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Today’s the Day to Drop, Cover and Hold On

Posted at 8:15 a.m.

In a couple of hours, don’t be surprised if you see folks around you start dropping to the floor, crawling under sturdy desks or tables and covering their heads. It’s all part of the annual Great Southeast ShakeOut earthquake drill that starts at 10:15 a.m.

Practicing these simple steps — drop, cover and hold on — is just one of the ways you can prepare for tremors.

Drop, Cover and Hold On for earthquake safety

  • DROP to the ground (before the shaking drops you).
  • Take COVER under a sturdy desk or table if possible, protecting your head and neck.
  • HOLD ON to the desk or table until the shaking stops.

Not to Late to Participate

Over 2 million people have registered to participate in this morning’s drill — including over 1.1 million in Virginia alone! But if you haven’t signed up, it’s not too late to do so. Just go to to register. And don’t worry if you’ve already got plans for this morning. You can conduct your own earthquake drill any time over the next two weeks to have your participation counted. So register now and drop, cover and hold on at 10:15 a.m.

Earthquakes in Virginia

Virginia experiences earthquakes each year, but only a few are felt. Since 1977, more than 195 quakes have been detected as originating beneath Virginia, according to the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy. Of these, at least 29 were large enough to be felt at the earth’s surface. This averages out to about six earthquakes per year, of which one is felt.

The Aug. 23, 2011 earthquake centered near Mineral, Va., was felt by one-third of the U.S. population from Georgia to Maine and it caused over $200 million in damage. Earthquakes like that one can cause sudden and intense back and forth motions of several feet per second. They can cause the floor or the ground to jerk sideways out from under you, while every unsecured object around you could topple, fall, or become airborne, potentially causing serious injury.

Now is a good time to check your home for unsecured objects that could move, break or fall as an earthquake shakes your home. Pay attention to tall, heavy or expensive objects like bookcases, home electronics, appliances and items hanging from walls, especially over beds, tables, desks or chairs. FEMA and our emergency management office recommends that you secure those items with flexible fasteners, such as nylon straps, or relocate them.

The Great Southeast ShakeOut Earthquake Drill is Oct. 15

Posted at 11 a.m.

Great Southeast ShakeOut 2015 Earthquake Drill

For the fourth year, Virginia will participate in the Great Southeast ShakeOut, a multi-state simultaneous earthquake drill scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 15, at 10:15 a.m.

As of this morning, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management reports that more than 797,000 Virginians have signed up for the earthquake drill. Have you?

Learn more about what to do if there is an earthquake and then practice these easy-to-remember steps during the ShakeOut:

  • Drop
  • Cover
  • Hold on!

There are many ways for you, businesses, schools, faith-based organizations, community groups and others to participate in the Southeast ShakeOut and to get prepared for earthquakes. Visit to learn more and register to participate. And if Oct. 15 isn’t a convenient time for your organization to hold an earthquake drill, you can still participate in the ShakeOut — you can hold a drill any time between then and Dec. 31 and still be counted as long as you register your participation.

Plan to Participate in the March 17 Statewide Tornado Drill

Posted at 9:45 a.m.

2015 Tornado Drill

Tornadoes can happen anywhere and at any time of year, making preparedness for these potentially deadly storms even more important. For example, Fairfax County had a couple of tornado watches and tornado warnings in 2014.

To be better prepared, businesses and organizations, schools and colleges, and families and individuals can practice taking cover from tornadoes by participating in the annual Statewide Tornado Drill Tuesday, March 17, at 9:45 a.m.

Registration for the tornado drill is not necessary, but you can learn more and show your support by signing up at

The annual drill is a joint effort of the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and the National Weather Service (NWS).

To start the tornado drill at 9:45 a.m. on March 17, the NWS will send a test tornado warning that will trigger a tone alert and broadcast message on NOAA Weather Radio. The message will be picked up by TV and radio broadcasts, simulating what listeners will hear during an actual tornado warning.

