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November 22, 2021


The Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) has rolled out their own Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (ODEI), located at their headquarters in Chesterfield, Virginia. This development is the first of its kind across the nation, having an entire office dedicated to the mission of reducing barriers

to assistance and equality in disaster relief and emergency management. ODEI launches with the goal of providing subject matter expertise, strategic leadership, and technical assistance to VDEM staff, partners, and key stakeholders on best practices for ensuring emergency management plans are equitable and prioritize vulnerable and at-risk populations before, during, and after disasters.

As emergency management professionals, we know that there is not a broad ranging, blanket solution to solve all disasters. It is easy to look at policies and programs from an angle that impacts your community, but to consider the communities and individuals who have historically not had a voice in these discussions, and how their needs can be met as well as others, the conversation needs a more diverse audience. With Virginia equipping itself with the ODEI, there will be added focus and dedication to analyzing decisions and new state policy that have a more inclusive and positive impact on the entire population, including vulnerable and small, rural communities that have been left behind in the past.


The creation of an office such as VDEM’s ODEI is even more crucial when you look at the increased devastation and frequency of disasters and the communities that are facing disasters that they have never dealt with in the past. With the increase in disaster impacts, there is going to be a need for changes and development of new local and state policies. ODEI will be able to incorporate their mission and their expertise, leveraging diversity and equity in these new policies, to effectively extend the needed assistance to everyone affected by these disasters, some who may have never experienced anything like these disasters in the past.


Leaders for diversity and equity in the emergency management in Virginia include NEMA member, Curtis Brown. “VDEM is proud to be a national leader when it comes to integrating DEI principles into emergency management,” said Curtis Brown. “Recent updates to the Code of Virginia tasks VDEM with the responsibility of providing guidance to local governments and establishing the Emergency Management Equity Work Group. The opening of this office will be critical to the success of these important responsibilities and I look forward to the great work and innovation that will come from our ODEI.”


Changes must be made through deliberate action and a conscious decision to analyze operations and standards at all levels in order to truly create a system that encourages diversity and equity for the success of the community. Virginia, taking this first step, is a model state of those deliberate actions and decision to continue to make disaster responses as equitable and inclusive as it should be.

And to discriminate only generates hate
And when you hate then you're bound to get irate
Madness is what you demonstrate
And that's exactly how hate works and operates
Man, we gotta set it straight
Take control of your mind and just meditate
And let your soul just gravitate to the love
So the whole world celebrate it

― Black Eyed Peas

If you would like more information or have a state practice you’d like to highlight as part of this ongoing series, please contact Jamie Logan

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