Kentucky Guard troops prepare for National Earthquake Level Exercise

dwa

 

Kentucky Emergency Management and National Guard personnel met with federal, state and local authorities on Mar. 8 to discuss the upcoming national level exercise. Photo courtesy Kentucky Emergency Management.

Frankfort, Ky. – While the earthquake in Japan is making front page news, authorities in Kentucky have already started working plans to confront a similar crisis when – not if – a similar event occurs here at home.

.

Kentucky National Guard troops have developed a national reputation when it comes to disaster response, having supported such infamous emergencies such as the 1997 flood in Kentucky and the relief effort following Hurricane Katrina in the gulf.  They now get to test their mettle in a national level exercise that will involve thousands of personnel across at least eight states.

.

The exercise, which takes place the third week of May, will simulate an earthquake with a 7.2 magnitude on the Richter scale.  The focus will be on the New Madrid fault line, a familiar scenario for earthquake watchers and emergency responders.

Brig. Gen. John Heltzel addresses the team during the Mar. 8 workshop. Photo courtesy Kentucky Emergency Management.

.

“We’re here to plan on how we will save lives,” said Brig. Gen. John Heltzel, Kentucky Emergency Management director and the land forces commander for the Kentucky National Guard.  Heltzel spoke during a workshop held in Frankfort on Mar. 8.

.

“We are building bridges between those who will help and those who need help,” he said.

.

KYEM and the Kentucky Guard will host the May exercise, which will include participants from most every state government agency, the American Red Cross, the Army Corps of Engineers, local civil authorities and numerous volunteer agencies.  While just a few hundred Kentucky Guard Soldiers and Airmen will take part in the NLE, a real life event would most likely involve everyone in uniform.

.

“We’ve been working on this scenario long before the earthquake in Japan,” said Col. Wayne Burd, project officer for the NLE.  “We’re paying particular attention to the lessons learned there as well as the earthquakes in New Zealand and Chile.”

Col. Wayne Burd is the project officer for the upcoming National Level Exercise. Photo courtesy Kentucky Emergency Management.

.

The 2009 winter storm, for example, required Gov. Steve Beshear to call up more than 4,000 Kentucky National Guard troops, the largest mobilization in the state’s history.  A call up in support of a major earthquake would involve a much larger number of civilian and military resources across numerous states.

.

The keys to success during a major event involving New Madrid, said Heltzel, “are to coordinate, collaborate and communicate.  We need to respond with a massively parallel, decentralized action.  Lives are at stake and we take that very seriously.”

.

“The strength of the Guard is in our connection to the community,” said Burd.  “We have units in more than fifty counties across the commonwealth and our troops live in just about every city and town.  That gives us an extra incentive to get this right.”

The logistics team discusses their role in the national level exercise. Logistics played a major role in saving lives during the winter storm of 2009. Photo courtesy Kentucky Emergency Management.

###

About kentuckyguard