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by ARLnow.com Sponsor — January 5, 2017 at 2:30 pm 0

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

Elizabeth Dexter is a Watch Officer, for the Office of Emergency Management in Arlington.

Life Happens. Life is messy. — In 2007, my trip into work took four hours. It normally takes 45 minutes. I left the house while it was raining, but it quickly turned into snow. I remember being angry and stressed that I was going to be late for work. Almost everyone has a similar story, whether it was the Angry Inch or Snowzilla (in 2016), or Snowmageddon (in 2014). After each of these events, people often ask, “How can I stay informed about things like this? How can I avoid these emergencies?”

Wireless Emergency AlertsCan You Reach Me Now? — As technology continues to improve, so do our options for being notified about emergencies where we work, live and play. In the past, people had to wait for a radio broadcast, the 11 o’clock news or newspaper to find out if an emergency was happening in their area. Now people have access to several notification methods:

Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) — Ever been startled by a blaring siren on your phone? It was probably a WEA. These alerts are sent out to all cell phones inside a designated area. These messages only happen in rare situations:

  • Alerts issued by the President of the United States
  • AMBER Alerts
  • Alerts involving the immediate threat to lifeArlington Alert

Arlington Alert — If you’ve heard us say it once, you’ve probably heard us say it 1,000 times: Arlington Alert is a free service that provides you information when major traffic events, mass transit issues and other emergencies occur in Arlington. It also issues weather alerts from the Weather Service. These alerts can be set up to go to cell phones, pagers or even an email address! In certain situations, they can even call a phone and deliver a message by voice.

Emergency Subscriber Listings (you may have heard this also referred to as “Reverse 9-1-1) — A system that uses landline listed and unlisted telephone numbers to call the home or business and relay critical information. Here in the county, this has been used to tell individuals about police activity in an area, and also to ask for assistance in looking for a missing child.

Facebook Safety CheckFacebook Safety Check — If you happened to be in an area where a major crisis has happened, they will allow you to mark yourself safe and let you see which of your friends who are also in the area have also checked in. On the same page, you can also get basic information about the crisis (location, date, what happened and who to call for assistance).

Social Media — It’s fast, it’s crowdsourced and it can be accurate — but not always. Many people have turned to social sources like Facebook and Twitter for information about what’s going on around their neighborhoods. The quantity and quality of information can be mixed, so don’t forget to check verified, official sources as well. For instance, on December 13th, residents had questions about sirens they heard in South Arlington on I-395. Many people took to Facebook and Twitter to ask questions and share what they knew or had seen. Someone tweeted at the Arlington County Police Department and ACPD responded with an official explanation of what was going on — even before the story broke here on ARLnow!

It’s not just Social Media — In the moments after the Paris Terror attacks businesses, such as Airbnb and Uber, reached out to their customers to let them know what had happened and actions they should take.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — December 22, 2016 at 2:30 pm 0

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Samantha Brann is the Deputy Coordinator, Volunteer Management, for the Arlington County Office of Emergency Management.Ready Arlington volunteers

I tell people I that fell into the field of emergency management. Three weeks after Hurricane Katrina ravaged Biloxi, MS, I took a break from graduate school to assist in the response efforts. Three weeks later, I was asked to stay as the Volunteer Coordinator; three weeks turned into three months, and then a year. Even today, I’m surprised by how much my time volunteering following Hurricane Katrina has affected my life and my career.

Volunteering Makes Your Life Better!

It’s no secret that volunteering provides just as many benefits to the volunteer as to the organization served. But did you know that volunteering:

  • Improves your health — A UnitedHealth Group study reported that volunteering reduced stress in 78% of volunteers, as well as improved the moods in 94%. Volunteers also have lower rates of depression.
  • Can land you a job — A LinkedIn survey found that 41% of employers considered volunteer work equally important as paid work when evaluating a candidate, while 20% reported they actually selected a candidate based on volunteer work.
  • Makes you live longer — Volunteers have a 20% reduction in mortality compared to non-volunteers according to researchers at the University of Exeter Medical School.
  • Increases life satisfaction — According to a UnitedHealth Group study, 96% of people said volunteering enriched their sense of purpose in life.
  • Makes you feel like you have more time — Those who give their time (or money), feel like they have more of it, according to a study in the Harvard Business Review.

