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

Sixteen volunteers gathered in the conference room last Thursday to complete the exercise, which was held in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency's Severe Weather Emergency exercises.

During the exercise, volunteer Emergency Operations Center (EOC) staff participated in calling schools, hospitals and nursing and personal care homes to initiate emergency weather drills. The purpose of this was to allow the school and hospital to practice getting the students and patients to safe locations in emergency situations.

They also learned about tornadoes through a National Weather Service presentation and incident command and handling emergency situations through the ICS/EOC Interface presentation; worked through potential severe weather and emergency situations such as a train derailment of hazardous materials and a lightning strike that caused a fire and evacuation; and participated in a mock news conference to learn how to handle the media.

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 countywide emergencies," he said. "We need our EOC staff to get together and practice in being able to help in times of need during disasters."

Nalesnik also 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 www.ReadyPA.org [1].

Last week, the Carbon County Commissioners adopted a declaration which made March 26 through March 30 Emergency Preparedness Week.

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