Posted: Aug 25, 2011 9:57 AM by Lauren Wilson & AP
WASHINGTON (AP) - Officials in Washington know a strong evacuation plan is critical in the nation's capital, but they found out this week that evacuating during emergency is slow going.
When a 5.8-magnitude quake shook much of the East Coast on Tuesday, traffic was snarled for miles in downtown Washington as employers released workers early and at the same time. Some traffic lights malfunctioned and several streets were closed as work crews surveyed reports of damage.
Trains were overloaded and slowed by speed restrictions imposed after the quake.
The problem is raising questions about Washington's capability to carry out a swift and efficient evacuation in the event of a full-blown disaster.
Five years ago, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security called Washington region's emergency response plan "not sufficient" for a catastrophic incident. The city's 2008 response plan describes some plans for evacuations but also suggests that it may be preferable for people to seek shelter where they are instead of trying to scramble home.