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National 9-1-1 Education Month

Posted at 2 p.m.

National 9-1-1 Education MonthThe National 9-1-1 Education Coalition recognizes April as National 9-1-1 Education Month. This year’s theme is “Be 9-1-1 Ready.”

Here’s a few key things to remember when calling 9-1-1:

  • Know Where You Are: Where are you right now? Can you tell 9-1-1 exactly where to find you?
  • Use a Landline: Whenever possible, use a landline to call 9-1-1. Cellphone calls aren’t always routed to the closest call center and the time it takes to transfer your call to the call center is important in an emergency.
  • Stay Calm and Ready to Listen: 9-1-1 will stay on the line to help you until help arrives. Be ready to listen and follow directions.
  • Never Hang Up – Even if you called 9-1-1 by accident, or if you think the problem has gone away, it is important that you stay on the phone until the call taker tells you it is alright to hang up. It is the call taker’s job to make sure that you are OK and that help has gotten to whoever needs it. In situations where you aren’t able to talk or have to leave, keep the phone off the hook so that the 9-1-1 operator can hear what is going on in the room. Most times, they will be able to use the computers at the 9-1-1 Center to find your address.

Fairfax County’s 9-1-1 Center is the primary 9-1-1 public safety answering point for Fairfax County, as well as the City of Fairfax and the towns of Herndon and Vienna. The center provides the dispatch for all units of the Fairfax County Police Department and Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department, including the City of Fairfax Fire Department and the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office.

Fairfax County’s 9-1-1 Center – located at the McConnell Public Safety and Transportation Operations Center (MPSTOC) and collocated on the operations floor with call takers and dispatchers from Virginia State Police and the Virginia Department of Transportation – is one of the 50 largest in the U.S. and the largest in Virginia. Call takers and dispatchers in Fairfax County answer approximately 2,200 calls for assistance daily; some 830,000 annually from the public, both 9-1-1 and non-emergency.

For more information about 9-1-1 Education Month or the county’s 9-1-1 Call Center, visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/911.

Derecho: One Year Later

Posted 4:13 p.m.

This happened one year ago:

Overnight June 29, 2012, into the early morning hours of Saturday, June 30, Fairfax County and the National Capital Region learned first-hand what a Derecho storm could do to our community.

Just after midnight in Fairfax County, there were thousands without power, hundreds of trees down, roads were closed, the county’s 9-1-1 center was affected by a power loss at a Verizon facility and a state of emergency was declared for Virginia and Fairfax County.

tree damage from derechoNot only did the storm cause havoc when it hit, but many suffered through extreme heat without electricity for several days.

As we reflect on our experiences from that time, it’s also a good reminder that we need to be prepared at all times for any type of emergency or weather event.

Fairfax County Preparation

Since the Derecho, the county has taken numerous steps. Our Board of Supervisors has been involved collectively as well as individually in their districts promoting emergency preparedness.  Our emergency management office created an online disaster damage database to allow county residents to report damage caused by emergencies like the derecho, as well as hurricanes, tropical storms, earthquakes, fires, snow or other disasters.

Through a survey of residents and businesses, the county has improved our communications outreach. And our 9-1-1 and public safety officials submitted official comments to the Federal Communications Commission’s Derecho report and were involved with regional work on the issue with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

Listen as Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova discusses progress with Verizon since last year:

What You Told Us

After the storm last year, we conducted a survey about communications. Nearly 6,000 respondents answered questions and generated nearly 18,000 individual comments, which provided us with some great insight for future emergencies. Here’s a snapshot of the results:

Derecho storm survey infographic

What You Can Do to Prepare

As we enter the summer season, which can bring extreme heat and severe thunderstorms, here’s a four step plan of action to take to prepare for the next weather event:

