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Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Plans in the Washington, DC Area


Since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, federal, state and local governments have spent more than $2 billion to protect the Washington, DC area. Despite the increase in security screenings and the creation of emergency plans, security officials in the region fear another major terrorist attack would result in similar chaos and confusion to that seen along the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina.

Police, health and emergency officials have developed elaborate evacuation plans. Local governments have made emergency plans that outline where they would shelter evacuees. The federal government has put a lot of resources into developing “homeland security”.

What plans are in place?

Alert DC is a three-part citizen emergency notification system, Washington’s high-tech answer to informing their citizens of an actual or impending incident that requires them to take some protective action (e.g. evacuate, or shelter-in-place).

1) DC Emergency Text Alert is an automated text notification system that sends emergency text messages to text capable devices, including cell phones, computer email, pagers, and fax machines. The system is capable of sending 18,000 text messages a minute to enrolled citizens.

2) DC Emergency Voice Alert is a telephone voice messaging system that is programmed to call all 1.5 million land-line telephone numbers registered in the District with a recorded message.

3) Emergency Alert System (EAS) is a system that includes equipment at several local area radio stations in which emergency messages are broadcast over local media outlets.

What about the 37 percent of Washington, DC households without a car?

The Transportation Department is working on a "walk-out" plan with neighborhood meeting places. Perhaps the federal and local governments will learn from the mistakes made during Hurricane Katrina that a plan is needed to evacuate people who do not have the resources to get out of the city on their own.

What resources are available to help families prepare an evacuation plan?


Disaster Prevention

DC Emergency Management Agency

Maryland Emergency Management Agency

Virginia Department of Emergency Management

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