KEYSER - During the scenario that took place on Saturday in Keyser, an earthquake shook the community of Keyser, and a train derailment at the North Main Street crossing blocked that part of the city from the rest of the downtown area.

By Jean Braithwaite
Tribune Correspondent
KEYSER - During the scenario that took place on Saturday in Keyser, an earthquake shook the community of Keyser, and a train derailment at the North Main Street crossing blocked that part of the city from the rest of the downtown area.
The mock situation was sponsored by the Mineral County Emergency Management, and served as a tool for training for the participants if such or similar emergency should ever occur in Keyser or surrounding areas.
Those taking part included first responders, county fire company personnel, law enforcement officials, emergency medical services, and Potomac Valley Hospital-WVU Medicine, and Luke McKenzie, director of Mineral County Office of Emergency Services, said that there were about 40 participants taking part in the activity.
McKenzie said the first emergency alert was recorded at 9 a.m. with a report of an earthquake and for about an hour the situation was handled at the 911 Center, then at 10 a.m., a report was received of a train derailment at the North End of Keyser.
He said the second emergency caused action to begin in Keyser, and “evacuation procedures started for the North End.”
A group of volunteer citizens served as the “victims,” with injuries received during the derailment.
Eight were situated on the North end of Keyser in three separate locations, and two of those received their injuries near to North Main Street and Mozelle Street.
One of those was Betty Jo Fazenbaker, who happened to be out for her morning walk. As the train that derailed supposedly had a cargo of chemicals, Fazenbaker had burning in both eyes and breathing difficulty.
Another volunteer citizen with injuries was Paul Johnston, and he had severe burning in both eyes and a piece of metal in his right arm.
Both had the understanding that a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled vehicle, a military-type piece of equipment known as a Humvee, would be used to assist with getting them and others to the West Virginia side of the Potomac River.
From that spot, a boat would be utilized to cross the river to McCoole, Maryland, as ambulances were waiting on the Maryland side to make the transports to the hospital.
McKenzie said ropes were attached to the rescue boats and pulled across the river.
While all this was happening, and according to McKenzie, a group of emergency personnel were actually on the Maryland side “with chainsaws cutting a path through the brush.”
The command post for the scenario was in front of the Mineral County Courthouse, and members of the New Creek Volunteer Fire Department said a call came in as a train derailment and first alerted was Fountain Volunteer Fire Company, who then “transferred the command over to company 38.”
Craig Cox, New Creek’s assistant chief, was in charge of the command center, and as the scenario began to unfold, numerous emergencies calls were received, dealing with panic attacks, asthma attacks, and breathing difficulties.
Jerry Hughes, a firefighter at the command center, said the training emergency happening in Keyser would only last for several hours, and he added, “If this was the real thing, it would take days to be cleared.”
McKenzie said that three times a year, mock emergencies take place in the county, with, “One being a tabletop activity and the second is a functional undertaking,” with both taking place at the 911 Center.
He said the third scenario is “full scale” such as what took place on Saturday.
MCKenzie said the mock emergency, “Was absolutely successful and went as well as it could,” mentioning his thankfulness to all the volunteers and first responders for their assistance.
He said any improvement with the mock emergency could have been in the area of “more man power and more equipment.”
Saying that dealing with an emergency at the North End of Keyser “could be a hard situation,” he added, “This scenario shadowed what Mineral County and the emergency people can do.”
“We were prepared and we were successful,” McKenzie said.
Karol Ashenfelter, City of Keyser council member who lives on the North End, said that during the scenario, “I was only an observer,” and was relieved that the scenario took place.
“I have been concerned about what might happen if both crossings were blocked and someone on our end of town has a heart attack,” she said.
Ashenfelter said, “We have a lot of disabled people over here,” as she gave to total number of people living in the North End of Keyser as 860.
Saying that the bridge from Keyser to McCoole “had no design for an access” out of that area of the city, she said, “There is no way other than a bridge over the Potomac.”
Ashenfelter said there would be options for a bridge across the river, with one in the same area where a temporary bridge was constructed and was used during the construction of the new bridge, “But Maryland doesn’t want to play ball.”
The other she mentioned was at the end of Main Street where the pilings still exist from a previous bridge.
Ashenfelter spent a brief time at the command center for the scenario, and she said, “I was very pleased” on how it all worked out.