Emergency Preparedness in PoPville?


Dear PoPville,

In light of the explosions yesterday afternoon in Boston, I was wondering if we could open a discussion of PoPville’s emergency preparedness plans. I’d love to hear what sorts of plans people in this community have made. DC is certainly a unique city to live and to have these conversations.

Do people have different meeting points/plans for different sorts of emergencies? What if your home and workplaces are separated by major targets (White House, Capitol, etc)? Thoughts on what you’ll do if officials section off the city, like they did in the Boston yesterday? Other situations people have or have not prepared for?

I know I’m probably being alarmist, but I think these are good conversations to have with loved ones and one’s community.

Ed. Note: MPD Chief Cathy Lanier updates this morning:

Good morning, I wanted to take a minute to reassure everyone on the list serve that MPD immediately increased our deployment, visibility, and response readiness after yesterday’s tragedy in Boston.

Our heightened response and readiness level will remain in place throughout today and until further notice. In addition, we are coordinating with our law enforcement partners in the District.

As always, I encourage everyone to report any activity that they deem suspicious by calling 911.

65 Comment

  • I have no plans at all. I have about zero confidence things will be orderly and make sense when sh*t hits the fan around here. We can’t even seem to get people out of rail cars when they get stuck in tunnels without power!

    • binpetworth


      My (non-)plan is to stay at home with the cat and drink myself into oblivion.

      • My plan has always been to drive to Rockville Maryland. Nobody cares about that place. It’s totally safe. LOL.

        • Good thing I already spend most of my waking hours in Rockville…at my desk. I think I have accidentally accumulated a go-pack of shoes, sweaters, and snacks. Maybe that will help. I am thinking that I should get a phone charger just for work.

        • That sort of works, if the roads aren’t so jammed with people trying to get further out. I’d anticipate massive jams on 270 and Rockville Pike, with the occasional shoooting among angry drivers.

  • I’m really interested in this topic, and look forward to what people post. My wife and I have a meeting place if we’re both at work, or otherwise. The problem is that my wife works in Arlington and I’m in DC. If there’s an emergency, I imagine the bridges will be shut down, or at least having traffic all flowing outward. Not sure what to do about that.

    • I drive a scooter to work. Between that and the Go-Pack in my desk (water, snacks, cash, basic first aid & change of clothes), I will probably get out of DC quicker than anyone if sh#t goes down.

      • bfinpetworth

        me too, but the dogs don’t fit in the topcase…

        • If it really gets hairy and you need to flee directly from work (think: dirty bomb or chemical attack), you won’t have time for the dogs.

          • I dunno… I don’t think most of us with pets would be willing to leave town without getting them first.

            This thread makes me think I should consider getting dispensers for water and dry food that would hold enough for a week or so, on the off chance that my cat were ever stuck at home and I couldn’t get back to her.

        • Allison

          Time to get a side car! And doggy goggles.

      • Notwithstanding the merits of whether a scooter will get you out quicker if s**t goes down, anyone who works downtown or on/near the Hill should strongly consider having the mini-Go Pack in his desk that zero_sum describes. A good multitool or knife, water purifying tabs, waterproof matches, and space blanket can be added.

    • Be ready to use your surf board, cleverly hidding in the bushes, to get across the river!

      I think I’ll just grab a log and float downstream….

  • bfinpetworth

    Hang out in my basement, watch the news, drink a lot ( good reason to keep that liquor cabinet stocked!), pet my dogs, kiss my partner, check on my neighbors, and hope for the best. I would not try to drive out of this town during the worst of a crisis – that would probably be more dangerous than staying put.

    If something happened that we absolutely had to leave (nuclear), then load up the car with the dogs and drive straight up Georgia Ave. and just keep going.

  • * Basic supplies (food, water, blankets, first aid, flashlights) to last three days.
    * Solar radios/cell phone chargers
    * Meeting places in the neighborhood, further out in the city, and beyond

    • PDleftMtP

      This is sensible. I have go packs at the office and at home, together with meet-up plans for the family. We can take care of ourselves for a week with no help, assuming we’re not seriously hurt and in need of medical attention. If it goes further into Mad Max territory than that, we’ve got much bigger problems than another can of beans. Escape routes are fine, but for most things that can go wrong odds are you’re either going to be dead right away or better off sheltering in place. Going outside is usually a poor idea.

