Mission of the Office of Emergency Management: To provide the highest level of emergency preparedness for the citizens and visitors of Arlington.
Q. What should I do to be prepared in case of an emergency?
A. Everyone should prepare an “emergency response plan” for themselves for both home and office. This plan should include who you will contact out of the area should an emergency occur, family emergency numbers, school contacts, an emergency meeting place for the family, and local contacts. Other pertinent information specific to you might include medical information, such as chronic conditions, medications that you use regularly and physician/pharmacy phone numbers. Make sure you discuss your plans with your loved ones and co-workers and give them copies of your plan. Individuals should prepare an Emergency Response Plan for both the home and office.
Information is available on the Arlington County website www.arlingtonva.us to assist you in formulating your plan. To further assist you, links are also available to the Department of Homeland Security and the American Red Cross. In an emergency, the County’s web site and local TV/radio stations will provide emergency information.
You also want to be prepared to “shelter in place” for 3 days. (For example, a big snow storm.) To shelter comfortably, you will want to have the basics: 1 gallon of water per person per day, food and manual can opener, a week’s supply of prescription medication, battery powered radio, with extra batteries, extra batteries for hearing aids or other assistive devices, flashlight with extra batteries, a list of contacts with family members, friends, doctors, and first aid supplies. Any items you normally use that you would need for 3 days should an emergency occur should also be included. If you have a pet, you will need 3 days supply of food and water for each pet. Should you have to evacuate, these supplies should go with you. More extensive lists and information can be found on websites dealing with preparedness, such as www.ready.gov
It is also a very good idea to have a “go bag” ready in case you have to evacuate either your home or work place. This small bag could include those personal items you would need if you had to leave without any notice as well as copies of financial records, pet’s veterinarian records, extra keys for house and car, cash, spare glasses or other special needs items, such as medications, batteries for assistive devices and copies of family documents.
For sheltering longer than 3 days, or if you have to evacuate, you may also want to include blankets and bedding, garbage bags, extra sets of clothes, pet carrier, litter, bags, water for pets, and personal hygiene items with the go bag items.
Q. Why is planning so important?
A. It is everyone’s responsibility to be prepared for any emergency. Initially, emergency services will be consumed with responding to the disaster. It is up to each of us to prepare. Planning in advance will help you, your family and friends manage an emergency in a calm and effective way, which will help keep you safe.
Q. How Can I Obtain Information in an Emergency?
A. In Arlington there are several ways to get information in an emergency. You may sign up for free Arlington Alerts at www.ArlingtonAlert.com. These text alerts will go to your computer, pager, or cell phone. In addition, local TV stations will broadcast emergency alerts. Other options include the County’s web site at www.arlingtonva.us, the TTY hotline: 703-228-4611, XM Channel 214 radio and soon, Arlington Emergency Radio 1700 AM.
If you have a hearing loss, you may also want to consider purchasing a close captioned battery operated TV should your power go out.
Q. I have a disability. If there is an emergency at work, what should I do to be prepared there?
A. Make sure you have a “go bag” at work, so if you have to shelter in place, or evacuate, you will have your necessary supplies. Make sure you have prepared in advance, your emergency response plan.
Ask your supervisor for the company’s emergency plan and make sure you understand fully what their plans and policies are. You may also want to plan and practice an evacuation if the company does not routinely offer drills.
If you have to evacuate and will need assistance, make sure you plan with a co-worker or two in advance so they can provide assistance.
Q. I use a wheelchair and live alone. What should I do to be prepared in case of emergency?
A. You should be prepared to shelter in place for 3 days using the above supplies as a guide. Visit the web sites mentioned previously for additional information regarding supplies. In addition, you should make sure you have an emergency response plan that you have prepared in advance with a friend, neighbor, or family member who can provide assistance to you, in the event of an emergency where you are unable to manage alone.
Q. I have a vision impairment. How will I get information during an emergency?
A. You may sign up for the free Arlington Alerts at www.ArlingtonAlert.com. You may also want to purchase a NOAA radio which provides audible weather alerts. In addition, sometimes the County’s automated telephone system may be used which allows the County to notify residents via phone of an emergency. AVN Channel 74 and soon, 1700 AM on your radio will also provide emergency information.
Q. What will Arlington County do for me in an emergency since I have a disability?
A. Arlington County is offering emergency preparedness programs to explain what any individual can do for his or herself in an emergency, such as making sure you have your supplies where you can easily and quickly access them. The County can also provide some resources to help you make your individual emergency plan.
The County offers emergency alert notifications through a variety of different methods, listed in this document.
During an emergency, the County’s resources may be scarce. That is why we encourage all residents to plan in advance, with neighbors, friends and family so should you need assistance, you have people you can call on.
Q. I have a disability and do not drive. How will I evacuate if I am told to evacuate? Will the County provide transportation for me?
A. If you are disabled and live in Arlington, and you are eligible for Metro Access, you may be eligible for STAR transit. Registration is required for this service. Contact the Arlington County Agency on Aging for more information at 703-228-1700 or TTY: 703-228-1788.
It will be very difficult for the County to provide transportation in an evacuation. Individuals are encouraged to make plans in advance in the event of an emergency where an evacuation is required. During an emergency, the County’s resources may be scarce. Make sure you have a plan in place that will enable you to evacuate.
Q. What does Shelter in Place mean?
A. Shelter in place is a protective action designed to use an indoor facility and its indoor atmosphere to shield people from a hazardous outdoor environment. This is a short term measure, measured in hours and not days, which will protect the occupant until the hazard passes. If an accident, such as a chemical spill, or an attack creates a dangerous contaminated environment outdoors (such as a radiological release), everyone should be brought inside and the doors and windows closed. The heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems (HVAC) should be shut down to create a neutral air pressure environment, which will help prevent the contaminated air from entering the facility.
