Emerson wants multi-state earthquake coordination

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

A new group includes House members from six states.

A group of a dozen House members led by U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson want Missouri and five other states to better coordinate disaster response efforts in the event of a major earthquake along the New Madrid Fault.

"It will be of little consolation if the local responders in Missouri are ready for a disaster but those in our neighboring states are not," Emerson said Tuesday.

Besides Emerson, the group includes House members from Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi and Illinois.

The group includes Republicans and Democrats. "We might have differences politically, but what we have in common is the possibility of a severe earthquake," she said.

The lawmakers plan to lobby the Homeland Security Department to hold a regional disaster exercise that would involve police, fire and other emergency services from the six states.

Emerson and U.S. Sen. Jim Talent already have asked for the federal government to hold such an exercise.

"One of my major concerns is the lack of coordination between counties on this matter. They don't know who to talk to. They don't have the phone numbers and they are unaware of each other's disaster response plans," Emerson said from her Washington office.

"The lessons of Hurricane Katrina are not going to be lost on this group," Emerson said of the delegation of lawmakers.

Cape Girardeau assistant fire chief Mark Hasheider welcomed the effort of lawmakers to promote better earthquake preparedness.

Hasheider, who serves as the city's emergency operations coordinator, said the new Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge over the Mississippi River at Cape Girardeau could provide a vital transportation link between Missouri and Illinois in the event of a major earthquake.

Hurricane Katrina has forced officials nationwide to reconsider disaster preparedness efforts, Hasheider said.

The hurricane was devastating to the Gulf Coast region. But Hasheider said it has shown the need for a better coordinated emergency response to a major disaster.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, ext. 123

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