Diverse disaster response exercises chosen deliberately to strengthen & push abilities of Ohio National Guard, EMA

Local News

KNOX CO., OH (WCMH)– Eleven disaster response exercises are being simulated by the Ohio National Guard and Ohio Emergency Management Agency August 5-8. The diversity of the Vigilant Guard exercises are as diverse as the state of Ohio itself, and that is intentional.

“The state of Ohio has a lot of capability, so as an exercise planner when we looked at this, and we worked with our planners at the national level, we kept introducing different scenarios and different things, and the state had it covered,” explained Ohio National Guard BG Stephen Rhoades. “We had to be quite unique in what we selected [to simulate] in looking for different areas where we might see weaknesses.”

The planning for Vigilant Guard started more than 18 months ago. The four day exercise simulates everything from a cyber attack on the power grid and a pipe line mishap to civil unrest in a metropolitan area and a crop plane dusting of a contaminant over a crowded county fair and subsequent mid-air collision with a military plane with radioactive substances on board.

The crop dusting is where BG Rhoades was Wednesday.


“The population in Knox County is 61,000 people. On a county fair night… you might have 15,000 people who are here at the county fair. I won’t name the numbers, but you won’t have a large number of security,” Rhoades stated. “So that replicated across the state of Ohio is an area where we knew that it would be more vulnerable than some of the larger areas.”

READ MORE: Ohio National Guard, EMA hosting emergency response exercise

Rhoades gave the Ohio State campus and Mapfre stadium during games or concerts as an example of some of the larger areas with more security and first responders in the immediate area.

“Columbus has lots of resources, and we coordinate with Columbus all the time. Here we’re not as often connected. When I say “here” I mean the whole of government approach, so you have state EMA coordinating with county EMA who has to coordinate with first responders, and then, you bring in eventually in this scenario the National Guard’s presence here as well… and we want those interactions to happen before the next event,” described Rhoades.


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