New Year, New Opportunity

Residents of Arlington are well versed in volunteering — 33% of residents in the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria area volunteered in 2015, ranking them the 4th highest among the 51 largest metropolitan statistical areas in the country. So tell me, how do you volunteer? And while you’re thinking, let me offer you an opportunity.Arlington Network for Community Readiness ANCHOR

Arlington Network for Community Readiness (ANChoR) is the new volunteer program of the Office of Emergency Management with a mission to support OEM in educating and assisting Arlington for emergencies. Volunteers are community members over the age of 16 who live or work in Arlington County and want to help their community during an emergency.

ANChoR volunteers may be called upon to staff outreach tables at fairs or lead preparedness workshops. They may be asked to provide critical support during an emergency, such as providing support in the Emergency Operations Center. When events like Winter Storm Jonas roll in, they’ll be tasked with checking on (or shoveling out!) ill patients for life-saving medical appointments.

ANChoR volunteers can learn new skills through trainings, investigate new professional opportunities through networking activities, connect with their community through service projects, help neighbors during an emergency or simply meet new people!

Give Yourself the Gift of Volunteering in 2017!

I drove down to Biloxi, MS after Hurricane Katrina simply to help in any way I could. Over 12 months, I gained skills I never anticipated: roofing, dry walling, mold remediation — even how to use a chain saw properly. I also learned coalition building, fundraising and leadership — skills that allowed me to return home and find a new profession in the world of emergency and volunteer management.

Give yourself the gift of more time, better health, longer life, less stress, higher quality of life, and new opportunities: help your community during an emergency. Sign up for Arlington Network for Community Readiness today, and volunteer in 2017!

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — December 8, 2016 at 2:50 pm 0

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

Snow in ArlingtonThe cold has finally arrived, and with it the possibility of winter weather. Whether you’re doing the snow dance or not, now’s the time to make sure you’re ready for winter! Take these five simple steps to prepare for today and every day.

Give Your Car a Prep Check — Every year over 480,000 people are injured and more than 6,000 people are killed in weather-related crashes. Make sure your car is in prime working order before you hit the road in less-than-perfect conditions.

  • Check your antifreeze, oil, brakes, heater & defroster, windshield wipers & fluid, battery, and tires for proper levels and good working order.
  • Go through supplies you have stored in your car to make sure your food, water, radio, phone charger, first aid kit, kitty litter/sand, shovel, ice scraper, and blanket are still there, and in good working order. Add supplies if you’re low on anything. For a list of basic car supplies, see Ready.gov.
  • Make sure to keep your gas tank at least half full (a good practice year-round, but particularly important in the winter). If you’re surprised by weather, and end up stranded on the road, a full tank of gas will provide you with hours of heat!

Emergency KitCheck Your Stocks — Not those stocks; your preparedness stocks! Last winter following Winter Storm Jonas, residents across the region found themselves in their homes for days. Grocery stores and restaurants had difficulties restocking and serving customers. This serves as a reminder that we all need to have at least a few days of food and supplies in our homes at all times.

  • Case your pantry or emergency kit, and verify that you have at least 3 days of food and water for your entire Discard and replace any food that has expired.
  • Check your flashlights, radios, batteries and anything else with an on/off switch in your supplies to make sure they work and that the batteries are good.
  • Do a full assessment of additional supplies you may need, and verify they are easily assessable for your entire family. A basic list of emergency supplies is available at Ready.gov.

Be Aware & Prepared — Most weather-related car accidents happen when the roads are wet or slippery from rain, snow or ice. Be aware and prepared for the conditions.

