West Virginia to host “Vigilant Guard”

West Virginia to host “Vigilant Guard” civilian-military disaster response exercise for first time

CHARLESTON, WV (STL.News) Governor Jim Justice announced today that the West Virginia National Guard (WVNG) and West Virginia Emergency Management Division (WVEMD) will host Vigilant Guard 2021; a national-level exercise cosponsored by the U.S. Northern Command and the National Guard Bureau, Aug. 26-29, 2021.

Vigilant Guard is held in a different FEMA Region each year.  This is the first time West Virginia has been selected to host the exercise for FEMA Region III, which is comprised of Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.

“Vigilant Guard 2021 will test West Virginia’s ability to respond to a large-scale disaster,” Gov. Justice said.  “Seamless coordination during emergency response is really important to saving lives and requires the cooperation of all levels of government.  I applaud the efforts of everyone involved for their hard work showcasing West Virginia’s response capabilities to the nation and making this exercise a success.”

Vigilant Guard 2021 is a premier disaster exercise that will bring over 300 military personnel, public-safety first responders, private sector partners, and volunteers from around the United States together for a multi-day, hands-on and simulated training exercise, supporting the development, enhancement, and interoperability of disaster response assets across federal, state, and local jurisdictions within a joint operations environment.

The four-day exercise will test the state’s disaster and emergency response capabilities to a severe weather event that causes simulated flooding, accidents, building collapses, and more.

Exercise activities will take place in Boone, Clay, Fayette, Kanawha, and Nicholas counties.  The public may notice an increased presence of first responder and military personnel, aircraft and equipment, and emergency vehicles leading up to and during the exercise.

Emergency response scenarios will include a train derailment, hazardous materials accident, mass casualty incident, collapsed structures, swift- and still-water rescues, as well as aerial and wildland search and rescue operations for both humans and large animals/livestock.  The exercise will also test overall command and control decisions and actions, public information and hazard alert messaging, and interoperable communications capabilities.

Planning and execution for Vigilant Guard 2021 is based on the FEMA-led National Response Framework (NRF) and National Incident Management System (NIMS) protocols and policies utilized by response agencies across the nation during large-scale disaster-level events and will utilize the nationwide Incident Command System (ICS) for overall command and control of the exercise.

According to West Virginia National Guard Adjutant General Brig. Gen. William “Bill” Crane, hosting the exercise will allow the state to highlight its growing portfolio of capabilities.

“Vigilant Guard 2021 is a perfect opportunity to refine training and response operations with our interagency partners,” Crane said.  “It also allows us to highlight the excellent training opportunities and venues that exist here in the Mountain State that are available to agencies and organizations from around the U.S. and internationally to utilize.”

More than 30 unique agencies and organizations from across the nation will participate in Vigilant Guard 2021 from across the federal, state, and local levels, including private sector and volunteer partners, as well as international partners from Qatar, Peru, and Oman.

“This exercise gives us a chance to practice our emergency response capabilities and is an excellent way to test the coordinated disaster response skills of West Virginia’s agencies,” said WVEMD Director G.E. McCabe.  “Vigilant Guard allows us to practice our emergency response plans with the whole community.  It will make us better able to serve our citizens and make our entire state safer.”