Customized Weather Alerts from Fairfax Alerts

Posted at 2 p.m.

Fairfax AlertsOne of the big improvements in the county’s new alert system — Fairfax Alerts — is the ability to customize weather alerts specifically the way you want them and when you receive them.

In this video, Paul Lupe with our emergency management office gives an overview of the flexibility to receive the specific weather alerts that you want.

If you’re not signed up yet for Fairfax Alerts, do so right now! And customize your weather alerts once you’ve signed in.

Fireworks Safety

Posted at 1 p.m.

Fireworks are responsible for thousands of fires and injuries each year. Our Fire and Rescue Department produced this video offering tips on how to enjoy this year’s 4th of July fireworks.

The National Fire Protection Association meanwhile takes a humorous approach to consumer fireworks in this video that features Dan Doofus, urging people not to use consumer fireworks because they are too dangerous.

Fireworks and sparklers are designed to explode or throw off showers of hot sparks. Temperatures may exceed 1,200 degrees; by comparison, water boils at 212 degrees and glass melts at 900 degrees.

sparklers and fireworks safety

According to the National Fire Protection Association, sparklers cause 16 percent of fireworks injuries.

Fireworks Safety

The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to attend one of the many public displays; however, if you are having a home fireworks display, here are some fireworks safety guidelines from our Fire and Rescue Department:

  • Follow the manufacturer directions.
  • Have water available for extinguishment of discarded fireworks or an emergency.
  • Place legally purchased fireworks on a flat surface, clear of combustible materials and clear of all buildings.
  • Light only one firework at a time.
  • Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
  • Keep bystanders at least 25 feet away from fireworks.
  • Do not permit young children to handle or light fireworks.
  • Store fireworks in a cool, dry place.

Permissible Fireworks

Fireworks SafetyPermissible fireworks are defined by the Fire Prevention Code as any sparklers, fountains, Pharaoh’s serpents, caps for pistols or pinwheels commonly known as whirligigs or spinning jennies. The use of consumer 1.4G permissible fireworks not approved by the Fairfax County Fire Marshal is prohibited in Fairfax County and the towns of Clifton, Herndon and Vienna.

The Fairfax County Fire Marshal determines the acceptability of permissible fireworks through an annual evaluation and review process. Permissible fireworks that meet the American Fireworks Standards Laboratory (AFSL) acceptable criteria during the evaluation and review process are listed in the 2014 Approved Permissible Fireworks List (PDF) and are permitted to be sold from June 1 through July 15 at fixed locations approved by the county Fire Marshal.

Learn more about the permissible fireworks allowed in Fairfax County and additional fireworks safety tips from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Fireworks Information Center.

Heat Advisory in Effect at Noon Today

Posted at 11:30 a.m.

Heat Advisory July 2, 2014The National Weather Service has issued a heat advisory from noon today to 7 p.m. this evening. Heat index values will be around 103-105 degrees with temperatures in the mid to upper 90s.

A heat advisory means that a period of high temperatures is expected. The combination of high temperatures and high humidity will create a situation in which heat illnesses are possible. We recommend scheduling frequent rest breaks in shaded or air conditioned environments — and drink plenty of water.

Heat Illness

There is a risk of heat-related illness for those without air-conditioning or those outdoors for an extended period. Workers exposed to hot and humid conditions are at risk of heat illness, especially those engaged in heavy work tasks or wearing bulky protective clothing and equipment. Workers not yet acclimated to working in hot weather, particularly new workers, may be at greater risk of heat illness.

Heat illnesses range from heat rash and heat cramps to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat stroke requires immediate medical attention and, if not treated, can result in death. Acting quickly can save lives! Anyone overcome by heat should be moved to a cool and shaded location. Heat stroke is an emergency — call 9-1-1.

drink plenty of water to prevent heat illnessHow Can Heat Illness be Prevented?

Remember three simple words: water, rest, shade.

Employers should provide workers with water, rest and shade and educate them on how drinking water frequently, taking breaks and limiting time in the heat help prevent heat illness. Workers should also be trained to recognize the symptoms of heat-related illnesses, and employers should include prevention steps in worksite training and plans.

The Bottom Line

Take extra precautions if you work or spend time outside.

  • If possible, reschedule strenuous activities to early morning or evening.
  • Wear light weight and loose fitting clothing when possible.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Take in a movie, stroll through a shopping center or visit one of the Fairfax County Cooling Centers.
  • Check on elderly neighbors.
  • Do not leave children or pets unattended in vehicles!

 

Two Years Ago: Waking Up in the Aftermath of the Derecho Storm

Posted 11:48 a.m.

Two years ago today, many of us woke up to no power, spotty cellphone service, 9-1-1 problems, downed trees and a host of other complications as the result of a derecho storm.

broken power line

Broken power lines in Fairfax County as a result of the derecho storm in 2012.

