Catastrophic Exercise Drill to be Held in Newport

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NEWPORT — It’s a frightening scenario. An illness spreads across the state of Vermont, or a catastrophic disaster occurs, causing mass amounts of people to seek emergency treatment at their local hospital. The hospital will be overwhelmed, and forced to open up a medical surge site. At the same time, there will be people showing up needing a place to stay.

North Country Hospital will be exercising their medical surge and mass care plan during the first week of June, as part of a statewide Catastrophic Exercise (CATEX) drill. This is the 2nd CATEX in Vermont and simulates a real disaster event to help first-responders and supporting agencies practice emergency preparedness functions.

Richard Cogliano, the Southern Exercise Planner for the Homeland Security Section of Vermont Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (DEMHS), can’t give away any scenario details, but says that the exercise would recreate an illness effecting different parts of the state.

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“It could be something as simple as a flu, however, in the scenario that will take place in June, we’re not using the flu,” Cogliano said. “But, you could have a widespread illness causing people to look for fluid or anti-virals, and the local emergency room would not have room for everyone.”

The Vermont DEMHS is looking for actors in Newport to take part in the exercise. In total they will need 35 people to volunteer. The volunteers will play the part of someone who is sick or needing shelter, but they will not know what their symptoms are until the event is about to start.

“We will be holding an actor briefing ahead of the exercise, to tell volunteers what role their playing and what symptoms they have,” Cogliano said. “We will also go over different rules of the day and discuss safety issues as well.”

No payment is given to volunteers, but they will receive a meal.

“The exercise is not based on any specific instances that have happened in the past, but it is one that’s plausible,” Cogliano said.

If you are interested in volunteering to be an actor in the exercise, contact Richard Cogliano at: [email protected]

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