On Sept. 11, 2001, everything changed for our nation – and for Arlington. Our County’s coordinated response to the terrorist attack on the Pentagon was recognized as a “model for the nation.” Since 2001, we have enhanced our public safety response capabilities. Today, we are stronger, and better prepared for any event, than ever. Visit ArlingtonAlert to learn more.
We have expanded the collaborative approach we’re known for to include regional partners, agencies across County government and volunteers. We regularly plan for and train for emergencies with federal, military, state, private and non-profit organizations, National Airport and Metro. Our public safety agencies work with public health, technology and other County government agencies that have critical public safety roles. And we routinely train with volunteer organizations such as the Medical Reserve Corps and Citizen Corps.
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- Since Sept. 11, 2001, Arlington County has enhanced and increased its public safety response capabilities. Working in partnership with the Department of Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management (DPSCEM), Police Department, Fire Department, the Department of Human Services Health Division and the Department of Technology Services, we collaborate together to ensure that Arlington remains a safe and resilient community.
- Emergency preparedness, training and building partnerships throughout the region is important to our overall mission. As a part of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Leadership Committee, Police Department, Fire and DPSCEM conduct regular training exercises to include the emergency response and evacuation of all Metro stations in our region.
- The Police Department assigns officers to the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force (National Capital Region). This is an ongoing assignment, so that Arlington remains connected with our regional law enforcement partners.
- The Police Department (Fire Department also participates in these drills) continues to participate in the ongoing “Gallant Fox” readiness exercises hosted by the Pentagon. These exercises engage area first responders in tabletop or real-world exercises that depict reality-based scenarios. These exercises are intended to prepare first responders for possible events, while building working relationships among first responders throughout the National Capital Region.
- While Arlington Public Health is the lead agency for public health and medical response in Arlington, such a response would not be successful without our many partners with whom we plan, train, and exercise with to learn what works well and where we can make improvements. We have been working in recent years to strengthen our partnerships across the County, including the Virginia Hospital Center, the Pentagon, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall and other federal agencies with a presence in Arlington County. Our goal is to have signed Memorandums of Agreement/Understanding with our partners around mass dispensing. We work on training, planning and exercising with each agency should there be a need for mass medication dispensing.
- Arlington was an early adopter of the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), starting in 2003. This is a federal program which seeks medical and non-medical volunteers to extend our public health response capacity for public health emergencies affecting our residents. These MRC volunteers have been critical to our response with past public health emergencies such as H1N1, Ebola and Zika. We currently have approximately 350 local volunteers. Visit the Medical Reserve Corps page to learn more.
- DPSCEM also offers several ways for our community to get involved, such as the Arlington Network for Community Readiness (ANChoR), the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), and the Disaster Volunteer Registry (DVR). Visit the Emergency website to learn more.
- The events of Sept. 11, 2001, made it clear that the resources of our public safety departments could become overwhelmed in a disaster. Citizens wanted to help and it became apparent that the most helpful volunteers were those with some level of disaster-relief training. Thus emerged the concept of the first all-disaster, neighborhood-based CERTs in northern Virginia. The goal is to have a CERT in every Arlington neighborhood.
Since 2001, Arlington has greatly expanded our capabilities to handle many different types of emergencies – an “all-hazards” approach – including planning, training and coordination. As part of this effort, the Department of Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management (DPSCEM) was established to coordinate emergency preparedness and response capabilities, resources and outreach for the Arlington Community.
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- Since 2001, the Police Department has re-organized itself to manage new demands and capabilities. For example, it established a new Homeland Security Section, which leads efforts to detect, prevent and investigate terrorist activities that may affect Arlington County and the National Capital Region. The Section collaborates with other law enforcement and intelligence agencies, sharing and compiling intelligence data and provides training and safety awareness to police personnel and the community.
ACPD also established a new Tactical Training Unit.
