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.
Arlington County will participate in a statewide tornado drill tomorrow (Tuesday) as part of Tornado Preparedness Day.
The County is reminding residents that a tornado can strike in Arlington, and that it’s important to prepare for such an event ahead of time.
From an Arlington County media release:
March 12, 2013 is Tornado Preparedness Day in Arlington County. Unlike hurricane season, there is no such thing as a “tornado season,” and no part of the Commonwealth is immune from tornadoes. They can hit at any time of the year and at any time of the day.
Every family, business and organization should do two things to get ready:
- Get a NOAA Weather Radio with SAME (Specific Area Message Encoding) alerts.
- Participate in the statewide tornado drill Tuesday, March 12, at 9:45 a.m.
Arlington schools, businesses and residents have an opportunity to practice their tornado safety plans. At the same time, the National Weather Service (NWS) will be testing their public warning systems.
“The best and fastest way for anyone to get a tornado warning is by NOAA Weather Radio,” said Bill Sammler, NWS warning coordination meteorologist. “With a weather radio, you get weather data directly from the nearest National Weather Service office. When we issue a tornado warning, the weather radio sounds an alarm or flashes lights and then gives information on where the storm is, which way it’s moving, and telling people in its path to take cover. This radio could be a lifesaver.”
NOAA Weather Radios with SAME alerts are available at electronics and sporting goods stores, discount and department stores, and online. They come in battery-powered models, and many also have AM/FM bands. A special needs NOAA Weather Radio is available as well. The special-needs NOAA Weather Radio can warn deaf and hard-of-hearing persons of hazardous conditions, giving them around-the-clock, up-to-the-minute weather information.
The general rule for tornado safety is “go low and stay low”, which means go to the lowest level of the structure, away from windows and crouch in a low position with your head covered.
A tornado watch means current weather conditions may result in a tornado. A tornado warning means a tornado has been sighted. If a tornado warning has been issued for your area, you should take cover immediately.
The majority of tornadoes occur between 3 and 9 pm. Think of where you would normally be during that time…at school, work, home, or in the car. You may only have a few seconds to react. Decide NOW where you would go if a tornado warning were issued.
Tornadoes can occur with little or no advance warning. It is important to have a weather radio nearby so you can listen for tornado and other severe weather watches and warnings.
If the National Weather service issues a tornado warning for Arlington, your weather radio will sound an alert, indicating that you need to move to a safe area immediately.
Sign up for Arlington Alert to receive free emergency messages within seconds to pagers, cell phones and e-mail. This is a great way to receive emergency information and critical safety messages when you need them most. To sign up at no cost, go to www.arlingtonalert.com. Alerts are available in Spanish, also.
Pre-set your battery operated radio to 1700AM Arlington for up to date emergency information including weather emergencies. You may also access 1700AM Arlington by calling 1-415-655-0811. (Long distance charges apply.)
For more information about tornado preparedness, visit the Arlington Office of Emergency Management website.
For help in conducting a tornado drill and to register for the statewide drill, go to www.ReadyVirginia.gov. Although registration is not required, people participating in the statewide drill are encouraged to sign up to show their support. The annual drill is a joint effort of Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) and NWS.
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.
The agency says it is calling in additional support personnel, who will be “on duty throughout the weekend to respond to any situations that may arise.”
WMATA is supplying chain saws to Metro drivers, “for use in the event of downed trees.” Metrobuses and MetroAccess vehicles may be detoured around fallen trees and flooded areas, as necessary. Metro is also checking all drainage pumps and clearing out debris from drainage areas near Metro stations.
“Supervisors will monitor critical locations, such as bus garages, parking garages, and flood-prone areas throughout the weekend,” Metro said in a press release.
Metro has placed more than 2,000 sandbags around the escalators of Metrorail stations that have a history of flooding, including the Foggy Bottom and King Street stations. None of the listed stations are in Arlington.
“We’re putting all of our resources in place to address any issues that arise out of the extreme weather conditions this weekend,” said Metro General Manager and CEO Richard Sarles. “We will be updating our customers through our website, Twitter, email alerts and the media.”
See our earlier post on Arlington County’s hurricane preparations here.
Update at 11:55 a.m. — Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell has declared a state of emergency in advance of the hurricane.
Arlington County is bracing for impacts from Hurricane Irene.
