This weekend, locals can stock up on virtually everything needed to batten down the hatches in the event of a natural disaster, or to go back to school, without paying Virginia sales tax.
Hurricane season, which will last through Nov. 30, is about to reach its peak, with 15-21 tropical systems potentially forming this year. People can get a host of hurricane readiness products sales tax-free through Sunday.
The tax exemption is part of Virginia’s Sales Tax Holiday, when folks can buy certain emergency and school supplies, as well as energy-saving devices, sales tax-free. The holiday started this morning (Friday) and will last until 11:59 p.m. on Sunday. People can save between 3.5-7% this weekend, according to a video about the holiday produced last year.
In addition to hurricanes, over the years, Arlingtonians have had to be prepared for massive floods, hurricanes, earthquakes big and small, and even tornadoes, as well as the local power outages caused by high winds and rainstorms over the last year.
The list of hurricane-preparedness essentials includes some larger items, if they’re less than $1,000:
- Portable generators and generator power cords
- Inverters and inverter power cables
- Photovoltaic devices that generate electricity
Gas-powered chain saws qualify if they’re less than $350, and chain saw accessories less than $60 are also exempt.
The list includes smaller items useful for most emergencies:
- First aid kits
- Storm shutter devices
- Batteries and chargers for cell phones and all batteries except those for cars and boats
- Portable, battery-operated or self-powered radios and light sources
- Bungee cords and rope
- Tie down kits
- Duct tape
- Gas or diesel fuel tanks
- Ice packs and reusable ice
- Water storage containers
- Non-electric food storage coolers
- Bottled water
- Manual can openers
Other home safety products include:
- Carbon monoxide detectors
- Smoke detectors
- Fire extinguishers
With back to school around the corner, folks can buy anything from scissors, tape and glue to socks, shoes and uniforms, as well as hand sanitizing soap and disinfecting wipes. Other cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment, such as masks, however, are exempt.
Energy Star or WaterSense products, such as toilets, faucets and refrigerators, are eligible of they cost less than $2,500 per item and are purchased for noncommercial home or personal use only.
(Updated 4/5/21) The Arlington Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) will be teaching people how to respond to life-threatening situations until help arrives.
Over the course of a free, 2.5-hour class, anyone who lives, works or volunteers in Arlington can learn skills such as how to stop severe bleeding and provide psychological first aid. The class, “Until Help Arrives,” is part of a national campaign to teach the public how to help during emergencies from car accidents to active shooter situations.
The next hands-on training course is Saturday, April 10 from 10 a.m.-noon at 1429 N. Quincy Street, a site the county had used for drive-thru and mobile COVID-19 testing. The next virtual training will be on Apr. 29 from 6:30-9 p.m.
There has been an uptick in interest during the pandemic, said Lucía Cortés, Engagement Liaison for the Arlington County Department of Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management. That’s not to mention the recent spate of mass shootings in the United States.
“We’ve actually seen a significant increase in class interest over the past seven months, with enrollment increasing by 100% while increasing our class frequency to at least once per month,” Cortés said. “Over 160 people have attended our virtual trainings.”
Attendees will learn how to recognize violent activities, respond safely, provide immediate rescue tactics to the injured, and report them to 9-1-1, according to the county.
According to Until Help Arrives, the program emphasizes five steps for civilians to take during an emergency while waiting for medical assistance:
- Call 9-1-1
- Protect the injured from harm
- Stop any bleeding
- Position the victim so they can breathe
- Provide comfort
“The County’s CERT program was created in the wake of 9/11 by concerned residents wanting to assist their communities during emergencies,” Cortés said. “Since 2004, nearly 1,000 community members have completed ArlCERT training.”
Photo via Arlington County
As early as mid-spring, light poles along Wilson Blvd in Clarendon will be outfitted with new fixtures that monitor crowds and identify potential emergencies.
The technology will be installed sometime this spring as part of a pilot project involving multiple Arlington County departments as well as Comcast, the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative and US Ignite — a nonprofit focused on community innovation. The initiative is dubbed the “Safety and Innovation Zone demonstration project.”
During its recessed meeting yesterday (Tuesday), the County Board voted 4-1, with Takis Karantonis dissenting, in favor of the pilot project. US Ignite is donating $90,000 to buy the light fixtures, which Comcast will provide, along with a three-month trial of public Wi-Fi in the area.
