First responders in ten West Virginia counties will determine their strengths and weaknesses in a drill scheduled for Thursday. Ten counties will be involved in the drill in which the scenario will involve problems and likely the failure of the Bluestone Dam at Hinton.
But interestingly the counties drilling are nowhere near the dam and likely would not be in harms way should such a disaster befall the downstream communities. Instead, Region 4 of the State Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management believes they would be impacted by refugees fleeing such a disaster .
“If there would be a major flood in the Kanawha River valley, people would need a place to go,” said Anyssa Core, liason for Area 4 of the Department of Homeland Security. “If we can provide that place to go then we want to be ready to help.”
The drill will test emergency managers in Barbour, Braxton, Gilmer, Lewis, Pendleton, Pocahontas, Randolph, Tucker, Upshur, and Webster Counties. Those are the counties which would likely be a safe zone should disaster befall the Bluestone Dam. However, it’s just a scenario. Core said the bigger drill is for any mass exodus for any situation.
“With exercises you try not to get caught up in the scenario,” said said. “This is just preparing for any sort of situatoin where we’d have a mass influx of people coming into the area.”
Area managers will have to establish shelters for those people, figure out how to feed them and provided accommodations. Some will stay indefinitely and others will keep on moving.
The drill has been delayed over the last several months because of real world disasters like Superstorm Sandy and last summer’s derecho. Core said they learned a few things in those situations which they’ll hone during Thursday’s drill.
“We learned a lot about our planning, preparations, and response,” she said. “One of those things was that all communications was lost. We didn’t have Internet, phones, and had to rely on radio communications and sometimes that wouldn’t even work.”
Limited communications will be a focal point of Thursday’s drill.