"It was a real learning experience. I think it went real well," said Gary Epperson, director of Winchester-Clark County Emergency Management. "We had a mission set out in front of us to do today, and I think we accomplished our mission without any problem."
Three types of chemical weapons are stored at the depot, including mustard gas, and the nerve agents VX and GB, also known as sarin. Sarin was developed in Germany in 1938 and has since been used in warfare and terrorist attacks in Japan, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"That's really the most dangerous thing at the depot that can get off post," Epperson said. "A CSEPP event would be a major event It's going to be an international event."
In this year's training scenario, a one ton storage tank containing GB was damaged, causing the chemical to leak and form a gaseous plume that drifted for several miles south of the depot.
The local response included representatives from nearly every government department, Clark County schools and Clark Regional Medical Center.
Regulating evacuation traffic, setting up shelters and decontaminating victims were Clark County's main tasks. Officials established decontamination posts at the Winchester Fire-EMS Department's Maple Street station and the Clark County Fire Station on Barnes Drive. Students from Winchester Christian Academy served as "victims"
"It actually gives us a chance to prepare for the real thing, not only for CSEPP, but also for any hazardous materials," said Winchester Fire-EMS Chief Daniel Castle. "It makes us better prepared. This kind of exercise you just can't duplicate."
Other officials gathered at the Emergency Operations Center at the Winchester Police station, where Clark County's response was coordinated with surrounding counties. Each official manned a phone line while a log of emergency actions was displayed on large monitors in the room.
Information about the disaster was disseminated in real-time.
Clark County Judge-Executive Henry Branham, who participated in the exercise for the first time this year, said the drill created a sense that a real disaster was occurring.
"It was interesting to see how everything was put together," he said.
Mayor Ed Burtner said CSEPP also allows all the emergency agencies to practice response to a mock disaster in a real setting. He noted that Clark County maintains a greater level of cooperation among its response teams then most other communities and jurisdictions.
"It has a broader application for hurricanes or flooding events or ice storms any other natural disaster that comes along," Burtner said.
He credited the local emergency agencies, department heads and Epperson for a drill that went "very well."
Federal evaluators were on hand to rate the local performance and suggest any areas for improvement. However, the evaluators were already giving Clark County high marks on Wednesday.
Epperson said the overall group of 10 counties still has some issues to work out with regard to communication and coordination.
But he said: "We'll address those things as we learn from them, and hopefully we will resolve them before next year's exercise. It's a continual learning process."