Civil Defense Virginia

Guide to Developing a Community-Based Civil Defense Organization – CDVA


Guest Post By Civil Defense Virginia

Click here for a printable PDF version

Civil Defense Guide

Guide to developing a community-based Civil Defense organization in your community



The current emergency management process has not worked very well for Americans over the past few decades. It has completely missed the boat when it comes to including the local community in organizing, training, equipping and employing them as their own first responders.

The decades that have passed since the old cold war era Civil Defense (CD) organizations were discontinued has seen an increase in severe natural and man-made disasters throughout the country. And the modern era has many new threats that were not foreseen when the current emergency management structure was created. The emergency management process that took the place of Civil Defense has looked at the civilian population as something to save not something to employ as additional resources for the benefit of the community. There is no concept of “Continuity of Community” today. Civil Defense Virginia understands the shortcomings of our current emergency management process and is working to correct them by assisting local city and county jurisdictions build a partnership with their citizens in true continuity of community through a community-based civil defense organization.

Continuity of community is best achieved when the entire community is engaged and trained in their own safety and survival through a civil defense organization. This organization should be established under a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizational structure. This gives the organization (an all-volunteer resource) the ability to work with the local community just as any other non-governmental organization (NGO) does. It may also solicit donations from individuals and corporations that will be tax deductible. Also, there may be various grants and other funding that a tax-exempt organization can receive that other types of business structures cannot.

The local jurisdiction must conduct a serious worst-case scenario tabletop exercise (see Appendix C) to get an understanding of the true needs of their community once a serious catastrophe occurs. They need to know what it would be like to operate without the benefit of current mutual aid agreements or state or federal assistance coming to help. It must be a “go it alone” scenario before the threat is truly understood.

After the results of the tabletop exercise are understood and the gravity of the potential situation is known, a serious conversation has to be conducted by the jurisdiction’s political and emergency services leadership to discuss what level of service can or should be realistically provided in various extreme disaster scenarios. Does the jurisdiction currently possess the resources that would be needed in light of the exercise findings and what would be the next steps in building up the resources and capabilities it would need to meet such a disaster? What triggers need to happen before implementation of individual emergency plans and who must make those decisions?

The most effective government during a disaster is the local government. But to be effective is to quickly identify the threats, take appropriate actions and enlist the local population in their own safety and survival. The local population should be informed of the threats, what effects are expected due to these events and how they should respond to assist in the rescue/recovery of their neighborhoods and community.


Definition – What is Civil Defense?

There is not a modern American definition of “civil defense” that works for our current environment and for many, the term harkens back to the cold war era preparing for a nuclear attack. There are many new threats, in addition to a nuclear weapons attack, that should be on our list of local, regional and national threats, but are not. Civil Defense Virginia has created the following definition that is more appropriate for today and the threats we face:

Civil Defense is the system of civilians and civilian government authorities within cities and counties partnering in protective measures and emergency relief activities conducted by community members for their own safety and protection in case of severe natural or man-made disasters, including:

  1. protecting families, neighborhoods and communities,
  2. training members in disaster preparedness, response and recovery measures,
  3. maintaining Continuity of Community by preserving safety, security and constitutional governmental functions and, restoration and protection of critical infrastructure.


Proposed Mission Statement

To define the mission of the Civil Defense Corps is an important step in knowing how it will operate in the local jurisdiction. Every jurisdiction will have their own priorities, but some basic elements will be present in every location, which are to educate local citizens, plan and prepare for emergencies and respond to disasters in their local area.

The mission statement of the local Civil Defense organization should look similar to this:

  • To educate and promote individual, family, neighborhood and community preparedness for emergencies and disasters;
  • To provide disaster assistance and relief to local residents in the event of a disaster;
  • To educate local citizens and provide planning and resource options to the local city/county jurisdiction for preparation and response to a “worst-case,” long-term catastrophe affecting the local jurisdiction causing it to “go it alone;” and
  • To partner with the local jurisdiction through the Emergency Manager and emergency management structure to foster a holistic community-based approach to disaster/emergency preparedness.


By Resolution

The governing body of the local jurisdiction should pass a resolution, or resolutions, acknowledging the threat to their locality, its citizens and the need for the creation of/partnering with a local CD organization. This is an important first step to inform local citizens that this is something serious and that they are being asked to step up and be engaged in their own safety. Appendixes A and B of this document will contain examples of such draft resolutions and may be used in their entirety or altered to meet local requirements.

