The Arlington, which will carry an expeditionary force of Marines and vehicles to hot spots around the world, arrived in port to the sound of sirens. Arlington and Pentagon first responders were on hand for the event, and sounded their sirens in tribute to the 184 people who lost their lives in the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the Pentagon.
Three new San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ships — the USS Arlington, USS New York and USS Somerset — were named in honor of the victims of 9/11.
“The newest addition to the fleet, Arlington and its crew are a tangible tribute to honor the victims, heroes, and survivors,” the Navy said in a press release. “Her strength and fortitude are not only reflected in the ship’s crest and motto, but in the fact that her crew of 400 Sailors and Marines have worked diligently to ensure she is ready to execute the mission of the Navy, representing America, and Arlington County, around the world.”
The Arlington is “designed to be the most survivable amphibious vessel ever put to sea,” the Navy said.
“The ship combines 21st century amphibious shipbuilding and warfighting technologies to support current and future Marine Corps aircraft and landing craft, and will be capable of taking nearly 1,200 Sailors and Marines into harm’s way,” the Navy said.
Numerous Arlington first responders and elected officials are expected to attend the ship’s commissioning on April 6.
Photos courtesy U.S. Navy and Frank O’Leary. Video courtesy U.S. Navy.
The matter of keeping up with current technology is prompting county workers to investigate whether Arlington’s 911 system can soon upgrade and add a texting option. While it appears texting eventually will be added to the mix, it isn’t imminent.
“Certainly texting is something we want to get to, especially when someone is in a compromised position where they can’t talk on the phone,” said Arlington County Office of Emergency Management Director Jack Brown. “It’s something I believe is in the future.”
A few communities across the country — such as parts of Tennessee, Iowa, North Carolina and Vermont — have implemented or are experimenting with “Next Generation 911.” The Federal Communications Commission — which in 2010 held a press conference at Arlington’s Emergency Communication Center touting Next Gen 911 technology — announced in December that the top four cell phone carriers in America agreed to speed up the availability of the service, ensuring that 90 percent of the country’s cell phone users would have the capability by May 2014.
Although cell phones will be enabled for emergency texting, few 911 dispatch centers have the ability to receive texts. The Next Gen 911 systems are largely in their infancy and gaps exist to such a degree that officials in Arlington prefer to wait until the technology becomes further perfected.
“We want to put our money and time into the right place the first time,” said Emergency Communications Center (ECC) Deputy Commander Jeff Horwitz. “Prematurely, a resource could be more harmful than waiting to release it. So we’re really nervous about people sending texts to 911 before it’s ready.”
The current programs do not have provisions to allow 911 dispatchers to immediately determine a text sender’s location like they can with a phone call. Some communities moved forward with the texting system even without the ability to pinpoint where an emergency occurred, but Arlington is not willing to take that risk. Additionally, the texting system doesn’t allow dispatchers to determine if a person is quietly awaiting more instructions or if the emergency has resolved itself.
“When you hang up, our system knows you dropped a call. When you text, I don’t know when you’re done. Are you there? Are you being attacked? Are you unconscious? I don’t have any info telling me your call is dropped,” Horwitz said.
Perhaps the most pressing concern surrounding emergency texting is the inability to communicate immediately with callers. Although situations arise in which callers cannot speak to dispatchers, such instances are relatively rare. Typically, dispatchers are able to get more information from callers, soothe them and even offer potentially life saving assistance. It would prove far more difficult for dispatchers to help someone administer CPR, for example, if the person attempted to text while doing chest compressions.
“We really like to be able to talk to the people,” Brown said. “I can just envision someone texting 911 and someone trying to text back instructions. We haven’t worked that out yet.”
Both Horwitz and Brown stressed that implementing a flawed system could prove disastrous. Arlington had a glimpse into the seriousness of a failed 911 system during last year’s derecho, and nobody is interested in repeating that type of scenario.
