Be prepared-it's the best way to handle an emergency when one occurs. The Kansas City District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers knows this, and that's why they partnered with the Missouri Silver Jackets team to host a tabletop exercise simulating an extreme flood event in the Kansas City metropolitan area. This exercise, the first of its kind in a decade, included participants from multiple levee and drainage districts, fire departments, public works, emergency management specialties, local, municipal, county and federal entities who support the levees during flood emergencies.
"Kansas City has a history of flooding, so I think it's really important to get everybody from [all] sides together," said Jennifer Wood, Kansas City District geologist. She helped organize and facilitate the exercise. "It's better to plan ahead on these things than trying to figure everything out in the middle of an event."
This kind of collaboration in finding flood-risk solutions is what the Silver Jackets teams specialize in. These interagency teams connect partners to work together to learn to reduce flood risk for their state. There are 54 Silver Jackets teams across all 50 states, and USACE is a common participant in these teams. Silver Jackets teams facilitate activities like state hazard mitigation plan updates, risk communication workshops and tabletop exercises like this one.
This exercise focused on the levees, on both the Kansas and Missouri Rivers, that would be most impacted by a possible Kansas City area flood. Using multi-media products such as video, maps and presentations, the participants, planners and facilitators held a full-day discussion on the best response to the simulated scenario. The exercise's flood storyline followed a situation where local storms and a long, wet spring and summer contributed to the perfect conditions for flooding. Throughout the course of the day, the participants worked to review their procedures in response to extreme flooding events and looked for gaps or needed updates in their emergency action plans.
The exercise was organized into three modules, plus a background section that laid out the prelude for the scenario. The three modules consisted of the mid-season flood, the peak flood and the discussion of extreme flood and recovery issues.
One of the objectives of the exercise was to give participants an opportunity to coordinate with other agencies and groups and identify ways to improve communication during and after an emergency.
"[That's] the real value here ... all these folks together in the same room," said Jud Kneuvean, chief of the readiness and contingency operations office for the Kansas City District. "We're all in the room today, talking about levees and flood risks and how do we respond to floods. That's the value ... the partnership that we created today."
Working together, the different groups identified risks and impacts to the population, critical infrastructure and the economy. They planned for ways to mitigate the impacts and to ensure a quick and organized response.
Participants also discussed the roles, responsibilities and agreements required in these situations as defined by USACE, state, county and municipality emergency action plans. Representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency also briefed the room on the national response to major flooding events.
Overall, the exercise was a helpful avenue for identifying future opportunities to improve emergency preparedness for the Kansas City metropolitan area. The lead coordinator within the Kansas City District for the Silver Jackets Missouri team, Jennifer Henggeler, emphasized the purpose of the exercise when addressing the room at the conclusion of the day.
"Together, we can address problems and make progress towards solutions," she said.