We continue to talk about the derecho storm two years later as it impacted many aspects of our emergency preparedness and response efforts. And we continue to conduct exercise drills so we’re better prepared:

We are preparing for the next weather event or emergency:

What preparations have you made?

We Need Everyone to Prepare

During widespread events such as the derecho, the government alone can’t respond immediately to long power outages, downed trees, hurricanes or people stuck in transit, especially across a county that’s 400 square miles.

To help, we’ve developed 30 easy ways for you to prepare, including:

  • Having cash and medicine on hand
  • Determining how much water you need
  • Two ways to get out of your home, workplace or faith community
  • Digital preparedness

Digital Preparedness

Digital preparedness is increasingly important and after the derecho, power and cell service were interrupted. The Virginia Department of Emergency Management created this quick visual to help us think about digital preparedness:

digital preparedness tips

Our new Fairfax Alerts system is now available, too. Please sign up for this new system so you can be informed of weather alerts and other critical information.

A Word About 9-1-1

One of the major impacts from the derecho was the inability to call 9-1-1. In this video, Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova discusses some of the changes made with Verizon, the region’s 9-1-1 carrier.

County to Conduct an Emergency Exercise on Thursday, June 26

Posted at 2 p.m.

County emergency management, public works, public safety, human services, public information officers and related county agencies — along with the American Red Cross — will participate in an emergency exercise tomorrow, Thursday, June 26.

The exercise, called VERTEX 2014, is based around a weather scenario in which a category three hurricane makes landfall in Virginia, causing severe damage throughout the county requiring the opening of a shelter for displaced residents.

The exercise will be held in three locations:

You should not be alarmed if you see numerous public safety vehicles and county staff at either the library or the high school. This is only an exercise.

Public safety and public works staff will be exercising incident command principles including unified command and will be based in the library parking lot (weather permitting). This exercise will enhance the multiagency planning and response to the threats that face our community during a severe weather event.

Human services staff and volunteers, along with the American Red Cross, will be setting up a shelter at the high school to test the county’s shelter plan.

The exercise will be coordinated from the EOC and supported by additional county staff exercising from that location.

We’re preparing for the next emergency in our community. Are you ready? Take a look at these resources to get better prepared for the next emergency.

 

Summer has Started and That Means Heat, Thunderstorms and Lightning

Posted at 1 p.m.

This week, June 22-28, is Lightning Safety Awareness Week. Summer is the peak season for one of the nation’s deadliest weather phenomena — lightning.

Lightning SafetyAccording to a recent report from NOAA (PDF), June, July and August are the peak months for lightning activity across the U.S. and the peak months for outdoor summer activities. As a result, almost two thirds of lightning deaths occurred to people who had been enjoying outdoor leisure activities; more than 70 percent of these lightning deaths occurred during the summer months with Saturdays and Sundays having slightly more deaths than other days of the week.

Lightning Myths

Have you heard these lightning myths? If there’s lightning, lay down flat on the ground. Seek shelter under a tree. And don’t touch someone who’s been struck or you’ll get shocked. Yes, all of these statements are myths. Here’s the truth:

  • If you lay down on the ground, you’re more exposed to electrical currents running underground.
  • Never seek shelter from lightning under a tree. It is actually the second leading cause of lightning fatalities.
  • If someone is struck by lightning, don’t be scared to assist him or her immediately. The human body does not store electricity and helping them immediately could be essential to their survival.

Before you go out in the rain, know the facts.

  • Lightning often strikes the same place repeatedly, especially if it’s a tall, pointy, isolated object. The Empire State Building is hit nearly 100 times a year! (The presence of metal makes absolutely no difference on where lightning strikes.)
  • Most cars are safe from lightning, but it is the metal roof and metal sides that protect you, not the rubber tires.
  • A house is a safe place to be during a thunderstorm as long as you avoid anything that conducts electricity.

How many lightning myths have you heard?

Keep yourself and others safe by being lighting aware. For more information on lightning, visit the NOAA lightning page. And for thunderstorm safety tips visit www.ready.gov/thunderstorms-lightning.

Fairfax Alerts Has Launched

Posted at 3 p.m.
Fairfax Alerts Blog Box

Fairfax Alerts, the new alert system from Fairfax County, is now live and you are encouraged to sign up for emergency alerts, as well as severe traffic and weather alerts customized to your desires.

In the video below, Sulayman Brown with our emergency management office, shows how simple it is to get alerts.

If We Can’t Reach You, We Can’t Alert You

Here are some of the features of the new Fairfax Alerts:

  • Choose to receive traffic updates, emergency alerts and county government notifications.
  • Choose automatic weather notifications for up to five geo-targeted locations.
  • Set quiet periods for chosen weather alerts.
  • Add up to 10 delivery methods such as email, cellphone, home phone and text messages.
  • Stay in the know on the go with the mobile application, available via iPhone and Android devices.
  • Fairfax Alerts is free. You may incur charges from your cellphone company if you have a per-call or per message limit on your mobile device.

