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Inside This Issue
CAPSTONE-14 Planning Continues
ShakeOut Drills a Success
CUSEC Hosts Delegation from New Zealand
Seismic Rehabilitation of Hospitals
CUSEC Spotlight: Mr. Ed Laatsch, FEMA
Calendar & Upcoming Events
Did You Feel It?

View a list of recent earthquakes here...
Geocache Update

A great way to spend time outdoors with your family and friends is by going Geocaching

Since 2007, nearly 2,500 people have visited CUSEC geocaches, which provide earthquake safety and mitigation information to site visitors.  As some visitors recently noted: 

"My kiddo had some very good questions about earthquakes after visiting today.

"Thank you and we really enjoyed our visit from Iowa."

"What a pleasant surprise this (geocache) was!

To find a CUSEC geocache near you, see our cache listing page at the geocaching website.


On behalf of CUSEC and our Board of Directors, we wish you a happy holiday season.  Please stay tuned to our newsletter in 2014 for news, updates, and information on our earthquake risk reduction programs and initiatives.


It is no secret that New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ) earthquakes similar to the 1811-1812 sequence would be devastating and catastrophic.  Simulation models from the NMSZ Catastrophic Earthquake Planning Project (2006-2011) predicted over 3500 deaths, 700,000 buildings damaged, and $3 billion in direct economic losses from a M7.7 NMSZ earthquake.  Such an event would severely impact the electrical grid (which serves not only the central U.S., but a large portion of the states on the east coast), communications, interstate highway and rail networks, and river navigation in the eight States most directly affected.  The impact would be national in scope; in fact, State and Federal resources, first responders, and our capability to respond would be quickly overwhelmed by a disaster of this proportion. 


Recognizing this, a major objective of the CAPSTONE-14 initiative is resource allocation planning in advance of an earthquake.  Prior to the National Level Exercise 2011 (NLE-11), the CUSEC Board of Directors held a joint Resource Allocation Workshop (RAW I) with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA). RAW I identified State resource shortfalls and linked them to Federal resources which might fill those gaps. States quickly determined that currently available resources were not nearly sufficient following a NMSZ event. 


As a result of NLE-11 and RAW I, CUSEC Member States are fine-tuning their regional and resource allocation plans. This October, States worked to address regional transportation issues during a "PRECAP" workshop hosted by the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA).  With major damage to all transportation modes expected following a NMSZ event, it is essential to bring State and Federal transportation stakeholders together to address this critical issue.  With support from NEMA, CUSEC held a RAW II workshop in November, which was hosted by the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM).  During the workshop CUSEC Member States refined resource requirements and met with designated CUSEC Associate States and support States to identify potential shortfalls.  At RAW III in February 2014, the CUSEC States will take the state-to-state gaps identified at RAWII and bridge them with Federal resources.


Additionally, NEMA is currently working with the CUSEC Board and our Member States to develop a tool known as the Mutual Aid Support System, or MASS, for short. MASS is a GIS prototype that enables States to pre-identify disaster response resources (such as law enforcement teams or rescue equipment) that may be deployable following a disaster.  The intent of MASS is to speed resource deployment between states using the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC).  EMAC enables States to legally send resources across state lines during a disaster.  CUSEC Member, Associate, and support States will test MASS and EMAC concepts during CAPSTONE-14 in June of next year.  Ultimately, MASS may be adopted by NEMA and EMAC for application throughout the Nation.


For more on CAPSTONE-14, visit


On October 17 at 10:17 a.m., individuals, schools, communities, and businesses, practiced how to protect themselves from earthquakes during the Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drill.  ShakeOut is an annual program that takes place on the third Thursday of October.  The drill involves practicing "Drop, Cover, and Hold On", the basic, personal protective action one should take during earthquake shaking.  This year, ShakeOut took place in more than 40 U.S. States and Territories and involved 19 million people.  In the central U.S., nearly 2.5 million people participated in ShakeOut drills and activities.


As part of the ShakeOut, CUSEC helped lead earthquake drills at the Missouri Hospital Association emergency preparedness conference in Columbia, Missouri and at the University of Memphis Barbara K. Lipman Early Childhood School and Research Institute in Memphis, Tennessee.  Click here to watch highlights of the Lipman School ShakeOut drill, which features CUSEC Executive Director Jim Wilkinson and school Principal Sandra Turner describing why drills like the ShakeOut are important.


Also on ShakeOut day, CUSEC, FEMA, and several local, national and international disaster experts hosted an earthquake-themed public forum at the University of Memphis. The purpose of the forum was to help increase public understanding of potential impacts of earthquakes in the central U.S. and ways communities can proactively reduce their vulnerability to earthquakes.


At the forum, two distinguished guests, Dr. Kelvin Berryman and Dr. David Johnston (both of GNS Science in New Zealand), gave overviews and lessons learned from the 2011 Christchurch, NZ earthquake series and similarities between Christchurch and Memphis.  Berryman and Johnston also discussed how the earthquakes have impacted government and private sectors in New Zealand.  The University of Memphis' Center for Earthquake Research and Information (CERI) has provided a video recording of the forum.  Click here to watch the video or visit 


CUSEC would like to thank the organizations who worked to organize and sponsor the event:  the Center for Earthquake Research and Information, the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH), FEMA, the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety(IBHS), the Shelby County Office of Preparedness, the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and the West TN Structural Engineers Association (WTSEA).


With support from the USGS, a delegation of eight individuals (representing geologic, engineering, and emergency management disciplines) visited Tennessee from New Zealand on an international, information sharing mission this October.  As part of their visit, the group met with local and regional officials to share lessons learned since the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes and aftershocks.  Those earthquakes, including a damaging M6.3 event, have had a major impact on New Zealand's population, economy, and infrastructure.


The New Zealand group joined officials from CUSEC, the Center for Earthquake Research & Information, the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, and the USGS over several days to:

  • Participate in the Great Central U.S. ShakeOut Earthquake Drill
  • Provide keynote presentations at an earthquake-focused public forum
  • Discuss advanced urban search and rescue practices with the Tennessee Task Force One
  • Join a CUSEC-led mitigation field trip to learn more about existing seismic risk and steps that have been taken to reduce the risk

Also, the Center for Earthquake Research & Information arranged an informal "workshop" between the New Zealanders and Memphis Heritage.  At the workshop, the main topic of discussion was earthquake implications for older and historic buildings.  New Zealand, like many communities in the central U.S., has a large number of old, unreinforced masonry that are built without seismic considerations and subsequently heavily damaged during the Christchurch earthquakes.  The consensus of the workshop was that there is much work to be done to protect historic structures from disaster; including earthquakes.


CUSEC would like to thank our New Zealand friends for the time spent with us to provide their insight as we advance our plans to strengthen community resiliency toward disasters.  We would also like to thank the USGS, who provided travel and logistical support to make this opportunity possible.


In partnership with the South Carolina Emergency Management Division (SCEMD), CUSEC recently provided an informational presentation on earthquake mitigation for hospitals to the South Carolina Hospital Association (SCHA), Emergency Managers' Society in Columbia, South Carolina.  Although South Carolina (a CUSEC Associate Member State) has a moderate to high earthquake risk, this was the first time in several years that SCHA has focused on earthquake hazards at their annual conference. 


During the presentation CUSEC and SCEMD discussed how hospitals can be more prepared for earthquakes, particularly by using methods outlined in FEMA's "Incremental Seismic Rehabilitation of Hospital Buildings (FEMA 396)" and the "Earthquake Mitigation for Hospitals Workshop (FEMA P-767)".  Both programs are a result of FEMA's Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration (FIMA) initiative to improve understanding and implementation of earthquake mitigation under the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction (NEHRP) program. 


