Sunday, July 27, 2008



CARSON CITY, Nev. – Governor Jim Gibbons today helped kickoff Nevada Vigilant Guard ’08, a full-scale disaster preparedness exercise involving more than 2,000 participants from civilian emergency response agencies and National Guard units from seven western states. The Vigilant Guard ‘08 exercise simulates a 7.1 magnitude earthquake striking Reno, triggering widespread damage and destruction.

The joint civilian and military exercise got underway at 6 a.m. PDT when the simulated earthquake “struck” southwest Reno near the intersection of State Route 431—Mt .Rose Highway—and U.S. Highway 395. The drill, which includes emergency response units coming to Nevada’s aid from six other western states, will be staged through June 19 with different scenarios played out at specific sites in Washoe, Carson City, Douglas, Storey, Lyon, and Churchill counties.

At a news conference held at the State Emergency Operations Center in Carson City this morning, Gov. Gibbons said, “Vigilant Guard ‘08 has been in the planning stages for two years, and the earthquake scenario has turned out to be very timely given the recent seismic activity around Reno. Nevada must be fully prepared to respond swiftly and effectively to any emergency or disaster that may occur, including flood, wildfire or biochemical incident. This exercise will help achieve that goal.”

Nevada is among the nation’s most seismically active states, ranking No. 3 in larger quakes after Alaska and California. According to University of Nevada, Reno seismologists, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake in Reno would cause death, extensive injury, damage, destruction, disruption of transportation and utilities, and an economic loss of $3 billion to $11 billion.

Vigilant Guard ’08 will test and train participants’ skills in victim recovery, triage, mobile field hospital setup, evacuation by ground and helicopter, search and rescue, mass sheltering for displaced victims and pets, emergency food distribution, hazardous chemical spill response, and gathering of information. Assessing “damage” to buildings, roads, dams, pipelines, and other infrastructure is also part of the exercise.

The Nevada Division of Emergency Management is directing the exercise in conjunction with the Nevada National Guard. Participants in the exercise include emergency response agencies from six Nevada counties and more than 1,750 National Guard soldiers and airmen from Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Washington state, and Utah.

Attendees at the news conference in Carson City this morning also heard from Frank Siracusa, Chief of the Nevada Division of Emergency Management; Maj. Gen. Cynthia Kirkland, commander of the Nevada National Guard; and State Geologist Jonathan Price, director of the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology, which includes the Seismological Laboratory at the University of Nevada, Reno.

“This exercise will provide participants an unprecedented opportunity to work and train together to strengthen their skills in all aspects of emergency preparedness,” Siracusa said. “As we undertake the emergency response activities, evaluators will assess our performance and recommend areas for improvement when the exercise concludes.”

Major General Kirkland said, “Although Vigilant Guard is a National Guard exercise program nationwide, it is critical that we include as many of our local, state, and federal partners as possible. In the guard we train like we fight, and since the guard responds to emergencies to support local and state partners, it makes sense to ensure we include as many as possible in the plan. The time to build relationships and learn about each others' capabilities is not when you're responding to an actual emergency.”

Price added, “No one can predict with certainty when an earthquake will occur, but we can take action to prepare, and Vigilant Guard ’08 is exactly what we should be doing right now. Most of the damage from the earthquake this exercise envisions would occur in Nevada, particularly in Washoe County, Carson City, Douglas, Storey, and Lyon counties. Damage also would occur in El Dorado, Placer, and Nevada counties in California, and may affect other counties as well.”

Price said the probability of a 7.0 earthquake occurring near Reno or Carson City within the next 50 years is between 12 percent and 15 percent, which he called “significant, but low enough that we can take action to be better prepared.”

“Living with Earthquakes in Nevada,” a guide to preparing for, surviving and recovering from an earthquake, is available online at

The federal government requires states to conduct Vigilant Guard exercises and provides funding through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that is designated for training exercises. Nevada’s Vigilant Guard exercise, the 11th such exercise to be staged across the country, received a federal allocated of $1.5 million for National Guard and Nevada Division of Emergency Management mobilization.

To learn about specific exercises being staged in a particular county, go to to find contact information for the local Emergency Operations Center.

The public may notice an increased military presence during the exercise as National Guard and other troops participate in a variety of activities, including “victim” recovery and triage. However, the exercise will not stage any real-life impact on services or infrastructure during the week-long exercise. Information about Vigilant Guard ’08 activities can be found at

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