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Cyber Monday Shopping Tips: Keep Your Information Secure

Posted at 3 p.m.

The holiday shopping season is upon us. Many people choose to avoid the hassles of traffic and crowds by shopping online, especially tomorrow – Cyber Monday. However, the Internet is also convenient for criminals, giving them multiple ways to access the personal and financial information of unsuspecting shoppers.

Online shopping safety for Cyber Monday

You’ll want to keep your information secure – and beware of online scams and identity thieves. The U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team offers several tips:

  • Do business with reputable vendors – Some attackers may try to trick you by creating malicious websites that appear to be legitimate, so you should verify the legitimacy before supplying any information.
  • Make sure your information is being encrypted – Many sites use secure sockets layer (SSL) to encrypt information. Indications that your information will be encrypted include a URL that begins with “https:” instead of “http:” and a padlock icon. If the padlock is closed, the information is encrypted. Some attackers try to trick users by adding a fake padlock icon, so make sure that the icon is in the appropriate location for your browser.
  • Be wary of emails requesting information – Attackers may attempt to gather information by sending emails requesting that you confirm purchase or account information. Legitimate businesses will not solicit this type of information through email. Do not provide sensitive information through cyber-securityemail. If you receive an unsolicited email from a business, instead of clicking on the provided link, directly log on to the authentic website by typing the address yourself.
  • Use a credit card – There are laws to limit your liability for fraudulent credit card charges, but you may not have the same level of protection for your debit cards. Also use a credit card when using a payment gateway such as PayPal, Google Wallet or Apple Pay.
  • Check your shopping app settings – Look for apps that tell you what they do with your data and how they keep it secure. Keep in mind that there is no legal limit on your liability with money stored in a shopping app (or on a gift card). Unless otherwise stated under the terms of service, you are responsible for all charges made through your shopping app.
  • Check your statements – Keep a record of your purchases and copies of confirmation pages, and compare them to your bank statements. If there is a discrepancy, report it immediately.

Find additional shopping or basic online safety and security tips with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Stop. Think. Connect. Toolkit.

Reprinted from FEMA’s “Individual and Community Preparedness e-Brief” email newsletter, Nov. 22 edition

This Weekend, Change Your Clock Back One Hour and Check Your Smoke Alarm

Posted at 2 p.m.

Is your smoke alarm still working? A smoke alarm with a dead or missing battery is the same as having no smoke alarm at all.

A smoke alarm only works when it is properly installed and regularly tested.

On Sunday, Nov. 6 when resetting your clocks for Daylight Saving Time, make sure your smoke alarms work and replace the batteries, if necessary. Take care of your smoke alarms according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and follow these tips from the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA):

Smoke alarm powered by a nine-volt battery

  • Test the alarm monthly.
  • Replace the batteries at least once every year.
  • Replace the entire smoke alarm every 10 years.

Smoke alarm powered by a 10-year lithium (or “long-life”) battery

  • Test the alarm monthly.
  • Since you cannot (and should not) replace the lithium battery, replace the entire smoke alarm according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Smoke alarm that is hardwired into your home’s electrical system

  • Test the alarm monthly.
  • Replace the backup battery at least once every year.
  • Replace the entire smoke alarm every 10 years.
working smoke alarms

Test smoke alarms monthly and replace alkaline batteries at least once each year. Most home fire deaths happen when people are asleep (between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.). Keep your family safe by installing smoke alarms and testing them monthly to make sure they work.

For more information on smoke alarms, visit the USFA Smoke Alarm page.

Reprinted from FEMA’s Individual and Community Preparedness e-Brief email newsletter, Nov. 3 edition.

Mount Vernon District Disaster Recovery Training

Posted at 10:30 a.m.

Community Collaboration for Community ResiliencyIn times of disaster, Fairfax County can’t recover without community partners and especially the partnership of Fairfax County houses of worship. Mount Vernon District faith communities, nonprofits, homeowner associations, PTA’s and other groups are invited to come together to receive important information and training.

  • Seminar: Thursday, Oct. 13 — The goal of the seminar is to connect neighbors and educate organizations about the disaster recovery efforts in Fairfax County and how each community partner can contribute to the process. Explore how local groups can form Community Resiliency Groups (CRGs) for their community’s recovery after a disaster. The Mount Vernon District faith communities will be an integral part of the CRGs, so you’ll want to appoint several key members to represent your congregation.
  • Exercise: Thursday, Nov. 3 — The Mount Vernon District community groups and houses of worship will meet again and practice how they will work together in response to a local disaster. This will be a facilitated table top exercise, designed by the FEMA National Exercise Program, that creates a simulated disaster environment where we test and practice the information acquired from the seminar.

Both events will be held at Bethlehem Baptist Church, 7836 Fordson Road, Alexandria and begin at 6 p.m. with dinner (free) followed by the seminar at 6:30 p.m. Ample time will be given for question and answer (Q&A) and discussion during the evening sessions. Both evenings will end at 8:30 p.m.

Register online at https:// Please advise us of any ADA accommodations needed or food requirements when you register. For any questions, call 703-324-7608, TTY 711.

CERT Training

Another training opportunity is available from the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department. Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training classes begin on Monday, Nov. 7, at the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Academy. There are two sessions each week on Mondays and Wednesdays that run until Dec. 7. The class is 28 hours in length, plus the final practical exercise. Learn more on the Fire and Rescue blog.

Phone Outage Affecting Burke Area

Updated at 4:10 p.m.

The Verizon FIOS outage in the Burke area has been resolved.  Normal service to 9-1-1 has been restored.

Posted at 3:40 a.m.

Verizon is experiencing an outage of Fios landline telephone service in the Burke area that may affect residents in the vicinity of Burke in contacting 9-1-1 or any telephone number from their Verizon Fios service.

If you need 9-1-1 in the Burke area, please use a wireless cellphone to contact 9-1-1.  Text to 9-1-1 is also an option to reach 9-1-1.

Verizon informs the county this is a problem in the vicinity of Burke and that it may be resolved by 9 a.m.

America’s PrepareAthon Day Wraps Up National Preparedness Month

Posted at 3:40 p.m.

Today, Sept. 30, is America’s PrepareAthon Day. It’s also the last day of the month, bringing to a close National Preparedness Month.

Each week in September our emergency management office has shared a video emphasizing several ways for you to become better prepared — how to make an emergency plan, how to make an emergency supply kit and how to stay informed.

Today’s video is about how you can get involved and help prepare your community be ready for and respond to any type of emergency.

You can join a program like Citizen Corps, but you can also get involved by simply making a commitment to check in on others, especially the elderly and vulnerable in your community, before, during or after an emergency event.

Learn more about emergency preparedness at and how to get involved at