CUSEC was formed in 1983 as a result of a growing body of research throughout the 1960s and 70s that highlighted the regional seismic hazard that existed in the Central U.S. The states most at risk from a New Madrid Seismic Zone earthquake partnered with the then-recently established Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to form a consortium to address the risk. The purpose was to create an organization that would represent the collective interest of the states by addressing the hazards faced from a damaging earthquake. Governed by a board of directors consisting of the state emergency management agencies of its eight member states and ten associate states, CUSEC continues to make significant gains in earthquake preparedness through a partnership approach that includes local, state, and federal agencies, individuals, and the private sector.
CUSEC Executive Director Jim Wilkinson became interested in emergency management because of his passion to create better cities for the future. Wilkinson's degree is in city planning. While working toward his degree, he was fortunate to have completed an internship with the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency that provided a different perspective on community planning. That was 26 years ago, and he says he "is still just as energized about helping communities be better places to live and work as [he] was then."
The earthquake hazard is one part of a multifaceted community of hazards faced in the Central U.S. These hazards are placed unintentionally in competing positions for funding, attention, and ultimately, importance. Sadly, significant gains forward seem to come at the cost of human loss and suffering. Wilkinson believes "the challenge for the future is to break this cycle and change the mindset of how we view our communities and the hazards they face as part of a larger community outlook."
CUSEC's newest project, the Community Hazard Assessment Mitigation Planning System (CHAMPS), will be integrated with existing situational awareness, resource planning, and damage assessment tools to enhance interoperability, situational awareness, and information management and sharing. Through the continued collaboration this project represents, CUSEC can foster community resiliency by providing a suite of tools that enhance the accuracy of community risk analyses-a crucial component toward ensuring mitigation projects can meet community needs.
The program was developed and currently used by the Kentucky Emergency Management Agency. CHAMPS also is set to kick off this summer in Alabama, South Carolina, and Tennessee as part of a pilot program with the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology First Responders Group.
Wilkinson added "addressing the earthquake risk our communities face across the U.S. is not the responsibility of any one organization. Only through a willingness to work together, and forge strong partnerships, will we find the solutions to reduce our vulnerabilities."