- The Police and Fire Departments have formed the joint High Threat Response Team. The team develops and distributes best practices on Active Violence responses, and coordinates joint training between the two departments and our mutual aid partners. The High Threat Response Team also coordinates a regional effort involving police and fire departments from the Northern Virginia region to evaluate current practices and create recommended best practices for regional Active Violence responses.
- Since 2001, Arlington County Public Health Division has continually worked to improve our community’s ability to respond to disasters and emergencies affecting the public’s health. In 2005, Arlington County Public Health Division was the first local health department in Virginia to be recognized by the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) to meet national criteria for our ability to plan for, respond to and recover from public health emergencies. Based on our experience with NACCHO’s Project Public Health Ready (PPHR) and recommendation, the Commonwealth of Virginia now requires all 35 health districts in the Commonwealth to be recognized as PPHR ready. Arlington has continued to remain PPHR ready – with national peer reviews conducted in 2009 and 2014.
Improved Technology and Equipment
Since 2001, we have expanded our 9-1-1 Emergency Communications Center (ECC), and put in place technology improvements that ensure calls are processed quickly and accurately, including text to 9-1-1. ConnectArlington, the County’s fiber-optic network, has boosted our voice/video and data network’s capacity, vastly improved reliability and recoverability, and enables our organization’s cloud-based applications. Our first responders are equipped with mobile ambulance bus, mass casualty support units and other improved equipment.
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Since 2001, ACPD has acquired improved, updated equipment, including:
- New command bus to help manage incidents.
- Outer protective vests for officers.
- Upgraded weapons – pistols, patrol rifles and shotguns.
- New SWAT mobile armored vehicle.
- Breaching tools in patrol vehicles (i.e., battering rams, bolt cutters, shields, sledge hammers).
- New radios with interoperable capabilities to provide enhanced radio communications with surrounding jurisdictions.
- Tactical Emergency Casualty Care (TECC) trauma kits.
The Fire Department has upgraded and increased emergency equipment critical to our ever expanding public safety mission. Federal and grant funding accessible to the National Capital Region – through the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) — was integral in obtaining this equipment. These purchases provide a robust response during a mass casualty event.
- For the safety of our firefighters, all personnel have been equipped with a second set of personnel protective gear.
- The purchase of new radios increased the inventory and provided interoperability allowing ease in communications during mutual aid responses.
- Self-contained breathing apparatus, a device worn by firefighters to provide breathable air in dangerous atmospheres, is critical for the response mission. A ready reserve cache is now available and the purchase of the Mobile Air Unit provides refilling of the cylinders on location of an incident.
- Advanced equipment was purchased to increase the resources available during a large-scale event, including:
– Mobile Ambulance Bus can accommodate 20-25 patients.
– Mass Casualty Support Unit can provide care for up to 100 patients.
– Command Bus provides a mobile location for Commanders to observe and manage an incident.
– Mobile Air Unit allows for a cache of self-contained breathing apparatus plus the ability for a mobile response.
- The purchase of ballistic vests and TECC trauma equipment has enabled fire department members to enter Active Violence incidents, with police department protection, to provide faster care to injured people.
Department of Technology Services (DTS) has implemented a number of significant enhancements that benefit the County’s technological emergency preparedness capacity and response capabilities.
- The development of ConnectArlington has significantly increased not only our voice/video and data network’s capacity, but as importantly, it has been a major part of improvements to reliability and recoverability. In 2001, the County network was dependent on a single Network Operations Center (NOC) located in the Courthouse Plaza building that provided all data connectivity between County facilities, and to the Internet. The ConnectArlington network, when completed, uses a pair of NOCs that all facilities will connect to and each NOC has an independent connection to the Internet. With this enhanced capability, the network now supports a more resilient phone system for business use, carries video from a large number of camera’s (largely deployed by other departments) and private connections to the surrounding jurisdictions via a network designed by Arlington and deployed throughout the Council of Governments, the NCRnet.
