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/.
Posted 8:44 a.m.
The June 29 derecho storm hit our community hard. One major issue was the loss of 9-1-1 service. 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 Federal Communications Commission detailing what happened, suggestions for Verizon to improve its service and exhibits to show supporting documentation/actions.
You may read our official Comments on the FCC website (PDF).
We are pursuing this life safety issue from many angles including this report to the FCC and regional work through the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.
As our report declares:
“In short, the ferocity of the derecho does not explain the 9-1-1 outage. Instead, its relevance is as a reminder of the need for resilient and reliable 9-1-1 service. During and after a storm, and in any emergency or disaster, the loss of the public’s ability to contact emergency responders is most profoundly felt. Families in darkened homes crushed by fallen trees, motorists unable to get through roadways blocked by downed electric power lines, elderly residents in care facilities without power in temperatures over 90 degrees, and any other citizens in need of emergency services must be able to call 9-1-1 to seek assistance.”
For more details about our community’s critical 9-1-1 emergency service, view our Department of Public Safety Communications 2011 annual report (PDF) for call volume, trends and other data.
The Fairfax County Office of Emergency Management (OEM) is asking for feedback from county residents and businesses to help assess the county’s response to the June 29 derecho storm that affected the county and the National Capital Region. To find out about the county’s strengths as well as opportunity areas for improvement, we are asking you to fill out an online emergency information survey. It should only take a few minutes.
This survey is part of the official review of the storm response and input from residents and businesses will be invaluable. It will be used for OEM’s after-action report on the derecho event and how Fairfax County Government responded.
Emergency communications are critical before, during and after incidents that affect our community. A variety of entities and people are part of that process such as Fairfax County Government, utility companies, the commonwealth of Virginia, the private sector and others. This survey focuses on Fairfax County Government.
“We’re asking for every resident to provide input, as well as business owners,” said David McKernan, coordinator for the Office of Emergency Management. “It’s important for us as emergency planners to learn how this storm affected our residents, businesses and infrastructure so that we can implement corrective measures and plans for a better response for future storms.”
To take the survey, visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/fairfaxemergencyinfo.
A reduced residential disposal fee was instituted as part of the recovery effort from the June 29 storm. Residents who elected to self-haul loads of brush or bulk debris to the county’s recycling and disposal centers at the I-66 Transfer Station or the I-95 Landfill Complex have been charged $5 per load. This special recovery disposal fee will expire on Sunday, July 22.
Beginning on Monday, July 23, disposal fees for brush and debris will return to their normal levels. A complete listing of disposal fees for waste brought to the Recycling and Disposal Centers at the I-66 Transfer Station or the I-95 Landfill Complex are available online. Additional questions may be referred to the Solid Waste Management Program at 703-324-5230, TTY 711.
The Fairfax County Office of Emergency Management (OEM) has launched a new Disaster Damage Database reporting tool. The online tool is designed to allow county residents to report damage caused by emergencies like hurricanes, tropical storms, earthquakes, fires, snow or other disasters — even the derecho that struck Fairfax County and the region on Friday evening, June 29.
Fairfax County may share the disaster damage reports with the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and/or the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to evaluate whether Fairfax County can be declared a major disaster area, on the state and/or federal level, and what kind of federal disaster assistance should be made available to county residents who have suffered losses.
Emergency Management officials encourage residents to begin using this reporting tool by submitting any damage suffered from the June 29 weather event. However, OEM stresses that submission of disaster damages is not a requirement to apply for federal disaster assistance nor is it a promise that federal disaster assistance will be provided to cover damages from the derecho, or any other disaster event when the online tool is used.
The online database is at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/disasterreport/.
For more information about the Disaster Damage Database, emergency management or how you and your family can better prepare for emergencies, email OEM or phone 571-350-1000, TTY 711.
Local nonprofits and shelters have been busy supplying residents in need with food, water and and other supplies that may have been lost during the June 29 derecho storm (and the resulting extended power loss) and recent heat wave. Loss of power at the shelters and increased demand for assistance has depleted many of the shelters’ reserves, and these food pantries are now turning to the community for help.
Fairfax County partner food pantries and nonprofits are accepting food and cash donations to help restock and supply our most vulnerable families with healthy meals. Those interested in donating should contact a local food pantry directly for more information on how to contribute.
Cleanup from the June 29 storm continues in our neighborhoods and communities.
All private refuse collection companies operating in Fairfax County must collect brush placed at their customers’ curbsides as long as the brush is in bundles of less than 4 feet in length, weighing less than 50 pounds and no piece is larger than 6 inches in diameter.
For larger amounts of brush or bulk debris, you should contact your trash collection service provider for information about special collections and set-out instructions.
For a charge, the county does offer a MegaBulk collection service to collect larger amounts of brush or bulk debris. You may also self-haul large amounts of brush or bulk debris to the county’s recycling and disposal centers at the I-66 Transfer Station or the I-95 Landfill Complex where it can be disposed of for a fee. During the storm recovery the brush disposal fee has been set at $5 per load for residents only.
