An important deadline is approaching for Vermont cities and towns. Local Emergency Operations Plans (LEOPs) are due to the Vermont Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security by May 1st.

An LEOP is a community's blueprint for preparing for, responding to, and recovering from a disaster. LEOPs provide a framework from which a town can respond to a disaster and allows all Vermont municipalities to work collaboratively during a widespread event like we saw in Tropical Storm Irene. The document also includes:

-- A checklist of tasks that must be carried out during a disaster

-- Locations of emergency shelters in town

-- Contact information for the Vermont State Emergency Operations Center

-- Guidelines for damage assessments

-- Planning tasks including hazard risk and high risk population identification.

Vermont statute requires every city and town to have an emergency operations plan on file at the Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security. An updated LEOP is a requirement for communities that wish to receive full disaster or mitigation funding, or to qualify for certain emergency management or Homeland Security grants. Local Emergency Operations Plans must be submitted by cities and towns to their Regional Planning Commission each year, after Town Meeting Day and before May 1. This ensures any changes to infrastructure or personnel in the previous 12 months are reflected in the updated plan.

Earlier this year the Vermont Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security released a new Local Emergency Operations Plan template, which can be found on the DEMHS website: