Some Lyon Park residents have expressed concern about Arlington’s 911 system after waiting on hold while calling in last Wednesday’s house fire on N. Highland Street. Arlington’s Office of Emergency Management, however, says everything worked just as it was supposed to.
Some callers reported hearing a recorded message while they were put on hold for several minutes, according to an ARLnow.com tipster. OEM Director Jack Brown confirmed that there were callers who heard a message asking them to stay on the line while the system was flooded with calls. Anyone who hung up was then called back to verify that they were safe and to check if they still needed emergency assistance, exactly like any other 911 hang up.
“It’s not an overburden for us, it’s just very busy in the initial stages of an emergency,” said Emergency Communications Center Commander John Crawford. “The system was working and the people were working. The only issue we get is when lots of people call all at once.”
Crawford explained that Arlington’s 911 call center has a minimum of 10 people staffing it at all times. Typically, calls immediately go through to a staffer. But when an emergency occurs, such as during the Lyon Park fire, there are so many calls that each one cannot be answered immediately.
“The phones just literally lit up. We knew it was something significant,” Crawford said. “If 10 people call 911, the eleventh person is going to get a pre-recorded message asking them to hold. We purposely put that recording in there because in years past the phone would just ring and ring, and people would question if they called the right number.”
The automatic call distribution system immediately sends holding callers to the first available staff member as soon as a line frees up. Once information is gathered from the first couple of callers, the rest of the calls typically move more quickly. Staffers make every effort to gather information from each caller as rapidly as possible to avoid missing an emergency.
“You never know, that eleventh call or twelfth call might be someone in a horrific accident on G.W. Parkway not related to the fire, so we have to go through every call as quickly as possible,” said Crawford. “I have to talk to you but I don’t have to talk to you long. To some people it may sound rude, but I need to cut to the chase and get the info I need and then hang up the phone.”
Crawford noted that Arlington’s 911 call center received significant upgrades five years ago, including expanding the number of phone lines from 16 to 48. Improvements have been made to prevent the system from “locking up” as it did during the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001.
“On 9/11, the phones rang and lit up so quick that it locked the system up. Literally hundreds. We couldn’t even get to them,” said Crawford.
9/11 also put into play the rare “code red” alert that gets sent out to staff pagers and phones, ordering them back to work to help with a large emergency. With the additional lines that have been added since that time, the center could now have 48 call takers working at the same time — one for each phone line.
“Thank God, other than a couple of disasters I know of, we haven’t had need to upstaff to that degree,” said Crawford.
Arlington’s 911 center does add extra staff members during anticipated busy times, such as weekend nights and planned events like races. However, on the average day, the 10 or so call takers need to deal with any incidents that arise.
Crawford noted that it’s important for people to continue to call when they see or hear something occur because you never know if another person will call or not. He asks residents to be patient if they’re put on hold during a flood of calls, and promises the call takers are doing the best they can.
“We work for the citizens, those are our customers,” Crawford said. “We try to provide the best possible customer service to them.”
(Updated at 2:15 p.m.) Police have begun their annual crackdown on passengers who aren’t wearing seat belts. The Click It or Ticket enforcement period began yesterday (May 20) and runs through Sunday, June 2.
The Arlington County Police Department says motorists should always wear seat belts, and those who refuse to will be targeted. ACPD is joining other local and state law enforcement officers, as well as those across the country, who are focusing on seat belt laws during this time period.
According to the Department of Motor Vehicles’ Safety Office, preliminary statistics show that last year 305 of Virginia’s 774 fatalities were not wearing seat belts at the time of the crash. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics from 2011 indicate 272 Virginians lived through accidents due to wearing a seat belt.
Per state law, everyone in a vehicle must be wearing a seat belt. Drivers are encouraged to tell all people riding with them to buckle up. If there are passengers under the age of 18 violating the law, the driver can receive tickets for each unrestrained minor. Passengers over the age of 18 can receive their own tickets if unrestrained while riding in a car.
ACPD recorded 630 seat belt violations during traffic stops from May 2012 through April 2013.
The new Sweet Leaf Cafe in Courthouse quietly opened its doors this past weekend and handed out free food to customers who stopped in. Now, the restaurant is officially open for business.
Sweet Leaf Cafe moved in at 2200 Wilson Blvd, formerly occupied by Hikaru Sushi. It is the third location, with others in McLean and Vienna. Owner Arita Matini said she’s been wanting to expand into Arlington for a while.
“I love the young environment here, it’s so refreshing,” she said.
Matini believes the cafe stands out because it doesn’t specialize in just one food item. Customers can pick up a little bit of everything, including sandwiches, smoothies, coffee or all day breakfast items. There is also a kids menu and a variety of freshly baked treats.
