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by ARLnow.com Sponsor September 14, 2017 at 2:45 pm 0

This biweekly column is sponsored by the Arlington County Department of Public Safety Communications & Emergency Management.

Hurricanes are on everyone’s mind lately. The flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey has devastated the Houston area of Texas. Hurricane Irma has just come through and flooded many areas in Florida and caused catastrophic damage in Puerto Rico and the U.S Virgin Islands.

Harvey is already ranked as one of the costliest disasters and Irma is one of the most powerful hurricanes in history. There has been a lot of chatter: “What if that ever happens in this area?” The fact is, it’s already happened pretty close to home.

Last July, a flash flood wreaked havoc in Ellicott City, Maryland. Over six inches of rain fell within two hours. Three people lost their lives, 90 businesses were impacted and hundreds of cars were destroyed; almost 100 residents were displaced from their homes and many were left unemployed.

Since then, 93 percent of businesses have reopened and 72 percent of those displaced have been able to return to their homes.

Prepare Now!

The first step to being prepared is knowing the risks. This could happen in Arlington and it could happen at any time, with little to no warning. Almost 65 percent of families are not prepared for a disaster. It’s National Preparedness Month and there is no better time to get prepared.

Start today by making a plan & building a Kit. Taking these steps now is essential to being prepared for a disaster. You may not have time to pack a bag or call family members to coordinate when an event happens. If you know where to go and what to do before something happens, then you can just grab and go to safety.

Interested in knowing more?

On September 20, we will be hosting our National Preparedness Month Celebration, to honor those in our community who have helped us be more prepared for a disaster.

We’ll be hosting a social hour with several of our partners in preparedness followed by a key note address from Maria Bernadzikowski, Howard County OEM. Maria will be discussing the Ellicott City flooding and how important it is to prepare before a disaster strikes.

Maria Bernadzikowski joined the Center for Health and Homeland Security as a Senior Policy Analyst in November 2016 and began working for the Howard County Office of Emergency Management on the Disaster Recovery Team (Ellicott City Flooding, July 2016.)

She transitioned as the Recovery Coordinator for the county’s efforts in March 2017 and has recently been tasked with creating their Outreach Program. Ms. Bernadzikowski is a graduate of St. John’s University (BA) and Tulane’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, where she earned a Master of Public Health with a concentration in Disaster Management.

Ms. Bernadzikowski has worked on establishing community outreach programs, preparedness and recovery plans, exercise and training, and volunteer programs throughout Fairfax, Virginia, New Orleans, Louisiana and Léogâne, Haiti. She specializes in outreach to individuals with access and functional needs.

Come by Kenmore Middle School, 200 S. Carlin Springs Road, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. next week and learn more about how you can help us and yourself better prepare Arlington for a disaster.

Get connected!

As always, visit ReadyArlington.com or follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more information, and make sure to sign up for Arlington Alert.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor August 31, 2017 at 3:30 pm 0

This biweekly column is sponsored by the Arlington County Department of Public Safety Communications & Emergency Management.

The Arlington County Department of Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management is celebrating National Preparedness Month during September. This is a great opportunity to highlight the importance of making emergency preparedness kits and developing a family communications plan.

The department has planned several ongoing initiatives and events to take place during September around this theme while also incorporating our own emphasis on children and families.

A little competition never hurt anyone

We are very excited to be working with Civic Associations for some friendly competition. Over the course of September, we will be tracking Arlington Alert sign-ups by neighborhood.

At the end of the month, the group with the most registrations will receive a special treat to enjoy for their fall festival celebration.

Food is always a plus!

Our team will be at the Crystal City Farmers Market on September 5, and the Columbia Pike Farmers Market on September 17 doing a preparedness kit supply sample.

We will have snacks to taste made from unconventional nonperishable foods that are great additions to anyone’s preparedness kit. Remember, best practices say you should have three days of food for each person in your kit.

And a good book to read…

Join us for Stop in for Stories on Friday September 22 at 10:15 and 11:00 a.m. at the Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street). We will be reading age appropriate books for children with emergency preparedness and family communications planning themes.

Also stop by the Central Library all month long to see our partnership display with Arlington Food Assistance Center.

The best way to stay informed during an emergency is to sign up for Arlington Alert.

You will be instantly notified via text, email and/or phone with updates, instructions on where to go, what to do, what not to do, who to contact and other important information.

Arlington Alert is available to all Arlington County residents, commuters, visitors, businesses and their employees. For more information, visit ArlingtonAlert.com and sign up. To learn how you and your family can prepare for an emergency, visit ReadyArlington.com.

Save the Date!!

