By Kyle Ford, Editor, Belvoir EagleAugust 25, 2011
At 1:51 p.m., Tuesday, a 5.8-magnitude earthquake centered at Mineral, Va., rattled across Fort Belvoir.
The earthquake was felt as far north as New York and as far south as North Carolina, according to Tim Maples, operations specialist at Belvoir's Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security.
The post remained open for business per Fort Belvoir Garrison Commander Col. John Strycula.
Strycula allowed partner organizations to make their own calls as far as their operation status, according to Andrea White, DPTMS Chief of Plans and Operations.
"Immediately following the earthquake, Fort Belvoir law enforcement and fire departments were inundated with numerous calls, ranging from a twisted ankle to more serious injuries," said Frank Hentschel, Directorate of Emergency Services, deputy director for emergency services.
Numerous installation activities released their personnel early, which caused the normal evening traffic congestion to be pushed up by a few hours. That, in turn, caused a bottleneck on post, Hentschel said.
To relieve the congestion, Fort Belvoir Military Police overrode the traffic lights and directed traffic on Route 1.
"It took roughly and hour and a half to reduce the egress of the vehicles, but we got people closer to their destinations," said Hentschel.
"The earthquake was not a normal situation. But, the installation, as a whole, has numerous exercises and plans to maintain the safety of our population," he added. "Even though we were responding to numerous calls, DES never felt overwhelmed. We had all the assets we needed to reach everyone in need of assistance."
The Fort Belvoir Community Hospital received no patients with life-threatening injuries as a result of the earthquake and reported only minor damage, according to Charles Widener, FBCH strategic communications chief.
Tenant organizations and occupants of Belvoir buildings are asked to provide input on visual damage of buildings, said Ken Christensen, Directorate of Public Works.
"Structural engineers are currently out checking roads and buildings and ISS is updating a list and keeping DPW informed of major issues," said Christensen. "The engineers are mostly worried about the structures."
"We're counting on the occupants of the buildings to call the work order number to inform DPW of any damages to buildings," he said. Call (703) 806-3109 to report building issues.
Residents in Pinnacle housing should also check their homes for structural damage, according to Colleen Dickerson, investment manager, Pinnacle Family of Companies, The Villages at Belvoir. Residents who see damage to their homes should call (703) 454-9797.
Once the earthquake was over, Pinnacle used its One Call system to inform its residents of what was going on, said Janelle Carutis, marketing manager, Pinnacle, The Villages at Belvoir.
One Call is a mass email and phone messaging system that sends information to customers in the Pinnacle system.
"Our first and foremost concern is resident safety," said Dickerson. "So, we are out in full force to look for damages."
Electronic media played a large part in keeping the Fort Belvoir audience informed. The Fort Belvoir, Directorate of Family and Morale Welfare and Recreation; community hospital, and The Villages at Belvoir Facebook pages each provided information to their respective audiences.
Many friends of Belvoir shared their experiences on Facebook.
"I was in a high rise in Old Town Alexandria," said Elizabeth Wadsworth. "I knew right away it was an earthquake. I'm from California. But, I ran to the window just to make sure something didn't hit our building. I saw people in the office building across the street scrambling. And, just as I saw them, the intensity increased. I immediately got under my desk and yelled for others to do the same. Looks like more earthquake preparedness is now needed from East Coasters."
One construction worked described his experience as not fun.
"I was working in a building under construction in Arlington," said Jason Post. "The stair towers (60 feet high) swayed 12 inches from normal position and the tower crane swayed about 4 feet -- for those math people, that's an 8-foot round trip."
Responses on Facebook indicated that many people were checking information for Hurricane Irene when the earthquake struck and some took the event in stride as either construction or military exercises at first.
What should I do DURING an earthquake?
If you are inside when the shaking starts:
• Drop, cover and hold on. Move as little as possible.
• If you are in bed, stay there, curl up and hold on. Protect your head with a pillow.
• Stay away from windows to avoid being injured by shattered glass.
• Stay indoors until the shaking stops and you are sure it is safe to exit. If you must leave the building after the shaking stops, use stairs rather than an elevator in case there are aftershocks, power outages or other damage.
• Be aware fire alarms and sprinkler systems frequently go off in buildings during an earthquake, even if there is no fire.
If you are outside when the shaking starts:
• Find a clear spot and drop to the ground. Stay there until the shaking stops, away from buildings, power lines, trees, streetlights.
• If you are in a vehicle, pull over to a clear location and stop. Avoid bridges, overpasses and power lines, if possible. Stay inside with your seatbelt fastened until the shaking stops. Then, drive carefully, avoiding bridges and ramps that may have been damaged.
• If a power line falls on your vehicle, do not get out. Wait for help.
• If you are in a mountainous area or near unstable slopes or cliffs, be alert for falling rocks and other debris. Earthquakes often trigger landslides are often triggered by earthquakes.
What do I do AFTER an earthquake?
• Expect and prepare for potential aftershocks, landslides or even a tsunami. Earthquakes often generate tsunamis.
• Each time you feel an aftershock, drop, cover and hold on. Aftershocks frequently occur minutes, days, weeks and even months after an earthquake.
• Check yourself for injuries and get first aid, if necessary, before helping injured or trapped people.
• Put on long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, sturdy shoes and work gloves to protect against injury from broken objects.
• Look quickly for damage in and around your home and get everyone out, if your home is unsafe.
• Listen to a portable, battery-operated or hand-crank radio for updated emergency information and instructions.
• Check the telephones in your home or workplace to see if you can get a dial tone. Make brief calls to report life-threatening emergencies.
• Look for and extinguish small fires. Fire is the most common hazard after an earthquake.
• Clean up spilled medications, bleach, gasoline or other flammable liquids immediately.
• Open closet and cabinet doors carefully as contents may have shifted.
• Help people who need special assistance, such as infants, children and the elderly or disabled.
• Watch out for fallen power lines or broken gas lines and stay out of damaged areas.
• Keep animals under your direct control.
• Stay out of damaged buildings.
• If you were away from home, return only when authorities say it is safe. Use extreme caution and examine walls, floors, doors, staircases and windows for damage.
• Be careful when driving after an earthquake and anticipate traffic-light outages.
Information from an American Red Cross earthquake safety brochure. For more information go to redcross.org.