On March 29, 2016, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District participated in a tabletop exercise to improve emergency planning related to flood risk in the Louisville Metro community. The exercise, planned and hosted by the Louisville Metropolitan Sewer District, simulated a levee breach of the Louisville Metro levee system, assuming river levels equivalent to the Great Flood of 1937, the current flood of record. The simulation enabled the agencies that would be involved in such a scenario to discuss what coordination would be necessary before, during and after such an event to minimize risk to life and property.
“There are a few benefits from this exercise,” said J.P. Carsone, Louisville MSD flood protection supervisor. “The first one is just getting everyone in the same room and having the opportunity to discuss everyone’s roles and learn what support they will need. It also helps everyone understand how badly things could go quickly in such an event.”
Time-stepped inundation maps were used to show how areas were likely to flood. They were modeled and produced by Louisville District hydraulic engineers and made possible by a $75,000 grant from USACE Headquarters through the Silver Jackets Program to enhance the Louisville Metro Flood Protection System’s emergency preparedness plan.
“If something like this—God forbid—ever did happen, we’re ahead of the game because we’ve gotten the players together,” said Brandon Brummett, Louisville District outreach coordinator and USACE representative on the Kentucky and Indiana Silver Jackets teams. “The exercise provided a great what-if scenario that caused people to think about what actions they would need to take and how they would collaborate with other agencies if an event were to occur.”
Along with the Corps of Engineers and MSD, multiple government agencies and private entities participated, including the National Weather Service, U.S. Geological Survey, Kentucky Emergency Management Agency, Kentucky Division of Water and Environmental Protection, Louisville Metro EMA, the fire and police departments, Louisville Water Company, LG&E and KU, and Jefferson County Public Schools.
The participants are hopeful this exercise will lead to more like it in the future.
“There has already been discussion with some of the partner agencies about doing another tabletop exercise next year focusing on a different inundation area which would require some additional folks to come to the table,” said Brummett.
Carsone explained that the inundation study modeled levee breaches at two different locations and that the second location could be used in a future simulation.
The study and exercise have also been instrumental in jumpstarting the creation of a Louisville Metro Silver Jackets Team, the first of its kind.
Silver Jackets teams work to increase collaboration among agencies and improve response in times of crisis or disaster. Up to now, they have been organized at the state level and consist of representatives from federal, state and local organizations.
“I believe we have a tremendous opportunity with forming the first true local Silver Jackets Team, and we will be on the cutting edge of developing private and public partnerships in addressing flooding mitigation,” said Carsone. “It is my hope we will be able to set the standard for others.”
The Silver Jackets motto, “Many agencies, one solution,” aptly describes the increased partnering and relationship building that resulted from the exercise.
“I am very pleased that the grant and study served as the catalyst for this,” said Brummett. “I am glad to see that it didn’t become just another document on a shelf somewhere gathering dust, but instead is driving real-life discussions and positioning Louisville to be more resilient.”