Randy Yohe Published

FEMA Makes W.Va. Disaster Response National Priority


West Virginia’s numerous natural disasters, including floods, Derechos and ice storms have put the state toward the top of the list for federal response efforts.

West Virginia is not a hurricane landfall or in tornado alley, but with 20 federally-declared disasters over the past ten years, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has a permanent team dedicated to the Mountain State.

James Young, disaster field coordinator for FEMA’s West Virginia office, said while most states have two or three responders at a time, about 30 members here work as an integration team. He said the team mission – under blue skies or other – is to ease the process before, during and after a severe weather disaster hits.

“Just given the numerous disasters that you have here, we have a team here working towards improving preparedness and working through the response and recovery phase. The team is also looking at mitigation activities that help reduce risk for future disasters,” Young said. “The idea is that we have FEMA assets in West Virginia working day in and day out with partners such as the West Virginia Emergency Management Division, knowing that it’s really important to be coordinating before disasters hit.”

During this Flood Safety and Severe Weather Awareness Week, FEMA suggests everyone have a disaster ‘go-kit’ ready.

“Which is essentially a bag full of things like water, and non-perishable foods, having batteries, and having important documents ready to go,” Young said. “And in the event that you need to evacuate at a moment’s notice, have all those ready to go so that you can get to a safer place.”

Young suggests everyone know about floodplains, even if they don’t live in one.

“West Virginia has a great tool called the West Virginia Flood Tool, which shows where you are in relation to the floodplain,” Young said. “So that you can know in terms of your risk and potential for getting flood insurance and what that may cost.”

A West Virginia native, Young also suggests that everyone should look into flood insurance.

“We’ve seen time and time again that places that have never flooded before are now being impacted. So it’s something that we recommend people talk to the local insurance agents to understand their risk, see what a policy will cost,” Young said. “And if you do sign up, that policy could take effect within 30 days. With the spring flooding that usually occurs right on the horizon, now’s a perfect time to look into that.”