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Why Should I be Prepared for an Earthquake?

Posted at 11 a.m.

Three-year anniversary of Virginia quake serves as reminder to register for Oct. 16 drill

Many of us remember exactly where we were and how we reacted on Aug. 23, 2011 — three years ago today — when an historic 5.8 earthquake centered in Louisa County, Va. knocked homes and buildings from foundations, destroyed schools and even heavily damaged the Washington Monument — proving that earthquakes can (and do) happen right here in Virginia.

“We learned unexpectedly what the safe response to an earthquake is, and it’s not to run outside,” said Jeff Stern, state coordinator of emergency management. “Since the Mineral earthquake, Virginia has participated every year in a multi-state earthquake drill so we all can practice and remember to drop, cover and hold on.”

Southeast Shakeout Drill -- Oct. 16, 2014 at 10:16 a.m.

Earthquake Drill

The Great Southeast ShakeOut multistate earthquake drill, which began in 2012, will be held this year on Thursday, Oct. 16, at 10:16 a.m.

You and your family — as well as your school, business and organizations you belong to — can sign up to participate in the ShakeOut online at or

Once registered, you will get information about how to plan a drill and practice the recommended actions should an earthquake occur:

  • Drop to the ground where you are.
  • Take Cover under a sturdy table or desk if possible, protecting your head and neck.
  • Hold on until the shaking stops.

Last year, one million Virginians took part in the Great Southeast ShakeOut. Fairfax County has consistently been at the forefront for participation in each year’s drill. Let’s continue that high level of participation again this year. Register today!

We’re Participating in the ShakeOut … Are You?

Posted at 11.55 a.m.

When the earth shook on Aug. 23, 2011, we did not expect it. An earthquake affecting Fairfax County?

Yes, we all experienced a real earthquake and many of us simply did not know what to do.

In the 14 months since that earthquake, Fairfax County Government has been working to enhance our policies, practices and procedures so we’re ready the next time an earthquake strikes. Earthquakes have been included in our Emergency Action Plan (EAP) template and every county worksite has updated its EAP to include earthquake response. Additionally, all employees have received information about the most appropriate earthquake response –“Drop, Cover, and Hold On.”

Has your business, faith community or other type of organization taken extra steps to prepare? What about in your home? Have you considered what preparations are needed in advance of a no-notice earthquake?

Great Southeast ShakeOut, Thursday, Oct. 18, at 10:18 a.m.If not, then you have a chance to get started this week with the Great SouthEast ShakeOut drill. More than 1 million people from Maryland to Georgia have registered for the drill this Thursday, Oct. 18. You can join us – your government — as one participant to help ensure that our whole community is taking steps together to prepare. The ShakeOut will occur wherever you are — home, school, work or play — simultaneously in Virginia, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland and Washington, D.C.

“By participating in this large-scale earthquake drill, our residents and employees alike have empowered themselves to prepare for and survive a potentially dangerous event,” says Teri Flynn, Fairfax County Government risk manager. “Everyone shares the responsibility of employee safety to include the safety of those residents that use our facilities to conduct business or receive services. However, ensuring there are basic principles of survival with a solid, universal plan in place was a major change to our process.”

Over the past several months, our Risk Management Division adopted a more robust and time-tested EAP template for its county EAP template. This was shared with all county agency Emergency Action Coordinators to ensure our hundreds of county worksites (with 12,000 employees and thousands of daily visitors) have a current plan. The Risk Management Division, along with the Office of Emergency Management and Office of Public Affairs, have been communicating on how to participate and coordinating employee participation in state/regional drills such as the Great SouthEast ShakeOut and the Statewide Tornado Drill in order to test plans.

Last August, many of us simply didn’t know what to do. We’ve been working to improve preparedness and response plans since then. Come this Thursday at 10:18 a.m., our government employees will know how to respond.

Are You Registered for the Great Southeast ShakeOut Yet?

Posted at 3:51 p.m.

Join your friends and co-workers who plan to “Drop, Cover and Hold On” in the first-ever Great Southeast ShakeOut earthquake drill this Thursday, Oct. 18, at 10:18 a.m. Governor Bob McDonnell also has proclaimed the Oct. 18 as Earthquake ShakeOut Day in Virginia.

The ShakeOut will occur wherever you are — home, school, work or play — simultaneously in Virginia, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland and Washington, D.C. You can participate by practicing what you should do if an earthquake strikes so that you and your family will be better prepared.

Learn more and register yourself, your family, your school, your office and your organization for the ShakeOut drill at

Unfortunately, many of us do not know the safe response to an earthquake.  Emergency management and preparedness experts agree that Drop, Cover and Hold On is what we should do to reduce injuries and deaths during earthquakes. 

  • DROP to the ground (before the earthquake drops you).
  • Take COVER by getting under a sturdy desk or table.
  • HOLD ON to it until the shaking stops.

If there isn’t a table or desk near you, drop to the ground in an inside corner of the building, and cover your head and neck with your hands and arms.  Do not try to run to another room to get under a table.  Earthquakes occur without warning and may be so violent that you cannot run or crawl. Drop, Cover and Hold On immediately.

