The new system will be live on June 25, as part of the region-wide Capitalert.gov system.
Users can determine how they receive an alert, such as via text message, email, cell phone, land line, instant message or fax, according to Arlington Office of Emergency Management spokesman John Crawford.
Users can also choose times of the day to block messages, and choose which alerts they receive. In addition, Crawford said, if a user works in Washington but lives in Arlington, they can enter multiple zip codes from which to receive alerts. They can also choose when they want to receive alerts and whether to put alerts into “sleep mode” at night.
“It’s important that we keep our residents and visitors informed, but we also want to give them a say in what information they receive and when,” Office of Emergency Management Director Jack Brown said in a press release. “The new and improved Arlington Alert System is the perfect solution for that.”
The new alert system is called Everbridge and it replaces the previous Roam Secure Alert Network, which the county had used since 2004. That system didn’t allow users to customize their alerts, according to the county.
Existing Arlington Alert subscribers will receive alerts under the old system, according to Crawford.
Arlingtonian Walter Walsh Dies at 106 — Walter Walsh, a world-class Olympic marksman who had a knack for tracking down and shooting gangsters as an FBI agent in the 1930s, has died just a week shy of his 107th birthday. After battling gangsters in the U.S., Walsh entered combat in the Pacific during World War II, at one point killing an enemy sniper from 80 yards away with a single pistol shot. Walsh died at his home in Arlington. [New York Times]
Orange Line Delays This Weekend — This weekend, starting at 10:00 p.m. Friday, Orange Line trains will run every 24 minutes due in part to fence repairs and work on a communications cable between East Falls Church and West Falls Church. [WMATA]
Arlington Participates in National PrepareAthon Day — Personnel from Arlington’s Office of Emergency Management went around to local coffee shops yesterday morning, handing out flyers on National PrepareAthon Day. OEM employees urged Arlington residents to prepare themselves for strong summer storms and to sign up for Arlington Alert emails. [WUSA 9]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
Arlington’s emergency responders were recognized for their acts of bravery and public service yesterday during the annual Valor Awards.
The Lifesaving Awards for the Office of Emergency Management and the Arlington County Fire Department were given to dispatchers and firefighters who responded to a kitchen fire in the Dominion Hills neighborhood on April 1 last year.
Two emergency communications technicians, Rachel Moreno and Heather Horan, were honored for their work dealing with the caller, the woman who was rescued from the scene of the fire. Moreno, who wasn’t a fully trained ECT at the time, and Horan, who was training her, took the woman’s call, dispatched a fire response in 50 seconds, told the victim to get to a window and punch through the screen so she could lean out to get air.
“ECT I Moreno was not fully qualified as a call taker but she showed tremendous poise,” OEM Director Jack Brown wrote of the dispatchers. “Her ability to stay calm and maintain control of the call was outstanding and showed experience beyond her years. Together, ECT I Moreno and ECT III Horan were able to obtain critical information and provide life-saving guidance that kept this incident from ending in tragedy.”
The victim eventually fell unconscious, but Moreno and Horan were able to give firefighters the victim’s exact location on the second story of the house. Soon after the victim fell unconscious, firefighters Nicolas Calderone and Jamie Jill entered the house, located the victim, carried her outside and extinguished the fire.
When Calderone and Jill set the victim down, firefighter Joseph Marr noticed she didn’t have a pulse and conducted a minute of CPR. When her pulse returned but her consciousness didn’t, Marr had to carry the victim up the street, since it was too narrow and there were too many firetrucks for the ambulance to get through. The victim made a full recovery.
“Often, this is the only public recognition these officers receive,” Chamber of Comerce President Rich Doud said. The chamber presented the awards. “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.”
Four Arlington police officers and one sheriff’s deputy were honored with lifesaving awards for preventing suicide attempts in three separate incidents.
Officers Stephanie Rodriguez and Kenneth Kernicky were honored after saving a man trying to hang himself from a tree in Douglas Park. Rodriguez caught the man while Kernicky cut the noose from the tree. Days later, according to the Sheriff’s Office, the man thanked the officers for saving his life. Deputy Andrew Woodrow found himself in a similar situation when he rescued an inmate at the Arlington County Jail tried to hang herself with a shoelace from her cell bed.
ACPD First Sgt. Latasha Chamberlain and Det. Paula Brockenborough were given the award after they prevented a woman from jumping off her apartment balcony after she learned of the death of her husband. Through background investigation on the way to the hospital, they discovered the woman was suffering from a mental illness.