“We try to do a little bit of everything but also try to keep it simple. We care about providing really good quality food and being part of the community,” said Matini. “Customer service is really big for me. I want to be sure that everyone who comes in is really happy when they leave.”
Matini grew up in Northern Virginia and was an interior design major at Marymount University. She was inspired to get into the restaurant business during her commute to and from Marymount because she felt there were too many chain restaurants in the area. She sought help from her mom, who owns Sweet Stuff in McLean. Matini says all the members of her family now play some role at Sweet Leaf Cafe.
“It wasn’t really something that we thought we were going to do, it was one of those things that kind of just happened. We all loved it and it was successful and we wanted to open another one,” said Matini. “My parents definitely helped me out. Without them, this probably wouldn’t have happened.”
From the couches in the lounge area to the doorknobs functioning as coat hooks to the pieces of an old chicken coop serving as a holder for bags of chips, Matini’s interior design education shows through. She travels around the area searching for unique antiques to adorn the restaurant. She describes the vibe as “farm fresh, country, like your mother’s home.” The free sunflower seeds placed on the table for customers to munch on also add to the country feel.
If things go well with the new location, Matini would like to expand into other areas of Arlington, such as Rosslyn. She hopes to have a grand opening celebration in a few weeks. Until then, the staff will continue serving the curious customers who have been steadily coming in.
“It’s been a good welcome to the neighborhood,” said Matini. “Everybody’s been really nice and welcoming.”
A mother saw the man sitting in a van near the school’s bus stop on N. 31st Street around 8:20 yesterday morning. When she noticed that he was naked from the waist down, she called police.
The person is described as a white male with dark hair, in his mid to late 40s. At the time of the incident he was in a white Chevrolet Astro van that had ladders on the roof.
Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck said the mother did exactly what she should have in this type of incident.
“If something doesn’t feel right, it’s better to alert police and let them investigate,” Sternbeck said. “The ACPD is following up on the incident and will have an increased presence in the area.”
If found, the man could be charged with indecent exposure.
Pierce Queen Apartments Too Costly for Tax Credits? — The Virginia Housing Development Authority has flagged the Pierce Queen Apartments project in Ft. Myer Heights as being too expensive for Low Income Housing Tax Credits. The units must remain at $350,000 each to receive credit, but the Pierce Queen units come in at $402,000. The project developers asked for a little more than $2 million in tax credits. VHDA is still examining the request and will make its final decision on June 5. [Arlington Mercury]
DOD Renews Lease in Crystal City – The Department of Defense decided to renew its lease at 2530 Crystal Drive in Crystal City. The agency was expected to stay in the more than 550,000 square foot space due to money being tight within the federal government. [GlobeSt]
High School Tournament Roundup — In high school sports, the Washington-Lee boys tennis team defeated the Robinson Rams in a quarterfinal match, but lost to Langley in the region semifinals. Yorktown boys and girls lacrosse teams lost in their second rounds of tournaments. Yorktown sophomore Luke Maxwell finished his season undefeated and won the National District singles tennis tournament without dropping a set. [Northern Virginia Sports]
Flickr pool photo by ddimick
This Friday, May 17, through Sunday, May 19, the chapel is holding its annual Honoring Animals Weekend. From pet portraits to a behavior class to a blessing of the animals service, a variety of activities will be offered. Perhaps one of the largest draws, however, will be pet psychic Diane Roadcap.
Roadcap has been featured in a variety of publications, such as the Washington Post, because she says she can communicate with animals. She has also been lauded for her assistance to shelter animals.
Roadcap will be holding a class called “Animal Communication: Yes, you can do it!” on Saturday at 10:00 a.m. Her psychic pet reading sessions have already sold out for the weekend.
Other instructors will also hold classes and consultation sessions, such as reiki healing and dog massages, at Arlington Metaphysical Chapel (5618 Wilson Blvd) for Honoring Animals Weekend. The full class list and registration can be found online.
(Updated at 3:30 p.m.) All lanes of Glebe Road have reopened at Route 50 following a three vehicle accident that shut down traffic for about half an hour.
Police say all lanes of southbound Glebe Road were shut down and only one lane of northbound is getting by.
According to police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck, the accident occurred on the overpass of Route 50. Two of the vehicles involved were blocking the southbound lanes and the third was in a northbound lane.
One person was transported to the hospital with minor injuries.
Part of what took a while to get the busy road reopened was the amount of debris strewn across the roadway due to the extensive damage to the cars. The police investigation into the accident is ongoing.
Photos courtesy of Arlington County Police Department
The Embassy of the Republic of Korea (ROK) has offered Arlington County the use of prime land in the Courthouse area at no cost. The County Board is scheduled to vote on the lease agreement at its meeting this Saturday, May 18.
