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Homeland Security expert details quick reaction to Virginia earthquake

By Sam Penrod | Posted - Aug. 23, 2011 at 10:08 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY — A Utahn with experience with the Department of Homeland Security shared his insights on how the government was prepared to react to Friday's earthquake in Virginia. The rare quake was initially mistaken by many for a terrorist attack.

By the time the earth stopped shaking in Washington, D.C., former FEMA official and Homeland Security consultant Tom Panuzio says an emergency plan for the nation's capital was already in effect.

"They are extremely versed in handling situations like this, and it looks like today was a situation where they handled it well," Panuzio told KSL News Tuesday. "Could it have been worse? Absolutely."

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As a Homeland Security consultant, Panuzio knows the plan to keep the nerve center of the federal government operational during a disaster.

"Any time you are talking about preserving the continuity of government it starts with the individuals in the White House — making sure the White House, White House communications, White House personnel are secure," Panuzio said.

The U.S. Capitol Building and the Pentagon are next, followed by communications and transportation infrastructure in the city. The national monuments are also evaluated.

There's no doubt, the upcoming 10-year anniversary of 9/11 may have caused initial panic when the quake struck. "They don't know if a plane has hit the building, whether a bomb has gone off; especially in the D.C and New York areas, they don't know," Panuzio said.

With President Barack Obama on vacation in Massachusetts and Congress in recess, securing and potentially evacuating top leaders wasn't an issue Friday. But Panuzio believes the handling of the earthquake will be scrutinized to better prepare Washington, D.C., in case a devastating quake ever does hit.

Email: spenrod@ksl.com

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Sam Penrod

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