The Lawrence Herald

COLUMBUS - It's only a drill - but it's a big one.

Next month, the Ohio National Guard and Ohio Emergency Management Agency will host Vigilant Guard 2019, a national-level exercise that is cosponsored by U.S. Northern Command and National Guard Bureau.

Scheduled for Aug. 5-8 VG19 is a four-day exercise that will test the state's disaster and emergency response capabilities with a simulated cyberattack event that subsequently causes utility failures and disruptions. Emergency response to hazardous material accidents, civil disturbances, and radiological incidents will also be tested.

"Vigilant Guard will put Ohio's emergency response capabilities to the test in a worst-case scenario to help us prepare for a real-life threat to the health and safety of Ohioans," Gov. Mike DeWine said in a news release. "An exercise of this magnitude requires cooperation across all levels of government, and I commend the efforts of everyone involved for their hard work to make sure we have a successful outcome."

Exercise activities and venues will take place in the following counties: Athens, Clark, Columbiana, Franklin, Greene, Guernsey, Hamilton, Knox, Licking, Portage, and Washington.

"Vigilant Guard is an exciting opportunity to test and showcase the coordinated disaster response and recovery abilities of Ohio's military and civilian personnel," Ohio EMA Executive Director Sima Merick said in the release. "This exercise will enable us to practice our emergency response plans and procedures using a whole community approach. It will make us all better able to serve our great citizens and make our state a safer Ohio."

Maj. Gen. John C. Harris Jr., Ohio adjutant general, said this will be the largest exercise Ohio has ever conducted, with 90 local, state and federal agencies from across the country participating.

"This exercise will allow us, as one joint force, to comprehensively test the readiness of the National Guard alongside our partner agencies, in order to be better prepared to protect our citizens and our state when a disaster hits," Harris said.

The public may notice a heavier-than-usual presence of military personnel, aircraft and equipment, first responders, and emergency vehicles. VG19 will also have civilian volunteers serving as mock accident victims. Emergency responders will exercise search and rescue, medical trauma treatment, and first aid application.

For additional information on emergency preparedness, visit www.ema.ohio.gov and www.ready.ohio.gov.

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