(Updated at 8 p.m.) Arlington’s Emergency Communications Center (ECC), which handles 911 calls and the dispatching of emergency personnel, was evacuated late Friday afternoon, ARLnow has learned.
The evacuation happened around 4 p.m. Police officers were told during that time to restrict all radio transmissions to emergency traffic only. There was no indication that the disruption affected any crucial police operations.
A county spokeswoman tells ARLnow that the evacuation was due to a possible coronavirus case.
“Due to an employee reporting symptoms consistent with COVID-19 — and out of an abundance of caution — the Emergency Communications Center (ECC) is going through a deep-clean,” said Jennifer K. Smith. “The ECC relocated to the alternate ECC today, which provides 100% redundancy, and we expect the ECC to be back in its primary space Saturday evening.”
“Arlington maintains comprehensive continuity of operations plans to ensure continued access to critical services in public safety, including 911,” she added.
The backup facility has some drawbacks when it comes to mitigating the spread of disease, ARLnow hears, including being smaller, with less room for social distancing among the dispatchers.
File photo courtesy Arlington County
Wawa Planning 40 New N. Va. Stores — “Wawa Inc. has big plans for the Northern Virginia. Upon breaking ground on its latest project in Vienna Tuesday, the Pennsylvania-based convenience store chain officially unveiled its expansion plan for the area, which includes 40 new Northern Virginia stores in the next 15 years totaling $240 million.” [Washington Business Journal]
National Honors for Arlington Traditional School — “Arlington Traditional School is one of nine Virginia schools, and 362 across the nation, to be named 2019 National Blue Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Department of Education. It is the third time since 2006 the school – known as ATS – has received the national honor.” [InsideNova]
Census Is Important for Emergency Management — “The Census provides emergency managers and public safety officials with critical information to better prepare for and respond to emergencies and disasters in Arlington County. Data from the Census provides us with key demographic, socioeconomic and housing data that form the basis of Census Bureau tools we use in emergency management.” [Arlington County]
Outdoor Lab Ready for Another School Year — “The Arlington Outdoor Lab starts the school year with a host of initiatives, as well as a new incoming director. Michele Karnbach, who previously served as a resource assistant at the facility, has been tapped as its next director. Karnbach most recently was a science teacher in Prince William County’s school system.” [InsideNova]
Over the past 24 hours, as Hurricane Florence has gotten closer to a predicted landfall on the Carolina coast, the risk of major impacts here in the D.C. area have decreased.
Currently, it appears that rain is the main danger. The 2-4 inches currently predicted could be enough to cause flooding locally, as the region is already waterlogged from well above average rainfall, but is a far cry from the 6-20 inches of rain predicted for large parts of southern and central Virginia.
.@NWSWPC is forecasting a high to moderate risk of flash flooding starting Thursday across most of eastern North Carolina from #Florence. 15-25" with isolated maximum amounts of 35" are possible over portions of North Carolina and Virginia. https://t.co/f4Czb6sTOg pic.twitter.com/kNpMvPfXuj
— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) September 11, 2018
Though it looks like we’ll be spared the brunt of the storm, Arlington’s emergency management department is urging residents to be prepared for the worst nonetheless.
The agency released the following set of hurricane preparedness tips yesterday.
As the Hurricane Florence gets closer, there is an increasing risk of direct impacts to our region. The major concerns with this storm are rainfall amounts and wind speeds. Excessive rain may cause flooding and as the ground becomes more saturated, it will be easier for winds to knock over trees and take down power lines. Be prepared for power outages. Do not report power outages to 9-1-1, unless there is a life-threatening emergency. To report trees or wires down or flooded roadways, you can contact the non-emergency number at 703-558-2222. Remember: do not travel through flooded roadways. Turn around, don’t drown.
The Arlington County Department of Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management is encouraging all residents to prepare now for Hurricane Florence. Do not wait until the day before. Here are some tips to get you and your family ready:
- Be Informed: Stay aware of things going on by having multiple ways to get information and keep an eye on the forecast.
- Log into your Arlington Alert account to update your information and sign up for weather and traffic alerts.
- Follow Ready Arlington on Facebook and Twitter
- Plan Ahead: Make an emergency plan, and discuss it with each family member.
- Plan for possible evacuation.
- Fill your gas tank in your car.
- Have cash on hand. During power outages, ATMs and credit card machine will not work.
