders, and executive-level customers. We also engage the public on a range of issues, including crime, terrorism, and cybersecurity.

With the support of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and the help of our dedicated staff, HSEMA is working hard to make D.C. safer, stronger, and more resilient.”

INDIANA

Bryan Langley
Executive Director, Indiana Department of Homeland Security

“The Indiana Department of Homeland Security focuses strongly on professionalizing emergency management across the state by providing the best resources and guidance to county-level public safety officials and better integrating them into the overall planning and preparedness strategy. IDHS is engaged with the Emergency Managers Association of Indiana in a strategic partnership that has never been pursued before. This will benefit emergency managers in a multitude of ways, but primarily it will serve to better inform emergency managers about federal guidelines, expectations and resiliency efforts across Indiana. This will greatly influence threat assessments at the county level, allowing each county to focus on areas that are the most impactful from a preparedness and resiliency standpoint. Furthermore, IDHS has led the way for the state in promoting cybersecurity efforts as well as school safety initiatives. The agency facilitates more than $19 million in state grants for the Secured Schools Fund, which was greatly expanded as a result of the 2019 legislative session. The legislation and growth of the Secured Schools Fund follows the 2018 School Safety Recommendations report forwarded to the governor — an effort also spearheaded by IDHS. All of these efforts ensure a safe and secure Indiana.”

IOWA

V. Joyce Flinn
Director, Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEMD)

“In Iowa, the profession of emergency management has undergone significant change over the past several years. We now have more professionals with degrees in emergency management, and more educational opportunities than ever before in this field. We also have an increasing number of women entering the profession and holding positions of leadership at the local and state levels.

The hazards we face as a state continue to change and our emergency management system and practices have had to adapt in order for us to remain resilient and ready. There is no denying our climate is changing, and we have had to look at new and innovative ways to prepare for these new challenges. For example, we have invited nontraditional partners to the table: architecture, private business, public works and academia are sharing their experience and expertise. We have also taken advantage of technological solutions to help us improve how we gather, analyze, and use information to improve our response and recovery capabilities in ways that are practical and actionable.

New challenges call for new approaches. However, we also must continue to strengthen those things our foundation is built upon: exercise, planning, training, and perhaps most importantly, relationships with our partners.”

LOUISIANA

James Waskom
Director, Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP)

“Louisiana’s devastating floods of 2016 served as a sobering reminder of the increased level of risk we face. As floodwaters receded, we realized the need for fundamental changes in our disaster response systems and how we mitigate future flooding risks.

Created in 2018 under the leadership of Gov. John Bel Edwards, the Louisiana Watershed Initiative represents a new mindset in flood mitigation and water management, providing a new benchmark for helping communities leverage resources to become stronger and more resilient. Instead of individual efforts around the state, the Initiative builds a framework for coordinating flood protection along our naturally occurring, regional watersheds.

The Initiative is focused on leveraging existing programs and funding sources more intentionally with one another, such as through FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, to achieve greatest possible impact. Equally important is empowering our local partners with resources, capacity and support to make decisions based on science that better protect Louisiana communities and mitigate future risk.

In anticipation of future disasters, we are establishing a proactive approach to strengthen Louisiana’s emergency response efforts. This includes building a statewide system consisting of high-quality hydrologic data and scientific models to predict floodwater flow. These resources will become crucial in helping watershed communities identify their biggest priorities and base decisions on objective data.

We know that we cannot control the weather, but we can work strategically to reduce future risks and respond more effectively when disasters strike.”

MAINE

Maine Emergency Management Agency (MEMA)

“The Maine Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) is working to build a community of preparedness through proactive public outreach by presenting at a series of Successful Aging Expos across the state and through a regular television feature called Maine Prepares Monday. Maine is a geographically large state, but very rural in nature. Some locations are quite remote and may be difficult to access during a disaster. Our goal is to arm citizens with the information they need to be self-reliant during a disaster.

MEMA is also developing a public/private warehousing partnership, which we believe is a best practice.
Logistics are critically important to response and recovery efforts following a disaster. Logistics ensure that responders can keep responding and that survivors have the commodities they need to keep surviving. To facilitate and manage the receipt of materiel from federal agencies after a disaster, Maine has partnered with two private-sector companies, both industry experts in warehousing operations. Both warehouses have agreed to provide their facilities, staff, and equipment as in-kind support to the State of Maine after a disaster and both frequently participate in planning, training and exercise activities to ensure that they are prepared to fulfill their responsibility when the time comes.“

MARYLAND

Russ Strickland
Executive Director, Maryland Emergency Management Agency

“The Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) exemplifies the evolution of emergency management as we focus on consequence management and disaster-risk reduction. Nothing better demonstrates MEMA’s journey into non-traditional emergency management topics than our work in Maryland’s opioid crisis and efforts to prepare schools for disasters.

When Governor Larry Hogan declared a State of Emergency to combat the opioid epidemic in 2017, he tasked MEMA with developing the structure to manage this crisis. Assembling together local law enforcement, health departments, and emergency managers with other key partners led to a comprehensive plan to reduce opioid deaths and strengthen communities’ resilience. While addiction issues still plague Maryland — and much of the nation — the state did see a reduction in overdose deaths in the first quarter of 2019.

MEMA also has an expanded role in school safety. Emergency managers are working with local school districts to help them better prepare for threats and hazards. MEMA is also home to tip takers for the School Safety Tip Line, which processes tips from the public and works with local school systems and law enforcement to coordinate appropriate responses.

When the homeless population in one of our rural communities had to walk from a day shelter to a night shelter in a 2016 snow storm, MEMA worked with officials in that county to develop a workbook for dealing with the homeless during emergencies. Not only did that project turn into a template for other counties in Maryland, but it has become a model for other states.

Aside from these consequence management activities I recognize that the future of emergency management is in disaster risk reduction — simply put, we will never be able to ‘respond’ our way out of the vulnerabilities our communities face. I am fond of saying that ‘mitigation is the center of the universe,’ and our team is working with local jurisdictions around Maryland to fund innovative, community-based projects that will help buy down the cost of future emergencies as part of our broader risk-reduction activities.”

MICHIGAN

Capt. Emmitt McGowan
Deputy State Director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, and Commander of the Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division

“The Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division (MSP/EMHSD) is continually looking for opportunities to engage with our residents and encourage emergency preparedness.

One of the most successful campaigns is our implementation of the Student Tools for Emergency Planning (STEP) program. Created by FEMA, the program teaches fifth-grade students strategies to employ at home to prepare for emergencies. Each year, 10,000 Michigan fifth-grade students participate in the program and, in an effort to offer the program to more students, the MSP/EMHSD has created a STEP sponsorship packet to provide information to potential sponsors.

MSP/EMHSD also recognizes the need for preparedness of first responders and their families. During Hurricane Katrina, it was learned that some responders were reluctant to leave their families during the response. To address this concern, we created the Ready Responder program to educate personnel of any response agency of the importance of personal preparedness at home. The Ready Responder kit, which includes educational videos, emergency plan templates and other materials, encourages responders to work with their families to create a family preparedness plan. Ready Responder kits have been sent to every fire, police, and EMS agency in the state of Michigan.”

MISSOURI

Ron Walker
Director, Missouri State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA)

“The Missouri State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) is harnessing technology to reinvent how we communicate with and support our local partners, and how we keep the citizens of our state safe.

  • We’ve integrated advanced mapping technology with a user-friendly interface to provide portals for situational awareness during critical incidents as well as resources for floodplain mitigation and management.
  • Our state team also utilizes these platforms to track critical events in real time to quickly make urgent decisions to help protect impacted residents.
  • In order to maintain a high level of response readiness, we continue to develop dashboards by leveraging live data feeds related to weather, flooding, mutual aid situations and shelters throughout the state.

