We often spend our time publicly in policy discussions, arguing the merits of taking one position or another – whether to build a streetcar line, this streetscape design vs. that one and so forth.
I want to take a moment to publicly recognize the majority of our employees, over 700, who work to preserve and maintain our public space every day, and keep our transportation system functioning safely and efficiently.
This week has been a challenging one, reminiscent of the snow we experienced in February. A “micro-burst” came through the city leaving extensive damage regionally on Sunday afternoon. As they always do, DDOT’s Urban Forestry Team, Traffic Operations Administration, and DDOT management immediately sprang to action to assess the damage and perform triage to clear downed trees and limbs from across the city. The Mayor’s Office of Community Relations and Services also played a key role with ward teams providing damage reports and photos. What initially was thought to be minimal damage was quickly realized to be much more.
Complicating the job considerably was sporadic wide-spread power outages. When the Mayor called me at 3:40pm on Sunday to report a tree burning on a power line he and I knew we had major damage and needed to quickly coordinate emergency response and clean up efforts. At this point, we realized it was going to be an all hands on deck situation with a lot of inter-agency interaction and Pepco coordination.
The extent of camaraderie and cooperation between agencies never ceases to amaze me. DC’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (HSEMA), Department of Public Works (DPW), Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), Fire and Emergency Medical Services (FEMS), along with DDOT, and many more agencies were on the ground securing sites, clearing roadways, communicating through central command, and entering issues to be addressed into our Citizen Response Management (CRM) system.
After the initial assessments and triage efforts to clear major roadways, the hard work began. We are still out there working now and getting Pepco to respond to sites with wires down and turn off power so they can clear and repair power lines and allow DDOT contractors and in-house teams access to fallen trees and debris. Then Pepco can permanently restore power for our residents. As I write, we are down to 7000 people without power in DC.
I want to assure the public that we are on the job until the last branch is gone, and the last resident has power restored. We will also continue to raise the bar for efficiency within DC Government in emergencies, as well as coordination with our crucial utility partners. Again, thanks to our DDOT people who get it done every day, often the unnoticed and hardest working people here, as well as our sister DC agencies and private sector contractors that work with us to keep DC a safe, world class city.
Additional photos of DDOT’s storm response efforts can be found on our Facebook page www.facebook.com/ddotdc.