The resolutions should in part document the threats to the local jurisdiction, the state and the country. There are already many threats identified by the state and federal emergency management agencies, both natural and man-made. The larger and more serious threats to our lifestyle are the ones that should be included into the resolution, even though they may be less likely to occur. Threats like a massive cyber attack (Russian attack on Ukrainian power grid 2016), a Solar Flare passing over North America (Quebec, Canada 1989) knocking out our electrical power grid, coordinated physical attacks upon our power generation and power transformer sites (San Jose, CA 2013), or an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack from one of the hostile state or non-state actors on the current world stage. The fragility of our monetary system to manipulation by these same actors is another risk that could potentially harm our country, and our local communities.


Not Political

Let this be stated at the beginning. The Civil Defense organization is A-political, meaning that it has NO political side in any way. This organization is in place solely to support the people regardless of which political party or parties are in charge. That said, every effort should be made to ensure this is true and that every political body within the jurisdiction understands this. Any misuse by anyone in authority within the CD organization should be grounds for removal from their leadership position. This is inviolate. The higher integrity and the life of the organization must be maintained as a neutral body and one that is without the souring affects of political machinations.


Structure of the Civil Defense Corps

It is important for the success of the organization to fulfill its mission goals in the community. The organizational structure is important for its mission and may be established in many ways. To be uniform with the local emergency services it should, when possible, have an Incident Command System (ICS) compatibility for easy integration with local governmental emergency response functions. The ICS model has proven to be effective at expanding or contracting resources to meet the needs of the incident and the Civil Defense Corps should be aligned along this structure for ease of deployment. There will be five major areas of emphasis in the Civil Defense Corps Commanders’ staff as used in the ICS model: command, planning, operations, logistics and finance/administration. The entire structure will be called a “Corps”, such as Orange County Civil Defense Corps – (Task Force Orange County Civil Defense when deployed in support of full time assets).

To make the job of managing the jurisdiction easier the existing political subdivisions should be used whenever possible. This is done to break the elephant down into more manageable bite sized portions. The potential size of even a relatively small town local Civil Defense Corps could be quite large if the concept were to really be accepted. Even if only 10-15% of the population were to participate, one can quickly see that this would be a major element to manage, so it must be divided into smaller units for the sake of managing such a large organization.

Each political subdivision will be led by one of the following civil defense management structures – District Commander, Neighborhood Warden and Block Captain. Some jurisdictions may have additional political subdivisions and may need to add additional titles to the management list provided here. However many levels there may be, the largest should be the District Commanders and the smallest or lowest level are the Block Captains.

  • Community-Based Civil Defense Organization

    [Click to enlarge]

    Board of Directors – named jurisdiction (e.g. Orange County)- (6-8 members with 1 or 2 positions for local officials). The Board is answerable to the membership and must support all political subdivisions equally.
  • Leadership Council – named jurisdiction – (only as many as needed to accomplish training and other associated duties. Should have members representing each district subdivision) These members assist in programs, planning, training development, fund raising, assisting District Commanders and advising the Board of Directors. All fund raising is done at the Leadership Council level.
  • District Commanders and their staff are over each the various political subdivisions of the jurisdiction (districts, wards, precincts, etc.)
  • Neighborhood Wardens will lead multi-neighborhood groups of Block Captains.
  • Block Captains will lead the separate neighborhoods within its grouping.
  • There will be other associated duties within the neighborhoods that the neighbors will help coordinate.

The entire organization from the Board of Directors to the Block Captains mission is to develop the preparedness mindset within the community. The Block Captains work within their neighborhoods to develop a preparedness mindset beginning in each family and neighborhood. This building block process will begin to strengthen the neighborhoods building a sense of community at the smallest local level creating a stronger and more resilient community. It would also develop a larger base from which to build upon for higher level support activities and identifies leaders for future roles.

