Several state agencies including Virginia Tech will conduct an emergency response exercise on campus Aug. 26-27 testing the ability of the commonwealth to evacuate people and pets from other regions of the state.

The state has created the State-Managed Shelter (SMS) program that will utilize public university campuses to house evacuees from other parts of the commonwealth in the event of a major catastrophe. 

“This is a joint exercise with other state agencies to test our command and control abilities as well as the concept of housing evacuees and their pets from the far reaches of the state. The challenge will be meeting the needs of the evacuees while continuing the daily operations of the university,” said Mike Mulhare, director of emergency management at Virginia Tech .

The Departments of Social Services, Agriculture and Consumer Services, Health, Emergency Management and the Virginia State Police will be involved in the drill with Virginia Tech. 

“In the event of an emergency declaration requiring large-scale evacuations, the Commonwealth of Virginia is tasked with providing basic shelter and care for people and animal evacuees. Virginia Tech has been identified as a state location to house evacuees with pets – dogs and cats only,” said Marianne McGhee, Virginia Department of Social Services director of public affairs

The agencies will conduct the training exercise to assess emergency sheltering response plans, policies, and procedures during a mock hurricane event. During a real emergency Cassell Coliseum would become a dormitory, while pets would be housed at the Alphin-Stuart Livestock Arena. Several hundred people, including evacuee “actors” are expected to participate in the drill.

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