Emergency Management


Our Mission:

Through effective emergency management practices, create a safe community resilient to disasters by fostering public awareness and valuable partnerships through communication, coordination, and collaboration.

What We Do:

Emergency Management coordinates the emergency mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery efforts for the residents of the City of Winchester with appropriate City agencies and external partners.

Live Micro Weather:

301 E. Cork Street:


Jim Barnett Park (with Lightning Alert Status):



Take steps today to prepare for disasters.  Below, find a list of some of the threats/hazards for our area and important steps you can take to prepare.


Source: vaemergency.gov/threats/health-threats


Failing to evacuate flooded areas, entering flood waters, or remaining after a flood has passed can result in injury or death. Flooding is a temporary overflow of water onto land that is normally dry. Floods are the most common natural disaster in the United States. Floods may:

  • Result from rain, snow, coastal storms, storm surges, and overflows of dams and other water systems.
  • Develop slowly or quickly – Flash floods can come with no warning.
  • Cause outages, disrupt transportation, damage buildings, and create landslides.
  • Do not walk, swim, or drive through flood waters. Turn Around, Don’t Drown!
    • Just six inches of moving water can knock you down, and one foot of moving water can sweep your vehicle away.
  • Stay off of bridges over fast-moving water.
  • Determine how best to protect yourself based on the type of flooding.
    • Evacuate if told to do so.
    • Move to higher ground or a higher floor.
    • Stay where you are.

Prepare NOW

  • Know types of flood risk in your area. Visit FEMA’s Flood Map Service Center for information.
  • Sign up for National Weather Service Alerts. The Emergency Alert System (EAS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio also provide emergency alerts.
  • If flash flooding is a risk in your location, then monitor potential signs, such as heavy rain.
  • Learn and practice evacuation routes, shelter plans, and flash flood response.
  • Gather supplies in case you have to leave immediately, or if services are cut off. Keep in mind each person’s specific needs, including medication. Don’t forget the needs of pets. Obtain extra batteries and charging devices for phones and other critical equipment.
  • Purchase or renew a flood insurance policy. It typically takes up to 30 days for a policy to go into effect and can protect the life you’ve built. Homeowner’s policies do not cover flooding. Get flood coverage under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)
  • Keep important documents in a waterproof container. Create password-protected digital copies.
  • Protect your property. Move valuables to higher levels. Declutter drains and gutters. Install check valves. Consider a sump pump with a battery.

Survive DURING

  • Depending on where you are, and the impact and the warning time of flooding, go to the safe location that you previously identified.
  • If told to evacuate, do so immediately. Never drive around barricades. Local responders use them to safely direct traffic out of flooded areas.
  • Listen to EAS, NOAA Weather Radio, or local alerting systems for current emergency information and instructions.
  • Do not walk, swim, or drive through flood waters. Turn Around. Don’t Drown!
  • Stay off bridges over fast-moving water. Fast-moving water can wash bridges away without warning.
  • If your vehicle is trapped in rapidly moving water, then stay inside. If water is rising inside the vehicle, then seek refuge on the roof.
  • If trapped in a building, then go to its highest level. Do not climb into a closed attic. You may become trapped by rising floodwater. Go on the roof only if necessary. Once there, signal for help.


  • Listen to authorities for information and instructions. Return home only when authorities say it is safe.
  • Avoid driving, except in emergencies.
  • Snakes and other animals may be in your house. Wear heavy gloves and boots during clean up.
  • Be aware of the risk of electrocution. Do not touch electrical equipment if it is wet or if you are standing in water. If it is safe to do so, turn off the electricity to prevent electric shock.
  • Avoid wading in floodwater, which can contain dangerous debris and be contaminated. Underground or downed power lines can also electrically charge the water.
  • Use a generator or other gasoline-powered machinery ONLY outdoors and away from windows.

View the City's Floodplain Map:

Floodplain Mapping

Lightning and Thunderstorms

Source: vaemergency.gov/threats/lightning-and-thunderstorms

Lightning is a leading cause of injury and death from weather-related hazards. Although most lightning victims survive, people struck by lightning often report a variety of long-term, debilitating symptoms.

Thunderstorms are dangerous storms that include lightning and can create or cause:


  • When thunder roars, go indoors!
  • Move from outdoors into a building or car.
  • Pay attention to alerts and warnings.
  • Unplug appliances.
  • Do not use landline phones.


Prepare NOW

  • Know your area’s risk for thunderstorms. In most places, they can occur year-round and at any hour.
  • Sign up for National Weather Service Alerts. The Emergency Alert System (EAS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio also provide emergency alerts.
  • Identify nearby, sturdy buildings close to where you live, work, study, and play.
  • In case of power outages, have an emergency supply kit with enough nonperishable food , water, flashlights, extra batteries, and other needed supplies for you and your family.
  • Cut down or trim trees that may be in danger of falling on your home.
  • Consider buying surge protectors, lightning rods, or a lightning protection system to protect your home, appliances, and electronic devices.

Survive DURING

  • When thunder roars, go indoors! A sturdy building is the safest place to be during a thunderstorm.
  • Pay attention to weather reports and warnings of thunderstorms. Be ready to change plans, if necessary, to be near shelter.
  • When you receive a thunderstorm warning or hear thunder, go inside immediately.
  • If indoors, avoid running water or using landline phones. Electricity can travel through plumbing and phone lines.
  • Protect your property. Unplug appliances and other electric devices. Secure outside furniture.
  • If boating or swimming, get to land and find a sturdy, grounded shelter or vehicle immediately.
  • If necessary, take shelter in a car with a metal top and sides. Do not touch anything metal.
  • Avoid flooded roadways. Turn Around. Don’t Drown! Just six inches of fast-moving water can knock you down, and one foot of moving water can sweep your vehicle away.


  • Listen to authorities and weather forecasts for information on whether it is safe to go outside and instructions regarding potential flash flooding.
  • Watch for fallen power lines and trees. Report them immediately.

More resources: https://www.ready.gov/thunderstorms-lightning

What to include in your emergency kit: /prepare/emergency-kit


Winter Weather

Source: vaemergency.gov/threats/winter-weather

Winter storms can range from freezing rain or ice to a few hours of moderate snowfall, to a blizzard that lasts for several days. Many winter storms are accompanied by dangerously low temperatures, power outages, and unpredictable road conditions.

Before, during, and after a winter storm, roads and walkways may become extremely dangerous or impassable. Access to critical community services such as public transportation, child care, healthcare providers and schools may be limited. Preparing your home, car, and family before cold weather and a winter storm arrives is critical.

  • During a winter storm, stay off the roads as much as possible and only drive when absolutely necessary. Always give snow plows the right of way.
  • Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or gasoline, propane, natural gas, or charcoal-burning device inside your home, garage, basement, crawlspace, or any other partially enclosed area.
  • Snow shoveling is a known trigger for heart attacks! Always avoid overexertion when shoveling.
  • When severe weather occurs, plan to check on elderly or disabled neighbors and relatives.
  • If you must travel, know the road conditions before you leave home. Visit 511Virginia.org or call 511 for road condition updates.
  • Protect yourself from frostbite! Hands, feet, and face are the most commonly affected areas so wear a hat, and mittens (which are warmer than gloves) and cover your mouth with a scarf to reduce heat loss.
  • Keep dry! Change out of wet clothing frequently to prevent a loss of body heat.
  • Wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer or heavy clothing.

Winter Storm Watch – BE AWARE

Severe weather such as heavy snow or ice is possible in the next day or two.

Winter Storm Warning – TAKE ACTION

Severe winter conditions have either begun or will begin soon in your area.