The various groups may, depending on the needs of the jurisdiction include all or most of the following elements. More elements may be added, or elements deleted as needed for your jurisdiction. Each jurisdiction will determine their needs base upon an in-depth study of their results from a grid-down tabletop exercise based on a solar flare event (included in Appendix C). The five ICS sections and their elements include:

  • Command Section: Leadership group
  • Planning Section: Planning group
  • Operations Section: Medical group, Security group, Search & Rescue group, Health & Safety and Sanitation group (including animal husbandry)
  • Logistics Section: Legal group (courts and democracy), Engineering group (mechanical, electrical, other technical trades), Food & Water group, Communications group, Medical clinics/facilities group, Pharmaceutical group
  • Administration and Finance Section: All administrative and finance personnel and community outreach. At the Leadership Council level this will include fundraising



Training is a very important element with any civil defense organization. Training should begin by identifying the many threats we face locally, regionally and nationally. Why it is important for every citizen to be prepared to a minimum level (30-days) and how they fit into the overall structure of the plan for the community.

Once there is a clear idea of the threats we face as a country and in our communities, specific training and preparedness activities and methods should be devised by the Leadership Council with lesson plans developed and disseminated to all district commanders to ensure training continuity is maintained within all districts. The identification of the threats are important, but these are the larger events that create effects from the events – the “cause and effects” of emergency preparedness. It is the effects that we must understand and prepare for as these are the areas we have the most control over. Effects could be lack of electrical power, flooded homes, lack of clean drinking water, sanitation issues, shortages of medical personnel and medicines, lack of heating/cooling, food shortages, increasing violence, urban to rural mass migration, etc., the list is long. These are the areas that should be focused on for training development of the community. When the community is informed and has developed a level of self-sufficiency then there will be a better chance of having a more resilient community.

There should be regular and continuing training in State Emergency Management and FEMA type of courses to help volunteers understand the processes and wording used for emergency management. Some will elect to only receive the basics of preparedness training, while others will strive for higher knowledge and participation.

The leadership of the CD organization should be included in jurisdictional emergency management planning meetings and exercises so there is trust, cooperation and familiarity established on both sides of the EM team. The local EM team should review lesson plans and observe CD training courses conducted to ensure courses are within proper guidelines for that jurisdiction. The management and training of the local citizens will be conducted by the civil defense organization, but they do so to relieve the burden of the government from having to do it. The CD volunteers should be able to conduct more training for more local citizens than the government would be able to conduct.

To begin training in the neighborhoods the CD Corps can start with the Map Your Neighborhood (MYN) program developed by the state of Washington Emergency Management Division. They developed it as a response to earthquakes, but it is beneficial for any local emergency. This is a great program and is perfect for use as an entry-level into emergency preparedness. It gets neighbors talking about preparedness and is an easy course to teach. This program can be introduced at any point the local jurisdiction desires and can help build knowledge of and confidence in the local Civil Defense Corps.

There are many other topics for training the community in, such as, activation methods, family reunification plans for school aged children, security and community protection, communications, proper food storage and preparation during an emergency, water treatment and filtering, medical care and first aid, proper sanitation methods of human waste and garbage during disasters, etc. The list is long on topics for training local citizens in preparation of for disaster. All of this can be organized by the CD Corps.

We wish you well with your partnership with a community-based civil defense organization.

We also invite you to visit and “like” our Facebook page where we post articles and reports on various natural and man-made threats we all should be aware of.

We are here to help you. Civil Defense Virginia staff are available to assist your local jurisdiction begin or team up with your own local civil defense organization. We may be contacted at or via Facebook at @CivilDefenseVA.


[Click here for a printable version of the guide to developing a community-based Civil Defense organization in your community]

[Click here for Emergency Management Tabletop Exercise]

Civil Defense Virginia is a registered 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization dedicated to developing Continuity of Community through Emergency Preparedness and Civil Defense education and training.


Some of the structure and content of this plan was adapted from
The Civil Defense Book: Emergency Preparedness for a Rural or Suburban Community
ISBN-13: 978-1974320943.


The Fight for Electric Grid Cyber Security



“Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.” – Justice Louis D. Brandeis

Recently I wrote about our campaign to fight for electric grid cyber security. The battle played out last week before an obscure federal agency that most people have never heard of – the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Because, as Justice Brandeis pointed out, there is nothing better than the light of day to hold the government accountable, this fight needs to be made public.

