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New regional emergency team ready to assist if situation worsens

Based in Roanoke, the brand-new team is an extension of state agencies

ROANOKE, Va. – Amid concerns of the virus outbreak getting more severe, there are new efforts to keep people safe.

A new regional emergency team has formed. It’s an extension of the Virginia Emergency Management Association and works with other state agencies.

The unified command team is operating out of the Roanoke City Health Department building on Williamson Road. Its members coordinate efforts between local groups -- like hospitals, EMS crews and law enforcement.

It covers the Roanoke Valley and Alleghany County areas, including the towns and cities within those areas.

The team is currently made up of 13 people and it can be expanded to be as big as it needs to be. It was formed just last week and is now making sure it’s ready to respond to more serious circumstances. It supports other local agencies and is looking weeks into the future.

The team’s leader, Robert Foresman -- who has been on the job for just three weeks -- has nearly four decades of experience in emergency services.

“We’re a good resource. We are supporting and coordinating as we’re supposed to and everybody is doing a fantastic job considering the circumstances,” Foresman said.

He says this situation is more difficult than a flood or snowstorm because the end date is far more uncertain.

“This is an event that -- you can’t see it, and you just don’t know when it’s going to end,” Foresman said.

This group has a focus on helping non-affiliated medical facilities, which include some of the smaller doctor’s offices and care providers in the area. It also works with hospice care facilities and the homeless population.

The team will help get medical supplies that are coming from the state to hospitals and other locations, making difficult decisions about who needs them the most.

Foresman said not every VDH district has a team like this, but many do and the state is trying to further its coordination efforts.