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8 counties to participate in anti-terrorism exercise in Pa.

October 11, 2006|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - Three military installations, 16 hospitals and hundreds of police, fire and ambulance personnel from eight counties will participate Saturday in one of the largest anti-terrorism exercises ever conducted in Pennsylvania, Franklin County Director of Emergency Services Jerry Flasher said Tuesday.

With approximately 3,000 people involved, including more than 700 "victims" of mock terrorist attacks, Flasher said Exercise Wide Vigilance is the largest drill of its kind in Pennsylvania, in terms of the numbers of counties and size of the area involved. The drill is being coordinated by the South Central Pennsylvania Regional Counter-Terrorism Task Force, which was formed in 1997.

Flasher on Tuesday briefed the Board of County Commissioners on the drill, which will run from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and involve Letterkenny Army Depot in Chambersburg, the Defense Distribution Center in New Cumberland, Pa., and Fort Indiantown Gap in Annville, Pa. The scenario for the drill concerns terrorist incidents involving the installations, but Flasher said other details are not being released before the event.

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"For quite a few years, we've been doing planning for a regional concept" for responding to disasters, either natural or manmade, Flasher said.

The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the June flooding in Pennsylvania showed that disasters are often widespread events requiring a coordinated response across municipal boundaries.

"No single county can be an island unto itself," Flasher said. Emergency responders from Franklin, Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Perry and York counties are taking part in the exercise, he said.

On a smaller scale, Franklin County conducted a mass casualty drill at Letterkenny earlier this year, Flasher said.

"While disruptions to normal county operations will be limited, there may be times when the conduct of the exercise causes increased traffic and minor delays," according to a press release from the counter-terrorism task force. Those living around the three military bases, in particular, are likely to see a lot of emergency personnel, equipment and vehicles on the roads, according to the task force.

The exercise will test command, control and communications; deployment of regional special response teams, the treatment and transportation of large numbers of victims; how mass casualty incidents affect the region's hospitals; and decontamination of people and equipment, Flasher said.

Each of the eight counties will activate its emergency operations center during the exercise, according to the task force. The drill is being funded by the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

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