Increased communication, cooperation improve WV's flood response


Increased communication, cooperation and coordination improve West Virginia's emergency flood response

EMD May 8 Deliveries Gilmer County.jpg

Using lessons learned to improve outcomes in disasters.

CHARLESTON, W.Va.—An axiom of emergency management is “disasters begin and end at the local level", making clear communication between local, state, and partner agencies paramount when responding to disasters.

The West Virginia Emergency Management Division (EMD) has gone through many changes in the last few years. Regardless of those changes, the EMD has worked tirelessly to improve emergency response capabilities to better serve the local emergency management agencies and the people of West Virginia.

On May 6, 2022, Governor Jim Justice declared a State of Preparedness ahead of storms and torrential rainfall that swept through West Virginia. Throughout that day, the storms would go on to cause flash flooding, damage to homes, numerous vehicle accidents and at least one fatality.

May 7 supplies mops warehouse.jpgThat morning, the EMD began receiving reports of flooded roads, homes and businesses. Citizens needed water, shelf-ready meals, buckets, flood cleanup kits, bleach, mops and more to begin the recovery process.

Once needs were assessed, EMD began contacting our partners to coordinate delivery of supplies to and from the EMD warehouse. At the warehouse, workers divided the supplies and began loading trucks and other vehicles for quick delivery to the affected communities.

While the storms impacted nearly every county in some way, among the hardest hit were Cabell, Putnam and Roane counties, where the Governor declared a State of Emergency on May 7.

Jerry Beckett, Cabell County's Emergency Planner with 44 years of public service and an 11 year veteran of emergency management, offered this feedback on the May 6 flood response:

“I can honestly say, with all the devastation in Cabell County, this operation has been one of the smoothest I've ever been involved in," said Beckett. “All our partners came together to get the job done. The cooperation between agencies was great, and we had resources in the hands of citizens in less than 24 hours of the event."

Long-time EMD partner Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD) were instrumental in the success of this response, holding daily meetings with EMD, local agencies and voluntary organizations to assure coordination.

“This was a very smooth operation, and everything is going well. VOAD coordinated daily calls that brought everyone together to discuss the event," said Jenny Gannaway, VOAD's Executive Director. “I think it really helped to have people from the State, counties, cities and voluntary organizations on one call to keep everyone on the same page. We all worked together and that made a huge difference."

“The progress shown by EMD in this response is exactly what I want to see," said EMD Director GE McCabe. “Having the right people in the right positions has enhanced coordination and information sharing both internally and externally, making EMD and our partners better positioned to help communities in times of disaster."

In addition to state and local agencies, EMD would like to extend our thanks to VOAD, the American Red Cross West Virginia, the Salvation Army, and the numerous community groups who assisted the impacted areas with everything from providing supplies and coordinating equipment to mucking out homes and meeting immediate needs.

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Additional comments from county emergency management agencies:

Melissa Gilbert, Director, Roane County Emergency Management: “I agree that the coordination has greatly improved. Everything flowed smoothly and resources were at our door the very next morning.

Overall, this was the easiest disaster in my 23 years here. I think we are all, citizens included, better prepared after lessons learned from the 2016 flood."

William “BJ" Willis, Director of Wayne County E911/Office of Emergency Management: “Although Wayne County has not yet been declared in the State of Emergency, I feel things are going well with this disaster. We have received assistance in doing assessments to identify homes that were flooded but not reported. VOAD was very helpful in arranging the delivery of cleanup kits and supplying a preliminary damage assessment team.

EMD's damage assessment tool has been a huge help to our county. It has sped up and simplified the process. Overall, EMD is “light years" ahead of the last event. I am really very pleased!" 

Contact Information

Lora Lipscomb, WVEMD Public Information Officer