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Franklin County prepares for emergency exercise

March 20, 2001

Franklin County prepares for emergency exercise



By STACEY DANZUSO / Staff Writer, Chambersburg


CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Imagine: A tornado touches down in Antrim Township.

Or what if the Conocogeaugue Creek were overflowing its banks and the roof had blown off Fayetteville Elementary School?

Those events might sound like an emergency worker's worst nightmare, but they're what local rescue personnel, schools and government agencies are bracing for in a weather preparedness exercise Wednesday.

Pennsylvania's Weather Emergency Preparedness Week began Monday, and as part of the observance, Franklin County will participate in the exercise to test severe weather emergency response plans.

During the exercise, the National Weather Service will issue exercise-based severe weather reports over normal reporting channels, including National Weather Service radio stations.

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On Friday, a statewide test of the Emergency Alert System will be conducted. EAS, a voluntary network of local radio and television stations, is the primary public alert and notification system for emergency information.

"This exercise provides county and local emergency personnel and others involved with the public the opportunity to test and refine plans and their non-emergency conditions," said Franklin County Emergency Management Coordinator Dennis Monn.

"It's something we do every March. We make up our own scenario, and if someone wants to follow it they can, or they can do their own thing," Monn said.

Schools, daycare centers, hospitals and other groups are invited to participate, Monn said.

Chambersburg Hospital, Menno Haven/Menno Village retirement community and St. Paul's Daycare Center, among others, have signed on to participate.

Full-time emergency services personnel in Franklin County will carry out the activity in their headquarters in the basement of the Franklin County Courthouse in Chambersburg, Monn said.

"If we do it outside of here, we are committing them to doing something and it takes them away from normal emergencies," Monn said.

He said volunteer rescue workers have disaster drills at other times.

"This is really to test our communications systems and our plans," Monn said.

Historically, most violent storms occur during the spring and summer, according to David Smith, director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.

"In recognition of what has occurred in the past, and in anticipation of what could happen in the future, it is imperative that those responsible for the well-being of others understand the potential for weather-related disasters and take those steps necessary to ensure a timely and effective response," Smith said.

Being prepared for weather emergencies means having an emergency plan that everyone in the family knows, Monn said. The plan should be discussed and practiced regularly.

Families should also take this time to prepare an emergency kit that will enable them to survive without outside help for at least 72 hours.

The kit should include drinking water, first-aid supplies, canned or no-cook food, a non-electric can opener, radio, flashlight and extra batteries.

The state Emergency Management Agency also recommends the public follow these tips:

-- Know safe routes from home, work and school to high ground.

-- Know how to contact other household members through a common out-of-state contact in the event you have to evacuate and become separated.

-- Know how to turn off gas, electric and water before evacuating.

-- Know ahead of time what you should do to help seniors or others with disabilities, neighbors or employees.

-- Keep plywood, plastic sheeting, lumber, sandbags and hand tools on hand and accessible.

-- Winterize your house, barn, shed or other structure that may provide shelter.

-- Install storm shutters, doors and windows; clear rain gutters; repair roof leaks and check the structural ability of the roof to sustain unusually heavy weight from the accumulation of snow or water, if drains on flat roofs do not work.

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