On September 20, the Department of Public Safety Communications & Emergency Management will be hosting a capstone event to celebrate those in our community who are helping to create a ready and resilient future.

For more information on these events and all the other events planned for National Preparedness Month please visit our website at ReadyArlington.com, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor August 17, 2017 at 3:30 pm 0

This biweekly column is sponsored by the Arlington Department of Public Safety Communications & Emergency Management.

While some people are excited for September because of cooler weather and all things flavored pumpkin spice, we are excited because its National Preparedness Month.

We’re available year around, but our annual preparedness outreach push begins much like the NFL this month, with some preseason events!

Now an annual tradition, the Arlington County Fair and Arlington County Police, Fire, Sheriff Block Party are two grand events where we get to showcase what Ready Arlington is about, and what you can do to be prepared for disasters large and small.

There will be giveaways and fun for kids of all ages, spin our Wheel of Disaster or take a crack at our Tower of Preparedness. You can take a turn to answer questions about disasters, meteorology, emergency communications and personal preparedness.

Staff will be on hand to assist you with updating your Arlington Alert account, explain what information you need to know when calling or texting 9-1-1, and we’ll have a sample “Go-Bag” with emergency supplies and checklists to help you build effective preparedness kits at home, work or while you’re out and about.

We’ll be at the Arlington County Fair, inside the Gymnasium starting at 3 p.m. on August 18-20.  Arlington County government’s theme this year is superheroes, and our super power is being ready.

The Arlington County Police, Fire, Sheriff Block Party runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, August 26, 2017.  We’ll have an outreach table, and our Emergency Communications Center staff will be participating in several demonstrations with ACPD.

Can’t make it to our preseason events? Follow the newly renamed Arlington County Department of Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management on Facebook and Twitter for all the info on National Preparedness Month. And be sure to sign up for emergency alerts at ArlingtonAlert.com.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor August 3, 2017 at 2:30 pm 0

This biweekly column is sponsored by the Arlington Department of Public Safety Communications & Emergency Management.

It’s no secret that kids change your life. From the time they are born, you plan differently: you start to schedule your errands and activities around naps, feedings, and bed time.

You carry a diaper bag because your kid needs special equipment:  bottles, toys, diapers, and you gather kid-specific information: what diaper rash looks like and what kind of fever needs immediate medical attention. Your child creates “special considerations” for almost any situation, and that includes disaster planning.

Kids are affected by disasters differently than adults

Kids have unique needs during emergencies. They are almost entirely reliant on caregivers, and that means they’ll be looking to parents and guardians to react to what’s going on. That person will become responsible for responding to a child’s:

  • Nutritional needs: Kids require more fluid than adults so keeping them hydrated is a priority. They can be picky eaters, so finding acceptable food items can be difficult. Although you may eat cold canned beans during a power outage, there’s no guarantee your child will.
  • Physical needs: Children are smaller and less developed, and this puts them at greater risk for illness and injury during a disaster. For instance, they have thinner skin and take more breaths per minute, which means they get cooler faster and require more clothing to stay warm.
  • Emotional needs: Children have limited coping skills and can be strongly affected by the emotional discord during a disaster. They will react to their caregiver’s stress. They need specialized support for healing and recovery.

Kids need special plans

During the day, 68 million children are separated from their parents, for the very normal reason of “work.” During a disaster, reuniting them with a caregiver is the first priority because that person will understand their child’s unique needs the best. Here’s what you can do to make sure you’re reunited with your child quickly:

  • Know the contact information and emergency procedures for your child’s school or day care facility.
  • Designate a meet up location if your family is separated (i.e., in the case of a house fire, we’re going to meet at Ms. Claire’s house across the street.)
  • Identify which trusted neighbors and friends can pick up your child from their care facility in case you can’t get to them. 

Kids need different stuff

If you have kids, make sure you stock up on:

  • Diapers, pull ups, and wipes
  • Nursing supplies and/or formula
  • Pre-packaged baby food, juice pouches and dry cereal snacks
  • Fever reducers & Rash ointments
  • A way to carry a non-walking child (stroller, harness, wrap, backpack, etc.)
  • Activities, games, books, and toys
  • Comfort items like stuffed animals and blankets.

What do kids need to know?

Talking to your children about disasters is difficult and can be scary. But don’t let fear get in the way of ensuring your child has the information he or she may need to help themselves during an emergency. You can spread out these conversations over time so your child doesn’t feel overwhelmed, but your child will feel safer knowing what actions they can take and that adults are ready to protect them. Make sure they know:

  • Basic personal information (first name, last name, etc.) to identify themselves if they become separated from you.
  • The phone number of a parent.
  • How to dial 9-1-1.
  • Where they can meet their family if the disaster effects their home.
  • Who is allowed to pick them up from school or day care.