Art from 9/11 Children Displayed at Pentagon — Art created by the children of those who lost their life on Sept. 11, 2001 is now on display at the Pentagon. It’s the first large-scale exhibit of the art, which was created by more than 500 children at a summer camp for the children of 9/11 victims. [WJLA]
Long-Form Article Examines Torrez Case — The Washington Examiner’s Harry Jaffe takes a close look at the case of former Marine Jorge Torrez, who is currently serving five consecutive life sentences for the abduction of two Arlington women and the abduction and brutal rape of another in February 2010. Torrez will face a death penalty trial next year for the murder of Navy petty officer Amanda Jean Snell. [Washingtonian]
Book Dating Returns to Shirlington Library — The Shirlington Branch Library (4200 Campbell Avenue) is calling all single bookworms for a “speed book dating” event. Participants are encouraged to bring a couple books they found interesting, and will then be given 3 minutes to discuss them with each potential date. [Shirlington Village Blog Spot]
Affordable Housing Complex Reopens — The Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing has reopened the 111-unit Buchanan Gardens apartment complex on Columbia Pike following major renovations. [Washington Post]
Arlington Foundation Raises Millions — The Arlington Community Foudnation has so far raised $4 million on its way to a goal of raising $15 million. The foundation “raises capital for grants and scholarships to address community needs now and in the future.” [Sun Gazette]
Flickr pool photo by Jeff Gamble
Remembering 9/11 at the Pentagon — President Obama is expected to speak at a private ceremony at the Pentagon today commemorating the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. A moment of silence will be observed at 9:37 a.m., the exact moment that five hijackers flew American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon, killing 59 crew members and passengers and 125 people in the building. The “modest” ceremony, for survivors and family members of the victims, will include a wreath-laying and additional remarks by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. [USA Today]
Pentagon Memorial to Reopen After Ceremony — Public access to the Pentagon Memorial will be restricted during this morning’s ceremony, but the memorial (pictured above) is expected to reopen at noon.
9/11 Day of Service Events in Arlington — There are several 9/11 Day of Service events planned in Arlington this week. Today, Capitals Hall-of-Famer Rod Langway and Bullets alumnus Bob Dandridge will join Arlington first responders and employees from Monumental Sports & Entertainment in helping to prepare the Arlington County Emergency Winter Shelter for its scheduled opening on Nov. 1. On Friday, AmeriCorps and Arlington County will host an invasive plant pull at James W. Haley Park (2400 S. Meade Street) “in honor of 9/11.”
Arlington Businesses Give Back — Several Arlington businesses have announced ways they’re remembering 9/11 today. The Bada Bing food truck is offering free sandwiches to all uniform firefighters and police officers, despite its recent run-ins with ordinance enforcement. Red Top Cab, meanwhile, announced that it will be donating $1 to a 9/11 memorial fund for each cab dispatched today.
Flickr pool photo by BrianMKA
In the days following the storm, which left 1 million customers without power in Virginia, Arlington and Fairfax counties experienced numerous problems with its 911 service, which made 911 unreachable for many emergency callers; some callers got a busy signal after calling 911, others heard nothing.
The problems were traced back to Verizon’s local communications backbone. In a report released last week, Verizon said the 911 problems started as a result of power outages.
Verizon’s central phone facility in Arlington lost power after the storm. It operated for a few hours on battery power, but a generator at the location failed to start (due to fuel line problems) and the facility lost power at 5:00 a.m. on June 30, after the batteries drained. Although Dominion restored power to the facility at 12:45 p.m., it took time for Verizon to recover its “telemetry” systems, which allow it to see and diagnose problems in its phone network, which had been been damaged by falling trees pulling down phone lines.
In Arlington, 911 service was spotty for days, but was deemed restored and stable by July 4.
In its report, Verizon said it has learned lessons from its 911 failure and will be improving its generator maintenance and redesigning some of its network systems to improve redundancy and reliability. Arlington County says it, too, has learned lessons from the experience.
