Officials from 10 counties planning disaster drill

Emergency Management officials from 10 counties in central West Virginia have decided to conduct their own disaster drill next week, even though state leaders have postponed a larger-scale operation.

Officials from Region 4, which consists of Barbour, Braxton, Gilmer, Lewis, Pendleton, Pocahontas, Randolph, Tucker, Upshur and Webster counties, met last week to discuss testing their own capabilities in a March 21 operation. The counties had been a part of the statewide exercise that same day, one in which a flooding and mass evacuation scenario resulted from an event at the Bluestone Dam in southern West Virginia. State officials, however, have decided to postpone that drill.

“Local emergency response leaders want to continue to respond to a simulated disaster on March 21,” Upshur County Office of Emergency Management’s public information officer James Farrell said in a prepared statement. “Emergency managers are now formulating a new exercise plan to conduct a full-scale exercise. The key skill they want to evaluate is inter-agency communication during a telephone failure and the use of the Incident Command System to assist flood evacuees who are seeking food, shelter and solace.”

Preliminary plans called for the establishment of two major temporary evacuation points, one in Upshur County and the other in Braxton County. Those shelters would serve those evacuated and are northbound on Interstate 70 or traveling West Virginia Route 20 from the simulated flood zone.

Several trailers containing mass-migration supplies will be deployed throughout the 10-county region. Other counties, including Lewis and Upshur, will be utilizing their Community Emergency Response Teams to help set up other shelters, including one for pets.

Residents may also notice that various emergency assets may be in the process of being set up the day prior to the exercise and still be in use the day after.

The public could also hear “unusual radio traffic” that could possibly be misinterpreted as being a part of an actual emergency.