Gov. Peter Shumlin today signed the 2013 State Emergency Operations Plan (SEOP), the official guide for emergency response in the state. The plan is updated every five years, and the 2013 version is unique because it integrates lessons learned from the response to Tropical Storm Irene, the most severe storm to hit the state in generations.
"Irene taught us that all levels of government need to be on the same page to carry out an effective response," Gov. Shumlin said, surrounded by state and local officials, emergency responders, National Guard personnel and others at the Emergency Operations Center in Waterbury. "We have implemented lessons learned, not just observed, and come up with a plan that will meet the needs of Vermonters before, during, and after a catastrophic event."
The SEOP supports a unified, all-hazards approach to disaster preparation, response, and recovery. State agencies, local jurisdictions, and supporting response organizations like the Red Cross and Vermont 2-1-1 worked together to update the plan to reflect what each learned during Irene.
The Vermont Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (DEMHS) spearheaded and organized the re-write with input from state, local, and emergency partners. The new plan contains a more robust recovery and restoration section, which was noted as an area that needed significant improvement after the storms and damages of 2011.
"Our previous plans were sufficient for disasters we experienced before 2011," DEMHS Deputy Director Ross Nagy, who coordinated the plan revision, said. "We found as we recovered from Irene that we were adapting to conditions and adjusting practices based on needs. The new plan documents the most effective practices and relationships that grew from the identified response support and recovery needs."
The plan addresses all hazards that could be faced by Vermonters, from structure fires, to natural disasters, to acts of terrorism. It also stresses that individual preparedness contributes to a more effective response and recovery.
"Preparedness and planning are not limited to the worst-case scenario or the most likely scenario," Department of Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn said. "Vermont and Vermonters should be ready for anything and have a plan that can be used before, during, and after any incident that might occur. We have a blueprint that does just that."