FOLLANSBEE - For a change firefighters, ambulance crews and other emergency personnel will know when and where they will be dispatched on Saturday morning, but as with typical calls, they won't know why.
That's because the drill at the Koppers plant is designed not to test their response time, but how well they follow proper procedures when responding to certain situations.
But Bob Fowler, Brooke County emergency management director, and Mike Bolen, president of the Brooke County Local Emergency Planning Commission, don't want the public to be alarmed if they see activity near the plant or hear emergency dispatches on a police scanner.
"We don't want people to panic," said Fowler, who added a number of emergency vehicles will be positioned at the Brooke County Ambulance Service station at the north end of Follansbee prior to the drill.
Fowler said ambulances, fire trucks and other vehicles won't use sirens or lights but drivers and others may observe a lot of them moving toward the plant at one time.
Bolen said there also are plans to post signs about the drill along the highway.
The drill is slated to occur between 10 a.m. and noon and also involve staff at Weirton Medical Center.
Fowler added backup personnel not involved in the drill also will be stationed on both ends of the county to ensure there's coverage in the event a real emergency occurs at that time.
To ensure the drill's effectiveness, he didn't release too many details about the mock scenario that has been planned. But he would say it will involve young students making a field trip to the plant when an explosion occurs.
Fowler said theater students at West Liberty University have been recruited to play the students and other victims.
Because the scenario will involve a chemical compound, the hospital staff will use the occasion to test its decontamination unit.
Fowler said the exercise will test procedures used by various emergency personnel, and a meeting will be held afterward that day to discuss what worked and what may be improved upon.
Bolen expressed appreciation to the many volunteer firefighters who will be involved.
Noting nearly all fire departments serving Brooke County are volunteer, he said, "Let's face it - if a major emergency happens, 90 percent of those responding will be volunteers."
Bolen said while such drills are required of some of the parties involved, they aren't required for fire departments' certification.
So the firefighters' are there because they want to be better prepared, he said.
(Scott can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)