GREAT FALLS – Vigilant Guard is a National Guard Bureau exercise that is conducted in four states each year, and it will be held in and around Great Falls starting next week.

Disaster & Emergency Services State Training Officer Rick Forkel says Montana has been planning for the exercise for the past two years.

“All of that gives the local agencies a lot of opportunities to practice certain things and activate emergency operations plans and validate processes,” Forkel said.

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Forkel said that Cascade County and the City of Great Falls have stepped up to take advantage of the exercise.

The exercise will start with an earthquake that takes place in the western part of Montana, which causes dam failures leading to Great Falls.

There will be a joint information center, shelters, and evacuations to other cities in the state.

Along with local assets and Montana National Guard, personnel from Malmstrom Air Force Base will also participate in the exercise.

“There will be some exercise emergency messaging going out to the community. Today we are deciding how that is going to look and what platforms we are going to use,” Forkel said.

Vigilant Guard deputy director Lt. Col. Daniel McGee said that one of the things Great Falls residents will see is a mock chemical spill that takes place at or near the Calumet Refinery in Great Falls.

“We will respond to that with the local authorities. Then some helicopters will come in, pick up those people and move them up here and medevac out. Basically there will be some helicopter activity down there on Monday and Tuesday of Vigilant Guard. That will be the biggest thing where people will see helicopters landing in the Westgate Mall parking lot,” McGee said.

The majority of the exercise will take place in Cascade County, but hospitals in Billings, Kalispell, and Missoula will also be participating as well.

Vigilant Guard will start on Friday, March 2nd, and run through March 7th.

Reporting by Margaret DeMarco for MTN News

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