Karantonis said his vote should not be interpreted as a vote of no-confidence, but rather, it should signal that he is still skeptical and would like to see more public engagement.
The primary use for the fixtures, to be installed along the 2900 block of Wilson Blvd, will be “people counting,” said Holly Hartell, who presented the project on behalf of the Department of Technology Services. In other words, the light fixtures will monitor crowd sizes and flow to recognize unexpected movements that could indicate a potential threat or emergency situation.
“This is an effort to speed things up where seconds and minutes count,” said Arlington County Fire Chief David Povlitz. “If we could gain information to send the right resource to the right place in a timely fashion that could really accelerate us operationally and also safety-wise.”
The light fixtures do not have the capacity to videotape people, capture images or provide identifying information, Hartell said. They can pick up the presence or absence of an event they have been programmed to detect, such as a large crowd moving quickly. This data will be converted into text and sent to a dashboard in the county’s Emergency Communications Center.
“Everything will be anonymous,” Hartell said. “You will never be able to identify an individual person.”
Later on, the technology could be used to detect falls, blasts, shots, and distress cries, as well as sudden temperature changes or the presence of smoke.
The fire chief added that “this [pilot] is just a start and we hope to be able to build this out in the county in time.”
“We are aware of people who are concerned,” Hartell later told ARLnow, of questions raised about the project. “I understand their concerns, and I want to give them the confidence that what we’re looking at is not going to be in any way impacting their privacy.”
The partners in the project — CCI, US Ignite and Comcast — are all providing best practices on collecting data while respecting privacy, she said. The county has also developed a privacy framework to use as it goes about the project.
“We are protecting people’s privacy while improving our services,” she said.
The pilot project will be in place for about one year. The first few months will be spent refining the uses for the technology, followed by six months of data collection, and finally, an assessment period. Next spring, the county will decide if the project could be replicated elsewhere. At that time, there will be robust public engagement opportunities, Hartell said.
During the meeting, Hartell said the block was chosen because it has a vibrant business district and a “pretty active restaurant and pedestrian activity,” even now during the pandemic.
One incident the technology might have caught in that location, had it been in place a few years ago: the famous 2018 Cheesecake Factory incident, when a promotion for free cheesecake got out of control
The original proposal was to focus on social distancing and mask-wearing, according to the staff report. A small number of business members of the Clarendon Alliance were consulted on the idea, and their concern led to a shift away from coronavirus measures, staff said.
(Updated at 11 a.m.) While sitting a safe distance away from each other, members of the Arlington County Board voted 4-0 to approve a declaration of local emergency this morning, amid the coronavirus outbreak.
County Manager Mark Schwartz signed the declaration of emergency at 7 p.m. Friday. He said the declaration will allow the county to more easily obtain state and federal funds, acquire needed goods and services, and hire staff as needed.
The county will continue to provide essential services, including emergency services, maintenance, and even permitting during the outbreak, Schwartz said. There will be more changes put in place soon, however.
“We know that these new measures are an inconvenience, but we believe that these changes to county government are Arlington’s best chance of slowing this virus,” said County Board member Katie Cristol.
Arlington is continuing to encourage residents to practice social distancing — avoiding crowds and staying at least six feet apart from each other to prevent the spread of disease — County Board members said in a pre-recorded video, played at the Board’s special meeting Saturday morning.
As of Friday afternoon, all Dept. of Parks and Recreation programs were cancelled. All libraries are closed this weekend, though Central Library and the Columbia Pike branch library plan to reopen on Monday, while others remain closed. Schools are now closed through mid-April.
Schwartz said on Monday a new list of hours and operational changes for county facilities will be posted on the county’s website.
“I hope everyone pays attention to the social distancing, washes your hands, wipes down surfaces — this is going to be with us for awhile,” Garvey said, wrapping up the brief meeting. “Your local government has been working flat out for weeks now. We’re going to continue to do so. Please be safe and gentle with each other.”
At last count, there were five confirmed cases of coronavirus, or COVID-19, in Arlington.
Large crowds of shoppers and empty shelves, meanwhile, continue to be reported at stores in Arlington.
