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

A handful of volunteers made up of county EMA personnel, county residents, two commissioners, a mayor, and an amateur radio operator gathered in the conference room Thursday to complete the exercise, which was held in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency's Severe Weather Emergency exercises.

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

They also held a roundtable discussion on what they could do to better prepare themselves during emergency activations; as well as worked through a potential weather emergency issued by PEMA.

Mark Nalesnik, Carbon County Emergency Management Agency coordinator, explained that the purpose of the annual drill is to respond to message injects from PEMA and determine solutions to possible weather situations, such as flooding, high winds, downed trees and widespread power outages. This helps the group anticipate what will have to be done in real weather emergencies like the flood of 2006.

He noted that in addition to the exercise, an actual emergency was called in yesterday morning, shortly after the group began the drill. A passenger bus had a mechanical failure on top of the Broad Mountain along Route 93 in Nesquehoning. This caused the vehicle to dump a large quantity of fluids along the roadway.

A few EOC volunteers present at the exercise were dispatched to the scene to assist Nesquehoning Police and Fire Company with the clean up.

In addition to drills, the group discussed a new emergency alert system that will be implemented in the county in the near future.

The program, Ready Notify Carbon, is a system that was purchased by the Regional Terrorism Task Force for the eight counties it serves. Carbon County residents will be able to register to receive notifications on weather related emergencies once the county is trained in the system.

The Carbon County Emergency Management Agency also has began utilizing the social media site Facebook to help get weather-related notifications and emergencies out to area residents.

Nalesnik 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].

"The more people that are prepared at the family level, the better it helps this group when emergencies happen," he said, noting that if people are prepared with survival kits, then it alleviates a number of problems that EOC staff could face when trying to find solutions to emergencies.

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