“Receiving a tornado warning as quickly as possible can make the difference between life and death,” said Bill Sammler, NWS warning coordination meteorologist. “One of the fastest ways for people to get a tornado warning is by NOAA Weather Radio, which provides warning information directly from the nearest National Weather Service office. However, cellphone apps such as Ready Virginia are also available that quickly provide critical warning information at little or no cost. Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) also provide tornado and flash flood warnings via text message to any compatible cell within the warning area, even if you are visiting or just traveling through an affected area.”

For help in conducting a tornado drill and to register for next week’s statewide drill, go to

Volunteers Needed for CERT Exercise

Posted at 11:30 a.m.

Fairfax County’s CERT – the Community Emergency Response Team – is seeking victim actors who can help trainees practice their skills.

CERT-logoThe exercise is on Saturday, Nov. 15, from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Lorton training site, located at the former Lorton Juvenile Detention Center in Lorton. The exercise is perfect for drama classes, students needing community service hours, retired persons, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and anyone interested in disasters.

Victim actors must:

  • Be 16 years of age or older.
  • Wear closed-toe shoes (no flip-flops, Crocs, sandals, etc.).
  • Dress in clothes appropriate for the weather and that you don’t mind messing up with fake blood, etc.
  • Sign a waiver.

CERT will provide simulated wound makeup and give you symptoms to role-play during the exercise. And when the exercise is over, they’ll also feed you lunch.

To volunteer for the Nov. 15 exercise, email

Seminar and Exercise Program to Address Community Disaster Preparedness

Posted at 2 p.m.

Volunteer Fairfax and Faith Communities in Action held a Community Collaboration for Disaster Resiliency Summit earlier this year. Organizations such as faith and community-based organizations, disaster volunteer groups, residential management groups, civic associations and representatives from the private, public and nonprofit sectors involved with disaster recovery attended.

We all know that in times of disaster, we can’t recover without community support. So in an effort to continue the conversation started earlier this year with the summit, Volunteer Fairfax received funding to conduct a pilot program in the Mason, Braddock and Sully Districts.

As part of this pilot, an educational seminar and practice exercise will be held in each of these districts as an opportunity for local community partners to meet and better understand how we can best work together in response to a disaster.

Mason District Seminar

Date: Wednesday, Oct. 29
Time: 5-8 p.m.
Location:  Annandale United Methodist Church, 6935 Columbia Pike, Annandale

Mason District Exercise

Date: Wednesday, Dec. 3
Time: 5-8 p.m.
Location: Heritage Center, conference rooms C & D, 7611 Little River Turnpike, Annandale

Leaders and decision-makers at area community-based organizations, local nonprofits, faith-based groups, homeowners associations, PTAs and first responders should attend. There is no cost to attend and dinner is even included. If your organization serves this region, we welcome you to join the conversation and attend.

If you need more information — or if your organization serves the Braddock or Sully Districts — contact Tracy Friend with Volunteer Fairfax for more details.


Get Ready to ShakeOut!

Posted at 8:30 a.m.

Get ready… it’s almost time!

The Great Southeast ShakeOut earthquake drill begins today at 10:16 a.m. and you can participate where ever you might be. The earthquake drill is a great time to practice the actions you should take during a real earthquake — drop, cover and hold on:

  • 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.

Earthquakes happen without warning, and the shaking may be so severe that you cannot run or crawl. So drop, cover and hold one immediately.

Get ready to practice at 10:16 a.m. and take part in the Great Southeast ShakeOut. Learn more at or

County to Conduct an Emergency Exercise on Thursday, June 26

Posted at 2 p.m.

County emergency management, public works, public safety, human services, public information officers and related county agencies — along with the American Red Cross — will participate in an emergency exercise tomorrow, Thursday, June 26.

The exercise, called VERTEX 2014, is based around a weather scenario in which a category three hurricane makes landfall in Virginia, causing severe damage throughout the county requiring the opening of a shelter for displaced residents.

The exercise will be held in three locations:

You should not be alarmed if you see numerous public safety vehicles and county staff at either the library or the high school. This is only an exercise.

Public safety and public works staff will be exercising incident command principles including unified command and will be based in the library parking lot (weather permitting). This exercise will enhance the multiagency planning and response to the threats that face our community during a severe weather event.

Human services staff and volunteers, along with the American Red Cross, will be setting up a shelter at the high school to test the county’s shelter plan.

