VT STRONG news – Office of the Governor reports 10.21.2019

Montpelier, Vt. – Nearly 500 emergency responders and officials from local, state and partner agencies will test their disaster recovery skills during Vermont’s fourth Catastrophic Exercise (CAT 4) from October 23-25. The exercise simulates the aftermath of a statewide catastrophic disaster and tests the ability to restore critical infrastructure.

CAT 4 will involve 19 cities and towns and 20 state and volunteer agencies from around Vermont. Unlike past exercises that practiced a response to an active natural disaster, this event will simulate the aftermath of a major storm on the scale of Tropical Storm Irene.

“We are constantly improving our response capabilities in order to ensure the safety of Vermonters during disasters,” said Governor Phil Scott. “Recovery is also vital for Vermonters. We have long planned for things like short- and long-term housing assistance, safeguarding against injury on damaged roads, health impacts of returning to a flooded home and other potential problems and this is our opportunity to put those into practice.”

The first day of the exercise will include search and rescue crews looking for “survivors” in the field after storm damage and shoring up damaged buildings.

The exercise will also include state and local coordination to solve short- and long-term recovery needs of residents affected by the storm. To that end, a Multi-Agency Resource Center will be simulated as a location for survivors to seek assistance from state agencies and non-profit organizations. The Vermont State Emergency Operations Center and several department operations centers will be activated for the duration of the exercise.

Over 130 Agency of Transportation workers will execute a new command system for assessing and evaluating state and local transportation infrastructure damage from four regional command centers and its headquarters. This will include the deployment of the new drone program focused on tasking, deployment, flight operations and mission video streaming to decision makers.

“We have learned valuable lessons from the recovery of Tropical Storm Irene and the 11 declared disasters since that time,” said Vermont Emergency Management Director Erica Bornemann. “We continue to incorporate those lessons into our plans and are looking forward to implementing them during CAT 4. Vermonters will benefit from better coordination that results from practicing the most complex phase of disasters.”

This exercise is the result of a two-year planning process and all Vermont municipalities were invited to participate. A report of strengths and areas for improvement will be produced after the exercise to guide in future planning and training.