Jack Brown, Arlington’s director of emergency management, said he’s hopeful that a 911 failure will never happen again. Should it happen, however, he said the county will have a more defined playbook of how to handle the situation.
During the days after the storm, Arlington advised those with emergencies to call the county’s non-emergency line at 703-558-2222. If all else failed, the county also staffed its fire stations so that residents could walk in and report an emergency. A “couple of people” did end up resorting to walking to fire stations, according to Brown.
Through the county’s efforts and somef luck, Brown said no one in Arlington was seriously harmed as a result of the 911 failure.
“We are very lucky that we didn’t have any life-threatening emergencies that couldn’t get through during that time,” said Brown. “We were very vulnerable during that period.”
In Virginia, a state panel is currently investigating the 911 failures, Brown said. Northern Virginia congressmen also called for the FCC to investigate the problems.
Flickr pool photo by ddimick
Update at 3:30 p.m. — The ride has concluded, with the motorcylcists arriving in Pentagon City. Few residual delays remain on eastbound I-66 as a result of the rolling road closures, according to traffic cameras. One motorcyclist who fell on the ramp from Route 110 to Army Navy Drive is receiving medial attention for non-life-threatening injuries.
About a thousand motorcyclists will be coming to Arlington tonight for the annual America’s 9/11 Ride.
The bikers are scheduled to leave the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanskville, Pa. this morning en route to Arlington, where they will be staying overnight. The motorcycle ride will enter Arlington via eastbound I-66 around 3:00 this afternoon. The ride will continue to southbound Route 110, and will end up at the Doubletree Hotel at 300 Army Navy Drive in Pentagon City.
Arlington County Police will be escorting the ride through Arlington. Officers will temporarily close on-ramps to “avoid mixing vehicles with the ride,” according to police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
The bikers will leave for New York City from the Pentagon North Parking Lot, via northbound I-395, on Saturday morning.
Rep. Jim Moran has joined two other Northern Virginia congressmen in calling for an Federal Communications Commission investigation into failures of the 911 system following the late June derecho storm.
In a press release, Moran said any weakness in the 911 system that could allow similar failures in the future must be fixed.
Today Representatives Jim Moran, Frank Wolf and Gerry Connolly wrote to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) calling for action to prevent future failures of the 9-1-1 communications system in the wake of the late June “derecho” storm which shut down the emergency phone system in jurisdictions across Northern Virginia and in other Washington-area communities.
“In the event of an emergency situation, whether it be a natural disaster or man-made threat, the public needs confidence that they can get through to 9-1-1 operators,” said Moran. “This storm exposed a weakness in our response system, and now that we know it exists, we must fix it.”
The Congressmen called on the FCC to review and move forward on a past proposal that could have prevented the emergency service outage.
“Events like the 9-1-1 failure in Northern Virginia demand a serious reassessment of this proposed rule and the consideration of additional reforms that could increase the safety of all Americans seeking 9-1-1 emergency services,” the lawmakers wrote.
In 2007, after Hurricane Katrina, the FCC proposed regulations to require phone companies to provide at least eight hours of backup power for all cell phone towers. The proposed regulations were struck down by OMB due to procedural issues related to FCC’s handling of the public comment period, not on the substance of the regulation itself.
The sudden and powerful storms that hit Northern Virginia on July 29th caused more than 460,000 individuals and families to lose power in the midst of a week-long heat wave. Reports of failed phone service began on June 30th, lasting for several days.
The letter from Reps. Connolly, Moran and Wolf, after the jump.
Update at 12:40 p.m. — Arlington County says its Emergency Communications Center is now accessible from cell phones, but other problems may remain.
More problems with the county’s 911 system are being reported as the area continues to recover from Friday’s storms.
Arlington County says its Emergency Communications Center is “experiencing problems with 911 calls from wireless phones.”
“Verizon is working to fix the problem,” the county said in a brief statement. “Please call our alternate emergency number at 703-741-3035 for assistance if you cannot get through on 9-1-1 or go to your local Fire Station.”