  1. Buy flashlights and extra batteries this weekend so you’re ready if you lose power. You may also want to consider purchasing a generator in case you lose electricity for extended periods.
  2. Sign up for emergency alerts, including severe weather alerts, that can be delivered to you by email and text.
  3. Become digitally prepared. As the survey shows above, many of you will be dependent on your mobile device for information, so download our app and follow our digital tips.
  4. Put together a plan. “Planning” often times doesn’t seem important or perhaps you think it’s too hard to do. Start with the Ready NOVA Emergency Preparedness Planner, a free, online tool that makes it easy to put together an emergency plan for your family.
    • Be sure to include plans for the most vulnerable in your family or neighborhood. If there are access or functional needs, register with us so we can contact you directly after an incident.
    • And don’t forget plans for your pets. Try to think of places they can go, supplies they need and more. Pets are such an important part of many of our lives, but they need plans, too.

Planning and preparing doesn’t have to be hard or time consuming or expensive. As you’re enjoying your weekend and the upcoming July 4th holiday, take a conscientious effort and set aside time to follow these four ideas and more.

Whatever it takes… make the time and take the steps to ensure that you and your loved ones are safe when the next emergency strikes our community.

Fire and Rescue Begins “Safety In Our Community” Campaign This Weekend

Posted at 12 p.m.

 

Our Fire and Rescue Department, under the leadership of new Fire Chief Richard Bowers, will launch a new countywide community outreach initiative  — “Safety In Our Community” (SIOC) — this weekend, supporting the overarching goal of preventing the 9-1-1 call.

Be sure to install smoke alarms on every

Be sure to install smoke alarms on every level of your home and outside all sleeping areas.

The SIOC initiative will begin tomorrow, Saturday, June 8, from 2 to 4 p.m., when firefighters will be in the community checking and installing working smoke alarms. They also will provide seasonal fire and life safety tips. If you are not home, firefighters will leave behind a door hanger with important smoke alarm and fire and life safety information

The SIOC initiative will continue every Saturday afternoon throughout the summer, fall and spring, with accompanying seasonal safety messages.

To request the installation of a smoke alarm, or a visual smoke alarm for deaf and hard of hearing persons – at no cost – call 703-246-3801, TTY 711, or visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/fr.

“Ask Fairfax” Online Chat about 9-1-1 this Afternoon at 2 p.m.

Ask Fairfax online chat -- 9-1-1 in Fairfax County

Updated: 3:30 p.m.

Read the transcript from this afternoon’s online chat about 9-1-1.

Original Post

Join us this afternoon, Monday, April 29, at 2 p.m. for an “Ask Fairfax” online chat discussing the importance of 9-1-1.

Steve Souder, director, Department of Public Safety Communications (the 9-1-1 center) will answer your questions. This is a great opportunity to learn about 9-1-1, how it works and what the next generation of 9-1-1 will provide.

Feel free to submit questions prior to the chat.

National Public Safety Telecommunications Week (April 14-20)

Posted at 4:10 p.m.

The MPSTOC Operations floor is home for the Fairfax County 9-1-1 Center.

The MPSTOC Operations floor is home for the Fairfax County 9-1-1 Center.

Some of the first calls for help in incidents like yesterday’s explosions at the Boston Marathon or six years ago today during Virginia Tech were handled by 9-1-1 operators from those jurisdictions. The public safety telecommunications staff from our Department of Public Safety Communications (9-1-1 Center) are the first of the first responders, there 24/7, 365 days a year to help you during emergencies.

This week, April 14-20, is National Public Safety Telecommunications Week, as well as being officially proclaimed as such in Virginia by Governor Bob McDonnell and designated Public Safety Telecommunications Week in Fairfax County by the Board of Supervisors.

It is designated as a time for residents to be able to thank the men and women of public safety communications who respond to emergency calls and dispatch emergency professionals and equipment during times of crisis.

In the video below, Steve Souder, director of the county’s 9-1-1 Center explains the week and the importance of the county’s 9-1-1 Center and its staff.


Remember, 9-1-1 is only for emergencies. If you need emergency services, here are some simple tips to remember when dialing 9-1-1.

