Simulation game helps county eliminate surprises

May 10, 2009|By TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. -- If economic disruption overflows into Morgan County, residents might feel better knowing that their county officials, emergency services and health-care personnel, and other community and business members have formulated a plan.

On Friday, about 30 people participated in an all-day Morgan County Continuity of Operations Game hosted by the Morgan County Commission at The Country Inn.

John L. Petersen, president and founder of The Arlington Institute, a Berkeley Springs-based organization that researches global futures, monitored the event.

He said the simulation game will show "how to react in certain situations," and think things through to make policies and implement them.


The game eliminates surprises "and makes us all smarter in the county," Petersen said.

The six-month scenario began with increased federal financial problems and eventual government office closings. Unemployment continued to rise and people began exiting major cities to look for food and lodging. Gas was rationed, power was disrupted and eventually the governor declared martial law in the Eastern Panhandle.

The groups worked together and hashed out ideas, which were then given to county officials for their review.

Morgan County Commission President Brenda J. Hutchinson, Commissioner Thomas R. Swaim, County Clerk Debra Kesecker, County Administrator Bill Clark and Town of Bath Clerk Margie Allgyer weighed in on the group ideas and made a list for possible use.

The ideas were discussed briefly in an open forum.

Dave Michael, director of the Morgan County Office of Emergency Services, said the best plan is to be self-sufficient. OES would need to assess its available vital supplies, such as food and water, and to make sure law and order is maintained with adequate law enforcement.

Security and communication were high on the list of concerns. Hutchinson said the county will determine if and when to close county borders, and the sheriff would have to deputize volunteers to help beef up security.

Clark said the county Emergency Operations Center would "be open all the time." He suggested the local radio station be used for updates. Another major way of communicating might be ham radio operators, Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson said the county officials' role is to "provide leadership. Public information will be crucial," she said. People will need to practice self-reliance, learn how to make supplies last and keep from hoarding, she said.

Suggestions were made that people might have to rely on bartering for goods and services. Citizen spokesperson Susan Caperton suggested officials get citizens to help each other. Hunters might supply food for many people, for example.

"It was a very worthwhile exercise, and we all came away with ideas for the future," Hutchinson said after the game.

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