After Hurricane Katrina, it took six months to reunite the last child with her family. Taking these steps could help prevent that happening here.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor July 20, 2017 at 2:30 pm 0

This biweekly column is sponsored by the Arlington Office of Emergency Management.

You’ve heard us say it once, you’ll hear us say it again, and you’re probably tired of hearing it: if you see something, say something.

So why do we have to keep telling you?

And why are we telling you now?

It boils down to the scientific phenomena known as bystander effect. The bystander effect occurs when the presence of other people discourages someone from acting or intervening during an emergency situation. The more bystanders there are, the less likely it is that any of them will help — they assume someone else will.

This is commonly known as “diffusion of responsibility” and its why many accidents, crimes, and suspicious packages go unreported. Another factor at play is “social conformity,” or the instinct to read social cues and mirror the behavior of the people around us. If other people aren’t helping, neither will we.

It’s no secret that summer time weather and travel will bring crowds to Arlington. Our community is rich with farmer’s markets, 5K runs, civic association parties and food festivals. These events bring our neighbors closer together and build relationships between the people that live, work and play here. It brings strength to our social fabric.

But with any gathering of people, know that the bystander effect will probably kick in. People may see a suspicious bag and think “I’m sure someone will handle this.” They might see a person asleep in the sidewalk and think “He’s probably fine.” They may see a motorist seated by their car on the side of the road and think “She doesn’t really need my help.”

So how do we beat the bystander effect?

First, it’s important to understand that people that ignore emergency situations or victims in distress aren’t bad people. It’s just part of their human psychology. This is where you can step in — expect that others won’t help. Make a conscious effort to be the person who will act. When you do this, you can actually leverage social conformity to your advantage — others will see you helping and start to help as well.

We also know that some people have a fear of calling for emergency services. That’s reasonable: it’s estimated that on average, a person in the U.S. will only call 9-1-1 twice in their entire lives, so it’s not like they get a lot of practice. It’s not the only reason people avoid calling, but it is one we can address right here, right now.

So make a commitment this summer to be the hero. Be the person who will act and report suspicious activity, crimes, and accidents — thereby helping others in our community. (Need a reminder about what suspicious activity is? Check out this helpful guide. It’s also has info on protecting civil rights and liberties.)

Overall, Jack Brown, the Director of Arlington’s Department of Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management, says it best: “We have a great community and excellent public safety services. Everyone, including the public, is on our team to keep Arlington safe.”

by ARLnow.com Sponsor July 6, 2017 at 2:30 pm 0

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This biweekly column is sponsored by the Arlington Office of Emergency Management.

Our weeklong initiative to design and implement a girls summer camp and leadership development has concluded, and we are happy with the results thus far, taking note of adjustments for next year.

The Office of Emergency Management now heads into preparation for National Preparedness Month in September, and we’ll be at several events in July and August.

Family emergency communications is one topic that came up many times during the HERricane summer camp run by the Office of Emergency Management. An element of the camp was to increase awareness of natural and man-made hazards. Being informed is the first critical step in developing a Family Emergency Communication Plan.

There was a special focus during the camp on building a family emergency kit. Students reflected that they learned to consider nontraditional items in their kits to provide comfort during an emergency.

They also had an opportunity to participate in an Iron Chef-styled competition only using ingredients most households would have on hand during an emergency, such as canned foods. One student, age 15, remarked that she felt more prepared to be creative with food choices in the event she and her family need to rely on their emergency kit.

Remember to be informed by signing up for Arlington Alert, make a plan with your family in the event of an emergency, build a kit, and get involved with a volunteer group such as ANCHoR.

HERricane Arlington empowers women to pursue careers and leadership roles in emergency management through a week-long “camp,” and also includes long-term professional development opportunities. HERricane will be hosting follow-up events throughout the school year. In September camp students will receive a tour of the Emergency Call Center and complete a related service project.

September is National Preparedness Month and this year the Office of Emergency Management is focusing on family preparedness.  For more information, follow us at ReadyArlington on Facebook and @readyarlington on Twitter.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor June 22, 2017 at 3:50 pm 0

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This biweekly column is sponsored by the Arlington Office of Emergency Management.

If the last time you got in your car you thought it was hot enough to bake a cake, you’re not far off! The internet is full of recipes for dashboard cookies and pizza, helping to keep your house cool and energy costs down when the heat rises, while also fueling your sugar tooth. But if your car can warm up enough to bake cookies, that means temperatures (inside and outside of your car) may also be dangerous.