  • Slow down and give yourself plenty of space when the roads are wet. If the temperature is near freezing, you may be driving on ice without realizing it.
  • Weather can change rapidly- it’s important to know what you’ll be heading out into before you go. Register for ArlingtonAlert.com to receive National Weather Service warnings, as well as traffic and emergency alerts.
  • Stay off the roads during snow and ice events. Not only do you put yourself at risk by taking to the roads, you also slow the clean-up efforts.

Talk the Talk — Following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, over 5,000 children were separated from their families for as long as 6 months. Family communication plans are a critical component to help you and your family find one another after an emergency.

  • Review your communication plan to make sure the information, such as your contacts (i.e. out-of-town contact, doctors, caregivers, etc.), meeting areas, locations (school, work, home), insurance, evacuation routes, etc. are still correct. Go to ReadyNOVA.org to develop a family communication plan that can be printed, sent and saved to mobile devices.
  • Review the plan with your entire family and make sure everyone knows what to do and who to call if they are separated from you.

Get Involved — Help your community during an emergency.

  • Get to know your neighbors, and find out if any may need help after a winter storm, and then offer to help if you’re able to!
  • Join the Arlington Network for Community Readiness, a volunteer group who supports the Office of Emergency Management in educating and assisting Arlington for emergencies.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — November 25, 2016 at 12:00 pm 0

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

What says “I care” more than fun gadgets and games that’ll help loved ones during an emergency?! Just in time for the kick-off of holiday shopping, we put together a list of some of our favorite preparedness items everyone on your holiday shopping list will appreciate!

For the Outdoor Enthusiast: Many preparedness items can serve double-duty for the outdoor enthusiast, and you don’t have to drop a lot of dough to get some quality items. Consider:Ready Arlington cell phone charger

  • Water filtration system: From tablets to personal filtration straws, there’s a huge variety to fit the needs of the hiker in your life.
  • Camp stove: These small, packable stoves can be either alcohol, or wood burning (or a combination of both). Just remember to always use them outside!
  • Multi Tool: With combinations of every tool but the kitchen sink, multi tools can help you saw down small trees, tighten screws, cut up your meals and open bottles.
  • Lights: From headlights to lanterns, your outdoor enthusiast will appreciate more (lights have a habit of walking away). Look for fun lights that are hands free and can be used hiking, camping or in the house when the power’s out!

For the Gadget Geek: Searching for an item for the techie in your life? Try one of these gift ideas:Ready Arlington radio

  • Emergency phone charger: Today’s selection in phone chargers is huge. From a quick “pocket juice” to solar chargers, chargers are varied and priced for everyone.
  • Encrypted thumb drive: Encryption allows the safe storage of personal information that your tech-savvy friend will appreciate.
  • Weather radio: The weather radio deserves some new attention. With features like hand-crank and self-power, combined with Bluetooth technology, flashlights and solar charging, weather radios could be a surprise hit!

For the Commuter: Traffic and Metro delays. Rainy and snowy walk/bicycle commutes. Looking for a unique gift to ease the pain of commuting? Check out these fantastic preparedness items!

  • Hand warmers: The walker, biker or driver will appreciate these on a cold day. Perfect for the car emergency kit, they’re light and easy to pack into a commuting bag, purse or backpack.Ready Arlington whistle
  • Whistle: While more manufactures have incorporated whistles into the straps of backpacks, these are always great items to have on hand in your car emergency kit, or as a pedestrian.
  • Emergency hammer: For the driver in your life, these allow users to break the windows of cars, even when submerged under water.
  • Dry sacks: Available in an array of sizes from wallet to duffle bag, dry sacks keep the contents completely dry inside, even when dumped in water (they float too!).

For the Novelist: Have an avid reader in your life? Consider a book that’ll help them survive in the event of a disaster. Some of our favorites include:

  • SAS Survival Handbook: A basic handbook on survival skills, including weather, building shelters, finding food, first aid and more.
  • The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes — and Why: Award-winning journalist Amanda Ripley traces the responses of people through multiple disasters, including the World Trade Center during 9/11 and the Air Florida Flight 90 that crashed into the Potomac River, to determine how and why humans behave during a disaster and how we can improve our chances for survival.

