ABOVE: From left, Jess Robison, Sherri Lafoon and Emily Ashley Dillon make up Chesterfield’s Emergency Management Department.
Emily Ashley Dillon is into disaster preparation.
The Kansas City, Mo., native has been Chesterfield County’s emergency management coordinator for seven years.
The three-person emergency management department, which is housed with the county fire department’s administrative office, helps the county’s 50 departments prepare for any large-scale emergency or disaster. The department is also responsible for response, recovery and mitigation, the latter which involves reducing danger before and after an event.
“It’s our job to create a community of resiliency,” she said. This includes helping folks become aware of what hazards could occur and prepare for them. This includes working with area businesses – such as Dominion Energy – non-profit organizations, churches, and adjacent cities and counties.
The county has several locations that it has designated for family assistance centers and shelters as needed. These include the Ettrick, Central, LaPrade, Meadowbrook and North Courthouse libraries as family assistance centers, and Cosby and Meadowbrook high schools as shelters. Other libraries could also potentially serve in that capacity as needed. The high schools have been designated shelters because of their generator capabilities, Dillon said.
During an emergency, every shelter has a nurse, she said, adding that the county has limited resources and cannot provide critical care. However, the county has partnerships with nursing homes that can provide critical care for those who need it. She said no one in need will be turned away.
During the tornadoes that occurred Monday, Sept. 17, the county activated its Emergency Operations Center, which is in the basement of the county administration building. It was active for approximately 24 hours, Dillon said. The Emergency Operations Center serves as a hub for emergency operations during a disaster.
Cosby High School was used as a temporary pickup point from 7 to 11 p.m. Sept. 17 for students who couldn’t get into their neighborhoods due to flash flooding.
The Emergency Management Department is involved in continual training, Dillon said. This includes working with mass care and mental health groups, social services and pets/animal control.
The department’s public outreach coordinator, Jess Robison, is available to speak to homeowners’ associations and businesses, and the department also offers Community Emergency Response Team training, which teaches basic emergency response skills. The next class begins Tuesday, Oct. 2. Those interest can register at chesterfield.gov/CERT.
For those impacted by disasters who don’t have insurance or elderly persons who need help removing a fallen tree, for example, the county may be able to put them in touch with someone who can help. Call (804) 796-7068 for help.
For more information, go online at chesterfield.gov/EM.