Urgent Evoke

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Act7 Urban disaster planning and resilience in Washington DC

I live in a mixed urban and rural area. There are 3 major metropolitan centers nearby, most notably Washington DC, several large communities, and then large expanses of rural land.

There are limited avenues of access and egress for vehicles--bottlenecks are the norm in the best of times. Combine overcrowded roads with emergency vehicles, and there is a real problem.

Solutions in the urban areas have included closing roads, and redirecting traffic around the city through the 19 transit corridors which radiate outward from downtown DC. Highways, beltways, surface roads; Metro-trains and open-rail trains; three airports, local helipads, ferries and boats--all could, potentially, be coordinated to assist in evacuation or support operations in the event of a disaster in Washington DC.

As a salient example, a few weeks ago, 30 March, 2010, DC Fire/EMS/Police communications were down for five hours. http://www.welovedc.com/2010/03/30/dc-fireemspolice-communications-... An electrical problem at DC's Office of Unified Communications crashed the emergency responders' primary radio system. DC Fire/EMS/Police, and the MPD defaulted to their backup radios, which were augmented by backup channels in Arlington County (VA) and Montgomery County (MD) on the 800Mhz radio band. Fire/EMS/Police and MPD also utilized cell phone communications and computers, and a temporary external command center to further coordinate command/control and assistance during the outage.

DC has a few redundancies (in multiple languages) of emergency action plans, to ensure preparedness. Some of the information available includes:

http://ddot.washingtondc.gov/ddot/cwp/view,a,1250,q,560885.asp

http://dc.about.com/od/publicsafety/a/katrinaemergres.htm

http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=12445&page=R1 (role of transit)

http://www.state.gov/doc**ents/organization/2083.pdf (contingency planning applicable to DC and elsewhere)

http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:3Vo-Po4z_sIJ:w...

(emergency walk-out evacuation plan for DC)

Host to many of the cutting edge organizations in green reform, humanitarian aid and development, emergency planning and management, DC itself is home to many individuals, neighborhoods, and communities which are now trying to catch up, address specific issues and insufficiencies, and bind all existing efforts (food banks, shelters, enforcement and civilian support patrols, etc) into a cohesive and effective wh***.

On the civilian side, groups are forming to look at all the key aspects of life (food, water, energy, transport, health, services, economics, ethic-ergonomics...), and working to implement action plans to diminish energy consumption and pollution, to enhance people's understanding of resilient community engagement and development (http://www.transitiontowns.org/ ).

A relatively new group, Ecolocity DC (http://ecolocity.ning.com/ ) is working to transition DC from one of the nation's most air-polluted, bottle-necked cities to a resilient, international community which can apply and practice alternative solutions to vulnerabilities in population, transit, health, food, water, and other critical issues. The primary focus is to transform DC into a Transition town, an ecocity, which can spread its innovative solutions to neighboring areas, and in widening circles thereafter.

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Comment by Marc Norab on April 17, 2010 at 11:59am
Good post! Things could have been much worse in DC from a traffic infrastructure standpoint -- the original urban planning for regional transportation back in the 50's called for a massive freeway network (a la Los Angeles). Instead, the metrorail system was developed (somewhat remarkably, considering it involves two states (Virginia and Maryland), the district of Columbia), with a circular freeway bypass of the greater DC area (thus giving rise to the phrase "inside/outside the beltway). Metro today is the 2nd largest (by passenger) subway system in the U.S. (trailing (by a large margin) New York City), although DC itself is only the 27th largest city in the U.S.
Comment by Michele Baron on April 17, 2010 at 1:20pm
thank you very much for the additional knowledge, Marc... the DC metro is much cleaner (by a large margin) than the subway system in New York... :) thanks again for your comments.
Comment by A.V.Koshy on April 19, 2010 at 9:36pm
so civilian engagement is the way forward?
Comment by Michele Baron on April 19, 2010 at 10:25pm
could you please clarify, koshy?
Comment by Dr Pete on April 19, 2010 at 11:25pm
Nice work... but we New Yorkers like our subway with a little Eau d'Urine scent
Comment by Michele Baron on April 20, 2010 at 2:28am
lol! What doesn't kill you makes you stronger! :) Thank you for your comments, Dr. Pete, and koshy
Comment by A.V.Koshy on April 20, 2010 at 7:04am
the best work seems to be done by civilians
Comment by Michele Baron on April 20, 2010 at 12:06pm
true, koshy. I think I understand--governments after all should represent the will, the hearts and minds of the people--and so the people should already be capable of attaining great things themselves. Maybe innovative solutions, your civilian engagement is like the quantum trade rings circle--the levels of trust, activity, talent grow with practise and this week's assignment--resilience training. Governments should support the best efforts and motivations, serve as social representatives and perhaps guides (being elected, having higher levels of access to knowledge as purview of service position?) and not as instruments of force, corruption, lack of transparency? Civilians, also, have more autonomy in some cases, to volunteer, within the social and legal frameworks as codified within the governments they have elected? Is this within your concept of civilian engagement, koshy?
Comment by A.V.Koshy on April 20, 2010 at 12:13pm
yes more or less
the idea of governemnts sharing knoweldge it is wish fulfullment
but civilians can make for less force and less corruption and more transparency over time
Comment by Wintermute on April 20, 2010 at 3:51pm
Well it seems that DC isn't too bad off. Especially when their are active civilians working to improve the situation.

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