Residents living near the Department of Defense's new Washington Headquarters Service building at Mark Center got a chance to hear how the massive new building is affecting Alexandria's emergency response plans.
City emergency management coordinator Mark Penn guided residents inside the auditorium at Francis Hammond Middle School through a few worst-case scenarios.
"We're gonna talk about an active shooter incident at 11 a.m.," Penn explained to the audience. "Numerous calls are coming in that shots are fired in the vicinity of Mark Center."
Afterward, Alexandria law enforcement leaders explained how their respective departments would respond, what other agencies would be involved, and how fast federal resources could be utilized.
It was an exercise designed to reassure local residents that city leaders are prepared for the worst, but Fire Chief Adam Thiel, who was among those answering questions from the audience Thursday night, says the congestion around the new building is causing problems even without a doomsday situation.
"My principal concern is being able to serve this area on a regular day for the garden variety fire and medical services calls that we receive and being able to do that in a timely fashion," says Thiel.
Thiel says the ideal response time for an emergency service is 5 to 7 minutes, and the average response time in the area around Mark Center is more than 8 minutes.
Thiel says that isn't likely to change until a new fire station is built west of 395, a proposal that Alexandria's City Council is currently considering.