— Shauna (@smariawalker) March 14, 2020
— SpartanMSU (@SpartanMSU) March 14, 2020
— Russell Imrie (@tweedyBard) March 13, 2020
(Updated at 10:40 a.m.) Travelers flying in or out of Reagan National Airport should expect significant delays after an emergency landing and aircraft evacuation this morning.
Initial reports suggest that an American Airlines flight landed, declared an emergency and evacuated passengers on the tarmac after smoke filled the cabin. Emergency responders rushed to the scene but so far no significant injuries have been reported.
Dozens of flights are now delayed, waiting to take off or land from the busy airport.
“Due to… Aircraft Emergency, traffic is experiencing Gate Hold and Taxi delays between 46 minutes and 1 hour in length and increasing,” the Federal Aviation Administration said on its website as of 10:30 a.m. Shortly thereafter, the airport tweeted that the incident had been cleared and flights were resuming.
More from social media:
@bshepler At approximately 9:40 a.m. Mon, American flight 5082, CRJ-200 jet aircraft from Tallahassee, landed at DCA then declared an emergency due to reports of smoke in the cabin. The aircraft came to a stop and evacuated passengers onto the airfield via the aircraft’s stairs.
— Charlie Bragale (@charlienbc) December 9, 2019
— Curtis Roberts (@RefractiveComm) December 9, 2019
— Erin O'Brien Hawley (@erin_hawley) December 9, 2019
Inbound to DCA holding, I expect diversions might start soon if they haven't already. pic.twitter.com/CuYMoKSwYO
— Stephen Repetski (@srepetsk) December 9, 2019
45 minutes of fuel left*
— Dennis Lennox (@dennislennox) December 9, 2019
An earlier incident involving an aircraft has been cleared and air traffic is resuming. Airlines are the best source of information on any changes to flight status. Thank you for your patience.
— Reagan Airport (@Reagan_Airport) December 9, 2019
Screen cap via Twitter/@glukianoff
Early estimates put damage to the county at $3.5 million, but Hannah Winant, a spokesperson for Arlington County Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management, said estimates for the damage to county property has swelled to $5.8 million. Those costs include debris cleanup, emergency protective measures, and repairs to County facilities like parks and community centers.
Winant said bridges in Lubber Run and Glencarlyn parks suffered the worst damage from the storms. A storage building at Bon Air park was also seriously damaged, as were other pedestrian bridges, playgrounds and more across Arlington. Additionally, the County is assessing the erosion to local waterways that could require long-term fixes.
Arlington has submitted its preliminary assessment to the state, but after the state receives the assessment it must be validated.
“This process can go on for a few weeks, as crews triage the damage and more information becomes available,” Winant said. “This is where we are now.”
Once the state completes its assessment, that information is submitted to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), after which the agency portions out funding and technical support for public properties that have been damaged.
“Reimbursement is also being sought through the County’s insurance,” Winant said. “During this time, the County cleans up from the disaster, removing the debris and cleaning right-of-way, and tries to get back to normal operations for the community such as opening parks and other affected facilities. The recovery process can be a long one and we appreciate the community’s patience and support as we navigate the process of requesting aid.”
Going forward, Winant predicted recovery costs will continue to increase as weather changes become more severe.
“Weather is consistently increasing in its severity and frequency,” Winant said “Nationally, both insured and uninsured losses continue to grow — so costs from disasters are rising as disaster frequency also increases.”
For homeowners, businesses, and renters who were affected by the flooding, the Small Business Administration is offering low-interest loans. The filing deadline for physical property damage is Oct. 7, and the deadline for economic injury applications from business owners is May 7, 2020.
(Updated at 1:40 p.m.) Over a thousand residents have reported damage to their homes and several tons of debris was collected after last week’s torrential rainstorm that caused widespread flooding in Arlington.
The deadline for residents to report initial damages to their homes was Friday, July 12. Today (Monday) officials told ARLnow that a total of 1,029 people filed post-storm damage claims.
The damage reports describe a range of problem from minor (clogged drains) to major (completely flooded basements), said Hannah Winant, a spokeswoman with Arlington’s Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management (PSCEM) department.
Winant said the reports will help Arlington County’s recovery and flood mitigation efforts.