Two police lieutenants, two firefighters and a sergeant in the Sheriff’s Office were given Meritorious Service awards, the valor awards’ equivalent of a lifetime achievement award. Police Auxiliary Lt. Heather Hurlock was given the award after volunteering for 1,724 hours in Arlington in 2013 and, since 1997, she has volunteered more than 30,000 hours.
Other recipients of the Meritorious Service Awards were: Lt. Mark Belanger, Sgt. Kevin Pope, Firefighter/EMT Clare Burley and Fire/EMS Capt. Brandon Jones.
Four Arlington emergency responders were honored with Crisis Intervention Team awards earlier this month for handling emergencies with mentally ill patients.
Arlington County Police Officer James Joy was named Officer of the Year, Deputy Jeffrey Nowak was named Deputy of the Year, Officer Samuel Sentz was honored with the Intervention of the Year and Emergency Communications Technician Shanika Stewart was named Dispatcher of the Year.
Joy was recognized for three incidents as examples of his work responding with compassion and responsibility for patients struggling with mental illness. In one of those cases last April, Joy responded to a call for trespassing and, upon finding out the suspect was a military veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and going through a divorce, Joy contacted the Wounded Warrior Project, which helped the veteran get the proper care.
Nowak was honored for responding to a December crisis in the Arlington County Detention Center in which an “actively psychotic and delusional” inmate started banging his head against his cell wall. Nowak, according to the Office of Emergency Management, diffused the situation by relying on his past relationship with the inmate. Nowak remembered the inmate had heard voices in the past, and spoke is short, simple sentences so his message could get through.
Sentz responded to a call in December at the Marriott Residence Inn in Crystal City during which a soldier “was intoxicated, creating a disturbance and trespassing at the hotel,” according to OEM. Sentz responded not by sending the soldier to the “drunk tank,” but by getting him medical assistance. In a letter to the OEM, Director of the U.S. Army Physical Disability Agency Col. Carl M. Johnson credited Sentz with “saving the soldier’s life.”
The awards ceremony was held April 2 at Virginia Hospital Center.
Photos courtesy Arlington County
The drill will take place at 9:45 a.m. on Tuesday. Participants are asked to “go low and stay low” by going to the lowest level of the building they are in, staying away from windows and doors, and crouching down and covering their heads, according to OEM.
Those with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radios will get a test alert at 9:45, notifying them that the drill has begun.
The full press release from OEM, after the jump.
Photo courtesy NOAA via Wikipedia
Arlington’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) encourages residents to make a commitment to being better prepared for emergencies in 2014, perhaps even by making it a new year’s resolution.
OEM highlights the statewide Ready Virginia initiative and asks Arlington residents to join in the campaign by having a plan in case of emergencies.
“I believe we all have a role in emergency management by ensuring that we are prepared, that we have a plan and that we get involved,” said Arlington County Office of Emergency Management Director Jack Brown.
Families should devise an emergency plan and go over it together. All members of the family should understand crucial aspects of the plan such as where to meet if the family is separated. Post the plan in an easily viewed place, such as on the refrigerator. Answer the following questions when coming up with the plan:
- Do you and your family members have contact phone numbers memorized or written down and available in backpacks and wallets?
- Do you have a plan on how to meet up with family if you are separated?
- Do you know how to contact your children’s school in case of an emergency?
- Do you have three days of emergency supplies and water set aside?
The emergency kit should contain enough of the following items to last for three days:
- Battery-powered radio and extra batteries
- Non-perishable food and a can opener
- First aid kit and medications
- Pet supplies
Home isn’t the only place residents need to be prepared. OEM notes that emergencies can happen at work and in the car, so separate plans should be made for safety in those locations. For example, OEM spokesman John Crawford noted that during the Navy Yard shooting last year, some people were required to “shelter in place.” Many did not have adequate food, water or medications in their work area. In addition to those supplies, Crawford also recommends keeping a small flashlight, batteries and a battery operated cell phone charger at work.
Having emergency contact numbers written on a paper and kept in a purse or wallet can come in handy should a cell phone battery die.
“When the emergency comes, all our contact information is in our cell phones, a majority of phone numbers are there,” said Crawford. “If you lose the ability to get that information and your phone is dead, you can’t access emergency numbers.”
The current cold snap is another example of a situation when preparedness can be beneficial. Drivers should prepare for the possibility of becoming stranded by keeping plenty of gas in their vehicles and keeping cell phones charged. Have extra blankets and snacks in the car as well.
“Winter preparedness may be a little bit different from summer preparedness, but if you’re prepared for one emergency, you’re pretty much prepared for every emergency,” said Crawford. “In the Snowmageddon a couple years ago, people were stranded for hours on the GW Parkway. The lessons we learned from that is that people were not prepared. People needed water and food and they didn’t have it. They needed blankets and didn’t have it.”
