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Missouri Air Guard joins partners in earthquake exercise

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Whitney Erhart,
  • 131st Bomb Wing

ST. LOUIS – To survive a natural disaster and then later be injured or killed in a building collapse is an avoidable situation. The Missouri Air National Guard and state and local partners participated in a regional earthquake exercise Oct. 2 to prevent that from happening.

The event prepared first responders for the possibility of a catastrophic earthquake occurring in the New Madrid Seismic Zone, which is centered in southeast Missouri.

Participants assessed buildings on-site with simulated earthquake damage using digital technology to generate live reports. They used small drones to capture aerial views of the buildings used in the exercise.

“Mission readiness is a big part of what we do,” said Jeff Briggs, earthquake program manager for the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA). “Our people have to train and recertify every three years, and working with the National Guard helps mission readiness because of the training and equipment they bring to the table.”

SEMA helps coordinate activities of the Missouri Structural Assessment and Visual Evaluation (SAVE) Coalition, a group made of more than 1,000 people statewide, including engineers, architects and building inspectors.

“The National Guard is an important partner for the SAVE Coalition,” said Briggs. “Any time we can build on and improve the partnership that our agencies have, that’s really significant. The partnerships that we’re making here today help us work together better. This will pay dividends in the long run when we have a real emergency.”

About 100 participants from the SAVE Coalition, the Missouri Department of Public Safety and Emergency Management, Indiana Building Emergency Assessment and Monitoring, the United States Air Force Auxiliary Civil Air Patrol, the 231st Civil Engineer Flight, the 635th Forward Engineer Support Team-Main, and the Central U.S. Earthquake Consortium were involved in the exercise.

Many buildings in eastern and southern Missouri would likely sustain damage if a disastrous earthquake were to occur in the New Madrid Seismic Zone,  the most active seismic zone east of the Rocky Mountains. Scientists predict a 25% to 40% chance of a major earthquake in this zone in a 50-year timeframe.