Posted at 10:35 a.m.
The National Weather Service has partnered with the National Safe Boating Council to help promote Safe Boating Week, May 18-24. Remember the following tips this year while enjoying being on the water.
Vessel Safety Checks
This boating season, make sure that you take advantage of the Vessel Safety Check (VSC), program – a free, no risk, service provided in your area by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and the U.S. Power Squadrons. A qualified vessel examiner will conduct an inspection of all the required safety equipment carried or installed on a vessel and certain aspects of the vessel’s overall condition. Even if you pay careful attention to safety, dangerous mechanical problems can crop up on the best-maintained boat. That’s why the U.S. Coast Guard recommends that all recreational boats (including personal watercraft) get a free VSC each year.
A VSC is your best way of learning about conditions that might put you in violation of state or federal laws or, worse, create an unsafe condition for you or your passengers on the water. If the vessel meets all requirements, the examiner will award a Vessel Safety Check decal. If your vessel fails to receive a VSC decal, no law enforcement action is taken and the examiner will provide a list of items for correction.
Before you and your family get out on the water this year, grab a life jacket and “Wear It!” Nearly 85 percent of those who drown while boating were not wearing a life jacket.
Wearing a life jacket is one of the most effective and simple life-saving strategies for safe recreational boating. Boaters are required to have a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket on board for every passenger on their vessel.
Today’s life jackets are available in a wide variety of shapes, colors, and sizes. They are comfortable, lightweight, and perfect for any boating activity.
The most important thing to remember: Grab a life jacket and “Wear It!”
Understanding a marine forecast is critical to safe boating. Weather and wave conditions can change suddenly, catching boaters off guard and creating life threatening conditions. Before setting out, obtain the latest marine forecast and warning information from www.weather.gov/marine or on a NOAA Weather Radio.
Typical marine forecasts predict wind speed and direction, wave heights and periods, roughness of near shore waters, and significant weather. Marine forecasts cover large areas and the forecast elements are often given in ranges. The significant weather may not occur over the entire area or during the entire forecast period. The ranges represent average conditions over a period of time (usually 12 hours) and the actual conditions may be lower or higher than the forecast range. Boaters should plan for conditions above and below the predicted ranges.
Take particular note of any current advisories and warnings, including Small Craft Advisories, Gale or Storm Warnings which alert mariners to either high winds or waves occurring now or forecast to occur up to 24 hours from now. Special Marine Warnings are issued for sudden increase in winds to over 35 knots (40 mph), waterspouts (tornadoes over water), and hail of 3/4 inches or greater and indicate a more immediate threat. Marine weather statements bring attention to significant rapidly changing conditions on the water including increase in winds, non severe thunderstorms, development of dense fog and even snow squalls or strong and gusty rain showers.
You should have a marine VHF transceiver with built-in NOAA Weather Radio channels. If you venture beyond about a 25 nautical mile range from shore, you should consider buying a good quality HF single sideband transceiver and satellite phone.
Thunderstorms can be a mariner’s worst nightmare. They can develop quickly and create dangerous wind and wave conditions. Thunderstorms can bring shifting and gusty winds, lightning, waterspouts, and torrential downpours which can turn a day’s pleasure into a nightmare of distress.
There are no specific warnings or advisories for lightning but all thunderstorms produce lightning. A lightning strike to a vessel can be catastrophic, especially if it results in a fire or loss of electronics. If your boat has a cabin, then stay inside and avoid touching metal or electrical devices. If your boat doesn’t have a cabin, stay as low as you can in the boat.
Boaters should use extra caution when thunderstorm conditions exist and have a plan of escape. Mariners are especially vulnerable as at times they may unable to reach port quickly. It is therefore strongly recommended you do not venture out if thunderstorms are a possibility. If you do venture out and recognize thunderstorms nearby, head to port or safe shelter as quickly as possible. Ultimately, boating safety begins ashore with planning and training. Keep in mind that thunderstorms are usually brief so waiting it out is better than riding it out.
Posted at 3:25 p.m.
