Unit 8

Unit 8 – Emergency Management


The Advanced Master Gardener – Water Program Manager and Emergency Management


Climate trends are bringing more frequent, stronger storms, warmer temperatures, a rise in sea level and more frequent and serious periods of drought. These conditions bring greater risks to communities from storm damage due to intense rain events and high winds and drought tests the ability of Virginia to meet water needs. Emergency preparedness and response are required by individuals and communities as well as state and federal government.

Higher temperatures mean that the atmosphere is capable of holding more water vapor. Research is showing that that can cause 5–10% more rainfall and along with it, more flooding. Occurring wherever rainfall amounts (or melting snow) exceed the ability of the soil to absorb the moisture, this is especially important to land near the coast – a significant portion of Virginia. When the increased water vapor in the atmosphere is coupled with higher sea surface temperatures, storms are also more violent (Trenberth, 2012).

Sea level rise puts low-lying communities at a greater risk. When storms occur, the likelihood of flooding and storm damage increases. Consider the impact of a small increase in sea level coupled with one of these more violent storms and the result can be dramatic damage, as was the case with Hurricane Irene and Super Storm Sandy.

The increasing sea level can, on its own cause salt water, to flow into crop lands or infiltrate ground water and wells. During powerful storms, this salt intrusion can travel much further inland.

Too little precipitation can be equally devastating. Bans on car washing and watering lawns is an inconvenience but prohibiting water usage has shut down businesses and limited residential and commercial development in some communities. The impact on food production is obvious.  The economic and environmental impacts of drought are well worth preparing for, and managing.

Before disasters, communities require public education to prepare families for emergency responses to an interruption in drinking water supplies and septic systems which are extremely important human health issues. The aesthetic and environment benefits of landscapes call for management during natural disasters as well. Knowledge of potential program partners such as local emergency preparedness councils and preparedness program implementation is necessary for the Water Program Manager to understand and meet local needs.

After disasters, it will be important to communities to provide clean, safe drinking water, to keep potential contaminants out of water supplies and homes and to minimize water damage to personal property. Wells and septic systems pose unique challenges. Plant health issues may be immediate or greatly delayed, necessitating special diagnostic knowledge.

Trenberth, Kevin E. 2012. “Framing the way to relate climate extremes to climate change.” Climatic Change 115, 2:283-290. Reprinted with permission. Accessed November 9, 2014.  http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10584-012-0441-5.

climate-1 climate-2 climate-3 climate-4 climate-5 climate-6 climate-7 climate-8

Harris, Richard. 2013. “The ‘Consensus’ View: Kevin Trenberth’s Take On Climate Change.” Accessed November 7, 2014. http://www.capradio.org/news/npr/story?storyid=214198814.

 U.S. Geological Survey. 2016. “Groundwater and Surface Water Interface.” Accessed September 9, 2016. http://water.usgs.gov/ogw/gwsw.html 

Virginia Department of Emergency. “Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment, Section 3.10 – Drought.” In Commonwealth of Virginia Hazard Mitigation Plan. Richmond, VA: Commonwealth of Virginia. Public domain. Accessed November 19, 2014. http://www.vaemergency.gov/webfm_send/850/Section3-10-Drought.pdf.

hmp-1 hmp-2 hmp-3 hmp-4 hmp-5 hmp-6 hmp-7 hmp-8 hmp-9 hmp-10 hmp-11 hmp-12

National Drought Mitigation Center. 2014. “What is Drought?” University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Accessed November 19, 2014. http://drought.unl.edu/DroughtBasics/WhatisDrought.aspx.

Federal Emergency Management Agency. 2004. “Hurricanes.” In Are You Ready? An In-depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness, 65-72. Department of Homeland Security. Public domain. Accessed September 9, 2016. https://www.fema.gov/pdf/areyouready/areyouready_full.pdf.

canes-8 canes-1 canes-2 canes-3 canes-4 canes-5 canes-6 canes-7

Be Involved


Contributions made by Advanced Master Gardeners to water issues may take many forms.  In addition to taking personal responsibility for preparedness, raising awareness and changing behaviors of community members may have significant importance to individuals, the local government and to the public.


Federal Emergency Management Agency. 2013. “Get Involved.” Accessed November 4, 2014. http://www.ready.gov/get-involved.


Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. “VA Emergency Response & Planning Organizations: Virginia Emergency Response Council (VERC).” Accessed November 19, 2014. http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/Air/AirQualityPlanningEmissions/SARATitleIII/VAEmergencyResponsePlanningOrganizations.aspx.


Prepare for the Emergency


                Similar types of natural hazards occur in areas of similar physical characteristics and weather. In Virginia, flooding may occur in any low lying area such as coastal areas, lakesides or floodplains. Severe rain storms and hurricanes may affect any part of Virginia.  Increased attention is paid to properties downstream from dams. Knowing the flood potential for any location is critical for targeting communities at risk. Preparations may include gathering supplies to locating and anchoring fuel tanks to installing sump pumps, float plugs and back flow devises.

Weather, obviously, impacts communities with regard to drought conditions. Like flooding, the physical characteristics of the land will affect the ability of aquifers and reservoirs to recharge and store water. With drought, however, withdrawal of water by humans has also limited the availability of water. Monitoring drought risk may help communities prepare for periods of drought. Drought preparedness extends to the landscape as well, presenting a unique opportunity for the Advanced MG – Water Program Manager.

