D.C. disaster preparedness improved since snowstorm, earthquake

A January snowstorm left drivers in the D.C. area stranded for hours.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal and local officials say the Washington area is better equipped to respond to emergencies in the wake of an earthquake and a freak snowstorm that snarled traffic this year.

Officials testified about disaster preparedness Wednesday before a Senate homeland security subcommittee.

More than 600,000 people live in the nation's capital, and the population roughly doubles every workday. When everyone tries to leave at the same time, traffic can be snarled for hours.

In response, the federal Office of Personnel Management has added a shelter-in-place option to its dismissal procedures.

Dean Hunter, a deputy director at OPM, testified Wednesday that the option is intended to be used in the event of a chemical or biological attack. But he says it could have "short-term utility" during snowstorms or other weather events.