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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.  

P.S. The Department of Homeland Security building remained closed today.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (11+ / 0-)

    The Canary in the Coalmine is available for purchase at

    by Jesselyn Radack on Wed Aug 24, 2011 at 06:53:54 AM PDT

  •  DC can't even do snow removal correctly (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    As someone from Massachusetts I was cracking up when I learned that DC hired a large number of plow drivers from the Boston area to basically show people how to properly plow after a snow storm.

    If you can't even handle a minor disaster like a blizzard, then a hurricane, a flood, an earthquake or anything else is going to be a major SNAFU.

  •  The chance of an earthquake seems far from the (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Futuristic Dreamer, Rich in PA

    chance of a terror attack or weather event, and to me it wouldn't seem like I could use the same knowledge of what to do/where to go re: a hurricane, blizzard or terror attack that I could during an event that would cause shelter buildings to crumble, etc and affects everywhere. I wouldn't get too excited about this being some sort of barometer on DC preparedness.

    "However, I don't think that critiquing one precludes praising the other" - The Troubador

    by GoGoGoEverton on Wed Aug 24, 2011 at 07:15:39 AM PDT

  •  There's no such thing as preparedness... (0+ / 0-)

    ...of the sort you're positing, in our society.  We're not Japanese.  

    Let us resolutely study and implement the resolutions of the 46th Convention of the Democratic Party!

    by Rich in PA on Wed Aug 24, 2011 at 09:28:11 AM PDT

  •  Those are the kind of results one gets (0+ / 0-)

    when federal workers who really care about emergency preparedness are harassed, fired or put on administrative leave for 3 1/2 years in retaliation for trying to improve emergency plans.

  •  Ever since 9/11 (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I've wondered:  what ever happened to civil defense preparedness?

    At the community and sometimes at the neighborhood level, we used to have a plan in case of disaster.

    I'd really like to see some organization at the neighborhood level.  Maybe when her neighbors realize Nancy is a nurse, they'll think of her as a nurse before they think of her as a bleeding heart liberal or a teabagging wingnut.

    Civil defense preparedness at the neighborhood level might be just what we need to put "civility" back into our civilization.

    Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth - Abraham Lincoln

    by Gustogirl on Thu Aug 25, 2011 at 05:14:14 AM PDT

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