FEMA’s Fugate: US Needs Better Preparedness

Tuesday, 15 Mar 2011 08:01 AM

By Hiram Reisner

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Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate says while the United States has done considerable work to prepare for a possible earthquake in California and other prone areas, the country needs increased focus on more vulnerable, less obvious regions where natural disasters could devastate.

fugate, fema, preparedness“The U.S. Geological Survey does great mapping of where the seismic risk is. I think in California they've done a lot since their past earthquakes to improve their building codes,” Fugate Monday told CNN’s Piers Morgan.

“We know a lot of places in this country, particularly the central U.S. and other areas, we have a lot of construction, older construction that does not meet or is mitigated against the seismic risk,” Fugate said. “So we would expect to see a greater percentage of structural failures if we have an earthquake of that magnitude outside of areas that have taken the steps to mitigate against the seismic risk.”

Morgan asked Fugate how vulnerable the United States would be to possible natural disasters, similar to the earthquake and tsunami that has devastated Japan.

“Well, the one thing that we do – and this was after the Three Mile Island incident – is the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Federal Emergency Management Agency required that each licensed operator conduct annual exercises, as well as drills,” Fugate said. “So part of this is both from the design of these plants against the threats they face, but also how do we practice and exercise what could happen if we do have an event.

“And, again, as we saw in Japan, you're going to evacuate people if there is a potential for that risk and everything,” he added. “I really want to come back to, as much as there is a lot of focus on the nuclear power plant and what is happening there, I think you also have to remember the enormity of the response to the tsunami and the earthquake – but particularly the tsunami and how that is playing out, and how we would have to respond to that as a nation.”

Fugate noted there are areas outside known earthquake-prone regions that should be under increased consideration.

“Well, places like the central U.S. and places you may not think about, such as fault lines that occur in other parts of the country that don't have a lot of activity, but have had significant historical events, such as down in Charleston, South Carolina, and other places,” Fugate said. “So, you know, we tend to always think the earthquake risk is in California, maybe Alaska, but we also have seismic risk throughout the country, various parts.

“And that's why it's important that when we talk about being prepared, it's not just those areas that, you know, we know about hurricanes, we know about earthquakes. But what about in your community?”

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