In fact, heat emergencies kill more people every year in the US than any other natural disaster. Heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are caused by prolonged exposure to heat, loss of fluids and increased body temperatures, and, if left untreated, can be deadly. Consider:

Older adults, children, and males are more likely to die from a heat-related emergency. According to NOAA, adults aged 50 or older account for 73 percent of heat-related deaths nationally.

Men, who account for 71 percent of heat-related deaths nationally, have an increased risk of death due to higher rates of sweating. During a heat-emergency:

  • Drink plenty of fluids and wear cool, lose clothing
  • Use a buddy system when working outside or participating in strenuous activity 

Those living alone face a significantly higher risk of death during a heat emergency. Following the Derecho in 2012, when temperatures soared to 100F and nearly 3.8 million people were without power in Virginia and Maryland, 75 percent of the heat-related victims were unmarried or living alone.

  • If you live alone, set up a buddy to check on you twice a day during a heat emergency
  • Check on neighbors, friends and family at least twice a day during a heat emergency to make sure they’re okay

The most dangerous place during a heat wave is in a home with little or no air conditioning. A fan can provide some comfort, but once temperatures rise into the 90s it will not prevent heat-related illness, such as heat exhaustion or stroke. Even just a few hours’ relief in air conditioning can help to cool the body significantly. During a heat wave, consider:

  • Visiting the library, community center, mall or movie theater to escape your home
  • Take a cool shower, bath or go to a pool or sprayground

The temperature in a car can increase to 114F within 30 minutes when the air temperature is just 80F (and reach 123F within an hour). Even with the windows cracked, the temperature in your car can increase 20F within 10 minutes. Heat exhaustion and stroke, a life-threatening condition, can set in when your body temperature reaches 104F. Children are particularly at risk because are not able to regulate their body temperature as well as adults.

  • Never leave a child or animal in a vehicle, even with the windows cracked
  • Form regular habits to help you remember that you have a child in the car, such as leaving your briefcase, purse or lunch in the back seat

by ARLnow.com Sponsor June 8, 2017 at 2:30 pm 0

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This biweekly column is sponsored by the Arlington Office of Emergency Management.

This week’s Preparedness Post comes from Ready Arlington’s community partner, the Animal Welfare League of Arlington.

If you suddenly learned that you had to evacuate because of an emergency, would you and your pet be ready? We all need to be prepared for emergencies, and pet owners have special responsibilities.

June is National Pet Preparedness Month so this is the perfect time to get your ducks (or cats, dogs, or bunnies) in a row. Here’s some things to think about when you plan:

  • Take your pet with you! Hurricane Katrina taught us that leaving animals behind when people are forced to evacuate is a catastrophe
  • Make sure your pet’s identification tags are up-to-date and securely fastened to your pet’s collar. If possible, attach the address and/or phone number of your evacuation site. If your pet gets lost, his tag is his ticket home. Also consider microchipping your pets (The Animal Welfare League of Arlington sells engraved id tags for $6.00 and has low-cost microchipping clinics eight times a year)
  • Have a current photo of your pet for identification purposes
  • Make a pet emergency kit. Download Preparing Makes Sense for Pet Owners for a full list of items to include in your pet’s kit, which can include: pet food, bottled water, medications, veterinary records, cat litter/pan, manual can opener, food dishes, first aid kit and other supplies, leash, harness and/or secure pet carrier
  • Find out which motels and hotels in the area you plan to evacuate to allow pets well in advance of needing them. In addition to researching hotels, keep a list of friends or relatives who live outside the immediately affected area and who would be able to house you and your pet.
  • If you are instructed by authorities to shelter in place, you will probably need your pet emergency kit, including fresh water.

You are your pet’s caretaker and protector. Make a plan today!

 

by ARLnow.com Sponsor May 25, 2017 at 2:30 pm 0

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This biweekly column is sponsored by the Arlington Office of Emergency Management.

The end of the school year is fast approaching for many Arlington families. Judging by the number of “OBX” stickers on the back of local minivans and other family haulers, parents around Arlington have that trip to the beach, summer camp for the kids, or a week of playing tourist on staycation planned at this point.

As emergency managers, we have similar plans, but we’re always thinking about contingencies. Common events like a severe thunderstorm or major traffic accident can quickly alter the day’s plan and sometimes evening plans. Here are some thoughts about family preparedness potential chaos this summer.

For vacations, summer camp and other family options over the summer, parents who have been through the end of the school year process before may remember tumbling into a new daily routine of altered timelines in the morning and evening. This can often occur week after week and in an emergency, it is hard to remember simple things such as new contact numbers or find a list allergies or prescription information.