  • Make sure your home is properly insulated
  • Check the weather stripping around your windows and doors
  • Learn how to shut off water valves in case a pipe bursts
  • Have additional heat sources on hand in case of a power outage
  • Keep a fire extinguisher accessible
  • Replace the batteries in your carbon monoxide detector annually


  • Batteries lose power as temperatures drop, be sure to have yours tested
  • Check your car’s antifreeze level
  • Have your radiator system serviced
  • Replace your car’s windshield wiper fluid with a wintertime mix
  • Proactively replace your car’s worn tires and wiper blades
  • To help with visibility, clean off your car entirely – including your trunk, roof, windows, and headlights


Tailor your winter car emergency supply kit to you and your family’s needs. Here are suggested items:

  • Blankets
  • Drinking water and snacks for everyone in the car, including pets
  • Boots
  • Basic first-aid kit
  • Warm coat and insulating layers (sweatpants, gloves, hat, socks,)
  • Rags, paper towels, or pre-moistened wipes
  • Basic set of tools
  • Car emergency warning devices such as road flares or reflectors
  • Ice scraper/snow brush
  • Jumper cables/jump pack
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Cash
  • Items for children such as diapers, baby wipes, toys, etc.
  • Flashlight, with extra batteries
  • Hand warmers
  • Paper map
  • Portable smartphone power bank
  • Extra medication
  • Garbage bags
  • Traction aid such as sand, salt or non-clumping, cat litter
  • Tarp, raincoat, and gloves
  • Shovel


  • Dehydration can make you more susceptible to hypothermia
  • If it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your pet! Don’t leave pets outside for prolonged periods of time and have plenty of fresh, unfrozen water on hand
  • It can snow at temperatures well above freezing
  • Temperatures do not have to be below zero degrees to cause harm



Extreme Heat

Source: vaemergency.gov/threats/extreme-heat

Extreme heat often results in the highest number of annual deaths among all weather-related hazards. It’s defined as a period of high heat and humidity with temperatures above 90 degrees for at least two to three days. In extreme heat, evaporation is slowed and the body must work extra hard to maintain a normal temperature. This can lead to death by overworking the human body. Remember that:

  • Older adults, children, and sick or overweight individuals are at greater risk from extreme heat.
  • Humidity increases the feeling of heat as measured by a heat index.


  • Find air conditioning.
  • Avoid strenuous activities.
  • Watch for heat illness.
  • Wear light clothing.
  • Check on family members and neighbors.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Watch for heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.
  • Never leave people or pets in a closed car.

Prepare NOW

  • Find places in your community where you can go to get cool.
  • Learn to recognize the signs of heat-related illness.
  • Keep your home cool by doing the following:
    • Cover windows with drapes or shades.
    • Weather-strip doors and windows.
    • Use window reflectors, such as aluminum foil-covered cardboard, to reflect heat back outside.
    • Add insulation to keep the heat out.
    • Use attic fans to clear hot air.
    • Install window air conditioners and insulate around them.


  • Never leave a child, adult, or animal alone inside a vehicle on a warm day.
  • Find places with air conditioning. Libraries, shopping malls, and community centers can provide a cool place to take a break from the heat.
  • If you’re outside, find shade. Wear a hat wide enough to protect your face.
  • Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. If you or someone you care for is on a special diet, ask a doctor how best to accommodate it.
  • Do not use electric fans when the temperature outside is more than 95 degrees, as this could increase the risk of heat-related illness. Fans create air flow and a false sense of comfort but do not reduce body temperature.
  • Avoid high-energy activities.
  • Check yourself, family members, and neighbors for signs of heat-related illness.


Know the signs of heat-related illness and the ways to respond to it:


  • Signs: Muscle pains or spasms in the stomach, arms, or legs
  • Actions: Go to a cooler location. Remove excess clothing. Take sips of cool sports drinks with salt and sugar. Get medical help if cramps last more than an hour.


  • Signs: Heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea or vomiting, or fainting
  • Actions: Go to an air-conditioned place and lie down. Loosen or remove clothing. Take a cool bath. Take sips of cool sports drinks with salt and sugar. Get medical help if symptoms get worse or last more than an hour.


  • Signs: Extremely high body temperature (above 103 degrees) taken orally; red, hot, and dry skin with no sweat; rapid, strong pulse; dizziness; confusion; or unconsciousness
  • Actions: Call 911 or get the person to a hospital immediately. Cool down with whatever methods are available until medical help arrives.

Other Resources:


Power Outages

Source: vaemergency.gov/threats/power-outages

Extended power outages may impact the whole community and the economy. A power outage is when the electrical power goes out unexpectedly. A power outage may:

  • Disrupt communications, water, and transportation.
  • Close retail businesses, grocery stores, gas stations, ATMs, banks, and other services.
  • Cause food spoilage and water contamination.
  • Prevent use of medical devices


  • Keep freezers and refrigerators closed.
  • Only use generators outdoors and away from windows.
  • Do not use a gas stove to heat your home.
  • Disconnect appliances and electronics to avoid damage from electrical surges.
  • Have alternate plans for refrigerating medicines or using power-dependent medical devices.
  • If safe, go to an alternate location for heat or cooling.
  • Check on neighbors.


Prepare NOW

  • Take an inventory of the items you need that rely on electricity.
  • Talk to your medical provider about a power outage plan for medical devices powered by electricity and refrigerated medicines. Find out how long medication can be stored at higher temperatures and get specific guidance for any medications that are critical for life.
  • Plan for batteries and other alternatives to meet your needs when the power goes out.
  • Sign up for local alerts and warning systems. Monitor weather reports.
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors with battery backup in central locations on every level of your home.
  • Determine whether your home phone will work in a power outage and how long battery backup will last.
  • Review the supplies that are available in case of a power outage. Have flashlights with extra batteries for every household member. Have enough nonperishable food and water.
  • Use a thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer so that you can know the temperature when the power is restored. Throw out food if the temperature is 40 degrees or higher.
  • Keep mobile phones and other electric equipment charged and gas tanks full.

Survive DURING

  • Keep freezers and refrigerators closed. The refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours. Use coolers with ice if necessary. Monitor temperatures with a thermometer.
  • Maintain food supplies that do not require refrigeration.
  • Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Generators, camp stoves, or charcoal grills should always be used outdoors and at least 20 feet away from windows. Never use a gas stovetop or oven to heat your home.
  • Check on your neighbors. Older adults and young children are especially vulnerable to extreme temperatures.
  • Go to a community location with power if heat or cold is extreme.
  • Turn off or disconnect appliances, equipment, or electronics. Power may return with momentary “surges” or “spikes” that can cause damage.


  • When in doubt, throw it out! Throw away any food that has been exposed to temperatures 40 degrees or higher for two hours or more, or that has an unusual odor, color, or texture.
  • If the power is out for more than a day, discard any medication that should be refrigerated, unless the drug’s label says otherwise. If a life depends on the refrigerated drugs, consult a doctor or pharmacist and use medicine only until a new supply is available.



Source: vaemergency.gov/threats/fires

In just two minutes, a fire can become life-threatening. In five minutes, a residence can be engulfed in flames.

Learn About Fires

  • Fire is FAST! In less than 30 seconds a small flame can turn into a major fire. It only takes minutes for thick black smoke to fill a house or for it to be engulfed in flames.
  • Fire is HOT! Heat is more threatening than flames. Room temperatures in a fire can be 100 degrees at floor level and rise to 600 degrees at eye level. Inhaling this super-hot air will scorch your lungs and melt clothes to your skin.
  • Fire is DARK! Fire starts bright, but quickly produces black smoke and complete darkness.
  • Fire is DEADLY! Smoke and toxic gases kill more people than flames do. Fire produces poisonous gases that make you disoriented and drowsy. Asphyxiation is the leading cause of fire deaths, exceeding burns by a three-to-one ratio.

Before a Fire

Create and Practice a Fire Escape Plan

In the event of a fire, remember that every second counts, so you and your family must always be prepared. Escape plans help you get out of your home quickly.

Twice each year, practice your home fire escape plan. Some tips to consider when preparing this plan include:

  • Find two ways to get out of each room in the event the primary way is blocked by fire or smoke.
  • A secondary route might be a window onto a neighboring roof or a collapsible ladder for escape from upper story windows.
  • Make sure that windows are not stuck, screens can be taken out quickly, and that security bars can be properly opened.
  • Practice feeling your way out of the house in the dark or with your eyes closed.
  • Teach children not to hide from firefighters.

Smoke Alarms

A working smoke alarm significantly increases your chances of surviving a deadly home fire.