Petition for electric grid cyber security

electric grid cyber securityUnder a law called the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), “each agency shall give an interested person the right to petition for the issuance, amendment, or repeal of a rule.” This means that the public can file a petition with an agency to add, delete or change a regulation. This is how the Foundation for Resilient Societies picked this fight on January 13, 2017. In a petition for rulemaking to FERC, Resilient Societies forced the federal government to finally face the fact that electric grid cyber security is lacking.

But just who is the Foundation for Resilient Societies? They are a non-profit organization “engaged in scientific research and education with the goal of protecting technologically-advanced societies from infrequently occurring natural and man-made disasters.” In other words, they are trying to protect us from catastrophic disasters such as a loss of the electric grid from a cyber attack, geomagnetic disturbance (GMD), electromagnetic pulse (EMP) and other threats.

Resilient Societies has been active in petitioning the government to make regulations to protect the electric grid and nuclear power plants from catastrophic events for years. It is clear that for over two decades, the federal government has known about the existential threats to United States posed by the vulnerability of our critical infrastructures – including the lack of electric grid cyber security, and the government has failed to act. The Foundation for Resilient Societies is one of the members of the Secure The Grid Coalition working to hold the government accountable to protect us.

So, with their petition for rulemaking last year, Resilient Societies forced FERC (the government) to consider instituting stronger electric grid cyber security regulations. But this wasn’t going to happen without a fight. You see, as I explained in a previous article, the electric grid regulates itself. The federal government can’t easily tell the industry what to do. There is a mind-numbingly complex process involved.

The electric industry says that protecting your family’s lives is “unduly burdensome” and “unnecessary”

Not surprisingly, the industry, through it’s proxy the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), fought the effort for better electric grid cyber security. After all, the thousands of companies that comprise the electric grid are trying to make a profit. All of this regulation about cyber security and EMP and GMD are just a nuisance when you are worried about the bottom line. The industry attempted to harpoon the effort to increase electric grid cyber security by arguing to FERC that such rules are “unduly burdensome” and “unnecessary.”

Remember that people: The electric industry says that protecting your family’s lives is “unduly burdensome” and “unnecessary.”

The other side of the story is that lives are at stake. Millions of lives. In fact, on March 28, 2017 the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs reported this about the critical infrastructure:

“The United States depends on its critical infrastructure, particularly the electric power grid, as all critical infrastructure sectors are to some degree dependent on electricity to operate. A successful nuclear electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack against the United States could cause the death of approximately 90 percent of the American population. Similarly, a geomagnetic disturbance (GMD) could have equally devastating effects on the power grid.” (Page 6.)

The threats to the electric grid are real. They are proven. They exist. Protecting America should not be “unduly burdensome” and “unnecessary.”

Is the regulator asleep at the switch?

Incredibly, FERC let the industry plow them over and issued an order on December 28, 2017 denying part of the petition for rulemaking. Specifically,

FERC Grid Cyber Security“The Foundation for Resilient Societies filed a petition asking the Commission to require additional measures for malware detection, mitigation, removal and reporting. We decline to propose additional Reliability Standard measures at this time for malware detection, mitigation and removal, based on the scope of existing Reliability Standards, Commission directed improvements already being developed and other ongoing efforts.”

What does that even mean?

What it means, is that the industry (through NERC) bullied FERC – or woke them up just long enough to have them sign this order. The industry told FERC that malware detection, mitigation and removal would be “unduly burdensome” and “unnecessary.”

Okay. Here is what we know.

  • On November 20, 2014, Admiral Michael Rogers, Commander, U.S. Cyber Command and Director, National Security Agency testified before the U.S. House Select Intelligence Committee that “foreign cyber actors are probing America’s critical infrastructure networks and in some cases have gained access to those control systems.”
  • On December 2, 2014, cyber security vendor Cylance published its “Operation Cleaver” report, demonstrating that Iran-based hackers had compromised at least one U.S. electric generation company.
  • On December 23, 2015, a cyberattack struck the Ukrainian grid causing 225,000 customers to lose power, using malware called “Black Energy.”
  • On December 17 and 18 2016 the Ukaranian power grid was again attacked, causing another blackout. This time with malware called “Crash Override.”
  • In December of 2016, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) publicly reported on a Russian developed malware tool, called “BlackEnergy.” BlackEnergy was previously identified by the Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as being present in America’s energy sector.
  • “Crash Override” and “Black Energy” – the malware that took down the Ukrainian electric grid are a threat to the U.S. electric grid.

