Before attention shifts completely to the impending hurricane, I wanted to pass on this chronology of the Tuesday afternoon earthquake from a DCPS principal. He/she requested anonymity, of course, because principals are not authorized to speak to the media for the record about anything of actual importance:
Quake at 1:51. Could not get through to anyone in DCPS. Chancellor’s office, cluster [superintendent’s] office or cell phone ... Most of my teachers’ cell phones were not working. Only the school land lines.
I did not evacuate the building .... I’m not leaving unless we are in imminent danger. We checked all the classrooms and other areas of the building by 2:05 and had no visible damage and no one was hurt. So we stayed inside.
Found out it was an earthquake from WTOP.
Made a robo-call to my parents telling them we were okay. Parents then sent an e-mail using the newsletter list serv. Individual teachers also sent e-mails to classroom list servs.
Only a few parents came up to the school. Most said they got the messages and decided everything was being handled well and would just wait for dismissal. Apparently I sound incredibly calm.
First e-mail came from John Davis [DCPS chief of schools] at 2:38. Said to stay evacuated. Of course we never left the building. No mention of the earthquake.
Next one at 2:55. Now we can walk the building and let the students back in.
Next update came a 5:58 and said to leave the building open for inspectors. I was still at school so I met with the custodians to make the arrangements. Fire inspectors came at about 6:30.
Then at 7:56 we were told that most buildings would be open, individual school by school closures and we finally got a phone number for the command center. By now I’m at home.
After 9-11 we were issued Nextel radio phones so we could communicate even if cellphones were out. Those haven’t been active in years. My DC blackberry was at home since it needs a new battery and doesn’t hold a charge. (My problem but I’ve been pretty busy the last few weeks.) It still seems like it takes forever to get information from downtown and phones don’t seem to be the way. But my robo-call worked. What about putting the schools on a robo-call? That worked. And if email is the expected means of communication, it is a little hard to use when you are moving all over the building checking on people and the building. Seeing me is really important in keeping everything calm.