The Washington, D.C., area, including Fairfax County, is one of the areas where a new Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) system is now active. This system provides federal, state and local officials with the ability to send textbased wireless emergency alerts (WEAs) to most mobile phone users in a specific location throughout the United States during an emergency.
You could possibly receive a WEA alert during an emergency. The National Weather Service in Sterling also has the capability to send weather-related messages and may broadcast a WEA message regionally.
There are three types of WEA warnings:
- Presidential Alerts: Issued by the president in the event of a nationwide emergency.
- Imminent Danger Alerts: Issued about civil danger, civil emergency message, evacuation, hazardous materials warning, local area emergency, radiological hazard warning,
shelter in place, etc.
- Amber Alerts: Issued about the disappearance of minors.
How WEA Works
If an alert is necessary, it will be written in 90 characters or less and then transmitted to cellular providers for dissemination. Because each message will be geo-tagged, it only will be sent to the people who are in the vicinity of the impacted area.* If you receive a WEA, you are within the geographical location being affected by a safety threat. You should review the information in the alert carefully and proceed as directed.
There may be instances where you are within the targeted geographic alert zone but your phone does not receive the alert. In these cases, your phone may have been receiving its signal from an adjacent area cell site that was not targeted. Most alerts will be re-broadcast several times to reach the maximum number of devices. Once a device has received the alert, it will not accept duplicate or identical alerts.
Is Your Phone Ready for Wireless Emergency Alerts?
If you have an older model phone, you may not receive the wireless emergency alerts (WEA). Check with your service provider to find out if your phone is WEA-capable. AT&T, Cricket, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon all have information about the new alert system on their websites. Search for WEA, wireless emergency alerts, CMAS or commercial mobile alert system to find your provider’s list of WEA-capable phones.
* Currently, if an “imminent danger” WEA message is sent by Fairfax County, it will be broadcast countywide.
Posted at 12:25 p.m.
The National Weather Service reports that more deaths occur due to flooding than from any other severe weather-related hazard. Avoid flood hazards by following the mantra “Turn Around. Don’t Drown.”
Six inches of fast-moving flood water can knock over an adult. As little as 12 inches of flowing water can carry away most vehicles, including SUVs. Safety first – if you are unsure about the amount of water on a flooded road, Turn Around. Don’t Drown.
With rain in the forecast for the next couple of days, here’s a few reminders to keep you safe during a flood:
- Always plan ahead and know the risks before flooding happens.
- If flooding is expected or is occurring, get to higher ground FAST! Leave typical flood areas such as ditches, ravines, dips or low spots and canyons.
- NEVER drive through flooded roadways. Road beds may be washed out under flood waters. Turn Around Don’t Drown.
- Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams and washes, particularly during threatening conditions.
- Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood dangers.
- Never cross any barriers that are put in place by local emergency officials.
- Avoid areas already flooded, especially if the water is flowing fast. Do not attempt to cross flowing streams. Turn Around. Don’t Drown.
Updated: 3:30 p.m.
Read the transcript from this afternoon’s online chat about 9-1-1.
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.
April is recognized by underground utility damage prevention stakeholders as National Safe Digging Month. In Virginia, thousands of miles of underground utility lines provide our communities and businesses with essential public services such as natural gas, electricity, telecommunications, water and sewer. Preventing damage to these lines is a responsibility shared by all — and you can do your part in preventing a neighborhood disaster.
Calling 811 before you dig is the law.
Calling Virginia 811 (Miss Utility) before you dig is a simple step, but one that can make your construction, planting or home improvement project safer while preventing utility outages that can be inconvenient or even dangerous for your neighbors. Additionally, remember “CARE”:
- Call 811 before you dig.
- Allow required time for underground utility markings.
- Respect the markings.
- Excavate carefully.
The Virginia Utility Protection Service, commonly called Miss Utility of Virginia, is the nonprofit organization created by Virginia’s utilities to protect their underground facilities. Miss Utility’s hours of operation are 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday excluding legal state and national holidays. Emergency notification service is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Call Miss Utility at 811 before digging on your property to avoid injuries and service disruptions from damage to underground utility lines.