Recap: Malware is known to have taken down the electric grid in the Ukraine. Malware has been shown to be present in the U.S. critical infrastructures and hackers have gained access to the U.S. electric grid. Check.

Amazingly and disturbingly, FERC bought the industry’s argument that detecting malware on the electric grid would be “unduly burdensome” and “unnecessary.” So FERC “declined to propose” that the industry do anything about malware!

Did the U.S. government (FERC) really just say that protecting your family’s lives is “unduly burdensome” and “unnecessary”? Is the regulator asleep at the switch – or just too chummy with the regulated? Hmmm.

The fight for electric grid cyber security continues

electric Grid Cyber SecurityThe Secure The Grid Coalition and the Foundation for Resilient Societies are continuing the fight and we are taking the fight to the streets. Although FERC declined to do anything about malware, they did agree with one aspect of the petition:

“However, we propose to direct broader reporting requirements. Currently, incidents must be reported only if they have ‘‘compromised or disrupted one or more reliability tasks,’’ and we propose to require reporting of certain incidents even before they have caused such harm or if they did not themselves cause any harm.”

This reporting issue is almost too ridiculous to believe.

“The grid” reported only 3 cyber related incidents in 2014 and none (zero) in 2015 and 2016. Meanwhile, on April 14, 2016, the U.S. House of Representatives held a hearing and the Committee noted that:

“The DHS reports that the energy sector is the target of more than 40 percent of all reported cyberattacks. In 2014, the National Security Agency (NSA) reported that the agency had tracked intrusions into industrial control systems by entities with the technical capability ‘to take down control systems that operate U.S. power grids, water systems and other critical infrastructure’.” (Page vii. Internal citations omitted.)

Obviously there is a huge disconnect. The DHS and the NSA say that 40% of all cyber attacks are directed at the energy sector and the grid has been penetrated by entities that could take down the critical infrastructure.

But “the grid” reports few or no cyber related incidents during the same periods.

Electric Grid Cyber Security Comments

[Click to enlarge chart]

We do not trust NERC and the electric power industry with the safety and security of your family, our communities and America. We believe that your family’s safety and security is NOT “unduly burdensome” and “unnecessary.”

So we did something about it. Many members of the coalition submitted comments to FERC in the rulemaking process urging FERC to order NERC to improve electric grid cyber security reporting standards.

Not surprisingly, the usual suspects from the industry replied that this would all be “unduly burdensome” and “unnecessary.”

In order to bring this fight to the streets, we are publishing all the comments on this electric grid cyber security issue  below. (Be patient – it is a large PDF file). In the chart to the right, you can see in green are the comments in favor of better cyber security reporting standards. The comments in red are against better cyber security reporting standards. Many of the green comments are from members of the Secure The Grid Coalition.

Look for yourself. Decide for yourself. Is your family’s safety and security is “unduly burdensome” and “unnecessary”?

If you believe that the electric grid needs to be protected, write to your state or federal legislator. Send them a copy of this article. Tell them that the first job of the government is the protection of it’s citizens. They need to protect us by protecting the critical infrastructures.

FERC Docket RM18-2-000 and AD17-9-000 comments:

Click Here for Comments to FERC on Electric Grid Cyber Security.

The PDF file is 240 pages – be patient. Once the PDF opens in a separate window, click on the bookmarks icon (circled in red below) to navigate.

Electric Grid Cyber Security


Fun facts:

  • The word “burden” appears 56 times in these 240 pages.
  • The phrase “unduly burden” appears 6 times in these 240 pages.
  • Best (bureaucratically ridiculous) use of the word “unnecessary: “Such process adds significant additional administrative burden for all involved entities, which is inefficient and unnecessary…” (Page 83.)


What Is Civil Defense? What Is Civil Defense Virginia?

Civil Defense Virginia


Guest Post:

By Preston Le Roy Schleinkofer

Introduction to Civil Defense

and Civil Defense Virginia

Ever since the demise of the U.S. Civil Defense Administration in the 1990’s, the community has been largely excluded from the process of emergency management. But since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the increasingly serious threats to the U.S. from both state actors and non-state actors, there has been a growing call for the resurrection of some form of civil defense structure in the United States.