- This improved architecture has facilitated the County’s “Cloud First” strategy that has moved a large part of Information Technology (IT) processing to diverse locations that are highly reliable and are not dependent on County resources. This includes core systems like email and web hosting and specific applications including personnel records management and financial management. By locating these systems “in the Cloud” in case of a disaster in Arlington, they will continue to run, and largely be accessible to the County by users with Internet connectivity. Additionally, if these system encounter problems the County is supported by the hosting organizations which typically have significantly greater resources to support them.
- Connectivity is a critical component of communications and communications is critical to emergency preparedness capacity and response. The deployment of ConnectArlington and the associated upgraded Intelligent Traffic System now allows a standard traffic control cabinet, located at most intersections to be upgraded to become a “Public Safety Port” (PSP). PSP’s give authorized users access to a high speed, wired, Ethernet connection to the County network.
- Another important enhancement, provided by ConnectArlington, is that the Public Safety Radio System used throughout the County by first responders and other County departments is no longer solely dependent on the line-of-site microwave system that connected the radio towers throughout the County. The microwave system is still available but is now a fall back connection in case of loss of ConnectArlington. The County has also started a program of deploying to County buildings (and strongly recommends to all) a fiber-optic-based In Building Wireless System to insure that first responders are assured of radio reception inside buildings.
We have greatly expanded our Department of Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management (DPSCEM). Our Emergency Operations Center, run by the Emergency Management (EM) Division, has been activated more than 100 times since 2001. DPSCEM continuously trains more than 200 County emergency support personnel and more than 1,000 affiliated volunteers annually, with an “all hazards” approach to ensure we can respond effectively to all kinds of emergencies. Arlington Public Health was the first in Virginia to be recognized by the National Association of County and City Health Officials for meeting national criteria for managing public health emergencies.
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- DPSCEM has focused on planning for all emergencies — ranging from inclement weather to special events, to terrorism — and has developed response guidelines that have been utilized in 100+ emergency operation center activations over the last 10 years.
- A critical part of public health preparedness for Arlington County has been to plan, exercise and train county staff and volunteers in distribution and/or dispensing of medications or vaccines to treat or prevent infectious diseases. We have models in which we “pull” the public to medication distribution or dispensing sites throughout the community and models where we “push” the medication to specific population groups (e.g., nursing homes). Both the push and pull models have been designed to use non-medically or medically trained staff and volunteers. By exercising and training for these various models, we maximize our options as a community for response when a real public health emergency presents.
- Our preparedness in public health would not be successful without our staff, volunteers, and our community partners. Our public health staff are trained in the use of incident command and routinely use it when we investigate, control and prevent communicable disease outbreaks. Outbreak response is day to day public health emergency response. The incident command skills staff use in our day to day outbreak response enables our staff to be more nimble when we have been confronted with non-routine public health emergencies, like H1N1 and Ebola.
- Our staff are signed up for the Health Alert Network (a Virginia Department of Health alerting system) and the Arlington Employee Alerting System. These redundant systems allow us to reach our staff quickly during an emergency. We test our staff response quarterly with these systems.
The Police Department regularly trains with the Fire Department on the Rescue Task Force concept, deploying together in active shooter incidents. This concept, introduced here, has become nationally recognized. Arlington leaders routinely provide training and guidance nationwide.
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- In order to ensure our plans are properly thought out, Emergency Management continuously trains and run exercises which has led to the training of 200+ County emergency support personnel and 1,000 affiliated volunteers per year.
- The Police Department continues to train its police officers and those in supervisory and command roles to ensure the safety of citizens and coordinates between different agencies during major events. The National Incident Management System (NIMS) and the Incident Command System (ICS), a standardized approach to the command, control and coordination of emergency response, provides a common hierarchy wherein responders from multiple agencies can be effective.
- ACPD’s Tactical Training Unit (TTU), Department of Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management (DPSCEM) and the Fire Department conduct regular training on Unified Command Courses for police and fire supervisors. The overarching goal of this training is designed to ensure baseline communication between Police, Fire and DPSCEM staff.
- ACPD’s Tactical Training Unit (TTU) conducts Defensive Tactics (DT), Active Shooter, Paramilitary Assault Counter Offensive Plan (PACOP), Building Searches, Taser Training, Tactical Emergency Critical Care (TECC), Rescue Task Force (RTF) and firearms training on a rotating six month basis. Every six months, officers participate in three days of extensive training, which includes defensive tactics, tactical training and firearms training. All training is certified by the Northern Virginia Criminal Justice Academy, and qualifies officers for their mandatory in-service requirements while incorporating reality-based decision making.
- ACPD officers are trained in Tactical Emergency Casualty Care (TECC) and issued personal mass trauma kits, as a result of the increase in active shooter incidents throughout the country. TTU members have also taken a County approach to preparedness and regularly train with the Fire Department on the Recuse Task Force (RTF) concept where police and fire officers deploy together as a team in active shooter incidents. This concept has become nationally recognized and Arlington police and fire leaders have routinely provided training and guidance nationwide.
- Police officers and members of the Tactical Training Unit (TTU) have familiarized themselves with the layout of critical infrastructures within Arlington County in order to gather critical information and have toured each site to better prepare themselves in the event of a major emergency. TTU is part of a High Threat program which is a region-wide group, tasked with standardizing regional responses to high threat incidents such as active shooters or multi-site terrorist attacks.
- Since 2001, the Fire Department has focused training its firefighters on an all-hazards approach to include basic firefighting skills, hazardous materials, technical rescue, mass casualty and water rescue skills. New equipment has been purchased to enhance response capabilities. The Hazardous Materials Team has increased their detection and monitoring equipment and the Technical Rescue Team has improved their ability to respond to various types of patient entrapment scenarios including building collapse. While the Water Rescue Team’s equipment is relatively new, the team continues training with local jurisdictions. The High Threat Response Team (HTRT) purchased equipment and trains with the Police Department to provide coordinated tactical medical care during an active shooter event. Fire Officers, in conjunction with the Arlington County Police Department, train on National Incident Management System (NIMS) and a collaborative approach to Incident Command System (ICS) for a seamless use of command and control on larger incidents.
More Information, in More Ways
We have more ways to get critical information to people during emergencies, including Arlington Alert, and social media. Arlington Independent Radio (AIM) has agreed to broadcast emergency information on its WERA 96.7 FM radio station. We reach into the community at more than 100 events a year.
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- Arlington has worked to get critical, information to the residents, employees, businesses, and non-profits with the use of multiple communication platforms such as Arlington Alert, and WERA 96.7 FM radio, in coordination and cooperation with Arlington Independent Radio (AIM,) as well as utilizing various social media accounts. It is important to know how to get information in an emergency and these platforms have proven to be effective.
- Information is critical to the public and to our first responders, and DPSCEM has worked to ensure that the 9-1-1 Emergency Communications Center has upgraded technology to make the interaction between the public and first responders seamless. With a larger center and advances in radio, in-building and telephone communication, calls can continue to be processed quickly and accurately.
- Connecting with the community has been an important focus since 2001. Over the last five years, DPSCEM has reached out into the community at 100+ events a year, as well as marketing outreach and education signage on buses, Metro, and in other high traffic areas. These efforts have reached approximately 25,000 people per year.
- A new initiative “Operation Fire Safe” offers free smoke alarms to Arlington County residents. The project implements a home safety inspection while providing free smoke alarms and fire safety education door to door or upon request.
- The fire department partnered with Virginia Hospital Center to provide Hands-Only Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) training with the Hands2Hearts CPR Training Program. More community members are trained in this live saving skill each week. Immediate CPR following sudden cardiac arrest can double or triple a patients chances of survival. This program increases the likely hood of a trained individual being present when a sudden cardiac arrest occurs in Arlington County.
- DPSCEM works with the High Threat Response Team to deliver Be the Help Until Help Arrives training to Arlington County employees and community members empowering them to provide life saving care to injured individuals before emergency responders arrive.