Carbon County officials recently took part in a statewide Severe Weather Emergency Exercise at the county 911 Communications Center.

Fifteen volunteers gathered in the conference room Thursday morning to complete the exercise. This event was held in conjunction with Weather Emergency Preparedness Week in Pennsylvania.

During the exercise, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) issued numerous emergency situations in the county that members of the volunteer Emergency Operations Center (EOC) staff had to work through. Emergencies included tornado warnings, 80 mph winds, downed wires and trees, and heavy rains and flooding.

The team was also working without the direction of Emergency Management Agency coordinator Mark Nalesnik because they were simulating that he was "on a beach in Florida." Al Klitsch, an EMA voluteer deputy, took the lead position yesterday, acting as EOC manager. He led the team during the exercise.

Nalesnik was present at the exercise, but did not participate in the activities.

He said that the simulation exercise was to make sure that the group can handle an emergency whenever he is unavailable.

"My goal is to make sure I have the right people in place in case I'm not around," Nalesnik said.

The volunteers were required to identify what emergency departments were needed for the specific problem; utilize resources to learn proper procedures for specific elements in a situation such as propane tanks near a fire; continually update information until the emergency was resolved and write up incident reports that will be submitted to PEMA.

They also contacted day cares, schools, hospitals and nursing homes to issue severe weather warning drills. The purpose of this was to allow the school to practice getting the students to safe locations in emergency situations.

This year, the team completed the exercises electronically, rather than writing everything out. They also utilized RACES (Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services), an organization associated with the EMA to help in situations by adding communication support to civil agencies during emergencies.

Last week, the Carbon County Commissioners adopted a declaration which made March 15 through 19 Emergency Preparedness Week.

The Carbon County EMA was one of 67 state agencies which had the opportunity to participate in the exercise.