  • Definitely need to think more about this – my husband works near Union Station and I work much closer to our home.
    Something that I’ve never been able to determine is how we would get out of the city in the event of a mandatory evacuation – we do not own a car and our friends who do own cars live in the ‘burbs. So we’re either stuck evacuating with whatever the government provides (buses?) or on our bicycles…

  • I think few people who work downtown know that no traffic may cross Pennsylvania Ave during an evacuation. If you are north of it you evacuate through Maryland. South through VA.


    Evacuation by Car or Other Vehicle
    There are 19 primary evacuation routes out of the city. They are clearly marked with signs directing motorists to the Capital Beltway (I-495) and beyond. Pennsylvania Avenue will be the North/South dividing line during an evacuation. No vehicles will be permitted to cross Pennsylvania Avenue during an evacuation. Take this into account as you plan where your family will reunite after an emergency. During an emergency, stay tuned to your local emergency station or Highway Advisory Radio station (1650 AM), or listen to emergency personnel for instructions about which route to follow. Take your Emergency Go Kit with you.

  • As with New Orleans during Katrina and NY during Sandy, there is a decent sized anarchist network that I would lean on for supplies, information, help. During katrina and Sandy the anarchists were on the ground relaying information ,developing supply networks, helping residents, etc way before the national guard and red cross. During Sandy the National Guard was delivering supplies directly to Occupy sandy because they had the supply lines and network set up well before the National Guard could even figure out what was going on.

    DC has many citizens loosely affiliated that could/would step up in this way. Also, on a sidenote, during Katrina the Common Ground (anarchist) collective even had an armed stand off protecting a neighborhood from a roaming band of Nazi’s looking to make trouble and carve out some territory. Sounds pretty Sci-Fi but its all verifiable fact. Civilization decays quick in an emergency.

  • Eveb assuming it’s gotten better than 9/11 just about all you can do is get home or stay home. I’m not sure what plans you would even have. Realistically, there is no evacuating a city like this in the event of a catastrophe. It’s highly recommendable that anyone who works downtown be physically fit enough to walk to their home or at least far enough outside the city limits to catch some kind of transportation home or find shelter.

    • Agree. Even on a perfectly fine weeknight, when not everyone is leaving work at the same time, the traffic is backed up getting out of the city. Getting in a car would be a huge mistake, in my opinion.

    • So older people and people with disabilities are just SOL?

      • Quite possibly. But if those who can leave on foot or bicycle do so, then those who can’t may actually have a chance of getting out on the roads. I personally don’t fancy my chances sitting in traffic so I’m prepared to head out on foot.

      • I think those are the cases (elderly and disabled) where it’s really incumbent on the government to have a clear plan for assisting with evacuation, if necessary. There’s also a role the community can play, in terms of assisting and checking in on neighbors, although this civic infrastructure doesn’t always exist in every neighborhood. (It’s been a phenomenon even in more mundane crises like snowstorms and extreme heat waves that the elderly and disabled are more vulnerable not only due to their physical health, but from the social isolation some folks.)

      • Depends on a lot of factors, people who aren’t able to take care of themselves would have to rely on others. A bomb or something would be different than say a natural catastrophe. Public transit might try to operate but it would not be reliable in a disaster. Really anyone who can’t manage for themselves probably should know who they can turn to in such a situation be it family, friend, coworker etc.

    • yep. anyone that has seen any sort of ‘disaster’ movie knows that people in the cars get effed becuase the highways and byways get so clogged. put on your helmet, get into the bathtub, and hunkerdown!

  • epric002

    please check out ready dot gov, and search for DC CERT (community emergency response team) for more info on personal/family preparedness. everyone should be prepared to be self-sustaining (food, water, medications, etc.) for a minimum of 72 hours. and don’t forget to include your pets in your planning. you can also sign up for emergency alerts (email/texts) through your jurisdictions (work and home).

