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Like much of the National Capital Region, I am shocked we had an earthquake this morning.  For people in Washington, DC, an earthquake is usually a shocking news story – like when a President has an intern do more than sharpen pencils; someone changes political parties and changes the balance of power; or when there is a major budget announcement and you find your life’s work is no longer funded.

But we had an honest to goodness 3.6-on-the-Richter-Scale-earth-moving experience. In typical DC fashion, this has generated the usual Beltway news hysteria. On the ride in this morning, radio stations of every genre were taking callers describing how the baseball caps fell off their TV; how their dog started barking uncontrollably; and their fears that construction workers had hit a gas-line in their neighborhood.

I thought the reactions I heard were hilarious, but they reminded me a lot of the reactions that most people in this area have when there is a forecast for snow. At the drop of a hat, people seem to run straight to the grocery and hardware stores to stock up on bread, milk, eggs and toilet paper while fighting with someone over the last available snow shovel in a 50 mile radius.

Now, our Nation’s Capital is built on a swamp; a fact proven by some of our wretched summers and watching some of the behavior captured on C-Span. But just because we live in an area were awful humidity, murky ground and mosquitoes find favor does not mean we are immune from all of Mother Nature’s furies. From the record snowfalls of earlier this year; oppressive humidity; destructive thunderstorms; flash flooding and more, our area is full of hazards.  [And notice I didn’t even mention the threats associated with terrorism, our horrible traffic or riding Metro!]

This area has plenty of reasons to be on edge, and this morning’s earthquake gives us another. That’s where I thought this morning’s media failed us. While they all accurately described the events of 5 AM and what impacts the earthquake did or did not cause, I did not hear one of them talk about PREPAREDNESS.

Today’s earthquake is another one of those teachable moments when our media sources, public officials and more can be talking about having a plan, making a kit and being prepared. As fun as it is to hear the anecdotal stories of who did what when the Earth moved, none of those stories will save a live or make a positive difference if we don’t take the individual positive steps for our families and our businesses – if we don’t do the basics of being ready. That’s a message that needs to be reinforced at every available moment, and I hope people wake up to that fact and start talking about it.

Rich Cooper blog primarily on emergency preparedness and response, management issues related to the Department of Homeland Security, and the private sector’s role in homeland security. Read More