CUSEC would like to thank the South Carolina Hospital Association for having us at their conference to discuss earthquakes and earthquake risk reduction.  For more information on seismic rehabilitation of hospital buildings visit FEMA's website at


In his position as Chief of the Building Science Branch within the Federal Insurance and Mitigation Adminstration of FEMA, Edward ("Ed") Laatsch leads several national initiatives including oversight of FEMA's National Earthquake Hazards Reduction (NEHRP) program.  With a background in earthquake, hurricane, and blast-resistant design and construction, Ed has more than 30 years of experience in engineering. Prior to joining FEMA, he was a Research Administrator and Loss Control Superintendent for State Farm Insurance and as a consulting engineer with the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). Ed has an M.S. in Architecture from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and a B.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Michigan. Read on to learn more about this dedicated NEHRP champion and leader.


1. When did you start working in engineering and what led you to pursue this work? I began working as an engineer in 1982.  I worked briefly as an Architect from 1983 - 1984.  Since 1988, I've worked in the area of hazards-related building science.  I first set out to become an Architect but wound up getting a Civil Engineering degree first followed by a Masters in Architecture. I'm of two minds on everything - haha!


2.  When did you come to work for FEMA and what has been your most memorable experience since you've worked there?  I came to FEMA from State Farm Insurance at the end of 1999.  Seeing the steady, continuous, improvement in the disaster resistance of the built environment and knowing the group I am part of, and currently manage, has made a real and measurable impact on that disaster resistance.  The work that the FEMA NEHRP program (in partnership with CUSEC and countless other partners) has made, I believe, a real difference in peoples' lives over the last 30 plus years.  The Building Science Branch, including FEMA's NEHRP program, is one of the only places in government I've come across that can undertake truly long-term mitigation that can take years and decades to accomplish and every year we're seeing the cumulative impacts of that progress all across the U.S. It's that long-term focus and vision that has allowed this very small group to accomplish so much for so many!


3. You've worked with many different people and organizations (CUSEC in particular), what lessons have you learned that have helped you in your career? Always follow the science and the evidence in the field. It doesn't lie!  Remember that perfect can be the enemy of good.  In other words, do the best you can and then share what you've learned in a timely manner.  You can't just write guidance on how to mitigate; you have to make sure people know about it through education, training, and outreach.  Someone once told me that we must "do good work and then tell people about it - and don't forgot to tell people about it!"


4. How do you deal with people who don't take emergency preparedness or mitigation seriously?   I worked for years developing products (for risk reduction and preparedness) and working with others to create change and got frustrated and disappointed that I wasn't seeing more progress.  Now I realize that we (all) tend to respond to immediate needs instead of long-term needs.  Some people make the decision to (build) beyond minimum requirements and the rest of us see the differences after a disaster when one house survives and the houses around it don't.  In the end, whatever is part of national, state and local building design and construction regulations is what folks will wind up with; and a lot of progress has been made that results in more disaster resistant construction.  Sometimes you have to step back a little to see how far we've come.  There's still a lot to do though!


5.  How has working in public safety/services been rewarding for you? Pretty much everything about working for an emergency response agency is rewarding.  I'm very fortunate to work in a place where I know the work we're doing is making a difference for people who will never meet us or know what our earthquake program team has accomplished.  Working at FEMA can be many things but never boring.  I've never had to dread getting out of bed to come to work in the morning - how many people can say that.

Calendar & Upcoming Events

January 2014

January 6 - CAPSTONE-14 Planning Teleconference

January 7-10 - Int. Disaster Conference & Expo; New Orleans, LA
January 16-17 - Northridge Earthquake Symposium; Los Angeles, CA
January 30 - Governor's Earthquake Advisory Council; Jonesboro, AR


February 2014

February 1-28 - Earthquake Awareness Month (AR, KY, MO, & TN)
February 10-11 - CUSEC Board of Directors Meeting; Lexington, KY
February 12-13 - Resource Allocation Workshop III; Lexington, KY
February 19 - Earthquake Insight Briefing; Washington, D.C.
February 28 - TNSAVE Meeting; Jackson, TN


To view more upcoming events, please visit our website calendar.