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May 18

[ARCHIVED] Shelter Exercise for Individuals with Disabilities and Access/Functional Needs 4-7-18

The original item was published from April 7, 2018 7:02 PM to May 19, 2022 11:13 AM


As I write this blog entry, it is around midnight Friday night (4/6/18) at Norview High School where we are conducting a full-scale shelter exercise for individuals with disabilities and access/functional needs – an event I already consider a success.  To be clear, to me, it’s not a success in that everything went perfectly.  Perfection is unrealistic.  In my eyes it is a success because of the valuable lessons learned and a strong baseline by which to improve. 

For those unfamiliar with the complexities of typical emergency shelter operations, here is a quick breakdown:

  • Norfolk Public Schools are incredible partners who provide most of our shelter facilities.  In addition to facility access and maintenance, they coordinate an accessible school bus and driver at each shelter location to assist those who need transportation.  They also provide meals for the shelter guests.
  • Norfolk Police provides security, without which a shelter cannot be opened.
  • Norfolk Public Health inspects the shelter and conducts surveillance for any possible or present communicable diseases.
  • Norfolk Human Services, which oversees the entire shelter operation, conducts the registration process and otherwise ensures accountability for everyone.  They set the schedule, they coordinate activities, they provide situation updates, they link with the Emergency Operations Center for any resource needs.
  • Norfolk Community Services Board (CSB) staff is on site to assist and/or intervene with shelter guests with issues related to mental health, intellectual disabilities or those struggling with substance abuse.
  • Norfolk Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES) who establishes an alternate communications link with the Emergency Operations Center.

Norfolk has provided this type of sheltering for many years.  Incidentally, during those years nobody has presented themselves with a need requiring care beyond basic first aid. (Ok, there was a shelter guest who did go into labor during Hurricane Sandy in 2012…). Therefore, for this exercise currently underway, the activities mentioned above occurred as well as…

Most importantly, however, have been the shelter participants themselves – those willing to take time out of their Friday and Saturday… at the end of Spring Break… to work with Team Norfolk and ensure the best possible outcome – not just for the exercise – but inclusive shelter strategies moving forward.  

An enormous thanks to the staff, individuals and families connected with the Endependence Center, Care Connection for Children, Community Alternatives Hampton Roads, Eggleston, Hampton Roads Planning District Commission, Hope House, Tidewater Autism Society, and Western Tidewater Group Homes who have supported or attended the exercise and provided invaluable perspective and feedback.  These incredibly special women and men of all ages and abilities are some of the most resilient folks one could have the opportunity to meet.  They are in our community.  They are the faces behind the statistics on which emergency planners rely for their planning.  They are the experts.  This is why it is imperative the focus be on planning with, not “for”, the community.  We’re all in it together.

Thanks is also appropriate for our amazing and ever reliable partners at the Eastern Virginia Healthcare Coalition as well as the Department of Homeland Security who’s grant funding helped make the event possible.

Stand by for a thorough After-Action Report from the exercise with detailed items for improvement.  At the end of the after action and improvement planning process, the result may be a strategy completely different than what occurred during this exercise; nonetheless, one thing is for certain – the next time will be better.  And even better still the time after that.  In the meantime, if you’re curious about Team Norfolk Emergency Shelter Operations, click here or contact us at (757) 441-5600.  Additional details about our shelters will be forthcoming in an effort to help individuals and families make informed decisions about whether an emergency shelter will be the right fit for them.

A final word of thanks to all who contributed and supported this exercise!  Because of everyone’s commitment and hard work, our community just go a little more prepared – with the 2018 Hurricane Season a mere two months away.

Go Team Norfolk!



Jim Redick
 Director, Norfolk EOC