Category Archives: Disaster planning

Fire State Officials Who Failed Us in COVID

by James C. Sherlock

If senior members of the state bureaucracies escape accountability for their failures before and during COVID, the agency cultures won’t change and it will happen again.  

I am going to review below the extent of their written responsibilities for pandemic planning and the high quality planning support they were given before COVID struck.  

It is clear that the planning framework, guidance and assumptions from 2012 proved prescient in COVID.  

Those responsibilities were widely ignored within the government of Virginia in the nearly eight years between when the directive was published and COVID struck. Readers can judge for themselves how much it mattered that the required planning was not carried out.

Post-COVID “lessons learned” written by the state bureaucracies will be utterly insufficient if left to stand alone. There is only one overarching lesson learned. Some did not do their jobs and people died as a direct result. Continue reading

Virginia’s Covid Vaccination Plan – Nothing to Exercise

by James C. Sherlock

I have read a lot of speculation here on who is responsible for the mess that has been the distribution and administration of COVID vaccines.

I will try offer some clarification.

On a day-to-day basis, people get flu shots or shingles shots or whatever from a lot of different providers. The normal pharmaceutical distribution system handles the supply chain.

Emergency planning guidance for pandemic emergency distribution and administration of vaccines is contained in Virginia’s famously shy Emergency Operations Plan – HAZARD-SPECIFIC ANNEX #4 PANDEMIC INFLUENZA RESPONSE of 2012.

Planning assumptions included:

– Pre-event planning is critical to ensure a prompt and effective response to a pandemic influenza, as its spread will be rapid, recurring (in multiple waves), and difficult to stop once it begins. …
– Vaccines will not be available for approximately six months following identification of the virus and will be in limited quantities when made available, necessitating the need to develop and implement a distribution plan.

Policies: Continue reading

Virginia Pandemic Emergency Plan Was Never Exercised


by James C. Sherlock

As we suspected, Virginia did not exercise its Pandemic Emergency Plan from the time it was published in 2012 until COVID-19 struck.

I received the following response today to a FOIA request I sent to the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Emergency Management:

The Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) received your February 13, 2021, email regarding a document request. In that request, you seek:

“Existing VDEM records of Virginia state, regional, and local participation in the National Exercise Program since 2012 at every level of training and exercises that addressed Infectious Disease and Biological Incidents.”

VDEM does not have any documentation that meets the requirements of your request. As a result, pursuant to Va. Code § 2.2-3704.B.3, VDEM notes that no records or data exists in response to your request.

Is “oops” a good enough response for the Governor? It appears so.

Buy Bacon’s Book

By Peter Galuszka

This is a shameless advertisement. Jim has written an excellent book and you should buy it and review it.

While some of Jim’s focus is at odds with a similar book I wrote eight years ago, “Maverick Miner” is a really well put together effort at research and writing.

In my reporting, I asked many people, mostly miners, what they thought about E. Morgan Massey. The response: tough on unions but good guy. I heard this over and over. I was told that if rank and file miners had a serious problem, they could call Morgan and he’d come to the mountains to work things out. I heard this a lot and it gives credence to Jim’s book.

You should buy the book, read it, and like it or not, post something on Amazon. Here’s something I did:

“In this book, Jim Bacon, a Richmond journalist, tells a fascinating story about 94-year-old E. Morgan Massey, the former head of coal company that would become highly controversial. Massey paid Bacon to write a private narrative about the Massey family and agreed to let Bacon write his own unabridged account. Taken as a biography and while understanding that this is from Massey’s viewpoint, the result works very well. Massey explains why he hired Donald L. Blankenship, who achieved remarkable notoriety as the boss of Massey Energy, a company spinoff. He ended up in federal prison. The book underestimates the human and environmental cost of coal mining in the Central Appalachians. It also takes Massey’s side in dissecting what caused the April 5, 2010 explosion that killed 29 miners – the worst such U.S. coal disaster in 40 years. Even so, Bacon’s access to internal sources and records is a welcome contribution to understanding a great story.

