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Disaster preparationsUSGS, DoD partner in preparing for major natural disasters

Published 5 December 2016

In 2003, USGS partnered with the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) - U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) to establish a liaison between the two organizations to facilitate science support in the event of a major natural disaster. The USGS liaison coordinates requests for science information and expertise, and general civil support and humanitarian assistance activities. This science support enables USNORTHCOM to perform critical national defense and civil support missions, as well as understand the impacts of natural disasters.

USGS has many partnerships, both foreign and domestic, that enhance the agency’s science capabilities, provide needed support to others, and expand USGS ability to serve the global community. One little-known partnership that serves both foreign and domestic needs is the USGS science support to the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) - U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM).  

In 2003, USGS partnered with USNORTHCOM to establish a liaison between the two organizations to facilitate science support in the event of a major natural disaster. The USGS liaison coordinates requests for science information and expertise, and general civil support and humanitarian assistance activities. This science support enables USNORTHCOM to perform critical national defense and civil support missions, as well as understand the impacts of natural disasters.

Prompted by the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on American soil, the USNORTHCOM mission is to deter, prevent, and defeat threats and aggression aimed at the United States, its territories, and interests, drawing on the full capabilities of all U.S. military services, including the National Guard and Coast Guard. USNORTHCOM’s geographic area of responsibility includes the continental United States, Alaska, Canada, Mexico, the Gulf of Mexico, the Straits of Florida, and portions of the Caribbean region to include The Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

USGS notes that USNORTHCOM’s mission also includes domestic disaster relief operations that occur during fires, hurricanes, floods and earthquakes when an emergency exceeds the capabilities of local, state and federal agencies. In most cases, support will be limited, localized and specific. When the scope of the disaster is reduced and civilian agencies can again assume full control and management without military assistance, USNORTHCOM will exit.

To respond to disasters of such magnitude, USNORTHCOM needs access to the best available science, tools and technologies to assess the extent of damage, as well as evaluate additional impacts and to identify areas where future disasters could impact life and property. The USGS is poised to provide this science to monitor, assess, and conduct targeted research on a wide range of natural hazards to provide the information needed to enhance preparedness, response, and resilience. The following products, programs, and coordination are a few examples of the support provided by the USGS to USNORTHCOM.