Video by Alanna Autler - Reporter
Written by Taylor Kuykendall - Reporter
When thousands of Boy Scouts descend on Southern West Virginia for the 2013 Jamboree, the thinly populated area in Fayette County will hold enough people to rival the population of any city in the state.
Instead of in-place communities with year-round infrastructure, this "city of Boy Scouts" will be made up of tented residences and staffed with volunteers from across the country. The camp is peppered with numerous medical treatment facilities and transportation outlets ready to deal with any issues that might arise.
The Jamboree is expected to attract up to 200,000 visitors in addition to around 40,000 Boy Scouts and another 10,000 volunteers. If some sort of disaster strikes the massive camp, are the state of West Virginia and the Boy Scouts of America prepared to handle it?
"We plan for events like this all the time," said Jimmy Gianato, director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management for West Virginia. "We have football games in Morgantown, we have the state fair, and we have the Greenbrier Classic that's going on now. So, 50,000 people is not a large number of people, but this is going for ten days and there is a lot of other activities going on associated with it."
For nearly two years, West Virginia has been meeting with federal and local officials to plan for "any potential scenario you can think of," Gianato said, including a major wind storm, epidemics or foodborne illness.
After meeting weekly, with just a few days left until the Jamboree kicks off, Gianato said the state is prepared.
"I feel fairly confident that we have the plans in place to make sure that everyone is well taken care of," Gianato said.
Gianato said the department's intention is to make "as enjoyable an event" as possible to showcase the assets of West Virginia. He said he is sure that at every level emergency agencies are prepared.
The details of emergency plans are, for security purposes, largely confidential. Gianato said the state has "plans on top of plans" for what to do should any sort of disaster strike, though numbers of injuries are difficult to predict.
"There's no history with this event at this site and the type of activities that are going to be held there," Gianator said. "We have sufficient military and civilian ambulances onsite that we can handle numerous injuries. There's also a medical facility on the site that can take care of the minor injuries that could occur during the day."
A proclamation from Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin days ahead of the Jamboree enables rapid deployment of additional emergency services to the nine counties where the Boy Scouts will be participating in various activities.
"As governor, one of my responsibilities is to promote public safety," Tomblin said. "With forty-thousand kids, scout leaders, and visitors attending the Jamboree, it is important for us to, as the Scout Motto says, Be Prepared."
Injury counts and the need for outside medical assistance are difficult to count ahead of the event.
Local hospitals are also readying for the Scouts' arrival. At the nearby Raleigh General Hospital, Phillip Bolt, trauma program coordinator, said they've run multiple trial runs. They are planning for about 100 additional patients for treatment due to the Boy Scouts presence.
Vacations over that nine-day period are off-limits while additional treatment areas are made available.
"Certain departments are automatically staffing extra people; other departments are placing employees on-call," Holt said. "Each department has developed an internal plan to meet the needs of a large surge of patients. Each project manager has crafted that and has been approved by the administration of the hospital."
Officials at Charleston Area Medical Center have also expanded bed space and conducted drills should their trauma services be needed.
The Department of Health and Human Resources is also aiding the Scouts by providing guidance on water and food safety issues, illness and injury prevention. A five-member team from the Bureau of Public Health will be on site to help consult on potential public health issues.
While the state does handle events of this size occasionally, one difference is that the Scouts are engaging in a number of activities that could be considered risky. On the other hand, the event is packed with young participants in an organization geared toward survival skills with adults trained to ensure there safety.
Mike Patrick, director of operations for the Summit Bechtel Reserve, said about 800 medical volunteers will be onsite in addition to military medical support.
The Scouts are hoping that the reduced average temperatures, about 12-15 degrees, of their new site will at least provide some relief. On one day at the 2005 Jamboree, the Associated Press reported that 300 people, mostly Scouts, suffered from dehydration, fatigue and lightheadedness when temperatures and humidity rose.
Air support and other transportation are also readily available for Scouts who might need to be transported to a nearby hospital. An inventory of nearby supplies of anti-venom and related treatments, Patrick said, has also been taken.
Much of the first aid and some advance treatment, Patrick said, could be conducted on-site.
"They'll have access to probably better medical care at the Jamboree than what they would typically have back home," he said.
However, what if the Scouts need to be moved away from the site?
"It's difficult to think of a scenario where we would have evacuation of the entire site, because we have everything we need right there," Patrick said. "Even a derecho, with downed trees and the loss of power, we have eight million gallons of potable water stored on the site, we've got gravity-fed toilets on the site, we've got generators, and we've got food for 14 days. Our best bet would be to stay right were we are."
If Scouts must be moved from the area quickly, Gianato said that there are multiple facilities lined up to handle the influx of Scouts, where they would be held until it was determined how best to return them.
"The likelihood of having to evacuate that entire site is very, very minimal," Gianato said. "It is planned and something we've looked at and will have in place."
The geography of the large site also allows the Boy Scouts to maneuver to different areas of the site. The Boy Scouts have about 10,600 acres, or about 16.5 square miles, to spread out and adapt to any unforeseen events.
If, for example, they were threatened by damaging winds, they could be moved to an area that was protected by one of several mountain ridges that run through the site.
While local disaster response is at the ready to help the Boy Scouts, Gianato said the state has also planned to ensure resources are available to respond both to Boy Scouts and residents should a broad disaster event occur.
"This is nothing different that what we do everyday with disaster response," Gianato said. "Those counties have some of the best emergency management personnel as anyone in the state. They're well-versed in handling disasters and emergency response, and they've been involved in the planning very early on."
If Scouts need to be moved, Patrick said, the transportation company contracted for the Jamboree, Transportation Management Services, is prepared. TMS was selected by the Boy Scouts due to its experience at other large events such as Super Bowls and the Olympics.
Patrick said they will be handling the daily transportation, the work of hundreds of buses. On the first day alone, 800 buses are expected to arrive, one every 45 seconds, to drop off Scouts at their camp sites.
"Some of the buses that will be bringing Scouts in from other parts of the country will then be staying in the area and providing the transportation we will need to get day visitors from the off-site parking to the Summit Center," Patrick said. "Then, in the event there was a need to move the Scouts in a short period of time, they would reach out to their resources and connections in the industry and call in additional assets from as far as Washington, D.C. and surrounding areas."
The Scouts, in the news release accompanying Tomblin's proclamation, said the state has been instrumental to creating a "spectacular and memorable event for everyone."
"This may be the first West Virginia Jamboree, but the agencies and officials providing support are outstanding professionals who are leaving nothing to chance," said BSA Jamboree Director Larry Pritchard. "Their support in all areas, from traffic control, emergency management and off-site security for our Scouts and visitors has been critical to the success of the Jamboree."