CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WV News) – The West Virginia Emergency Management Division will host the Vigilant Guard in 2021, a national-level exercise that begins Thursday, according to Governor Jim Justice.
The event, which is co-sponsored by the U.S. Northern Command and the National Guard Bureau, runs through Sunday.
“Vigilant Guard 2021 will test West Virginia’s ability to respond to a large-scale disaster,” Justice said. “Smooth coordination during emergency response is really important to save lives and requires cooperation from all levels of government. I applaud the efforts of everyone involved for their hard work in showing West Virginia’s responsiveness to the nation and making this exercise a success. “
Vigilant Guard 2021 is a premier disaster exercise that brings together over 300 service members, public safety first responders, private sector partners and volunteers from across the country in a multi-day, hands-on and simulated training exercise to support the development, improvement and interoperability of civil protection assets across federal, state, and local jurisdictions within a common operating environment.
The four-day exercise will test the state’s disaster and emergency response capabilities to a storm that causes simulated floods, accidents, building break-ins, and more.
Sports activities will take place in Boone, Clay, Fayette, Kanawha and Nicholas counties. The public could see increased presence of first responders and military personnel, aircraft and equipment, and emergency vehicles before and during the exercise, officials said.
Emergency scenarios include a train derailment, an accident involving hazardous substances, a mass accident incident, collapsed structures, rescues from fast and still water, and search and rescue operations from the air and in the wild for both humans and large animals / livestock. The exercise also tests general leadership decisions and actions, public information and hazard alerts, and interoperable communication skills.
The planning and execution for Vigilant Guard 2021 is based on the protocols and guidelines of the FEMA-led National Response Framework and National Incident Management System used by emergency services across the country during large-scale disaster events and will become the nationwide Incident Command System for the whole use command and control of the exercise.
Conducting the exercise will allow the state to highlight its growing portfolio of capabilities, West Virginia National Guard’s Adjutant General Brig. Gen. William Crane said.
“Vigilant Guard 2021 is a perfect opportunity to refine training and response operations with our interagency partners,” said Crane. “It also enables us to highlight the excellent training opportunities and venues that exist here in Mountain State and are available to agencies and organizations from the US and internationally.”
More than 30 unique agencies and organizations from across the country will be participating in Vigilant Guard 2021 at the federal, state and local levels, including private sector partners and volunteer partners, as well as international partners from Qatar, Peru and Oman.
“This exercise gives us an opportunity to practice our emergency response skills and is a great way to test the coordinated skills of West Virginia authorities in the event of a disaster,” said WVEMD Director GE McCabe. “Vigilant Guard enables us to practice our contingency plans with the entire community. It will put us in a better position to serve our citizens and make our entire state safer. “
Senior Staff Writer Charles Young can be reached at 304-626-1447 or [email protected]