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Maritime Incident Response Team

The primary mission of The Port of Virginia’s Maritime Incident Response Team (POV MIRT) is to provide immediate on-scene maritime advice and to act as an agency liaison to the United States Coast Guard and other State and Local Incident Commanders responding to all hazard type incidents in the maritime environment. The POV MIRT will promote maritime response capabilities in The Port of Virginia through an ongoing program of training, drills, resources, and continued support and coordination through port partnerships.

The POV MIRT is the first organization of its kind in the United States, and unique to any port. The concept of a coordinated maritime response team originated in 1984 when Bill Burket, now the MIRT Director, attended a Coast Guard hosted Train-the-Trainer course for marine firefighting. Up to this point, Hampton Roads had never seen a collaborative response team capable of responding to a fire or hazardous materials release in a port environment. Combining efforts with the Virginia Maritime Association, Coast Guard Sector Virginia (then MSO Hampton Roads), and the Navy Fire Fighting School, the Maritime Incident Response Team was established.

The POV MIRT hosted its first Marine Fire Fighting School in 1991 and attendees were comprised mostly of firefighters from local, Hampton Roads fire departments. It was from these attendees that the cadre of MIRT personnel was formed. Since 1991 the POV MIRT Marine Fire Fighting School has continued to grow and now hosts students from all across the United States as well as the world.

In 1995 the POV MIRT really began to grow. The Virginia Maritime Association, through the state general assembly, was afforded special appropriations to fund the team’s first large-scale fire pumps and response vehicles. It was also in this year that the Virginia Port Authority offered to formally accept management of the team.

After 9/11, federal grant programs, primarily the FEMA Port Security grant, began to provide additional funding and support for the growth of MIRT and its missions. Once a regional fire-fighting-only team, the breadth of capabilities expanded to include hazardous materials and eventually an all-hazards response posture.

Today the POV MIRT is a task force of personnel comprised from the following Federal, State and local agencies providing Law Enforcement, Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services:

  • The City of Chesapeake
  • The City of Virginia Beach
  • The City of Norfolk
  • The City of Portsmouth
  • The City of Suffolk
  • The County of Surry
  • The County of Isle of Wight
  • The City of Hampton
  • The City of Newport News
  • The County of York
  • The City of Poquoson
  • The City of James City
  • The City of Hopewell
  • The County of Henrico
  • The City of Richmond
  • The County of Chesterfield
  • The County of Northampton
  • The County of Accomack
  • Fredrick County Sheriff’s Office
  • The County of Prince George
  • The County of Gloucester
  • Abingdon Volunteer Fire Department
  • The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources
  • Virginia Marine Police
  • Virginia State Police
  • United States, Navy Regional Mid-Atlantic

With the support of these agencies the POV MIRT is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to respond to and provide assistance to all hazardous maritime incidents. The POV MIRT assists in the coordination of several regional and international training events including the Search and Rescue Forum, Annual Fire Fighting Symposium, Mid Atlantic Dive Forum, quarterly hazmat training, and any additional requests received from local departments.

The POV MIRT has a key role in the Area Maritime Security Committee (AMSC) and assisting Sector Virginia in reconstituting the port after a major storm or natural disaster where port operations have been reduced or ceased due to safety or security reasons. The POV MIRT participates in the following AMSC sub-committees:

  • AMSC Executive Committee
  • Area Committee
  • Law Enforcement Committee
  • Port Readiness Committee
  • RAD/NUC Committee
  • Harbor Safety Committee

The Port of Virginia’s internal MIRT team also coordinates its emergency operations program.  Those responsibilities include:

  • Virginia Port Authority Emergency Coordination – provide familiarity with the Commonwealth of Virginia Emergency Operations Plan (COVEOP), coordinate with VDEM and local agencies, monitor state websites for updates to the COVEOP and ensure an emergency action plan is in place. Provide annual updates of the COVEOP to VDEM.
  • Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) – implementation of the continuity plan by direction of the Executive Director and facilitation of annual required training and exercises.
  • Virginia Homeland Security Working Group – The VPA is represented as a member of this working group, which focuses on disaster recovery and COVEOP.
  • Virginia Emergency Response Team (VERT) Representative for ESF-1 (Transportation) – Support of ESF-1 functions at the State EOC during a response and/or declaration of emergency.

Hampton Roads Marine Firefighting School

DATES: This annual event has been postponed due to COVID-19. The 2021 dates will be announced in the near future.

The Port of Virginia and the Virginia Maritime Association are happy to present the 29th Annual Robert E. Rumens Hampton Roads Marine Firefighting School. The school provides six days of training which consists of classroom instruction, firefighting evolutions, vessel tours, exercises, and networking with many different agencies.

We will have a very experienced staff of instructors who will educate responders in the complexities of the maritime environment. The instructors and personnel from the Port of Virginia, the USCG, the Northeastern U.S., and the Delaware Bay area, have extensive background in marine operations, and are looking forward to providing attendees the information and skills necessary to successfully respond to a maritime emergency.

Steven Todd Dooley SAR Forum

Prospective Port of Virginia Search and Rescue Forum Attendees,

The Port of Virginia and USCG Sector Hampton Roads will announce the date and location of the 15th Annual Steven Todd Dooley Search and Rescue Forum (SAR) in the fall of 2020. The event is anticipated to take place in February 2021 in Hampton, VA.

The 2021 SAR agenda will follow the same format as in previous years, including classroom sessions, practical and advanced practical evolutions, two nighttime evolutions and one daylight SAR exercise. A Leadership and 9-11 Communications track is planned to provide information to regional command and dispatch staff. Vendors will be on-hand throughout the week to provide resources and technical assistance to vessel crews.

Registration Information:

Fee: There is no charge for this training.


  • Limited to 24 vessels with up to four crew members per vessel.
  • Two vessel limit per agency unless otherwise approved.
  • A separate registration form will be required for each vessel.
  • A limited number of slots are available for attendance without a vessel. Please contact Tracy Freeman prior to registration.

Vessel Info:

  • Participating vessels should be at least 23 feet in length and have the ability to operate in cold weather / rough seas / nighttime conditions.

Registration Form:

  • Website will be updated when 2021 event information is finalized.

Hotel Information:

The event is anticipated to take place at The Hampton Marina Hotel located at 700 Settlers Landing Rd., Hampton, VA, 23669. The phone number is 1-866-375-6054.

The SAR Forum agenda and additional information will be emailed to all registered participants prior to the start of the event. It is important to identify the vessel supervisor, or agency contact, on the registration form to ensure accurate information exchanges.

The staff of the 15th Annual Steven Todd Dooley SAR Forum is excited about the 2021 agenda. We look forward to meeting our local port partners and establishing a network to enhance the emergency response capabilities within The Port of Virginia and the surrounding region.

Photo Gallery


Annual Mid-Atlantic Public Safety Dive Forum

The Annual Mid-Atlantic Public Safety Dive Forum was conducted October 5 – 9, 2020. The 2021 event dates will be updated when available.


Bill Burket, Director, MIRT/Emergency Operations
Email: bburket@portofvirginia.com
Phone: (757) 683-2199

Rob Darling, Manager, MIRT/Emergency Operations
Email: rdarling@portofvirginia.comm
Phone: (757) 769-9808