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Week 42: VDEM Communications Center

Dear Batter Up Friends, meet some of the staff in the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) Communications Watch Center!

First off, I apologize. I’m painfully late getting this blog post up. These folks were battered in honor of National Public Safety Telecommunications Week which took place April 14–18 and were nominated by my brother, Christopher. For those of you that read my blog regularly, you’ve heard quite a bit about him and all that he has put up with while living at Batter Up headquarters. (For those that don’t already know, we’re roommates.) So this was his week to pick the recipient.

Nominating the VDEM Communications Center wasn’t a random act. My brother has devoted the majority of his life to emergency services in some form or another. He started out as a volunteer fireman when he was 16 and, after a stint in the tech world, eventually found his way into the 911 call center in the county where we grew up. After a couple of years dealing with the colorful people that make up much of rural Virginia—and who called 911 about the aliens in their backyard, the cats stuck in the trees (yes, this really does happen), and the neighbor that’s “up to something”—he graduated into a state level role. Enter the VDEM Communications Center. He stayed there for several years while he finished his degree in emergency management and eventually moved into his current role as an Emergency Planner. I don’t really understand what he does, but he drives all over the state in an ugly state car, visiting rural localities, and having what I would think are painfully boring meetings. Personally, I’d rather talk to the guy who thinks aliens have taken over his backyard—but whatever floats your boat, I guess.

For something like National Public Safety Telecommunications Week, most people’s minds would automatically think of 911 centers—and rightly so. The 911 dispatchers of the world have a tough job. But, most people don’t even know that emergency dispatchers exist at the state level and that’s why we decided to bring a little attention their way.

So what do the people of the VDEM Communications Center do 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year? Have you ever heard about a kid that wandered off into the woods and disappeared? Or the hikers that lost their way on the Appalachian Trail? The VDEM group is responsible for coordinating the state-wide search and rescue resources charged with finding non-criminal related missing persons cases. They also coordinate all of the response efforts for hazardous materials spills and they dispatch the state police med-flight helicopter to medi-vac patients to hospitals (usually VCU). When they’re not busy with the phones and coordinating various state-wide resources, they’re charged with monitoring potential and ongoing events for situational awareness that can include severe weather, natural or manmade disasters, or any other potentially catastrophic event throughout the state of Virginia. Lastly, in case you were thinking they didn’t already have enough on their plate, they serve as the offsite monitors for the two nuclear power plants located in Surry and North Anna and are tasked with notifying the appropriate responders in the event of a nuclear emergency. This last piece of job description alone is worth their weight in cake! Of course, they get their own occasional dose of crazy too. I’m pretty sure that’s written in the fine print of any government related job.

And now for the cake! This week’s cake was a Chocolate Mint Cake from the website—————wait for it————The Food Librarian’s I Like Big Bundts! (recipe found here) Big thanks to Batter Up follower Shannon Sarino for turning me onto this little gem of a site. And this cake was ridiculous. You know those little Andes chocolate mint candies? The ones that you could buy at the grocery store but no one knows that so you fight over them when the server brings them with the check at the end of a meal at a fancy restaurant? Well apparently Andes makes a baking chip too. I couldn’t find them at Martin’s so I bought several boxes of the actual candies (and yes, a couple of extra to have “just in case”) and chopped those up instead of using the chips. And, because you can never have enough chocolate, I covered the whole thing in Chocolate Ganache. Appropriately, it looked like a big oil spill. I’m pretty sure the folks at VDEM just went ahead and cleaned that one up themselves.