Irene, which is expected to be the strongest hurricane to hit the Northeast in decades, could bring torrential rains and high winds to the Mid-Atlantic region Saturday night and throughout the day on Sunday. In anticipation of the storm, the county is “mobilizing both people and equipment,” according to Jack Brown, Director of Emergency Management for Arlington County.
The police, fire and parks departments will be bringing in additional personnel this weekend, Brown told ARLnow.com. The county’s 911 call center will also have additional employees on hand, and the Office of Emergency Management will be staffed throughout the weekend.
County crews are cleaning out drains to ensure the expected heavy rains will be able to flow into storm sewers. The parks department is removing picnic tables and other equipment from areas near streams and river beds, in anticipation of flooding. The county is also “developing plans for shelters, if the need arises,” according to Brown.
The county and Dominion Power both say they’re preparing for downed trees and power lines in the hurricane’s wake. The county has backup communications systems — including satellite phones and amateur radio stations — in case cell phones or existing radio systems go down during the storm.
“It could be challenging, yes, but since 9/11 a lot of steps have been taken to ensure better communications,” Brown said.
Most importantly, says Brown, Arlington is working to get information about hurricane preparedness out to the public.
“The first concern is the public safety,” he said. “If we do have impacts from this storm, people need to be prepared for that… It’s all about personal and family preparedness.”
Brown said any sort of evacuation of Arlington looks unlikely at this point. In fact, he’s encouraging people to stay at home.
“In most cases, people are better off just staying home and hunkering down,” Brown advised. “Don’t go out on the road… just have enough food and supplies to weather the storm.”
“We don’t want people out in the middle of a crisis getting in the way,” he added.
Do you have any ideas for ways Arlington County can improve its emergency preparedness? If so, the county’s Emergency Preparedness Advisory Commission wants to hear from you.
The commission will be holding a public forum from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 10, in the county board room at 2100 Clarendon Boulevard, to gather “public input on preparedness and the County’s handling of emergency events.”
The forum is intended to coincide with the upcoming 10-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
“How would you rate the County’s handling of snowstorms and other disasters since 9/11,” the commission will ask residents. “Do you consider yourself better prepared for emergencies today than you were 10 years ago?”
“Another bout of sleet and freezing rain is expected after 7 p.m., and the Virginia Department of Transportation urges motorists to be alert to changing road conditions in northern Virginia tonight,” VDOT said in a statement. “With rain, sleet, and freezing temperatures also forecasted for 4 a.m. tomorrow, drivers are asked to monitor forecasts carefully and postpone or limit travel during the morning rush.”
To help keep roadways clear, the agency has 1,600 trucks staging along Northern Virginia roadways.
By 3 p.m. today, about 1,600 trucks will begin staging along interstates and major roads throughout Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties for quick response.
Crews pre-treated trouble spots today on interstates 66, 95, 395, and 495—including bridges and ramps prone to freezing such as the Springfield interchange, I-66 at Route 29 and the Capital Beltway interchange at Route 1—with liquid magnesium chloride. Problem spots on other major roads, such as the Fairfax County Parkway and routes 1, 7, 28, 29, 50 and 123, were pre-treated with salt brine.
Although forecasters say tonight’s freezing rain should be light, they also caution that some slick spots could develop, particularly in the early morning hours. A separate threat of wintry weather on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning is expected to produce mostly rain in Arlington and the District, according to the Capital Weather Gang.
With the first flakes beginning to fall, county snow removal crews are getting ready to tackle yet another significant snow storm. The National Weather Service is calling for 3-6 inches of snow, with the heaviest snowfall between 10:00 PM and 4:00 AM tonight.
The county says about 45 snow plows will be put into service tonight. Crews will work in 12-hour shifts to try to get streets cleared in time for the morning rush. Since first priority is given to the most heavily-traveled roads, expect most residential streets to be at least partially snow-covered.
With forecasters talking about the possibility of another major snowfall this weekend, there’s also the issue of the snow removal budget. VDOT is already $5 million over its $27 million budget in Northern Virginia, according to WTOP. Arlington’s annual snow removal budget is approximately $1 million, county spokesperson Shannon Whalen-McDaniel said today. No word yet on how much has been spent so far.
The county’s press release on tonight’s snow preps is after the jump.