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Inside This Issue
Earthquake Awareness Month
USACE Earthquake Exercise
Member State Building Inspector Programs
CUSEC Spotlight
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: 

"Thanks for the educational cache, CUSEC.

"Wow...very interesting (materials) inside..."

"Nice to see well done caches like this one.  You don't see many (this nice) anymore.

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


Throughout the month of February, several States in the Central U.S., including Arkansas, Missouri, and Tennessee, have been observing "Earthquake Awareness Month".  For more than 20 years, Earthquake Awareness Month has provided a focused opportunity to increase public knowledge of earthquake hazards and earthquake preparedness measures. Activities during the month typically include earthquake themed exhibits, public service announcements, specialized training, public workshops and presentations, social media outreach, and more.


Leading up to Earthquake Awareness Month, CUSEC partnered with the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency and  Bootheel Youth Museum in Malden, Missouri to produce a short earthquake awareness and preparedness video for K-3 students.  The video is based on an adaptation of the children's classic story "The Three Little Pigs" and was created by the Museum as a way to teach children about the possibility of earthquakes in the New Madrid Seismic Zone and ways to prepare for those earthquakes. The skit was filmed in 2013 and is intended to be used as a teaching tool during the Great Central U.S. ShakeOut and Earthquake Awareness Month.  To watch the video, go to  


Although Earthquake Awareness Month typically occurs during February, there are earthquake-related activities occurring throughout the year in the CUSEC Member States. To find out more, you can visit the CUSEC online calendar or contact your State Earthquake Program Manager. You can also stay tuned to our social media sites on Facebook and Twitter, where we share news, links, and other information throughout the year. 


Facilitated by Emergency Program Manager, Kevin Woods, nearly 40 members of the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Memphis District convened at CUSEC's Memphis headquarters this January to conduct an earthquake exercise.


The exercise was based on M7.7 New Madrid Seismic Zone earthquake scenario that strikes that affects all CUSEC Member States. Exercise participants were divided into breakout groups to discuss challenges they may face due to disruptions in transportation, communications, utilities and other necessary critical infrastructure needed to help communities function properly.


When asked how prepared the Memphis District of the USACE was for a repeat of an earthquake similar to the 1811-12 New Madrid events, Wood's response about his organization's readiness was optimistic. "Let's face it, no one (can be too prepared) for an event of this magnitude to occur," he said. But I think that we -the Memphis District of the USACE- are as ready as we can be. We conduct an earthquake training exercise or table top every year, and a lot of our team members already have first-hand disaster support experience," he added.


CUSEC has a long standing working relationship with USACE, and the CUSEC headquarters serves as an alternate assembly and command point for the Memphis District. According to Woods, conducting USACE's earthquake exercise at CUSEC gives them an idea of what their actual post-earthquake working environment will be like.


Like disasters such as Hurricane Sandy and the devastating typhoon in the Philippines, earthquakes can have ripple effects on infrastructure.  Scientists currently estimate that there is a 20-40 percent probability of a damaging earthquake occurring in the central U.S. within any 50-year period of time. With this in mind, emergency managers, engineers and other earthquake-related professionals within the states of Illinois and Indiana are expanding their capabilities to improve post-disaster safety evaluations of buildings. 


Illinois FAST Alliance

Assisting in the recovery efforts in disasters like the 2011 tornado in Joplin, Missouri prompted emergency management officials and several professional organizations in Illinois to research the State's need for its own post-disaster building inspection and assessment program.


In September of 2011, the  Illinois Capital Development Board, Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA), and the Illinois chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) began addressing this need with interested stakeholders within the State.  Modeled after the Missouri SAVE Coalition, the Facility Assessment Support Team (FAST) Alliance is a group of professional organizations whose objective is to assist IEMA through a volunteer-based program to perform post-disaster safety assessments of buildings. Member organizations in this alliance include:

  • American Council of Engineering Companies/Illinois (ACEC/IL)  
  • American Institute of Architects (AIA), Illinois Chapter
  • American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), Illinois Section
  • Illinois Council of Code Administrators (ICC - IL)
  • Illinois Society of Professional Engineers (ISPE)
  • Society of American Military Engineers (SAME), Illinois Post
  • Structural Engineers Association of Illinois (SEAOI)

Members of FAST are currently writing an administrative and operations plan which outlines the group's structure, operational procedures, and requirements for volunteer inspectors. Additionally, FAST intends to work with IEMA to exercise it's capabilities during the CAPSTONE-14 exercise in June of this year. For more information on FAST, contact Kate Mackz with the Illinois Emergency Management Agency at (217) 782-2700 or Lisa Mattingly with the Illinois Capital Development Board at (217) 782-2864.


Indiana I-BEAM Team

After responding to several disasters, including Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the F-3 tornado that struck Evansville on November 6, 2005, State building inspectors along with local volunteer architects and engineers realized the following:

  • There were no organized response capabilities for post-disaster building inspections within Indiana,
  • There was no prior formal training of those involved in these types of inspections. Building inspectors, architects and engineers all worked post-disaster scenes with just the knowledge they had acquired in their field of study, and
  • There was no formal system of record keeping of the inspections and damage.

Organized under the Indiana Department of Homeland Security (IDHS) and the Indiana State Fire Marshal's Office, the Indiana Building Emergency Assessment and Monitoring (I-BEAM) Team's priority is to assist in the assessment of affected structures following an earthquake, flood or any other natural or man-made disaster.  I-BEAM has implemented measures to ensure a more coordinated approach to post-disaster building inspection. Currently, I-BEAM's response capabilities include approximately 50 trained personnel and:

  • Equipped trailers with pull vehicles
  • Command Center Tents, for operations and sleeping if necessary
  • Generators, lighting, heating and air units
  • State Team Members "To Go" bags
  • Volunteer Team Members "To Go" bags

New members of the I-BEAM Team also train in special courses such as ATC-20 (Post-Earthquake Safety Evaluation of Buildings), and ATC-45 (Safety Evaluation of Buildings after Windstorms and Floods). To learn more about the I-BEAM Team visit or contact Jim Hawkins, I-BEAM Program Director at 371-695-0719


A registered geologist with more than 40 years' experience in earthquake hazard research and education, Phyllis Steckel is a consultant to the US Geological Survey's (USGS) Earthquake Hazards Program. Since 2002, she has led many of their outreach efforts in the central U.S., especially for business, industry and infrastructure audiences. She also coordinates the St. Louis Area and Evansville Area Earthquake Hazards Mapping Projects for the USGS.  As a former member and chairman of the Missouri Seismic Safety Commission, Steckel is one of the early champions of the Missouri Earthquake Awareness Week and "Earthquakes: Mean Business" programs, which have existed for more than 20 years. She developed and currently leads the Earthquake Insight Field Trips, which are a mobile, immersion-type learning experience for business decision-makers that visits sites related to the Geo-science, History, Engineering, and response aspects of the central U.S. earthquake issue. Read on to learn more about Phyllis and her work to educate and inform the public about earthquake hazards in the central U.S.


1.  When did you start working in geology and what led you to pursue this field of work? I started in 1974, two weeks before my college graduation ceremony.  The University of California at Davis was under the quarter system then, and I finished coursework one quarter early, in March of 1974.  In early June 1974, I started work at Woodward-Lundgren & Associates (later, Woodward-Clyde Consultants, and even later, URS Corporation).  I went back to campus for my graduation in mid-June 1974 - already fully employed in my chosen field and feeling quite smug.


Even as a kid, I always liked pretty rocks and was never afraid to get dirty, although geology wasn't near the top of my list for a long time.  In college I took a basic class on earthquakes, got a perfect score on the mid-term, and missed just one point on the final.  When I asked the professor about the question on the final that I had missed and explained why I answered like I did, he agreed that it was a poorly worded question and changed my grade to another perfect score.  At that point, I decided that I was interested in this work as a career - and realized that I may even be decent at it.


2. You've worked out west as well as in the mid-west. How different is the mindset about earthquakes in these two regions of the country?  The "west" does have a little more earthquake awareness in the culture, but there is plenty of misinformation, too.  This is a more mobile society now, so folks in the west now may not have been there too long - and haven't had the time to soak up too much of that earthquake-savvy culture.  There is plenty of earthquake awareness work (that needs to be done) in just about every part of the country.


3. In your years as a geologist, what is the most memorable project that you have worked on?  I have always enjoyed field work and I did a lot of it in the grunt years of my early career.  Trenching, portable micro-earthquake monitoring networks, and mapping - all of that, mostly in the West.  I was even deployed after several moderate, damaging earthquakes in California to capture details of aftershocks and surface ruptures.   


For almost six years I worked out of Moab, Utah, on the Paradox Basin high-level nuclear waste isolation characterization study.  I had never heard of Moab, Utah before that project - and just this week I saw that it is now among the top ten vacation destinations in the country.  I've been all over southeast Utah, and most of it was off-pavement.  In Utah, on the way to Deadhorse Point, I even fell into quicksand - before that, the only time I had heard of it was in bad, old cowboy movies.  Nope, it really exists.


4. In your line of work, you tend to encounter people who don't take emergency awareness/preparedness seriously, especially about earthquakes.  What is your approach to dealing with this?  I've learned that it's better to invest my time where I may make a difference - with folks who will consider the information we provide and who can take action to implement it.  I also am quite ready to say "I TOLD you so" to (those) who won't listen.


5. What motivates you to continue to devote your time and energy to this field of work?  It's a passion. It's almost like I can't NOT work on this stuff.  And the double-negative IS correct in that sentence!


February 2014

February 25-26 - USGS Earthquake Hazards Workshop; Memphis, TN
February 28 - TNSAVE Meeting; Jackson, TN


March 2014

March 6-7 - CAPSTONE-14 Private Sector Workshop; Deerfield, IL
March 9-14 - NEMA Mid-Year Policy & Leadership Forum; Alexandria, VA 


April 2014

April 5 - Quake on the Lake; Reelfoot, TN

April 8 - CAPSTONE-14 Final Planning Teleconference 

April 29-30 - CUSEC Transportation Task Force Meeting; Siketson, MO 


For more information or to view other upcoming events, please visit the CUSEC website online calendar.