As stated during a press conference with the head of the county’s Office of Emergency Management earlier today, Arlington’s non-emergency number, 703-558-2222, may also be an option for cell phone users to reach emergency dispatchers.
Police are shutting down Washington Boulevard in both directions between I-395 and Route 110.
Initial reports suggest the road is being closed at the request of the Pentagon due to a suspicious package at the 9/11 Memorial. The Arlington County bomb squad is assisting with the incident.
The county is advising motorists to seek an alternate route.
Arlington is recognizing the employees of the county’s Emergency Communications Center (ECC) — the folks who answer 911 calls and dispatch police and firefighters to emergencies — as part of National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week. In a press release, the Arlington County Police Department praised the hard work and dedication of ECC personnel.
The week of April 8-14, 2012 is “National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week.” This is an opportunity to honor the men and women of the Arlington County Emergency Communications Center who serve as our public safety communication professionals. They are the voice at the other end of the 9-1-1 call assisting a distressed citizen. They are the voice behind the radio when police, firefighters and medical personnel are responding to emergency incidents. We commend them on their tireless efforts to support emergency responders and to provide critical services to the citizens of our state.
Congress proclaimed the second week of April as National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week in 1991 as a time to remember the critical role dispatchers play in keeping the public and public safety community safe. Today, calls placed to 911 centers across the nation are answered by these professionals to provide support to law enforcement, Fire-EMS, and other government field personnel.
Please join the Arlington County Police Department in thanking the telecommunicators and staff members for their continued dedication, hard work, and ability to multi-task while assisting the community and responding emergency personnel.
County Adding Historical Preservation Tools — In an effort to preserve historic buildings in Arlington, the county is considering some new policies to its “toolbox.” Among the possible new strategies: purchasing properties threatened with demolition, using a “transfer of development rights” to convince developers to preserve historic properties and further surveying residential property in the county to find and catalog more historic properties. [Sun Gazette]
Man With Terror Links Owned Arlington Condo — Esam Ghazzawi, a Saudi Arabian national whose Florida mansion was regularly visited by the 9/11 hijackers, also owned property in Arlington. In the mid-1990s, Ghazzawi owned the Penthouse condo in Rosslyn’s The Atrium building. [Washington Post]
Old ACFD Truck Lives on in S.C. — A retired ACFD fire truck that was among the first to respond to the Pentagon on 9/11 is still fighting fires in South Carolina. Quint 109 was retired from Arlington’s Station 9 in 2005, and was sold to the Anderson County, S.C. Fire Department. Although Anderson County repainted the truck, fire officials were careful to leave its “Operation Noble Eagle” sticker — indicating it was at the Pentagon on 9/11 — in tact. [Independent Mail]
On Saturday night Arlington County held a ceremony to mark the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon.
The ceremony, held at the Air Force Memorial, was attended by Arlington police officers and firefighters who responded to the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, as well as top county officials, military personnel and interested citizens.
The tribute featured the U.S. Air Force Band Brass Quintet Ensemble, the Joint Armed Forces Color Guard, the Arlington County Combined Honor Guard, Wakefield High School’s a capella choir “The Madrigals,” Macedonia Baptist Church Music Ministry, and a commemoration by the Pentagon Memorial Fund’s Jim Laychak.
Somber Anniversary at the Pentagon — A crowd of 1,600 people — including survivors and loved ones of victims — gathered at the Pentagon yesterday to mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11 attacks. Vice President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Adm. Mike Mullen were among the speakers. President Obama arrived later in the afternoon and laid a wreath at the Pentagon Memorial. [Washington Post, New York Times]
‘Walmart’ Ordinance May Be Delayed — The County Board was supposed to vote this month on a new ordinance designed to give the board final approval on all ‘big-box’ development in Arlington, but county staff wants another month to write the ordinance. [Sun Gazette]
APS Creates Sustainability Committee — Arlington Public Schools have created a “Superintendent’s Advisory Committee on Sustainability” in order to be “active stewards in protecting the environment.” The committee will examine sustainability policies and practices as well as energy and environmental curriculum in the schools. [Arlington Public Schools]
Arlington County Police, Virginia State Police and the Pentagon Force Protection Agency will be closing numerous routes near the Pentagon at the request of the U.S. Secret Service.
