Thankfully, there were no fatalities reported as a result of yesterday's 5.9 magnitude earthquake that rocked the east coast. Yet, ten years after 9/11 and after countless dollars spent "securing the nation's capital," D.C. was still thrown into chaos after the quake. The Washington Post reports on the quake evidence the lack of preparedness:
It was not a killer quake, nor even a particularly injurious one. But if it didn’t add up to a natural disaster, it was still a startling geological event, the strongest East Coast tremor in 67 years, and it effectively blew up the workday in Washington.
In the aftermath of the quake, most people in D.C. had no idea what to do.
Shaking led to confusion. Confusion led to anxiety. Anxiety led to evacuating. And then evacuating led to milling.
Evacuate? Shelter in place? Take their cars or public transportation? The result was a completely disorganized evacuation of sorts. Some office buildings in DC were evacuated, some weren't. Office workers wandered the streets, unsure of what to do. Metro slowed to a crawl. The afternoon commute was a nightmare. Traffic was gridlocked and lights were out. Cell phone service failed.
Luckily, most office workers enjoyed the weather or hit the bar, but had the emergency been under more dire circumstances, the lack of planning could have been a disaster.
Those circumstances are never far from our minds in D.C. WAPO reported on how many D.C. workers and residents first assumed the earthquake was some sort of terrorist attack:
In Washington, 10 years later, every day is Sept. 12. When the office ceiling shifts to and fro, and the pens and cups fall off the desk, it’s scary enough. But in a terror-scarred city, thoughts go immediately to evil attack rather than natural disaster.
However, despite that so many people assumed an attack, WAPO columnist Robert McCartney also recognized that D.C. is not ready for a disaster:
Let’s be better prepared next time. The Washington region should use Tuesday’s earthquake as a teachable moment so residents and authorities alike have a clearer idea in advance how to react when the ground starts to shake.
We didn’t do so well on this occasion. From K Street to Anacostia, Washingtonians just didn’t know what to do.
With all the money spent on security since 9-11, D.C. should be better prepared for any emergency, be it natural or man-made. It is long past time to get evacuation and disaster plans in place. The next earthquake, natural disaster, or attack could be far more serious.