Peter Galuszka is author of “Thunder on the Mountain: Death At Massey and the Dirty Secrets Behind Big Coal.” (St. Martin’s Press, 2012)

What Texas’s Crisis Means for Virginia

by Peter Galuszka

The Texas freeze and ensuing energy disaster has clear lessons for Virginia as it sorts out its energy future.

Yet much of the media coverage in Virginia and certainly on Bacon’s Rebellion conveniently leaves out pertinent observations.

The statewide freeze in Texas completely fouled up the entire energy infrastructure as natural gas pipelines and oil wells stopped working, coal at generating plants iced over and wind turbines stopped working.

Making matters much worse, Texas opted not to have power links with other states. Its “free market” system of purchasing power meant utilities skimped on maintenance and adding weather-relative preventive measures such as making sure key generation components were weatherproof.

The result? Scores dead and millions without electricity. Here are more points worth considering in Virginia:

Climate Change is For Real

It is a shame that so much comment in Bacon’s Rebellion is propaganda from people who are or were paid, either directly or indirectly, by the fossil fuel industry. Thus, the blog diminishes the importance of dealing with climate change in a progressive way.  Continue reading

All According to Plan – the Biggest Government Scandal in Virginia History

by James C. Sherlock

The Virginia Mercury published  an excellent article on the difficulties being encountered in Virginia in scheduling COVID shots.

But who could have anticipated the need? Who indeed.

This story is part of the single biggest government scandal in Virginia history and the press is either ignorant of the underlying issue or has ignored it. I think ignorance is more likely. Certainly Governor Northam’s executive branch made every effort to hide it from them.

I say the executive branch because I firmly believe — and hope really — the Governor himself never had a clue.

The now-hidden-from-public-view Commonwealth of Virginia Emergency Operations Plan, Hazard-Specific Annex #4 Pandemic Influenza Response (Non-Clinical), Virginia Department of Emergency Management August 2012 (the Plan) required planning and exercise of a vaccine distribution plan and much more.

Never happened.

The Plan specified planning, exercise and operational responsibilities for
the following executive branch organizations: Continue reading

Dysfunction Exposed in COVID Demands Overhaul of Virginia’s Government

by James C. Sherlock

Great Seal of Virginia

We all like to discuss the politics of things. That in many instances is appropriate. But political leadership is neither the problem nor the solution I will discuss here today.  

We will spend every day between now and November’s election debating how the politicians responded to COVID. And we should. But our state government has failed both us and our elected leaders.  

I submit that the failures of the bureaucracies would have crippled elected officials from either party. We need desperately to fix the laws, regulations and bureaucratic structures that harbor such failures as permanently as we are able.

I will suggest a path.

What needs to be done?

I wrote in late March in praise of Virginia’s pandemic influenza emergency plan and published key details the next day. Two days later I discovered the coverup. The plan had been removed from public view on state websites, never to be heard of again. Continue reading

Virginia’s State Health System Will Continue to Kill its Citizens If We Let It

by James C. Sherlock

Dr. Northam

Virginians of every political stripe have grown very tired of watching the Northam administration obfuscate repeated, very public failures to carry out its role in protecting the health of its citizens since the onset of COVID.

But that is an effect, not a cause, of the massive and continuing failures at the state level to protect the public health.

A parade of failures

The bigger problems — incompetence in the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), lack of management oversight by the Governor and his appointees and political indifference driven in part by political corruption — go back as far as I can remember.

The very latest is COVID vaccinations. VDH has known for 9 months that it would have to lead the internal distribution within the state of vaccines and oversee a program to make sure they get into peoples arms. That is going so well that we are 48th in efficiency of vaccinations.