Sign up for Fairfax Alerts today at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/alerts.

CEAN Subscribers

Registered CEAN users are asked to create a new Fairfax Alerts account before Oct. 1 when CEAN accounts will be deleted. CEAN users will continue to receive alerts until Oct. 1 without registering in Fairfax Alerts, but we highly recommends that you sign up for the new system to receive enhanced alerts.

Storm Causes Downed Trees and Power Outages in Belle Haven/New Alexandria Overnight

Posted at 11:20 a.m. /Updated 3:03 p.m.

Storm Causes Downed Trees and Power Outages in Belle Haven/New Alexandria Overnight

Last night’s storm caused a significant number of downed trees and power outages in the Belle Haven/New Alexandria area. Public safety, emergency management and public works personnel are in the area responding. Please use caution in the area.

Downed-Trees-6-18-14

If you have a power outage, call Dominion Virginia Power at 1-866-DOM-HELP (1-866-366-4357), TTY 711; or Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative (NOVEC) at 1-888-335-0500 or 703-335-0500, TTY 711 depending on who provides your electrical service.

Other important emergency numbers can be found at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/emergency/emergency-phone-numbers.htm.

County Cooling Centers Offer Respite from the Heat

Posted at 10 a.m.

Extreme Heat Safety

Photo courtesy of CDC.

This week — especially today — is hot and humid outside. Temperatures will be in the upper 90s today and it only “cools” down to the upper 80s later this week, definitely weather fitting for the first day of summer this Saturday.

If you work outdoors, especially anyone doing heavy work tasks or using bulky protective clothing and equipment, you should take steps to prevent heat illness:

  • Drink water often.
  • Take breaks.
  • Limit time in the heat.

And please remember — never leave children or pets alone in a closed vehicle!

Fairfax County Cooling Centers

With these high temperature and heat index, there is an increased risk of heat-related illness for those without air-conditioning or those outdoors for an extended period.

During extremely hot days, there is plenty that you can do to stay cool, like go to a movie, stroll through a shopping center or visit one of Fairfax County’s Cooling Centers:

Please check the operating hours to ensure the facility is open before arriving. Remember — resting for just two hours in air conditioning can significantly reduce heat-related illnesses.

Staying Cool

There are many tips online for staying cool; heat safety tips are available online also. Residents who need help to keep their home cool may be able to get assistance from two programs locally administered by the county.

Anyone overcome by heat should be moved to a cool and shaded location. Heat stroke is an emergency — call 9-1-1 for immediate, life-saving help.

Find more information from the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Virginia Department of Health as well as the county’s emergency Web page.

National Safety Month: A Time to Focus on Unintentional Injuries

Posted at 11:45 a.m.

Did you know that every four minutes someone in the U.S dies from an unintentional injury? That’s 120,000 people a year; 67 percent of all injury-related deaths.

June is National Safety Month, a time to emphasize safety — both at home and at the work place. According to Judy Schambach, loss prevention analyst with our Risk Management Division, the cost of unintentional injuries in the U.S. is staggering.

She adds that now is a great time to make some simple changes to prevent tragedy. For example:

  • Look for and replace carpets and mats that are worn and can cause a tripping hazard.
  • Replace missing bricks or repair holes in walk paths that could cause someone to trip and fall.
  • When outside, be sure you wear the proper safety gear, like goggles, non-slip work boots and gloves when mowing the lawn, trimming bushes or other yard work.

In addition, Schambach offers an easy step everyone can take immediately to check for potential hazards.

Let’s all take a few minutes and make some simple changes to avoid unintentional injuries. Learn more about National Safety Month.

Fairfax Alerts Will Offer Customized Weather Alerts and More

Posted at 10 a.m.

Fairfax AlertsFairfax AlertsFairfax County’s new alerting system launching on June 19 — will include several new features to enhance messages, such as:

  • A new smart weather module to customize weather alerts and the times in which they are received.
  • A mobile app for receiving alerts.
  • Select two-way communication between you and our emergency managers.

In this video, Paul Lupe with our emergency management office, explains some of the features of the new system.

The system goes live Thursday, June 19. Learn more at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/alerts.

June is National Safety Month; Pay Extra Attention to Slips, Trips and Falls

Posted at 1:45 p.m.

National Safety MonthJune is National Safety Month and the National Safety Council is calling on everyone to take notice of the fifth leading cause of death – unintentional injuries. Every four minutes someone in the U.S dies from an unintentional injury. That’s 120,000 people a year. Sixty-seven percent of all injury-related deaths in the U.S. are due to unintentional causes, compared to just 9 percent to homicide.

