Gov. Peter Shumlin recently put his stamp of approval on the updated State Emergency Operations Plan, the official blueprint for emergency response and recovery in the state. The plan is updated every five years based on lessons learned from past incidents. The latest revision includes many things the state learned during and after Tropical Storm Irene, the most severe storm to hit the state in generations as well as the spring flooding of 2011. The Vermont Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security spearheaded and organized the re-write with input from state, local, and emergency partners.

"Irene taught us that all levels of government need to be on the same page to carry out an effective response," the Governor said when announcing the re-write at the State Emergency Operations Center in Waterbury on Dec. 5. "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 outlines how the entirety of state government and support agencies like the Red Cross and Vermont 2-1-1 will work together with, and in support of, local responders and governments. The all-hazards approach to disaster preparation, response, and recovery was updated by state agencies, local jurisdictions, and supporting response organizations to reflect what each learned during Irene.

The plan is not only a unified approach, but a thoroughly all-hazards plan. It includes plans for everything from structure and wild fires to chemical spills, acts of terrorism, and natural disasters.

The state will test the new plan in June when it conducts its second statewide catastrophic exercise.

Among the most significant changes is a much more robust recovery and restoration section, which was noted as an area that needed significant improvement after the storms and damages of 2011. While previous plans were sufficient for life in Vermont before Irene, the storm forced state agencies to adapt to conditions and adjust practices based on needs. The new plan documents the most effective practices and relationships that grew from the identified response support and recovery needs.

Also significant in the new plan is the onus on the need for individual preparedness and how it contributes to a more effective response and recovery. If individuals are ready for disasters and have a plan the stress on local and state resources is minimized. DEMHS always encourages individuals to have emergency supplies at the ready and plans for their families should a disaster happen.

For more on preparing for a disaster, please visit www.ready.gov or the DEMHS web site at http://vem.vermont.gov.

The complete State Emergency Operations Plan can also be viewed on the Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security web site. You can find a link at our home page or go direct to http://vem.vermont.gov/local_state_plans/eop.

Ross Nagy is the Deputy Director at VT DEMHS. As the deputy, he oversees preparedness activities including exercise coordination for all hazards and planning activities including those related to the State Emergency Operations Plan and the State Hazard Mitigation Plan. Additionally he provides and coordinates support to local and regional planning efforts and initiatives.