Pennsylvania National Guard trains for multiple disasters

Members of the Pennsylvania National Guard took part in an emergency preparedness exercise last week to prepare them for natural disasters, terrorism and other catastrophes.

Vigilant Guard, a multi-agency exercise that ran May 7-16, took place at Fort Indiantown Gap and other locations throughout the state. The training exercise was the largest of its kind in the state, Fox43.com reports.

The exercise simulated hazmat incidents, anthrax attacks and bioterrorism attacks.

"It started with a bioterrorism attack on the western side of the state," Glenn Cannon, the director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, said, according to Fox43.com. "Then we had a very large (category) four hurricane simulated that came up the coast and hit Pennsylvania as a (category) two; we had massive damage down in southeastern Pennsylvania. In the middle of this we had this anthrax attack, we had a train derail with hazardous materials that went into an apartment building, the building collapsed. We also had agricultural emergencies."

Cannon said one of the ways the exercise prepared National Guard members was by acquainting them with other first responders.

"In the middle of the disaster is not the time you exchange your business cards," Cannon said, according to Fox43.com. "You need to do that before the disaster happens. This gives us a chance to do that and the scenario you see here is also going on at other locations across Pennsylvania."

Maj. Gen. Wesley Craig, the adjutant general of Pennsylvania, said the exercise allows soldiers and airmen to prepare for the worst, so that when they see it for real they will be ready to react.

The Pennsylvania National Guard's Civil Support Team specializes in responding to CBRN attacks, Fox43.com reports.