11:49 am, April 18, 2014

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  • Earthquake Recap: What went right and wrong
    SteveC
    A worthy topic - especially with hurricane Irene bearing down on us - but I still sense no material change in the way we will respond to emergencies or disasters. Communications: Unfortunately our public communications networks are at the mercy of good judgment of its users. And good judgment is something in short supply during the first hours of a disaster or emergency. There needs to be the means put in place to control use of public networks during such events and allow responsible officials to perform the “triage’ that was mentioned in the interview. The only silver lining of the communications fiasco that followed 9/11 and this week’s earthquake was that emergency personnel could communicate since they use radios that are not on a public/open network. Perhaps every cell phone can be provided with a listen-only radio frequency to keep abreast of the facts during an energency. Of course this would also have to be complimented with a single-source “clearing house” for related news. Right now we’re 100% dependent on public news channels and radio stations for such news and neither of those have the authority to make decision related to releasing employees from work, declaring emergencies, etc. Communications-wise, this is the proverbial cart before the horse. Gridlock: It’s here to stay short of the government and businesses in DC relocating to the suburbs. The DC metro commuting area is hundreds of square miles. You could have the perfect plan executed in the perfect way within DC and then it’s all for naught if Virginia and Maryland don’t have their plans in perfect synch; you’ll just be moving the gridlock a couple of miles from one place to the other. That said, this was much more than traffic gridlock. First, I spend more time trying to exit the parking garage that driving the 26 miles home in bumper-to-bumper traffic. People had to vacate their workplaces and many were not allowed back since the building integrity was unknown. People didn’t have wallets or purses to pay, others didn’t have pass cards to open toll gates, and parking guards and attendants had no idea how to handles these things. They certainly couldn't call anyone for assistance. Second, HOV restrictions were not lifted. This should have played to my favor since I carpool but it didn’t. All of those hundreds/thousands of people that were able to get on HOV before the 3:30pm restrictions kicked in had HOV traffic stopped as they were desperate to get off and not be ticketed. This was a valid traffic emergency situation and why the VDOT decision makers didn’t open HOV to ease the problem was simply illogical. Evacuation: I haven’t see or heard this mentioned but it seems to be escaping people’s attention that the universal plan of action was to evacuate people from all of the buildings during an earthquake situation when all of the experts say you’re not supposed to do that. Weather: As bad as it was, we dodged a bullet. Imagine if it had been pouring rain. Or this happened two weeks earlier when it was 100 degrees outside. Or it happened two months later when it was 20 degrees outside and many didn’t have time to grab a coat. It will be interesting to see all of the useless, feel-good solutions that pop up in the wake of this. Whether or not that’s fact or cynicism, only time will tell.
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