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July 13, 2016

Press Release: Vigilant Guard Vermont State Catastrophic Exercise


Press Release


Vermont Department of Public Safety: Division of Emergency Management & Homeland Security

Vermont Department of Health

Vermont National Guard


July 13, 2016

3:00 p.m.


Mark Bosma, VT DEMHS, 802-839-6717

Major Christopher Gookin, VT National Guard, 802-338-3324

VT Department of Health Communications Office, 802-863-7281

Vigilant Guard statewide emergency exercise to commence July 25-August 2

Vermont statewide exercise includes local, state, and federal responders

WATERBURY, VT – 5,000 emergency responders will take part in Vermont's largest ever emergency exercise later this month.  Individuals involved in emergency response on the local, state, and federal levels will be tested in the face of extreme circumstances as part of Vermont's Vigilant Guard catastrophic emergency exercise.


The simulation will play out in 50 locations throughout Vermont and include state agencies, local communities, 16 hospitals, the Burlington Airport, and the Vermont National Guard among many others.  Three years in the planning, its goal is to evaluate performance and identify gaps that may exist in the state's response to a catastrophic event.


"Our emergency response capabilities are strong in Vermont," Governor Peter Shumlin said.  "Among all levels of government, non-profits, and the private sector we work as one to protect Vermonters.  This exercise will strengthen that response and we ask for Vermonters' cooperation and understanding during this exercise as they will likely see increased Guard, emergency management, and first responder activity."


The exercise will begin on July 25 and take place over nine days.  Emergency Operations Centers at several state agencies and the National Guard will be activated at different times during the week, and the exercise will culminate with a 53 hour around-the-clock activation at the State Emergency Operations Center involving all agencies.


"We've designed this exercise to pose as many real challenges as possible," DEMHS Director Christopher Herrick said.  "Urban search and rescue teams will work with the National Guard to clear tons of debris, the Health Department will receive and distribute Strategic National Stockpile medicines and supplies, and actors will inundate hospitals and shelters needing assistance.  This degree of realism will help us hone our response by identifying not only what went right, but what went wrong and rectifying those mistakes in the future."


The goal of every emergency exercise is to identify gaps in response so they can be filled in through additional training and planning.


National Guard vehicles will be on the road and in the sky during the event, and hundreds of members of the Guard will perform emergency tasks for which they have trained.


"Responding to state emergencies is an important mission for the National Guard.  It may be the most important mission we do.  Testing our ability to support state and local authorities is very important to making sure we are ready to help when the Governor calls."


The Vermont Department of Health will play a major role during the exercise.  A simulated health emergency will test that department's ability to respond and distribute life-saving medications.


"The Health Department is committed to emergency preparedness," said Health Commissioner Harry Chen, MD. "Nearly every one of our staff will be involved in one way or another during the exercise. Because whether it's a natural disaster like Irene, or disease like a novel strain of flu, or a cyber-attack, or any combination of catastrophes, we must have a system that's ready to respond to any threat to the health and lives of Vermonters and visitors."


Should a real emergency occur the public will be notified through traditional means like Vermont Alert (, the Emergency Alert System, or through the media.


The Vermont Division of Emergency Management & Homeland Security (DEMHS), the Vermont Department of Health, and the National Guard began planning the exercise in June 2013. 


Specific details of the exercise will remain confidential as players cannot know those details before being evaluated during the exercise.  However, accommodations will be made for the press in order to allow them to cover the event.

The exercise is still in need of actors for the simulation - if interested contact 

**Photos of today's press conference announcing the event are available from the National Guard or DEMHS.

Vigilant Guard Facts and Numbers – July 13, 2016


·        Full-scale exercise July 25 – August 2, 2016 in multiple Vermont locations to evaluate emergency workers' abilities to respond to catastrophic event.

·        5,000 participants

·        50 sites

·        9 days

·        List of participants (not a complete list)


Town of Colchester

Town of Guilford

Town of Lyndon

City of Newport

Town of Wilmington

Town of Windsor

·        Department of Public Safety

o   Division of Emergency Management & Homeland Security

o   Division of Fire Safety

o   Urban Search and Rescue

o   Vermont State Police

·        Agency of Agriculture

·        Agency of Commerce and Community Development

·        Agency of Transportation

·        Department of Health

o   District offices

·        Other state agencies at the Vermont Emergency Operations Center

·        16 VT Hospitals

·        Vermont National Guard

·        Civil Air Patrol

·        National Weather Service

·        Burlington International Airport

·        Red Cross

·        Vermont 2-1-1

·        Vermont Electric Cooperative

·        Federal Emergency Management Agency

·        Centers for Disease Control

·        Simulation includes

o   Emergency Operations Centers and in the field

o   Natural disaster response and recovery

o   Medical surge

o   Strategic National Stockpile distribution

o   Cyber

o   Others (cannot be revealed before exercise to ensure surprise and a true representation of performance for evaluation.)


Mark Bosma

Public Information Officer

VT Division of Emergency Management & Homeland Security

(802) 839-6717