Martin immediately suspended the drill, and ordered the software switched from a training mode to an operational mode. The two dozen representatives of emergency response agencies on hand for the drill began working 12-hour shifts, which will continue at least through Sunday.
Agencies represented in the center include the FBI, National Guard, U.S. Coast Guard, State Police, State Fire Marshal, state Department of Health and Human Resources, the state Division of Highways and the American Red Cross.
Wise said he ordered the drill to take place in conjunction with the anniversary of the terrorist attacks, to have the response system up and running should a real threat take place.
"I'm very confident this Sept. 11 will be much safer than last year's" said Martin. "We're much better prepared than we were then."
Emergency response improvements that have taken place in West Virginia during the past year include:
The establishment of bi-weekly, information-sharing homeland security meetings with other states and federal agencies.
The identification of potential terrorist targets within the state, and the installation of security systems to better protect them.
The updating of a comprehensive state anti-terrorism plan.
The establishment of the West Virginia Watch program, designed to allow citizens to help law enforcement official by reporting suspicious activity, in 35 counties.
The increase in security forces for special events such as Bridge Day, which will have four times the previous number of officers on hand for this year's event.
The development and distribution of 400,000 copies of "Getting Ready: A Family Emergency Guide," a booklet offering practical advice on how to cope with natural disasters or incidents of terrorism.
The acquisition of a new mobile command center for the Office of Emergency Services.
The creation of a five-member, full-time State Police special operations unit of bomb technicians.
Legislation increasing penalties for making threats of terrorist acts and terrorist hoaxes. It is now a felony to "knowingly and willfully" threaten to commit a terrorist act, punishable by possible prison terms of up to three years. It is also a felony to create a terrorist hoax, punishable by prison terms of up to five years.
The receipt of a $10 million grant to pay for the development of effective responses to public health threats.
To contact staff writer Rick Steelhammer, use e-mail or call 348-5169.