Survey Shows Many Fairfax County Households Lack a Basic Emergency Plan and Kit

Posted at 1 p.m.

Even though the majority of Fairfax County residents say they feel prepared for a large-scale emergency, a significant portion of households do not have a communication plan for family members or an emergency supply kit at home, according to a recent survey.

Coinciding with National Preparedness Month, the county’s Health Department released the report today from its Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response (CASPER) conducted in June to see how ready county residents are for a variety of emergencies.

Volunteers from the Fairfax Medical Reserve Corps., American Red Cross and employees from the Health Department spent roughly 40 hours from June 4-16 going door-to-door in randomly selected neighborhoods within Fairfax County. A total of 1,227 households were approached and 253 interviews completed. The data obtained was then analyzed and compiled into a concise report that can be found at (PDF).

According to the survey results:

  • Roughly 60 percent of households have an emergency communication plan.
  • 39 percent have a designated meeting place within the neighborhood. Only 19 percent have practiced the plan with all members of the household.
  • About 54 percent of respondents reported keeping an emergency supply kit (with items like flashlights, non-perishable food and drinking water) in the home; only 45 percent have a similar kit in their vehicle.

Fairfax AlertsThe report also reveals that almost 85 percent of respondents would seek information from Fairfax County Government during an emergency, but less than half (47 percent) of households are enrolled in Fairfax Alerts or a similar emergency alerting system. Television and the Internet were cited by respondents as the most popular sources of information during an emergency.

Other highlights:

  • Nearly 17 percent of residents feel unprepared in the event of a large-scale emergency.
  • About 91 percent of pet owners surveyed reported that they would take their pet with them in in the event of an evacuation but only 40 percent of pet owners have emergency supplies ready for their pets.
  • In 40 percent of households, someone has taken training in CPR and in 36 percent of households someone has taken training in first aid.
  • Nearly 30 percent of Fairfax County households do not currently have a working carbon monoxide detector in their homes.

Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response (CASPER)

CASPER is a tool developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to enable government at all levels to rapidly assess a community’s health needs after a disaster, as well as to measure community preparedness for disasters or emergencies using a validated sampling methodology.

While Fairfax’s CASPER shows that many households still need to take steps to be more prepared, the information is valuable to emergency planners who must anticipate, mitigate, plan for and respond to the potential needs of residents prior to, during and after a disaster.

“The CASPER study is important because it provides us real data specific to residents of Fairfax County that can help shape and direct Fairfax County Government’s preparedness and response efforts,” said Jesse Habourn, a senior emergency planner with the Health Department’s Office of Emergency Preparedness.

Reinforcing the importance of having emergency supplies and an emergency plan, for both people and pets, will be of critical importance going forward.

Encouraging more people to sign up for text notification systems like Fairfax Alerts will also ensure residents are less vulnerable should there be widespread power outages or disruptions to telecommunication services.

Emergency Supply Kit

Everyone should have supplies on hand sufficient for at least three days following an emergency. The kit should be customized to individual and family needs and you should check supplies every six months. For a list of items to include, go to

Make a Plan

If your family is in different locations when disaster strikes, do you know how you will contact each other and reunite at a safe location?  has an online tool that can assist residents and business owners in Northern Virginia to develop a Family Emergency Plan or a Business Emergency Plan. The final plan can be saved as a PDF document and emailed to family, friends and colleagues.

Stay Informed

Fairfax County’s Emergency Information Blog is the county’s main communication platform before, during and after an emergency. Residents can also sign up for important and timely weather, traffic and emergency alerts on Fairfax Alerts. To register, visit

For more information on emergency preparedness topics in Fairfax County, visit

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About Fairfax County Emergency Information

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