Fort Eustis, Va. –
Members of JTF-CS gathered Friday to prepare for North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command’s exercise Ardent Sentry (AS-19), set to take place June 3-7, 2019, which will focus on a complex catastrophic earthquake along the New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ) as part of Defense Support of Civil Authorities.
“We would be responding in an austere environment without power,” said Army Maj. Gen. Bill Hall, commander, JTF-CS. “We need to focus on how we would be able to provide unity of effort as part of a whole-of-nation response and not culminate our efforts because we don’t have the resources to operate.”
According to the U.S. Geological Survey (1995) and 2018 NORAD and USNORTHCOM planning factors, the chance of having an earthquake of 6.0 or larger in the NMSZ in the next 50 years is about 25 to 40 percent. A significant NMSZ event happened on Dec. 16, 1811, when the area sustained a 7.7 earthquake centered on Blytheville, Arkansas.
In the proposed scenario, “Transportation up and down the Mississippi River would be affected; the largest number of projected casualties would occur in western side of Tennessee,” said Air Force Maj. Marcus Grant, a JTF-CS CBRN planning officer and bioenvironmental engineer.
The NMSZ exercise planning scenario is based on a 7.0 earthquake or higher to include after-shocks, occurring in winter and months affecting 12-million people in up to 200 cities. It involves four FEMA regions and eight states, said Grant.
The task force members reviewed the impacts to infrastructure with the NMSZ region having significant lacks in earthquake-resistant building standards, according to Grant.
With JTF-CS being the nation’s only standing CBRN joint task force, the members reviewed the possible impact to its core CBRN mission and the response tasks associated to include travel issues.
“In the event of an earthquake, much of the transportation routes would be likely severely degraded affecting how we would be able to provide assistance to civil authorities,” said Grant.
He cited destroyed roads, airports, bridges and waterways, crippling transportation and stranding survivors.
“Travel along the Mississippi River would be expected to be closed for 30 days or more,” said Grant.
The event closed with the commander reinforcing the training event with a story based on his Defense Support to Civil Authority participation during the past hurricane season and the stress involved in providing effective command and control.
“One of the most important things to be effective during a crisis is to gain and maintain situational understanding,” said Hall. “I thank you for your attention given to this key training event.”