Friday, November 15, 2013

Vigilant Guard

Maine CDC staff recently participated in a five-day full-scale disaster response exercise. The Vigilant Guard exercise began with a briefing to the Initial Response Team on Monday, Nov. 5, and concluded on Friday, Nov. 8.

Vigilant Guard is a national-level exercise conducted four times a year by the National Guard Bureau and the United States Northern Command in conjunction with civilian first responders and local governments around the United States. This year, Maine was chosen to participate in Vigilant Guard. The response to participate from Maine's emergency preparedness and health care communities was impressive. Maine CDC participated along with multitude of partners including the Maine Emergency Management Agency, local EMA, Regional Resource Centers, physicians and hospitals, EMS, Civil Air Patrol, National Guard, hospitals, police, and fire departments. Federal partners from FEMA and US CDC as well as partners from other states and Canada participated as well.

Maine CDC's Public Health Emergency Preparedness team has been planning this exercise with our health care partners for well over a year to test our response capabilities and identify any gaps in those capabilities. The exercise scenario was developed in collaboration with Maine CDC's Infectious Disease and Medical Epidemiology programs in order to develop a plausible and realistic scenario that would push our response capabilities to the breaking point.

The exercise scenario involved an intentional release of anthrax, which allowed us to test our request process with US CDC regarding receiving assets from the Strategic National Stockpile. We also tested the delivery, receipt, and distribution of medical countermeasures to closed and open Points of Dispensing (PODs) statewide. In addition to responding to the anthrax scenario, the Public Health Emergency Operations Center (PHEOC) also provided support to health care facilities for numerous simulated mass casualties, hazardous materials incidents, major blizzards, freezing temperatures, and significant power outages statewide.

The Public Health Emergency Preparedness staff would like to thank everyone who helped us plan for this exercise as well as those staff members who placed their regular work duties on hold in order to staff the PHEOC during the exercise. We could not have done it without your help!

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