Before that it was the state’s failure to read much less practice the state emergency pandemic plan that was written at federal expense by federal contractors more than a decade ago; failure to maintain the state emergency stockpile that it called for; failure to effectively inspect for hospital and nursing home pandemic readiness prior to COVID; failure to appropriately manage COVID personal protection equipment distribution; delays and corruption in the program for COVID testing in nursing homes; failure to even acknowledge the attempted hostile takeover of EVMS; failure to support Health Enterprise Zones to improve access by the poor to primary care; VDH’s use of its role in COPN to create regional hospital monopolies and restrict the number of beds; severe and very costly restriction of the establishment ambulatory surgical centers under COPN; the list goes on. Continue reading

A New Fad: Bashing Offshore Wind Turbines

By Peter Galuszka

 Offshore wind power is becoming a whipping boy even as the technology involved becomes more advanced and its costs go down.

Northwestern Europe is offshore wind headquarters globally and countries such as the United Kingdom have wholeheartedly embraced it.

Yet some critics, some of whom are supported financially by the fossil fuel industry, refuse to accept its growth and see its potential. They insist on keeping fossil fuel generating stations going that contribute to dangerous climate change. They also back nuclear plants that have a high capacity factor.

The problem is that any generating station can go offline for any number of reasons. Considering nukes, there are a few points to be made. Consider this from Power magazine:

“North Anna Power Station’s 1,865-MW twin pressurized water reactors were at full power when the quake struck on August 23, 2011, at 1:51 p.m. The quake’s epicenter was 11 miles southwest of the station in Mineral, Va. Both of the station’s units shut down immediately, automatically, and safely. As a result of the earthquake, the plant lost off-site power from the switchyard, but back-up power from diesel generators picked up the load within 8 seconds, as designed. The station returned to off-site power later that evening.” Continue reading

NoPlan Northam Readies Random Restrictions

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

By DJ Rippert

Here we go again. The Richmond Times Dispatch is reporting that Governor Ralph “NoPlan” Northam signaled a possible increase in COVID-19 restrictions during an interview with CNBC yesterday (Dec 7). Northam is quoted as saying, “We’re actively discussing on how to mitigate the numbers, and we’ll take further measures if we need to this week.”

The actual interview was even more embarrassing than the RTD article would have you believe. At about the 1:50 point in this video David Faber does something Virginia’s gutless media has so far refused to do. He asks NoPlan Northam to describe his plan. “What are the numbers that are going to trigger you, governor, to take further measures” is the specific question asked by Faber.  The same question I have been asking on this blog here, here and here.

Northam declares it to be a “great question,” insists he is “data driven,” and reminds everybody that he is a physician. He then proceeds to evade and avoid the question in a stumbling, bumbling soliloquy to nowhere. He explains that the spread is happening where people are gathering, sometimes in homes and sometimes in places of worship. He keenly cuts through the fog by declaring that places of worship will be advised to take things seriously. He concludes by insisting that “the decisions we make will be data driven in Virginia.” NoPlan Northam skates a simple question he should answer. His obviously cavalier attitude toward the people of Virginia is disgraceful. Continue reading

Where Does Ralph Northam Go From Here with COVID-19?

Image by André Santana from Pixabay

by DJ Rippert

Marcel Marceau. Ralph “The COVID Mime” Northam dropped a bevy of increased Coronavirus restrictions on the state last Friday. Those new restrictions on Friday followed another rambling COVID press conference held by Northam the prior Tuesday. Anybody watching the Tuesday news conference could be forgiven for being shocked by The COVID Mime’s actions on Friday. Unlike governors such as Larry Hogan in Maryland Northam avoids any serious discussion of possible actions he might take to slow the spread of the resurgent virus in Virginia during his press conferences. Instead, Northam recites statistics about COVID-19 in Virginia and reminds people to wear masks, maintain social distance and wash their hands regularly. He also provides pithy commentary such as, “This is very concerning, especially because it is getting colder. The holidays are approaching and the temptation to gather with other people is high.” Then, as the news week winds to a close, Northam drops a COVID bomb. To say Jim Bacon was exasperated is putting it mildly. The virus has continued to spread internationally, nationally and in Virginia.  So, we get to play the next installment of the Bacons Rebellion game show “What will The Mime do next?” Continue reading

