A Really Big Earthquake Rehearsal (Memphis)
In June 2019, probably, the next big exercise for the Central U.S. Earthquake Consortium (cusec.org) will take place. The most recent rehearsal of the New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ) was called Capstone-14 and involved hundreds of emergency managers, GIS technical experts, and response teams. From the 8 states directly damaged by the expected seismic event, as well as the surrounding states where resources would be requested from and refugees may flee in some cases. Major financial support came from the DHS (since 2003 FEMA has been a big part of the Department of Homeland Security), with technical help from the NISC (National Informational Sharing Consortium) and their biggest corporate sponsors, ESRI and G & H International.
The overall feeling of the weeklong activity is recorded in their 8-minute video of Capstone-14, but the months of preparing, as well as the weeks of debriefing, writing the AAR (after action reports) and the lasting lessons learned for future uses probably were more valuable than the hours of activity during the scenario week in 2014. Again for the 2019 exercise there will be much discussion of scenario surprises, communication requirements to coordinate so many different teams and states, and the emergent tools of drones and growing uses for social media, as well as talk about the lessons learned in 2014 to create a complicated exercise that develops over time (real time or skipping forward 72 hours, one week or 2 weeks, perhaps), and creates emotional reality and relevance to test the skills of all participants. The benefits go beyond the main scenario of a large earthquake, though, because planners, evaluators, and teams in the field create communication habits and decision-making structures that also work in smaller, real-life emergencies that require several levels of control or multiple boundaries for emergency response to be coordinated.
According to the CUSEC executive director, Jim Wilkinson, there are at least two aspects of the Capstone-14 exercise that they want to improve for the future event in 2019. One is to integrate the USGS and other geological experts in order to know the full types of damage at the start and in the days of aftershocks that will follow. The other element to build in to the 2019 exercise is international observers who can see the operation from a different point of view than the responders and emergency managers from the USA. So if you are part of the emergency planning and response community, then you may want to contact CUSEC for more information the coming months!