When Miss Utility receives a call concerning digging or a demolition, trained staff will ask for important information about the planned work and then notify member utility operators that may have underground utility lines in your project area. Utility operators will respond by sending locators to your project area within the time allowed by law to mark the approximate horizontal location on the ground within 2 feet of the underground utility lines by means of paint, stakes or flags. There is no cost for this service. Once marked, hand digging is required within 24 inches of these marks.
Learn more online at www.va811.com and http://www.scc.virginia.gov/newsrel/u_digsafe_13.aspx.
Posted at 10:30 a.m.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency will be holding the next National Advisory Council (NAC) public meeting this Friday, April 26, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. EDT at the Hilton Garden Inn Capitol Hill Hotel, 1225 First Street, NE in Washington, D.C.
A public comment period will be held from 3:30-4 p.m. Those not attending and who wish to submit comments please visit the NAC website for additional information.
During the meeting, the NAC will meet with the FEMA administrator and FEMA deputy administrator to review the progress and/or potential recommendations of its three subcommittees: Preparedness and Protection; Response and Recovery; and Federal Insurance and Mitigation. The NAC will specifically discuss:
- How FEMA allocates planning, training and funding resources to ensure whole community response and recovery efforts are sustainable.
- National Mass Care Strategy.
- National Incident Management System (NIMS).
- National Flood Insurance Program – Group Flood Insurance Policy.
- Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012.
- FEMA Qualification System (FQS).
- Sandy Recovery Improvement Act.
In addition, the FEMA Program Offices will brief the Council on emerging topics in emergency management.
The National Advisory Council was established to ensure effective and ongoing coordination of Federal preparedness, protection, response, recovery, mitigation for natural disasters, acts of terrorism and other man-made disasters. The NAC advises the FEMA Administrator on all aspects of emergency management and incorporates federal, state, local, and tribal governments, and private sector partners’ input into the development and revision of FEMA policies and strategies.
For information on facilities or services for individuals with disabilities or to request special assistance at the meeting, contact the Office of the NAC by email at FEMA-NAC@fema.dhs.gov. For more information on the NAC, visit www.fema.gov/national-advisory-council.
In the aftermath of this week’s explosions at the Boston Marathon and the reported Ricin-tainted mail to elected officials, you may be wondering what you can do to ensure the safety of you and your loved ones. Officials in the National Capital Region encourage residents to take three simple steps:
- Stay Informed
- Be Vigilant
First, know that there is no information of any specific threats to Fairfax County or the National Capital Region at this time. Here are numerous ways to ensure timely receipt when there is emergency information disseminated:
- Visit our website to register for emergency alerts from CEAN — the Community Emergency Alert Network. You’ll be able to get alerts delivered to your email account(s) and as text messages to your cellphone.
- Check our website and sign up for email news alerts or RSS feeds.
- Add links to the mobile version of our website to your smartphone – as well as FEMA, the American Red Cross, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Weather Service.
- Follow our social media sites (Twitter and Facebook).
- Add apps to your smartphone. Fairfax County has one, as well as the American Red Cross and FEMA.
- Bookmark www.CapitalRegionUpdates.gov for regional news and information, weather reports and links to valuable preparedness and response resources.
Always be aware of your surroundings – from your workplace to your neighborhood to a mall to public transportation. Remember, “If you see something, say something.”
Write down or save the hotline phone number to report suspicious activities. If you cannot easily locate someone in uniform, call one of the following numbers:
- Washington, D.C.: 202-962-2121
- Maryland: 1-800-492-TIPS (8477)
- Virginia: 1-877-4VA-TIPS (482-8477)
For imminent threats, call 9-1-1.
You can also submit information through online forms through Virginia’s Fusion Center.
Mobile devices are an important way to stay informed and connected before, during and after an emergency. Here are some tips to prepare yourself and your mobile device; more information is online:
- Communicate with friends and family via text, email, Twitter, Facebook and other social media. Texting takes less bandwidth than phone calls and is often the best way to get through to each other in an emergency.
- Make sure your mobile phone has an electric charger, inverter or solar charger.