- Use text and social media when able to get in touch with family members and plan for what to do if there is no phone service or internet.
- Have names and phone numbers of family members, utilities, doctors/pharmacists, etc written down.
- Prepare your home:
- Clear gutters and downspouts of debris.
- Trim trees and shrubbery.
- Secure or bring inside any outdoor furniture or loose items.
- If you have a generator remember to only run it outdoors.
- Place a thermometer in your fridge and freezer in case of power outages. Any food that has reached 40 degrees or higher should be thrown out. If doors are kept closed, food in the fridge will be kept cold for about 4 hours, and the freezer for about 48 hours.
- Turn off or disconnect appliances. If the power goes out, a momentary power surge can cause damage.
- Move items in your basement off the floor in case of flooding.
- Review your insurance policy.
- Build a Kit: Get supplies together that you may need for your family for at least 3 days. Make sure to include the needs of pets.
- Have food that is nonperishable that does not require power to make.
- Ensure you have flashlights and check batteries. Do not use candles as they can be a fire hazard.
- Keep cell phones charged. Consider an external charger.
- Refill medication/first aid kits.
Throughout Virginia today, TVs and weather radios broadcast a test Tornado Warning as part of the annual Statewide Tornado Drill.
Anyone watching cable TV saw programming interrupted by Emergency Alert System message. A computerized voice said the Tornado Warning was just a test, but in a real weather emergency anyone seeing the EAS message should get to a basement or other secure location.
More from Virginia Dept. of Emergency Management:
The Statewide Tornado Drill is a yearly opportunity to prepare Virginians for tornado emergencies and to test public warning systems.
Save the date! The 2018 Statewide Tornado Drill will take place on Tornado Preparedness Day, Tuesday, March 20, 2018, at 9:45 a.m. (If widespread severe weather threatens the Commonwealth on that date, then the drill will be on Wednesday, March 21, at 9:45 a.m.)
At approximately 9:45 a.m., the National Weather Service will send a test tornado warning over NOAA Weather Radios. This test signal will sound a tone alert, show a test message or flash to indicate a message, simulating what people would hear or see during an actual tornado warning. Local radio stations, TV stations and cable outlets will also broadcast the test message via the Emergency Alert System.
The drill takes place annually on the first day of spring.
The Arlington Dept. of Public Safety Communications & Emergency Management also participated in the drill and live tweeted it.
It's almost time. Are you ready for it? #VATornadoDrill Once you have reached your determined safe area, crouch as low as possible to the floor, facing down and covering their heads with their hands. pic.twitter.com/piG88zsYxc
— Ready Arlington (@ReadyArlington) March 20, 2018
— Ready Arlington (@ReadyArlington) March 20, 2018
— Ready Arlington (@ReadyArlington) March 20, 2018
— Ready Arlington (@ReadyArlington) March 20, 2018
Democratic County Board Field at Two — Military veteran Chanda Choun was the only candidate for County Board to announce his candidacy at the Arlington County Democratic Committee last night. Choun joins fellow Democrat Matt de Ferranti in the race to challenge incumbent John Vihstadt. A primary will be held June 12, ahead of the general election contest against Vihstadt in November. [InsideNova]
Affordable Housing Stats for FY 2017 — “Arlington County added or preserved 556 affordable housing units for low- and moderate-income households during its 2017 fiscal year, bringing the Countywide total to more than 7,700 units.” [Arlington County]
Government Shuts Down Briefly — The government was shut down overnight as Congress failed to pass a bipartisan budget bill until around 5:30 a.m. [Politico]
HERricane Applications Accepted — Applications are being accepted in February for Arlington County’s HERricane program, which helps girls ages 13-17 to pursue careers and leadership roles in emergency management through a week-long summer camp. [Arlington County]
Arlington Gets New Emergency Management Director — Arlington County has named Aaron Miller as its new Director of the Department of Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management. He is currently the Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness for the City of New Orleans. [Arlington County]
Gunston Students Win Anti-Bullying Video Competition — Two eighth-grade girls from Gunston Middle School have won a second-place prize from the AT&T Film Awards for their cyberbullying prevention video. The duo will receive $2,000 in camera equipment and a one-day workshop at Gunston with professional filmmakers. [WJLA]
Vihstadt Could Face Tough Reelection — Democrats are energized by their opposition to President Donald Trump, and that could mean an especially challenging reelection for independent County Board member John Vihstadt. A blue wave in the 2018 midterms may make Vihstadt more vulnerable to his eventual Democratic challenger, one local political blogger suggests. [Blue Virginia]
Expensive Morning Commute on I-66 — “The toll to travel along eastbound Interstate 66 in Northern Virginia hit $46.75 Wednesday morning, about a week after it notched a record high.” [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
September Is National Preparedness Month — Arlington is marking National Preparedness month by reminding residents to sign up for emergency alerts, create an emergency plan and maintain disaster supplies. [Arlington County]
Crash on Columbia Pike — A car veered off the side of Columbia Pike and knocked a light pole over on the sidewalk in front of Lost Dog Cafe. No serious injuries were reported. The aftermath of the crash was caught on video. [Facebook]
Wreck Closes Northbound GW Parkway — Northbound traffic on the GW Parkway was diverted onto Spout Run Parkway for part of the AM rush hour due to a crash this morning near the overlooks. [Washington Post]
Rainy Day Today — Arlington can expect 0.5-1″ of rain throughout the day today as a cold front passes through. [Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by Chris Guyton
One of Arlington County’s safety departments has undergone a staff-led rebranding effort, complete with a new name and a new look.
