fema shaken fury (FEMA photo)

A 7.7 Midwest Quake? FEMA and Partners Test Response in Shaken Fury Exercises

The Federal Emergency Management Agency tested this week how agencies will come together should the New Madrid Fault Line in the Midwest break loose.

The Shaken Fury exercises, ranging from tabletop to full-scale, incorporated the U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Northern Command, state and local governments, and the private sector. The scenario? A 7.7 magnitude earthquake epicentered near Memphis, Tenn.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, a temblor higher than 7.0 would, at the least, cause extensive damage: “Damage slight in specially designed structures; considerable damage in ordinary substantial buildings with partial collapse. Damage great in poorly built structures. Fall of chimneys, factory stacks, columns, monuments, walls. Heavy furniture overturned.”

And while scientists are making strides toward the goal of earthquake forecasting, Shaken Fury tested response mechanisms for a quake with no advanced notice. This allowed emergency managers to identify cracks and fill the resources gaps.

“Being prepared is fundamental to being resilient. As complex and interconnected as our infrastructure is, bringing organizations that would be involved in responding to widespread damage and disruption together is essential to building that shared preparedness and resilience posture,” Brian Harrell, assistant director for infrastructure security at the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), told HSToday as the exercises got underway.

“Understanding how disruptions cascade across infrastructure, and the role of private industry in responding and stabilizing our systems, is particularly important in major disasters such as the one we are exercising in Shaken Fury,” he added. “This cross-sector understanding is what CISA aims to provide through the newly established Emergency Support Function #14.” That was exercised alongside FEMA and interagency partners this week for the first time.

FEMA Deputy Administrator for Resilience Dan Kaniewski encouraged retrofitting and building resiliency — declaring on Twitter that “Mitigation saves!” — as he stopped in states simulating responses along the New Madrid Seismic Zone. He lauded the strong federal-state partnership in Kentucky on Monday, and was in Tennessee on Tuesday praising the Shaken Fury team there.

“An earthquake won’t shake our strong partnership,” Kaniewski said.

DHS S&T was also on the ground in both states, incorporating the Lifeline construct into state emergency operations center processes and supporting regional information sharing by enhancing the Central U.S. Earthquake Consortium portal.

Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15, a private investigator and a security consultant. She is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera and SiriusXM.

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