SEMA continues to search for more ways to integrate technology to better understand threats and identify hazards impacting Missouri communities as we strive to help them prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters.”

NEBRASKA

Brian Tuma
Assistant Director, Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA)

“A bomb cyclone in March brought heavy rainfall and snowmelt to Nebraska causing the worst flooding in the state’s history. It affected 81 of the state’s 93 counties and showcased the state’s ability to respond quickly and collaboratively to a widespread disaster. An expedited disaster declaration process by Nebraska Emergency Management Agency and Federal Emergency Management Agency took just two days and meant FEMA personnel were on the ground early to begin the recovery process as soon as possible.

Collaboration is not new to emergency management; however, the special emphasis placed on it during this response and recovery has shown that when citizens, response personnel, local, state and federal governments, nongovernmental agencies and private partnerships truly commit to working together, the response and recovery begins quickly and continues efficiently. Collaboration is key to emergency management’s success.

‘Even though great challenges lie ahead, Nebraskans have proven themselves time and again to be strong and resilient,’ said Governor Pete Ricketts. ‘No matter how tough the challenge, we rise to meet it. This time, we will do it again, and we will rebuild bigger and better than before.’”

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Jennifer Harper
Director, New Hampshire Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management

“At the New Hampshire Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM), we’ve adopted the unofficial motto of ‘how can we help?’ As an agency, we’ve put a lot of effort and focus into customer service. Along that same line, we are pushing the envelope at building a customer service culture of yes within the HSEM team. Our customer service goal is to get to yes, or as close to yes as possible, in nearly every situation. I say nearly because there are obviously some legislative, security and privacy concerns that would prevent us from getting to yes in every situation, but in those cases, we strive to get as close to the customers’ desired result. If our customers or partners call upon HSEM, we’re encouraging our team to be ready to assist with the issue, no matter what it is.”

NEW JERSEY

Jared M. Maples
Director, New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness

“The State of New Jersey has fully embraced a whole-of-government approach toward emergency management efforts. The safety and security of all residents, visitors, and public- and private-sector entities throughout New Jersey is ensured through constant collaboration between multiple agencies at the local, state, and federal levels.

While proactively working with our partners in the face of emerging threats, the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness (NJOHSP) routinely provides a variety of resources, trainings, and grant opportunities to its audiences. For example, our Interfaith Advisory Council has been a key initiative to protect houses of worship.

Through quarterly meetings between religious leaders and government officials, faith-based communities have the opportunity to learn about the numerous tools that are available to secure their facilities and empower their congregants while being offered a forum for open dialogue to address any concerns.

NJOHSP supplements these meetings by hosting conference calls following attacks around the world to discuss how they affect New Jersey’s threat landscape and to remind leaders about available resources. Our office also provides active shooter response trainings, learning opportunities for first responders, and information on cybersecurity best practices to ensure the state is adequately prepared to handle any emergency.”

NORTH CAROLINA

Michael Sprayberry
Director, North Carolina Emergency Management

“North Carolina Emergency Management is working to grow future emergency managers and increase diversity in the emergency management profession through recruiting, hiring, and consistent positive messaging about the benefits of a diverse team.

We have worked with North Carolina school systems to create emergency management curriculum at the high school level. Emergency management classes are now offered in several North Carolina high schools and the program is growing.

At the community college level, we have worked with the state community college system to standardize an associate’s degree in Emergency Preparedness Technology and to build out a path to a bachelor of science degree in Emergency Management beginning with two years of community college. We are also working to embed emergency management classes as continuing education options across all the state’s community college campuses.

We are building partnerships with historically black colleges and universities, like Elizabeth City State University, to raise the visibility of Emergency Management as a career path and offer four-year EM degrees.”

