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Virginia Department of Emergency Management Office of Diversity Opportunity Inclusion for Grants


Good governance is defined by several characteristics including accountability; transparency; responsiveness; efficiency; integrity; and inclusiveness. By developing data-driven policies and laws that address the diverse needs of the Commonwealth, we can continue to build resilient communities and inter-connected counties, towns, and cities.  

How does the state develop a sustainable framework for the continued promotion of inclusive practices across state government? 


The Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) stood up the Office of Diversity, Opportunity, and Inclusion (ODOI) in 2021 with the mission of threading those principles throughout every function of the agency in order to lead Virginia’s prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery efforts to save lives and protect all Virginians. It is critical that ODOI principles are embedded throughout our efforts given the disproportionate impact that disasters have on communities across the Commonwealth. 

VDEM was awarded an Emergency Management Performance Grant Supplemental award in 2020 (EMPG-S) to respond to COVID-19. Using data analytics, VDEM identified 40 local emergency management programs to receive sub-awards. Participants were provided technical assistance, training, and guidance related to strengthening their tailored and balanced approach to emergency plans and communications. 

In January of 2022, Virginia’s Governor Youngkin launched a new initiative to further the mission of ODOI across the Commonwealth to encompass creating economic opportunities for disproportionately impacted communities. Governor Youngkin’s Executive Order 10 states, “Every Virginian deserves dignity and respect, deserves the opportunity to pursue their dreams and deserves inclusion in the Virginia family. To accomplish this, we must strengthen and focus the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) by including in its mission the promotion of entrepreneurship and economic opportunity for all Virginians — including Virginians with disabilities — as well as the promotion of free speech and civil discourse.” 

Executive Order 10 expanded the mission of ODOI, previously ODEI, and provided a unique opportunity for VDEM to serve as a unifying force across every level of government through inclusive advancements in public safety and emergency management.  

New legislative mandates also require VDEM to take important steps to ensure Virginia’s most vulnerable populations are prioritized and receive proportional resources pre and post-disaster. ODOI is an external-facing office advocating for localities in need of essential resources to support and promote preparedness in the Commonwealth, with a specific focus on those communities that are historically and disproportionately impacted. The office is responsible for reviewing localities’ emergency plans and providing training, support, and technical assistance to ensure these plans are inclusive, sustainable, and reflective of the needs and concerns of every Virginia community.  

Through this planning support, ODOI generates awareness of resource and capability gaps throughout the Commonwealth and forges a shared priority at every level of government to address the obstacles faced by disproportionately impacted communities. The office aims to promote advancements and protect investments to the support stability of every Virginia community.  

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, VDEM leveraged private sector applications to determine which communities would benefit the most from hazard mitigation projects made available through the following FEMA grants: Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC); Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA); and the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP).  

Our private sector partner looked at disproportionately impacted populations living in areas with coastal flood zones and determined which communities would need the most resources and services after a disaster and would benefit from receiving a grant.  In summer 2021, VDEM hosted 13 sub-regional workshops across 40 local jurisdictions.  The workshops were intended to help local and regional government professionals in areas including emergency management, planning and zoning, environmental justice, grants management, and more. 

One of the initiatives of ODOI is to continue the assessment conducted by our private sector partner and expand VDEM’s internal capabilities to refresh the data biennially. This continuous assessment will allow the office to monitor progress and increase awareness of the evolving challenges faced by localities and disproportionately impacted communities.  

Through shared priorities and new and effective partnerships, the Commonwealth of Virginia remains committed to ensuring ALL Virginians have equal access to viable resources and critical information.