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Homeland security and emergency preparedness Report

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Updated: Nov 24th, 2019


Virginia had a population of 8,001,024 according to the 2010 US Census. It is also the 35th largest state in the United States with people of different ethnicities living in the area. One of the counties that form the Commonwealth of Virginia is Madison County, which has a total area of 0.2 square miles.

In 2000, the county is said to have had 210 people living in the area, with 115 housing units (Nagengast, 2009). Whether at the federal, the state, or the local level, the aspect of emergency preparedness remains a critical part of the government policy. In Virginia, several risks face the people who live here.

These emergency disaster situations can be natural, which include hurricanes, fires, flash floods, disease outbreaks, and tornadoes or man-made which may include shortage of resources, civil unrest, terrorist attacks or even accidents. All theses risks necessitate an emergency operations plan.

Given the salience of these matters, such a plan would only be successful through proper management strategies, and partnerships between all stakeholders, be they government, private sector, and even community organizations (Goss, 2008).

Discussion & Analysis

One other good example of an up to date EOP is that of Madison County in Virginia. The EOP consists of two plans. The first is the basic plan which assigns duties and roles of the leaders of organizations that will help the local government in times of emergency. The EOP further provides annexes and hazard specific appendices to this basic plan. This aims to give extra guidance and procedure that will ensure the highest level of preparedness.

Secondly, the federal Superfund Reauthorization Act requires the development and maintenance of thorough procedures for the identification of facilities with dangerous material, as well as to assure a swift emergency response especially by local emergency services. The EOP was developed by Emergency Services Coordinator in Madison County who got help from the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Emergency Management (Madison County Emergency Management, 2012).

The Virginia Emergency Services and Disaster Law of 1973 stipulate that the state, all counties, and its cities should develop and sustain an EOP that caters for the planned response to some emergency situations. A good EOP should provide an overview of the authorities’ approach to emergency response and action. It should explain the policies, organization, and tasks that come into play in response to an emergency.

In dealing with an emergency situation, there will be many agencies and departments that must coordinate to quell the situation effectively (Bullock, Haddow & Coppola, 2013). These agencies should be involved in the formulation of their respective plans of action. The overall jurisdiction has to come up with an overall functional format, which is also referred to as the emergency support function format (ESF).

Although this format is not for local jurisdictions, the format is extensively used in plans and guidance pamphlets in many levels of government including the National Response Framework (NRF), in Virginia state and many other local EOPs. Thus, it provides some consistency in the planning and in the liaising between the many levels of government that are likely to take part in a large-scale emergency. When developing a plan, it customized so that it suits the locality.

A good EOP plan should have several things that we can borrow from the state of Virginia. Firstly, the EOP should be approved. All local jurisdictions in Virginia are required to have a current EOP that supersedes all other EOPs by law. This is intended to make sure that there is no crash of ambiguity on which EOP is authoritative.

The EOP in Virginia is also required to be reviewed every four years. Secondly, all EOPs are required to be approved by the local governing board to ensure its legitimacy. Thirdly, the EOPs are not cast in stone. Not all changes will need to be made by the local governing council since it meets every four years. However, this is not inclusive of those that require a significant reallocation of funds or change in policy.

However, all changes should be recorded and approved by the director of emergency management or any other person authorized under the adoption of the resolution. Fourthly, the EOP should have a purpose, scope, situations and assumptions. The purpose should explain what the EOP it is meant to do. The simple purpose of the EOP is to set the legal and organizational basis for operations in Madison County.

On the other hand, the scope deals with the jurisdictional boundaries that the plan will cover the agencies that will be responsible for the implementation and the various actions that may be taken in any phase of the situation. In the Madison EOP, the scope is defined as that of day to day activities involving anything to do with disaster and emergencies. The situation can be assessed depending on how the jurisdiction assesses the danger of the situation.

These dangers or hazards are classified as either primary or secondary. For example, the analysis may show the primary dangers at the University of Virginia to be the risk of severe storms. The secondary dangers will then look at the factors that are likely to block the implementation of a response plan such as size or population of the university. It is clear that, to get these secondary factors, one will need the right information.

The state of Virginia uses some sources which include: the US Census bureau which offers state and county demographics. The state has a planning department that has branches in every locality. The state also requires all local jurisdictions to provide statistics on the deaf, those with hearing loss, the blind and visually impaired citizens in its locality. The department of social services is also used to give the number of adults and children in all localities within Virginia.

