Do you enjoy helping others? Would you like to use your architectural knowledge when doing so? If yes, you may want to volunteer for the Virginia VDEM/AIA Virginia Disaster Assistance Partnership. The VDEM/AIA Partnership provides you an opportunity following disasters to help local communities access whether structures are safe to enter following the disaster. This helps allows families and businesses to get back into their homes and offices if

This program is open to persons with building/structures experience (architects, engineers, etc*). The Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) provides the training for how to assess the buildings and the process to report your findings by offering several one-day courses each year. After you have taken the course you are enrolled in a “call list” with VDEM and AIA Virginia.

When a disaster occurs others provide immediate assistance following the disaster with emergency transport, food, blankets, and temporary lodging. The VDEM/AIA program comes after that initial assistance – usually the week after, but the time period can vary. VDEM will contact the people on the call list to see if they are available to assist. VDEM where they have opportunities and the anticipated length of the volunteer opportunity (typically one week).

If you volunteer, you provide transportation to the site. Typically the local government provides housing and food at the site. (The housing may be as simple as tents). The local government also assigns the structures to be accessed. The assessment is conducted in teams of two. Your assessment is noted on the structure as well as provided to the local government. Similar to doctors who help people by the side of the road, your service is covered by the
Virginia Good Samaritan Law.

If this opportunity interests you, please send your name, email, and telephone contact information to Paula Loomis, FAIA, FSAME (, 757-630-4773), Bob Magoon, AIA ( or Corey Clayborne, AIA ( We will provide your name to VDEM and let you know when and where training will be offered. If you have questions please contact Paula. A huge thanks in advance to those that volunteer. You will be helping those in need.

* If you come without an architecture or engineering background, we would be pleased to ask VDEM if you can volunteer for the program.