[meteorite-list] NASA, FEMA Hold Asteroid Emergency Planning Exercise

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Fri, 4 Nov 2016 16:07:43 -0700 (PDT)
Message-ID: <201611042307.uA4N7hO1003166_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>


NASA, FEMA Hold Asteroid Emergency Planning Exercise
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
November 4, 2016

What would we do if we discovered a large asteroid on course to impact
Earth? While highly unlikely, that was the high-consequence scenario discussed
by attendees at an Oct. 25 NASA-FEMA tabletop exercise in El Segundo,

The third in a series of exercises hosted jointly by NASA and FEMA --
the Federal Emergency Management Agency -- the simulation was designed
to strengthen the collaboration between the two agencies, which have Administration
direction to lead the U.S. response. "It's not a matter of if -- but when
-- we will deal with such a situation," said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate
Administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "But
unlike any other time in our history, we now have the ability to respond
to an impact threat through continued observations, predictions, response
planning and mitigation."

The exercise provided a forum for the planetary science community to show
how it would collect, analyze and share data about a hypothetical asteroid
predicted to impact Earth. Emergency managers discussed how that data
would be used to consider some of the unique challenges an asteroid impact
would present-for preparedness, response and public warning.

"It is critical to exercise these kinds of low-probability but high-consequence
disaster scenarios," FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said. "By working
through our emergency response plans now, we will be better prepared if
and when we need to respond to such an event."

Exercise attendees included representatives from NASA, FEMA, NASA's Jet
Propulsion Laboratory, the Department of Energy's National Laboratories,
the U.S. Air Force, and the California Governor's Office of Emergency

The exercise simulated a possible impact four years from now -- a fictitious
asteroid imagined to have been discovered this fall with a 2 percent probability
of impact with Earth on Sept. 20, 2020. The simulated asteroid was initially
estimated to be between 300 and 800 feet (100 and 250 meters) in size,
with a possibility of making impact anywhere along a long swath of Earth,
including a narrow band of area that crossed the entire United States.

In the fictitious scenario, observers continued to track the asteroid
for three months using ground-based telescope observations, and the probability
of impact climbed to 65 percent. Then the next observations had to wait
until four months later, due to the asteroid's position relative to the
sun. Once observations could resume in May of 2017, the impact probability
jumped to 100 percent. By November of 2017, it was simulated that the
predicted impact would occur somewhere in a narrow band across Southern
California or just off the coast in the Pacific Ocean.

While mounting a deflection mission to move the asteroid off its collision
course had been simulated in previous tabletop exercises, this particular
exercise was designed so that the time to impact was too short for a deflection
mission to be feasible -- to pose a great future challenge to emergency
managers faced with a mass evacuation of the metropolitan Los Angeles

Scientists from JPL, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Sandia National
Laboratories, and The Aerospace Corporation presented predicted impact
footprint models, population displacement estimates, information on infrastructure
that would be affected, as well as other data that could realistically
be known at various points throughout the exercise scenario.

"The high degree of initial uncertainty coupled with the relatively long
impact warning time made this scenario unique and especially challenging
for emergency managers," said FEMA National Response Coordination Branch
Chief Leviticus A. Lewis. "It's quite different from preparing for an
event with a much shorter timeline, such as a hurricane."

Attendees considered ways to provide accurate, timely and useful information
to the public, while also addressing how to refute rumors and false information
that could emerge in the years leading up to the hypothetical impact.

"These exercises are invaluable for those of us in the asteroid science
community responsible for engaging with FEMA on this natural hazard,"
said NASA Planetary Defense Officer Lindley Johnson. "We receive valuable
feedback from emergency managers at these exercises about what information
is critical for their decision making, and we take that into account when
we exercise how we would provide information to FEMA about a predicted

NASA provides expert input to FEMA about the asteroid impact hazard through
the Planetary Defense Coordination Office. NASA and FEMA will continue
to conduct asteroid impact exercises and intend to expand participation
in future exercises to include additional representatives from local and
state emergency management agencies and the private sector.

News Media Contact
DC Agle
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California
agle at jpl.nasa.gov

Dwayne Brown / Laurie Cantillo
NASA Headquarters, Washington
202-358-1726 / 202-358-1077
dwayne.c.brown at nasa.gov / laura.l.cantillo at nasa.gov

Received on Fri 04 Nov 2016 07:07:43 PM PDT

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