  • There are so many unknowns here — where you live, where you work,
    what time of day the event happens, whether you have dependents you
    are caring for — that there is no one size fits all answer.  I live
    in the Bloomingdale / Ledroit Park neighborhood with my stay-at-home
    wife and two young children and work in Metrocenter.  There are very
    few events that I can think of where sheltering in place isn’t the
    best idea for us.  I can run home from the office in 20 mins.  We have
    a basement.  We have emergency supplies for a week, not just three
    days.  If we needed to leave, the plan would be to load up our larger
    car and drive north or north-east along the path of least resistance
    — away [from DC] is really the immediate goal here; though we’d try
    to eventually make our way up to southern Pennsylvania.  But again,
    it’s really hard to think of an event — particularly a “surprise”
    event, like a bombing downtown — where sheltering in place isn’t the
    best option for someone who lives outside of the center of the city /
    the immediately affected area.  Even if it were a dirty bomb that went
    off on the Mall, sheltering in place is probably far safer than being
    out in the open trying to leave the area.  And given how densely
    populated the suburbs are, I can’t imagine what a cluster a mass
    evacuation would be.  So my advice to most anyone would be to have at
    least a week’s worth of supplies:  enough water for a week of 100
    degree whether, enough blankets for a week of 10 degree whether,
    enough food for your family x 2 (you may be a refuge for your neighbor
    who did not plan for this), multiple LED flashlights and plenty of
    batteries (including a way to charge your cell phone, if at all
    possible), two hand-cranked transistor radios, a way to start a fire
    and waterproof bags.  Even if you can shelter in place for three or
    four days before starting your evacuation, you’ve probably
    dramatically increased the odds of safely and speedily getting to your
    evac point.  I also think your personal safety is much easier to
    safeguard when you are within the confines of your home than when you
    are out on the road.  I am confident I could protect my family when we
    are huddled together in our basement.  I am not confident I could do
    so while stuck in our car on New Hampshire Avenue surrounded by
    thousands of other similarly scared and desperate people.

  • A big factor in buying our house in the city is that we both remembered that on 9/11, metro, bridges, 495 etc were shut down. So, we bought a house that we could walk to if something happened. My mother is all over emergency preparedness and gets us items for birthdays, Christmas. We have some oil candles, a hand crank radio, etc. I keep thinking about going to wisefoodstorage dot com and getting the basic package and throwing it in the closet just in case. I should also get some water stored, but don’t really know where I would put it.

    I had some friends that had a food storage closet and they always bought redvines and other candy to add to the necessary stuff – so they wouldn’t be too deprived in the event of an emergency.

    Cash is another good thing to have on hand – I seem to remember ATM access after Katrina was a big problem.

  • In case anyone else was thinking, “Hmm, maybe I should assemble a ‘Go Kit’,” here’s a list of what it should include:


  • Tips from the Humane Society on making a disaster plan for your pets:


  • Why does this remind me of a 1960s government-issued bomb-shelter construction manual I found in my parents’ attic. It gives some detail of the root cellar type of shelter, but most of it is for useless plans made to make people feel good about their chances in an attack that (except for during the Cuban Missile Crisis) was very unlikely to happen anyway, and that, if it did happen, they either had little chance of surviving or would be sorry they did. Examples include leaning a piece of plywood at a 45 degree angle against your basement wall and putting sandbags over it. Duck and cover, kids. Duck and cover.

    • I get your point… but emergency preparedness in general is still a good idea.

      Even if preparing for a terrorist attack were completely useless (which it’s not), it’s still worthwhile to plan for things like flooding, extended power outages, tornadoes, etc.

      • I’m pretty much resigned to being one of the ten foolish virgins, if any of the heathens out there know what that means.

    • “They all called me old-fashioned for teaching the duck-and-cover method, but who’s laughing now?”

  • I live a mile from work, so I’ll just walk home. If there’s a real need to evacuate, I’m close to the river, and the city will have emergency water taxis ferrying people across. The bridges would be shut down anyway.

  • After the earthquake, when people did not have to evacuate the core and the emergency route timings on roads were turned on and mass transit was still running (if slowly in the case of Metro), traffic was unreal. It made me realize that in the case of a true emergency, when transit is shut down entirely and everyone has to leave at once going in the same direction, we are, as they say, #%^&!d.

