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Offline Effie Trinket

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National Level Exercise 2011: Lessons Learned and a Look Behind the Scenes
by Elaine Pittman on July 19, 2011

In late 1811, a magnitude 7.7 earthquake shook the New Madrid Seismic Zone, stretching across Southern and Midwestern states. It was followed by two earthquakes in 1812 ranging from magnitude 7.5 to 7.7, six aftershocks ranging from magnitude 5.5 to 6.3 within the first two days and hundreds more aftershocks were felt into 1813. The earthquakes caused geographic changes that can still be seen today: Reelfoot Lake was formed in Tennessee and a piece of Kentucky was disconnected from the state. “Stories are told that the Ohio River actually ran backward when New Madrid fired off 200 years ago,” said Brig. Gen. John Heltzel, director of the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management.

Two centuries later, that scenario was the basis for National Level Exercise (NLE) 2011, one of the largest emergency exercises in U.S. history and the first of its scale to simulate a natural disaster. For five days in May, eight states, four FEMA regions, and thousands of emergency managers and first responders from all disciplines and levels of government responded to a magnitude 7.7 earthquake that struck near Marked Tree, Ark., and this time had the potential to cause massive damage to modern-day infrastructure.

The states that participated in the NLE — Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee — all can be impacted by the New Madrid Seismic Zone. Mandated by Congress and directed by the White House, the NLE is a Tier I exercise that’s conducted annually in accordance with FEMA’s National Exercise Program.

“NLE 11 was the first of a series that was focused on a natural hazard versus a terrorism nexus,” said FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate. “It was also the largest exercise involving participants from multiple states, local governments and federal partners, and a real emphasis with our faith-based and [nongovernmental] organizations, as well as with the private sector.”

Two States, Two Approaches

The exercise kicked off May 16, but preparation had been ongoing for more than a year. In addition, the Central U.S. Earthquake Consortium spent two years creating a catastrophic response plan for the states, Heltzel said. The NLE provided an opportunity not only for the states and local governments to test their emergency response plans, which includes working with the four FEMA regions and federal partners, but also for the region to put its plan into action.

Although the participating states responded to the same overarching scenario, they exercised their capabilities differently. Arkansas wanted  the exercise to be as realistic as possible, said David Maxwell, director of the state’s Department of Emergency Management. “The state played three days at 24 hours,” he said. “So we actually turned off the power to the building, ran on generators for three days, and the first two days we had no communications except satellite phones, ham radio and that sort of thing.”

Arkansas wanted to test several objectives, including communications, and Maxwell said playing without modes that people have grown accustomed to like cell phones and e-mail was stressful. Although the 700/800 MHz system came back online fairly quickly, the way the satellite system was set up proved problematic, though Maxwell did not divulge the details.

The state also had issues with getting resources on a push basis rather than a pull basis, according to Maxwell. “We thought we would have some flowing to us automatically,” he said. “Getting that taken care of and knowing that we can count on resources pushed to us to the point that we say, ‘No more,’ or we’ll turn them around and pay for it, is the point that we want to get to.”

The states in FEMA Region VI, which includes Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, have an agreement that’s similar to an Emergency Management Assistance Compact, and Maxwell said assumptions had been made that resources would automatically go to the disaster-stricken state. But that wasn’t fully the case during the NLE. Even though things didn’t work perfectly, however, that’s the point of the NLE: to determine what works, what needs adjusting and if new processes must be developed.

To the northeast, the Kentucky state Emergency Operations Center (EOC) retained
communications during the exercise, but completed the largest communications test in the state’s history on day one. “We’re calling down literally every leg of communications using radio, ham radio, satellite phone, Internet — every way we make contact with a county to test those links,” Heltzel said. “Then for local preparedness, we’re encouraging our local coordinators to make contact with all their different pieces of communication.”

Each day, Kentucky looked at a specific response capability like sustainment, lifesaving and mass evacuation. The goal was to develop a new emergency operations plan that will take into consideration the after-action report from the NLE, as well as lessons learned from recent real-world events, Heltzel said.