“Motorists are encouraged to make alternate travel arrangements to avoid the area around the Pentagon,” Arlington police said in a statement. “As conditions change it is possible these road closures will be broadened. Those traveling through this area should expect significant delays for the majority of the day and are strongly encouraged to avoid the area.”
According to a list provided by police, the closures include:
Closures from 8:15 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.:
- Washington Boulevard eastbound will be closed at exit 8B on 395.
- Washington Boulevard eastbound will be closed at the split to Northbound I-395.
- Washington Boulevard southbound from Memorial Bridge.
- Route 395 Southbound to Pentagon South Parking will be closed. All traffic will be diverted onto southbound Route 1 through Crystal City (Officers will be posted along this route to assist in directing motorists back to I-395 via Glebe Road and South 23rd Street).
- Columbia Pike will be closed from Joyce Street to Pentagon South Parking (access to Pentagon via Boundary Channel).
- 395 Northbound HOV – no access to Washington Boulevard from N/B 395.
- 395 Northbound HOV – access to Eads Street from northbound HOV, only southbound HOV exit will be closed (northbound must exit to Army Navy Drive).
- Route 110 southbound will be closed at I-66. All access to Route 110 will be blocked along Route 110 at Wilson Boulevard, Marshall Drive, Memorial Drive, George Washington Parkway and Route 27.
- Route 110 northbound will be closed from Route. All access to Route 110 will be blocked south of Memorial Drive
Closures from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m.:
- Fern Street from Army Navy to the Pentagon
- Eads Street from Army Navy to the Pentagon
- Rotary Road closed throughout South Parking
- The North /South Connector road at the Pentagon
While the softball tournament was canceled due to soggy fields, all other events planned to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks are still on for this weekend, rain or shine.
First up is the 10th annual Arlington Police, Sheriff and Fire 9/11 5K race, which will get underway in Pentagon City at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday. To accommodate the race, a number of roads will be closed between 5:30 and 7:00 p.m., including parts of Army Navy Drive, S. 12th Street, Crystal Drive and the Pentagon South parking area.
Residents should also expect a ceremonial flyover of four police helicopters between 5:45 and 6:00 p.m. The race, which has been growing in scale since its inception, is sold out this year.
“This is clearly our biggest year,” said race co-founder and retired Arlington County Police Officer Matthew Smith. “We’ve had tremendous support, and have a lot of meaningful additions for this year’s race.”
“Over the nine years we’ve probably given out over $350,000″ to a number of 9/11 and military charities, Smith added. “The race provide[s] an opportunity give back… It should be a memorable experience for all.”
Following the race, at 7:30 p.m., Arlington County will hold its official 9/11 tribute event at the Air Force Memorial, which overlooks the section of the Pentagon that was struck by American Airlines Flight 77.
The tribute, which is free and open to the public, will feature the U.S. Air Force Band Brass Quintet Ensemble, the Joint Armed Forces Color Guard, the Arlington County Combined Honor Guard, Wakefield High School’s a capella choir “The Madrigals,” Macedonia Baptist Church Music Ministry, and a commemoration by the Pentagon Memorial Fund’s Jim Laychak. Transportation and parking information is available from the county’s web site.
Then, at 9:37 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 11, bells will peal at the old Hume School (1805 S. Arlington Ridge Road) to mark the exact moment when terrorists flew the jetliner into the Pentagon. Oakridge Elementary students will ring the school’s bell 184 times — once for each victim of the attack. The school, now used as the Arlington Historical Society Museum, is hosting a new Pentagon 9/11 Exhibit, which includes the charred Pentagon heliport sign that was 50 feet from the point of impact.