Summer Camp

There seems to be an endless number of summer camp options for Arlington kids (including HERricane), though they fill up quickly. Summer camp checklists usually include a quick list:

  • Backpack (labeled with name and phone)
  • Lunch and snack (nut-free)
  • Water bottle
  • Sunblock
  • Insect Repellent
  • Change of clothes for younger campers
  • Plastic bag (wet clothing)

Depending on the type of summer camp, other items may be on the list, and these camps typically have emergency contact information and health histories submitted during registration. Outside of camp, these items are a good starting place to ensure your child has a baseline go-bag. Parents may consider including a hard copy of the family emergency plan and a small bag with band-aids and other first aid items.

Home for the Summer / Staycation

There are many child care scenarios at home during the summer. Staying with grandparents, or at home with nannies and child care providers is a common summer solution for working families. Add their numbers to your Arlington Alert account, or better yet, have them sign up for Arlington Alert. In addition to your phone number(s) these trusted individuals need an adult oriented family communications plan, so they can reach parents or help give doctors and emergency responders important information.

This also applies to parents staying home with the kids. Mom or dad may be home with a slate of activities and field trips for the kids, but in the event of a tornado, will everyone know where to shelter during a tornado, or be able to return home a different way.

Vacation

Heading to the beach? Preparing for kids will be similar to the summer camp, especially when it comes to sunblock. If this is a road trip, car kits should already have things like emergency blankets, a flashlight, a few water bottles and jumper cables. Not all people plan ahead, so note pharmacies, grocery and convenience store locations close to the beach (look for seagulls), and remember to print an extra hard copy of the family communications plan for the glove compartment.

For more information, please visit www.readyarlington.com.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor May 11, 2017 at 3:50 pm 0

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This biweekly column is sponsored by the Arlington Office of Emergency Management.

If your answer to the headline was heat and drought emergencies — you’re right! And we’ll address that a little later this summer. But let’s drill down to the second and third deadliest weather hazards for a moment: tornadoes and lightning.

We’re entering the season when it seems like we have almost daily thunderstorms, and it can feel like Arlington Alert is notifying you of so many severe weather watches and warnings, you almost stop paying attention. Here’s why you shouldn’t:

What is a Severe Thunderstorm?

A severe thunderstorm is any storm that produces hail at least 1 inch or larger, or wind that is 58mph or higher. Don’t be fooled by the definition — softball-size hail and winds over 100mph have been reported with severe thunderstorms.

Severe thunderstorms also have another potential byproduct: tornadoes, dangerous lightning and flash flooding.

Steps from Safety

Lightning strikes the U.S. 25 million times a year, killing an average of 49 people and injuring hundreds.

Seventy percent of strikes occur during the summer months, and a majority of deaths occur in males, and in people who are outdoors enjoying leisure or sporting activities, like fishing, camping, boating, yard work and beach-going. Many victims of lightning strike were either headed to safety, or just steps away when they were struck.

Tornadoes can, and do, accompany severe thunderstorms

We tend to think of tornadoes as a weather hazard the southern part of the state has to deal with. But as we saw earlier this year, tornadoes are a very real threat of severe thunderstorms. Three tornadoes sprouted from a severe thunderstorm on April 6, injuring one person here in Arlington, and causing damage in Herndon and Arlington as well as in Washington, D.C.

In the April tornadoes, the National Weather Service did not classify the event as a tornado until the next day, so only a Severe Thunderstorm Warning was sent out. This makes it even more important to take every severe thunderstorm warning seriously.

Be Thunderstorm-Safe Every Time

Follow these tips to keep you and your family safe during a severe thunderstorm:

  • Know the Terms:
    • Watch = Severe storm/tornado is possible; monitor weather & local radio for information
    • Warning = TAKE COVER; a severe storm/tornado has been sighted or is about to happen
  • If the Thunder Roars, Go Indoors: If you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike you. Stay inside for at least 30 minutes after you hear the last sound of thunder.
  • Lose the Conductors: Avoid sinks, faucets, tubs, corded phones, computers and other electrical equipment that put you in direct contact with electricity.
  • Seek Safety Immediately
    • Go to a lower level, and stay away from windows and doors
    • Do not lie on concrete floors or lean on concrete walls
    • Get out of, and away from, bodies of water
    • Leave elevated areas, like hills, mountain ridges or peaks
  • Get the Message! Register with Arlington Alert to receive automated National Weather Service alerts. You can also choose to receive emergency notifications and traffic notifications from Arlington at the same time!

by ARLnow.com Sponsor April 27, 2017 at 2:45 pm 0

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This biweekly column is sponsored by the Arlington Office of Emergency Management.

