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    W.Va. Guard holds tabletop exercise to prepare for simultaneous missions



    Story by Edwin Wriston 

    West Virginia National Guard

    As the official start to the Atlantic hurricane season begins, members of the West Virginia National Guard (WVNG) participated in a tabletop exercise to assess response capabilities for a tropical storm-induced massive flooding event, while simultaneously continuing to provide critical COVID-19 response efforts across the state, in Charleston, West Virginia, June 3, 2020.

    “Often, disasters and emergencies don’t wait for you to finish the last one before striking,” stated Col. Murray Holt, West Virginia Army National Guard Chief of Staff. “It is important for us to be prepared to multi-task should we be faced with multiple events that need our simultaneous support and response. With the official start of hurricane season just kicking off, this scenario is a perfect planning tool for us. ”

    When a flooding emergency happens, the WVNG and other response agencies may be called upon for a variety of response needs, including swift water search and rescue, evacuation and sheltering, debris removal, traffic control and site safety, commodity distributions of food and water, communications, medical evacuations and treatment, and critical infrastructure power generation.

    Having plans in place prior to an event helps speed response and enables quicker recovery for communities.

    “With a large portion of our available manpower currently deployed overseas supporting our warfighting mission or in the pre-deployment stage, and another large portion assisting with COVID-19 response here at home, it is critical we proactively and honestly assess our availability and capability of manpower and resources in the event we should be needed for other important emergency missions,” stated Holt.

    The tabletop scenario revolved around the impacts of a massive tropical system moving inland over the Carolinas and Virginia, then stalling over an already rain-soaked West Virginia. With ground water tables and local rivers and reservoirs already at peak capacity, the tropical system began dumping significant rainfall over the New River basin, resulting in widespread and destructive flooding to much of the southern portion of the state.

    In the scenario, Mingo, Logan, Boone, Wyoming, McDowell, Greenbrier and Pocahontas counties all experienced extensive flooding as the Tug Fork, Guyandotte, Little Coal and Greenbrier rivers and tributaries crested well above flood stage, resulting in the need for local evacuations, transportation and access issues from flooded and impassable roads, and damage to critical infrastructure such as utilities, government buildings, and medical facilities.

    Issues covered during the tabletop exercise included available resources at the state level from the Guard and partner agencies, the availability of additional resources from surrounding states accessible through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) process, proper span-of-control of forces, troop operational organization, and how overlapping or competing requirements for critical skills of Guard personnel can be managed, all while keeping current COVID-19 mission requirements and efforts in mind.

    “If we have to respond to a large-scale catastrophic event right now, our COVID-19 operational procedures won’t just stop,” said Lt. Col. Walter “Wally” Hatfield, Director of Joint Operations. “Even as our Soldiers and Airmen might be responding to a massive flood, the need for social distancing, proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and proper Force Health Protection protocols for ourselves and for the citizens we assist will still remain in place. So that adds another layer of operational considerations we need to plan and be prepared for in order to maintain best practices.”

    The tabletop exercise stressed creative thinking, potential problem identification, and the problem-solving process.

    “There is no doubt that the added operational considerations COVID-19 requires will impact any potential response efforts we might face in the coming months,” said Holt. “Taking the time now to walk through and give thought to what those impacts will be and how we can manage, mitigate, and overcome them is a critically important part of maintaining and enhancing our operational proficiency.”

    “Whether we are dealing with a single response event, or 10 at the same time, the safety of our fellow West Virginians and being ready at a moment’s notice to engage any and all missions that we may be called upon to support is our highest focus and responsibility,” he added.



    Date Taken: 06.03.2020
    Date Posted: 06.03.2020 13:15
    Story ID: 371366
    Location: CHARLESTON, WV, US 

    Web Views: 45
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