  • Install both ionization AND photoelectric smoke alarms, OR dual sensor smoke alarms, which contain both ionization and photoelectric smoke sensors.
  • Test batteries monthly.
  • Replace batteries in battery-powered and hard-wired smoke alarms at least once a year (except non-replaceable 10-year lithium batteries).
  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, including the basement, both inside and outside of sleeping areas.
  • Replace the entire smoke alarm unit every 8-10 years or according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Never disable a smoke alarm while cooking – it can be a deadly mistake.

Smoke Alarm Safety for People with Access or Functional Needs

  • Audible alarms for visually impaired people should pause with a small window of silence between each successive cycle so that they can listen to instructions or voices of others.
  • Smoke alarms with a vibrating pad or flashing light are available for the hearing impaired. Contact your local fire department for information about obtaining a flashing or vibrating smoke alarm.
  • Smoke alarms with a strobe light outside the home to catch the attention of neighbors, and emergency call systems for summoning help, are also available.

More Fire Safety Tips

  • Make digital copies of valuable documents and records like birth certificates.
  • Sleep with your door closed.
  • Contact your local fire department for information on training on the proper use and maintenance of fire extinguishers.
  • Consider installing an automatic fire sprinkler system in your residence.

During a Fire

  • Crawl low under any smoke to your exit – heavy smoke and poisonous gases collect first along the ceiling.
  • Before opening a door, feel the doorknob and door. If either is hot, or if there is smoke coming around the door, leave the door closed and use your second way out.
  • If you open a door, open it slowly. Be ready to shut it quickly if heavy smoke or fire is present.
  • If you can’t get to someone needing assistance, leave the home and call 9-1-1 or the fire department. Tell the emergency operator where the person is located.
  • If pets are trapped inside your home, tell firefighters right away.
  • If you can’t get out, close the door and cover vents and cracks around doors with cloth or tape to keep smoke out. Call 9-1-1 or your fire department. Say where you are and signal for help at the window with a light-colored cloth or a flashlight.
  • If your clothes catch fire, stop, drop, and roll – stop immediately, drop to the ground, and cover your face with your hands. Roll over and over or back and forth until the fire is out. If you or someone else cannot stop, drop, and roll, smother the flames with a blanket or towel. Use cool water to treat the burn immediately for 3 to 5 minutes. Cover with a clean, dry cloth. Get medical help right away by calling 9-1-1 or the fire department.

Fire Escape Planning for Older Adults and People with Access or Functional Needs

  • Live near an exit. You’ll be safest on the ground floor if you live in an apartment building. If you live in a multi-story home, arrange to sleep on the ground floor, and near an exit.
  • If you use a walker or wheelchair, check all exits to be sure you get through the doorways.
  • Make any necessary accommodations, such as providing exit ramps and widening doorways, to facilitate an emergency escape.
  • Speak to your family members, building manager, or neighbors about your fire safety plan and practice it with them.
  • Contact your local fire department’s non-emergency line and explain your special needs. Ask emergency providers to keep your special needs information on file.
  • Keep a phone near your bed and be ready to call 911 or your local emergency number if a fire occurs.

After a Fire

The following checklist serves as a quick reference and guide for you to follow after a fire strikes.

  • Contact your local disaster relief service, such as The Red Cross, if you need temporary housing, food and medicines.
  • If you are insured, contact your insurance company for detailed instructions on protecting the property, conducting inventory and contacting fire damage restoration companies. If you are not insured, try contacting private organizations for aid and assistance.
  • Check with the fire department to make sure your residence is safe to enter. Be watchful of any structural damage caused by the fire.
  • The fire department should see that utilities are either safe to use or are disconnected before they leave the site. DO NOT attempt to reconnect utilities yourself.
  • Conduct an inventory of damaged property and items. Do not throw away any damaged goods until after an inventory is made.
  • Try to locate valuable documents and records. Refer to information on contacts and the replacement process inside this brochure.
  • Begin saving receipts for any money you spend related to fire loss. The receipts may be needed later by the insurance company and for verifying losses claimed on income tax.
  • Notify your mortgage company of the fire.

Prevent Home Fires

Home fires are preventable! The following are simple steps that each of us can take to prevent a tragedy.


  • Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
  • Wear short, close-fitting or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking.
  • Keep children away from cooking areas by enforcing a “kid-free zone” of 3 feet around the stove.
  • Position barbecue grills at least 10 feet away from siding and deck railings, and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.


  • Smoke outside and completely stub out butts in an ashtray or a can filled with sand.
  • Soak cigarette butts and ashes in water before throwing them away. Never toss hot cigarette butts or ashes in the trash can.
  • Never smoke in a home where oxygen is used, even if it is turned off. Oxygen can be explosive and makes fire burn hotter and faster.
  • Be alert – don’t smoke in bed! If you are sleepy, have been drinking, or have taken medicine that makes you drowsy, put your cigarette out first.

Electrical and Appliance Safety

  • Frayed wires can cause fires. Replace all worn, old or damaged appliance cords immediately and do not run cords under rugs or furniture.
  • If an appliance has a three-prong plug, use it only in a three-slot outlet. Never force it to fit into a two-slot outlet or extension cord.
  • Immediately shut off, then professionally replace, light switches that are hot to the touch and lights that flicker.

Portable Space Heaters

  • Keep combustible objects at least three feet away from portable heating devices.
  • Buy only heaters evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
  • Check to make the portable heater has a thermostat control mechanism, and will switch off automatically if the heater falls over.
  • Only use crystal clear K-1 kerosene in kerosene heaters. Never overfill it. Use the heater in a well-ventilated room.

Fireplaces and Woodstoves

  • Inspect and clean woodstove pipes and chimneys annually and check monthly for damage or obstructions.
  • Use a fireplace screen heavy enough to stop rolling logs and big enough to cover the entire opening of the fireplace to catch flying sparks.
  • Make sure the fire is completely out before leaving the house or going to bed.


  • Take the mystery out of fire play by teaching children that fire is a tool, not a toy.
  • Store matches and lighters out of children’s reach and sight, preferably in a locked cabinet.
  • Never leave children unattended near operating stoves or burning candles, even for a short time.

More Prevention Tips

  • Never use stove range or oven to heat your home.
  • Keep combustible and flammable liquids away from heat sources.
  • Portable generators should NEVER be used indoors and should only be refueled outdoors or in well ventilated areas.



Source: vaemergency.gov/threats/tornadoes

What is a tornado?

A tornado is a violently rotating column of air that extends from the clouds to the ground and is often, although not always, visible as a funnel cloud. Lightning and hail are common in storms that produce tornadoes.

Tornadoes may strike quickly, with little to no warning, causing extensive damage to structures and disrupting transportation, power, water, gas, communications and other services in its direct path and in neighboring areas.


Tornadoes are possible. Move close to a shelter or sturdy building in case there is a warning.


A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Take shelter immediately.

Before a Tornado

  • Identify safe rooms or protective locations at home, school or work before a tornado threat arises so that you have a plan for where to go for safety when a tornado warning is issued.
  • Be alert to changing weather conditions and time in to NOAA weather radio, local media and social media for the latest information.
  • Look for the following danger signs: dark, often greenish sky; large hail; large, dark, low-lying cloud formation or rotation; or a loud roar similar to a freight train.
  • Have an emergency communication plan in place for your family.
  • Build an emergency kit by downloading our checklist online at www.vaemergency.gov!

During a Tornado


  • Go to a safe room: basement, cellar, or the lowest building level.
  • If there is no basement, go to an inside room: a closet or hallway.
  • Stay away from corners, windows, doors and outer walls. Never open windows.
  • Protect your head!


  • Get out immediately and go to the closest building or storm shelter.


  • Get into a vehicle and buckle your seatbelt.
  • Put your head down below the windows and cover your head with your hands.
  • If there is no car or shelter, try to find a ditch or area lower than the ground to lie down in. You are safer in a low, flat location than under a bridge or highway overpass.


While tornadoes are most common in the central part of the U.S. known as “Tornado Alley,” Virginia has seen it’s fair share of twisters. In 2004 there were 87 recorded tornadoes, and in 2017 we saw 25 tornadoes.



Source: vaemergency.gov/threats/hurricanes

About Hurricanes 

Hurricanes are severe tropical storms, massive storm systems, that form over the open water in the southern Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and in the eastern Pacific Ocean.

Each year, many coastal communities experience threats from hurricanes including heavy rains, strong winds, rip currents, floods, and coastal storm surges from tropical storms and hurricanes. A hurricane may spawn tornadoes. Torrential rains cause further damage by causing floods and landslides, which not only threaten coastal communities but may impact communities many miles inland.

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30, with the peak occurring between mid-August and late October.

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale

  1. 74-95 MPH | Some Damage
  2. 96-110 MPH | Extensive Damage
  3. 111-129 MPH | Devastating
  4. 130-156 MPH | Catastrophic
  5. 157+ MPH | Catastrophic

Advisory vs. Watch vs. Warning

Tropical Storm/Hurricane Advisory

Issued when conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences that may be hazardous. If caution is used, these situations should not be life-threatening.

Tropical Storm/Hurricane Watch

Issued when a tropical storm or hurricane is possible within 48 hours. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards, local radio, TV, or other news sources for more info. Monitor alerts, check your emergency supplies, and gather any items you may need if you lose power.

Tropical Storm/Hurricane Warning

Issued when a tropical storm or hurricane is expected within 36 hours. During a Warning, complete your storm preparations and immediately leave the threatened area if directed to do so by local or state officials or shelter in place if no evacuation has been ordered.

Hazard Mitigation

Planning and preparing before a hurricane strikes can help you manage the impact of high winds and floodwaters. Take the steps outlined below to keep you and your family safe while protecting your home and property. If you are a renter, talk with your landlord or property manager about additional steps you can take.

Prepare Your Home

  • Bring loose, lightweight objects such as patio furniture, garbage cans, bicycles, and children’s toys inside.
  • Board up windows and close all storm shutters. Secure and reinforce the roof, doors, and garage door.
  • Anchor objects that would be unsafe to bring inside (e.g., gas grills and propane tanks).
  • Trim or remove damaged trees and limbs close enough to fall on structures.
  • Secure loose rain gutters and downspouts and clear any clogged areas or debris to prevent water damage to your property.
  • Purchase a portable generator or install a whole-house generator for use during power outages.
  • Keep alternative power sources, such as a portable generator, outside, at least 20 feet away from the house, and protected from moisture.
  • Document the condition of your home prior to the storm for insurance purposes: photos, video.

Prepare Your Business

  • Document employee responsibilities and roles before a hurricane strikes and review with each employee.
  • Conduct a drill to ensure staff members comprehend their roles and test your emergency plans. Follow up with an after-action report and lessons-learned session.
  • Contact your vendors to understand their preparedness plans and how a disaster will impact your supply chain.
  • Move computers and other Information Technology (IT) systems away from large windows and doors.
  • Relocate valuables and IT systems to the upper level of your facility or to a more secure location if needed.
  • Ensure vital records are protected: analyze your off-site backup record storage, and place valuable documentation and digital storage media in a waterproof, fireproof box.
  • Cover all doors and windows.
  • Purchase a flood insurance policy to protect your financial investment.

Flood Insurance

Just one inch of water in a home or office can cost thousands in cleanup costs, including replacing drywall, baseboards, floor coverings, and furniture. Buying flood insurance is the best way to protect your home, your business, and your family’s financial security from the costs associated with flood damage.

Talk to your insurance agent about purchasing flood insurance and remember:

  • For general inquiries about the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), contact the FEMA Mapping and Insurance eXchange (FMIX) center at 877-336-2627 or visit www.floodsmart.gov.
  • There is a 30-day waiting period before a flood insurance policy takes effect. Don’t wait!
  • Homeowner and rental insurance do not cover flood losses, so you will need to purchase a separate flood insurance policy.
  • Annual premiums for a policy increase according to the level of flood risk and the amount of coverage needed.
  • Whether you rent or own, it’s a good idea to purchase flood insurance. The NFIP offers both building and contents coverage if you own a home or business. If you are a renter, contents-only coverage is also available.
  • As of 2021, people outside of high-risk areas file more than 25 percent of NFIP claims and receive one-third of disaster assistance for flooding.
  • Use the Virginia Flood Risk Information System (VFRIS) at www.dcr.virginia.gov/vfris to find out your property’s flood risk.

For more information about flood safety and additional resources, visit www.vaemergency.gov/floods.

Emergency Supplies

It can take several days or weeks for government services and assistance to reach you and your family depending on the severity of the storm and your geographic location. An emergency kit is vital to sustaining your family after a disaster.

Use our checklist to build your emergency supply kit by adding a few items each week or month. Many emergency preparedness products are eligible for Virginia’s tax-free weekend held annually in August. Regularly replace items that go bad such as water, food, medication, and batteries, and remember to keep in mind your family’s unique needs as you build your kit.

To view our emergency supply kit checklist, visit here.

Plan for Your Pets

Not all shelters and hotels accept pets. Plan ahead to stay with family, friends, or at other pet-friendly locations in case you need to evacuate your home.

Pet-Friendly Checklist

  • ID tags on collars and microchip pets
  • Have sufficient food, water, and medicine for at least 3 days
  • Pet medication and medication schedule for caregiver, shelter, or boarding staff
  • Description and current photos of your pets, including a photo of you and your pet together
  • Immunization and medical records
  • Serving bowls and feeding schedule
  • Collar, leash, and carrier to transport pets safely
  • Pet toys and bedding

Note that shelters must make exceptions to “no pets” or “no animals” policies to allow people with disabilities to be accompanied by their service animals. Service animals are not pets and are therefore not subject to restrictions applied to pets or other animals.

Emergency Communications

Your emergency communication plan should include extra cellular phone charging devices as well as additional communication tools: AM/FM radio, smartphone alerts and apps, and a NOAA Weather Radio with additional batteries are recommended.

Make sure your household members with phone and email accounts are signed up for alerts and warnings from their school, workplace, and local government agencies including police, fire, ambulance services, public health department, public works, public utilities, school system, and your local office of emergency management. Following these agencies on social media will provide you with an additional avenue to access convenient and critical information. It’s also a good idea to identify alternate caregiver options in the event of an emergency.

Know Your Zone

Know Your Zone is an awareness initiative that applies to roughly 1.25 million residents in 23 localities along Coastal Virginia, the region of the state most vulnerable to hurricanes and other tropical storms. Tiered evacuation zones were developed in close coordination with local emergency managers throughout Hampton Roads, the Northern Neck, the Middle Peninsula, and the Eastern Shore based on the most up-to-date engineering data for the region.

Zones are designated A through D. They provide residents with clarity on whether they should evacuate in an emergency or shelter at home, based on their physical street address and the nature of the emergency event. It is important to remember that during a Zone evacuation, you only need to evacuate to a higher non-evacuated zone. (i.e. if Zone A is the only Zone evacuated then residents would only need to go as far as Zone B). When a serious storm is expected to threaten or impact Virginia’s coastal regions, state and local emergency agencies will work with local news media outlets, as well as social media channels, that will then broadcast and publish evacuation directives to the public.

Visit www.KnowYourZoneVA.org to find your evacuation zone.

Return Home Safely

Each year, a significant number of people are injured or killed in the aftermath of a hurricane. As you return home and begin the recovery phase, keep these safety tips in mind:

  • Wait to return to your property until local officials have declared that the area is safe.
  • Do not wade in floodwaters, which can contain dangerous debris including broken glass, metal, dead animals, sewage, gasoline, oil, and downed power lines.
  • Do not enter a building until it has been inspected for damage to the electrical system, gas lines, septic systems, and water lines or wells.
  • Avoid drinking tap water until you know it is safe. If uncertain, boil or purify it first.
  • Watch for fallen objects and downed electrical wires; Stay at least 30 feet away from downed lines – consider them energized and dangerous; report downed power lines to your local utility provider.
  • If you lost power, report outages directly to Dominion Energy, your local electrical provider or cooperative.
    • Dominion Energy | Report outages and check your status at dominionenergy.com/outages. Report downed lines and other safety hazards at 866-366-4357.
  • Hurricanes or the threat of hurricanes can add more stress. Try to be available for loved ones who may need someone to talk to about their feelings.
  • For immediate crisis counseling following a disaster, call the Disaster Distress Helpline toll-free at 1-800-985-5990. To find a health care provider or treatment for substance use disorder and mental health, contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or TTY: 1-800-487-4889 for speech or hearing impaired. Call or text 9-8-8 if you or someone you know is in crisis or suicidal. All services are multilingual.

Recovery Resources


Contact your city or county’s department of social services, human services, community services board, public health, housing, and local emergency management office to access additional resources and assistance after a hurricane or disaster.

Nonprofits and charities stand ready to mobilize and assist your community after a storm, including local food banks. Learning about the organizations that are active in your community before a storm, and supporting these organizations throughout the year, makes these organizations sustainable and successful in their efforts to support your community after a hurricane or other disaster.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

Individuals and Households Program (IHP)
After a Presidential disaster declaration is made, FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program may provide financial help or direct services to those who have necessary expenses and serious needs if they are unable to meet these needs through other means. Contact the FEMA Individuals and Households Program at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY: 1-800-462-7585 for speech or hearing impaired.

Public Assistance: Local, State, Tribal, and Private Nonprofit
FEMA’s Public Assistance (PA) grant program may provide federal assistance to government organizations and certain private nonprofit (PNP) organizations following a Presidential disaster declaration.

PA provides grants to state, tribal, territorial, local governments and certain types of PNP organizations so that communities can quickly respond to and recover from major disasters or emergencies.

Small Business Administration (SBA)

The SBA may loan money to homeowners, renters, and business owners. Homeowners may borrow up to $200,000 for disaster-related home repairs. Homeowners and renters may borrow up to $40,000 to replace disaster-damaged personal property including vehicles. The SBA may not duplicate benefits from your insurance or FEMA. You may receive an SBA referral when you apply with FEMA. Contact the SBA at 800-659-2955 from 8 a.m. – 9 p.m., Mon. – Fri., or email disastercustomerservice@sba.gov.

To find out how you can help after a natural disaster, visit the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster website at www.nvoad.org.

Who to Call

2-1-1 | 24/7, statewide trained professionals who listen to your situation and offer sources of help using one of the largest databases of health and human services in Virginia. Visit www.211virginia.org for more information.

3-1-1 | In select localities throughout the Commonwealth, 3-1-1 connects callers to their local government, non-emergency, and citizen services including information, services, key contacts, and programs.

5-1-1 | “Know Before You Go,” offers real-time traffic information throughout the Commonwealth. Anytime you need it, anywhere you are. For more information, visit www.511virginia.org.

7-1-1 | A 24/7 free public service, Virginia Relay enables people who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, DeafBlind, sign language users, Spanish-speaking users, or those who have difficulty speaking to communicate with standard telephone users. The conversation is relayed between the two by a specially trained Virginia Relay Communication Assistant (CA).

8-1-1 | “Call Before You Dig – It’s the Law,” is a free Virginia communications center for excavators, contractors, property owners, and those planning any kind of excavation or digging. When recovering from a disaster, an individual or business may plan to excavate. Before any digging, call 8-1-1, where participating utilities will locate and mark their underground facilities and lines in advance to prevent a possible injury, damage, or monetary fine.

9-1-1 | For emergencies only, including fire, medical, reporting accidents, crimes in progress, and suspicious individuals or events. 9-1-1 is not to be used for traffic or weather updates and information requests. Please keep the lines clear for those seeking emergency support.

Additional Resources

VDEM Hurricane Preparedness Inland Guide: Virginia Hurricane Preparedness Inland Impacts Guide

VDEM Hurricane Evacuation Guide: Virginia Hurricane Evacuation Guide

FEMA’s Ready campaign: https://www.ready.gov/hurricanes

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/hurricanes

National Weather Service: https://www.noaa.gov/hurricane-prep


Earthquakes and Landslides

Source: vaemergency.gov/threats/earthquakes-and-landslides

What is an earthquake?

An earthquake is a sudden, rapid shaking of the earth caused by the shifting of rock beneath the earth’s surface. Earthquakes strike without warning, at any time of year, day or night. Forty-five U.S. states and territories are at moderate to very high risk of earthquakes. Though earthquakes in Virginia are rare, it’s important to be aware of the potential threat and to have an earthquake readiness plan. Buying earthquake insurance coverage is the best way to protect your home and your family’s financial investment. Talk to your insurance agent about coverage options today!

Before an Earthquake

Prepare Your Home:

  • Bolt and brace water heaters and gas appliances to wall studs. Have a professional install flexible fittings to avoid gas or water leaks.
  • Install strong latches or bolts on cabinets. Large or heavy items should be closest to the floor.
  • Anchor top-heavy, tall and freestanding furniture such as bookcases, TVs and china cabinets to wall studs to keep these from toppling over.
  • Ask about home repair and strengthening tips for exterior features, such as porches, decks, sliding glass doors, canopies, carports a nd garage doors.
  • In the event of an earthquake, you may be instructed to shut off the utility services at your home. Teach responsible members of your family how to turn off the gas, electricity and water at valves and main switches. Consult your local utility providers if you need more information.

During an Earthquake


  • “Drop, Cover and Hold On” – Drop down, take cover under a sturdy desk, table or bench, or against an inside wall and hold on.
  • Do not use elevators.
  • Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls.
  • Stay away from bookcases or furniture that is not secure and could fall.
  • Stay indoors until the shaking stops and you’re sure it’s safe to exit.


  • If you are outdoors, find a clear spot away from buildings, trees and utility lines.

In a Car:

  • Stop as quickly as safety permits.
  • Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses and utility lines.
  • Proceed cautiously after the earthquake has stopped, watching for road and bridge damage.
  • Do not attempt to drive across bridges or overpasses that have been damaged.

Public Transportation:

  • Listen to and become familiar with your public transportation emergency plans.

After an Earthquake

  • If you are away from home, return only when authorities say it is safe to do so.
  • After an earthquake, the disaster may continue. Expect and prepare for potential aftershocks or landslides.
  • Look for and extinguish small fires. Fire is the most common hazard after an earthquake.
  • Check on neighbors after an emergency.

If You are Trapped Under Debris:

  • Do not light a match to assist with visibility.
  • Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing.
  • Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can find you.
  • Shout only as a last resort – shouting can cause you to inhale dangerous amounts of dust.


Health Threats

Source: vaemergency.gov/threats/health-threats

Before a Pandemic

  • Store a two week supply of water and food.
  • Periodically check your regular prescription drugs to ensure a continuous supply in your home.
  • Have any nonprescription drugs and other health supplies on hand, including pain relievers, stomach remedies, cough and cold medicines, fluids with electrolytes, and vitamins.
  • Get copies and maintain electronic versions of health records from doctors, hospitals, pharmacies and other sources and store them, for personal reference. Get help accessing electronic help records.
  • Talk with family members and loved ones about how they would be cared for if they got sick, or what will be needed to care for them in your home.

During a Pandemic

Limit the Spread of Germs and Prevent Infection

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
  • Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Practice other good health habits. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.


Hazardous Materials

Source: vaemergency.gov/threats/hazardous-materials

Hazardous materials are substances or chemicals that pose a health hazard, a physical hazard, or harm to the environment. Hazardous materials are defined and regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), and U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

Hazardous materials spills can happen anywhere. When they do occur, quick action is necessary to prevent injury or damage to human life, critical infrastructure (roads, power systems, medical facilities, schools, water treatment facilities), the environment and personal property. In Virginia, hazardous materials incidents involve both local and sometimes state resources to respond and appropriate manage and remediate a release.

For CDL information regarding hazmat endorsements, please visit the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles

Before a Hazardous Materials Incident

Many communities have Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) whose responsibilities include collecting information about hazardous materials in the community and planning made available to the public upon request. Contact your local emergency management office for more information on LEPCs.

The following are things you can do to protect yourself, your family and your property from the effects of a hazardous materials incident:

During a Hazardous Materials Incident

Listen to local radio or television stations for detailed information and follow instructions carefully. Remember that some toxic chemicals are odorless.

