DHSEM liaisons provide critical link between local and state agencies during COVID-19 pandemic

CHARLESTON, WV (WOAY) – Like a security system for your home, the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM) provides our state with 24/7/365 monitoring and response to events concerning the safety of our citizens.

Along with the DHSEM Watch Center, a crucial asset for protecting West Virginia’s citizens are the Infrastructure Protection Liaison Officers. Assigned to geographical regions, the liaison officers establish and maintain relationships with local elected officials, first responders and emergency managers. These connections give DHSEM a presence at the local level and provide local agencies access to state assistance and resources.

“I’m proud of the liaison officers and our statewide network of homeland security and emergency management professionals, first responders, and private sector partners,” said DHSEM Deputy Director Mike Oakley. “Their coordination has been key in keeping our great state moving safely forward during this difficult time.”

Like most public servants during the COVID-19 pandemic, the liaison officers must maintain daily operations while also providing support to pandemic response efforts. Their duties during the COVID-19 pandemic include:

  • Collecting and vetting COVID-19 testing site locations for the W.Va. Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) and its Center for Threat Preparedness.
  • This reporting streamlines data collection, allowing information to be shared efficiently among local, state and federal agencies
  • Providing coordinated delivery of personal protective equipment (PPE) to county emergency managers upon request.
  • Along with each region’s emergency managers, composing a daily report for state and federal leadership on COVID-19 related activities. This information is also presented as part of the daily State Emergency Operations Center briefing to help establish the response rhythm for action-planning.
  • Collecting county-level data for the number of first responders quarantined due to exposure to persons with or who may have COVID-19.
  • Delivering 1,400 cloth face covers produced by inmates at Denmar Correctional Center and Jail to provide protection to employees of local agencies such as offices of emergency management and 911 centers, courthouse employees, food service workers, and county public transportation bus drivers.
  • Remaining in 24/7 communications with their stakeholders to produce In Progress Incident Notification reports for incidents or events that affect, or potentially affect, West Virginia’s infrastructure and citizens.

“These represent just a few of the many taskings performed by this group, and it takes many partners to make it work. The county emergency managers are a vital piece of the response and protection puzzle, as are the members of DHHR and a host of other agencies responding to this pandemic,” stated Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary Jeff Sandy. “What makes it work are the long-standing relationships and bonds of trust created well before a crisis strikes.  Those bonds display their true power in moments like this. It is so simple…there is no “I” in team.”

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