- If you lose power, you can charge your cellphone in your car. Just be sure your car is in a well-ventilated place (remove it from the garage) and do not go to your car until any danger has passed. You can also listen to your car radio for important news alerts.
- If you do not have a cellphone, keep a prepaid phone card to use if needed during or after a disaster.
- Save important phone numbers to your phone.
- Prepare a family contact sheet. This should include at least one out-of-town contact that may be better able to reach family members in an emergency.
You should also prepare simple plans such as a Family Communications Plan and emergency contact cards for your children. Fairfax County residents can also create a family emergency plan or a business emergency plan at ReadyNoVa.org.
Stay Informed, Be Vigilant, Prepare
This week’s events should remind us all that emergencies can and do occur at any time and in any location. The best thing to do to ensure your safety is to take these simple actions – stay informed, be vigilant and prepare – NOW!
Posted at 4:10 p.m.
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).
Posted 4:37 p.m.
In the aftermath of today’s explosions at the Boston Marathon, we urge you to be vigilant.
One key way to remain vigilant is to always be aware of your surroundings – from your neighborhood to a mall to public transportation to a public venue such as a stadium. Remember, “If you see something, say something.”
Write down or save to your phone Virginia’s hotline phone number to report suspicious activities – 1-877-482-8477. You can also submit information through an online form.
Additional tips to consider:
- Move or leave if you feel uncomfortable or if something does not seem right.
- Take precautions when traveling. Be aware of conspicuous or unusual behavior.
- Do not accept packages from strangers and do no not leave luggage unattended.
- Learn where emergency exits are located in buildings you frequent. Plan how to get out in the event of an emergency.
- Be prepared to do without services you normally depend on such as electricity, telephone, natural gas, gasoline pumps, cash registers, ATMs and Internet transactions.
- Most importantly, stay calm, be patient and think before you act. With these simple preparations, you can be ready for the unexpected.
Posted at 10:40 a.m.
A Red Flag Warning is in effect from noon until 8 p.m. today for Fairfax County as well as most of the National Capital Region.
A Red Flag Warning means that critical fire weather conditions are either occurring now or will shortly. A combination of strong winds, low relative humidity and dry fuels will create explosive fire growth potential.
The National Weather Service forecast calls for relative humidity of 20-25 percent; Northwest winds 15-20 mph, with gusts up to 30 mph; and fuel moisture between 5-8 percent. The combination of gusty winds and dry fuels will promote the rapid spread of any uncontrolled fires.
And as a reminder, the statewide 4 p.m. Burning Law, which went into effect Feb. 15, prohibits burning before 4 p.m. each day (Feb. 15 - April 30) if the fire is in, or within 300 feet of, woodland, brushland or fields containing dry grass or other flammable materials.
Red Flag Warning
Red Flag Warnings are issued by National Weather Service fire weather forecasters to alert forecast users to an ongoing or imminent critical fire weather pattern. The warning product alerts land management agencies to the potential for widespread new ignitions or control problems with existing fires, both of which could pose a threat to life and property. It is issued when it is an on-going event or the fire weather forecaster has a high degree of confidence that Red Flag criteria will occur within 48 hours of issuance.
Red Flag criteria is based on local area vegetation characteristics, local climatology, select weather criteria and/or any combination of critical weather and fuel moisture forecasts. In some states, dry lightning and unstable air are criteria.
Learn about wildfires from Ready.gov.
Due to inclement weather, sanitary district customers receiving Monday trash/recycling collection service from Fairfax County will only receive trash collection on Monday, March 25. Other materials such as brush and bulk pickups, recycling, yard waste and special collections will be collected from these customers on Tuesday, March 26.
This change will not affect sanitary district customers receiving trash and recycling collection on Tuesday through Friday.
Questions related to solid waste collection in sanitary districts may be referred to 703-802-3322, TTY 711.
Residents receiving trash and recycling collection from private service providers should contact their collection company directly for schedule information.
County and School Status
• Fairfax County Government offices are open on time today, Monday, March 25.
• All Fairfax County public school programs and activities that are being held during Spring Break will begin two hours late today, Monday, March 25. All offices will open on time. Morning field trips are cancelled. School Age Child Care (SACC) centers will open by 7:15 a.m. Adult and community education classes will start on time.