For routine questions or non-emergency situations in Fairfax County, dial 703-691-2131. To report road hazards or ask road-related question, 24/7, call 1-800-FOR-ROAD (800-367-7623).

Fairfax County Responds to the FCC Report on the Derecho-related 9-1-1 Outages

The Federal Communications Commission today announced plans to launch a rulemaking to strengthen the reliability and resiliency nationwide of 9-1-1 communications networks during major disasters.

The widespread outages and disruptions to 9-1-1 services in the Midwest and mid-Atlantic regions  as a result of the 2012 derecho storm impacted more than 3.6 million people and led to the in-depth FCC inquiry into what went wrong, and what steps should be taken to better ensure public safety. This inquiry included an in-depth investigation, public comment and analysis culminating in the report, “The Impact of the June 2012 Derecho on Communications and Services: Report and Recommendations.”

“… the derecho provided a snapshot of the reliability and readiness of a portion of the nation’s communications infrastructure in the face of unanticipated disasters – and it revealed considerable flaws in the resiliency planning and implementation of the primary 9-1-1 network providers in the affected region,” according to the report.

“Here’s the bottom line,” said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. “We can’t prevent disasters from happening, but we can work relentlessly to make sure Americans can connect with emergency responders when they need to most.”

Fairfax County Response to the Report

The June 29 derecho storm hit our community hard. From 7:36 a.m. until 3 p.m. on June 30, 9-1-1 service was completely out; for the next three days, service was sporadic. As a result of this critical outage, Fairfax County submitted official comments to the FCC investigation detailing what happened, suggestions for Verizon to improve its service and exhibits to show supporting documentation/actions.

“This report validates Fairfax County’s strong concerns about Verizon’s performance following last year’s derecho,” said Sharon Bulova, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. “It is essential that public safety communications services function at the highest level without interruption. The kind of breakdown that the FCC report addresses must never happen again.”

“Fairfax County is pleased that the FCC so quickly investigated this event and issued its report a short six months later,” said Steve Souder, director of the Department of Public Safety Communications, Fairfax County’s 9-1-1 Center. “A person may only need to call 9-1-1 once, but it could be the most important call of their life. 9-1-1 must be available to all residents at all times regardless of weather conditions. The inability of our residents to be able to contact 9-1-1 for emergency services is unacceptable.”

About Fairfax County 9-1-1

The Department of Public Safety Communications (DPSC), also known as Fairfax County 9-1-1, is a nationally recognized public safety communications center, the largest in the commonwealth of Virginia and one of the 10 largest in the United States. DPSC receives approximately 1 million calls requesting public safety service per year and dispatches units of the Fairfax County Police Department, Fire and Rescue Department and Sheriff’s Office. In addition to Fairfax County, DPSC is the designated 9-1-1 public safety answering point (PSAP) for the towns of Herndon and Vienna and the city of Fairfax.

Approximately 30 percent of 9-1-1 calls are received from traditional wire line phones, 69 percent from wireless/cellular telephones and 1 percent by Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephones. Fairfax County 9-1-1 is an accredited 9-1-1 center for emergency medical dispatch with the Virginia Office of Emergency Medical Services and is a National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) 9-1-1 Call Center Partner. Learn more at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/911/.

Update: Non-emergency Lines

Posted at 2:35 p.m.

Fairfax County’s Department of Public Safety Communications reports that the previous difficulty with the non-emergency telephone number provided by Verizon has been resolved. Residents can resume calling the non-emergency telephone line 703-691-2131.

The temporary number that had been used during the outage, 571-350-1951, will NO longer be answered.

9-1-1 lines continue to function properly and residents needing emergency services should continue to call 9-1-1.

Non-emergency Lines Not Currently Working

Posted at 1:44 p.m.

Fairfax County reports difficulty with the non-emergency telephone number provided by Verizon. Residents needing to contact the non-emergency telephone line should call 571-350-1951.

The 9-1-1 lines are functioning properly and residents needing emergency 9-1-1 should continue to call 9-1-1.

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