Arlington, VA

(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.

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(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:

https://twitter.com/glukianoff/status/1204054315624730632

Screen cap via Twitter/@glukianoff

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As some Arlingtonians are still struggling to put their lives together after flash flooding in July, the county is continuing to work to repair flood-damaged public property.

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.

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(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.”

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.

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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.

For starters, those who are deaf, hard of hearing, unable to speak or in a situation where it’s unsafe to speak can use a Text to 911 service, which debuted in the county three years ago.

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.

All told, police responded to 76,295 calls from 911 in 2018, according to year-end report released today (Tuesday). The number indicates a steady drop from 78,330 calls in 2017, and 83,511 in 2016.

Photo via Arlington County

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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

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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.

File photo

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Arlington County will receive more than $1 million in federal grant money to prepare for future terrorist attacks, Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) announced last week.

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.

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Morning Notes

Pilots in the cockpit at DCA (Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman)

Metro Station Manager Arrested — A Metro station manager at the Pentagon has been arrested and charged with assaulting a fellow employee. The fight happened Wednesday afternoon inside the station manager’s kiosk, police say. [Washington Post]

Yorktown Grad’s Music Video Goes Viral — Budding hip-hop artist Hovey Benjamin has tallied nearly 1.5 million YouTube views of his new, NSFW music video. Benjamin lived in Arlington and attended Yorktown High School and Virginia Commonwealth University before moving to Los Angeles and signing a record deal. [Real House Life of Arlington, Uproxx]

New Condo and Townhouse Sales CenterSponsored — Learn about all of the newest and most well-appointed properties in Arlington and DC without the hassle of finding all the information for yourself. Stop by the Sales Center this Sunday from 2-4 p.m. to learn about amenities, features, floor plans, fees, available units, and everything else you could ever want to know about all the condo buildings in the area. Located at 1600 Wilson Blvd. [Keri Shull Team]

Dozens of Arlington Runners Competing in Boston — Seventy-six Arlington runners will be shipping up to Boston next month for the Boston Marathon, one of the sport’s most prestigious races. The field includes local running superstar Michael Wardian, who is also competing in this weekend’s Rock ‘n’ Roll D.C. Marathon. [InsideNova]

CERT Training Still Open — A few spaces are still available in Arlington’s Community Emergency Response Team spring training class. The eight-session, 26-hour course begins next week. [Arlington CERT]

Library Exhibit on Baltic WW2 Refugees — Arlington Public Library is hosting an exhibit through April 17 on Baltic refugees from World War II. “‘No Home To Go To’ is the story of people living in refugee camps and finding a home in a new land, as told through their memories, documents, photographs, and memorabilia,” according to the library website. [Arlington Public Library]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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Did you know that during Hurricane Katrina, only 3% of New Orleans pets left behind were reunited with their families? That’s 3,100 out of 104,000 pets. While another 12,400 were rescued, they never found their owners.

We’ve been lucky in this area not to have had a Hurricane Katrina, but if you’re plan is to “figure it out,” there’s no time like the present! June is National Pet Preparedness Month, and below are some simples steps you can take to prepare your pet for an emergency.

If you’d like to learn more in person, come to Gateway Park, 1300 Lee Highway, Friday night (June 10) at 5 p.m. for a family and pet-friendly Pet Preparedness Festival prior to the Rosslyn Cinema’s showing of Beethoven 2. Learn pet preparedness tips, pick up pet-related giveaways from vendors, and enjoy free festivities, including a story time with the Arlington Public Library, climbing wall, face painting, balloon animal art, music, and prizes, as well as a beer and wine at a mobile bar, and snacks from the Chix N’Stix food truck.

  1. ID Your Pet

Make sure you pet has up-to-date ID tags with his/her and your name and contact information on her at all time so you can be reached if your pet is found. Include any urgent medical needs on her tag.

Microchip your pet; it is the only permanent way to identify your pet and link it back to you. The Animal Welfare League of Arlington hosts Microchipping Clinics nearly every month for $30. Be sure to register your pet once it is microchipped!

