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This is National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week

Posted at 3:30 p.m.

The second full week of April — April 10-16 this year — is National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week. It is a time to recognize and honor the thousands of men and women across the country who respond to emergency calls, dispatch emergency professionals and equipment, and render life-saving assistance.

We want to take a moment to recognize the hard-working staff of our 9-1-1 Center, Fairfax County’s Department of Public Safety Communications, which was named Fairfax County 9-1-1one of the top 10 9-1-1 Centers of 2015 by the editorial staff at, for going “above and beyond to provide outstanding service.”

That service is provided by the dedicated employees that work at our 9-1-1 Center, who take emergency calls calmly and professionally 24-hours-a-day, seven days a week.

These employees are truly the first of the first responders and proudly serve the residents of Fairfax County. They receive approximately 1 million calls per year requesting public safety service and they dispatch units of the Fairfax County Police Department, Fire and Rescue Department and Sheriff’s Office. In addition to Fairfax County, the 9-1-1 Center also is the designated 9-1-1 public safety answering point (PSAP) for the towns of Herndon and Vienna and the City of Fairfax.

9-1-1 operators standing male and seated female

Fairfax County 9-1-1 is an accredited 9-1-1 center for emergency medical dispatch with the Virginia Office of Emergency Medical Services.

9-1-1 operator9-1-1 operator female

The Fairfax County 9-1-1 Center is the largest public safety answering point (PSAP) in Virginia, one of the 10 largest in the United States and is nationally recognized as a “best in class” agency for its public safety telecommunications services, training, technology and policies and procedures.

Fairfax County 9-1-1 … always there … always ready … 24/7/365.

Learn more about 9-1-1 here in Fairfax County online at

9-1-1 Center Recognized for Training Program

Posted at 1:30 p.m.

Did you know when you call our 9-1-1 center, that you are reaching one of the best trained centers in the country?

The county’s 9-1-1 Call Center, also called the Department of Public Safety Communications (DPSC), has met the training standards for the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International Agency Training Program Certification.

Only 52 of the more than 6,100 U.S. public safety communications centers have reached this plateau of achievement and excellence. This marks the second time DPSC has earned this distinction.

Public safety agencies utilize the APCO International training certification program as a formal way to ensure their training programs meet national standards.

In the video below, Steve Souder, director of the 9-1-1 Center, and Tammy Murcek, training and career development manager, explain the training program and the certification.

“The Department of Public Safety Communications has shown dedication to their community and those they serve by renewing their certification,” noted APCO President John Wright.

The APCO certification was effective July 2. The center will be recognized on Aug. 19 during APCO’s 81st Annual Conference & Expo in Washington, D.C.

Learn more about the county’s 9-1-1 Center.

VDOT Says Roads Treacherous; Numerous Accidents Reported

Posted at 5:05 p.m.

Truck Accident

Police are receiving numerous accident reports as road conditions worsen.

Road conditions remain treacherous around the region this afternoon and there are multiple road closures throughout the county. Fairfax County 9-1-1 has received calls from drivers asking about abandoning their vehicles. These vehicles will be towed at the owner’s expense. If you can safely move your vehicle out of travel lanes you can call a tow truck to get the vehicle home; any vehicle left for more than 12 hours or deemed a road hazard by the police will be towed.

Abandoned vehicles may also contribute to accidents and the owner will be ticketed in this event. Exiting your vehicle puts you and other drivers in danger. If your vehicle is stuck and you are in danger, call 9-1-1, but otherwise you should have it towed.

Please remain off the roads if possible. Visibility is limited, temperatures are dropping and conditions are further deteriorating.

More than 3,800 trucks continue to plow roads in Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William and Arlington counties according to VDOT. Staying off the roads allows crews to work safely. Crews are spreading salt and abrasives, as appropriate, concentrating their response efforts on the most heavily traveled routes. VDOT’s goal is to have all state-maintained roads passable within 48 hours after a storm ends. This storm; however, may deliver a second punch as temperatures drop to record levels and icy conditions remain likely into Friday.

9-1-1 Center Receives Fourth Consecutive State Accreditation as Center of Excellence

Posted at 11:30 a.m.

Our Department of Public Safety Communications (DPSC) — the county’s 9-1-1 Center — has been accredited as a 9-1-1 Emergency Medical Dispatch Communications Center of Excellence by the Virginia Department of Health, Office of Emergency Medical Services. This is the fourth consecutive two-year accreditation, spanning eight years, that DPSC has received.Fairfax County 9-1-1

To receive this accreditation, a center must have an approved emergency medical dispatch program that trains 9-1-1 calltakers to provide emergency medical pre-arrival instructions to callers needing EMS response.

As an example of the positive impact of emergency medical dispatch-pre arrival instruction, in calendar year 2013, county calltakers assisted in the following critical life threatening/lifesaving events*:

  • Choking Events — 7
  • Child Birth Delivery Events — 12
  • Drowning Events — 13
  • Shooting Events — 80
  • Stabbing Events — 102
  • Attempted Suicide Events — 280
  • CPR Events — 1,523

“Every action DPSC engages in 24/7 is of great value and importance to the residents of Fairfax County,” said DPSC Director Steve Souder, “but none more so than the lifesaving/life enabling medical instruction provided by 9-1-1 calltakers when rendering Emergency Medical Dispatch-Pre Arrival Instruction, prior to the arrival of EMS units.”

“The Virginia EMD re-accreditation is a testament to our program and the skill, ability and professionalism of our personnel,” Souder added.

Fairfax County 9-1-1 is an accredited 9-1-1 center for emergency medical dispatch with the Virginia Office of Emergency Medical Services.

Fairfax County 9-1-1 is an accredited 9-1-1 center for emergency medical dispatch with the Virginia Office of Emergency Medical Services.

The Department of Public Safety Communications is a combined police, fire and emergency medical services dispatch facility. It is the public safety answering point for all 9-1-1 calls dialed in Fairfax County, including the towns of Herndon and Vienna, and the City of Fairfax. The department also is the answering point for non-emergency calls for service for Police, Fire and Rescue. The center answers more than 1.2 million calls a year.

The Department of Public Safety Communications is located at the McConnell Public Safety and Transportation Operations Center (MPSTOC) on Alliance Drive, Fairfax.

*Statistics are based on remarks entered in CAD (computer aided dispatch) and final event types.

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

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

“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


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