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W.Va. Eastern Panhandle counties to test response plans

June 16, 2008

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Emergency crews and homeland security units in Berkeley and Jefferson counties will test their preparedness skills Tuesday and Wednesday as part of an international disaster exercise.

Each West Virginia county is assigned with specific challenges during the two-day event to test local and state preparedness response plans, according to a news release.

The exercise will involve a mock radiological "dirty bomb" incident in the Washington, D.C., area, said Barbara Miller, Jefferson County's emergency manager.

In the mock exercise, people will be fleeing Washington and heading for points including the Eastern Panhandle, Miller said.

Local emergency officials say they need 150 volunteers to check into a Red Cross shelter at the Jefferson County Ninth Grade Complex on Tuesday night as part of the exercise.

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Miller said Sunday that volunteers are still needed and interested participants can respond to tmehling@jefferson countywv.org, or they may show up at the ninth grade complex after 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Volunteers may check in and check back out of the shelter if they wish, or they can spend the night in the shelter, according to a news release.

In Berkeley County, the focus will be on determining if evacuees and their vehicles test positive for radiation exposure and if so, providing decontamination and medical care where needed.

The following organizations will test their response plans for radiation exposure and contamination on the Sencindiver Farm across from City Hospital on Dry Run Road in Martinsburg from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.:

Berkeley County Ambulance Authority, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, West Virginia Air National Guard, State Fire Marshal's Office, American Red Cross, Shenandoah Valley Medical Systems, City Hospital, Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Martinsburg, Baker Heights Volunteer Fire Department, Berkeley County Health Department, Berkeley County Central Dispatch, West Virginia Civil Air Patrol and Berkeley County Sheriff's Department.

The second day of the exercise will focus on the coordination and control of response to the evacuees, as well as communication testing with the state.

"It's time for our response teams to do a close examination of our abilities to see what works and what potentially doesn't," said Stephen S. Allen, director of the Berkeley County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

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