The next Navy Yard: Your office?

Monday - 9/23/2013, 2:00am EDT

After the 9/11 attacks, many D.C.-area agencies gave employees very basic emergency kits. They contained water, face masks, a snack, etc. The idea was to permit them to either shelter in place or get to somewhere safe, including home.

Some people made up their own backpack kits. They were better stocked with more items. I know a number of people who had three: for home, office and car.

But over time, some of those kits have been lost, or items in them have gone stale. Maybe it's time to restock?

Because of the shooting at the Washington Navy Yard many feds, here and elsewhere, realize it (or some other disaster) could happen again — anywhere or anytime. We've heard from a lot of people who have thoughts on the subject. Some of them work in the Navy Yard, or nearby. Many are excellent, insightful and chock-full of common sense. We will be passing them along. Meantime, here's a tip from a current fed — and former Marine — on being prepared. Here's what he said:

"The fact that someone took offense at the last line in your September 17 column: ("The bottom line: Working in a federal office can be dangerous. Take care of yourself.") struck a nerve with me. I was serving in the Marine Corps during the time the television show Hill Street Blues was being broadcast and one of my battalion commanders used to like to end Friday formations with Sgt. Esterhaus' line, "Let's be careful out there!" Both phrases are seemingly meaningless platitudes on the surface, but they carry much deeper meanings.

"Take care of yourself." Obviously, this is not self-explanatory to some so I will do my best to give folks some ideas and maybe tell a couple personal examples along the way. No, you can't prevent anything bad from ever happening but you can mitigate some of the after effects. Here's my short list and these apply for any emergency:

"1. Have a plan. Do you know at least two or, better, three or more ways to get out of your space and building in the event of an emergency? Where does everyone meet after clearing the area? What are you going to do if public transportation isn't running? How will you contact your loved ones and do they know that method as well? These are just a few of the items that should be in everyone's emergency plan. You have to look at your own situation and plan accordingly.

"2. Have a "Bug Out" Bag. When the 2011 earthquake hit D.C., my coworkers and I ran down 10 floors to the street. I at least had on men's dress shoes but one of my coworkers had on high heels and she couldn't stop in the stairwell to remove them. None of us had "Bugout Bags." Now fortunately for us, Metro and other public transportation was up and running fairly quickly but what if that wasn't the case? What if you had to walk home to Prince William or Howard counties? Think it couldn't happen to you? My brother-in-law had to walk half the night to get home after the Tokyo earthquake and look at the folks walking out of Manhattan in NYC after Sept. 11. So what should be in your "Bug Out" bag? Here's a start:

  • Comfortable walking shoes and socks. (Not brand-new but in good condition. This is not the time to be breaking in new shoes.)
  • At least a liter of water.
  • Some money in small bills and quarters.
  • Extra doses of any prescription medication. (Changed regularly)
  • Small bottle of hand sanitizer.
  • Small first aid kit with moleskin for blisters.
  • Small penknife or multitool with scissors and nail file.
  • Some candy and/or fruit bars.
  • Small umbrella or disposable raincoat.
  • Small flashlight.
  • Charger and cable for your cellphone. (One of those battery backups for cell phones might not be a bad idea either.)
"Add to that anything you think you would need for a day on your feet. Keep it close at hand so you can grab it and go.

"3. Have some situational awareness. Know what's going on around you and who is supposed to be in your area. Pay attention to your surroundings so you can tell when something is out of the ordinary or not right.

"4. Have some common sense. Only you know your exact situation. Figure out what reasonable measures you can take to make yourself safer and do those things.

"5. Take care of yourself — physically. My doctor would love for me to lose more pounds than I care to mention but I can still walk the entire Rosslyn escalator or from L'Enfant to Arlington. Again, only you and your doctor know what exercise you can do based on your health but I encourage everyone to do something.

"6. Make use of other resources. The information I provided above just scratches the surface. A lot more information is available on websites such as Ready.gov.

"Now you have some ideas of what you can do to take care of yourself. Now, let's be careful out there and thank you Sgt. Esterhaus and Lt. Col Dodt, wherever you are.

— You can sign me, "Being prepared is not just for Boy Scouts."


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Compiled by Jack Moore

Here's a grisly crime statistic: You're more likely to get punched to death in Texas than any other state, according to FBI stats.

(Source: Time)


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