Northam’s Non-COVID Non-Update

Note: video starts at 4:50

by DJ Rippert

Northam fiddles. As a resurgence of COVID-19 spreads across Europe and the United States, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam held a press conference ostensibly to discuss the pandemic. The presser provided little new information about the coronavirus or Virginia’s plans to combat the disease. Northam did review statistics from the five health regions around the state but failed to provide any new guidance for Southwest Virginia where cases are spiking and the positivity rate has reached 8%. Northam’s useful advice was to wear masks, maintain social distance and wash your hands regularly. Continue reading

Shellenberger’s “Apocalypse Never” Lessons for VA

HarperCollins, 2020

“Climate change is real but it’s not the end of the world.  It is not even our most serious environmental problem.”

By Steve Haner

That statement opens the dust jacket summary for “Apocalypse Never:  Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All” by Michael Shellenberger, once named “Hero of the Environment” by Time magazine. It remains the number one best-seller in Amazon’s Climate or Environmental Policy category, competing with alarmist sermons such as “The Uninhabitable Earth” by David Wallace-Wells and “How To Avoid A Climate Disaster” by Bill Gates. Anybody interested in the topic should seek it out.

The themes of the book also align well with views previously featured from a 2019 newspaper column by retired University of Richmond biology professor, R. Dean Decker. Both are totally at odds with the wild predictions of Climate Armageddon that drive the Virginia Clean Economy Act, the upcoming Virginia debate over the Transportation and Climate Initiative carbon tax, and just about every Democratic political campaign in the Virginia and the U.S.

Shellenberger’s book is particularly important for the debate over carbon taxes such as the TCI compact, and the VCEA’s energy cost inflation, because with his worldwide experience and perspective he has seen the interrelationship of income poverty, energy poverty and damaging environmental exploitation. Saving the Earth and its flora and fauna require energy sufficiency – from more than just renewables – and energy-intensive modern agriculture.  It requires wealth and economic growth.  Continue reading

Does Northam Have a Plan to Battle a COVID Resurgence in Virginia?

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

by DJ Rippert

The second (or third) time around. America’s polarized political situation has all eyes on the upcoming presidential election. Millions are voting early and millions more will vote by mail. There is a good chance that the final results will not be known on the morning after Election Day. If true, America’s attention will be riveted on the election through November and quite possibly into December. Meanwhile, COVID cases are surging in the U.S. and parts of Europe. Yesterday, the U.S. recorded 906 COVID-related deaths. That number had been averaging between 700 and 800 since early autumn. Virginia’s record in managing COVID has been mediocre to date. Not terrible but not great either. The state ranks 30th in per capita COVID-related deaths. Over the last seven days Virginia has recorded the 21st most cases of COVID among U.S. states. As evidence of a resurgence of COVID mounts, Virginians ought to wonder whether the state is ready to react to such a resurgence if it occurs.

Continue reading

A Reasonable Approach to Sea-Level Rise

by James A. Bacon

Virginia’s environmentalists are smarter and more forward-thinking than California’s environmentalists. That’s a low bar, admittedly, but it’s a not-inconsiderable consolation now that environmental lobbyists and their friends in the Democratic Party run the commonwealth.

In California, leaders of the environmental/political establishment fervently believe that human-caused climate change is increasing the incidence and severity of heat waves and droughts. But rather than follow through on the logical implications of such convictions, California persisted with forest-management practices and growth-management strategies that turned arid forests into tinderboxes while steering housing development into vulnerable areas. The result has been a series of massively destructive forest conflagrations. Bottom line: California’s environmental and political leaders are idiots.

Here in Virginia, leaders of the environmental/political establishment fervently believe that human-caused climate change is accelerating the rate of sea-level rise and flooding along Virginia’s coast. The difference is that they are following through the logical implications of this belief and giving serious thought to how to make coastal areas more resilient. Thus, while I could nitpick with the breathless conviction that the science is settled, I find the newly issued “Virginia Coastal Resilience Master Planning Framework” issued by the Northam administration to be a reasonable and useful document. Continue reading