DUNBAR, W.Va. – Members of the West Virginia National Guard met with state emergency management officials March 10 to coordinate planning for Vigilant Guard, a national, full-scale exercise in West Virginia this summer.
Vigilant Guard is an annual all-hazards exercise sponsored by United States Northern Command (NORTHCOM) and the National Guard Bureau (NGB), with support from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Military, government agencies, private sector partners and others will work in a joint operational environment simulating a large-scale emergency or disaster.
The multi-day event will bring more than 1,000 participants from as far away as Florida, Massachusetts and Illinois to train together through multiple scenarios and at various locations in the Mountain State.
“The Emergency Management Division recognizes the importance of participating in full-scale exercises with our partners,” said G.E. McCabe, director of the West Virginia Emergency Management Division. “These exercises allow us to execute our response, gain skill with processes and identify any gaps before a real emergency occurs.”
The VG scenario for 2021 will center around a stalled hurricane hovering over West Virginia, dropping massive amounts of water. Participants will have to address flash flooding, mudslides and dam breaches that lead to road closures, evacuations and aerial and swift water boat rescues of people and animals.
Hazardous materials (HAZMAT) accident response will also be part of the scenario, including mock train derailments, tanker truck wrecks, gas line ruptures, explosions and fires.
“We couldn’t be more excited to host VG 2021 in West Virginia,” said Walter “Wally” Hatfield, director of joint operations for the WVNG. “This event will bring more than a thousand military personnel, first responders, and private sector partners with a wide scope of subject matter expertise into the state and will allow us to highlight the training opportunities and nationally important capabilities we are striving to build here in West Virginia. This is a win-win for everyone involved and an event we hope will serve as a model for future interagency exercises here at home.”
Primary operations for the exercise will take place in Clay, Nicholas, Fayette and Kanawha counties, with additional state and local agencies from around the state participating virtually or through asset and resource deployment to the exercise area.
“Because all emergencies start and finish at the local level, we encourage all responders within the operational areas to participate with these exercises,” said McCabe. “This is an excellent opportunity to apply emergency response skills and form strategic partnerships for the future.”
Each year, VG is held in a different FEMA region. West Virginia is in FEMA Region III, which also includes Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Recent VG exercises have been held in Massachusetts, Georgia, Guam, and New Mexico. This is the first time West Virginia has been selected to host the exercise.