The exercise will be coordinated from the EOC and supported by additional county staff exercising from that location.

We’re preparing for the next emergency in our community. Are you ready? Take a look at these resources to get better prepared for the next emergency.


Northern Virginia Agencies Conduct “HOV Reversal Exercise” at 11 a.m.

Posted 11 a.m.

Local, state and federal law enforcement, along with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and Virginia Department of Transportation, will conduct a multi-jurisdictional “HOV Reversal Exercise.” The exercise will begin promptly at 11 a.m. and should not affect routine traffic flow within the Northern Virginia region.

Beginning at 11 a.m., those traveling along Interstates 95, 395, 495, and 66 can expect to see an increased presence of local, state and federal law enforcement personnel and VDOT Safety Services Patrol personnel at various exit ramps and locations. The exercise requires law enforcement to report to their designated locations to test deployment practices along the interstate system between Northern Virginia and Caroline County, Va. In addition, this operation facilitates the interoperability of communications systems among the participating agencies.

To minimize any impact on traffic, the exercise is timed to correspond with the regular, mid-morning HOV ramp closures. As soon as the first responders have confirmed their location and presence, they will be dismissed from that location.

“This is a ‘no-notice’ event, meaning that the first responders have not been apprised of the exercise in advance,” said Virginia Secretary of Public Safety Marla Graff Decker. “The purpose of this traffic management exercise is to test and evaluate the preparedness of first responder agencies throughout the National Capital Region. Geography, population and infrastructure make being able to execute a plan of this nature a critical necessity for the safety and protection of everyone living, working and visiting the region in the case of a manmade or natural disaster.”

Participating agencies include Virginia State Police, Virginia Department of Transportation, Virginia Department of Emergency Management, City of Alexandria Police, Arlington County Police, District of Columbia Department of Transportation, Fairfax County Police, Metropolitan Police, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, Pentagon Force Protection Agency and Prince William County Police.

Don’t Forget to Participate in the Tornado Drill at 9:45 a.m.

Posted at 8:35 a.m.

The Statewide Tornado Drill is this morning at 9:45 a.m. Our emergency management office will send a Community Emergency Alert Network (CEAN) message announcing the drill so you won’t forget to participate. If you are not registered for CEAN alerts, take this opportunity to do so.

What You Should Do During the Drill?

  • You should act as though a tornado warning has been issued for the immediate area or a tornado has been sighted near your home or office building.  Move as quickly as possible to the nearest shelter or other safe place.  Use stairs to reach the lowest level of a building; avoid using elevators.
  • Make sure that any visitors to your office know that this is a drill, not a real event.  Assist any visitors to shelter.
  • In a real tornado emergency, once you reach a safe area, crouch as low as possible to the floor, facing down and cover your heads with their hands.  Ensure that everyone in your organization knows this.  You can practice crouching down.

Tornadoes can happen anytime, anywhere with little or no warning. Knowing what to do when seconds count can save lives. How will you respond to a tornado warning?       

Know the Terms:

  • Tornado Watch – Conditions are favorable for a tornado and that tornadoes are possible. 
  • Tornado Warning – A tornado has been sighted or has been indicated by National Weather Service Doppler radar and might be headed your when. When a warning is issued, take cover immediately

Do You Know What to Do if a Tornado Approaches?    

If a tornado is headed your way:

  • Shelter immediately in the nearest substantial building. Go to the building’s basement.
  • If there is no basement in your home or office, move to a small, windowless, interior room such as a closet, bathroom or interior hall on the lowest level of the building. 
  • If you are in a high rise building go into an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible.
  • When shelter is not available, lie flat in a ditch or other low-lying area (do not get under an overpass or bridge).

For more information or assistance with emergency planning, contact our emergency management office at 571-350-1000, TTY 711.

Register Now for Statewide Tornado Drill March 12

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 and click through the rotating graphics at the top of the page, or go to

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.

Virginia Tornado Drill March 12, 2013, 9:45 a.m. Register now to participate

If widespread severe weather threatens on March 12, the drill will be rescheduled for Wednesday, March 13, at 9:45 a.m.


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