National Guard drill underway in Lawrence and Mercer Counties - 21 News Now, More Local News for Youngstown, Ohio -

National Guard drill underway in Lawrence and Mercer Counties

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The National Guard wants residents to know that activity around the Lawrence County Fairgrounds today is only an exercise.

Major Ed Shank from the Pennsylvania National Guard tells 21 News that authorities received calls from concerned parents who were dropping off children at the Laurel Jr. Senior High School across the street from the fairgrounds.

Major Shank said that state health department officials are carrying out a simulation of what they would do in the event of a suspected anthrax outbreak.  

The multi-agency emergency-preparedness exercise called Vigilant Guard has National Guard units from Mercer and Lawrence Counties testing their readiness to work in concert with local and federal government agencies under emergency conditions as part of a ten day exercise involving guard units in the rest of Pennsylvania and seven other states.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health will set up two points of distribution sites in Lawrence and Mercer Counties to exercise their mass distribution of medical countermeasures plan.

The drill also took place in Mercer County at the Community Food Warehouse on Sharpsville Avenue in Sharon.

The exercise is hosted quarterly by U.S. Northern Command and is not being held in response to any specific threat. It is designed to evaluate and enhance the integration of local, state and federal responders under one command structure. It will also test the ability of different agencies to provide continuity of services for an extended period of time.

"The entire point of the vigilant guard exercise is for military responders to train with our civilian partners at the county level, local level responders. We also have  state and federal level responders here, as well," said Captain Jim O'Shea, with the United States Army Reserve.

Approximately 2,500 exercise participants from eight state National Guards, National Guard Bureau, U.S.. NORTH COM, more than 20 Pennsylvania state agencies, five federal agencies, and others will react to simulated emergencies, such as terrorist activity, severe weather and infectious diseases, in an effort to protect and aid citizens of Pennsylvania and FEMA Region III, which also includes the District of Columbia, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia.

The Pennsylvania National Guard operates a state Civil Support Team that specializes in response to nuclear, biological, radiological or chemical attacks, as well as the region’s Homeland Response Force, which could be called to oversee civil-support operations during certain large-scale disasters.
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