May 16, 2023
Fire and EMS
Jess Robison, Chesterfield’s emergency management coordinator, has been elected president of the Virginia Emergency Management Association (VEMA).
The statewide organization, which has more than 700 members, promotes the goals of saving lives and protecting property during emergencies and disasters in Virginia. It also was founded to advocate for emergency management professionals across the commonwealth, ensuring they are provided the tools, training, equipment and support to do their jobs effectively.
“It means a lot that people who are so much more experienced put me at the head of this important organization and said ‘We have confidence in you,’” said Robison, who began her career with Chesterfield in 2018, became deputy emergency management coordinator a year later and was promoted to interim emergency management coordinator in March 2020 – right around the time community transmission of COVID-19 was declared a public health emergency in the U.S.
“I owe a lot for where I am today to Assistant Fire and EMS Chief Keith Chambers and Chief Deputy Fire Marshal Salvatore Luciano. They really circled the wagons around me to make sure I was successful when I first became interim coordinator,” she added.
In addition to expanded responsibilities during the pandemic, Robison led Chesterfield’s response to an August 2020 storm that dumped as much as 12 inches of rain on parts of the county, causing what the National Weather Service classified as 700-year flooding. That included establishing an emergency shelter at Meadowbrook High School for residents evacuated from their homes near the Falling Creek Dam.
Robison was named Chesterfield’s emergency management coordinator on a permanent basis in October 2020, about four months before a severe ice storm downed trees and left thousands of county households without power.
“We are not surprised that Jess was elected to lead this respected organization. We have seen firsthand how her confident personality, along with her calming and inclusive demeanor, can lead through a crisis. VEMA elected a great person to carry them forward,” said Chambers.
Since Jan. 1, 2022, Robison has served as chair of the Emergency Management Alliance of Central Virginia, an organization that encompasses 25 localities and four tribal nations, covering more than 7,300 square miles from Caroline County south to the Virginia-North Carolina line.
In her new role, she’ll lead an organization that offers its members a variety of networking, professional development and certification opportunities to increase their knowledge base, prepare for disaster scenarios and aid in building resilient communities.
“Emergency managers typically work their magic behind the scenes, solving complex problems with creative solutions through the coordination of whatever resources they have at hand,” Robison said. “Now that I have been chosen to lead this amazingly diverse, ever-growing group of professionals, I am committed to working with the leaders of the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, our federal partners and elected officials on behalf of all emergency managers to illuminate the value and necessity of a comprehensive emergency management program.”
Kevin Carroll, chair of the Chesterfield Board of Supervisors, noted that Robison’s VEMA election is a “tremendous honor and individual achievement,” but also reflects well on the county.
“In discussions with other emergency management professionals across the state and the country, Jess will have opportunities to share ideas that we use here and get good ideas in return,” he said. “Having her in that role will make our community much stronger.”