Though much of the response occurred in EOCs, many actions took place in real time in the real world, including medical evacuation sites, damage assessments, urban search and rescue operations, and aircraft movement. “A site in Indiana served as a simulated area of actual earthquake damages with multiple teams rotating in and out, while demonstrating integration from the National Guard all the way through the local responder,” Fugate said.

Immediate Benefits

Real-world emergencies like heavy rains and historic flooding caused some states and local governments to scale down their level of play, but one state’s desire to participate despite ongoing responses proved more beneficial than anyone could have predicted.

Fugate said Missouri was probably the best example of multistate response activities that included all levels of government, the private sector and nongovernmental organizations. “Missouri was already dealing with flooding due to the levee breach at Birds Point, they had already had tornado touchdowns in St. Louis and had ongoing disasters,” he said. “But they had a full state EOC activation with hundreds of people there.”

Throughout the week, Missouri exercised a mass casualty evacuation, mutual aid, Emergency Management Assistant Compacts and deployed urban search and rescue teams. “Nobody knew it, but when that exercise concluded on Thursday, not more than three days later, many of the same things that were exercised for NLE 11 were put into place when the tornadoes hit Joplin,” Fugate said.

The EF-5 tornado killed 132 people, injured 750 and was the deadliest tornado in the nation since modern recordkeeping began in 1950, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Missouri shifted away from using federal urban search and rescue teams to utilizing in-state capabilities, a tactic practiced during the NLE. Missouri also tested its statewide radio system and coordinating communications, which proved beneficial immediately following the real-world disaster. “They essentially were able to use that system to restore interoperable communications even though Joplin took a direct hit from the tornado,” Fugate said.

And those weren’t the only actions that proved fortuitous. The National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) exercised its ability to move patients from Springfield, Mo., to eight other locations throughout the nation. The NDMS is a federally coordinated system that assists state and local governments with the medical impacts from major disasters. Joe Lamana, Emergency Support Function 8 patient movement coordinator with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said the New Madrid earthquake scenario’s widespread devastation would wipe out medical infrastructure at the local level, so NLE provided an opportunity to test getting appropriate care for the injured. The NDMS is a partnership between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response and the federal departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security. They practiced receiving patients (140 moulaged mannequins with treatment cards) from the state, packaging them to ensure they had what they needed in the aircraft like straps, putting them in the aircraft, unloading them and finally sending them to civilian hospitals.

Local ambulances transported the mannequins to the receiving area, practicing how to unload patients from the vehicle and communicating with federal workers. “We had ambulances from all over the community contributing to this,” Lamana said. “We even had the [emergency medical service] from Joplin coming to this exercise, and lo and behold, little did we know that three or four days later, the devastating tornado would blow through Joplin and they would be in the mode of moving patients and trying to find safe havens.”

Although Joplin authorities didn’t have to move patients out of town following the tornado, they were better prepared to move large numbers of patients. Also as part of the NLE, Missouri representatives set up a mobile medical unit and FEMA brought a mobile communication unit to help with the patient-moving exercise — both were moved to nearby Joplin to aid the tornado response.

Practicing Realistic Responses

In addition to patient movement, the NDMS tested several objectives. After Hurricane Katrina, a national patient tracking system, called the Joint Patient Assessment and Tracking System, was created to fill a void. Representatives tested the Web-based system on multiple platforms like iPads, iPhones and BlackBerrys. “We came with our own equipment,” Lamana said, “but we were testing to see what other possibilities are out there.”

They also tested sharing information between the patient tracking system and the Defense Department’s patient regulating system, an IT solution that matches patients with a receiving hospital that can accept their injuries or conditions. And for the first time, a patient coordination
cell was instituted at the headquarters level to provide more direct visibility and control over Emergency Support Function 8 resources. “Out of any exercise … we get better, we get more confident, efficient and effective,” Lamana said.