Q. Who Must Have a Shelter in Place Plan?
A. All County government work sites, businesses, nursing homes and assisted-living facilities are required by law to have an established plan to deal with sheltering in place and evacuation. This plan should be included as an annex to the Emergency Response Plan for each work site.
Q. Why Shelter in Place?
A. Sheltering in place is a rapid and effective means of protecting the building occupants from an external threat. To evacuate the facility could expose employees to a greater danger in the external environment.
Q. Does Shelter in Place Work?
A. Of the 35 major chemical accidents in the US over the last 20 years, there has not been a single fatality among individuals who have sheltered in place. (National Institute for Chemical Studies, June 2001).
Q. What if the County has to be evacuated? What will the County do for me?
A. In the unlikely event a County evacuation order is issued, communication to the public is of the utmost importance. An evacuation order would specify the perimeters of the area to be evacuated as well as directing residents to available shelters. Residents of areas not in the defined area might be directed to stay where they are (shelter-in-place). The Office of Emergency Management foresees that implementing plans to shelter-in-place would ensure the safety of citizens based on the most likely scenarios which have historically occurred in Arlington.
Although dealing with any disaster in the County will be paramount, the continuity of operations of the County Government must be maintained. Our emergency support functions, which include all County agencies, have established contingency plans to maintain operations to the entire County, even those who may not be affected by disaster.
Q. Does Arlington County have shelters if we have to evacuate or relocate?
A. Yes. Arlington has numerous facilities that have been identified and equipped to serve as shelters. These locations are not published in advance as many factors will determine which shelter(s) would be opened. Some of these factors include the size and severity of the disaster, the location of the disaster area and the numbers of people requiring shelter. All pre-designated shelters have auxiliary power provided by generators and are ADA accessible. When the determination is made as to which shelter(s) to open, the community will be informed via traditional media, the County’s website, County Cable Channel 74, Arlington Alert, and the County’s information line (703) 228-3600, TTY (703-228-4611).
Q. What is the probability that Arlington County residents would have to evacuate?
A. A Hazard Identification and Vulnerability Analysis for Arlington County was updated in September 2005. The analysis revealed that Arlington has a low to medium probability for any natural or man-made incidents that would require evacuation. A situation that would require a mass evacuation from the county is improbable. Based on this analysis, our plans do recognize that incident-based limited area evacuations may be required and situational flexibility is required.
Any disaster involving Arlington County would most likely be instantaneous in nature, which would not provide the luxury of several days notice, as seen in other areas of the country.
Q. How does the County prepare for an Evacuation?
A. In order to prepare for a required evacuation, the Office of Emergency Management regularly conducts practical exercises within the County and in conjunction with other National Capital Region assets to refine our emergency management skills, and to test and evaluate our capability levels for dealing with a possible disaster situation.
These exercises imagine incident-based scenarios that could occur and the County’s proposed response to the situation, based on available resources. The learning experiences gained from these exercises allow emergency managers to act as facilitators to emergency responders by providing support, expertise, and avenues to obtain resources that may be required to manage a particular incident.
Being aware and staying informed is key to reducing threats to life or property during a disaster. The Office of Emergency Management’s role is to support the County’s infrastructure, public safety agencies, continuity of government operations, and to provide reliable and timely information to the public at a time of disaster. The Emergency Operations Plan provides guidance across County departments, agencies and response organizations by describing an overall emergency response system.
Individuals should have prepared an Emergency Response Plan for both the home and office. Information is available on the County’s website www.arlingtonva.us to assist you in formulating your plan. People should also include disabled relatives and neighbors in their Personal Emergency Response Plan. (Nursing homes and assisted-living facilities are required by law to have an established plan to deal with emergencies and care needs of their residents.)
To further assist you, links are also available to the Department of Homeland Security and the American Red Cross.
Q: Who will determine what areas need to be evacuated?
A: The Incident Command Team will make that determination based on the circumstances of the incident to insure the safety of life and property. The Incident Commander will be a high ranking official of whichever County agency has the lead role in the incident, (Fire, Police, Public Health, etc.).
Q: Are evacuation routes identified with signs?
A: No. Since it is impossible to determine which route would be a safe route prior to an incident, permanent signs are not in place. Information as to safe routes to use would be given along with an evacuation order. Our plans stress situational flexibility.
Q: Will the County provide me with transportation to evacuate?
A: In most cases, no. County resources will be stretched dealing with the incident. Most perceived possible scenarios affecting Arlington would be limited evacuations, both in size and distance. Most evacuations would be to other areas of the County, not to other geographic areas. Your personal plan should include transportation out of the affected area. The transportation could include personal vehicle, carpool, public transportation such as Metrobus and Metrorail, or walking.
Q: If an evacuation is ordered, what do I do with my pet?
A: When Arlington County opens a shelter for people, the Animal Welfare League of Arlington will open a pet shelter in the same facility. For more information visit the Animal Welfare League’s web site.
Q: My neighbor has no radio, television, or phone? How will he/she get the word of an evacuation?
A: If an evacuation is ordered, and time is available, emergency personnel with public address systems will enter the perimeter of the defined area and attempt to spread the word. Knock on your neighbor’s door prior to leaving the area and assist in her evacuation.
Q: What can community members do to help evacuate themselves and others?
A: Maintain your sense of community. Use your vehicle to provide transportation to others. Do not add to traffic gridlock. If you are not in an area affected by the evacuation, stay where you are, shelter-in-place. Listen to the media for updates as circumstances change.
Q. Where can I find a copy of Arlington County’s Emergency Plans?
A. Arlington County’s Emergency Operations Plan is available for viewing on the website, www.arlingtonva.us.
OEM/FAQ’s for Emergency Prep 4-06