“First, reports help us determine what neighborhoods have been impacted by weather. For example, we may learn if someone needs a safety inspection after electricity loss,” she said. “Second, damage reports help us better convey our needs to the state when requesting potential resources to assist with recovery efforts. The more clearly we can articulate how many people have been impacted… the better we can advocate for our community and potentially collaborate with state and federal partners to help.”
As for the destruction of county property like pedestrian bridges and public parks, Winant says Arlington is current estimating about $4.1 million in damages — up from initial estimates last week of $3.5 million.
PSCEM’s director clarified during Saturday’s Arlington County Board meeting that these reports are used for the county’s state and federal aid applications, and that affected residents will have another change to summit damage claims later.
Crews hauled away 60 tons of debris — from rolled up carpets to soggy books to water-damaged furniture — during special collections from Wednesday to Saturday, according to Department of Environmental Services spokeswoman Katie O’Brien. That doesn’t include the ruined parts of people’s homes that dotted curbs around Arlington, waiting to be collected on regular trash pick-up days.
O’Brien said that county crews are scheduled to continue helping residents affected by the floods clear debris this week. The department previously apologized for a contractor who cited some flood-stricken residents “for improper trash preparation.”
Solid Waste Bureau special collection trucks have picked up 60 tons of debris from last week's storm on top of refuse removed during regular weekly contractor rounds. The County continues to monitor and provide special service for hard hit neighborhoods. https://t.co/8eqwfHbz0l pic.twitter.com/VjY6lWoXo5
— Arlington Department of Environmental Services (@ArlingtonDES) July 15, 2019
Many homes, shops, restaurants, and pieces of public infrastructure were damaged by last Monday’s unusually strong storm — leading County Manager Mark Schwartz to declare a state of emergency in a bid for state or federal aid two days later.
“Our community experienced a rain event on Monday the likes of which no one who lives in Arlington, or who has lived in Arlington, has ever seen,” said County Board Chair Christian Dorsey at the Board’s weekend meeting, during which members unanimously voted to finalize the declaration. “The violent storm that turned the daytime sky as dark as night in a matter in minutes.”
PSCEM Director Aaron Miller told the Board that the county met the $3 million minimum damage threshold needed to qualify for state aid, and that the Small Business Administration (SBA) is sending inspectors to Arlington this week to verify the damage reports. The SBA could offer grants or low-interest loans for residents to rebuild.
Miller said additional aid hinges on a tangle of bureaucratic red tape among FEMA and larger emergency declarations that can only happen at the federal level when certain damage thresholds are met.
Dorsey added that he hoped that Virginia or the federal government will be able to give “some sort of help” but that the majority of costs are likely to fall on homeowners and business owners.
Several members of the public urged the Board to re-examine its storm water management system in hard-hit areas. Board Member Erik Gutshall proposed that the county start thinking about flood-ready construction for more resilient buildings and infrastructure.
Dorsey praised county staff for their work over the past week but noted that, “we do have to up our game” in face of future potential impacts from climate change.
“It is quite frankly a blessed miracle that no one was killed or even seriously injured with the events of this past Monday and for that we are profoundly grateful,” he said.
Posted by Arlington County Virginia – Government on Wednesday, April 24, 2019
Calling 911 isn’t always as simple as picking up the phone and dialing the numbers.
April is “911 Education Month,” so Arlington County put together some short guides for when and how someone should get in touch with emergency services.
Users can enter 911 into the “to” or “recipient” field. In the message, include the location of the emergency and whether the police, fire or an ambulance is needed.
The dispatcher could follow up with questions and give instructions. Those using the text feature are asked to avoid abbreviations or slang and to keep the messages short.
In a video posted last week (above) 911 dispatchers Alexis Brown and Morgan Turner fielded questions about local emergency services. Both noted that one misconception is that 911 dispatchers track calls the way other smartphone apps can.
“Unlike Uber, we don’t have the ability to figure out where you are,” said Brown. “We have the ability to figure out closest cell tower to you,” but “if you can give us an address, a street that you’re on, closest business, any resources you have to assist us,” it could help first responders reach you faster.
Turner said the difference is in how emergency services track calls.
“Apps like Uber use wifi signals. We use cell towers,” said Turner. “So give us the address first. At the very least we can send someone your way. Beyond that: name, phone number, and what’s happening.”