Complete details on tree and debris removal are available online. Additional questions may be referred to the Solid Waste Management Program at 703-324-5230, TTY 711.
What a storm.
What we experienced on June 29 was not a common occurrence in Fairfax County, according to an analysis from the National Weather Service.
This storm tested all of us. You as individuals in your homes, many without power. Businesses. Utility companies. Nonprofits. Faith communities. And yes, us, the government.
At today’s Board of Supervisors meeting, County Executive Ed Long presented a report about the storm, county government’s response, issues with 9-1-1 and many more details about what we do behind the scenes that does not often get highlighted on our blog posts during storm response.
We invite you to review the report. Are there gaps and issues that need to be addressed? Yes, there are always ways to improve emergency response and our Office of Emergency Management will lead a formal after action report for the whole government.
So what can you do? What kind of family or business “report” should you consider? What steps can you take for the next time?
As many of you experienced the unfortunate combination of no power and a major heat wave, we as one community need to take steps to ensure we’re ready for the next storm, flood, terrorism act or whatever may come next.
Here are a few things to consider:
- Are you going to the grocery store this week? Pick up some extra water for your family. Stock up on batteries. Get some other basic supplies so you are ready.
- Learn some key digital preparedness tips. Many of us learned how dependent we are on communications during this storm when it was difficult to access the Internet and other tools. Get prepared digitally.
- Please make plans for the most vulnerable in your family or neighborhood. If there are special medical or social needs, register with us so we can contact you directly after an incident.
- Please make 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.
There are many other ways to prepare and be ready for the next incident. We need you to be ready because we the government at any level (local, state or federal) may not be able to respond and help right away. The general idea is to be self sufficient for 72 hours. Check out these resources to help plan:
Last Friday’s storm has left many people with yard debris, like broken tree branches, and rotten food that needs to be thrown out. Follow these instructions on how to dispose of your garbage and yard waste.
Disposing Yard Waste
If your trash is collected by a private company, call them directly to schedule a special pickup for yard waste from the storm. Private companies are required to pick up your regular garbage and yard debris at least once a week.
For homeowners who get their trash collected by Fairfax County, put your yard waste on the curb, and leave it there. County crews will eventually pick it up as they make their rounds. However, county authorities ask that you schedule a brush pick up because this will help trash crews to prioritize their routes, and it will help to ensure that your house doesn’t get missed.
Special pickups may be scheduled online or call 703-802-3322, TTY 711, between 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. This special collection will not count against the five allowed per year.
Please note that your brush likely won’t be collected on the date assigned because of the enormous volume of debris to be cleaned up. We ask for your patience, please.
Getting Rid of Rotten Food
You should put your spoiled food in a garbage bag before dumping it in your trash can; this will help reduce odors and discourage rats, mice and other animals from getting into your garbage. If you put your trash in bags without a container, don’t put the bags on the curb until the evening before pick up.
Additionally, you should wash your hands after handling rotten food to protect yourself from potential food-borne illnesses.
Taking Your Trash and Yard Waste to the Landfills
Whether your trash is picked up by a private company or the county, any resident can dispose of regular garbage or yard waste at the county’s two landfills—the I-66 Transfer Station and I-95 Landfill—for a fee. Both facilities are open seven days a week during their normally scheduled hours.
There is a flat $5 fee per load for residents to dispose of yard waste and brush at either of the two landfills during storm recovery efforts, and the minimum fee for regular trash is $6. Payment may be made by cash, Visa or Mastercard.
The I-66 landfill is located at 4618 West Ox Road, and the I-95 landfill is at 9850 Furnace Road.
Most county residents get their garbage collected by a private company, but the county government provides trash collection for some residents. Check this map (PDF) to see if the county collects your trash or call 703-802-3322, TTY 711, Monday through Friday.
Posted 9:15 a.m.
Our emergency operations center remains activated this morning as we continue to monitor and help those affected by Friday’s storm. Virginia Dominion Power reports that less than 1 percent of its serviced homes in Fairfax County remain without power. We continue to coordinate with Dominion Virginia Power and receive the latest updates (view outage map).
It’s going to be very hot again today. Please follow these safety tips to stay hydrated and indoors if possible.
Posted 2:47 p.m.
A number of roads are still impacted by damage from the storm. The list will be updated as information becomes available.
Drivers are reminded to obey four-way stop rules at intersections without power.
- Treat each traffic light as a four-way stop, with the driver on the right having the right-of-way.
- Proceed with caution only when traffic permits.
- Enter intersections only when it is safe to do so, using turn signals to let other motorists know your intentions.
- Yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.
- Watch out for and obey police officers directing traffic within intersections.
Posted 12:35 p.m.
Our emergency operations center is active again this afternoon into tonight. Today’s EOC commander, Roy Shrout, provides a status update on the storm response, including 16,375 Dominion Virginia Power and 8 NOVEC customers without power.