From another federal perspective, Fugate tested his ability to maintain communications using secure and nonsecure modes with Washington, D.C., and the White House during a disaster that impacts multiple states. FEMA also looked at speeding up the disaster declaration process when there are significant impacts across multiple states.

During the exercise, FEMA was also able to test a provision from the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act. “Under the act, we do not have to wait for a formal request or declaration,” Fugate said, “we can begin issuing mission assignments and coordinating federal response based upon the preliminary impact estimates of the earthquake.” Rather than waiting for the states’ assessments and reports, tools were used to guide the agency’s decision-making — including the U.S. Geological Survey’s pager system that provides an estimated impact of an earthquake and the HAZUS model, which estimates potential losses — that drove the initial response.

As the nation moves away from highly scripted, predictable exercises, it allows for more realistic responses, Fugate said. In his opinion, the most viable part of the NLE was a conference call scheduled with the president and governors close to when it would have happened in a real disaster scenario. “It gave us a chance to really get a better idea of how to structure that so that the governors and the president could focus on the high-level issues that they would need to address while the rest of the team was focused on more of the immediate response issues,” he said.

FEMA also looked into how to better integrate the private sector’s response capabilities. More than 3,000 private-sector representatives participated in various ways, including full engagement, working as a subject-matter expert to review the NLE’s plans and scenarios and a scaled-down version that consisted of a tabletop exercise.

Real-World Impact

After-action reports were not available as of press time, however, the high level of participation from all government levels and numerous partners both within government and from other realms, will no doubt make the nation more prepared for a catastrophic disaster.

Arkansas’ Maxwell called the NLE invaluable. “We’ve gone through the planning process for the last two years, working the state plan, regional plan and local plans,” he said, “and I think that probably got us to a 50 percent solution. Going through the exercise will get us to a much better preparedness level as we tweak the plans.”

Recovery tabletop exercises were scheduled to take place in June, and planning is under way for NLE 2012, which will test the nation’s ability to respond to a catastrophic cyber-attack.

“In NLE 11, the level of participation and time commitment from the senior leadership reinforced that this is a top priority to this administration and a priority to the governors,” Fugate said.

Sidebar: Working Toward a Nationwide Common Operating Picture

National Level Exercise 2011 provided the participating states not only an opportunity to test their plans, but also to work with Virtual USA, a federally supported system to provide cross-jurisdictional information sharing. Eight states used Virtual USA to share information with one another while viewing it in their native systems, said Jose Vazquez, director of the First Responder Technologies program within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate.Brig. Gen. John Heltzel from the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management called Virtual USA “a small piece of software that we can add to our systems to allow information to be shared.”

State representatives met with the directorate in January and decided on seven types of information to share, including the status of transportation routes, shelters, hospitals, power lines and emergency communications. The goal was to bring this information to the state emergency operations centers without requiring people to log on to a system they don’t normally use or have to switch computers. Vazquez said the states successfully shared 54 of 56 identified information feeds.

The Arkansas Emergency Operations Center used Virtual USA on a limited basis, said David Maxwell, the state’s emergency management director. “We learned we’ve got to get better at developing a common operating picture within the state, regionally and then nationally — we all need to be seeing the same thing and working on the same issues,” he said. “I think Virtual USA should help with that, but we’re not there yet.”

Offline Dig

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Nazi War Criminal Spills the Beans in 1946 about such actions proposed by Stephanie Stern...


NOTE: Albert Speer was the head of all armaments for Hitler. When he took over the position, he transformed the armament and bombarding operations by introducing a system of 'rationalization' into the war operations by including businessmen into the process of evaluating war product development and goals of 'efficiency'. His operations led to the development of so called 'vengence' weapons like the V2. Although he lied his ass off regarding his knowledge of death camps, he was perhaps one of the greatest whistleblowers regarding a cybernetic/technogratic enslavement system to come. It is serendipitous that Kennedy hired McNamara as Secretary of Defense and that the power elite in the US used McNamara's similar skills set as Speer to engage in 'rational' genocides in SE Asia. Today we are seeing that our entire defense operations are being controlled by technocrats with similar visions of global cbernetic enslavement.