One of the important factors about having preparedness plans is to practice them often so they become second nature. Not being well versed in all aspects of the plan could be dangerous in an emergency when stress could cause details to be forgotten.
“If you train enough in anything, and then the disaster comes, you won’t think twice about what you have to do,” Crawford said. “You’ll already know what to do.”
The Arlington Prepares mobile app can be downloaded onto Apple and Android devices. Residents can also sign up for Arlington Alert, which allows the county to contact you during an emergency by sending messages to your email or mobile device.
The effects of Sunday’s winter storm continue to be felt as the county braces for another Tuesday morning.
Reports of downed trees, branches and electrical wires, as well as several car accidents, have continued to come in during the day (Monday).
As of late this afternoon, N. Glebe Road was still closed between Military Road and Chain Bridge Road due to a large downed tree. As of 4:15 p.m., 788 Dominion Power customers in Arlington remained without power.
Two pedestrians were struck by vehicles in shopping center parking lots in Arlington today, suffering non-life-threatening injuries. It’s unclear if accumulated snow and ice played a role in the accidents.
Arlington Office of Emergency Management spokesman John Crawford said the storm’s impact could have been worse had it not arrived on a Sunday and had residents not been alerted by forecasters well ahead of time. Closing schools and governments allowing “liberal leave” prevented further safety issues today, Crawford said.
“I think our roadways were fairly clear” for the morning commute, he said.
The county may not be so lucky for the winter storm that could arrive Tuesday morning, however. The National Weather Service has downgraded what was a Winter Storm Watch to a Winter Weather Advisory at 2:30 p.m., but it’s still calling for 3-5 inches of snow between 3:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
NWS is warning of a “hazardous morning commute,” saying the heaviest snow will be falling during the morning rush hour, while OEM is also preparing for the possibility that the snow could pose more problems for the evening rush hour.
“We’re tracking and watching the storm very closely to see if it’s going to have a significant impact on Arlington,” Crawford said.
“Commuters should be well aware of conditions tomorrow,” he said. “Coming home could be very sloppy if the temperature remains below freezing. If you absolutely have to drive, just be smart, be cautious and be prepared.”
Crawford remembered “Carmageddon,” the last major winter storm that impacted the area during a rush hour commute. Drivers were stuck on the George Washington Parkway and I-66 for several hours on Jan. 26, 2011. There were more than 100 calls for disabled vehicles throughout Northern Virginia.
The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang is still unsure about the true nature of the coming storm, calling it “tricky to predict.” It could be less than 2 inches or more than 5 inches of snow, CWG forecasters say.
The Virginia Department of Transportation is urging drivers to check weather conditions before leaving for their morning commutes tomorrow morning, and to “limit travel or use caution.” More than 1,200 VDOT trucks and plows will be out by 4 a.m. to try to clear roadways, the department said.
A kickoff event featuring an “emergency preparedness social and photo booth” is planned for Thursday, Sept. 5. That event will take place from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. at A-Town Bar and Grill at 4100 Fairfax Drive.
Starting Sept. 12, Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse will be hosting Disaster Movie Month, showing classic disaster films until Sept. 30.
There will be three nights of “preparedness trivia” — at Crystal City Sports Pub (529 23rd Street S.) on Labor Day, Sept. 2 at 8:00 p.m.; at Samuel Beckett’s (2800 S. Randolph Street) on Tuesday, Sept. 10 at 7:30 p.m.; and at Clarendon Grill (1101 N. Highland Street) on Wednesday, Sept. 18 at 8:00 p.m.
A “Power Outage Webinar” will be held online at noon on Friday, Sept. 20.
A community “table top exercise” is planned for Tuesday, Sept. 24 in the Arlington Central Library auditorium (1015 N. Quincy Street). Representatives from Dominion Virginia Power, Verizon, Arlington Public Schools and public safety officials will be on hand for the event, which starts at 7:00 p.m.
In addition to the events, Arlington’s Office of Emergency Management released a list of tips for residents to make sure they’re prepared in case of a natural disaster or emergency:
- Learn about the emergency plan for your business
- Test your communication plan with your family
- Check your emergency supplies
- Know when to shelter in place and when to evacuate. If you are safe where you are, stay where you are until you get more information. Visit sites.arlingtonva.us/oem
- Important documents: keep them together, safe and accessible — include insurance policies, photos of your home, home floor plan and personal property inventory. Tip: Put on a flash drive and leave with a family or friend.
- Medication: ask your doctor for samples — put in your supply kit; Have backup plans for oxygen or batteries.
