MOUNT VERNON — The Ohio National Guard will help lead an all-day Vigilant Guard Exercise Aug. 7 at the Knox County Fairgrounds, complete with the landing of a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter as Ohio Army National Guard members team up with Knox County first responders for a large, simulated civil support exercise.
Last week, Knox County commissioners approved a Landing Zone Authorization Agreement with the National Guard for the purposes of bringing in a Black Hawk in a landing zone area near the fairgrounds’ maintenance building. The large-scale disaster-training exercise is for states that are part of FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) Region 5, which includes Ohio as well as Michigan, Illinois and Indiana, said Mark Maxwell, director of Knox County’s Emergency Management Agency (EMA).
The difference this year from past disaster preparedness exercises is the National Guard’s critical role in helping coordinate the exercise and teaming up with civilian first responders. The disaster event requiring large-scale emergency response will simulate victims who have been contaminated with a substance at the Knox County Fairgrounds and need triage and treatment, Maxwell said. First responders and the guard will be prepared to handle simulated mass casualties.
There will be about 100 people participating in the Vigilant Guard Exercise, counting guard members, county sheriff’s officers, 911 dispatchers, area fire departments, Knox Community Hospital personnel, and volunteers who play victims on the scene, Maxwell said. Maxwell will be in charge of activating the county’s Emergency Operations Center.
Knox Community Hospital personnel will participate in triage, which assigns degrees of urgency to affected patients, who will be volunteers during the simulation, Maxwell said. KCH will be part of victim de-contamination efforts, as will area fire departments. The American Red Cross will also operate a shelter during the event. Maxwell said fire departments will be involved in “gross decontamination,” meaning they will use large amounts of water to aid patients. Some patients will be transported to KCH.