Virginia’s Department of Emergency Management oversees how the funds are used in seven regions throughout the state. In each region, a group of coordinators made up of local law enforcement officials develops areas that need to be evaluated and improved through the funding. Often, managers will implement specific training courses or full-scale exercises to address those needs. The funding also goes towards emergency-response-related supplies, such as hazardous materials and bomb disposal equipment. The Department of Emergency Management also offers general Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) training courses.
During a yearly training workshop, the state’s Department of Emergency Management receives suggestions on what exercises and courses would be beneficial for each region. Because there is never enough funding to conduct all the exercises requested, the department prioritizes the suggestions and works with regional exercise planning teams to carry them out. For example, one region decided it wanted to have a better understanding of how to manage a mass casualty event. It began with a roundtable discussion about how the community would respond. The region then executed a full-scale exercise based on an active-shooter scenario at a community college.
Everyone from law enforcement officers and SWAT teams to medical examiners and crime scene investigators participated. In many full-scale exercises, volunteer and private organizations—such as the Red Cross, universities, power companies, and transportation managers—also get involved. “It can get pretty intensive when you get to that full-scale exercise level,” Spieldenner says.
After the exercise, after-action reports are made to identify strengths and areas that need to be improved.
Beyond full-scale exercises, HSEEP helps facilitate education and communication among departments and regions, which is useful regardless of the type of incident, Spieldenner says. “Whether it’s a man-made terrorist attack or an earthquake, a lot of the response is going to be similar. The tactical aspects may differ but the recovery is the same in a lot of ways—finding temporary shelter, dealing with mass injuries or fatalities.”