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Earthquake shakes Dover Air Force Base

A map of Delaware and the surrounding areas where a magnitude 4.1 earthquake occurred Nov. 30, 2017, six miles northeast of Dover is shown. (Courtesy photo) A map of Delaware and the surrounding areas where a magnitude 4.1 earthquake occurred Nov. 30, 2017, six miles northeast of Dover is shown. (Courtesy photo)

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DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. – Here at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, the military plans for natural occurrences such as hurricanes and snow storms, but no one thinks to plan for seismic activity.

At 4:47 p.m. on November 30, 2017, a magnitude 4.1 earthquake occurred six miles northeast of Dover, Delaware.

Tom Vallee, Armed Forces Medical Examiner System facility manager, and Robert Crothers, AFMES maintenance supervisor, said they came immediately following the earthquake to inspect the facility from roof to foundation for any damages that may have occurred. Crothers said they checked for any cracks in the structure, busted pipes, equipment damage and an overall assessment that everything was safe.

“It is my responsibility to ensure the building is safe for personnel to return to work as well as making sure the equipment is not damaged which could impact the unique mission,” said Crothers.

When the AFMES facility was built there were specifications that had to be done because of the proximity from the building and the runway.

Dr. Timothy McMahon, AFMES Department of Defense DNA Operations director, said some of the instruments used for data analysis are very sensitive to vibrations. He said due to the vibrations of the planes landing geo forms were put into the sub structure of the building to keep it stable.

 “The geo forms helped out when the earthquake occurred,” said McMahon. “Yesterday also reinforces the reason why all commands are required, especially with critical mission functions, to establish a Continuity of Operations Plan.”

Dr. Jeffrey Walterscheid, AFMES Forensic Toxicology director, said he was worried about any glassware that might have had strong acid or a chemical that could have fallen off the shelf creating a hazardous issue. He also made sure all the instruments were still upright and working.

“Primarily we are concerned with anything affecting our sensitive instrumentation used for mass spectrometry confirmations,” said Walterscheid. “We are also concerned with our screening techniques and forensic ways we use to prove that drugs exist in a specimen,” said Walterscheid.

The AFMES facility did not sustain any damage and no injuries have been reported.

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