• The Fairfax County Circuit Court, General District Court and Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts are open.
Parks, Community and Recreation and Community Centers
• If you have questions about Park Authority facilities, contact the site directly, call the Parks inclement weather line at 703-324-8661, TTY 711, or visit http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks.
• For Department of Neighborhood and Community Services programs and events visit http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/ncs or call 703-324-4600, TTY 711.
• The Reston Community Center and the McLean Community Center may be affected by the inclement weather. Call RCC at 703-476-4500, TTY 711, http://www.restoncommunitycenter.com or MCC at 703-790-0123, TTY 711, http://www.mcleancenter.org for their current operating status.
Transportation: Connector, Fastran
• Fairfax Connector bus service may be affected by the inclement weather. Check the Connector Web page at http://www.fairfaxconnector.com for the current operating status.
• For information about FASTRAN, call 703-222-9764, press 8; TTY 711, or online at http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/ncs/fastran.htm.
• Library hours may be affected; call your local branch before visiting. For branch phone numbers, call 703-324-3100 or go to http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/library.
View the public meetings calendar at http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/calendar/ShowCalendar.aspx for any potential cancellations of public meetings of Fairfax County government Boards, Authorities or Commissions.
Posted at 3:20 p.m.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are partnering to improve awareness for National Flood Safety Awareness Week this week, March 18-22. The goal is to improve understanding about flood risk among individuals, families, businesses and communities. Knowledge and the right precautions can protect families, homes and finances.
Floods are the most common hazard in the United States. However, not all floods are alike. Floods typically occur when too much rain falls or snow melts too quickly. Chunks of ice from a thawing river can block its normal flow and force water out of its banks.
While some floods develop slowly, flash floods develop suddenly. Hurricanes can bring flooding to areas far inland from where they first hit the coast, as we witnessed two years ago from the devastating impacts of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, and last year from Hurricane Sandy.
There are simple steps you can take today to reduce the risk to all types of floods. Most importantly, never attempt to drive through roadways covered with water; remember “Turn Around, Don’t Drown.” Check this list of roads in Fairfax County that have flooded.
For more information on flood safety tips and information, visit ready.gov/floods or the Spanish-language website listo.gov. For information on how to obtain a flood insurance policy, visit floodsmart.gov.
Posted at 8:35 a.m.
The Statewide Tornado Drill is this morning at 9:45 a.m. Our emergency management office will send a Community Emergency Alert Network (CEAN) message announcing the drill so you won’t forget to participate. If you are not registered for CEAN alerts, take this opportunity to do so.
What You Should Do During the Drill?
- You should act as though a tornado warning has been issued for the immediate area or a tornado has been sighted near your home or office building. Move as quickly as possible to the nearest shelter or other safe place. Use stairs to reach the lowest level of a building; avoid using elevators.
- Make sure that any visitors to your office know that this is a drill, not a real event. Assist any visitors to shelter.
- In a real tornado emergency, once you reach a safe area, crouch as low as possible to the floor, facing down and cover your heads with their hands. Ensure that everyone in your organization knows this. You can practice crouching down.
Tornadoes can happen anytime, anywhere with little or no warning. Knowing what to do when seconds count can save lives. How will you respond to a tornado warning?
Know the Terms:
- Tornado Watch – Conditions are favorable for a tornado and that tornadoes are possible.
- Tornado Warning – A tornado has been sighted or has been indicated by National Weather Service Doppler radar and might be headed your when. When a warning is issued, take cover immediately.
Do You Know What to Do if a Tornado Approaches?
If a tornado is headed your way:
- Shelter immediately in the nearest substantial building. Go to the building’s basement.
- If there is no basement in your home or office, move to a small, windowless, interior room such as a closet, bathroom or interior hall on the lowest level of the building.
- If you are in a high rise building go into an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible.
- When shelter is not available, lie flat in a ditch or other low-lying area (do not get under an overpass or bridge).
For more information or assistance with emergency planning, contact our emergency management office at 571-350-1000, TTY 711.