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D.C. quake doesn't shake Obama or FEMA boss

By Ed O'Keefe

The first question journalists asked President Obama on Friday morning, when he appeared outside the White House to discuss the Gulf of Mexico oil spill was whether he felt the earthquake that hit the D.C. area.

No, the leader of the free world answered with a slight smile, "I did not."

Indeed most Washingtonians slept through this morning's 3.6 magnitude earthquake, including Obama and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate.

And Fugate, who's in the business of expecting the unexpected, is using Friday's shake as a teachable moment.

"The tendency that we try to frame our lives in that we know our risks and know what’s going around, this little rumbling reminds us that we’re not always smart, we don’t always know what’s going to happen," Fugate said in an interview Friday. “Having that family preparedness plan in place is important.” (He never passes up a chance to remind Americans to visit for information on how to prepare for natural disasters, including earthquakes.)

Local road crews are trying to determine whether to order mass inspections of the region's roads and bridges, which Fugate cautioned may not be necessary.

"It really depends on how bad the infrastructure was in the first place," Fugate said. "If it’s already something they’re concerned about, then maybe." But he recalled addressing similar concerns as Florida's director of emergency management after an earthquake hit neighboring Alabama.

But if "the big one" hits along more active fault lines, Fugate said FEMA is ready.

The agency's response "scales up from there is no significant impact, to we support recovery operations, to deploying all federal responses," he said.

Washington and most other parts of the country are far away from active fault lines, but federal officials next year plan to rehearse a scenario involving a major earthquake along Midwestern fault lines stretching from Louisiana to Illinois. Agencies will use an earthquake from the early 1800s in the region as their example, Fugate said. The scenario and region were chosen because a quake there would impact multiple states and FEMA regions and require close local-state-federal coordination, he said.

The D.C. area earthquake: Tell us if you felt it.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

By Ed O'Keefe  | July 16, 2010; 10:48 AM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments  
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Yep, I didn't feel it either, slept right through it. I've met many others who did wake up, though. I guess I must be used to sleeping under a variety of circumstances...

Posted by: Eleiana | July 16, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: jiji1 | July 16, 2010 3:29 PM | Report abuse

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