Virginia Counties Partner to Improve Emergency Preparedness
Middle Peninsula counties are focusing on regional evacuation and shelter planning.
The wind, rain and damage that comes from severe weather most commonly in the form of a hurricane doesn’t identify county borders, which means on Virginia’s Middle Peninsula the destruction can be widespread.
“Our number one threat is a hurricane and we are not going to get wet by ourselves,” said Creig Moore, Gloucester County’s emergency management coordinator. “If we don’t work together to plan regionally, we are making a big mistake.”
Gloucester County recently received $145,000 in federal grant money. The funding is being used for regional emergency preparedness, specifically in the areas of evacuation and shelter planning in Gloucester, Mathews and Middlesex counties.
“It’s very important that we work together,” said Edwina Casey, a Mathews Board of Supervisors member appointed as the county’s emergency management director. “It’s a scary thing to think about but we have to be prepared.”
Middlesex County Administrator Matt Walker said geographically the partnership makes sense with the three counties huddled together — stuck between Hampton Roads and Richmond.
“The more willing we are to work together the more effective and efficient we become,” Walker said.
The grant funding is from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management’s 2014 State Homeland Security Grant program. Moore said $45,000 will go to a coordinated effort by the three counties to enhance evacuation preparedness. The remaining $100,000 will go to creating a regional sheltering plan for the partnership.
In December, a meeting was held to discuss the two projects and hosted by the consulting firm hired to help, The Olson Group, Ltd.
As work on the plan gets underway in the next few weeks, the evacuation portion of the project will involve review of the current flood zones and a revision of the current evacuation zones. Officials also plan to develop multi-cultural training materials on flood zones and evacuation plans, and host workshops to educate the population.