The question flashes across a screen at a recent Personal & Family Emergency Preparedness workshop for Arlington Network for Community Readiness (ANChoR) volunteers. Participant responses split between the public, the government and community leaders. A collective groan, and then conversation, ensues as they’re told they’re all right — everyone has a role in preparedness.

We cannot prepare alone

Let’s take a look at the numbers: Arlington County has a population of 220,000, which goes up to 300,000 during the day. The Office of Emergency Management has six staff that dedicate a portion of their time to preparedness outreach and education. With those calculations, we would have to reach 4,236 residents per week for 52 weeks to prepare every resident. And this is not even counting the daytime, business population. Clearly this is not possible.

This is why our team of ANChoR volunteers is such a critical resource: they can help our staff extend our reach into the community. They help to host Preparedness Workshops in their communities, staff tables at fairs and community events and connect our office with neighborhoods and networks throughout the county.

Neighbors Helping Neighbors

Following Winter Storm Jonas last year, elderly and informed residents needed help shoveling out their walks so they could receive critical services. While everyone needs to develop a network and plan for themselves, ANChoR volunteers are asked to be a critical part of that network. Volunteers are asked to meet their neighbors before a disaster, and to check on neighbors before and after storms to make sure they’re prepared and okay.

Volunteers do basic preparedness and response in their community, like adopting their local fire hydrant, bus stop or storm drain to keep clear during storms and prevent flooding in their neighborhood.

Many hands make work lighter

When a disaster does strike, we rely on many hands to make a response run smoothly, including ANChoR volunteers. Volunteers train to support the Emergency Operations Center, Watch Desk, Volunteer Reception Center shelters and more.

Volunteers may provide administrative help in the OEM office or serve as controllers and actors during exercises.

Kudos & Thanks

This week is National Volunteer Appreciation Week, and we’d like to recognize and thank the Arlington Network for Community Readiness, as well as all of the emergency support volunteer programs, including the Community Emergency Response Team and Medical Reserve Corps, for their time and service. Their dedication helps make our community safer and more prepared.

Interested in the Arlington Network for Community Readiness or how to help during an emergency? Go to ReadyArlington.com for more information.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor April 13, 2017 at 2:30 pm 0

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This biweekly column is sponsored by the Arlington Office of Emergency Management.

If the answer to that question is never or, that you never knew how, you’re in luck! April 9-15, 2017 is National Public Safety Telecommunicators’ Week, and the perfect time to show appreciation for 9-1-1 Call Takers and Dispatchers everywhere.

The idea for this week-long event was started in 1981 as a local event in Costa County, Va. President George H.W. Bush signed a proclamation in March 1992 inviting all Americans to observe this week so everyone could be made aware of their hard work and dedication to their communities.

What About A 9-1-1 Dispatcher Am I Celebrating, You Ask?

The first voice you hear when you call 9-1-1 is that of a call taker with their calm and reassuring voice. They are highly trained professionals who work with police, fire and medical personnel to get you the help you need. A 9-1-1 dispatcher is available 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year, always ready to handle your call for assistance. In some instances, they can even make the difference between life and death.

Why Do They Have To Ask So Many Questions? Why Don’t They Just Send Me Someone?

Well let’s clear some things up. Emergency 9-1-1 Call/Takers/Dispatchers are trained to prioritize incoming calls: they’re gathering pertinent information from you to make sure the police, fire and/or medical personnel are equipped and prepared to respond before they get to you. They also need certain information to keep not only you as safe as possible, but also to keep the police and fire units safe. This can sometimes mean a lot of questions.

Actually, while they are gathering information from you, the call has already been entered for dispatch, and often, the police and/or fire personnel are already on the way. So, if you’re worried that their questions are causing a delay, don’t be. It is just providing you with the best service possible.

Oh, I Get Why We Should Honor Dispatchers Now! What Kind Of Activities Go On At Arlington’s Emergency Communication Center During This Week Of Celebration?

The week is an opportunity to shine a light on the phenomenally difficult, and often emotionally demanding work, that our 9-1-1 Call Takers/Dispatchers do to keep our community and responders safe. It also gives us a chance to thank them for their long work hours, sacrificed time away from their families (especially during holidays), and their commitment to public safety.

Annual recognition includes: Supervisor of the Year, Trainer of the Year, Teamwork Award, ECC Award of Excellence, Best Leader and Motivator, as well as a Hall of Fame, honoring 9-1-1 dispatchers with 15+ years of service in Arlington County.

How Can I Show Appreciation To My Arlington County 9-1-1 Emergency Dispatcher This Week?

The best way is to write a letter to Jack Brown, Director of the Arlington County Office of Emergency Management, and if you should ever have to call for assistance, a thank you is always appreciated because when you call, they answer.