Looking for more preparedness gift ideas? Follow ReadyArlington on Facebook/Twitter. We’ll be posting our staff’s favorite preparedness gift ideas throughout the month of December!

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — November 10, 2016 at 2:30 pm 0

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

A message with a cause

slide4This month, helping some of Arlington’s most important causes just got a lot easier. To kick off the “Season of Giving,” the Office of Emergency Management has launched a special “Subscribe and Serve” campaign. This month, when you register for Arlington Alert using the new “EZ” form, you can choose to support one of four local causes, and we’ll make a donation on your behalf. If you want to fight hunger, you can donate a can of food to the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC). If you’re interested in helping to end homelessness, you can direct a pair of socks to the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network (A-SPAN). Are animals your thing (and in Arlington, we know they are)? Then a can of pet food for the Animal Welfare League of Arlington (AWLA). Finally, if you’d like to help develop the next Picasso, you can donate art supplies to Arlington Public Schools (APS).

A stronger community = a more resilient communityAFAC Feeding our Neighbors in need

In emergency management, we know that it takes a “whole community” to truly make emergency preparedness work. AFAC, AWLA, A-SPAN and APS are some of our essential community partners for responding to and recovering from disasters. Let’s take a look at how their work creates a resilience for Arlington:

  • Arlington Food Assistance Center: Not only does AFAC assist in providing critical nutrition for thousands of people in Arlington, they are also excellent logisticians. They know how to acquire, process and distribute food to large numbers of aspanpeople — a critical skill for serving those who might be impacted by disaster.
  • Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network: The homeless population is one of the most vulnerable — both during and after an emergency. By ensuring that these people’s basic needs are met, A-SPAN helps ensure that they don’t need to consume additional resources during an incident.aps
  • Arlington Public Schools: Children are another vulnerable population, and APS helps ensure that they are supported in all aspects of their life. During emergencies, APS provides critical facilities — like gymnasiums and cafeterias — with generators in case we need to establish emergency shelters. Crayons are also an important part of an emergency kit for anyone with kids — easy, battery-free entertainment!animal_welfare_league_of_arlington_color_rgb
  • Animal Welfare League of Arlington: You’ve heard us harp on it before, but pet preparedness is an important part of individual preparedness. After Hurricane Katrina, we learned that 44% of people did not evacuate for the storm because they refused to leave the pets behind. AWLA provides important services like microchipping (which aids in pet-family reunification after a disaster), as well as affordable vaccinations (which are a requirement in most emergency pet shelters). AWLA is the County’s main partner for opening and operating these shelters.

arlignton-community-fcu-logoThese organizations are an important part of our community both before and after emergencies. Another important partner is the Arlington Community Federal Credit Union. They helped sponsor this campaign because they know how important partnership strengthens the community. Additionally, they provide financial services that are an essential part of emergency planning. Don’t forget to think about banking, lines of credit, and insurance as part of your own personal preparedness plan.

Strength through partnership

Overall, communities that are strong before a disaster are typically strong after a disaster. Government agencies, non-profit organizations, and businesses and the partnerships between them create the network that creates that strength. Don’t forget that individuals are part of this coalition too- and don’t forget to subscribe and serve!

 

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — October 27, 2016 at 2:30 pm 0

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

How much notification is just right?

Hello? Are you out there?

If you’re like us, data makes you giddy. In the world of emergency management, it can feel like we’re sending messages out into Ready Arlington Alertthe world without ever knowing if they’re being reflected back like the hot summer sun off a tin roof or absorbed like a Harry Potter book. But add a little data, and “POOF!” we can start to see if we’re having an impact!

Getting information to those who live, work and play in Arlington before and during an emergency is critical. We use Arlington Alert to notify you of imminent threats, hazardous weather, traffic delays, government office closures and special events that may affect your life. But striking a balance between sending enough and too much information is a line our office walks on a daily basis.