THE PRESIDENT: I call on the defendant Albert Speer.

DEFENDANT SPEER: Mr. President, may it please the Tribunal: Hitler and the collapse of his system have brought a time of tremendous suffering upon the German people. The useless continuation of this war and the unnecessary destruction make the work of reconstruction more difficult. Privation and misery have come to the German people. After this trial, the German people will despise and condemn Hitler as the proved author of its misfortune. But the world will learn from these happenings not only to hate dictatorship as a form of government, but to fear it.

Hitler's dictatorship differed in one fundamental point from all its predecessors in history.

His was the first dictatorship in the present period of modern technical development,

a dictatorship which made a complete use of all technical means in a perfect manner for the domination of its own country.

Through technical devices like the radio and the loudspeaker, eighty million people were deprived of independent thought. It was thereby possible to subject them to the will of one man. The telephone, teletype and radio made it possible, for instance, that orders from the highest sources could be transmitted directly to the lowest ranking units, by whom, because of the high authority, they were carried out without criticism. From this it resulted that numerous offices and headquarters were directly attached to the supreme leadership, from which they received their sinister orders directly. Another result was the far- reaching supervision of the citizens of the State and the maintenance of a high degree of secrecy for criminal events.

Perhaps to the outsider this machinery of the State may appear like the cables of a telephone exchange - apparently without system. But, like the latter, it could be served and dominated by one single will.

Earlier dictators during their work of leadership needed highly qualified assistants, even at the lowest level, men who could think and act independently. The totalitarian system in the period of modern technical development can dispense with them; the means of communication alone make it possible to mechanize the lower leadership. As a result of this there arises the new type of the uncritical recipient of orders.

We had only reached the beginning of the development. The nightmare of many a man that one day nations could be dominated by technical means was all but realized in Hitler's totalitarian system.

Today the danger of being terrorized by technocracy threatens every country in the world. In modern dictatorship this appears to me inevitable. Therefore, the more technical the world becomes, the more necessary is the promotion of individual freedom and the individual's awareness of himself as a counterbalance.

Hitler not only took advantage of technical developments to dominate his own people - he nearly succeeded, by means of his technical lead, in subjugating the whole of Europe. It was merely due to a few fundamental shortcomings of organization, such as are typical in a dictatorship because of the absence of criticism, that he did not have twice as many tanks, aircraft, and submarines before 1942.

But if a modern industrial State utilizes its intelligence, its science, its technical developments and its production for a number of years in order to gain a lead in the sphere of armament, then, even with a sparing use of its manpower, it can, because of its technical superiority, completely overtake and conquer the world, if other nations should employ their technical abilities during that same period only on behalf of the cultural progress of humanity.

The more technical the world becomes, the greater this danger will be, and the more serious will be an established lead in the technical means of warfare.

This war ended with remote-controlled rockets, aircraft with the speed of sound, new types of submarines, torpedoes which find their own targets, with atom bombs, and with the prospect of a horrible kind of chemical warfare.

Of necessity the next war will be overshadowed by these new destructive inventions of the human mind.

In five to ten years the technique of warfare will make it possible to fire rockets from continent to continent with uncanny precision. By atomic fission it can destroy one million people in the centre of New York in a matter of seconds with a rocket manned, perhaps, by only ten men, invisible, without previous warning, faster than sound. Science is able to spread pestilence among human beings and animals and to destroy crops by insect warfare. Chemistry has developed terrible weapons with which it can inflict unspeakable suffering upon helpless human beings.

Will there ever again be a nation which will use the technical discoveries of this war for the preparation of a new war, while the rest of the world is employing the technical progress of this war for the benefit of humanity, thus attempting to create a slight compensation for its horrors?

As a former minister of a highly developed armament system, it is my last duty to say the following:

A new large-scale war will end with the destruction of human culture and civilization. Nothing prevents unconfined technique and science from completing the work of destroying human beings, which it has begun in so dreadful a way in this war.

All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately