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Emergency officials plan for earthquake, oil spill scenario; Memphis meeting Feb. 21-23


MEDIA AVAILABILITY: Feb. 21, 2006, 2 to 3 p.m., Memphis Marriott Downtown. Speakers from EPA, the Coast Guard, FEMA and local agencies will be on hand. Please call one of the contacts listed in advance to explore possible interview topics.

MEMPHIS (Feb. 16, 2006) - Emergency response officials from 13 states and numerous federal and local agencies are dreaming up their worst nightmares. Next week in Memphis, Tenn., they will start working out the logistics for a practice exercise to help bring those worries under control.

A gathering of hundreds of officials will be held Feb. 21-23 at the Memphis Marriott Downtown. It will be the first in a series of planning meetings culminating in a two-week disaster drill in June 2007 encompassing multiple locations and compounded emergencies. The disaster scenario will begin with a catastrophic earthquake in the Midwest and Mid-South’s New Madrid Seismic Zone, followed by a hazardous materials spill in one of the Great Lakes. A series of additional complications stemming from the two events will challenge the skills and resources of thousands of emergency, public safety, transportation and public health officials.

The emergency planning exercise, called Spill of National Significance, is held every three years. Lead federal agency for SONS07 is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, working in cooperation with FEMA and the U.S. Coast Guard.

“SONS07 will be the first major exercise in a decade involving a catastrophic seismic event in the New Madrid Zone,” said Jim Wilkinson, executive director of the Central U.S. Earthquake Consortium. “This is also the first time a SONS exercise has been conducted in this part of the country.”

“Hurricane Katrina didn’t inspire the exercise, but it’s fair to say the players and the public have a different mindset than they did a year ago when it comes to preparing for a catastrophe,” said Doug Eames, SONS07 exercise director for the Coast Guard. "This exercise gives responders an opportunity to learn
lessons and tighten up planning processes without real-world damage or casualties"

Along with the federal agencies, SONS07 participants will include the Earthquake Consortium and a number of private businesses. CUSEC member states include Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee. Associate CUSEC members: Iowa, Louisiana and Ohio. Michigan and Wisconsin will also participate.


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