This summer we teamed up with Virginia Tech’s Social and Decision Analytics Laboratory (SDAL) to learn more about how we’re reaching you and how we can we improve the alerting system.

Where are you, Arlington Alert Subscribers?

No surprises to us here — a majority of registered users are in the densest residential and commercial areas of the County. Ready Arlington EnrollmentInterestingly though, our highest pockets of users are in neighborhoods that have long term residents and experience little turnover.

At first glance, this doesn’t tell us much — we’d expect to see more users in areas where there are more people. Digging a little deeper, however, it shows success from the Run-Hide-Fight trainings and outreach we’ve conducted in these areas of the county.

We also saw where our lowest enrollments were, and for the past month we have targeted many outreach activities in those communities. As a result, we have been able to increase enrollment in neighborhoods with lower enrollment rates.

Finding our Message Champions

We know that every single person who works, plays and lives in Arlington will not register for Arlington Alert. In order to reach Ready Arlington Common Wordsthe greatest number of people, we need Message Champions: those who will promote Arlington Alert and share our messages with their networks to help get critical information into the community.

Using personality traits, professions and communities, a psychologist associated with the study helped to build a profile of people who would be our best Champions. She found that those who work in education, training, counseling, facility management, healthcare, restaurants, entertainment and sports management are most likely to share messages in an emergency (note to the professionals above: expect to hear from us about how you can help us share our message during an emergency!)

Can We Still Be Friends?

One too many messages, and we all know what happens: “STOP MESSAGE!” It’s a delicate balance of giving you the information you want and need, but not overloading you with too much.

The study found that a majority of un-enrollments followed road closure and “Final” messages sent to notify you that streets had been re-opened (note: you can select to which type of alerts you would like to receive, such as weather or emergency alerts, and eliminate traffic alerts if they don’t apply to you). From this, we’re taking a look at how and when we send messages to better communicate with you.

Making the Reach

So we’re asking for your feedback and help in our continued efforts to improve the system. Text “Arlington Alert” to 703-454-8608 to tell us how you’re using the system (or not using the system), and what we can do to improve it, or even volunteer to serve on a focus group!

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — October 13, 2016 at 2:30 pm 0

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

Nearly half of US adults had their personal information hacked in 2014 — not including the 500 million recently revealed hacked Yahoo accounts. 2015 saw an even higher rate of personal data breaches. That means that it’s likely either you’ve been a victim yourself, or know someone who has.

Communication is a critical infrastructure in today’s world. And just by using your phone or computer, you make yourself vulnerable. Just as you need to be aware and prepare for natural emergencies, you should take steps to improve your cyber preparedness. Join us during Cyber Security Awareness Month to enhance your awareness and preparedness!

Protect Your Personal Information

Your personal information includes your email; online banking, Pay-Pal and e-commerce accounts (like Amazon or I-Tunes); and accounts with sensitive information like your social security number, address, phone, etc. You’ll be surprised how many there are!

  • S=Secure in the HTTPS. A website without an “S” at the end of the HTTP may not be secure. Avoid shopping or sharing any sensitive information in sites unless it is an HTTPS.
  • Read the fine print. Know what data an app can access before you download it. Read the privacy policy before you download, and pass on apps that want to access personal information.

It’s all about the update

85% of security hacks could be prevented by updates, according to the US Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US CERT).

  • Always Update Your System. Update your security software, web browser and operating systems regularly. Updates include patches for security breaches. Without them, your systems are left vulnerable to hackers.
  • Back it up. Back up your information regularly. If your device is hacked, you will still have your information.

readyarl-pwEnhance Your Password Protection

You’ve heard it before, but a strong password is one of your best defenses for your personal information. Yet 123456 remains the most popular password in the US (followed by Password).

  • Mix it up. Use a combination of letters, numbers and characters. Try a phrase, like “Ih8sh$pping!” for increased protection.
  • Don’t be green. When it comes to cyber security, never reuse or recycle passwords, no matter how inconvenient it may be. If one account becomes compromised, then all of your accounts are vulnerable. Consider using a password manager to keep track of your passwords.

