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 Tuesday morning to complete the exercise, which 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, roof collapses, a plane crash and wildfire, and heavy rains and flooding.

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.

Mark Nalesnik, Carbon County Emergency Management Agency coordinator, explained that the county participates in this annual statewide weather exercise so they are prepared and up-to-date on all necessary information

He noted that the team is made up of EOC staff and they are acting as support for emergency services on scene at emergencies.

"This is the team that would handle all county-wide emergencies," he said.

This year, the team completed the exercises electronically, using the Pennsylvania Northeast Regional Knowledge Center, which helps emergency responders throughout the state locate incidents and find contacts. They also utilized the GIS mapping system to pinpoint where the incident was taking place.

Audrey Wargo, of the Carbon Conservation District and the public information officer of the exercise, stressed that in addition to emergency personnel preparing for emergencies, county residents also need to plan and prepare for emergency situations.

This includes making a 72-hour kit for your family, which should contain water, high energy ready-to-eat foods, and personal medications for each family member, as well as a first aid kit, blankets, a change of clothing, flashlights, a battery-operated radio and fresh batteries. PEMA has created a website to help citizens prepare for emergencies. Emergency kit checklists; as well as family plan templates can be downloaded at [1].

Last week, the Carbon County Commissioners adopted a declaration which made Feb. 28 through March 4 Emergency Preparedness Week.

The Carbon County EMA was one of 67 state agencies which had the opportunity to participate in the exercise. Outside agencies that were present at the Communications Center were the USDA Farm Service Agency, Department of Health, DCNR and the Pennsylvania State Police.