Napolitano: US drills for disasters like Japan’s


She said terrorist plots by U.S. residents or citizens are increasing, and the centers are a key part of the U.S. counter-terrorism strategy.

U.S. emergency agencies constantly rehearse for a disaster like the one unfolding in Japan, and American first responders will learn from the experience of their Japanese counterparts, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Tuesday.

Napolitano, speaking at a conference in Denver, said the United States was already planning a drill based on a hypothetical major earthquake along the New Madrid fault in the central U.S. when the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear-reactor crisis struck Japan.

“We are constantly practicing, using scenarios that are worst-case scenarios, to make sure we are as prepared and as up-to-date and as ready to go as we can be in any kind of a crisis,” she said.

The drill, scheduled for May, coincides with the bicentennial of a series of three quakes on the New Madrid fault in 1811-1812, which were estimated to have ranged from 7.5 to 7.7 magnitude — some of the largest ever in the United States. The U.S. Geological Survey says there is a 7 to 10 percent chance of a similar quake occurring in that area in the next 50 years.

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