Be WiFi wise

Anything you do while online via public or insecure networks can be accessed. Use these networks carefully.

  • Nix the auto-connect. Turn off the WiFi auto-connect and Bluetooth on your devices, and only connect when you need to. This will save your battery as well.
  • Safe at home. Shop, access your bank accounts and email from your own device, and only on a network you trust.

readyarl-clickbateDon’t be click-bait

Nearly one million new malware threats are released every day, and attacks are quick. It takes 82 seconds from the time of release to the first victim, according to Verizon. Keep your home, contacts and business safe by clicking cautiously.

  • Stranger Danger. If an email is unexpected or you don’t recognize the sender, don’t open it before verifying.
  • MiSpelled.com. Check URLs before opening. Hackers will often slightly misspell the URL of a legit website. Verify any URLs you’re unfamiliar with before opening.
  • If it it’s too good to be true… It probably is. Avoid amazing, free or urgent deals. The more urgent, the higher chance of infection. Be wary of links with shocking or fake celebrity news.

While you’re reviewing your accounts to update passwords, don’t forget to review your www.ArlingtonAlert.com account to make sure you receive emergency, traffic and weather alerts from Arlington County!

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — September 29, 2016 at 3:45 pm 0

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This biweekly column is written and sponsored by the Arlington County Office of Emergency Management. This week, guest contributor Arlington County Fire Department provides fire safety tips to kick off Fire Prevention Week (October 9-15).

Ready Arlington smoke alarmMany people assume that having smoke alarms in their homes automatically protects them in the event of a fire. The reality is that smoke alarms do not last forever. The Arlington County Fire Department (ACFD) urges all residents to know how old their smoke alarms are and to replace them every 10 years. Smoke alarms must also be maintained and tested monthly to ensure they are working properly.

To find out how old your smoke alarm is and its expiration date, simply look on the back of the alarm where the date of manufacture is marked. The smoke alarm should be replaced 10 years from that date (not the date of purchase).

A recent survey conducted by National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) revealed that only a small percentage of people know how old their smoke alarms are or how often they need to be replaced.

To increase awareness, the NFPA has declared the theme for this year’s Fire Prevention Week as “Don’t Wait – Check the Date! Replace Smoke Alarms Every 10 Years.” Fire Prevention Week is October 9-15, 2016.

Fire prevention week flier 2016To support Fire Prevention Week, ACFD will be hosting an open house at all 10 of their fire stations on Saturday, October 15 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visitors are invited to tour the station, see the equipment, climb in the trucks, talk with firefighters and paramedics, and participate in fire safety activities.

Acting ACFD Fire Chief, Joseph Reshetar has been with the fire service over 31 years and has witnessed the difference working smoke alarms can make in a home fire. “Time and again, I’ve seen the life-saving impact smoke alarms can have in a home fire. I’ve also seen the tragic and even fatal results when smoke alarms aren’t functioning properly. That’s why we are making a concerted effort to ensure all Arlington County residents have working smoke alarms and know how to maintain them,” says Chief Reshetar.

Firefighters checking smoke alarmsBesides educating residents on the importance of smoke alarms, firefighters have also been providing free home fire safety checks and smoke alarm installations as part of “Operation Firesafe”. Firefighters spend two hours a week going door to door offering residents these free services. In the past six months, firefighters installed 695 smoke alarms in Arlington County homes. Firefighters found that 89 of those homes had no working smoke alarms before they visited.

For more information on requesting a home fire safety check, smoke alarm installations or this year’s Fire Prevention Week open house, visit ACFD online at https://fire.arlingtonva.us.

Some additional smoke alarm guidelines:

  • Install smoke alarms in every bedroom and in a common area on each level of your home.
  • Test your smoke alarm monthly.
  • Change your smoke alarm batteries twice a year.
  • Replace all smoke alarms every 10 years.
  • Make and practice a home fire escape plan with everyone in your home.
  • Remember when the smoke alarm sounds, get outside and then call 9-1-1.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — September 15, 2016 at 2:30 pm 0

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

Less than 24 hours into his temporary assignment as the Emergency Management Coordinator, Captain Mark Penn watched one, then two planes fly into the World Trade Center.

