Little Rock, Ark., May 17, 2011 -- Administrator Fugate (Center) meets with several members of the emergency management team in Little Rock, Ark. during the National Level Exercise, a simulated earthquake drill. They are meeting inside a Mobile Emergency Response Support vehicle, which was deployed for the simulation.
Monday at 10 a.m. EDT, we received simulated notifications that a catastrophic earthquake has struck the central United States – which means that the National Level Exercise 2011 was officially off and running. While our many partners participating in this exercise have long been aware of the basic premise of this event, we all immediately began to respond as we would in a real event. At FEMA, this meant we were doing simulated briefings with the governors and emergency management teams from the impacted states, to get ground truth about the extent of the damage and ensure that we were already coordinated and communicating as much as possible.
As part of the exercise, several federal agencies (including FEMA) are deploying staff to support the states’ simulated response efforts. FEMA liaison officers are working in the state emergency operations centers in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Arkansas, coordinating the federal response within the exercise. Some of the other developments within the exercise have been:
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is simulating an activation of the National Public Health and Radio Network to provide important information to survivors on how to protect themselves from health risks associated with the aftermath of the earthquakes.
- Approximately 9,000 National Guard Soldiers and Airmen on State Active Duty are supporting the simulated earthquake relief operations, including mock route clearing, search and rescue, and security operations across Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee.
- The Food and Drug Administration is providing information on food safety as part of the exercise.
- Voluntary agencies are also engaged, like the American Red Cross, who set up several simulated emergency shelters and mobile feeding operations.
As we noted on Monday, we are balancing this week’s exercise with the many real disasters we are currently working to respond to and recover from, supporting our state partners and the rest of the team. Having to conduct this exercise while dealing with flooding, the ongoing tornado recovery efforts, and other emergencies further underscores the purpose of the National Level Exercise and other drills – we have to test our abilities to respond to the worst case scenarios. In this case, testing our ability to respond to several devastating events at once will only strengthen our preparedness, especially going into what many expect to be a very active hurricane season.
Although some of our partners have understandably had to scale back their participation in NLE due to current disaster response efforts, this week thousands of players at more than 50 sites across the country are testing and following multiple emergency response plans and procedures at the federal, state and local levels. More than 355 people are controlling and evaluating each of these player sites. Also, over 140 observers are visiting player and control locations; including international, interagency, private sector, congressional and emergency management stakeholders.
In fact, some of our international stakeholders participating this week include Japan, Indonesia, Taiwan, Israel, Germany, Bolivia, Chile, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Romania, Thailand, the European Union, Peru, Brazil, and Trinidad and Tobago. After a year in which we have been reminded that disasters strike all of across the globe equally, and all nations can learn from each other, we are very glad to have them on hand for this exercise.
We also have representatives from some of our key partners in Congress, including observers from the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, the House Committee on Homeland Security, and the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
The first two days of NLE wrapped with all participating players on track with their various roles and responsibilities. We’ll continue to post updates on these activities throughout the week. For more information on NLE, visit www.ready.gov/nle2011.