Long Path Toward Catastrophic Preparedness (part 1)

A post by Steve Cain upon his return from a Resource Allocation Workshop.

Hat’s off to the emergency managers from the eight states* who recently put together a Resource Allocation Workshop to plan for a New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ) event. Leaders from the eight states said they are not prepared for a 7.7 magnitude earthquake in the New Madrid area. This was a historic opportunity to bring together teams from each of the states who met with 15 distinct teams from federal and national agencies and organizations to close the gaps before the events happens.

In the plenary session, Brigadier General John Heltzel, Central U.S. Earthquake Consortium Board chair, said, “Gaps cost lives.”

As a part of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security team, we rolled up our sleeves for two-and-a-half days and met with the experts and examined the state’s resources for each of the 15 Emergency Support Functions (ESFs).

While Extension could play a role in all Emergency Support Functions that would be spreading already thin resources too thin. In Indiana, Purdue Extension contributes  as a supporting agency in ESF 6 – Mass Care, Emergency Assistance, Housing, and Human Services; ESF 11 – Ag and Natural Resources; and ESF 14 Long-term Community Recovery.

Observing the state, regional and national experts while they examined all 15 Emergency Support Functions showed that they have a mindset of 1) response and 2) “things.”  Maybe it was the nature of the scenario, but most of the discussions concentrated on response requirements for a major earthquake along the New Madrid fault line. That was probably a good thing because it took the entire 2.5 days. Conversations were focused on the Incident Command System, language, and the number of people and things the states would need from the federal partners to adequately address needs following an event of this kind. This workshop better enabled federal partners to hear states explain their capabilities and expectations, so that they can better plan for the provision of necessary support. It also allowed the states to understand the process through which federal support is provided (Mission Assignments, contract support, etc.). This type of workshop would be valuable just before hurricane season in some states. One can’t help but think, what might be accomplished if we had a second workshop that focused on mitigation and preparedness for the same event.

 

*The eight states were Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee.