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Disaster training workshop in Taylor Co. should save lives

The people planning a workshop this week to train individuals on better ways to handle terrorism or natural disasters deserve much credit, and they have our best wishes for a successful program. Major incidents or disasters can take place without a moment's notice, so the importance of being as prepared as possible for them cannot be overstressed.

Various officials from North Central West Virginia will gather Thursday at Tygart Lake State Park in Grafton to explore methods of action in the event of chemical spills, school terrorist acts, or evacuation of heavily-traveled highways.

Fortunately, this region has not experienced an act of terrorism such as occurred last year at Columbine High School in Littleton, CO. But, then again, the shooting spree that killed several people and wounded others occurred quite unexpectedly. So preparation and planning mean everything.

The state Office of Emergency Service is sponsoring the event as part of its efforts to coordinate disaster services. OES public information officer Melissa Atkins says the state has "a plan in place that tries to think out any possible scenario, whether it's man-made or natural. This gives individual counties the chance to look at how their plans compare."

Already, about 55 people from the counties of Barbour, Harrison, Marion, Monongalia, Preston, Taylor and Tucker have signed up for the workshop, but space is still available for additional participants. We hope more will take part. Among those who have signed up are local elected officials, including county commissioners -- even people from hospitals and school board officials.

The earlier portion of the workshop will involve discussion sessions, but the second half will include a "tabletop exercise," allowing participants to verbally work through their response to a surprise disaster scenario.

We are glad the planners of this workshop have addressed the problem of complacency, i.e., when people think disasters of a greater magnitude "happen to someone else, not to us."

It is the fourth of nine such workshops statewide. We hope the event at Tygart Lake State Park on Thursday will prove instructional to those in attendance, and that participants, in turn, will go back to their home counties and emphasize its importance.

Robert F. Stealey

Telegram Editorial Board chairman

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