Federal Emergency Management Agency. “Natural Hazards: Floods.” In Are You Ready? An In-depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness: 49-55. Public domain. Accessed November 4, 2014. http://training.fema.gov/emiweb/downloads/IS22/Unit2.pdf.

floods-1 floods-2 floods-3 floods-4 floods-5




Federal Emergency Management Agency. 2014. “Water.” Accessed November 4, 2014.


Federal Emergency Management Agency. 2013. “Protecting against water damage.” In Protecting Your Home or Small Business From Disaster: 2-1 – 2-18. Accessed November 7, 2014. http://training.fema.gov/EMIWeb/IS/IS394A/02water-0306.pdf.

National Drought Mitigation Center. 2014. “Drought Risk Atlas.” University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Accessed November 19, 2014. http://droughtatlas.unl.edu.

National Drought Mitigation Center. 2014. “Drought Risk Atlas: Map Viewer.” University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Accessed November 19, 2014. http://droughtatlas.unl.edu/MapViewer.aspx.

U.S. Geological Survey. 2014. “Drought Watch Virginia.” US Department of the Interior, US Geological Survey. Accessed November 19, 2014. http://va.water.usgs.gov/drought.

Sellmer, Jim. 2014. “Drought and the Landscape.” College of Agriculture Sciences, Penn State Extension. Accessed November 19, 2014. http://extension.psu.edu/prepare/emergencyready/drought/landscape/droughtland.


Emergency Preparedness Supplies

Federal Emergency Management Agency. 2014. “Basic Disaster Supplies Kit.” Accessed November 4, 2014. http://www.ready.gov/kit.

Federal Emergency Management Agency. 2014. “Maintaining Your Kit.” Accessed November 4, 2014. http://www.ready.gov/maintaining-your-kit.

Federal Emergency Management Agency. 2014. “Kit Storage Locations.” Accessed November 4, 2014. http://www.ready.gov/kit-storage-locations.

Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross. 2004. “Food and Water in an Emergency.” Accessed November 4, 2014. http://www.fema.gov/pdf/library/f&web.pdf.


Post-disaster Response


                While it is unlikely that the Advanced Master Gardener volunteer will be involved in community programs in the aftermath of a disaster, it is possible. In the period after the initial emergency response Advanced Master Gardener Volunteers may find many opportunities to help their communities cope with the lasting effects of the flooding to home systems and to landscapes. The Advanced MG – Water Program Manager can also use knowledge of post disaster response to change behaviors of those unwilling to prepare – when they know what has to happen if they do not prepare.


Hazards in Flood and Standing Water

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2011. “Flood Waters or Standing Waters.” Accessed November 7, 2014. http://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/emergency/flood/standing.html.


Obtaining Drinking Water


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water. 2006. “Emergency Disinfection of Drinking Water.” Public domain. Accessed September 9, 2016. https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-11/documents/epa816f15003.pdf.




Federal Emergency Management Agency. 2013. “Managing Water.” Accessed November 7, 2014. http://www.ready.gov/managing-water.

Wells and Septic Systems

                 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2012. “What to Do After the Flood.” Public domain. Accessed September 9, 2016. https://nepis.epa.gov/Exe/ZyPDF.cgi/P1001569.PDF?Dockey=P1001569.PDF.





U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2012. “Septic Systems – What to Do After the Flood.” https://www.epa.gov/privatewells/what-do-your-private-well-after-flood. Public domain. Accessed September 9, 2016.  https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-05/documents/epa816f05021.pdf.

after-septic-1 after-septic-2

Water in the Home

 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Environmental Health. 2014. “Reentering Your Flooded Home.” Accessed September 9, 2016. https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/hurricanes/pdf/reenterfloodedhome.pdf.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response.  2014. “Mold After A Disaster.” Accessed November 7, 2014. http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/mold.


Plant Health Issues after Inundation or Drought

Jull, Laura G. “The Effects of Flooding on Plants and Woody Plants Tolerant to Wet Soils.” University of Wisconsin-Extension, Agriculture and Natural Resources. Accessed September 9, 2016. http://learningstore.uwex.edu/assets/pdfs/A3871.pdf.

Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry. “Flooding and its effects on trees.” 2014. US Department of Agriculture, US Forest Service. Accessed September 9, 2016. http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/n_resource/flood/table.htm.

Gilman, Sharon. 1999. “Plant Adaptations.” Class notes from “Biology 778: Wetland Ecology for Teachers.” Coastal Carolina University. Accessed November 19, 2014. http://ci.coastal.edu/~sgilman/778Plants.htm.

Small, Mary. 2010. “Recognizing Drought Injury Symptoms on Plants.” Colorado State University Extension. Accessed November 19, 2014. http://www.coopext.colostate.edu/4dmg/Garden/drought6.htm.

Copeland, Devon. 2014. “Study shows lasting effects of drought in rainy eastern United States.” WVU Today, April 16, 2014. West Virginia University. Accessed December 11, 2014. http://wvutoday.wvu.edu/n/2014/04/16/study-shows-lasting-effects-of-drought-in-rainy-eastern-united-states.