Posted at 2 p.m.
One 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.
If you’re not signed up yet for Fairfax Alerts, do so right now! And customize your weather alerts once you’ve signed in.
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.
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 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.
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.
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:
- Last week we participated in a drill focused on a major hurricane.
- Over the weekend, our first responders joined in an exercise on the new Silver Line Metro.
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 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Posted at 10 a.m.
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.
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.
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.
Posted at 10 a.m.
- 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.
The system goes live Thursday, June 19. Learn more at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/alerts.
Posted at 1:45 p.m.
June 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Posted at 3 p.m.
Our community is at risk for the damaging effects of coastal and inland tropical storm systems and widespread flooding. To emphasize the importance of preparing for hurricane season — which starts June 1 – Gov. Terry McAuliffe has recognized May 25-31 as Hurricane and Flooding Preparedness Week across Virginia.
“As we saw in years past storms like Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, these storms can result in tragic deaths and tremendous damage to homes and businesses,” said McAuliffe.
Our emergency management officials encourage you to have an emergency kit of supplies, starting with three days’ of bottled water and non-perishable food; a battery-powered and/or hand-crank radio with extra batteries to hear emergency information. Other items to include are flashlights and extra batteries, a first-aid kit and an extra supply of prescription medicines.
Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday
Also beginning today, May 25, through Saturday, May 31, the state is offering a Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday. Shop during the sales tax holiday and you won’t pay sales tax on many supplies for protecting your home and business. Many useful items qualify (PDF). Shop for items that have a price of $60 or less, such as:
- Artificial ice, blue ice, ice packs, reusable ice.
- Batteries, excluding car or boat batteries.
- Portable self-powered light sources, including flashlights and lanterns and glow sticks.
- First-aid kits.
- Cellphone chargers.
- Weather Band radios and NOAA Weather Radios.
You can also shop for items that have a sales price of $1,000 or less, such as portable generators and generator power cords; inverters and inverter power cables.
Posted at 3:55 p.m.
It’s smart to get ready for hurricane and flash flooding season, which arrives June 1. And it’s smart to save money.
You can do both by shopping for such products as batteries, food storage containers, generators, first-aid kits, bottled water, radios and more between May 25-31 during Virginia’s Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday. When you do, you won’t pay sales tax on many useful products that cost up to $60 or on generators costing $1,000 or less. That’s a savings of 5 percent.
And gas-powered chainsaws that cost $350 or less and chainsaw accessories that cost $60 or less also are tax free — a new addition to this year’s sales tax holiday.
A complete list of exempt items available for purchase is online at www.tax.virginia.gov/salestaxholiday.
Posted at 1:45 p.m.
You may head out on a boat to the Potomac River or other bodies of water in the coming weeks. We want you and your family to be safe.
Boating safety advocates are teaming up to promote safe and responsible boating, including consistent life jacket wear during National Safe Boating Week, May 17-23.
According to U.S. Coast Guard statistics, drowning was the cause of death in nearly 75 percent of recreational boating fatalities in 2012, and that 85 percent of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets.
Life Jacket Safety Tips
No matter what activity you have planned – boating, fishing, paddling or other water activities – always remember to wear a life jacket every time you are on the water. Accidents on the water can happen much too fast to reach and put on a stowed life jacket.
Make sure your life jacket is U.S. Coast Guard approved.
Double check that your life jacket is appropriate for your favorite water activities.
Take the time to ensure a proper fit. A life jacket can be too large or too small.
Life jackets meant for adults do not work for children. If you are boating with children, make sure they are wearing properly fitted, child-sized life jackets. Do not buy a life jacket for your child to “grow into.”
Get more information from the safe boating campaign.
Posted at 9:45 a.m.
Today is National Animal Disaster Preparedness Day. Kristen Auerbach with our Animal Shelter says pets are part of our families and we need to make sure our pets are prepared for emergencies. In this video, she offers some great tips to make sure our pets are ready in case of an emergency.
Prepare your pets for emergencies. In an emergency, you may need to stay in your home, or perhaps you’ll have to leave. If you evacuate, do not leave your pets behind. Pets most likely cannot survive on their own. Plan now where your pet will stay if you have to evacuate: a friends’ or relative’s home, a pet-friendly hotel or motel, or a kennel or veterinarian’s office. Talk to your vet or local humane society about an emergency plan for your pet.
Ask Fairfax Online Chat at 11 a.m.
Staff from the Fairfax County Animal Shelter and our Office of Emergency Management will be available online at 11 a.m. to answer all of your questions to help you protect your pets when the unexpected happens. Submit a question now or join in the “Ask Fairfax” online chat about pet preparedness.
There are five easy steps pet owners can take to drastically increase their pet’s resiliency to disasters:
- Build a pet emergency kit.
- ID your pet with a collar and tag or consider microchipping.
- Practice evacuating in the car or determine where to shelter-in-place with your pet.
- Create a buddy system with a relative or friend to help each other’s pets in case one of you is away from home during an emergency.
- Download a preparedness app.
As a pet owner, it is your responsibility to protect your pet during a disaster.