Vermont to Exercise Public Health Response to "Dirty Bomb"

*** This is an exercise. This is NOT a real event. ***

For Immediate Release:
May 29, 2009

Media Contact:
Vermont Department of Health
Communication Office
802-863-7281

Burlington — The Vermont Department of Health – along with multiple local, state and federal partners – will take part in a three-day (June 2 to 4) large-scale exercise designed to test emergency response to a simulated explosion of a "dirty bomb" in Albany, New York.

The exercise, known as Empire 09, is hosted by New York State and sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy / National Nuclear Security Administration. The scenario began on May 14 with a two-day tabletop exercise in Albany that covered the first 48 hours of response. On June 2, the exercise will pick up at day three following the simulated explosion.

Vermont's response will involve more than 120 expert personnel, along with equipment and support from the Department of Health, Agency of Natural Resources, Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets, Department of Public Safety, Department of Labor, the 15th Civil Support Team, EPA Region 1 and others to field 10 radiological sampling teams, a mobile lab (supplied by Connecticut), public health laboratory analysis and incident management.

The Vermont teams will be working from two main locations – the Vermont Police Academy in Pittsford and the Health Operations Center at the Health Department in Burlington – to evaluate and to prevent or minimize risk to people, livestock, crops and the environment.

An RDD or dirty bomb is a device that spreads radioactive materials with explosives. It is not a nuclear bomb. Because of the limited amount of radioactive material that can be contained in a dirty bomb, measurable health effects are unlikely.

"The possibility of a release of radiation is a frightening and challenging scenario, but participating in an exercise of this type is a valuable learning opportunity for all of us to test our plans, equipment, personnel and messages," said Health Department Commissioner Wendy Davis, MD. "We are thankful for the support and assistance of so many agencies and individuals dedicated to the health and safety of Vermonters."

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