After a Hazardous Materials Incident

The following are guidelines for the period following a hazardous materials incident:

  • Listen to local radio or television stations for the latest emergency information.
  • Go to a designated public shelter if you have been told to evacuate or you feel it is unsafe to remain in your home. Text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area (example: shelter 12345).
  • Act quickly if you have come in to contact with or have been exposed to hazardous chemicals.
  • Follow decontamination instructions from local authorities.
  • Seek medical treatment for unusual symptoms as soon as possible.
  • Place exposed clothing and shoes in tightly sealed containers.
  • Advise everyone who comes in to contact with you that you may have been exposed to a toxic substance.
  • Return home only when authorities say it is safe. Open windows and vents and turn on fans to provide ventilation.
  • Find out from local authorities how to clean up your land and property.
  • Report any lingering vapors or other hazards to your local emergency services office.

Federal Planning Initiatives

The federal [Oil Pollution Act of 1990](https://www.deq.virginia.gov/?splash=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.epa.gov%2Flaws-regulations%2Fsummary-oil-pollution-act%23%3A\~%3Atext%3DThe%2520Oil%2520Pollution%2520Act%2520(OPA%2Cor%2520unwilling%2520to%2520do%2520so.&____isexternal=true) (OPA 90) established Area Committees to serve as spill preparedness planning bodies responsible for developing coordinated responses to the discharge (or threat of discharge) of oil or hazardous substances in Inland and Coastal zones. VDEM is a member of several planning bodies as described below.

Region 3 Regional Response Team (RRT3) The National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan (National Contingency Plan or NCP) is the federal government’s blueprint for responding to both oil spills and hazardous substance releases. The NCP establishes Regional Response Teams (RRTs) and their roles and responsibilities in coordinating preparedness, planning, and response at the federal regional level. The Federal Region 3 RRT is the planning body for the commonwealths of Virginia and Pennsylvania and the states of West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and the District of Columbia.. The RRT 3 also includes representatives from 16 federal departments and agencies For more information, see the RRT3 homepageInland Area and Coastal Area Committees OPA 90 established area committees responsible for developing strategies for coordinated responses to oil or hazardous substance spills. VDEM participates in on both the Region 3 Inland Area Committee and the Virginia Area Committee. Virginia Area Contingency Plan VDEM is a member of the Virginia Area Committee that is responsible for developing and maintaining the Virginia Area Contingency Plan (ACP). For more information regarding the Virginia Area Contingency Plan, please visit: https://www.deq.virginia.gov/home/showpublisheddocument/10459/637647225838000000

Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA)

The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) of 1986 was created to help communities plan for chemical emergencies. It also requires industry to report on the storage, use and releases of hazardous substances to federal, state, and local governments. EPCRA requires state and local governments, and Indian tribes to use this information to prepare for and protect their communities from potential risks.

Virginia Tier II Reporting Requirements

Tier II Administration: Virginia Department of Environmental Quality VA DEQ SARA Title III Program 1111 East Main St., Suite 1400 Richmond, VA 23219

Post Office Box: P.O Box 1105 Richmond, VA 23218 Phone: 804-698-4000 Email: va-epcra@deq.virginia.gov Webpage: https://www.deq.virginia.gov/land-waste/superfund-amendments-and-reauthorization-act-sara/community-right-to-know

Special Instructions: Virginia is requesting facilities to use Tier2 Submit and submit electronically. A new version of Tier2 Submit is created around November of each year. Download the latest version of Tier2 Submit.

For more information visit: https://www.epa.gov/epcra

Chemical Accident Prevention Program (CAPP)

CAPP builds upon existing requirements established in the Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act (EPCRA), and Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act Amendments (CAA 112(r)), of 1991. Section 112(r) requires regulated facilities to submit a risk management plan to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). To determine if an address is within the hazard area of a potential release, contact your Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC), call the EPA hotline at (800) 424-9346, or check the Vulnerable Zone Indicator System (VZIS) at epa.gov.

Knowing what chemical risks are nearby helps individuals and businesses protect their families and property, hold facilities responsible for reducing risk, and increases awareness of chemical safety. To help protect your community, participate in your LEPC.

Members of the public may obtain copies of RMPs (without the off-site consequence analysis (OCA) information) by requesting them from EPA in writing (including by email). Members of the public may also read, but not copy, the OCA sections of RMPs in Federal Reading Rooms.

For information on your LEPC, contact your local Emergency Management Agency or visit this website: https://www.deq.virginia.gov/land-waste/superfund-amendments-and-reauthorization-act-sara/emergency-planning..

For information on Federal Reading Rooms, visit EPA Federal Readings Rooms for Risk Management.

America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 (AWIA)

In 2018, Congress passed the American’s Water Infrastructure Act (AWIA) which strengthens and improves water quality. Part of the AWIA regulation amends the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act. This change requires the notification of state drinking water primacy agencies (in Virginia, Virginia Department of Health – Office of Drinking Water) of any reportable releases and requires the sharing of hazardous chemical inventory data. More information on AWIA and its requirements can be found here: https://www.epa.gov/ground-water-and-drinking-water/americas-water-infrastructure-act-2018-awia

To Report a Chemical Spill Contact:
Virginia Emergency Operations Center: 804-674-2400
National Response Center: 800-424-8802
VA EPCRA: 804-698-4000
US EPA Hotline: 800-424-9346


The Risk Management Plan (RMP) Rule, requires regulated facilities that use extremely hazardous substances to coordinate with local emergency response and planning agencies. There are 140, 112(r) regulated substances, 77 extremely toxic and 63 extremely flammable substances. Facilities using these substances in a single process and where the quantity exceeds the threshold quantity (TQ), must submit a risk management plan to the EPA through RMP*eSubmit.

Any facility where extremely hazardous substances are present in any quantity, are subject to the General Duty Clause (GDC), CAA Section 112(r)(1). GDC is a performance-based authority recognizing that owner/operators have a general duty and responsibility to prevent and mitigate accidental chemical releases. General Duty Clause under the Clean Air Act Section 112(r)(1) | Risk Management Plan (RMP) Rule | US EPA

Facilities that are required to submit a copy of their plan to the State Emergency Response Council should submit them to the following:

Virginia Department of Emergency Management
Attn: Technological Hazards
9711 Farrar Court
North Chesterfield, Virginia 23236

Virginia Hazardous Materials Response Teams

The VDEM Hazardous Materials Program, working with other partner agencies, provides training, technical assistance, and on-scene emergency response and coordination. The program is managed by Tom Jordan and utilizes 10 Hazardous Materials Specialists and 12 locally-based hazardous materials response teams to provide rapid advanced technical assistance and support to jurisdictional responders throughout the Commonwealth.

These hazmat teams are available to supplement local resources when an incident exceeds local capabilities or requires specialized hazmat training and equipment. If an on-scene incident commander or a local emergency manager has a technical question or needs a hazmat team to respond, this can be requested by calling the VEOC at 1-804-674-2400. The Situational Awareness Unit (SAU) will connect the on-call Hazmat Officer 24 hours a day for technical advice or will facilitate dispatch of a hazmat team.


Chemical Emergencies

Source: vaemergency.gov/threats/chemical-emergencies

Chemical agents are poisonous vapors, aerosols, liquids and solids that have toxic effects on people, animals or plants. While potentially lethal, chemical agents are difficult to deliver in lethal concentrations because they dissipate rapidly outdoors and are difficult to produce.

Before a Chemical Emergency

A chemical attack could come without warning. Signs of a chemical release include people having difficulty breathing, eye irritation, loss of coordination, nausea, or burning in the nose, throat and lungs. The presence of many dead insects or birds may indicate a chemical agent release.

What you should do to prepare for a chemical threat:

During a Chemical Emergency

What you should do in a chemical attack:

  • Quickly try to define the impacted area or where the chemical is coming from, if possible.
  • Take immediate action to get away.
  • If the chemical is inside a building where you are, get out of the building without passing through the contaminated area, if possible.
  • If you can’t get out of the building or find clean air without passing through the affected area, move as far away as possible and shelter-in-place.

If you are instructed to remain in your home or office building, you should:

  • Close doors and windows and turn off all ventilation, including furnaces, air conditioners, vents, and fans.
  • Seek shelter in an internal room with your disaster supplies kit.
  • Seal the room with duct tape and plastic sheeting.
  • Listen to the radio or television for instructions from authorities.