NORTH DAKOTA

Cody Schultz
Director, North Dakota Department of Emergency Services

“North Dakota Department of Emergency Services approaches emergency management with a Purpose. That purpose is to ‘Empower People. Improve Lives. Inspire Success.’ We approach our mission with passion and have created a culture of service and innovation. We utilize technology and communications strategically to effectively and efficiently serve our stakeholders. This concept is especially evident in our Recovery and Mitigation Section where we are recognized as national leaders. We have been a Public Assistance (PA) Managing State for decades and are also Mitigation Program Administration by State (PAS)-approved.

North Dakota gladly seeks out these additional responsibilities because we believe, as Thomas Jefferson did, that ‘government closest to the people serves the people best.’ We help our counties, cities and tribes recover from disasters faster, smarter, and stronger, and can make course corrections quickly while harnessing innovation. Additionally, because of our dedication to being a world-class emergency management program, we have also invested time and effort into maintaining accreditation through the Emergency Management Accreditation Program (EMAP) and achieved designation as an Enhanced Mitigation plan state. We’re proud to serve! But we strive to always be better today than we were yesterday, and we accomplish this by adhering to our values – gratitude, humility, curiosity and courage.”

OREGON

Andrew Phelps
Director, Oregon Office of Emergency Management

“Nationally, the standard preparedness message recommends supplies for 72 hours. In Oregon, we are at risk for a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake and tsunami, an event that will leave much of the state’s transportation, communication and energy infrastructure destroyed. Oregonians may have to rely on themselves and each other for up to two weeks until responders and resources can reach those in need. In the face of this threat, we have shifted our preparedness message from 3 days/72 hours to 2 Weeks Ready.

Created in 2016, 2 Weeks Ready aims to improve personal and community preparedness, allowing emergency responders to focus limited resources on mass care and lifeline restoration operations. Following a Cascadia quake, it may take days or weeks to reach people who need help. We want to empower Oregonians to takes steps today to prepare and position themselves to be disaster survivors, not victims.

Being prepared to be self-sufficient for two weeks is an achievable goal. Many preparedness kit items such as flashlights, hand-crank radios and first-aid kits are the same for 72 hours or two weeks. Food and water are priorities. OEM has a variety of resources including brochures and videos available.”

PENNSYLVANIA

Randy Padfield
Director (Acting), Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency

“With increasing frequency, Pennsylvania has been adversely impacted by highly intense precipitation events which have resulted in significant localized devastation from flash flooding and landslides. Because of the localized nature of these impacts, it has proven increasingly difficult to obtain federal disaster assistance.

Using a concept similar to the FEMA Voluntary Agencies Leading and Organizing Recovery (VALOR) program, Pennsylvania is piloting a program targeted toward providing individual assistance to those individuals most significantly impacted by disasters. This program is designed to assist those who are not able to qualify for other assistance and have limited or no other means of recovery.

One of the foundational components of the program is comprehensive case management for the impacted individuals or survivors. By being able to identify their specific needs, PEMA can work with local VOADs to provide state grants for the purchase of much needed items such as furnaces, hot water heaters and other home mechanical systems, along with other supplies such as drywall or materials to rebuild private bridges. The VOADs then supply the voluntary labor to install the materials following any applicable local codes or ordinances.

This program leverages the volunteer support of the local VOADs in combination with financial support from the state for materials and supplies. This provides an effective means of recovery for individuals most severely impacted by disasters that would otherwise be faced with a long-term recovery or would not be able to recover otherwise on their own.”

TENNESSEE

Patrick Sheehan
Director, Tennessee Emergency Management Agency

“Emergency management has a proud tradition in Tennessee and a legacy of leadership and innovation transcending to the national level. Our future hinges on forging an emergency management enterprise in Tennessee that will well-train in fundamentals, schooled in disciplined execution, understands there is risk in everything we do, and is staffed by professionals across state and local jurisdictions. We must push ourselves beyond our operational limits and do it together while constantly striving for a persistent state of readiness.

We need to take every opportunity to improve and forge our capabilities and partnerships through planning, training, and exercising. We must take advantage of every opportunity to volunteer and use our skills to gain experience when our fellow Tennesseans and fellow Americans call for help, and be the first to answer when disaster strikes.”

