Mock earthquake tests Virtual USA's information-sharing capabilities

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Jun 03, 2011

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate announced that its Virtual USA data warehouse played a key role in supporting the Central U.S. Earthquake Consortium (CUSEC) states and partners participating last month in a national-level exercise. During the exercise, CUSEC member states and partners leveraged Virtual USA to discover and share information throughout the region during a mock earthquake event in the New Madrid Seismic Zone.

Since January, Virtual USA officials worked with the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee, as well as FEMA Regions IV and VI, to plan the exercise. The CUSEC states and partners identified seven common data layers as critical when responding to an earthquake, and shared this information via Virtual USA. These included real-time status updates from emergency operations centers, hospitals, shelters, communications and power facilities, major highways and roads, as well as casualty reports.

The exercise was held a few weeks prior to the May 22 EF-5 tornado that killed 130 people in Joplin, Mo. — an eerie reminder that disasters strike at their own convenience. Indeed, the exercise let responders practice sharing information across agencies and jurisdictions to support regional recovery efforts.

To learn more, Associate Editor Mary Rose Roberts spoke with Jose Vazquez, director of fire-responder technologies for the DHS S&T. Vazquez explained the exercise's goals, how Virtual USA was used and lessons learned, including the importance of using databases to capture and disseminate information.

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