On Wednesday at the Virginia Department of Emergency Management’s Emergency Operations Center, Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed SB381, which transfers the responsibility for overseeing and coordinating efforts to strengthen homeland security from the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security to the Secretary of Public Safety. The legislation renames the secretariats the Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs and the Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security, and enables Virginia to better prepare for, evaluate, and respond to emergencies and disasters.
The Governor’s office, Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran, and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Admiral John Harvey worked closely with a bipartisan coalition in the General Assembly to develop this legislation, which originated from recommendations from the Joint Legislative and Review Committee (JLARC). The bill, patroned by Senators Lynwood Lewis and Bryce Reeves, and its companion bill, HB730, patroned by Delegate Scott Lingamfelter, passed with unanimous support through both chambers of the General Assembly.
“This legislation streamlines Virginia’s ability to keep our communities safe by putting our homeland security planning and preparedness functions in the same place as our emergency and disaster response functions,” said Governor McAuliffe as he signed the bill. “This important shift also adds new homeland security duties to strengthen the critical preparedness work you all perform here, and is in line with my commitment to making Virginia government work better for the people of the Commonwealth.”
Under the new law, the Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security is charged with:
- Assigning planning responsibilities among state agencies and local jurisdictions to elevate the state of readiness in Virginia;
- Integrating the state homeland security strategy into the Secure Commonwealth Plan;
- Developing the annual Commonwealth Threat Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment Report;
- Ensuring development and implementation of plans for protecting public critical infrastructure;
- Directing the Va. Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) to assist localities and state agencies to develop top quality, realistic disaster plans; and
Directing VDEM to oversee all shelter, evacuation, traffic, and refuge of last resort plans to ensure they will work when our citizens need them.