Among those calling for this resurrection was a bi-partisan group in the U.S. House of Representatives. In August of 2012 two Republicans and two Democrats introduced House Resolution 762: “Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives regarding community-based civil defense and power generation.” Even though the resolution never made it out of committee to see a vote, the sense of the Congress is still important. This bi-partisan group believed that a community-based civil defense program is a good idea for the modern community.

Proposed House Resolution 762:

  1. Encourages every community to develop its own “civil defense program” working with citizens, leaders, and institutions, ranging from local fire halls, schools, and faith-based organizations, to create sustainable local infrastructure and planning capacity, so that it might mitigate high-impact scenarios and be better prepared to survive and recover from these worst-case disaster scenarios and be better able to affordably and sustainably meet the needs of the community in times of peace and tranquility;
  2. Encourages every citizen to develop an individual emergency plan to prepare for the absence of government assistance for extended periods;
  3. Encourages each local community to foster the capability of providing at least 20 percent of its own critical needs, such as local power generation, food, and water, while protecting local infrastructure whenever possible from the threats that threaten centralized infrastructure; and to do so with the urgency and importance inherent in an all-of-nation civil defense program developed by citizens and their local communities; and
  4. Encourages state governments and federal agencies to support the ability of local communities to become stronger, self-reliant, and better able to assist neighboring communities in times of great need.
Civil Defense Virginia

Brock Long – Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency

FEMA Administrator Brock Long told a Congressional subcommittee in November 2017, “let’s hit the reset button” and “the nation needs to stop and take a deep breath and figure out how we can become more resilient.” He also said “I’m ready to change the face of emergency management and how we tackle resiliency.”

Most recently in an interview with EM Weekly, Administrator Long said:

“One thing I have been very vocal about is we’ve got to stop looking at citizens as liabilities and start looking at citizens as the true first responders. How are we training them to take actions that are low to no cost actions they can take to be better prepared? How are we actually going back to the old civil defense in the 1950s of incorporating them into our activities and response plans like basically putting CERT teams on steroids and teaching citizens practical skills?”

The answer to Administrator Long’s dilemma is in Resolution 762 – a local community civil defense organization. This is the answer FEMA has been looking for. By organizing and training the citizens in planning, preparedness, rescue and recovery, the community is more resilient, and the nation as a whole is stronger when each community takes the responsibility for themselves and their neighbors. The many heroes in Houston, Texas after Hurricane Harvey in 2017 is a perfect example. That was the spirit of continuity of community (civil defense) in action.

On January 18, 2018, Time magazine online published an article entitled “Hawaii’s False Alarm Exposes U.S. Civil Defense Gaps.” The article points out that civil defense programs are designed to limit panic in the population. But, as we saw, the false alarm created a lot of panic and exposed the vulnerable underbelly of our current emergency management programs and true lack of any continuity of community.

We must do better.

What is civil defense?

There isn’t a modern definition of “civil defense” and for many, the term harkens back to the cold war era. This is the definition that Civil Defense Virginia has created and uses:

Civil Defense VirginiaCivil Defense is the system of civilians and civilian government authorities within cities and counties partnering in protective measures and emergency relief activities conducted by community members for their own safety and protection in case of severe natural or man-made disasters, including:

a. protecting families, neighborhoods and communities,

b. training members in disaster preparedness, response and recovery measures,

c. maintaining Continuity of Community by preserving safety, security and constitutional governmental functions and, restoration and protection of critical infrastructure.

What is Civil Defense Virginia

Civil Defense Virginia (CDVA) is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt education and training organization leading in civil defense thought and application. CDVA assists jurisdictions in developing their community-based civil defense organization. We can assist in developing the structure and organization for an effective community response to natural and man-made disasters. We can help tie the local emergency management plan to the residents of the community through a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt community organization or a coalition of organizations dedicated to building continuity of community. Whether there is one organization or a coalition of organizations participating, there should be a lead civil defense organization named for that jurisdiction.

The exact structure of the organization may differ somewhat between jurisdictions as they each will have different requirements, resources and challenges. In one model, the civil defense organization’s board of directors can reserve a permanent position for the emergency manager and possibly one other official from the jurisdiction (a County Supervisor, City Councilman, the Administrator’s office, Police department /Sheriff’s office, etc.). The board should have enough members (six to eight members) to insure a balance of members between the jurisdiction and its citizens for true collaboration.

