Civil Air Patrol participated in an exercise Monday with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Northern Command, the National Guard Bureau and other federal and state agencies called Ardent Sentry 11, a major homeland security and disaster response exercise that tests emergency responders’ ability to handle a massive earthquake in America’s Midwest, along the New Madrid fault.
The exercise was executed from an Area Command Post in Little Rock with secondary Incident Command Posts set up in the affected states of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee.
The exercise began with a simulated earthquake of 7.7 magnitude that hit near Mark Tree, Ark., at approximately 9 a.m. Central time and followed by a 6.0 magnitude earthquake near Mount Carmel, Ill. Civil Air Patrol activated aircrews and ground crews to respond to the simulated disaster as needed.
Though not typically associated with major earthquakes, the New Madrid fault is home to one of the nation’s more active seismic zones, stretching 150 miles across Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky. Earthquakes there can also affect Mississippi and Indiana.
The region’s last massive quakes, ranging from magnitude 7.0 to 8.6, hit in 1811 and 1812 and literally created new geographical features in the region. But on the 200th anniversary of those quakes, the concern is that the area along the New Madrid fault, now far more populated and developed, may be unprepared.
The national exercise included a number of federal, state and local agencies and a large contingent of CAP members. As many as 36 CAP planes and aircrews were involved from six wings — Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky — and four CAP regions. The New Madrid plan also includes support from the Alabama, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina and Texas wings.
All CAP wings have agreements with their state governments to respond in the event of earthquakes measuring at least magnitude 6.0 by assisting with initial disaster assessments and gathering information for governors who may be requesting a Presidential Disaster Declaration.
CAP’s primary role is providing aerial reconnaissance for photography and assessment of damage and conditions on the ground. Exercises like Ardent Sentry help responders hone their skills before an actual major disaster strikes, CAP officials said. Lessons learned from last year’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill response efforts will be implemented in this exercise and other emergency response plans.
Though similar exercises have been conducted for the last two decades to prepare for any repeat of the 1811-1812 New Madrid quakes, new concepts and technologies are constantly emerging and must be factored into recovery efforts and operations, officials add. This time, aerial photography systems like CAP’s Airborne Real-time Cueing Hyperspectral Enhanced Reconnaissance (ARCHER), as well as full-motion video provided by the organization’s new Geospatial Information Interoperability Exploitation Portable (GIIEP) Go-Kits, were used for damage assessment.
Civil Air Patrol, the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, is a nonprofit organization with more than 61,000 members nationwide. CAP, in its Air Force auxiliary role, performs 90% of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and was credited by the AFRCC with saving 113 lives in fiscal year 2010. Its volunteers also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. The members play a leading role in aerospace education and serve as mentors to the more than 26,000 young people currently participating in CAP cadet programs. For more information: www.gocivilairpatrol.com