When a disaster strikes, there’s never time to waste. With so much at stake, responders from the private sector, state governments, and federal support must be prepared to spring into their lanes of action to face the challenges each is best equipped to address.
In 2019, the Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response's annual cornerstone all-hazard exercise series, Clear Path, brought together over 150 expert decisionmakers from 83 organizations, including from federal, state and local governments and from critical infrastructure sectors, for a two-day tabletop in Memphis, Tennessee. The 2019 iteration tested the plans and procedures in place to respond to an earthquake along the New Madrid Seismic Zone, where there is a plausible likelihood of a strong earthquake within the next fifty years. The tabletop stressed interdependencies across multiple critical infrastructure sectors—energy (electricity, oil, and natural gas), communications, transportation, water— using scenario-based activities to stimulate conversation at the operational and tactical levels.
The Clear Path VII After-Action Report presents findings from the exercise that were widely agreed-upon by participants in plenary and small group discussions as elements of emergency planning crucial to sustain or improve. These include ways in which technology can be applied for more a rapid rebound, areas government can clarify, coordinate, and support during sustained aid efforts, and mechanisms for post-disaster unity of messaging between the public and private sectors. The eleven findings in the report are grouped within one of the three stages of the scenario discussed at the exercise: the immediate response actions of individual organizations, the sustained coordinated response effort, and the transition from demobilization of response resources to those supporting longer-term rebuilding.
“CESER’s emergency response organization is tasked with preparing for any and all hazards that could threaten reliable energy delivery,” says Nick Andersen, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Security and Emergency Restoration, “that includes even the most unpredictable. Because an earthquake gives no notice, it is critical that all stakeholders understand one another’s responsibilities, should such an event devastate the critical infrastructure of the Mississippi Valley region.”
To date, over 800 of DOE’s energy sector, cross-sector, and federal, state, and local and partners have benefited from the knowledge and networking provided by the Clear Path exercise series. In Fall 2020, CESER will again bring together representatives from these groups to build plans and enhance partnerships, this time in the Salt Lake City area.