Saving lives is what dispatchers do!

by ARLnow.com Sponsor March 30, 2017 at 3:15 pm 0

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This biweekly column is sponsored by the Arlington Office of Emergency Management.

The start of many people’s morning routines includes checking their phone or listening to the weather report:  Is it going to rain today? How warm will it get later? Do I need my umbrella today, or my sunglasses?  We may not think of weather as something consequential here, but the weather has caused most of the disasters in the United States.  

Did you know that:

  • 98 percent of all presidentially declared disasters are weather-related
  • Weather-related disasters lead to around 500 deaths annually nationwide
  • Severe weather causes at least $10 billion in damages in the US every year

These are just a few reasons why the National Weather Service has created the StormReady program.

What is StormReady?

The NWS created StormReady with the goal of creating more weather-resilient communities.

In order to be considered StormReady, a community must:

  • Establish an emergency operations center and 24-hour emergency communications center
  • Have multiple ways to receive and alert severe weather warnings to the public
  • Create a system that monitors weather conditions locally
  • Promote the importance of public readiness through community seminars
  • Develop a formal hazardous weather plan, which includes training severe weather spotters and holding emergency exercises

Arlington County is StormReady

The Arlington County Office of Emergency Management, in collaboration with Arlington Public Schools, has successfully satisfied all of the requirements necessary to be recognized as a StormReady community by the National Weather Service for the third time. The County has done its part to become StormReady. Have you done your part?

What can I do to be StormReady?

  • Get a Kit

Arlington County has around 220,000 residents and only around 320 uniformed employees in its Fire Department. If severe weather hits Arlington and impacts a large portion of the county at once, it would be impossible for first responders to immediately help everyone in need. A good saying to remember is: “The first 72 are on you.” In the event of a large-scale emergency, there is no guarantee that first responders will be able to help you within the first 72 hours. 

Every member of your household should make an emergency kit with at least three days’ worth of food, water, prescriptions, and additional supplies stored and ready to go. Keep in mind that you might not have electricity or gas to prepare food, so choose non-perishable, easy to prepare food.

  • Make a Plan

Keep written contact information with you at all times in case of emergency. Have plans on how to contact each other if cell phone service goes down. What will you and your family do if you can’t reach each other during an emergency? Have predesignated meeting areas both in and out of your neighborhood- in case you can’t return to your home.   

  • Stay Informed

During an emergency, remaining situationally aware is key. Have a NOAA Weather Radio to keep informed of weather threats, listen to TV and radio for instructions and information. Make sure these radios have batteries, and keep spares in your emergency kit.

Stay informed of emergencies by signing up for Arlington Alerts, the County’s notification system that will alert you of emergencies, severe weather and traffic, and other important information via phone, text, email and/or fax.

Talk, prepare, and plan for potential situations now, so you are not scrambling later. Do your part to become StormReady. To learn more about making preparing for emergencies, visit ReadyVirginia.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor March 16, 2017 at 2:30 pm 0

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This biweekly column is sponsored by the Arlington Office of Emergency Management.

Ready Arlington VA Tornado Drill BannerIf the weather can be relied on for one thing so far this year, it’s unpredictability. We’ve gone from record-breaking high temperatures to a winter storm warning within one week. Nothing is more unpredictable than tornadoes. While Arlington County has escaped recent severe tornadoes experienced across the rest of the state, they are a real risk. Tornadoes have struck nearly every locality in Virginia. Do you know what to do during a tornado?

March 21 is Tornado Preparedness Day in Virginia. Join the Arlington County Office of Emergency Management and participate in the Statewide Tornado Drill by practicing where to go and what to do during a tornado. Register to hold a Tornado drill at your home or workplace & help to prepare your family and colleagues. Look for our notice at 9:45 a.m. Tuesday, March 21, 2017 on Facebook & Twitter stating the drill has begun. Show us how you prepare by posting a picture of your drill @ReadyArlington’s Facebook/Twitter account.  Review these helpful tips from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM).

Tornado Watches vs. Warnings

Ready Arlington WatchVWarningKnowing when to take action is critical to keeping you and your family safe.

  • Tornado Watch (Be Prepared) A tornado is possible.
  • Tornado Warning (Take Action Immediately) A tornado is already occurring in your area, or will be soon.

What to do during a tornado

Ready Arlington DuckandCoverMost injuries associated with tornadoes are from flying debris, so protect your head. If possible, continue to monitor media to determine when the risk has passed.