One of the top three causes of unintentional injury in the U.S. is falls. In 2012, 27,800 deaths can be attributed to falls, with seven out of 10 of these deaths affecting adults over 74 years of age. These statistics are not just numbers — they are our family members and co-workers.

In this video, Wally Simmons with our Risk Management Division, provides several tips to help you avoid slips, trips and falls at home and at work.

This year’s National Safety Month theme, Safety: it Takes All of Us, is a call for everyone to make simple changes to prevent tragedy in your workplace, home or car, such as:

  • Use slip-resistant mats on floors.
  • When getting out of a vehicle, create points of contact by holding onto the door, roof or assist handle.
  • Reduce the risk of falls in your home by adding handrails, maintaining good housekeeping and cleaning spills right when they happen.
  • If you need to use a ladder, read the instructions carefully and maintain three points contact with it at all times.
  • Keep floor surfaces clean, and make sure wet-floor warning signs are posted in and around wet floor areas.

 

Pre-register for Fairfax Alerts During Celebrate Fairfax

Posted at 10 a.m.

Fairfax Alerts — Fairfax County’s new emergency alert system — won’t go live until later this month. However, if you’re planning to be at Celebrate Fairfax this weekend (June 6-8), you’ll have the opportunity to pre-register and be one of the first in the county on the new system.

In the video below, Whitney Kazragis, outreach liaison with our emergency management office, explains.

Get more information on Fairfax Alerts at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/alerts — and stay tuned for details to be announced later this month when the system goes live and how you can sign up to receive alerts.

 

Rip Current Awareness Week; Break the Grip of the Rip

Posted at 10 a.m.

This week (June 1-7) is Rip Current Awareness Week. To heighten awareness of rip currents at surf beaches, each year NOAA designates the first full week of June as national Rip Current Awareness Week, coinciding with the traditional start of the summer vacation season.

A rip current is a horizontal current. Rip currents do not pull people under the water — they pull people away from shore. Drowning deaths occur when people pulled offshore are unable to keep themselves afloat and swim to shore. This may be due to any combination of fear, panic, exhaustion or lack of swimming skills.

What Are Rip Currents?

Rip currents are the leading surf hazard for all beachgoers. They are particularly dangerous for weak or non-swimmers. Rip current speeds are typically 1-2 feet per second. However, speeds as high as 8 feet per second have been measured — this is faster than an Olympic swimmer can sprint! Thus, rip currents can sweep even the strongest swimmer out to sea.
 
Over 100 drownings due to rip currents occur every year in the United States. According to the United States Lifesaving Association, 80 percent of surf beach rescues are attributed to rip currents, and more than 100 people die annually from drowning in rip currents.

Rip currents can occur at any surf beach with breaking waves, including the Great Lakes.

How to Identify Rip Currents

Look for any of these clues:

  • A channel of churning, choppy water.
  • An area having a notable difference in water color.
  • A line of foam, seaweed, or debris moving steadily seaward.
  • A break in the incoming wave pattern.

None, one or more of the above clues may indicate the presence of rip currents. Rip currents are often not readily or easily identifiable to the average beachgoer. For your safety, be aware of this major surf zone hazard.

Avoid and Survive Rip Currents

Remember these safety tips to avoid — and survive — a rip current:

  • Never swim alone.
  • Be cautious at all times, especially when swimming at unguarded beaches. If in doubt, don’t go out!
  • Whenever possible, swim at a lifeguard protected beach.
  • Obey all instructions and orders from lifeguards.
  • If caught in a rip current, remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly.
  • Don’t fight the current. Swim out of the current in a direction following the shoreline. When out of the current, swim towards shore.
  • If you are unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water. When out of the current, swim towards shore.
  • If you are still unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself:  face the shore, wave your arms, and yell for help.
  • If you see someone in trouble, get help from a lifeguard. If a lifeguard is not available, have someone call 9-1-1 . Throw the rip current victim something that floats and yell instructions on how to escape. Remember, many people drown while trying to save someone else from a rip current.

Rip Current Awareness Week 2014

Learn more online about rip currents.

 

Coming Soon: A New Alerting System for Fairfax County

Posted at 2 p.m.

Many of you have heard of and are currently signed up for emergency alerts from CEAN — the Community Emergency Alert Network.

In this video, Sulayman Brown with our emergency management office, says that coming soon, the CEAN will be replaced by a new alert system called Fairfax Alerts.

Fairfax Alerts will deliver important emergency alerts, notifications and updates during a major crisis or emergency, in addition to day-to-day notices about weather and traffic. Learn more at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/alerts — and stay tuned for the official launch of Fairfax Alerts coming next month.

If you are currently signed up on CEAN, you will continue to receive emergency alerts until the new system is implemented, and you will receive a notification on how to receive alerts once Fairfax Alerts is launched.

 

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