UTAH

Kris J. Hamlet
Director, Utah Division of Emergency Management

“Raw facts. Doom and gloom. Reality checks.

For too long, our profession has relied on these well-intended tactics alone to help the public prepare. Utah enjoys a high rate of personal preparedness, but we’re going for more by changing the way we conduct outreach.

Stories connect and unite us. They help good principles stick. And when we share, we give one another cultural permission to engage in the same activities.

We invite Utahns to tell their preparedness stories to us at dem.utah.gov/share. We can share those stories as best practices statewide.

Our Be Ready Utah program launched a series of public service announcements on YouTube to show Utahns that anytime is a good time to talk about preparedness with those around them.

We’re also making preparedness more accessible with the following activities:

  • We’re piloting an online version of CERT training.
  • We created a targeted flood insurance promotion campaign.
  • We teamed up with Salt Lake City to create a home earthquake mitigation program called Fix the Bricks. We use pre-disaster mitigation funds to help homeowners do an earthquake retrofit on their unreinforced masonry homes.

Oh, and we created a preparedness-themed ice cream called Disaster Debris that we serve at certain events.”

VERMONT

Erica Bornemann
Director, Vermont Emergency Management

“The changing face of emergency management in Vermont can be seen in the state’s redoubled focus on local and municipal preparedness from the ground up.

In 2017 Vermont Emergency Management reorganized to create an Engagement Section to direct energy and personnel toward supporting local preparedness. Engagement Section personnel have since revised the Local Emergency Management Plan template so it is operationally relevant to every jurisdiction, revised the Local Emergency Management Director certification program, and produced trainings for LEMDs so those in the position know and implement the responsibilities of their role. In our latest major flooding event, the hardest hit towns individually reported they were better prepared to handle the disaster because of their updated plans.

The state of Vermont is small but mighty and lacks county government, so a strategy of local – state government engagement is necessary, possible, and impacts all aspects of emergency response to make for a safer populace.”

VIRGINIA

Dr. Jeff Stern
State Coordinator, Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM)

“In Virginia, we are working to change the face of emergency management by professionalizing the workforce and creating a more diverse environment for our emergency managers. We’ve rolled out a mandatory emergency management training academy to increase the professionalism of our VDEM staff and local emergency managers. So far, we’ve trained over 250 VDEM and local emergency managers through a FEMA-certified basic and advanced emergency management academies, providing a baseline of emergency management training and skills so everyone is trained as a professional emergency manager whether you are in finance, public information, search-and-rescue or our emergency operations center. We’ve also appointed a chief diversity officer to help us recruit, retain and encourage all who wish to be in emergency management regardless of race, gender, creed, sexual orientation or ethnicity. The future of emergency management must reflect a more inclusive and professional organization, and VDEM is on the front lines of making our agency a national leader in those areas.”

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS

Daryl DeFrance Jaschen
Director, Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA)

“The Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA) is the sole government agency authorized to execute a coordinated operational response to all hazards in the U.S. Virgin Islands. We are also tasked with raising awareness about natural and manmade hazards that may impact the U.S. Virgin Islands and instruct the populous on how to be ready to respond to such impact.

VITEMA is committed to establishing a culture of preparedness throughout the territory. To this end, VITEMA has endeavored to build the capacity of Virgin Islands residents to become self-sufficient and resilient for future disasters. In response to the devastation of hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, we have partnered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in launching an aggressive community engagement and training program which provides All-Hazard Preparedness presentations to local schools, elderly facilities, private-sector and community events. We have established partnerships with local broadcasters and continue to promote the importance and benefits of a proactive approach to emergency management in the Virgin Islands. Lastly, we continue to implement best practices and innovative solutions to ensuring Virgin Islands residents are informed, prepared and resilient.”

