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 9:55 a.m.) A two alarm fire destroyed a house and sent two children to the hospital this morning.
The fire was reported at a home on the 2000 block of S. Lincoln Street, in the Nauck neighborhood, around 7:45 a.m. Two children who were inside the home were transported to Children’s Hospital for possible smoke inhalation. The fire was extinguished around 8:15 a.m.
Firefighters from Arlington and Alexandria responded to the blaze. The family that owns the home is being assisted by the Red Cross.
Fire photos courtesy @CAPT258 and Daniel Fitch
Blog Points Out Bike Lane Blockers — Frustrated with supposed inaction by Arlington County Police, a local resident has created a Tumblr site to publicly “shame” the owners of vehicles that illegally park or idle in bike lanes in Arlington. [Arlington Bike Lane Blockers]
Clarendon Farmers Market Starts Tonight — The Clarendon Farmers Market is back for the season, starting tonight. The market will run from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m., in the newly renovated Clarendon Central Park, next to the Metro entrance. The market will run every Wednesday through Dec. 18 before taking a break for the winter. Another seasonal farmers market, the Crystal City Freshfarm Market, is set to start the season on Tuesday, April 30. [Clarendon Alliance, Freshfarm Markets]
District Taco to Open Third Location — District Taco, which opened its first location on Lee Highway, is getting ready to open its third location. The new District Taco restaurant, like the second location, will be located in D.C. [Prince of Petworth]
Tejada Talks Immigration Reform — County Board Chair Walter Tejada spoke to a group of pro-immigration supporters at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Clarendon Tuesday morning. Tejada told the crowth that “it is our duty” to “work and fight together for comprehensive immigration reform.” The group is planning a rally at the Capitol next week. [WJLA]
Fire Weather Watch — The region is under a Fire Weather Watch. Gusty winds and low humidity are creating ideal conditions for brush fires. [Capital Weather Gang]
Firefighters are packing up and leaving the scene of a two alarm apartment fire on the 3400 block of Carlyn Hill Drive, along the Arlington/Fairfax border.
The call came in a little before 8:00 p.m. for a fire in an apartment on the third floor of the residential building. Firefighters managed to contain it to that one apartment.
According to Arlington County Fire Department spokesman Capt. Gregg Karl, at least six units from Arlington assisted the Fairfax County Fire Department. Units from Alexandria and Annandale also offered aid.
Part of Columbia Pike just west of Carlin Springs Road was down to one lane as crews responded to the fire in the building, which is offset from the main road.
Medics on scene were spotted tending to people and wrapping a few in blankets, but there are no reports so far of serious injuries. There’s also no word on the cause of the fire.
The fire, which was was reported just before 11:00 a.m., started on the first floor of the duplex, according to Arlington County Fire Department spokesman Capt. Gregg Karl.
Six individuals, including several children, were transported to the hospital for smoke inhalation.
The Arlington County Fire Department responded to a blaze in a high-rise apartment building last night.
The fire, in a 12th floor unit at the Bennington Apartments (1201 S. Eads Street) in Crystal City, was reported just before 9:00 p.m. Firefighters managed to quickly extinguish the flames, but not before the floor filled with smoke.
No injuries were reported.
Photos courtesy @CAPT258
A fryer caught on fire around 3:45 Monday afternoon, according to fire radio traffic. Thanks to the restaurant’s hood system, the fire was contained and quickly extinguished once firefighters arrived on scene.
No injuries were reported.
The restaurant was temporarily closed pending a health inspection and any necessary repairs, we hear. No word yet on when it will reopen.
Last summer, a technician suffered burns at the restaurant while repairing its fryers.
A tipster sent a photo showing smoke flowing from the grate over Metro at Fairfax Drive and N. Utah Street.
According to Metro’s Twitter activity, debris inside a vent shaft began smoldering but there was no fire inside the station. The Arlington County Fire Department confirmed the smoke came from leaves that had ignited in a ventilation grate. Capt. Gregg Karl said that sometimes occurs if a passerby tosses a cigarette through the grates and debris below ignites.
The trouble started just before 4:00 p.m., and for about 15 minutes trains skipped the Ballston station while the smoldering debris was extinguished. Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said the brief incident affected two trains in each direction. Fans were brought in to clear the smoke and trains are again running on a normal schedule.
Photo courtesy @CAPT258
The fire was reported around 9:00 a.m. in a top floor apartment of the 12-story building. Heavy smoke was seen coming from the apartment upon emergency responders’ arrival. Described as a natural gas-fed kitchen fire, the blaze was quickly knocked down once Arlington County firefighters reached the apartment.
