A new statewide initiative will pair Virginia Cooperative Extension agents with Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) personnel to improve the commonwealth's response to emergencies and disasters.

Extension agents in certain localities will be mobilized in the event of an actual or anticipated federally declared disaster in Virginia. Local agents will serve as liaisons between federal officials in the field and state and local officials during disaster relief and recovery activities. They will keep state and local officials informed of the status, progress, needs, and any problems related to disaster recovery.

“Having these agents in place will significantly improve the state’s ability to assess the situation and get aid to those who need it,” said Michael Cline, state coordinator for VDEM. “Their knowledge of the local area is a great resource.”

With their thorough knowledge of the community, the region, the resources, and the local people and leadership, Extension agents will work to ensure effective communication and enhanced coordination of resources during an emergency.

“It puts us in a spot where we can do our best,” said Jim Riddell, assistant director of agriculture and natural resources for Virginia Cooperative Extension. “We are great at knowing the local resources in our individual communities, and we are great at communicating the needs of Virginians.”

Riddell added that the new system should enhance the flow of information from the federal government to local citizens.

This initiative starts in the Tidewater, Northern Neck, and Eastern Shore regions of the commonwealth, and state leaders hope to expand the number of localities in the future.

The new initiative builds upon a collaborative partnership between the two agencies that seeks to promote the best use of resources to serve the commonwealth’s citizens.

About Virginia Cooperative Extension Virginia Cooperative Extension brings the resources of Virginia’s land-grant universities, Virginia Tech and Virginia State University, to the people of the commonwealth. Through a system of on-campus specialists and locally based agents, it delivers education in the areas of agriculture and natural resources, family and consumer sciences, community viability, and 4-H youth development. With a network of faculty at two universities, 107 county and city offices, 13 agricultural research and extension centers, and six 4-H educational centers, Virginia Cooperative Extension provides solutions to the problems facing Virginians today.

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