Curtis Brown '02 Alumni Profile
Inspired to serve and committed to protect
By Stephanie D. Overton
Curtis Brown ’02 has been named state coordinator of emergency management at the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM). On June 16, 2020, Governor Ralph Northam appointed Brown to lead VDEM, which advances emergency preparedness and public safety and responds to severe weather and other emergencies across the state. The department also coordinates the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 response.
Brown served more than four years as chief deputy state coordinator prior to taking the helm at VDEM. As state coordinator, he leads the department’s work with various state agencies, including the Virginia Department of Health, to coordinate the COVID-19 response by providing resources, such as personal protective equipment (PPE) to healthcare facilities and local governments, increasing public messaging and coordinating various strategies to support the response.
“The COVID-19 disaster is an unprecedented disaster that has impacted the state in numerous ways. The loss of life, health and economic impacts have been felt across the state,” said Brown. “A critical priority throughout this response has been to focus on the disproportionate impact of the disaster on people of color, individuals with disabilities and others in at-risk populations.”
Brown’s work also influences many policy and planning efforts to implement strategies to prevent or mitigate emergencies in the future.
“After the mass shooting at Virginia Tech, I worked with higher education institutions across the state to implement new policies, create new plans and build capabilities to better alert and warn the campus community of emergencies. On Capitol Hill, I worked on a portfolio of issues related to emergency management,” said Brown.
His efforts helped pass legislation to ensure first responders have access to critical communication technology used to close gaps identified after 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. Brown also coordinated efforts that resulted in Virginia receiving a $120 million grant to assist with building resilience to the impacts of climate change and sea-level rise.
His commitment to service extends beyond his role at VDEM. Brown explained that disasters have a disproportionate impact on people and communities that are more vulnerable due to historic and existing inequities. Making a difference, particularly for these communities, inspired him to co-found the Institute for Diversity and Inclusion in Emergency Management (I-DIEM).
Radford University provided an opportunity for me to challenge myself and work with others to solve issues.”
“I’m passionate about making a meaningful impact by integrating and leveraging diversity, equity and inclusion in emergency management to build more resilient communities and improve disaster impact for people with disabilities, communities of color and other underserved and at-risk individuals and communities,” said Brown. I-DIEM works towards this goal.
As he reflects on the early challenges and experiences that have prepared him for the work of keeping the citizens of Virginia safe, Brown credits the people, opportunities and events that helped shape and inspire him, many of which have been pivotal in honing his commitment to public service.
“The terrorist attack of 9/11 occurred during my senior year at Radford University and while I was serving as the Student Government Association (SGA) president. Of course, it was a very sad time in the nation’s history, with a lot of uncertainty,” he said. “The SGA believed it was important to promote unity and emphasize the need to affirm the importance of diversity as the campus grieved. Despite the tragedy of that time, it was wonderful to see everyone come together and support one another.
“Radford University provided an opportunity for me to challenge myself and work with others to solve issues.”
As Brown leads Virginia’s emergency management efforts, it is his commitment to improve the well-being and safety of others. He reflects the Highlander spirit and inspires others to engage in service to their communities.