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Officials Discuss Impact of Earthquake, Importance of Preparation

A 5.8 magnitude earthquake centered in Mineral, VA struck the DC region one year ago on Aug. 23.

Local and federal emergency management officials and geological experts offered advice and updates a year after a 5.8 magnitude earthquake caused extensive damage to buildings close to the epicenter in Mineral, VA as well as national landmarks like the Washington Monument and Washington National Cathedral.

Though a 5.8 magnitude quake is small, compared to the incidents that shook Japan in 2011 and Haiti in 2010, "It doesn't take a big earthquake to cause big problems in the Eastern U.S.," said Bob Vogel, the superintendant for the National Mall and Memorials for the National Park Service.

The message offered by all was that the region must plan and be prepared for future emergencies and increase awareness of what to do in the case of an earthquake.

"More people felt this earthquake than any other earthquake in U.S. history," said Dr. Marcia McNutt, the director of the U.S. Geological Survey at a press conference Thursday.

While the USGS now has a wealth of information in its posession to help monitor and study geological activity along the East Coast, residents demonstrated in most cases that they do not know what to do in the case of an earthquake, remarked McNutt.

"They considered this like another emergency, in fact like the only emergency they really are well prepared for and that is a fire drill. So they filed out of the building," said McNutt.

But more people are harmed by falling debris and glass during an earthquake and aftershocks than anything else, explained Tim Manning, the deputy administrator for protection and national preparedness for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

"On Oct. 18 we are going to do a national earthquake drill where we encourage people to do what is appropriate when you feel the ground start to shake. And that is to drop, take cover and hold," said Manning.

Brett Burdick from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management said Louisa County, where the 2011 quake was centered, has been holding regular earthquake drills.

The District's Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency Director, Chris Geldart, said Mayor Vincent Gray and the District government are committed to the Southeast Shake Out drill in October.

Geldart also said his agency is continuing to develop plans to get the message out to residents and workers in D.C. about what to do when disasters and other emergencies occur.

"When you try to go home early like that, so does everybody else," he said, adding that his goal is to have a communications plan in place to prevent the crush of people leaving their offices and trying to get home all at once.

David Miller, the associate administrator for the Federal Insurance and Mitigation Division at FEMA, said the best thing that can come out of last year's quake is a more prepared public.

"Learning from what we face every day, even from the unpredictibale that the Mineral, VA earthquake represented allow us to be better prepared communities," said Miller.

Information on the SouthEast ShakeOut can be found at www.shakeout.org/southeast.

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