Diary of an Evacuation

It’s just before 10am and I’m sitting in the server room, cataloging the backup drives I’m going to have to dismount in about 5 minutes when we have our evacuation drill. When the London attacks happened in July, it was a notice to management that we’d not had a single evacuation drill, building-wide, in the 18 months we’d been in the suite. Of course, we’re frequently on the receiving end of false alarms that force IT guys like me to go running down the hallway to the server room to check the status of the backup drives and pack up the fire safe for evacuation, so this was old hat to me. But we’d never really practiced it, so we asked building management to come teach us how to evacuate.

Meetings ensued.

Many meetings. Zones were drawn up, coordinators appointed, first-aid kits distributed, shelter-in-place instructions were written down, all manner of things preparing us to deal with hurricanes and earthquakes and tsunamis and acts-of-terror. But really, I can’t get excited about any of this. All these preparations when we’re four blocks from the White House and twelve from the Capitol. I can’t help but feel that any crisis that will need orderly, city-wide evacuation will level the office building in which I sit anyhow.

Of course, once you’re on the street, where do you go, anyhow? We’re north of the Pennsylvania Avenue Line of Demarcation, forcing me up and into Maryland, some 30-40 miles from my home in Virginia. Will Metro be open? Will it be able to function in the event of a Catastrophe? Who the hell knows?

Living with a bulls-eye painted beneath your feet, a target sign hanging from every important landmark, and the constant “Oh God, Oh God, We’re All Gonna Die” from Department of Homeland Security’s sekrit command facility in the burbs gets pretty old after a while. Thinking “Do I have gas in the car?” when the threat level turns nuclear-glow-orange again gets older and older the more I live here.

As we filed down the stairs, the klaxon’s bleating drowned out all of the chatter on my company-issue walkie-talkie, lawyers and secretaries and educators clumping down the stairs in their corporate footwear, I thought, surely, there must be a more pleasant way to live?

1 Comment so far

  1. Tiff (unregistered) on September 14th, 2005 @ 2:12 pm

    The particular challenge, of course, with disaster planning in a place like DC is that the kind of crisis we’re likely to face is man-made, rather than natural. In many places, a natural disaster is far more likely than a terrorism disaster, and those places are typically more susceptible to a particular *type* of disaster- tornadoes OR earthquakes OR hurricanes OR blizzards- but not all of them and certainly not at the same time. Each has its particular types of destruction that can be expected.

    Here, we’re less susceptible to natural disasters, but people who want to cause chaos in DC can be pretty inventive in what they choose to disable, blow up, contaminate, fly into, shoot at, etc. So you aren’t as sure what you’re planning for.

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