Turner also said many people call 911 by accident and immediately hang up, but this causes some problems for dispatchers.
“Just stay on the line and tell us it’s not an emergency,” said Turner. “If you hang up, we have to assume there’s an emergency and we will call you back.”
Brown also said those who speak languages other than English shouldn’t feel discouraged about calling emergency services. Several dispatchers speak Spanish, and for more uncommon languages dispatch services have resources to get a translator on the line.
Whether or not to call 911 can sometimes be unclear, but Turner said an ongoing threat of harm is the dividing line.
“The line can seem blurry, lots of times people aren’t sure,” said Turner. “The way I always think of it: if there’s a threat of harm, like if someone might be hurt, like a person in a medical emergency or a fire.”
For situations that require police or the fire department that don’t quite rise to the level of a 911 call, Brown noted that the county’s non-emergency line can be reached at 703-558-2222.
Photo via Arlington County
Virginia Hospital Center has announced a new partnership with local first responders to more effectively handle mass casualty incidents like terrorist attacks or active shooter situations.
Arlington’s new Hospital Response Task Force is “believed to be the first of its kind in the nation,” organizers say. It was formed in response to lessons learned from mass casualty situations elsewhere, during which wounded would flood emergency rooms and overwhelm hospital staff.
“In nearly all cases where events included a large number of victims, significant issues were documented at hospitals nearby the incident,” VHC said in a press release. “Hospitals were overrun with victims who self-transported to the hospital, oftentimes with friends or ride-sharing services. The Hospital Response Task Force model in Arlington aims to provide immediate assistance to hospitals to prevent the surge of self-reporting victims from reducing the hospital’s ability to save lives.”
The new plan would have the fire department, law enforcement officers and hospital staff collaborating in the event of a crisis to help handle the surge of victims.
The plan has been in development since a working group was established last June, and the plan is expected to be integrated into Arlington County’s emergency response operations starting in May.
“While specifics of the plan will not be disseminated to the public for security reasons, paramedics, law enforcement officers and hospital staff will work hand-in-hand to provide rapid treatment and protection for incoming victims,” the press release says.
Photo via Google Maps
Arlington County will participate in what is being billed as the country’s first live multi-jurisdictional wireless emergency alert system test tomorrow (April 5) from 10-11 a.m.
Residents in participating jurisdictions will receive an alert on their cell phone “or other mobile devices,” according to a county press release. At least 20 jurisdictions, including D.C., College Park, Md., and Manassas, Va., are scheduled to simultaneously send out the test message.
The text, accompanied by a loud noise, will reportedly read as follows: “A test of the Arlington County Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action required.”
A back-up test date is scheduled for Monday (April 9) for the same time “if a real-world event impacts the [wireless emergency alert system] test on Thursday.”
The system is designed to send targeted emergency information to those in a specific area to a person’s mobile phone.
As the technology relies on carrier towers to relay messages within a “geo-targeted map,” those close to jurisdictions that are conducting the test may receive a message as well.
Arlington, home to the Pentagon and other key government and military offices, will receive just over $1.2 million from the Program to Prepare Communities for Complex Coordinated Terrorist Attacks grant program, administered through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
A total of $35.9 million was allocated nationwide, of which Virginia received $3.8 million.
The Virginia Department of Emergency Management will receive just over $2 million, and the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority will receive just over $595,000. MWAA is responsible for managing Reagan National Airport in the county as well as Dulles International Airport and the Dulles Toll Road.
VDEM will administer the money and coordinate a project to help enhance security and building safety to prepare for, prevent and respond to terrorist attacks. The agency will conduct an analysis alongside local and regional partners like Arlington’s Office of Emergency Management and its police and fire departments, to determine gaps in preparedness. Local first responders then will receive customized training to fill the gaps.
“Given our strategic location as a part of the national capital region, and our wide array of assets, including military infrastructure, we are at risk of experiencing these types of attacks and incidents,” said Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) in a statement. “FEMA clearly recognized that risk and has awarded Virginia nearly 10 percent of the total funding allocated nationwide to develop programs and capabilities that will enhance public safety across the Commonwealth.”
Spokespeople for Arlington’s police and fire departments had no further details at this stage on how the money will be spent.