Governor Douglas Announces ‘Operation Red Clover’ to Improve Public Health Emergency Response

Major Exercise to be held August 2 - 4 in Burlington, St. Albans and Morrisville

State of Vermont

For Immediate Release: July 29, 2004

Contacts: Nancy Erickson
Department of Health

Jason Gibbs
Office of the Governor

BURLINGTON - For three days next week, the state of Vermont will conduct a large-scale test of its public health emergency response capability, Governor Jim Douglas announced today. This exercise is the largest of its kind ever conducted.

Dubbed ‘Operation Red Clover’ after the Vermont state flower, the exercise will pit an estimated 700 participants from the Department of Health, area hospitals, and multiple state and local agencies against a simulated outbreak of a deadly infectious disease.

The exercise scenario begins Monday morning, August 2, with simulated reports coming into the Health Department from three hospitals about patients just admitted with unusual symptoms.

Over the following hours and days, epidemiologists, public health nurses, microbiologists, infection control practitioners, hospital staff, physicians, nurses, government officials, emergency responders, local emergency managers, community members and many others will play out their various roles in the emergency posed by the simulated event.

“This is a very important exercise,” said Gov. James Douglas. “It’s critical to the continued safety of Vermonters that we put all of our emergency plans to the test. With funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Vermont Department of Health has been working hard to see that our public health and health care system is well-trained, well-organized, well-equipped and well-prepared.”

The focus of the exercise next week will be on the Health Department’s offices in Burlington, St. Albans and Morrisville. Other major participants are Fletcher Allen Health Care, Northwestern Medical Center, Copley Hospital, the Vermont National Guard, Vermont Emergency Management, and the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems.

“We must be ready for anything - from a natural disaster to an infectious disease outbreak, to an extreme act of biological, chemical or nuclear terrorism,” said Health Commissioner Paul Jarris, MD. “The international SARS epidemic of 2003 provided the latest real-life example of why we need to have a system ready to respond immediately and effectively to any threat to the health and lives of Vermonters.”

Key elements that will be tested during Operation Red Clover:

Operation Red Clover is the first in a planned series of large-scale exercises to test public health emergency preparedness and response. Although each event will focus on a particular threat, the overall goal is to enhance Vermont’s “all-hazards” approach to emergency response.