The two parcels of vacant land run along Clarendon Blvd, between N. Adams Street and N. Barton Street. The ROK Arlington Embassy Annex building lies adjacent to the land, but faces Wilson Blvd. The land parcels up for grabs currently house nothing but fenced asphalt and gravel lots.
The embassy reports that the space is only used a few times each year during large meetings. It decided to offer the land to the county as a goodwill gesture.
Terms of the lease would allow the county to use the land free of rent as long as it maintains the parcels. The county may use the property for any legal use, provided it notifies the embassy prior to changing the land use. Any permanent improvements on the land would first require consent from the embassy.
The lease agreement would be in effect for a minimum of two years and would continue until terminated by one of the parties. The county staff report indicates maintenance costs associated with the lease would be minimal and no significant fiscal impact is expected.
Although the county staff report recommends the Board approves the deal, so far no firm plan has been developed for the future of the land. The county’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development (CPHD) performed a preliminary land analysis and came up with some potential uses and improvements to the property. CPHD is prepared to solicit public input on possible uses for the site.
(Updated at 12:00 p.m.) Non-profit organization Preservation Virginia has named Arlington National Cemetery to its list of the state’s most endangered sites.
Each year the group chooses historical sites it believes have become threatened due to neglect, insufficient funding, inappropriate development or public policies and procedures. The cemetery made the list due to the Millennium Project, an expansion project requiring the removal of trees on 12 wooded acres, and the removal of portions of the red sandstone Seneca Wall, which was constructed during the late 1800s.
Around 800 trees would be removed from the cemetery as part of the plan, although about 600 would be replanted. Preservation Virginia’s concerns surround not only the tree removal, but also the amount of soil being moved, the extent of the new retaining walls to be constructed and the road to be built across a stream that is “likely to irreparably alter the topography and run counter to the objectives of Congress.”
This isn’t the first complaint about the Millennium Project’s plan for tree removal. Arlington residents and members of citizens groups, such as the Arlington Urban Forestry Commission, have voiced displeasure with the plan. In March, a number of people spoke out against the tree removal during an open house at the site.
Preservation Virginia said the following in a written statement:
“Preservation Virginia respects the mission of Arlington National Cemetery to provide for military interments, but along with other partner preservation organizations believes that there is a better way to create additional burial space while also respecting the significant contributions of Arlington House Woods and the existing, historic boundary wall to this sacred place… Preservation Virginia urges the Army Corps of Engineers to revisit the Environmental Assessment and to seek an expansion alternative that respects the historic significance of Arlington Woods, protects its historic landscape, and provides for additional burial space.”
Preservation Virginia’s full list of endangered sites for 2013 can be found on its website.
(Updated at 3:40 p.m.) Track work will close Metro stations along the Orange Line this weekend, for the third time in the past month. This time the Ballston and Virginia Square stations will be out of service.
The closures begin at 10:00 p.m. on Friday, May 17, and run through closing on Sunday, May 19. Trains are expected to operate at normal weekend intervals even though service will be split into two segments — between Vienna and East Falls Church and between Clarendon and New Carrollton.
Free shuttle buses will replace trains between East Falls Church and Clarendon. Customers using shuttle bus service should add up to 25 minutes to their travel time.
The last trains of the night from Vienna to East Falls Church will depart 28 minutes earlier than normal — at 1:57 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, and at 10:57 p.m. on Sunday.
The Orange Line closures are to allow for track circuit module replacement. There will also be work on the Red and Green lines this weekend. Information regarding those closures can be found on WMATA’s website.
The Ballston Business Improvement District expressed concern about the timing of the Ballston Metro station closure, considering the Taste of Arlington festival is expected to bring around 20,000 people to that area on Sunday.
Members of the BID have worked out a deal with WMATA. The station closures will remain in effect and passengers will still need to take shuttles between East Falls Church and Clarendon. However, starting around 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, additional shuttles will be put into service to accommodate the heavier flow of passengers expected to travel to Taste of Arlington, which begins at noon.
“They will add a whole crew of buses to the schedule for Sunday so they can ensure that nobody is waiting too long and can get to their destination in a timely fashion,” said Ballston BID CEO Tina Leone. “We’re not the first group this has happened to. They’ve assured us they will monitor the buses in making sure they’re arriving and leaving at a rapid rate. We’re just thrilled they were so responsive and so accommodating.”
Leone added that the bus trip is only about 10 minutes, so hopefully festival attendees won’t experience too many delays. Those who prefer to drive to the event should note that the cost is only one dollar for three hours to park at the Ballston garage.
