Kentucky Guard, Emergency Management partner for earthquake readiness

Story by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

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Charlie O’Neal, Assistant Director of Kentucky’s Emergency Management speaks to representatives from various state agencies to kickoff CAPSTONE-14 at the Commonwealth Emergency Operations Center in Frankfort, Ky., June 16, 2014. More than 20 state and local agencies gathered for the exercise which tested the state’s response to a major earthquake in the New Madrid Seismic Zone at the border of Kentucky and Missouri. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

FRANKFORT, Ky. —  During the winter of 1811-1812, the New Madrid fault line shook several times. The quakes were the strongest earthquakes east of the Rocky Mountains since Europeans settled the continent. The movement of the Earth reversed the flow of the Mississippi River and rang bells on the East Coast, more than 1,000 miles away. Two hundred years later, scientists say the seismic zone situated along the Kentucky-Missouri border is at high risk for another major earthquake at any moment.

To prepare for the possibility of a catastrophic event, Kentucky Emergency Management, the Kentucky National Guard and more than 20 other state and local agencies gathered June 16-20 in Frankfort for CAPSTONE-14. The multi-state exercise tested the state’s emergency response to a catastrophic earthquake along the fault line.

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Col. William A. Denny briefs members of the Kentucky National Guard on their roles during the CAPSTONE-14 exercise in Frankfort, Ky., June 16, 2014. The exercise brought the Guard together with more than 20 other agencies to discuss their response to a major earthquake striking the state in the future. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

 “CAPSTONE-14 offers Kentucky and our neighboring states the opportunity to build upon the existing partnerships and opportunities to identify unified real-world solutions for emergency response to a catastrophic event of this magnitude,” said Michael Dossett, KYEM Director.

Under the direction of the Central United Earthquake Consortium (CUSEC), CAPSTONE-14 took three years to plan and is based upon the occurrence of a damaging earthquake in the New Madrid Seismic Zone.  The consortium is made up the states which would be immediately affected by such an event and includes Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee.

Click here to see more photos from CAPSTONE-14.

A primary goal of the exercise was interoperability among the numerous agencies involved. Soldiers and Airmen of the Kentucky National Guard manned posts within the Commonwealth Emergency operations Center in Frankfort, but also put boots on the ground in earthquake response scenarios in the region.

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Members of the 41st Civil Support Team work with firefighters to recover a simulated casualty during training at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in Butlersville, Ind., June 17, 2014. The firefighters, known as Task Force One from Louisville, Lexington and Northern Kentucky departments trained with the 41st as part of CAPSTONE-14, a multi-state exercise that tested emergency response to a major earthquake in the New Madrid Seismic Zone. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

Members of the 41st Civil Support Team would be among the first called in. For CAPSTONE-14, the unit worked alongside civilian firefighters in search and rescue operations at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center (MUTC) in Indiana.

Doing this in an exercise such as CAPSTONE allows us to experience the challenges that will be present during a real incident and gives us the opportunity to develop procedures to combat issues now instead of when a real threat hits,” said Capt. Steve Smith, team leader with the 41st.

“While the state of Kentucky would drastically be affected by a seismic incident on the New Madrid fault, it should give the citizens a little more comfort knowing that Search and Rescue organizations and the National Guard are being proactive in taking steps to work together prior to any incident,” said Smith.

Kentucky Guardsmen with the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and High Yield Explosive (CBRNE) Enhanced Response Force Package, or CERFP would also hit the ground quickly. The unit’s mission would assist in the location and extraction of victims from collapsed structures and the treatment of a mass casualty scenario. CERFP Soldiers and Airmen also trained at MUTC in conjunction with their counterparts from the Indiana and Georgia National Guard.

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Staff Sgt. Joseph Bigelow, a crew chief for the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Contingency Response Group, marshals a Kentucky Air National Guard C-130 Hercules during CAPSTONE-14, a homeland earthquake-response exercise at Fort Campbell, Ky., on June 17, 2014. The 123rd CRG is joining with the U.S. Army’s 688th Rapid Port Opening Element to operate a Joint Task Force-Port Opening here from June 16 to 19, 2014. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Air Guardsmen with Kentucky’s 123rd Airlift Wing flew into regional airports in Western Kentucky to assess runway conditions and ensure a cargo hub could be set up for relief efforts into the damaged area. The wing worked with local officials and an active duty U.S. Army unit in their part of the exercise.

“The cooperation and interaction we have had this week is a critical part of what would be our response to such an event,” said Col. William A. Denny, plans and operations officer for the Kentucky Guard. “We must remain partners in our service to the commonwealth and CAPSTONE-14 has shown us what we have done right and what we can improve.”

“This is a scenario we don’t ever want to see, but when it happens, the Kentucky Guard will be there side by side with those who can best aid the state and the region.”

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