Still unsure of his new role, he headed to the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) planning to keep County Leadership informed of events. As he drove up Columbia Pike, he looked up to see Flight 77 pass overhead on its collision course into the Pentagon.

Pentagon on 9/11 (photo via Arlington OEM)A New Chapter in Emergency Management

Little did he know it as he opened the EOC that day, but Penn was starting a new chapter in emergency management for Arlington County. In 2001, the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) hadn’t been formed. This wouldn’t be done until 2004, after extensive research by County Leadership. The Emergency Communication Center (9-1-1) was still part of the Police Department; it wouldn’t come under OEM management until 2004.

In 2001, emergency management was still one position in the fire department, primarily focused on preparing responders.

Emergency Management: Coordinating the Response Behind the Scenes

Pentagon on 9/11 (photo via Arlington OEM)While Public Safety personnel coordinated operations at the Pentagon, Penn’s initial hours, and next 21 days, were consumed in the EOC, supporting the responders.

Over 3,000 responders were working at the Pentagon, each requiring security clearance to do their job, as well as food, housing and communication with family members. Resources had to be requested and moved immediately cross-country, all while airspace was closed. A local emergency had to be declared.  The EOC worked behind-the-scenes to make sure the response went smoothly.

You Can’t See Us, But We’re Still Here!

Following 9/11, Penn’s “temporary” assignment was extended until 2004 as the Office of Emergency Management was developed. Today, OEM has grown from 1-84, including Emergency Management and Emergency Communication Center (9-1-1) staff.

And much of our work remains the same: behind-the-scenes support during a response.  During this winter’s “Snowzilla” our office opened the Emergency Operation Center and coordinated with public safety, health, transportation, finance and communication partners, as well as County Leadership and state and regional partners.

Moving Forward: A New Approach

Today, our focus on emergency preparedness includes all of Arlington County: both our response partners and residents. We continually plan and train with our partners to prepare for potential emergencies. Resident engagement and preparedness has also become a priority. The Active Shooter Awareness and Preparedness training program is an example of this.

Challenges still remain. As time fades from events like the 9/11 attacks, people become complacent.

However, September is National Preparedness Month, and the perfect time to get prepared! Complete item from below during September (or, be a Preparedness Champion and tackle one per month through December!).

  1. Register for ArlingtonAlert.com.
  2. Have at least 3 days of emergency supplies for your family at home.
  3. Develop a Family Communication Plan – try using ReadyNOVA.org‘s tool.
  4. Make a go-bag with essential items – for your home, car and work.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — September 1, 2016 at 2:30 pm 0

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

You and the Other 60% of America

The sky turns black. You hear the radio call out a tornado warning, and you spring into action. You’re family has conducted drills for this, so without a word from you, they all go to a safe room to ride out the storm. As you join your family, you smugly smile, knowing that you have all the food and supplies you need for your family for 72 hours.

No?

Less than 40% of Americans have developed an emergency plan and discussed it with their familyYou’re not alone. Although 80% of Americans live in a county that has experienced a weather-related emergency in the past 8 years, less than 40% have actually developed an emergency plan and discussed it with their family.

The burning question that remains is: “Why don’t people prepare for emergencies?”

I don’t have time

There are many reasons people don’t plan. When asked why, many people respond “I don’t have the time” or “It seems like a lot of work.” Preparing for an emergency can look overwhelming at first glance, but doesn’t have to be.

Use your resources: Online resources such as www.ReadyNOVA.org have fill-in-the-blank templates and quick reference guides to help you develop things like a family communication plan. You can then download and send it to all of your family members mobile devices (don’t forget to print a hard copy!)

