COLUMBIANA CO., Ohio (WKBN) – The Ohio National Guard and the Ohio Emergency Management Agency (EMA) are hosting the largest disaster and emergency response exercise in state history.
This year for training, Ohio is part of Operation Vigilant Guard, a national exercise that tests states’ response capabilities.
During the exercise, a cyber attack will be simulated that causes mock utility failures and disruptions.
“This is probably, well, it is, the largest disaster operation Ohio has ever seen and it is an exercise. I want to make that clear,” said Lt. Ted Berry, a volunteer.
Berry says the goal of this training is to be ready and prepared for what could happen in the future.
Peggy Clark, EMA director for Columbiana County, said Tuesday’s training included working through how to deal with a communication failure during a disaster.
“The challenges that come along with if we don’t have internet service or if cell phones don’t work, how we still perform all the duties that we need to do,” she said.
The way they would perform those duties is by using different technology.
“We are practicing with old technology — some of the technology we’re using today is hand radios, we’re using walkie talkies and things like that to relay back and forth around the state of Ohio,” Berry said.
One thing Berry said he learned about communication outages, especially during the Sept. 11 attacks, is that people in communities start to go into panic mode.
So, their job is to prepare and train at Volunteer Reception Centers (VRCs) for these types of situations.
“What would happen in a normal disaster is people would come into the VRC, volunteer to help the people and the residents in this area. It could be doctors, it could be professional laborers, it could be electricians,” Berry said.
Berry says the beautiful thing about the state of Ohio is that as soon as a disaster occurs, people go out of their way to help out, which is what the operation is all about.
“Today, this week, yesterday, we’re practicing for the big ‘what if’ could happen, so we’re going to be ready. We’re going to be ready to protect our state and we’re going to be ready to protect Ohioans,” Berry said.