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.
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 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 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 10:12 a.m.
Twice a year, we either turn our clocks back or move them forward to begin or end Daylight Saving Time (DST). And this weekend is no different.
Overnight tonight — actually 2 a.m. tomorrow, Sunday, March 10 — it’s time to move our clocks forward one hour from 2 a.m. standard time to 3 a.m. DST.
Here are two things we’re encouraging before you go to bed tonight to make sure you’re prepared for any possible emergency:
- Change the batteries in your smoke alarms.
- Check your emergency supply kits (both in the home and vehicles) to make sure they’re fully stocked. If not, make a quick list of what you’ll need to do to get them ready.
For years, fire officials have encouraged changing the batteries in your smoke alarms every six months, and what better reminder than Daylight Saving Time. Since it only takes a couple of minutes to change your batteries, go ahead and take a few more minutes and check your emergency supplies.
Do you have flashlights with extra batteries in case your power goes out? Is your kit stocked with enough water? (It’s recommended to have one gallon per person per day.) How about non-perishable food items? Do you have a few items assembled? And what about any other special items you may need for infants or pets.
Being prepared for emergencies shouldn’t be overwhelming or complicated. This week’s snowstorm and the upcoming tornado season should be good motivation to have what you need to be ready.
Helpful hints can be found online as well as in the video below.
Our emergency management office can provide assistance as well. Call them next week at 571-350-1000, TTY 711 if you have any questions about emergency preparedness, what kind of supplies you should put in your kit or if you need a presentation to your Homeowners Association about emergency supply kits.
Significant Snow Possible for the Area
Posted at 11:44 a.m.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch starting Tuesday evening and lasting through Wednesday evening. A winter storm watch means there is a potential for significant snow, sleet or ice accumulations that may impact travel.
Accumulations of more than 5 inches are possible with the potential for significant snowfall somewhere within the watch area. (NWS graphical maps)
NWS reports that the precipitation will be mixing with and changing to snow Tuesday night, with snow continuing into Wednesday evening, causing difficult driving conditions. Heavy wet snow and gusty winds also could lead to power outages.
The Weather Service, however, notes that “uncertainty remains with the track of the low and location of the rain/snow line,” which ultimately will determine snowfall totals.
There also is a potential for flooding of creeks and streams if heavy rain occurs Wednesday, or if significant snow melt occurs thereafter.
The Capital Weather Gang has dubbed the potential storm “Snowquester” and that big March snows “can and do happen at the close of winter.”
The most snow D.C. has ever seen on one day in March is the 11.5″ on the 29th in 1942. The largest March snowstorm on record is 12 inches, way back on the 27th-28th of 1891.
Residents are encouraged to stock up today on winter preparedness emergency supplies and other preparedness items, such as :
- Have extra batteries in case of power outages.
- Keep cellphones charged and purchase a charger for your car if you don’t already have one.
- Purchase rock salt or more environmentally safe products to melt ice on walkways. Visit the Environmental Protection Agency for a complete list of recommended products. Sand also is helpful to improve traction.
- Make sure that snow shovels and other snow removal equipment are in a convenient place and ready to use if necessary.
Should significant snow affect our area, please minimize travel and remember to “get where you need to be before the weather gets bad.” If travel is necessary, keep an emergency supply kit in your vehicle. Also, don’t forget your pets — bring pets/companion animals inside; move other animals to sheltered areas with non-frozen drinking water.
Stay tuned to local weather forecasts, NOAA weather radio and this blog for additional information. And be sure to sign up for weather alerts from CEAN — the Community Emergency Alert Network — at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/cean.
Posted at 2:17 p.m.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have partnered to designate March 3-9, as National Severe Weather Preparedness Week and is calling upon us all to Be a Force of Nature.
Commit to Being a Force of Nature by knowing your risks, taking action and being an example in the community by sharing the steps you took to prepare. Because we live in an area prone to tornadoes, flash floods, severe thunderstorms, snow and more, we are reminded that this weather can strike anywhere and at any time.
What Can You Do to Prepare?
Knowing your risk, taking action and being an example by sharing your knowledge and actions through your social network are just a few steps you can take to be better prepared and assist in saving lives.
- Know Your Risk: The first step to becoming weather-ready is to understand the type of hazardous weather that can affect where you live and work, and how the weather could impact you and your family. Check the weather forecast regularly and visit ready.gov/severe-weather to learn more about how to be better prepared and how you can protect your family during emergencies. Our emergency management office is also available to give presentations at community groups to help you and your neighbors determine your local risks.
