WASHINGTON - If there were a natural disaster or a terrorist attack in DC, how would you get out of the city? It’s a good question, and if you don’t already have an evacuation plan in place, DC Homeland Security officials say you should make one.
Just as Metro embarks on its year-long SafeTrack program and repairs that will impact service system-wide, emergency officials say an evacuation crisis could erupt if the city doesn’t adjust its current plans to move people safely out of harm’s way in the event of an emergency. The city feels that the plan they have in place is a good one, but they’re worried that residents and those who work in the city might not be considering the difference that Metro’s construction plan, complete with service interruptions and closures, could have on their plans to get out fast if necessary.
Since SafeTrack launched last Saturday, DC’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Command Center has been monitoring Metro and area roads. If a natural disaster or terrorist attack occurred in the city, evacuation routes would face a crush of vehicles, since Metro’s maintenance plan is underway.
DC Homeland Security officials said Monday they could evacuate the city if disaster struck. They are prepared to deploy more than 130 traffic control officers onto DC streets, and would use more than 10,000 security cameras to control traffic lights and move people out of the District.
They’re worried, though, that many people don’t even know where evacuation routes are in the city. DC Homeland Security is re-launching a free app that shows these routes, and helps drivers navigate to them. Director Christopher Geldart’s message to residents is this: Everyone needs to dust off their evacuation plans, understanding Metro isn’t a reliable option over the next year.
"When we put more vehicles on the road-- like an emergency happening in the middle of the day and everybody leaving at the same time-- that's going to cause backup and it's going to take people a good time to get home,” Geldart said. “It will take longer-- much longer-- than they are used to. So what we're telling folks is, you need to have a plan with your family."
On July 4, DC Homeland Security is activating its Fast Forward plan to quickly move people off the National Mall at the conclusion of the fireworks display. Then, ahead of the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in September, they’ll launch Ready DC, a massive reworking of the city’s emergency management effort.