Local responders part of regional disaster exercise
Morgan County first responders and public health officials participated last week in a mock disaster that spread the length of the Shenandoah Valley.
The cross-border exercise, simulating a weapons-grade anthrax attack in Washington, D.C., included Berkeley and Jefferson Counties in West Virginia and Frederick, Clarke and Shenandoah Counties in Virginia.
According to 911 Director Dave Michael, all counties went through the scenario of being alerted to the terrorist attack.
What that meant for Morgan County was the need to treat first responders with medicine to counteract anthrax, said Michael. That step would allow police, fire, EMS and health officials to keep emergency services running for local citizens, Michael said.
"This would be the initial step in a real event. The next would be to get the medicines to the citizens," said Michael.
Once county officials were alerted to the attack, designees at the Morgan County Health Department had to request a release of medicine from the national strategic stockpile, set up a point of distribution and gather all first responders to receive the medicine at War Memorial Hospital.
Hospital staff administered the mock medicine to 50 emergency personnel and public officials, said Michael. He said the exercise went smoothly, but pointed to one shortcoming in Morgan County's emergency preparedness – a shortage of personnel for a long-term disaster event.
Michael said Morgan County will likely participate in these regional exercises at least once a year. He credited Jay Rumberg with co-coordinating Morgan County's inclusion in the mock disaster. Rumberg is the county's Health Department threat preparedness officer.
Lee Ann Beihl coordinated War Memorial Hospital's participation in the exercise.