Rosslyn Lights Up Tonight — The 19th annual Light Up Rosslyn night is tonight. The holiday event is taking place from 5:15 to 6:30 p.m. in front of the WJLA building (1100 Wilson Blvd). Local officials will flip a big switch to “light up” the Rosslyn skyline. In addition, there will be musical groups performing and free hot cocoa, chili, cider and cookies. [Rosslyn BID]
Reduction in Blue Line Service Planned — Metro plans to further reduce service on the Blue Line when the Silver Line to Tysons Corner opens. With the Silver Line in operation, perhaps by the end of 2013, Blue Line trains will run every 12 minutes between Franconia-Springfield and Largo, during both peak and off-peak hours. [Washington Post]
More Commuters Are Using Transit – Updated at 10:10 a.m. — There has been a significant jump in the number of Arlington residents using mass transit as their primary means of commuting to work, according to U.S. Census figures. In 2011, 28.4 percent of residents used transit, compared to 23.3 percent in 2000. [Sun Gazette]
Winter is Coming – This week is Winter Preparedness Week. Though the weather might have been warm over the past few days, Arlington’s Office of Emergency Management is advising residents to take steps to prepare for winter weather. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Ddimick
Sandy, which is currently churning in the Atlantic Ocean near the Bahamas, is expected to make its way north and threaten the D.C. area. Forecasters from the Capital Weather Gang say there’s a 75 percent chance of a direct or indirect hit from Sandy, which could bring 2 to 8 inches of rain and wind gusts from 50 to over 75 miles per hour.
In a phone interview, Arlington’s acting Deputy Director of Emergency Management, Bonnie Regan, said an email was sent Thursday to emergency support personnel in various county departments, asking them to check generators, fuel supplies, and weekend staff availability.
Regan said she was planning to participate in a conference call with forecasters, organized by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, which was to take place at 3:30 Thursday afternoon. She said the county was waiting for a more definitive forecast of Sandy’s path before taking additional steps. The storm isn’t expected to hit until Sunday or Monday.
“We’re waiting for more information,” Regan said. “There are lots of different models out there right now. They’re not able to exactly tell us which way it’s going to come.”
Still, Regan said the county will act swiftly to staff its Emergency Operations Center for the storm if it becomes clear that D.C. is in Sandy’s likely path.
“Because there’s a weekend involved, I don’t want to scramble at the last minute to try to find people,” she said. “I always say, plan for the worst and hope for the best.”
Three Office of Emergency Management staffers are already scheduled to be on duty on Sunday, Regan said. They’ll be staffing the unified command center for the Marine Corps Marathon, which is scheduled to start in Arlington around 8:00 that morning.
VDOT says it is also closely monitoring Sandy while “making all appropriate preparations and taking all precautions.”
Arlington County has declared Sept. 23-29 “Be Prepared Week.”
Arlington officials are encouraging residents and businesses ”to do something toward preparedness” — like downloading the “Arlington Prepares” smartphone app or putting together a “go bag” — during the week. The Arlington Office of Emergency Management is also asking people to sign an online “preparedness pledge.”
The county released a short video (above) to get the word out about Be Prepared Week.
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
Arlington tested its outdoor warning system this morning (Thursday).
The county conducts an audible test of the warning system once or twice per year, according to Arlington Office of Emergency Management (OEM) Director Jack Brown. Residents in some of Arlington’s more urban areas would have heard a beep or series of beeps during the test, he said.
Arlington’s outdoor warning system was first installed in 2007, using $400,000 in funding from the Department of Homeland Security. The system includes six warning speakers: two in Rosslyn, one in Clarendon, one in Courthouse, and two in Pentagon City. The speakers are controlled by a line-of-sight radio signal.
According to Brown, he last time the speakers were used in an actual emergency was on July 4, 2007, when a severe storm was approaching the area while thousands were heading to sites like the Iwo Jima memorial for the Fourth of July fireworks display.
In addition to beeps or a siren, the speakers can broadcast a pre-recorded voice message. It’s the same type of system that’s used on military bases like Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Brown said. While Fort Myer’s speakers play Taps at night and perform other non-emergency functions, however, the county’s system is only meant to be activated for true emergencies, like severe weather events, terrorist attacks, or other incidents.
Brown acknowledged that the system is only in earshot of those who are in some of the county’s more densely-populated areas, but said that it’s only one piece in a multi-platform emergency alert system that includes the county’s 1700 AM radio station, Arlington Alert emails, social media channels, a Reverse 911 system, and local media outreach.
County Manager Barbara Donnellan got the ball rolling by declaring a local emergency on June 30. Nearly 50 other Virginia localities did the same. Yesterday, Governor Bob McDonnell formally requested assistance for the state from the the Federal Emergency Management Agency, estimated at $27.5 million. Now it’s up to President Obama to either approve or deny the disaster funding.
