The Norfolk District's Emergency Management Office's primary missions are emergency preparedness and coordinating response for natural disasters and national emergencies. The Corps provides emergency engineering and public works assistance including emergency power, commodities distribution; temporary housing and roofing; debris management and removal; and various forms of technical assistance .
Before support can be provided, local resources must be fully utilized. In response to a Presidential Disaster Declaration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency may task the Corps to provide certain types of assistance. The National Response Framework enable a unified national response to disasters and emergencies, assigning specific duties to each agency. Under Emergency Support Function # 3 of the NRF, the Corps may be tasked by FEMA to provide services.
Norfolk District has a dedicated Commodities Planning and Response Team, or PRT, to provide commodities distribution and management on an emergency basis. The "Commodities PRT" may deploy anywhere in the U.S. and its possessions as needed in response to a disaster situation.
It should be remembered that the Corps' ability to provide assistance during a disaster is limited. Emergency help is more readily available through local and state emergency management or civil defense agencies, or local police, fire and rescue.
The EMO operates under under Public Law 93-288 (Stafford Act) and Public Law 84-99. Public Law 84-99 authorizes the Corps to undertake disaster preparedness, advance measures and emergency operations, and mandates the existence of the Emergency Management Office. When a disaster either threatens or occurs within district boundaries, additional district employees temporarily leave their regular positions to staff the Emergency Operations Center. At her or his discretion, the district commander may activate the EOC in anticipation of, or in response to, a disaster situation. Because of NAO's vulnerable location on the coast, the EOC must re-locate to a safer inland site if southeastern Virginia is threatened by a hurricane or severe coastal storm. Periodically, the EOC will be activated for unannounced drills in order to fine-tune procedures and sharpen skills before a real disaster occurs.
The first real-event deployment of PRTs occurred after Hurricane Georges devastated Puerto Rico in 1998, when Norfolk's team was the first to provide emergency ice under the Corps Readiness 2000 initiative. Other districts within each division may support commodities, debris, power, temporary housing, temporary roofing, or structural assessment teams.