Don’t run outside. Trying to run in an earthquake is dangerous because the ground is moving and you can easily fall or be injured by falling bricks, glass and other building materials. You are much safer to stay inside and get under a table.

Register for the ShakeOut at For more information, contact our Office of Emergency Management at 571-350-1000, TTY 711.

Drop, cover and Hold On - Participate in the Great Southeast ShakeOut on Oct. 18, 2012, at 10:18 a.m.

Virginia’s Earthquake Shake One Year Later

Posted 1:51 p.m.

Virginia earthquake map

Image courtesy U.S. Geological Survey. View full image.

One year ago today, right now, a magnitude 5.8 earthquake struck Mineral, Va., and our county felt it along with a good portion of the Northeast.

Earthquake preparedness may not have been on top of your mind given the rarity of  the earth moving here. One year later, though, take a quick look at some earthquake preparedness tips.

Two of the most important tips:

  • The best protection is to get under heavy furniture, such as a desk, table or bench, staying away from large windows, mirrors or other glass.
  • The greatest danger is directly outside buildings, at exits and along exterior walls, due to falling debris.

Participate in Upcoming Earthquake Drill

Great SouthEast ShakeOut logoFor the first time, Virginia will participate in the Great SouthEast ShakeOut, an earthquake drill set for Oct. 18, at 10:18 a.m.

There are many ways for individuals, businesses, schools, faith-based organizations, community groups and others to participate in the SouthEast ShakeOut, including the day of the drill.   

Our Medical Needs Registry

Medical Needs Registry IconFairfax County maintains an active “Medical Needs Registry” specifically for providing assistance before, during and after emergency events like hurricanes and earthquakes. 

The Office of Emergency Management  is currently coordinating a call to all registered residents within the traditional flooding areas of Fairfax County.  If you or a family member has an ongoing serious medical condition and you live in Fairfax County, registration in the Medical Needs Registry is free and all information is kept strictly confidential.  Registration can be made online at

Emergency Preparedness Chat

Dave McKernan, coordinator of Emergency Management, is online now answering your questions about the earthquake, Hurricane Irene, and emergency preparedness tips.

Follow the chat and submit questions here:

Submit Questions for Aug. 26 Online Discussion

Do you have questions about hurricane or earthquake preparedness/response? Join Dave McKernan, Office of Emergency Management coordinator, as he takes your questions about Hurricane Irene and Tuesday’s earthquake.

Building Safety Tips Following Yesterday’s Earthquake

In response to yesterday’s earthquake, Fairfax County recommends the following building safety tips:

· If you smell gas, leave the building or area, and call your gas company and 9-1-1 immediately.

· Commercial buildings: If you have concerns regarding the safety of your building, please contact your building’s engineer, a structural engineer or licensed contractor.

· Residential buildlngs: please survey your home for new cracks in brick facades, foundation/basement wall and interior finishes around opening for windows and doors. If you question your home’s structural stability, please contact a structural engineer or licensed contractor.

· If the findings indicate an unsafe condition, please call the public safety non-emergency line at 703-631-2131, TTY 711.

· Questions related to permitting of repairs should be directed to the Permit Application Centerat 703-222-1082, TTY 711.

Create a Family Communications Plan

Many of our employees outside the Government Center were trying to reach loved ones immediately after the earthquake. Today is an important reminder to have a family communications plan in place: Learn more:

County Employees Evacuating

Earthquake Status Update: Libraries, Health Dept. and Housing

  • Libraries: City of Fairfax Regional Library and Pohick Regional Library closed.
  • Health Department: Due to the closure of the Cary Building, tonight’s STD Clinic, 4:30 – 6 p.m., at the Health Department’s Springfield District Office has been moved to the Joseph Willard Health Center in the city of Fairfax, located at 3750 Old Lee Highway, 703-246-7100, TTY711.
  • Fairfax County Regional Housing Authority main offices on Pender Dr. closed.

Earthquake Status Update: Courts and Voting

Courthouse and Massey Building closed for the day.

Today’s primary elections will continue as scheduled until 7 p.m.

Avoid Using Phone Lines

Tell your friends & family you are OK via text, Email, Twitter, Facebook and other social media. Avoid calling by phone unless you have an emergency.

Earthquake Preparedness Tips

Earthquake image

Stock image of earthquake damage; this is not from Fairfax County.

Since it is not possible to predict when an earthquake will occur, it is essential that you and your family are prepared ahead of time.

  • Securely fasten shelves to walls.
  • Keep large or heavy objects on lower shelves.
  • Store breakable items in lower cabinets with doors and latches.
  • Inspect and repair electrical wiring and gas connections; these can be potential fire hazards during an earthquake.
  • Secure your water heater by strapping it to wall studs and bolting it to the floor.
  • Check your home or building for structural defects and repair cracks in your ceiling and foundation.
  • Keep toxic and flammable items securely stored in cabinets with doors and latches.
  • Identify safe places in your home or office where you will ride out an earthquake. The best protection is under heavy furniture where you are protected from falling debris.
  • Learn how to turn off electricity, gas and water.
  • Get an emergency supply kit.

Earthquake Strikes Virginia

United States Geological Survey reported an earthquake registering 5.9 in the Metropolitan Area. Minor damage reported in Fairfax County.


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