  • Home – Go to your basement, safe room, or an interior room away from windows. Don’t forget pets if time allows.
  • Work – Proceed to your tornado shelter location quickly and calmly. Stay away from windows and avoid large open rooms such as cafeterias, gymnasiums, or auditoriums.
  • Outside – Seek shelter inside a sturdy building ASAP. Sheds and storage facilities are not safe.
  • On the road – Vehicles are not safe during a tornado. Drive to the closest shelter. If that’s not possible, either get down in your car and cover your head, or abandon your car and seek shelter in a low-lying area such as a ditch or ravine.

Communications

Getting the warning as soon as possible is critical with tornadoes. Over the last decade, people have significantly changed how they get their news and entertainment, and this puts more importance on the different ways you get important information:

  • NOAA Weather Radios – Available for purchase, these radios often have a distinct alarm the will alert owners when significant weather events occur.
  • Wireless Alert System (WEA) – Messages that appear as text messages on newer smartphones and cell phones automatically to notify you of amber alerts, silver alerts, emergencies where lives may be at risk (such as weather warnings), and Presidential alerts.
  • Arlington Alert – Alerting system used by Arlington County to send emergency, as well as weather and traffic information to residents. Arlington Alert allows you to customize how you want to be notified (such as text, phone, email or App), what you what to be notified about (emergency notifications, weather, traffic) and when.
  • AM/FM Radio and TV – If listening live, radio and TV broadcasts will allow for emergency alerts from the National Broadcast System and local meteorologists on the various local channels and stations

by ARLnow.com Sponsor March 2, 2017 at 1:00 pm 0

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This biweekly column is sponsored by the Arlington Office of Emergency Management.

Isn’t it appropriate to point out at the beginning of Women’s History Month that a field historically dominated by men has its roots attributed to a woman?

The groundwork for the field of emergency management can be traced back to the Office of Civilian Defense (OCD). The OCD was established by President Roosevelt during WWII to protect civilians and respond to community needs. The development of the agency was largely influenced by a plan drafted by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who helped lead the department as the Assistant Director.

Veterans and retired first responders were tapped to fill the earliest roles in the OCD, so naturally the field was largely male dominated. That trend continues today, with women accounting for only 34 percent of emergency management professionals.

In Arlington, we’re doing much better than the national average, with women representing 44 percent of our emergency management staff, and we’re working to close that gap further by offering programs like HERricane Arlington, a summer camp to develop girls ages 13-17, into our future emergency managers and leaders.

While our staff had very few female industry leaders to look up to as they developed into emergency managers, they didn’t lack for professional role models. We asked our OEM staff who they found inspiring, and although their responses varied in time periods and career paths, there were two common themes: all of the women were outspoken, and all pushed the social norms for their time period.

Ready Arlington, Jennifer Aniston in 2012 (photo via Wikimedia Commons)Amanda Nicoll – Watch Desk Officer

Jennifer Aniston: “She continues to have grace and decorum while going through a very public ordeal. She is a philanthropist while making people laugh. She has always fought back against critics who felt she needed to get married and have children. How she has handled all of these things encourages me to do the same.”

Ready Arlington Margaret Thatcher, (photo via Wikimedia Commons)Elizabeth Dexter – Watch Desk Officer

Margaret Thatcher: “She stayed true to herself, even though those around her doubted her abilities. She did not let anything get in her way.

Even when her opponents threw up road blocks, she pushed through, never losing sight of her end goals. And she succeeded.”

Ready Arlington, Amelia Earhart (photo via Wikimedia Commons)Lauren Stienstra – Senior Manager, Research and Policy Development

Amelia Earhart: “In the fourth grade, we were required to give a speech to our class on a personal hero, and I chose Amelia Earhart. Her sense of adventure, underscored by her grit and determination, resonates with me as strongly now as it did then.

She built an impressive career in a man’s field and advocated for women’s rights and women’s interests in engineering and science. Her courage, pragmatism, and commitment inspire me on a regular basis, and have motivated me to launch aspirational projects like HERricane Arlington. She asserted ownership over her future and made her own success- which is empowering women of all ages.”

Ready Arlington Eleanor Roosevelt, (photo via Wikimedia Commons)Samantha Brann – Deputy Coordinator

Eleanor Roosevelt “She overcame incredible personal challenges to find fulfillment in public life serving those without a voice. She was outspoken: holding press conferences, writing a daily newspaper article, hosting a radio show, and even disagreeing publicly with her husband, the President, when she felt morally obligated.

She advocated for women’s rights, civil rights, and the rights of WWII refugees. She reminds me that when I face adversity — when the couch, a pint of ice cream and Netflix is screaming my name — that’s when we can dig deep and achieve the most.”

Photos (1, 2, 3, 4) via Wikimedia Commons

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