Multi-agency emergency preparedness exercise begins in Pennsylvania

State and federal authorities began a weeklong emergency preparedness exercise in Pennsylvania on Tuesday.

More than 20 Pennsylvania agencies and five federal agencies are participating in the training event, which lasts through May 16 at Fort Indiantown Gap in Lebanon County, Pa. Secondary events are scheduled in other parts of the state, including Philadelphia and Lancaster counties.

The training exercise, called Vigilant Guard, is held quarterly by the U.S. Northern Command. The event is designed to evaluate how well local, state and federal authorities work together in response to a number of threats under a single command structure. It also tests how long agencies can provide a continuity of services in the event of an emergency.

Participants in the training exercise, which included the Pennsylvania National Guard, are responding to a number of simulated threats such as terrorist activity or severe weather. The training is intended to allow the agencies to respond to emergencies in FEMA Region III, which includes large parts of the mid-Atlantic.

The Pennsylvania National Guard operates a civil support team that is trained to respond to a variety of threats, including nuclear, biological or chemical attacks. It is also part of the region's Homeland Response Force, which oversees civil response efforts in the event of a large scale emergency.