Full Report - PDF format
A tabletop exercise (TTX) was held at the Headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in Washington, D.C., on May 20, 2014. The purpose of the exercise was to acquaint FEMA, members of the interagency Emergency Support Functional Leadership Group (ESFLG), representatives from NASA, the Department of Defense (DoD), the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), the Department of State, the European Space Agency (ESA), and other organizations (see Appendix) with the nature and evolution of an impending asteroid impact within the continental United States and to assess whether and how current processes and procedures for disaster warning and response might be employed in such an emergency.
The scenario used for this exercise differed from the one used for the 2013 exercise. Whereas the 2013 exercise assumed five weeks notice before impact, in this year’s exercise the asteroid, ~140-300 meters in size, was discovered ~7 years before predicted impact. This advance notice enabled the development and execution of a space mission campaign to deflect the object away from an Earth impact trajectory. In this scenario the deflection mission was only partially successful: a major portion of the target object was deflected, but a ~50-meter fragment broke off and remained on a collision course with Earth. Though the 50-meter remnant was observed almost two years before impact, insufficient time remained to launch a second deflection campaign. The fragment was predicted to impact somewhere within a narrow region extending through Texas and into the Gulf of Mexico.
As the scenario evolved, the exercise team provided updates on the state of knowledge of the approaching asteroid, the design and results of the deflection mission, possible regions on Earth that might be affected by an impact, and the nature and consequences of the anticipated air blast and impact insults.
While this year’s impact scenario is realistic, details of an actual impact threat and its evolution would be unique, as each asteroid, and its orbit, is unique. This scenario illustrates the type of information that would be available should a real impact threat develop.
Primary findings for the exercise were that responsible parties in the Federal government should:
Perform strategic planning that links emergency management, domestic policy, national security, and scientific missions and provides actionable guidance for investment decision-making, analysis and operational planning;
Establish a dedicated working group to plan for U.S. and international responses to and involvement in a NEO emergency;
Develop communications protocols describing actions that will be taking place and agencies responsible for those actions; and
Develop a communications plan for describing deflection options, the risk of failure, and the possibility of false alarms to the public.