Members of the National Guard spring into action to keep us safe, responding to natural disasters and other catastrophes. On Wednesday the Pennsylvania National Guard invited FOX43 to see one of their training exercises at Fort Indiantown Gap in Lebanon County,
The training is part of a multi-agency emergency-preparedness exercise called ‘Vigilant Guard’ which kicked off May 7, and runs through May 16, at Fort Indiantown Gap, Lebanon County and other locations throughout the state.
“It started with a bio-terrorism attack on the western side of the state. Then we had a very large cat. four hurricane simulated that came up the coast and hit Pennsylvania as a cat. two; we had massive damage down in southeastern Pennsylvania. In the middle of this we had this anthrax attack, we had a train derail with hazardous materials that went into an apartment building, the building collapsed. We also had agricultural emergencies,” said Glenn Cannon, Director of PEMA.
The exercise Wednesday at Fort Indiantown Gap simulated a building collapse and hazmat incident. “We’re dealing with this in a chemically contaminated environment, that’s the reason they are all in protective suits. They have to find these victims, get them to the decontamination tents, decontaminate them and then get them to medical triage,” said Maj. Gen. Wesley Craig, Pennsylvania’s Adjutant General.
“In the middle of the disaster is not the time you exchange your business cards. You need to do that before the disaster happens. This gives us a chance to do that and the scenario you see here is also going on at other locations across Pennsylvania,” said Cannon.
This is the largest training exercise of its kind in the state. “This is the largest by far. In it’s scope, the amount of people here and the simulated disaster that we are dealing with. We’ve had assistance here from West Virginia, from Virginia, from New York and as far away as Puerto Rico. ” said Maj. Gen. Craig. “You train your soldiers and airman to deal with the worst, so when they actually see it for real they can react rather than freeze up.”
[Secondary training events are scheduled to take place in Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lawrence, Mercer and Philadelphia counties.]
From the National Guard:
Approximately 2,500 exercise participants from eight state National Guards, National Guard Bureau, U.S. NORTHCOM, more than 20 Pennsylvania state agencies, five federal agencies, and others will react to simulated emergencies, such as terrorist activity, severe weather and infectious diseases, in an effort to protect and aid citizens of Pennsylvania and FEMA Region III, which also includes the District of Columbia, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia.
The Pennsylvania National Guard operates a state Civil Support Team that specializes in response to nuclear, biological, radiological or chemical attacks, as well as the region’s Homeland Response Force, which could be called to oversee civil-support operations during certain large-scale disasters.