Missouri National Guard hosts New Madrid Seismic Zone Workshop
By Bill Phelan, Missouri National Guard Public Affairs
/ Published September 23, 2009
St. Louis -- The Missouri National Guard is hosting a conference this week designed to coordinate the emergency response of eight states in the event of a catastrophic earthquake in the New Madrid Seismic Zone.
Guard officials and representatives of civilian agencies in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas are now attending the first New Madrid Seismic Zone Workshop at the Millennium Hotel in St. Louis.
Col. Glenn Hagler, Missouri National Guard joint chief of staff, characterized the conference as an opportunity for each state within the zone to identify their capabilities to deal with a magnitude 6.5 or greater earthquake along the New Madrid Fault.
"Need minus capability leaves a gap," Hagler said. "The purpose of this workshop is to define those gaps and then fill them with capabilities from the National Guards of other states or from the Department of Defense. We want to mitigate the risk through planning so that the gaps - the needs identified through analysis - will be addressed. "
Hagler said the gaps in each state's capabilities could differ greatly.
"It may not be that we need to provide food for somebody, but we might be needed to truck food from one point to another," he said. "Maybe we won't need to provide water, but we might be needed to repair a bridge in order to get that water to where it needs to go."
Col. Mark A. McCarter, head of strategic plans, policy, joint training and exercises for the Missouri National Guard, pointed out that a response capability gap in one state could be filled by National Guard troops from another. After a catastrophic earthquake Indiana might need additional troops because of deployments, while another state might need more helicopters or communications units.
"In Missouri we would face a significant logistics requirement and we would need additional medical support," McCarter said.
According to Dr. David Rogers, a geological engineer at the Missouri University of Science and Technology and a featured speaker at the conference, the National Guard is uniquely qualified to respond to earthquakes and other natural disasters.
"That's because the National Guard has combat engineering familiarity and background and in a combat situation you don't control the cards you are dealt," Rogers said. "The response in an emergency situation has to be fluid and capable of changing. There is no manual for disaster response."
Rogers pointed out that an earthquake along the New Madrid fault in southeast Missouri could trigger earthquakes in two other seismic zones in Illinois. Such a scenario would result in infrastructure and economic damage that could take 10 years to recover from, he said.
"All the more important that we unify the military response and identify the shortfalls in each state," McCarter said. "It's going to be a very big deal for each unit to come prepared with everything you need. We have to prescript our available forces, promote communication, identify issues that need to be addressed and develop solutions to those issues."
For more information about the Missouri National Guard, please call 1-888-GoGuard or visit www.moguard.com.