In late February, CUSEC convened a meeting of drone operators from states including Arkansas, Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee. The purpose of the meeting was to establish a working group to address the use of drones, more formally known as “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles” (UAV) in earthquake response and recovery within the CUSEC Member States. The meeting follows planning that began in November 2016 when CUSEC Executive Director James M. Wilkinson, Jr. reached out to several UAV operators to gauge interest in establishing a working group.
Drone Imagery Courtesy Wes Flint, Precision Aerial Imagery, LLC
Consisting primarily of licensed operators, the working group will address how UAV may be used to aid emergency management agencies in the event of a damaging earthquake. While earthquakes have served as a starting point for the group, the use of UAV and licensed operators could be applicable to other disasters. The concept is similar to the way HAM radio operators and the Civil Air Patrol assist emergency management agencies following of natural disasters.
Drones have become used more frequently as technology and imagery improves. They are able to access impacted areas and capture data that can be immediately useful to emergency managers and decision makers. This was recently demonstrated in the November 2016 M7.6 earthquake in New Zealand where drones were used to capture earthquake fault and damage imagery. UAV were also used to provide situational awareness following the 2015 Nepal earthquake.
Wesley Flint of Precision Aerial Imaging, LLC in Olive Branch, Mississippi, notes that not only do specific flight protocols (including being licensed by the FAA) need to be followed by UAV operators but “As drone pilots, we have the unique ability to capture aerial footage that emergency management agencies can then use to better assess damage and make more informed decisions through better situational awareness.”
For more information on the meeting or newly-established working group, contact Jim Wilkinson at (901) 544-3570 or at email@example.com.
As earthquakes continue to occur on a daily basis in the central U.S., CUSEC and emergency management officials in Arkansas, Illinois, and Missouri remind citizens and communities about the earthquake risk by designating February as Earthquake Awareness Month. February 7 is the anniversary of the last of the earthquakes that struck the central U.S. in the winter of 1811-12. According to the US Geological Survey:
This sequence of three very large earthquakes is usually referred to as the New Madrid earthquakes, after the Missouri town that was the largest settlement on the Mississippi River between St. Louis, Missouri and Natchez, Mississippi. On the basis of the large area of damage (600,000 square kilometers), the widespread area of perceptibility (5,000,000 square kilometers), and the complex physiographic changes that occurred, the New Madrid earthquakes of 1811-1812 rank as some of the largest in the United States since its settlement by Europeans.
While scientists say that there is a 7-10% probability of a re-occurrence of the 1811-12 earthquakes within any 50-year window, they also estimate that there is a 25-40% probability of a M6.0 or greater earthquake occurring in the central U.S. within the same period of time. About 200 earthquakes occur in the central U.S. every year-many of which go unnoticed. And while the primary focus remains on the NMSZ, it is not our only area of concern. Earthquakes are also occurring along the Wabash Valley and East Tennessee Seismic Zones and in Oklahoma, Kansas, Ohio, and Texas.
With funding support from the Delta Regional Authority, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Motorola Solutions Foundation, CUSEC recently completed a project to improve regional situational awareness and information sharing among its Member States. Based on previous exercises and real-world disasters, CUSEC identified shortcomings in regional information sharing and worked to address them during this project.