As of July 1, emergency management employees and those in the county’s Emergency Communications Center work in the Department of Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management. Department staff voted for the name from several suggestions.
“While we do not often change the name of our departments, and not all departments have logos, in the past 15 years some have had name changes,” said County Manager Mark Schwartz. Two examples are the current Department of Environmental Services and the Department of Parks and Recreation, which both underwent reorganizations.
At the heart of the Office of Emergency Management’s rebranding is an effort to be more inclusive of the entire department’s staff. The two initially had been separate divisions — OEM fell under the fire department and ECC under the police department — but they merged into the same department in 2004. Still, they kept their separate functions: Emergency management staff plan public preparedness campaigns and hazard and crisis mitigation, while communications staff run the 911 call center and dispatch first responders to the public.
The name, however, technically only covered the emergency management section, not the communications staff. Department director Jack Brown sought out a new name that more accurately represents both functions.
“The mission sets are a bit different, but bringing them together under one department makes a lot of sense,” said Brown. “The previous name only reflected part of the mission. We are on the same team, and our name now reflects that.”
Schwartz confirmed that these types of name changes should benefit both the county staff and the public. “Our goal is to ensure that each department’s mission and purpose is clear, both internally and publicly… We believe the new name makes the work of this critical team clear to all,” he said.
Instead of hiring an independent consultant for the rebranding, the project was fueled entirely by ECC and OEM staff, including the logo design. The logo incorporates elements representing various aspects of the department’s safety missions. For example, the radio tower represents communications, and the lightning and rain drops represent preparedness for weather events. The individual parts are encompassed within a pentagon shape.
“Our set of missions are within that pentagon. It’s a symbol, it reminds us why we’re here,” Brown said. “We’re here not just because of the Pentagon and 9/11. We’re here because really bad things happen and we want to prevent them from happening. If they do happen, we’re here to help the public get through it.”
That being said, Brown adds: “But these symbols are nothing without our people and their character. Our brand is our professionalism, our work ethic and our mutual commitment to public safety. I think these changes reflect that and I’m proud of this department and its future.”
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.
Arlington’s Office of Emergency Management will host its new HERricane camp at Washington-Lee High School next week, with the goal of inspiring “the next generation of firefighters, meteorologists, epidemiologists and county managers.”
Lauren Stienstra, senior manager at OEM, said she was inspired to hold a camp after she and a co-worker had a hard time naming women in emergency management for Women’s History Month. Young women in particular often account for only a small percentage of emergency management professionals.
“We started to think about a summer camp to be a way to bridge the gap, to help girls to consider fields in emergency management and allied fields,” said Stienstra.
The week-long camp from June 26-30 will give participants hands-on training with firefighting equipment and CPR. Other activities include preparing meals from emergency kits and a scavenger hunt. Registration is closed, with the camp filling up after just two weeks.
In addition to the exercises at camp, the young women involved will be able to find long term professional development opportunities. Guest instructors from the Red Cross, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Urban Alliance and the Arlington chapter of Awesome Women Entrepreneurs will all participate.
Stienstra said it makes sense for such a camp to take place in Arlington, as the county was the first to have a woman work as a professional firefighter in the 1970s.
“[Arlington County] was on the front line of integrating gender equality for that field,” Stienstra said.