Plague Outbreak Simulation in Brattleboro, VT, Part of Vigilant Guard Exercise

VT National Guard & VT Dept. Health Simulate Plague Outbreak in Brattleboro

By Rene Thibault |

Published 07/28 2016 05:07PM

Updated 07/28 2016 05:07PM

Copyright 2016 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

In Safety Matters, the medical supplies are in.  Now it's time to get them to the public.  We continue a behind-the-scenes look at how state agencies work together during a simulated medical outbreak.  It's all part of the statewide Vigilant Guard emergency response training.

"We are exercising that we have a public health emergency and we need to dispense meds very quickly to the population," said Pamela Corbett, a member of the State Department of Health.  If and when Vermont is tested, time will be of the essence and lives maybe on the line.  In this case, the Vermont Department of Health looks for help to get medicine to the public.

That's where the Vermont National Guard comes in.  "We would then need to look at our own resources in the National Guard and whether they're wheeled vehicles or potentially even helicopters, to move goods around the state," said Major General Steven Cray, Commander of the Guard.  Thursday his troops were in charge of moving medical supplies to 5 pod sites throughout Vermont.  They used several Blackhawk helicopters to do it.

"We have in place at all times, memorandums of understanding with facilities to operate mass vaccination or dispensing clinics," stated Corbett.  She's acting Task Force Leader for the Brattleboro POD (Point of Distribution).  She's got 40 Health Department employees working with her, getting supplies ready for a simulated plague outbreak that's hit Vermont.  "They're {patients} filling out medical information forms.  We're verifying the medical information is correct, the info we need, then we're giving them their meds," Corbett added.

"We know any disaster potentially overwhelms the normal, everyday capabilities, whether it be drugs we have to get from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) because there's not enough on hand, or whether it be actually hospital beds for instance," said Dr. Harry Chen, Commissioner of the State Health Department.  Dr. Chen says this exercise, part of Vigilant Guard, will test their ability to mobilize a POD site, work with patients, and get them medicines quickly.

The exercise tests the ability of state agencies to work together.  "Those hospitals or Points of Distribution members are actually going to meet us and greet us and receive those materials, it brings a level or realism to our training," said General Cray.

The process is aimed at helping the state identify areas to improve, should a real medical outbreak happen.  "This is a very beneficial exercise, for us to be able to say to Vermonters we're practicing so we can be ready to protect the health of Vermonters," added Dr. Chen.

The four other POD sites running simulations throughout the state include Essex Junction, St. Albans, Rutland, and Barre.  An after action report will be written at the conclusion of the Vigilant Guard exercise, to grade how well the state performed, and identify areas to improve.

Thursday's Health Department scenarios will be a part of that report.

Copyright 2016 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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