Fourthly, a good EOP should have a capability assessment. The capability assessment in Virginia sums up the jurisdiction’s prevention, defense, or salvaging capabilities in relation to the defined hazards. Fifthly, a good EOP should describe things that are presumed to be true and that could directly impact the execution of the EOP, as well as the limitations of the EOP that can help in the improvisation and modification.

Virginia uses the assumption that citizens in its jurisdictions are well prepared to be independent for at least 3 days after an emergency or disaster. In the Madison county EOP, the assumptions listed include that the EOP is based on the current county response capabilities.

The assumption is that there will be no significant changes within the next four years. It is also assumed that the county officials charged with the task if responding are conversant with the EOP and they are well trained to handle the situation. In addition, the emergencies will take place in the areas where the county has jurisdiction. Furthermore, the county will be notified of the situation either through radio communication or by telephone.

Lastly, it is held that there is a possibility that the emergency situation that occurs will overwhelm the local authorities. These assumptions help in enriching the EOP. The assumption that the situation may get out of hand is especially necessary as it creates a provision for the invitation of extra help and ensures that no matter the magnanimity, the situation will be arrested.

However, the assumption that the local teams are well trained may be dangerous given the recent change of technology and threats such as terrorism. The county should consider giving constant training to the response teams. The other assumption that there will be no significant changes in the period of four years should also be reviewed. This is meant to define significant changes and create space for reviews should there be a significant change.

A description of the order and scope of the planed emergency response may also be referred to as the concept of operations (CONOPS). It describes how the response organization achieves its mission or goals.

These goals are determined during the planning process and are based on the analysis of the risks and dangers involved. In Virginia, EOPs are based on the concept that all emergency operations will start at the local level and that any outside intervention will only be requested if and when the emergency situation is more than the local jurisdictions can manage.

If the Virginia state is overwhelmed by a disaster or emergency, the Governor is required to declare a local emergency and proceed to seek the help of the federal government. This description enriches the EOP greatly and ensures that order is maintained even in the face of disaster. It also ensures that resources are well used. This ensures that all resources are not spent dealing with an incident that could have been solved by a small team.

In all emergency situations, the order is critical. For there to be order, there must be proper and pre-structured management system. One such structure is the Incident Command system (ICS). This is a standardized management approach that applies to all emergency situations.

It can thus be used in all levels of governments and any incidents regardless of the nature, jurisdiction, or complexity. As such, it incorporates the participation of all support groups in a variety of emergency situations. In Virginia, a situation manager whose responsibility is to supervise should have between three and seven people below him or her.

Another important factor in emergency operation is the phases. A good EOP should identify steps that should be taken during non-emergency/disaster times. This will help prepare the local jurisdictions for possible emergency responses when required. It should also make provision for succession in the authority so that there is no power vacuum (Haddow, Bullock & Coppola, 2011).

In the sample EOP of Madison County, the Continuity of Government (COG) is well scripted as a contingency in case anything causes the unavailability of key leaders or members. Examples of steps taken to ensure smooth running in Virginia include the maintenance of up to date information for the contact of the injury compensation department, as well the Virginia department of justice. The next step is to plan the response operations.

This is after preparing for an emergency situation. This involves identifying what the local jurisdiction will do to respond to an emergency situation. Examples response operation in Virginia’s EOP includes the redirection of efforts and resources towards the quelling of the emergency situation, suspend a government activity that is not helping in solving the situation, evacuate citizens, and open staff emergency shelters among others.

After the response operation comes in the recovery operations. This will involve the identification of actions that need to be taken in order to resume normal operations after the occurrence of a disaster.

It should also identify the range of recovery actions that the jurisdictions may adopt depending on the effect of the disaster, and resources and abilities that are the state’s disposal. Example of recovery actions may include starting the repairs, measure the viability of the return of evacuated residents. After the recovery operations, a good EOP should provide mitigation actions to be taken.

This involves identifying actions the jurisdiction should take in order to minimize or remove long-term dangers to the people and the property, say from side effects. Here, EOPs in Virginia provide examples including the provision of grants to affected businesses; coordination of insurance from the federal government; early documentation of losses that were avoided due to the previous EOPs and update mitigation actions that can prevent similar occurrences in the future among others.

One important aspect in an EOP is the definition of roles and responsibilities. An ideal EOP should involve the local authorities, government officials, the private sector, and community organizations or civil societies. To assign these responsibilities, both delegation and specialization are critical.

Firstly, for elected officials, their duties should include protection of lives and property; establishment of local emergency management programs; appointment of local emergency management work force; adoption of the appropriate EOP. Secondly, there is the director of emergency.