  1. Plan an Escape

If it isn’t safe for you, it isn’t safe for your pet, so have a plan ready to take your pet with you if you have to leave during an emergency. Know where you will go and how you will get there.

  • Ask friends and relatives outside of the immediate area if you and your pet can evacuate there.
  • Contact your vet for a list of recommended boarding kennels.
  • Know which hotels accept pets, and call ahead to see if they have breed/size restrictions.

While pet-friendly shelters may be available, they can be extremely stressful for animals, and should be used as your last resort.

  1. Designate a Buddy

While we hope we will be together with our loved ones when an emergency occurs, it is most likely that you will be at work, school, the gym, at dinner, etc.

Ask a neighbor or nearby friend to care for your pet if you are unable to return to your home due to an emergency. Consider someone you trust who is often home when you are out.

Be sure they have a key to your home, are prepared to evacuate with your pet (A big ask? Yes! Is your pet worth it? Absolutely!), and show them where you keep your pet’s go-bag. Set location to reconnect with them once you are safely able to evacuate.

  1. Make a Kit

Make sure you have enough supplies on hand for your pet for 3-7 days. Develop a grab-bag for your pet, and keep it near the door. Make sure everyone in your family knows where the bag is located.

Include the following items:

  • Food/Water – 3 day supply + dishes
  • Medicine w/directions – 2 week supply
  • Collar/harness & leash
  • Litter Tray (aluminum roasting pan works great!)
  • Litter or paper towels
  • Garbage bags for clean-up
  • Pet carrier w/bedding
  • Keep in waterproof container:
    • Vet Records, including vaccinations
    • Registration or proof of ownership
    • Microchip information
    • Recent picture of your pet
    • Contact information for you, your veterinarian, your pet buddy, and any other important contacts
  • Extra toys/treats
  1. Be Aware

Get notified when emergency, weather and traffic conditions are poor. Register for ArlingtonAlert.com to receive free alerts as well other important information during an emergency via text, voice or email.

Want to learn more? Come join us Friday at Gateway Park for the Pet Preparedness Festival! Or visit PreparedPets.com.

The preceding post was written and promoted by Arlington County’s Office of Emergency Management.

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Morning Notes

Morning Notes

Plane Makes Emergency Landing at DCA — An American Airlines flight taking off from Reagan National Airport had to turn around and make an emergency landing after a bird struck and disabled one of its engines. The incident happened around noon on Tuesday. No one was hurt. [NBC Washington]

That’s a Lot of Parking Tickets — Arlington County issued some 109,000 parking citations last year. The two most ticketed spots in the county: the county-owned surface parking lot in Courthouse and the county-owned parking strip next to Northside Social. [WJLA]

Vihstadt Pens Statement of Support for Garvey — County Board member John Vihstadt (I) writes of Board chair Libby Garvey, who’s facing a challenge in the Democratic primary: “While we don’t agree on everything, she continues to be my ally on key priorities like championing open, accessible and transparent County government, adequate schools funding, robust transit solutions on the Pike and elsewhere, and streamlining our business processes.” [Libby Garvey]

GGW Endorses Gutshall — Urbanist blog Greater Greater Washington has endorsed Erik Gutshall, who’s challenging County Board chair Libby Garvey in the June 14 Democratic primary. Writes GGW: “Overall, Gutshall has demonstrated a strong grasp of the challenges facing Arlington and an ability to work with others to find solutions. Libby Garvey, his opponent, has not demonstrated these qualities.” [Greater Greater Washington]

Paving on Columbia Pike — Crews are repaving the westbound lanes of Columbia Pike between S. Glebe Road and S. George Mason Drive, through Friday. [Twitter]

Raising Funds to Help Baby Hear — An Arlington resident has launched an online fundraiser to help pay for travel expenses and medical expenses associated with his baby daughter’s participation in a clinical trial that will help her hear via an auditory brainstem implant. [GoFundMe]

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