Jack Brown, Director of the Arlington County Office of Emergency Management, explains that to be eligible for federal funds, the county must incur more than around $700,000 in expenses. So far, the bill from the June storm adds up to approximately $802,000, which includes costs for personnel, equipment and debris removal. The total could increase as more numbers are finalized.
Brown offers a reminder that there’s a lot of paperwork and a long review process involved, and that reimbursements filter in gradually once approved.
“They don’t just cut one check for the whole amount,” he said. “We went through this after the huge snowstorms of 2009 and 2010. It’s about a year long process.”
Arlington didn’t get all the funding it requested following those snowstorms, but it fared better than many surrounding jurisdictions, according to Brown. He credits all of the individual departments involved for collecting and sorting the receipts and data that had to be submitted. The county received a total of $1.6 million, covering one storm in December 2009 and two in February 2010.
Although receiving reimbursements often involves an arduous process, Brown said the end result makes up for it.
“Once we know there has been a federal declaration, then we would go through the process with FEMA and the state, and go through all those records,” said Brown. “But it’s worth it at the end of the day.”
For now, Brown said the county continues to calculate its expense requests from the derecho, while waiting for word from the President.
“Other areas of the country were hit harder than we were with different storms, so we’re all just waiting,” said Brown.
The director of Arlington’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) says the county and utility companies are “making slow and steady progress” in the cleanup and recovery efforts following Friday night’s storm.
At a press conference today, OEM Director Jack Brown told reporters that Dominion is making “yeoman strides” to restore power to tens of thousands of Arlington residents. Despite the widespread power outages — 26,997 Dominion customers were without power as of 12:45 p.m., down from 68,000 Friday night — Brown said there has so far been no loss of life as a result of heat following the storm.
Dominion expects to restore power to 80-85 percent of customers by Tuesday night, and 90-95 percent of customers by Thursday night. Restoration works is being focused on high-density areas.
“It is a matter of priorities,” Brown said. “Eventually Dominion will get to the neighborhoods.”
Brown said power has been restored to most critical county infrastructure, but noted that Culpepper Garden, home to 276 low- and moderate-income Arlington seniors, is running on generator power and currently does not have air conditioning. The seniors are being kept in the facility for now while Dominion is being asked to prioritize power restoration to the facility, Brown said.
Brown encouraged residents who don’t have power to go to the county’s 16 cooling centers, its shopping malls, or its community pools. Arlington has set up a 24-hour drop-in cooling center at the Walter Reed Community Center (2909 16th Street S.). Daytime cooling centers include other Arlington community centers and libraries, as well as the Ballston and Pentagon City malls. Currently the Yorktown and Wakefield high school community pools are open, while the Washington-Lee pool has closed due to a lack of water pressure.
“We need to pull together,” Brown said. “This event could last for several days, possibly a couple of weeks. Let’s check on your neighbors. It’s really about neighbors helping neighbors. Volunteer to transport those in need to county cooling centers.”
Brown said that all major county thoroughfares are open, although 19 county road remain blocked by storm debris. A dozen county crews are working to clear the debris, and debris pickup is expected to continue for the next 2-3 weeks, Brown said. Meanwhile, 39 traffic signals are still dark this afternoon (down from a peak of 96) because of power outages. Citing last night’s fatal pedestrian accident, Brown encouraged motorists to drive carefully on county streets.
“Please drive safely,” Brown said. “We really need people to slow down, particularly at these intersections. Please treat all… intersections [with non-functioning traffic signals] as four way stops.”
Brown said 911 service “remains spotty” in Arlington. He said residents who want to report an emergency should first try 911, then the county non-emergency number at 703-558-2222, then — if all else fails — seek help at the nearest fire station.
Verizon provides the Arlington’s 911 infrastructure and Brown said the county is going to investigate what went wrong.
“The county is going to conduct a thorough investigation of what happened to our 911 system… so we don’t have a repeat of this in the future,” he said. So far, he said, there have been no reports of anybody suffering serious consequences as a result of a delay in response due to a 911 failure.
Brown said that other county communications infrastructure has performed well. Despite some disruptions in the hours following the storm, Brown said cell phone service has been one of the county’s most reliable forms of communication. He noted, however, that the county’s radio systems did not suffer any outages as a result of the storm. Brown also said that RACES, the county’s emergency amateur radio network, was activated over the weekend.
All in all, Brown said he’s pleased with the response to the storm so far.
“The county’s resources have been stretched very thin,” Brown said. “I think we’ve done a good job of responding.”