Fall 2017

Testing Cross-Border Disaster Response Coordination


In 2011, Canada and the United States began holding a series of exercises to test communication technologies and information-sharing tools.

To date, four of these Canada-United States Enhanced Resiliency Experiment (CAUSE) exercises have been conducted along the US-Canada border, with the fifth and final experiment, CAUSE V, scheduled for November 15 and 16, 2017. CAUSE V will be conducted along the Washington-British Columbia border.

The CAUSE exercises are a collaboration between the US Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate and Defence Research and Development Canada Centre for Security Science.

The disaster driving the scenario for the CAUSE V exercise is that a volcanic explosion and crater collapse has occurred on Mount Baker, located 37 miles (60 kilometers) inland and less than 15 miles (25 kilometers) south of the US-Canada border.

This scenario spans several months in the second half of 2017. During that time, Mount Baker has been the site of increased volcanic and seismic activity and has emitted steam and ash. A mid-November eruption causes an initial collapse of Sherman Crater, located near the mountain’s summit.

The initial collapse sends a volcanic debris flow, or lahar, down the Middle Fork of the Nooksack River to Puget Sound and northward along the Sumas River into Canada. A second eastern collapse generates multiple lahar flows down the east flank of Mount Baker, into the Baker and Skagit River system.

CAUSE V will evaluate the communication, hazard monitoring, and emergency warning systems, including the interagency coordination and public notification associated with this event. It will test response and recovery activities by local, state, provincial, and federal providers.

The experiment emphasizes cross-border communication and coordination. Observers in the United States will include the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the FirstNet communications group, and US Northern Command.