8 states take part in Show Me Mass Care Exercise

LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. -- Eight states are taking part in a multi-state disaster drill Wednesday.

Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas all took part in the "Show Me Mass Care Exercise" to practice how they would react during a major earthquake along the new Madrid Fault Line, which is a major source of earthquakes in the Midwest and south.

The exercise simulated efforts needed to assist a mass evacuation from the St. Louis area, including an evacuee reception center, two mass care shelters, two pet shelters, a distribution site for emergency supplies, mass feeding locations and a multi-agency coordination center.

"The people who do this for a living, who respond to disasters not just here, but all over the country, if they didn't have some sort of training going in then they wouldn't be able to do a good job," Jackson County Executive Frank White said. "So this is tremendously helpful to the county to let us know where we are and what we need to do to be ready."

The drill took emergency preparedness crews nearly a year to plan. Once it is complete, crews will evaluate how the week went and figure out if any changes need to be made for the future.

"We've got 500 volunteers taking time off of work to be here today," said Mike Curry, an Emergency Preparedness spokesperson for Jackson County.  "In the middle of the week on Wednesday, kids back in school, that kind a number of turnout is extraordinary. People want to help. They want to serve. And this is an event that really doesn't affect the Kansas City side, the real damage is done in the St. Louis area. We're gearing together to take care of those people because that's what midwesterners do."

Operation BBQ Relief also took part in Wednesday's disaster drill. They used the drill as an opportunity to not only feed the hundreds of people involved in this drill, but also work out the kinks within their own operation.

"I actually think that the role of providing food is one of the top two things that you need to have for people," Stan Hays, co-founder of Operation BBQ Relief, said. "I mean, shelter is obviously paramount, but I think food falls right behind shelter because once a person finds a place, if they don't have food to eat that shelter is probably not going to last very long because they're going to have to go somewhere else."

More than 200 years ago, a 7.7 magnitude quake on the New Madrid Fault line caused the Mississippi River to flow backwards.

This week's Show Me Mass Care Exercise was a joint effort by federal, state and local officials, volunteers and churches, all working together to test our readiness and create a plan of attack should it ever happen again.