Arlington police officers, sheriff’s deputies, firefighters and 911 operators were honored today (Wednesday) at the 31st annual Valor Awards ceremony.
The awards ceremony, organized by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, was held at the Ft. Myer Officers’ Club at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. Arlington County public safety personnel who have demonstrated extraordinary heroism or exceptional performance were presented with awards, certificates and medals.
Among those awarded were:
- Donald “DJ Winsock, a 911 operator whose CPR instructions saved the life of a woman who suffered a medical emergency in Rosslyn on August 21, 2012.
- Sgt. Jack Lantz, a nearly 30-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office, for meritorious service over the course of his career.
- Sgt. David Bowers, and deputy sheriffs Efthimios Alpos, Monica-Lyons-Carr and Arthur Pitts, who saved the life of an intoxicated woman who tried to commit suicide in a holding cell, after being arrested at Reagan National Airport on Nov. 10, 2012.
- Sgt. Richard Laureano, of the Sheriff’s Office. Laureano used an automated external defibrillator to revive a boy who collapsed during a wrestling match in Woodbridge, while off-duty on Feb. 2, 2013.
- Capt. Kevin Reardon, for 26 years of meritorious service to the Arlington County Police Department.
- Cpl. Richard St. Clair and Officer Patrick Maxwell, for valor while attempting to help Alexandria paramedic Joshua Weissman, who fell 30-feet off a bridge and later died while responding to a car fire on I-395.
- Cpl. David Munn, Officer Daniel Gardner, and Officer Hilary Maloney, for physically restraining a suicidal military veteran from jumping off the 18th floor of a Pentagon City apartment building on June 16, 2012.
- Capt. Trevor Burrell for meritorious service to the Arlington County Fire Department, specifically in the area of firefighter training.
- Firefighter Joshua Wise for helping to stop a car that was driving erratically on I-395, while off duty. After the car stopped, Wise rendered aid to the driver, who was suffering a diabetic emergency.
The full explanation of each award and act can be found below, after the jump.
“Often, this is the only public recognition these officers receive,” said Chamber of Commerce President Rich Doud said in a statement. “It is unique to hear the stories of their heroic acts and to meet the officers involved. We are fortunate that they work in Arlington and perform so selflessly in the service of our businesses and citizens.”
ABC7 meteorologist Brian Van De Graff served as emcee to the lunchtime event. In addition to police and fire department personnel, attendees included Arlington County Board members, state legislators, elected constitutional officials, school officials and local business leaders.
Memorial Bridge in Need of Renovations — The 81-year-old Arlington Memorial Bridge, which was once a functioning drawbridge, is in urgent need of repairs. The repairs could cost as much as $250 million and close the span for three months. [Washington Post]
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Recognizing Arlington’s ECC Staff — Arlington County is recognizing National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, which runs April 14-20, and lauding the work of the county’s Emergency Communications Center staff — the men and women you talk to when you dial 911. “We commend these professionals on their tireless efforts to support emergency responders and to provide critical services to the citizens of our nation,” the county said in a press release. [Arlington County]
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.
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.
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.
ECC Employees Overworked, Underpaid – Arlington’s emergency communications center is suffering from chronic understaffing and staff high turnover rates. The ECC, which handles 911 calls and police/fire/EMS dispatching, is hoping for a 10 percent boost in funding in this year’s county budget. [TBD]
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Hang On to Your Hats — Dangerously high winds are expected this afternoon.
Flickr pool photo by Reid Kasprowicz