DMAPS is now the Department of Homeland Security
changes also made by new law effective Thursday
W.Va. – The name has changed, but the mission is the same: the Department
of Military Affairs and Public Safety is now the Department of Homeland
Security, and remains committed to ensuring a safe and secure West Virginia.
Gov. Jim Justice had proposed this change
as part of his legislative agenda during this year’s regular session. His
successful measure, Senate Bill 586, became law Thursday.
SB 586 designates the department’s
secretary as West Virginia’s Homeland Security Advisor (HSA). Keeping the
governor advised of all homeland security matters, the secretary as HSA is now
also responsible for coordinating, designing, and implementing West Virginia’s
homeland security program. The HSA is also the principal point of contact
between the state and the federal government with respect to homeland security issues.
The legislation establishes the W.Va.
National Guard as a separate entity within the governor’s Cabinet. What had
been DMAPS’ other agencies remain with the Cabinet Department of Homeland
Security, with some internal changes:
SB 586 renames the Division of Homeland
Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM) as the Division of Emergency
Management. It will be commonly known as Emergency Management or EM.
The agency will continue to lead the
state’s response to manmade or natural disasters, ensuring the protection of
life and property by providing coordination, guidance, support and assistance
to local emergency managers and first responders.
The State Fire Marshal will continue to
report to the secretary of Homeland Security but no longer to the State Fire
The commission had previously shared
administrative oversight, and also hired the Fire Marshal. The governor will
now make that appointment, from a list submitted by the Fire Commission.
The Office of the State Fire Marshal now has
sole jurisdiction over the licensure and certification of home inspectors, building
code officials, and other relevant inspectors from the State Fire Commission.
The office also continues full enforcement authority for the State Fire Code.
The State Fire Commission retains full
authority over all fire departments in West Virginia, and the rules pertaining
to their equipment, training, certification, and evaluation. The commission will
also continue to promulgate legislative rules for the state fire and building codes.
The State Fire Marshal is now an ex-officio
(non-voting) member of the State Fire Commission.
SB 586 also creates the Office of
Administrative Hearings within the department. This office will oversee all
initial grievance proceedings for the department’s agencies except for the
State Police, and most appeals of State Fire Marshal and State Fire Commission decisions
The department’s remaining agencies are
the W.Va. State Police; the Division of Administrative Services; the Division
of Corrections and Rehabilitation; the Parole Board; the W.Va. Fusion Center;
and the Division of Protective Services, also known as the Capitol Police.
Separate legislation taking effect next
month, House Bill 4509, will move the Parole Board to Corrections and
Rehabilitation. Another bill effective in June, HB 4176, will add the Fusion
Center to State Code.
Secretary Jeff Sandy considers a key
benefit of these changes the potential improvement to state government’s
financial effectiveness. Administrative Services’ nationally recognized grant
specialists will now work alongside those at Emergency Management. DAS will
also perform accounting, human resources and procurement tasks for Emergency
Management. The department’s legal unit, formed in 2017, will oversee all disaster-related
legal contracts and agreements.
“With the handling of millions of dollars
in federal grants, a strong financial presence is required,” Sandy said.
County and local governments with law
enforcement challenges will benefit as well, Sandy said. They can request
assistance from the State Police, Capitol Police, Fire Marshal and Corrections
investigators. The Fusion Center, meanwhile, will continue to provide law
enforcement support, and Corrections inmate work crews can assist with road and
debris cleanup projects.
Future plans of the Department of Homeland
Security include a program modeled on the FBI National Academy to provide world-class
training to West Virginia’s county and local emergency managers. This academy
will provide training as recommended by the executive board for the W.Va.
Emergency Management Council and a new Homeland Security Advisory Board.
Sandy has announced the board’s members:
Deputy Secretary Thom Kirk; Dean Meadows, president of the WVEMC; State Police
Lt. Colonel David Nelson; Capitol Police Director Kevin Foreman; Deputy Corrections
Commissioner Paul Simmons; State Fire Marshal Ken Tyree; Fusion Center Director
Jack Luikart; Administrative Services Director Jennifer Wilson; and legal unit
leader Stacy Nowicki.
The Cabinet department was initially
organized as the Department of Public Safety in 1989, through legislation that
restructured the governor’s share of West Virginia’s executive branch. It added
Military Affairs to its name in 1992.
The department’s mission remains intact:
to provide a safe and secure state by ensuring the proper response to all
levels, manners and phases of emergencies, disasters and crimes. The same is
true for the role of the Office of the Secretary: it provides support,
oversight and guidance to agencies involved in all facets of public safety.
This includes law enforcement and other first response agencies as well as the
state's criminal justice, correctional and homeland security systems.
This is readily apparently as multiple
agencies within the department continue to assist with the state’s ongoing
response to the COVID-19 pandemic. From overseeing the State Emergency
Operations Center and distributing much-needed personal protective equipment to
facilitating the enhanced testing recently directed for correctional
facilities, WVDHS remains in the thick of the fight against COVID-19.