WEST VIRGINIA

Mike Todorovich
Director, West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management

“Last year, the WV Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM) and WV National Guard EOC consolidated into a true Joint Operations Center (JOC) on two fronts. First, the DHSEM and National Guard physically joined operations with the National Guard at the National Guard Headquarters and second, enabled by this physical change are fully working together in a joint manner. As the consolidated JOC came to fruition, DHSEM developed methodology with the WV National Guard for a consolidated 24X7X365 Watch Center. Often DHSEM employees, National Guard Members and contract members work hand-in-hand in this operation. This function allows improved services at a lower cost to our citizens.

Having over 100 Statewide Interoperable Radio Networked (SIRN) sites across West Virginia, it was deemed essential that the SIRN system have both hardware and software upgrades. We are in the middle of this upgrade at a cost of $22,000,000.00.

The greatest change affecting the face of emergency management is that of coordination and cooperation among multiple county, state, local, and partner relationships. By training as our operations might be and with this pre-disaster coordination, we will be vastly improved for the multiple emergencies such as floods, snow, mine disasters, and others across West Virginia.”

WISCONSIN

Brian Satula
Administrator, Wisconsin Emergency Management

“We are placing a higher emphasis on preparedness, not only on response coordination as we have been, but more so on community resilience. We need to get ahead of the disaster by placing the focus of our collective efforts on reducing the consequences of the disaster. We specifically are emphasizing public infrastructure mitigation projects, promoting the purchase of flood insurance, and encouraging smarter community zoning and development. Collectively, these measures will make a positive difference in the outcomes during and after the disaster.”

WYOMING

Lynn Budd
Director, Wyoming Office of Homeland Security

“Wyoming has unique challenges in emergency management. The state is nearly 98,000 square miles and has a population of less than 600,000. There are vast open spaces with many miles between someone in need and emergency services. This creates distinct trials in planning.

Wyoming focuses on developing partnerships to ensure a whole community approach to planning. The message of interconnectedness, along with the strength of the western spirit, community resilience and personal preparedness, ensures this concept is brought to life.

As a leading energy production state Wyoming exports 60 percent of its energy. Planning efforts for a resilient system includes partnering with private industry and evaluating the cascading impacts on the region and nation if production is lost. Wyoming’s leaders are opening lines of communication which helps to reduce loss of life and property as well as lessen the impacts of all-hazards incidents. Our public outreach now encourages residents and families to be self-sustaining for two weeks versus three days. Residents are generally more prepared for this type of scenario due to the variations in weather and the distance from homes to vital resources. Wyoming’s goal is to strengthen this individual preparedness philosophy.”

FEMA REGION III

MaryAnn Tierney
Regional Administrator, FEMA Region III

“FEMA’s mission is helping people before, during, and after disasters. Every day, we are taking steps to prepare, plan, and train for potential emergencies across the region and ensuring our team is ready for all hazards. In Region III, we are focused on debris removal and how in a catastrophic or major event, we would work with our partners at the state and federal level to handle extensive debris cleanup. We hosted a Rehearsal of Concepts Drill in May 2019, to review our Hurricane Plans, talk to our partners about our response timelines, and to incorporate lessons learned from Hurricane Florence. We are writing a comprehensive communications strategy to push the envelope on how we communicate the goals of our divisions across the region. We have three FEMA Integration Teams in place and are looking to build upon their success to increase our coordination with our states. Each of these are just examples of how Region III is committed to working with our partners every day to make a difference in our communities. We know it’s not if but when a major event will impact our region, and we are working with all of our stakeholders to prepare today for tomorrow’s emergency.”

A 7.7 Midwest Quake? FEMA and Partners Test Response in Shaken Fury Exercises

FEMA's mission remains: to lead America to prepare for, prevent, respond to and recover from disasters with a vision of "A Nation Prepared." On April 1, 1979, President Jimmy Carter signed the executive order that created the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). From day one, FEMA has remained committed to protecting and serving the American people. That commitment to the people we serve and the belief in our survivor centric mission will never change. The Federal Emergency Management Agency coordinates the federal government's role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror.

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