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Emergency services to test disaster plan

By M.K. Luther -- mkluther@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- For a few hours Monday, Skyline High School will become a virtual safe haven from the storm and offer a reprieve from the ravages of a make-believe hurricane.

Warren County Fire and Rescue Services and the American Red Cross will perform a mock disaster trial at the high school from 9 a.m. until noon.

The emergency services teams will operate under a fictional scenario where the after-effects of a hurricane cut a wide swath across northern Warren County, causing mass power outages and forcing residential evacuations to a shelter in the southern portion of the county, said Capt. Marti Viggiano of Warren County Fire and Rescue.

"It will be as real as it can be," said Viggiano, who also serves as the county's deputy emergency coordinator.

The exercise is designed to test the county's disaster preparedness plan, with 30 civilian volunteers acting as resident evacuees.

The Warren County disaster preparedness plan is amended as required by state law every four or five years, Viggiano said. The most recent update to the county's plan made provisions for sheltering pets and small animals, but Viggiano said the new animal shelter arrangements would be practiced in theory only on Monday -- no pets will be brought to the mock trial.

The American Red Cross chapter will supply cots, necessary signs and registration forms. In the case of an actual disaster, the local Red Cross agency also would distribute food and water.

Basic disaster preparedness guidelines can be found on the county's emergency services Web site. The office of emergency management also has compiled essential home safety tips and disaster recovery plans for the public.

Skyline High School was originally built with the intention of being used as a shelter to add to the county's emergency locations, Viggiano said.

In addition to Skyline, the county maintains shelter sites at the Front Royal Fire Department, North Warren Fire Department, Shenandoah Farms Fire Department and South Warren Fire Department stations. Currently, pets can be sheltered at the Warren County Animal Shelter, Warren County Fairgrounds and Virginia Livestock on Rivermont Drive.

For more information, visit www.warrencountyfire.com.

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