Disclosure: Ballston BID is an ARLnow.com advertiser
Heavy Seas Alehouse to Open in Rosslyn — Baltimore brewer Heavy Seas plans to open a restaurant at the newly renovated 1501 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. So far, the existing Baltimore location is the only other Heavy Seas Alehouse besides the one planned for Rosslyn. The restaurant is expected to open by the end of this year. [Washington Business Journal]
Army Ten-Miler Registration to Begin — Registration for the Army Ten-Miler opens at midnight on Wednesday, May 15. This year, 35,000 spots will be available for the October 20 race, instead of 30,000. General admission entries sold out within nine hours last year. [Army Ten-Miler]
Local Eighth Grader Named State’s Top Female Orator — Swanson Middle School eighth grader Dorothee Mulumba won the Virginia State Oratorical Contest on May 4. In total, her scholarship winnings from the local, regional and state competitions add up to $3,000. [Sun Gazette]
McDonnell Signs Transportation Bill — On Monday, Gov. Bob McDonnell signed the transportation funding bill into law. The law cuts the state’s 17.5 cents per gallon gas tax and raises the state sales tax from 5 percent to 5.3 percent, in addition to adding a $64 registration fee for hybrid vehicles. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by Mark C. White
Officer Long Dinh was critically injured in a February chase that ended with the suspect crashing head-on into his police cruiser at a high speed. The suspect died and Dinh was just released today from his nearly two month hospital stay.
Dinh has undergone multiple surgeries to repair his two broken legs, and continues physical therapy for the injuries. He is also dealing with short term memory issues stemming from the head trauma he sustained during the incident.
To help offset the costs of Dinh’s treatment and ongoing hospital stay, members of the Fairfax County Police Department are challenging members of the Metropolitan Police Department to a fundraiser hockey game. It will take place at 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, April 28, at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Ballston (627 N. Glebe Road). The public is welcome to attend and donations will be collected at the event.
Anyone who cannot attend Sunday’s event but wishes to contribute to Officer Dinh’s rehabilitation fund can do so online.
It’s been closed for the past 15 months, but Potomac CrossFit is reopening this weekend at its new location in Courthouse.
Last year, Potomac CrossFit at 1039 N. Highland Street in Clarendon closed, along with nearby businesses, to make way for a new development that’s currently under construction. Tomorrow, the gym will hold a grand reopening celebration at its new home at 1320 N. Courthouse Road.
With more than 8,000 square feet, the Courthouse location offers more than double the space of the previous site. Employees at the new location also boast of shower facilities, new equipment and a revamped class schedule.
Everyone is welcome to stop by for a free class tomorrow (Saturday) at 10:30 a.m. No CrossFit experience is necessary. Immediately following the class, the grand reopening celebration will kick off at 11:30 a.m. Visitors can check out the facility, meet instructors and enjoy food and drinks.
Arlington Homeless Population Increases — Despite a decline of 2.4 percent across most of the region, Arlington’s homeless population rose by six percent between 2012 and 2013. The figures were gathered during the annual homeless census on January 30. The county’s new homeless count stands at 479 people, up from 451 the previous year. [Sun Gazette]
Streetcar Cost/Benefit Test — An article criticizing Libby Garvey’s op-ed in the Washington Post contends streetcars do indeed pass the cost/benefit test, contrary to Garvey’s thoughts. The author favors a streetcar to buses based on points such as the streetcar having a greater passenger capacity, faster rate of travel and bringing more development to the area. [Greater Greater Washington]
Raise the Roof Service Project — The Arlington Teen Network Board has teamed up with Rebuilding Together Arlington/Fairfax/Falls Church for a service project called “Raise the Roof.” Tomorrow (April 27), volunteers will begin repairing the Borromeo Housing, Inc. group house, which is a transitional home for teen moms and their children. Volunteers are collecting money to continue with the next phase of the service project, which involves a facelift of the interior and exterior of the home. Those interested in contributing can do so through the project website.
Police Seek Tips in Two Theft Incidents — The Arlington County Police Department is seeking the public’s assistance in finding suspects involved in two separate theft incidents. The first incident involved shoplifting at South Moon Under (2700 Clarendon Blvd) on March 1. Suspect descriptions are available online, along with contact information for reporting tips. The second case involves tracking down persons of interest in the theft of a victim’s wallet. The victim’s credit cards have since been used around the area. Suspect information and contact information for reporting tips for that crime can also be found on the police department website.
An SUV was totaled after hitting two parked school buses in the Pentagon City area this afternoon.
The Nissan Murano struck one bus that was parked on S. Hayes Street and damaged the front bumper. It then hit the rear and side of the other. No children were on the Washington County, Md. school buses at the time of the accident.
The southbound lanes of S. Hayes Street were shut down at 15th Street during cleanup, but have since reopened.
The driver of the SUV was transported to the hospital as a precaution but did not sustain any significant injuries. Nobody else was injured, either. Police say no charges have been filed against the driver so far.