If you are caught in or near a contaminated area outdoors:

  • Quickly decide what is the fastest way to find clean air:
    • Move away immediately, in a direction upwind of the source.
    • Find the closest building to shelter-in-place.

After a Chemical Emergency

Do not leave the safety of a shelter to go outdoors to help others until authorities announce it is safe to do so.

A person affected by a chemical agent requires immediate medical attention from a professional. If medical help is not immediately available, decontaminate yourself and assist in decontaminating others.

Decontamination guidelines are as follows:

  • Use extreme caution when helping others who have been exposed to chemical agents.
  • Remove all clothing and other items in contact with the body.
    • Cut off clothing normally removed over the head to avoid contact with the eyes, nose and mouth.
    • Put contaminated clothing and items into a plastic bag and seal it.
    • Remove eyeglasses or contact lenses. Put glasses in a pan of household bleach to decontaminate them and then rinse and dry.
  • Wash hands with soap and water.
  • Flush eyes with water.
  • Gently wash face and hair with soap and water before thoroughly rinsing with water.
  • Proceed to a medical facility for screening and professional treatment.


Active Shooter/Active Agressor

Source: vaemergency.gov/threats/active-shooter

This page describes what to do if you find yourself in an active shooting event, how to recognize signs of potential violence around you, and what to expect after an active shooting takes place. Remember during an active shooting to RUN. HIDE. FIGHT.

Be Informed

  • Sign up for an active shooter training.
  • If you see something, say something to an authority right away.
  • Sign up to receive local emergency alerts and register your work and personal contact information with any work sponsored alert system.
  • Be aware of your environment and any possible dangers.

Make a Plan

  • Make a plan with your family, and ensure everyone knows what they would do, if confronted with an active shooter.
  • Look for the two nearest exits anywhere you go, and have an escape path in mind & identify places you could hide.
  • Understand the plans for individuals with disabilities or other access and functional needs.


RUN and escape, if possible.

  • Getting away from the shooter or shooters is the top priority.
  • Leave your belongings behind and get away.
  • Help others escape, if possible, but evacuate regardless of whether others agree to follow.
  • Warn and prevent individuals from entering an area where the active shooter may be.
  • Call 911 when you are safe, and describe shooter, location, and weapons.

HIDE, if escape is not possible.

  • Get out of the shooter’s view and stay very quiet.
  • Silence all electronic devices and make sure they won’t vibrate.
  • Lock and block doors, close blinds, and turn off lights.
  • Don’t hide in groups- spread out along walls or hide separately to make it more difficult for the shooter.
  • Try to communicate with police silently. Use text message or social media to tag your location, or put a sign in a window.
  • Stay in place until law enforcement gives you the all clear.
  • Your hiding place should be out of the shooter’s view and provide protection if shots are fired in your direction.

FIGHT as an absolute last resort.

  • Commit to your actions and act as aggressively as possible against the shooter.
  • Recruit others to ambush the shooter with makeshift weapons like chairs, fire extinguishers, scissors, books, etc.
  • Be prepared to cause severe or lethal injury to the shooter.
  • Throw items and improvise weapons to distract and disarm the shooter.


  • Keep hands visible and empty.
  • Know that law enforcement’s first task is to end the incident, and they may have to pass injured along the way.
  • Officers may be armed with rifles, shotguns, and/or handguns and may use pepper spray or tear gas to control the situation.
  • Officers will shout commands and may push individuals to the ground for their safety.
  • Follow law enforcement instructions and evacuate in the direction they come from, unless otherwise instructed.
  • Take care of yourself first, and then you may be able to help the wounded before first responders arrive.
  • If the injured are in immediate danger, help get them to safety.
  • While you wait for first responders to arrive, provide first aid. Apply direct pressure to wounded areas and use tourniquets if you have been trained to do so.
  • Turn wounded people onto their sides if they are unconscious and keep them warm.
  • Consider seeking professional help for you and your family to cope with the long-term effects of the trauma.



Source: vaemergency.gov/threats/terrorism

While the threat of mass attacks is real, we can all take steps to prepare, protect ourselves, and help others.

What are Mass Attacks?


  • Use weapons to attack crowds
  • Target less protected indoor or outdoor spaces
  • Intend to harm multiple victims
  • Use the attack(s) to intimidate
  • Can use makeshift or modern weapons

Types of Mass Attacks

  • Active shooter: Individuals using firearms to cause mass casualties.
  • Intentional Vehicular Assault (IVA): Individuals using a vehicle to cause mass casualties.
  • Improvised Explosive Device (IED): Individuals using homemade explosives to cause mass casualties.
  • Other methods of mass attacks may include knives, fires, drones, or other weapons.

Protect Yourself Against a Mass Attack

  • Stay alert
  • Seek safety
  • Cover and hide
  • Defend yourself
  • Help the wounded

If You See Something, Say Something®

Report suspicious behavior, items, or activities to authorities.

Observe warning signs

Signs might include unusual or violent communications, expressed anger or intent to cause harm, and substance abuse. These warning signs may increase over time.

Be alert to your surroundings

Observe what is going on around you and avoid distractions such as texting, listening to headphones or being on your cell phone.

Have an exit plan

Identify exits and areas of protective cover for the places you go such as work, school, and special events.

Plan to seek cover for protection

Map out places to seek cover. Place a barrier between yourself and the threat using solid objects, walls, and locked doors as protection.

Learn lifesaving skills

Take trainings such as You Are the Help Until Help Arrives and first aid to assist the wounded before help arrives.

How to Stay Safe When a Mass Attack Threatens

Prepare NOW

Be alert to your surroundings. If You See Something, Say Something®

Observe warning signs:

  • Unusual or threatening communications.
  • Expressed grievances related to a workplace, personal, or other issues.
  • Ideologies promoting violence.
  • Suspicious behavior such as excessive questioning or attention to security details.
  • Unusual items or packages.

Know exits and areas to cover and hide

  • When visiting new places, take time to identify at least two nearby exits.
  • Identify areas in familiar places, such as work, school, and outdoor events where you could hide and seek protective cover in case of attack.

Be ready to help

  • Learn and practice skills such as casualty care, CPR, and first aid. Teach others.
  • Organize and participate in safety drills in places where people gather like home, school, and work.

Survive DURING

Stay alert

  • Pay attention to what is happening around you so that you can react quickly to attacks.

Run to safety

  • If there is an accessible escape path, attempt to evacuate the building or area, regardless of whether others agree to follow.

Cover and hide

  • If evacuation is not possible, find a place to hide out of view of the attacker and if possible, put a solid barrier between yourself and the threat.
  • Keep silent.

Defend, disrupt, fight

  • As a last resort, when you can’t run or cover, attempt to disrupt the attack and/or incapacitate the attacker.
  • Be aggressive and commit to your actions.

Help the wounded

  • Take care of yourself first and then, if you are able, help the wounded get to safety and provide immediate first care.


Call 9-1-1

  • When you are safe, call 9-1-1 and be prepared to provide information to the operator including location of the incident, number of injured, and details about the attacker(s)

Continue lifesaving assistance

  • If you are able, continue to provide care until first responders arrive.

When law enforcement arrives

  • Remain calm and follow instructions.
  • Keep hands visible and empty.
  • Report to designated area to provide information and get help.

Monitor communications

  • Listen to law enforcement’s messages for information about the situation. Share updates with family and friends.

Consider seeking professional help

  • Be mindful of your health. If needed, seek help for you and your family to cope with the trauma.



Emergency Shelters

Emergency Public Shelter Information

Taking shelter is critical in times of disaster. This may mean going to a basement during a tornado warning, staying in an enclosed structure while a chemical cloud passes or staying home during a severe storm without electricity or water services for days.

Public sheltering, in times of emergency, is a basic component of the City's Emergency Operations Plan. There are several scenarios that may dictate the need for public shelter operations.

  • Limited individuals impacted. A single family or multiple families from an apartment complex fire would be assisted using normal day-to-day resources. The Red Cross and the City will provide temporary housing or hotel rooms for small numbers of displaced families.
  • Significant impact on population. If an emergency or disaster situation impacts a large portion or the majority of the population, a full activation of the City's public sheltering program will take place. There are several City departments and outside agencies that provide manpower and resources for public sheltering.