The duties involve determining the necessity of evacuation, directing and coordinating during the emergency operations; being responsible for the maintenance and updating the EOP. Thirdly, the duties of the coordinator of Emergency Management include developing the EOP and ensuring that the EOC is ready. In the absence of the director of emergency, the management assumes those responsibilities.

Other duties include being responsible for the reviews, revision and adoption of EOP every four years. Fourthly, the role of the local government agencies includes development and maintenance of emergency plans and the operating procedures; sourcing of supplies and keeping records of the expenditure related to the disaster.

Fifthly, on the role of the private sector and community organizations, they include preparation for personal and business disaster readiness, mitigation, response, and recovery; adoption of the proposed steps of action by the emergency manager; knowing the emergency response plans as stipulated by the jurisdiction. On the question of administration, finance, and logistics, the law in Virginia stipulates that normal procurement and financial policies unless the governor declares a local emergency.

In this section of the Virginia EOPs, some of the issues addressed include reference to aid agreements, guiding policies on the keeping of financial records such as use of resources and acquisition of resources. The other aspect is planned maintenance. In this case, it is required by law that each local jurisdiction has an EOP which is reviewed every four years.

Given that budget allocations are not to be adjusted within the four years, the budget is only allocated for the normal operations. The normal operations in Madison County are defined as the development, maintenance, and the dissemination of financial-plan procedures to ensure swift and efficient payment of funds. The funds are needed to cater for emergency operations, and the provision of training to acquaint staff with internal processes, as well as the federal procedures concerning disaster situations.

The funds are also needed for the development of the needed support in terms of logistics, as well as to carry out tasks relating to emergencies. This includes instruction to departments as regards to the maintenance of an inventory of supplies and development of the needed agreements on mutual grounds, contracts, and identifying the prospective resources that are needed to prepare for emergencies that may come in the future adequately.

The funds will also be used for the development of measures that will ensure records are kept even in times of disaster. The definition of these normal operations and the allocation of the budget required ensures that there is accountability and resources are spent only for the intended purposes.

Emergency levels may be categorized in three categories. These are level one, level two, and level three. The level one emergency is one which is quickly resolved with internal resources or limited help. Here, the OSU Emergency Management Plan is not actuated. A level two emergency situation is one that has a significant effect and affects the life safety.

Here, the EOC is actuated. The third level is the most significant in terms of impact and state or the local jurisdiction quickly activate the EOC. One example of the Virginia EOPs is a local terrorism response template of the department of Homeland security’s website.

The purpose of the annex is stated as to provide incident-specific guidance to the locality, so as to plan an effective emergency response should a terrorist incident take place. On the nature of the hazard, the threat spectrum posed by a chemical, biological, or nuclear explosive is diverse, it presents the adversary with an opportunity to generate fear, confusion or focus public attention to a certain matter using a single incident.

Explosives have become the most used weapons by terrorists in the US. This is due to the ease of availability and the minimal risk and simplicity that is required to carry out such an attack. However, terrorists operate in very unconventional ways and tactics, often relying on the element of surprise. Terrorists will tend to work on random unpredictable methods. However, such methods or patterns can be captured. Should a WMD incident take place in Virginia, the local emergency response organizations respond immediately.

This should be subsequently followed by a notification to the local jurisdiction, the state, or if necessary, to the federal government. This EOP plan is very simple and appropriate. However, it risks being out of date given the changing tactics deployed by terrorists, a response by the time may have been a set up to trap more people in the attack. It is necessary for the local jurisdiction to have an anti-terror force that would respond to such a situation.

Conclusions & Recommendations

From the discussion, it is clear that the local EOP at Madison County is a model plan that should be used as an inspiration for other counties. Despite the county having a relatively small population, we can see that the EOP is well structured to cater for any situation. The plan further makes provisions for a situation that gets out of hand.

However, the EOP in Virginia may pose the risk of being out of date given the rate at which the dynamics in modern day are changing. Therefore, it is recommendable that the rate at which EOPs are revised be increased or provisions for review.


Bullock, J. A., Haddow, G.D., & Coppola, D.P. (2013). Introduction to homeland security: Principles of all-hazards risk management. Boston: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Goss, K.C. (2008). Guide for all hazard emergency operations planning. S.l.: Diane Pub. Co.

Haddow, G.D., Bullock, J.A., & Coppola, D.P. (2011). Introduction to emergency management. Burlington, MA: Butterworth Heinemann.

Madison County Emergency Management. (2012). All-hazards emergency Operations plan. Web.

Nagengast, C. (2009). Almanac of American demographics. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse.

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