The fire did not spread to other apartments, but smoke did spread to at least two other units. Firefighters are ventilating the smoke now.
Firefighters battled a small but smoky fire at Highland Shoe Repair (2020 14th Street N.) Thursday night.
A fire broke out around 7:15 p.m. in the back room of the shop, according to Arlington County Fire Department spokesman Capt. Gregg Karl. The blaze was quickly extinguished after firefighters arrived on scene, but not before it generated a considerable amount of acrid-smelling smoke.
Highland Shoe Repair offers off-site dry cleaning services in addition to repairing footwear and performing garment alterations. Numerous Arlington County police and sheriff uniforms can often be seen awaiting pickup at the shop, as police headquarters and the county jail are located across the street.
The fire and the firefighting effort also impacted the deli and lobby on either side of the shop. A light haze could also be seen inside the next-door Courthouse Deli, and the lobby of the office building that houses both shops — recently purchased by Arlington County for use as offices and as a year-round homeless shelter — was flooded by about an inch of standing water.
No injuries were reported as a result of the fire, Karl said. The fire response prompted police to shut down busy Courthouse Road between 13th and 15th Street N.
No word yet on the exact cause of the fire or on when the shop might reopen. The Arlington County Fire Marshal is investigating the incident.
Photo of ladder truck (above) courtesy @acsjacobson
The fire broke out on a terrace and did not damage the interior of the cultural center. The cause is under investigation.
“The fire was quickly extinguished and contained to the terrace area,” said Arlington County Fire Department spokesman Capt. Gregg Karl. “There was damage to a piece of construction equipment and the terrace. The fire is under investigation by the Fire Marshal.”
Said Artisphere spokesman Jim Byers: “Artisphere is open as usual, as the fire was not inside the venue itself.”
Additional details were not immediately available.
The fire broke out around 6:00 p.m. at the Berkeley Apartments, on the 2900 block of S. Glebe Road. The flames and resulting damage were confined to one basement apartment, according to ACFD spokesman Capt. Gregg Karl.
One person was taken to a local hospital for medical reasons unrelated to the fire, Karl said. With the exception of the occupant(s) of the damaged apartment, no residents were displaced by the blaze.
The Berkeley apartment building was the scene of a fire last December.
An elderly man is dead after becoming trapped during a fire in his apartment in the 2900 block of S. Buchanan Street in Fairlington.
According to Arlington County Fire Department spokesman Capt. Gregg Karl, smoke was coming from the top level apartment when crews arrived on the scene. Capt. Karl said because the investigation has just begun, it’s unclear exactly what started the fire and whether the man died from burns or smoke inhalation.
According to a law enforcement source, the fire is not considered suspicious. The victim was reportedly a hoarder and clutter prevented him from escaping from his apartment when the fire broke out. We’re told he was the only person in the apartment at the time and was found dead on the scene when rescue crews arrived. Nobody in any neighboring units was hurt.
About 10 residents have been displaced from their apartments while the investigation is underway, according to Capt. Karl. They are being allowed to seek shelter at the Fairlington Community Center until they receive word about being able to head back to their apartments.
Courtesy photo (top)
A small fire broke out underneath an escalator at the Ballston Metro station this afternoon as a result of welding work.
“An escalator contractor was welding at the time on the unit, and that a spark from the welding work was the likely cause” of the fire, WMATA spokesman Dan Stessel told ARLnow.com. There were no injuries, smoke has been fully ventilated from the station, and “all protective systems worked as intended,” Stessel said.
Workers managed to extinguish the flames before firefighters arrived, according to ACFD spokesman Capt. Gregg Karl.
The escalator, one of three between the station and an upper bank of escalators, remains out of service.
Updated at 3:10 p.m. — Columbia Pike has reopened to traffic, according to scanner reports.
(Updated at 2:45 p.m.) Columbia Pike has been shut down between Walter Reed Drive and S. Courthouse Road as a result of a working fire at a restaurant.
Firefighters arrived on scene at 2520 Columbia Pike around 2:10 p.m., for a fire in the kitchen of the Top’s China takeout restaurant. As of 2:45 p.m., the fire was extinguished and firefighters were checking for remaining hot spots, according to ACFD spokesman Capt. Gregg Karl.
The numerous shops in the strip shopping center in which Top’s is located have been evacuated, Karl said.