Sheltering Options

The best and most comfortable option is to make arrangements to stay with friends and family for the duration of the emergency. 

If individuals are displaced without anywhere to go, there are seven Winchester Public Schools and three City facilities that have been designated as potential shelters. Once an emergency or disaster occurs, a decision as to where the public will be sheltered will be made by City officials depending on the nature, extent and location of the emergency.

If a public emergency shelter is opened, everyone is welcome and we do not discriminate.

Staying Informed

The location of shelters and other important information will be made available through local media outlets, the City’s social media pages, this website, and the City’s notification system.

What to Bring

Be sure to bring enough supplies to last at least three days for each family member. Supplies are often hard to come by ahead of a storm and may be even more so during a pandemic.

You should gather supplies early, well ahead of any storms, and have them ready. Many of the items listed below are needed as part of any well-stocked emergency kit, not just for a shelter.

  • Face masks and/or cloth face coverings
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Disinfectant wipes
  • Bottled water
  • Canned/packaged food (i.e snacks or special dietary items)
  • Manual can opener and cooler, as needed
  • Portable flashlight and batteries
  • Folding chairs
  • Change of comfortable clothing and sturdy shoes
  • Sleeping bag/blanket and pillow
  • Quiet games, toys, books, cards
  • Phone charger
  • Hand-held devices (tablets, games) with headphones/earbuds
  • First aid kit and any medications     
  • Toiletries, glasses/contacts, cleaning solution, hearing aids, toothbrush/paste and dentures
  • ID, car keys, credit cards & cash
  • Photocopies of important papers (i.e. insurance policies)  
  • Baby supplies (i.e. food/formula, diapers, etc.)
  • Durable medical equipment (i.e cane, walker, etc.)

Shelter Rules

If these guidelines are not followed, you may be asked to leave the shelter.  

  1. You must sign in before being officially admitted into any shelter.
  2. You are responsible for your belongings. Valuables should always be locked in your car or kept with you. The shelter is not responsible for lost, stolen or damaged items
  3. Taking photos inside the shelter is prohibited. 
  4. Parents are responsible for controlling the actions of and knowing the whereabouts of their children. Children should not be left unattended.
  5. If you have a medical condition or are taking medications, please notify the shelter registrar for referral to the nurse.
  6. No smoking inside the shelter at any time.
  7. No firearms or weapons of any type on the shelter premises.
  8. No alcohol or illegal substances of any type on the shelter premises.
  9. Pets are not allowed in the shelter and must remain in the pet-designated area. Service animals - working animals who are trained to perform a specific function - are permitted in the shelter to assist their owner.
  10. Noise levels should be kept at a minimum during all hours of the day. Quiet hours are observed between 11 pm-7 am.

Pet Sheltering

The City may open a pet shelter if needed. The pet shelter will accept dogs and cats only. Owners should plan to bring a leash/collar, crate, food, medicine, a vaccination record, and comfort care items. Owners will be expected to care for their pet and will have a scheduled time to do so while sheltering. All other animals, including birds, amphibians, reptiles, arachnids, and farm animals are not accepted at the pet shelter; owners will need to make alternate arrangements elsewhere for these animals.



Local Emergency Planning Committee


The Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) was formed in accordance with the “Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act of 1986 (Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act ‘SARA’), Title II, 42 U.S.C. Section 11001”. The LEPC’s purpose is to prepare an emergency plan to minimize the impact upon the community of possible releases of hazardous materials.

The LEPC’s memberships is comprised of elected local and state officials, police, fire and rescue, public health professionals, community groups and the local media.  


All meetings begin at 3:30 pm:

  • January 3, 2024, Winchester Public Services Building, 301 E. Cork St.
  • April 3, 2024, Frederick County Public Safety Center, 1080 Coverstone Dr.
  • July 3, 2024, Winchester Public Services Building, 301 E. Cork St.
  • October 2, 2024, Frederick County Public Safety Center, 1080 Coverstone Dr.

Committee Leadership

  • Chairman, Scott Kensinger - (540) 773-1360
  • Vice Chairman, Anthony Campbell
  • Secretary, Tim Ray

Organizational Membership

  • American Red Cross
  • Chamber of Commerce
  • Citizens at Large
  • Continental (formerly O'Sullivan Films)
  • Environmental protection Agency
  • Frederick County Board of Supervisors
  • Frederick County Emergency Management 
  • Frederick County Fire and Rescue 
  • Frederick County Sheriff’s Office
  • HP Hood
  • Lord Fairfax EMS Council
  • Newellco (formerly Rubbermaid)
  • Rinchem
  • Rezin Inc.
  • Thermo Fisher Diagnostics 
  • Valley Health Systems
  • Virginia Department of Emergency Management
  • Virginia Department of Environmental Quality
  • Virginia Department of Health
  • Virginia Department of Transportation
  • Winchester City Council
  • Winchester Emergency Management 
  • Winchester Police Department
  • Winchester Fire & Rescue Department
  • Winchester Star


EPCRA Tier II Reporting

For Business Owners and Facility Managers:

Submission of Tier II reports is required under Section 312 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986 (EPCRA(link is external)). The purpose of this report is to provide State, local officials, and the public with specific information on potential hazards. This includes the locations and amounts of hazardous chemicals present at your facility during the previous calendar year.  Click here for more information about chemical inventory reporting and quantities(link is external).

Virginia follows the federal requirements for EPCRA reporting, and there are no fees associated with filing Tier II reports for Virginia. EPCRA Section 311 requires a facility to submit a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) or a list of chemicals for any hazardous chemical stored or used above specific quantities. EPCRA Section 312 requires the facility to further submit a Tier I or Tier II report to the Virginia Emergency Response Council (VERC) and the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) by March 1st each year for the activities occurring in the preceding year.

The Winchester/Frederick County Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) has three ways to submit Tier II Reports:

  • Electronic (preferred): Facilities can submit their Tier II Reports to the LEPC electronically by completing a Tier II Report in the Tier2Submit software. To submit your report by this method, save your Tier II report(s) in the Tier2Submit software as a .t2s file and email it as an attachment to lepc@winchesterva.gov(link sends e-mail), along with a signed copy of your certification letter. The Tier II Submit software can be downloaded for FREE from  the EPA website. (click here(link is external))
  • Manual (.pdf): Facilities can also submit a .pdf copy of their Tier II report by sending the .pdf file of their Tier II report, along with a signed certification letter, to  lepc@winchesterva.gov(link sends e-mail).
  • Manual (Hard copy): Facilities can also submit their Tier II report by sending a hard copy, along with a signed certification letter, to the address listed below.

Note: Tier II report submission must also be made to the Virginia DEQ(link is external) and the local fire department that would service your facility.  Submission instructions for these entities may vary depending on your site location(s).  Virginia requires NO PAYMENT for Tier II Report submissions.

Winchester-Frederick Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC):
City of Winchester Emergency Management
Attn: Emergency Management Coordinator
301 E. Cork Street
Winchester, VA 22601
Phone: 540-545-4721
Email: lepc@winchesterva.gov




Emergency Operations Plan

The City of Winchester's Emergency Operations Plan is an all-discipline, all-hazards plan that establishes a single, comprehensive framework for managing incidents in the city. It is compatible with the National Response Framework and provides the structure for coordinating within our local and with the state government in delivery of disaster assistance. The plan improves the City of Winchester’s capability to respond to and recover from threatened or actual natural, technological or man-made disasters.

Emergency Operations Plan(PDF, 10MB)

Hazard Mitigation Plan

The Northern Shenandoah Valley Region Multi-Jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan(link is external) is the effort to reduce loss of life and property by lessening the impact of disasters. It is most effective when implemented under a comprehensive, long-term mitigation plan. State, tribal, and local governments engage in hazard mitigation planning to identify risks and vulnerabilities associated with natural disasters, and develop long-term strategies for protecting people and property from future hazard events. Mitigation plans are key to breaking the cycle of disaster damage, reconstruction, and repeated damage.



Contact Us:

Emergency Management Department
Public Services Building
301 E. Cork Street
Winchester, VA 22601

Phone: (540) 773-1360

Email: emd@winchesterva.gov

LEPC: lepc@winchesterva.gov