Use your supplies instead of building a kit: Buying and storing an emergency kit can be expensive and take way too much space in many Arlington homes. Instead, take inventory of your family’s food & emergency supply needs, and then make sure you always have at least 3 days worth in your home. Remember, you may not have electricity, so make sure you are not counting on the food in your fridge or the use of your microwave or electric stove to cook!

Have a go-bag: Nothing is more stressful than having to leave your home quickly. Build a Go-Bag with essential items for your family in case you need to hit the road in a hurry.

Make it fun: Preparing doesn’t have to be all work! Challenge your kids to an Emergency Scavenger Hunt, square off against family members in a cook-Off as you rotate food out of your emergency supplies, use fire drills as a race for your children (so they can practice their evacuation route and also burn off that extra energy before bed.) It’s important to note that while students practice fire and other emergency drills multiple times a year at schools, adults have some catching up to do: 60% of adults have not participated in preparedness drills or exercises in the past year.

Disaster’s Won’t Happen to Me

Another reason people avoid developing emergency plans is the belief that “it won’t happen to me.” Emergencies don’t have to be large-scale catastrophes to have a big impact on your life. More than 50% of Americans have experienced an incident where they had to evacuate their home or live without utilities for more than three days- and some of the most common causes include simple things like broken water mains, downed power lines, and structural damage from trees. In fact, damage from frozen pipes, sewage backup and appliance issues actually causes more water damage to homes than weather events every year.

Tornadoes are rare, but not impossible in Arlington By definition,  emergencies are unpredictable. Certain hazards, such as tornadoes, may be unusual, but they still occur. In 1996 the Centerville Tornado almost caused a US Air Shuttle to crash during take-off at Reagan Airport. And in 2001 a F0-F1 tornado traveled 15 miles through Arlington and into Washington D.C., crossing the interstate three times during rush hour.

If A Disaster Happens, There’s Nothing I Can Do

While there are risks wherever you live, there are also steps you can take to lessen the impacts. On average, we save $4 for every $1 spent on

Less than 40% of residents living along the coast of NJ understood that their greatest risk during Superstorm Sandy came from water, not wind.Know Your Risks: Understand your risks, and protect yourself against them. Fewer than 40% of residents living within a block of the NJ coastline understood that the real threat from Hurricane Sandy was from water, or the storm surge that the hurricane would cause (over 60% believed the real danger was wind.) Only 54% had flood insurance.

Be Alerted: Register for ArlingtonAlert.com to receive emergency and weather alerts. Be sure to include the addresses of locations you live, work and spend time, so you’ll be notified if there’s an emergency in one of those locations.

Document It: Collect important documents, such as personal identification, property deeds, insurance policies, titles to vehicles, wills, etc., and store them in a safe place. Consider scanning them and placing the files on a flash drive. Following Hurricane Katrina, many residents of the Gulf Coast found themselves without even the most basic identification: identification, birth certificate and social security cards.

Set Your Meeting Spots: Determine where your family will meet and how you will reach one another after an emergency.

Join Us!

Every year, we dedicate a whole month to getting prepared (it’s September, which is why you’re reading this article now!) Join us as we celebrate and encourage people to get ready for the major disasters that could impact their lives. Test your preparedness knowledge, check your preparedness, tell your stories, and challenge your neighbors this month! For more National Preparedness Month details and a full schedule of events, check ReadyArlington.com, or follow #ARLPrep2016.

  • Tuesday, September 6, join us at the Sugar Shack Arlington to “Check Your Prep!” If you 3 out of 5 items completed on our preparedness checklist, you’ll earn at $5 Sugar Shack coupon!
  • Thursday, September 8, join us as the Emergency Preparedness Advisory Commission hosts a retrospective panel “9/11: Looking back and ahead”. Come hear how the County improved it’s preparedness after the events of that tragic day.
  • Be the most prepared Civic Association! Challenge your neighbors throughout September & register for Arlington Alert! The Civic Association with the highest number of registered Arlington Alert subscribers at the end of September will be deemed the Prepped Association with an annual plaque and ice cream social.

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