- Pledge and Take Action: Be Force of Nature by taking the Pledge to Prepare at ready.gov/severe-weather. When you pledge to prepare you take the first step to making sure that you and your family are prepared for severe weather. This includes filling out your family communications plan that you can email to yourself, putting an emergency kit together, keeping important papers and valuables in a safe place and getting involved. Obtain a NOAA Weather Radio, and check to see if your cellphone is equipped to receive Wireless Emergency Alerts – and sign up for local alerts from our Community Emergency Alert Network (CEAN). Stay informed by having multiple sources for weather alerts – NOAA Weather Radio, Weather.gov and Wireless Emergency Alerts. Subscribe to receive alerts at www.weather.gov/subscribe and CEAN.
- Be an Example: Once you have taken action and pledged to Be a Force of Nature, share your story with your family and friends. Create a video and post on a video sharing site; post your story on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, comment on a blog, or share through any other social media site. Technology today makes it easier than ever to be a good example and share the steps you took to help achieve the vision of a Weather-Ready Nation.
Join today and pledge to prepare for severe weather.
Information on the different types of severe weather such as tornadoes, severe thunderstorms and flooding is available at weather.gov, ready.gov/severe-weather and fairfaxcounty.gov/emergency, or the Spanish-language website www.listo.gov.
Posted at 12:15 p.m.
Last month, we encouraged you to register for Virginia’s annual Statewide Tornado Drill, scheduled for Tuesday, March 12, at 9:45 a.m.
As Michael Guditus, Fairfax County’s emergency management training coordinator, explains below, there is still time to so. Check out the video for more information and to hear the benefits of participating.
To sign up for the drill, visit the Virginia Department of Emergency Management’s registration webpage.
Posted at 11:48 a.m.
It’s one month away! Virginia’s annual Statewide Tornado Drill is scheduled for Tuesday, March 12, at 9:45 a.m. The date also will be observed as Tornado Preparedness Day across the state.
The tornado drill is an important statewide safety exercise. In recent years Virginia has been hard hit by multiple tornadoes that have cost lives and left extensive property damage. Some communities continue to recover from devastating tornadoes.
In each of the past two years, some 1.2 million Virginians have registered to participate in the Statewide Tornado Drill. Registration for this year’s drill is now open. To register and to learn more about planning a tornado drill, go to www.vaemergency.gov and click through the rotating graphics at the top of the page, or go to www.ReadyVirginia.gov.
Additional help in planning a tornado drill is available through the county’s Office of Emergency Management at 571-350-1000, TTY 711. The Statewide Tornado Drill is sponsored by the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, Ready Virginia and the National Weather Service in cooperation with local emergency management offices.
You may also want to go back and look at a recap article from the county’s three-day tornado exercise held last year, “Tornado Education, Engagement and Exercise.” It includes links to resources to know the difference between a tornado watch and warning, how to recognize the danger signs of a tornado, 10 questions to ask if a tornado strikes Fairfax County, and a daily recap of each day of the exercise that provides some valuable insight into what actions the county will be going through if a major tornado were to strike here.
If widespread severe weather threatens on March 12, the drill will be rescheduled for Wednesday, March 13, at 9:45 a.m.
Posted at 3:48 p.m.
The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued a Flash Flood Watch for Fairfax County through late tonight. The forecast indicates warm temperatures surging ahead of a cold front will fuel several weather threats today and tonight:
- Strong winds. Winds will steadily increase today with possible gusts near 40 mph by this evening. These damaging wind gusts could cause downed trees and electric lines.
- Heavy rain. While total rainfall is only expected to be 1 to 2 inches, it will likely fall in a short period of time and this could cause flash flooding. Those in low lying areas of the county need to monitor the situation and be prepared to move vehicles or families to higher ground should the need arise.
5 Tips to be Ready
- Get where you need to be before the weather gets bad. If you have a high profile vehicle like a SUV, they are more sensitive to strong wind gusts.
- Don’t drive through high water – remember to “Turn around, don’t drown.”
- Exercise extreme caution at intersections. If traffic signals lose power, remember to treat that as a 4-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.
- Have flash lights readily available — with extra batteries – and make sure your cellphones are fully charged.
- Check on your neighbors, especially if your neighborhood loses electricity.
With continued cold weather and the forecast for an additional 1-2 inches of snow tomorrow, Friday, Jan. 25, Emergency Management Coordinator David McKernan provides guidance for brutally cold temperatures and getting where you need to be before the weather gets bad.
For more winter weather preparedness and safety information, visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/emergency/prepare/winter/.