Archive for August, 2018

2011 Virginia Earthquake

I was getting into my friend’s mini van, when I thought her dad had started the car while I was still halfway in the door with one foot in the car and another on the ground. I then realized that the car itself was not moving, but the ground was moving. My friend and her family noticed the earth shaking too, and just as suddenly as we realized –earthquake- it was over.

The 2011 Earthquake that hit Central Va and was felt in my hometown suburb of Washington D.C. was notorious for the damage it caused to the Washington Monument, preventing visitors from walking up it for years after.  But what I remember most about that day besides the surprise of feeling the earth shake, was no one having cell or phone service for the next few hours.  My friend and I had been supposed to go on a baby sitting job and her parents had been about to drive us to our client’s house before the shake. It was back in the day when my mom and our community was not constantly tracking their children’s whereabouts on smart phones, but rather expected me to call her if plans changed from what she had been told. As she knew we were baby sitting, the fact that none of our cell phones had service immediately after the quake did not worry me or my friend’s family. We would just call at the client’s house on their landline when we got there. When we got to the house we tried using the landline to reach my parents, none of my calls to their cell phones went through and no one was home. I went back to babysitting and didn’t worry, I knew my friend’s parents would pick us up and I would see my parents at dinner. But later I would learn that the experience I had of not being able to make calls was not unique. Besides disrupting many tourist’s dreams of walking up the Pencil, the Va Quake of 2011 was defined by the challenge of lack of communication with cell phone towers being overwhelmed and first responder’s having to resort to using radio.  A similar lack of ability to communicate with phone service occurred ten years prior after the 9-11, 2001 attacks. Thankfully no fatalities or serious injuries were reported, but with this much ado about nothing the takeaway from the 2011 quake was that a community’s timely recovery is threatened when communication lines are cut.

In the years since the 9-11 attack, advocating for better technology and plans of action for keeping phone lines and first responder’s communication lines open grew. The Va 2011 quake exposed that the problem was not fixed and that more work needed to be done.

http://www.vaemergency.gov/wp-content/uploads/drupal/Section3-13-Earthquake.pdf

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/08/24/quake-exposes-cracks-in-cell-phone-coverage-emergency-response.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/capital-weather-gang/wp/2016/08/23/remembering-the-2011-virginia-earthquake-that-rocked-the-eastern-u-s/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.11110dd4aa07