  • I work 3.5 miles from home and my GF works 1 mile from home so we’ve allotted 12 hours to make it back to our place to decide whether we want to stay or try and flee (we have a car, bikes, feet, whatever). If one of us doesn’t make it home in 12 hours, chances are we aren’t coming at all. After the 12 hours has passed and one of us doesn’t show, the other person has the option of taking the supplies (food, water, cash, etc) and attempting to evacuate to a safer location.

    • I’d be curious to know if the one who gets to the house actually leaves after 12 hours when the other one doesn’t show up. That’s the point in the movie when viewers start yelling at the screen.

      • Well I’m not sure I would wait a whole 12 hours myself. There might be a reason I’m single…

        • Yes, Alan, you should leave town quickly, so that there will only be us pet-owning, unprepared folks left here to fight over the irradiated dead squirrels and weeds that we’ll need for sustenance. We’ll thank you then!

      • saf

        I couldn’t, unless I knew he was dead. The cats and I would wait.

  • As has been said, I cant really imagine a disaster where they would evacuate the city suddenly. I have a bunch of camping supplies which serves as a go pack at my apartment.

    If they were to evacuate the city I would get a bike (scooter would be ideal) and just take the C&O Canal out. You can get all the way to Pittsburg on that.

  • I’m glad to see that several people have bug-out bags at work. I’ve been thinking about getting one for both my fiancee and I to have since we both so close to the White House but kept telling myself I’m just paranoid. Will be ordering some from amazon tonight!

  • My sister works in emergency management in California. She asked me what I’ve done to prepare for a disaster. I said that I can see the Capitol Building from my front yard. An evacuation of my neighborhood (if anything other than soot and ashes remain to evacuate), would basically mean that it’s all over but the shouting anyway, so what’s the point? She basically agreed with me.

  • Some “down and dirty” basic first aid. ABC = Airway, Bleeding, Circulation.

    1. Don’t move the victim unless they are clearly choking/vomitting.

    2. If choking/vomiting, roll them on their side. Ideally stabilizing the head and neck. (cradle the head between your elbows with your hands on the shoulders)

    3. Bleeding – press directly on the wound (ideally with a cloth) and elevate the limb.

    • Breathing. B is Breathing.

      • Yeah – in old CPR training, but if someone bleeds to death, breathing isn’t a big issue. Surprising number of people don’t know what to do for bleeding – direct pressure & elevation. New CPR guidelines don’t even require breathing, just chest compressions.

        • That’s not the point. If you’re repeating rules of first aid, repeat them correctly. Don’t just make your own up – B does not stand for bleeding in any first aid rule I’ve ever heard. I haven’t been re-certified in many years but information on the AHA website says your statement about new CPR guidelines is wrong or, at best, incomplete.

  • PDleftMtP

    This is a great question, by the way.

  • When the shit goes down, don’t think you’re getting out of here on anything other than a bike, your feet or your boat. Ain’t gonna be no water taxi service or gvt busses until the ashes have cooled. Something tells me many of you might not find that to be exceptional service.

  • Nobody has mentioned this: I fill up my gas tank whenever it gets down to half-full. Many people, especially cash-strapped people, drive around with almost empty gas tanks.

    Previous evacuations have shown over and over again a real panic as the close-in gas stations get sucked dry. I always have enough in my tank to go at least 250 miles.

    • That’s a good idea. I remember having a tank that was 3/4ths full when we had that snowstorm with the epic traffic jam. By the time I got home (12 miles away & 8 hours later) I was down to the last drop and was extremely lucky to find a gas station that had power. So many cars had been abandoned when people ran out of gas along the way.

    • PDleftMtP

      But the natural urge to run doesn’t necessarily serve you well, particularly when everyone else is doing it and you’re putting yourself in a huge jam of trapped, panicked people. There are very few things that can happen here where you’re better off outside than hunkered down at home. Maybe if the dirty bomb or anthrax release happens down the block, but even then odds are you’re either already dead or OK where you are.

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