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Today is the Last Day to Register for the March 20 Tornado Drill

Posted at 1 p.m.

It’s not too late to register for the 2018 Virginia Tornado Drill to be held at 9:45 a.m. on Tuesday, March 20 — although registration is required by the end of the day today. (Registration is required by the state to be completed at least seven days prior to the drill.)

The drill is a yearly opportunity to prepare for tornado emergencies and to test public warning systems.

2018 Virginia Tornado Drill

How to Participate

Just register for the tornado drill online. If you don’t get “officially” registered, you can still conduct your own tornado drill on March 20.

In recent years, 1 million Virginians have signed up for the drill.

If you need assistance or have questions, feel free to contact our emergency management office at 571-350-1000, TTY 711.

How the Drill Works

At approximately 9:45 a.m. on March 20, the National Weather Service will send a test tornado warning over NOAA Weather Radios. This test signal will sound a tone alert, show a test message or flash to indicate a message, simulating what people would hear or see during an actual tornado warning. Local radio stations, TV stations and cable outlets will also broadcast the test message via the Emergency Alert System.

To participate, start your own tornado drill when you hear the test signal over NOAA Weather Radio or broadcast media.

* If widespread severe weather threatens on March 20, the drill will be rescheduled for Wednesday, March 21, at 9:45 a.m.

Tornado History in Virginia

  • On Friday, March 31, 2017, two tornadoes touched down in the Hampton Roads region, including an EF-2 tornado with winds exceeding 120 mph. The tornado was on the ground for eight miles in the cities of Virginia Beach and Chesapeake damaging more than 200 homes.
  • Virginians felt the destructive force of tornadoes again on April 6 in Lancaster County, near Irvington, when an EF-1 tornado, producing winds in excess of 90 mph, touched down damaging 45 structures.
  • A storm system passing through the Commonwealth on May 5 produced nine tornadoes throughout the state.
  • In April and August, communities in Northern Virginia were impacted by several EF-0 tornadoes.
  • Several EF-1 tornadoes impacted communities throughout Southwest Virginia in October.

These are just some of the highlights of tornado activity across the state in 2017, but they are a stark reminder that Virginians, in all regions of the commonwealth, must prepare for the possibility of tornadoes and other natural disasters.

Video: County Holds Emergency Exercise

Posted at 10 a.m.

On Tuesday, Fairfax County held an emergency exercise — Operation Thunderbolt Strikes — at multiple locations including Tysons Corner Center, the county’s Government Center and the county’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC).

The exercise was held to test the coordination, command and control between the county’s EOC and field command locations, as well as test emergency planning and response capabilities, validate several emergency plans and improve the level of response in case of a complex coordinated attack.

In this video, Michael Guditus, exercise director and assistant coordinator of the county’s Office of Emergency Management, discusses the exercise and what organizers were hoping to accomplish.

Fairfax County holds numerous exercises and events throughout the year, including tabletop discussions and more involved functional and full-scale drills. The exercises range from agency-level scenarios to multi-agency, county-level and regional events.

For more on Operation Thunderbolt Strikes or the county’s training and exercise program, contact the Office of Emergency Management at 571-350-1000, TTY 711.

Fairfax Alerts

County to Host Emergency Exercise on Tuesday, Sept. 19

Posted at 1 p.m.

operation thunderbolt strikes emergency exercise

Fairfax County will hold an emergency exercise, Operation Thunderbolt Strikes, on Tuesday, Sept. 19, in two locations — Tysons Corner Center, 1961 Chain Bridge Rd, Tysons and the county’s Government Center, 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax.

Residents and visitors may notice an increased presence of public safety personnel and equipment (fire, police, etc.) in these areas.

There is no cause for concern — this is only an exercise.

Operation Thunderbolt Strikes will allow the county’s emergency management staff to examine and validate the coordination, command and control between the county’s emergency operations center and field command locations. Emergency management, public safety and health officials also will be able to test emergency planning and response capabilities, validate several emergency plans and improve the level of response in case of a complex coordinated attack.

If you travel in either area as part of your normal commute, you may want to sign up for free severe traffic alerts from Fairfax Alerts to stay informed about significant traffic delays. Visit for more details.

For more information on the emergency exercise, be sure to check this blog tomorrow for a short video recap.


Please remember, 9-1-1 is only for emergencies. For routine questions or non-emergency situations in Fairfax County, dial 703-691-2131. To report road hazards or ask road-related question, 24/7, call 1-800-FOR-ROAD (800-367-7623).

Health Department Seeks Volunteers for Point of Dispensing (POD) Exercise

Posted at 11 a.m.

Did you know that the Fairfax County Health Department has robust plans in place to respond to a wide-scale bioterrorism attack?

To keep our plans up-to-date and staff trained and ready, those plans have to be tested. And that’s where you can help!

Point of Dispensing (POD) exercise

The Health Department is seeking volunteers to participate in our upcoming Point of Dispensing (POD) exercise on Saturday, July 29. From 9-11 a.m. a simulated POD will be operated at Centreville High School, 6001 Union Mill Road, Clifton.

Trained Health Department staff and volunteers will assist actors – POD clients – with filling out a screening form, dispensing faux-medications and answering questions. This exercise is intended to evaluate the Health Department’s ability to provide critical services during a disaster, specifically dispensing medication quickly to residents.

Register to participate as an actor by going to Eventbrite. If you have any questions, contact Liz Sullivan, training and exercise coordinator, at 703-246-8703.

Fairfax Alerts

Volunteer Victim Actors Needed for Weekend CERT Exercise

Posted at 4:30 p.m.

Fairfax County CERTNewly trained Fairfax County Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) members will have an opportunity to demonstrate their skills and work together with seasoned CERT members in a training this Saturday, June 10, at Virginia Task Force One’s (VATF-1) training facility at the former Lorton Juvenile Detention Center.

From moulage — the art of applying mock injuries for the purpose of training emergency response teams and other medical and military personnel — to triage, CERT members will experience it all in this unique opportunity to practice their skills in a realistic full-scale exercise, allowing players to react to information and situations as they are presented.

Your Opportunity to Participate

If you’re not a CERT member, you can still participate. Volunteers are needed to play victim actors. Victim actors simulate specific roles during exercise play, typically victims or bystanders.

As a victim actor, you may be covered in theatrical make-up (moulage), could be lying in a damaged building waiting to be rescued or even looking for your imaginary friend. The scenarios you’ll participate in allow CERT responders to gain insight and learn to treat multiple victims in a short period of time.

  • 7:30-8 a.m. ~ Victim actor check in
  • 8-8:30 a.m. ~ Responder check in
  • Late arrivals will not be admitted after 9 a.m.

If you’re interested, you need to register online and sign a waiver. Participants will receive lunch provided by one of the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Canteen units.