Tornado Exercise Recap Day 3

The third and final day of the county’s emergency exercise brought many new issues to the forefront while challenging our community with some of the same issues from the first two days (read about day 1 and day 2).

To recap, a fake EF-4 tornado struck a swath of Fairfax County in Centreville and the Chantilly areas. 63,000+ residents were affected, with more than 50 deaths and nearly 650 injuries.

Damage and debris were a major focus today as county damage assessment teams visited all of the affected properties, debris drop off locations were identified and other related issues were addressed.

Residents will be allowed to return at 8 a.m. Thursday to affected properties and see if they have red, yellow or green placards that indicate if they can reoccupy their home.

Health issues were top of mind as we reinforced that everyone in the community should wash hands frequently and be safe amid damage.

Volunteers were utilized today, but in real world incidents, you must not self-deploy to a site and volunteer. Volunteer Fairfax will coordinate efforts throughout the county, so please keep that in mind. Donations are also centrally managed and organized, so gifts should not be provided to affected areas.

We continued to practice and improve communications using certain tools and with staff in the field. Over the three days, county staff played from the Emergency Operations Center, a Unified Command Post at the Fire and Rescue Academy and various department operations centers.

We used a fake exercise blog that mirrors this real blog to publish more than 70 entries over three days.

We used a fake blog that mirrors this blog to post more than 70 updates; we used a simulated social media system to publish hundreds of messages and replies; we sent test CEAN text/email alerts and we responded to pretend calls from the media. We also hosted a news conference with the “governor.”

In this video, Deputy Fire Chief Keith Johnson describes the work of Unified Command, which simulated managing the various incident scenes from one location:

As you can see after three days of this exercise, tornadoes can severely impact our community and create long-lasting issues. A “whole community” effort is critical to get everyone on their feet as fast as possible.

We invited area journalists to report on this exercise. Here are a few of their reports:

  • Washington Post
  • Patch
  • WTOP, Channel 7 and Channel 9 also visited the EOC today and may have reports online soon

As we end our work on this fake tornado exercise, we feel better prepared to serve you if a major calamity hits us.

But are you prepared, too? (Hint, we need you to be!)

  • What did you learn from this exercise?
  • What will you do differently to prepare for a major incident in our community?
  • Are you prepared? Your family? Your place of work? Your place of worship?
  • What more can we do to help inform you?
  • What can we learn from you?

Let us know any thoughts, comments or questions you have in the comments section below.

About Fairfax County Emergency Information

Official emergency information about preparedness, response and recovery from Fairfax County Government.