There should be a leadership council to assist the board with the overall management of the CD organization. Most jurisdictions are divided into various political subdivisions, for which there are councilmen or supervisors, etc., that represent the citizens of their subdivision. The council will have representatives from each of the subdivisions (or districts). For example: Spotsylvania County Virginia is divided into 7 separate districts, each with supervisory representation. The leadership council of the “Spotsylvania County Civil Defense Association” should have a member representing each of the seven districts. Each district will in turn have a leadership contingent that actually works to build the continuity of community within their communities.

The key point is that, however it is structured, a non-profit civil defense organization in your town can provide solutions and resources in the event of an emergency – solutions and resources that you do not currently have in your budget. A non-profit civil defense organization is a resource multiplier for your community.

How can emergency managers prepare for civil defense?

Local emergency managers and their staff have a tough job in today’s environment. There are a number of potential threats, and some of the most devastating haven’t been considered or exercised – such as the local effects of a long-term national outage of the electric grid. If our cities and counties started planning and exercising for the worst-case scenarios, then we would have a better idea of how to prepare our jurisdictions and our citizens for them.

Civil Defense Virginia

Craig Fugate

Former FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate talks about what he calls “The Seven Deadly Sins of Emergency Management.” One of these is the common belief in the emergency management profession that “we think our emergency response system can scale up from emergency response to disasters.”

Unfortunately, as Mr. Fugate notes, this may not be how it works.

I am sure that most emergency managers have studied the man-made and natural threats for their geographical area and also consulted the state and federal lists to see what is advised for their plans. The problem is that most don’t include the worse-case scenarios in their list of threats.

The emergency management team needs to do a thorough analysis of all-hazards threats, to include high-impact, low-frequency (HILF) events like an electromagnetic pulse (EMP), coronal mass ejection (CME), cyber and physical attacks on the power grid that disables it for extended periods without state, federal or local mutual aid. Large multi-regional blackouts and entire nation blackout from these threats lasting months to years must be exercised in order to fully understand what such a threat could and would present to the community.

Without doing this we fail to see the reality of the threats. In fact, we commit another one of the 7 Deadly Sins by former Administrator Fugate: “we exercise to success.” We must not be afraid to “exercise to failure,” and then go further into the abyss to discover what we don’t know and how to prepare for it. We also should not worry about being politically correct in our assessment and response to the threat. We must organize and prepare for the true threats, no matter how dire they may be. Once that is accomplished, then all other threats are scalable downward. You cannot scale up to a point you have never known, but once you know the worst-case disaster (total national grid-down for 12-24 months with no outside assistance), then you can scale up or down to any point that is required to meet any threat.

There is a lot that can be done to mitigate the effects of disasters, including long-term cataclysmic disasters that could affect the community, region and nation. The answer lies in the citizens of the community partnering with their local government to work together on the answers. To do this, the jurisdiction would have to properly inform the community of the threats, why they should be concerned and what needs to be done to mitigate the threats, especially possible worse-case scenarios. The limitations of our budgets means we can only do so much with existing resources. The key is leveraging resources by participation of the citizenry. It can and must be done! The emergency management process needs a Civil Defense component as this is the way to focus on organizing the citizens to help themselves and their neighbors – and communities – during emergencies. This is a community-based approach, rather than a top-down, government controlled process that is limited by budgets and government manpower.

In future posts we will look more at ways the CD organization can be formed and their duties. We will also provide a reading list and websites that are helpful. One organization I will highly recommend here is InfraGard, especially their Electromagnetic Pulse Special Interest Group (EMP-SIG). Checkout their website and consider joining the chapter in your area.


For more information on Civil Defense Virginia, click here.

For the book on how to start a civil defense organization, click here.

For InfraGard’s book with table top exercises for a grid-down event, click here.


Civil Defense VirginiaPreston Le Roy Schleinkofer is a retired federal law enforcement officer who served 27 years in the U.S. Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). He is also a retired Army senior non-commissioned officer (NCO) with 22 years in the Army, Army Reserve and National Guard. He is the founding president of Civil Defense Virginia,  a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization, a member of InfraGard and an affiliate of the Secure The Grid Coalition. You can connect with him on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.