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Emergency Services to simulate drill at depot, school

May 08, 2003|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A terrorist scenario will be played out Saturday when the Franklin County Department of Emergency Services conducts a disaster drills at Letterkenny Army Depot and Mowrey Elementary School.

For the drill, One "terrorist cell" will be targeting the depot north of Chambersburg while another gets lost trying to find Site R command and control center in Adams County, Pa. That second group of "terrorists" gets lost and ends up at the school off Pa. 997 in Quincy Township, according to Don Eshleman Jr., the county's emergency management coordinator.

"You're going to see people running around with gas masks on," said Director of Emergency Services Jerry Flasher. He said word about the drills is being made public in an effort to let people know it is only an exercise.

"It's a test of all hazards," said Vickie Negley, the education resources specialist for Chambersburg Hospital. The drill scenarios include explosions, hazardous materials, mass casualties and forensic work for investigators.

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The drill will be the largest undertaking of its kind that she's been involved in during 20 years of emergency planning, Negley said.

Anti-terrorism planning has become an element of local emergency planning in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. Eshleman said half the municipalities in the county have revised their emergency plans to include provisions for terrorist acts.

The simulated incident at Mowrey is scheduled to begin at about 9 a.m. The script calls for a vehicle accident involving the lost terrorists to be followed by an explosion that injures a group of children in the playground, Eshleman said. At Letterkenny, those playing the role of terrorists will crash the gate at approximately 9:20 a.m. and an "explosion" will release nerve gas.

The exercise will involve hazardous materials personnel, fire and ambulance crews, police and medical personnel from Chambersburg and Waynesboro hospitals, where the casualties will be taken for decontamination and treatment.

Eshleman said depot security personnel will be involved in their own disaster exercise within the military reserve in cooperation with the county drill. County and state emergency personnel will conduct their part of the drill on Letterkenny Industrial Development Authority property, the industrial and business park created when the depot was realigned in the 1990s.

Residents and motorists in the areas of the exercises are asked to be patient and not be concerned by what they see, Eshleman said. Traffic disruptions will be kept to a minimum with fire police directing traffic.

The exercises are expected to be completed by 12:30 p.m. Participants will then take part in critiques conducted at the hospitals, Eshleman said.

Information from those critiques will be used to determine areas in which emergency planning has to be improved or modified.

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