Reaching D.C.-area residents in a disaster a continued concern

Dave Snyder, vice mayor of the city of Falls Church, says major snow events like the one that shut down the Washington area in January 2010 tests the emergency system in place. (WTOP File)
The reality of Washington's disaster preparedness

wtopstaff | November 14, 2014 12:30 pm

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WASHINGTON – On the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the D.C. region is better prepared than it was for a disaster.

But there is still concern over what would happen in the event of a large-scale evacuation, says a member of the Council of Governments Emergency Preparedness Council.

“With our transportation system virtually breaking down every day under normal conditions, people really need to stay put unless they are told by officials to move,” says Dave Snyder, who is also the vice mayor of the city of Falls Church. “Otherwise we’ll just repeat the same mess we had on 9/11.”

Snyder discussed the state of the region’s disaster/emergency preparation on WTOP Tuesday. He says the three state-level jurisdictions are finishing a process to develop the best regional plan possible.

But he says rapid evacuation of a large part of the area is “simply not going to be possible.”

One of the main problems the region faces is putting out a consistent message to citizens.

“In the area of public information, we still don’t have the ability to push the same message out across the region to anyone regardless of where they are and what they’re doing,” Snyder says.

Because of the number of jurisdictions and agencies, Snyder says the challenge has been finding a central point to push the message out.

“Frankly, regional decision-making remains somewhat an area of concern, as the January storm a year ago indicated. And again after a thorough review, our regional decision-making remains way too complicated, way too complex and the question ‘Who’s in charge on a regional level?’, frankly, the answer to that is we’d manage an incident by committee,” Snyder says.

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