Posted at 2:50 p.m.
Happy 4th of July! We hope you have a fun holiday weekend — as well as a safe one.
Many holidays are associated with certain types of celebrations or food. And July 4th is no exception. Fireworks and cookouts are often among the first things to come to mind, in addition to what Independence Day means to our country as we celebrate our nation’s 239th anniversary.
As you enjoy your celebrations, keep the following safety types in mind.
Many fireworks are not available in Northern Virginia because they are illegal. Firecrackers, cherry bombs and skyrockets are just a few examples of fireworks which may be purchased in other areas, but are illegal here. Since even the possession of unapproved fireworks is prohibited in Fairfax County, such fireworks will be confiscated and the person possessing them can be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor. This carries a maximum penalty of a $2,500 fine and/or one-year in jail.
As a reminder from our fire department, any firework, which explodes, emits a flame or sparks higher than 12 feet, or performs as a projectile is prohibited by the Fairfax County Fire Prevention Code. In addition, a permit is required for the sale of all fireworks, and these permits are only valid from June 1 to July 15 of each year.
If you do use fireworks — or are around fireworks — please follow these safety tips:
- Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.
- Avoid buying fireworks that are packaged in brown paper because this is often a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays and that they could pose a danger to consumers.
- Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities. Parents don’t realize that young children suffer injuries from sparklers. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees — hot enough to melt some metals.
- Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.
- Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.
- Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
- Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
- Light fireworks one at a time, then move back quickly.
- Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.
- After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding it to prevent a trash fire.
Of course the safest way to enjoy fireworks is to visit a local fireworks display, such as the one at Lake Fairfax Park in Reston.
The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service reminds us that we can’t see bacteria on our burgers, hotdogs and other meats and poultry; checking the internal temperature is the best way to ensure protection. They recommend that you practice food safety by “Grilling Like A Pro” using a food thermometer. What does it mean to grill like a PRO?
- P—Place the Thermometer: Think your food is ready? Make sure by checking the internal temperature. Find the thickest part of the meat (usually about 1.5 to 2 inches deep), and insert the thermometer. If you’re cooking a thinner piece of meat, like chicken breasts or hamburger patties, insert the thermometer from the side. Make sure that the probe reaches the center of the meat.
- R—Read the Temperature: Wait about 10 to 20 seconds for an accurate temperature reading. Use the following safe internal temperature guidelines for your meat and poultry.
- Beef, Pork, Lamb, & Veal (steaks, roasts, and chops): 145 °F with a 3-minute rest time.
- Ground meats: 160 °F.
- Whole poultry, poultry breasts, & ground poultry: 165 °F.
- O—Off the Grill: Once the meat and poultry reach their safe minimum internal temperatures, take the food off the grill and place it on a clean platter. Don’t put cooked food on the same platter that held raw meat or poultry. Also remember to clean your food thermometer probe with hot, soapy water or disposable wipes.
The Fairfax County Health Department also offers six grilling tips, including keeping cold food cold, keeping hot food hot, thawing meat and poultry, marinating food in the refrigerator, and more.
Posted 3 p.m.
The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood warning until 5:30 p.m. due to the heavy rainfall we’ve received today. Excessive runoff from the heavy rain will cause flash flooding of small creeks, streams, urban areas, highways, streets, underpasses and other drainage areas and low lying spots.
Key safety tips to keep in mind:
- If you’re driving, please do not drive through flooded roads. Turn around don’t drown.
- Please keep children away from creeks and streams as the water may rise quickly.
- If you are in a low area or near a small stream or drainage ditch, expect water to rise rapidly. Stay safe and head to higher ground if needed.
Posted at 10 a.m.
The 2015 Emergency Operations Plan — or EOP — was approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, June 23. The approval fulfills Virginia’s requirement to prepare and keep a current EOP to respond to disasters or large-scale emergencies.
The county’s Emergency Operations Plan (PDF) is a multi-discipline, all-hazards plan that establishes the overall roles and responsibilities for emergency operations, as well as the concept of operations for the county. It is intended to be used in conjunction with established operational procedures, plans and protocols.
Dave McKernan, coordinator of emergency management, explains the purpose of the EOP.
The EOP is a result of the collective efforts of the county’s Office of Emergency Management, nearly 30 county departments and agencies with assigned emergency management roles and responsibilities, and the Towns of Clifton, Herndon and Vienna.
The plan establishes a framework for the management of major emergencies and disasters within the county. It is implemented when it becomes necessary to mobilize the resources identified within it in order to save lives, and protect property and infrastructure.
The EOP is not intended as a stand-alone document but rather establishes the basis for more detailed planning by individual departments and agencies.
For more on the Emergency Operations Plan, contact the Fairfax County Office of Emergency Management at 571-350-1000.
Posted at 10:30 a.m.
According to the National Weather Service, today, Tuesday, June 23, is expected to be the hottest day of the year (so far), with heat indices up to 105 degrees possible. And the weather service has issued a heat advisory, in effect from 1-7 p.m.
A heat advisory means that a period of high temperatures is expected. The combination of high temperatures and high humidity will create a situation in which heat illnesses for those without air conditioning or those outdoors for an extended period are possible.
Dave McKernan, coordinator of emergency management, encourages residents to find a cool spot inside to avoid the heat.
- Drink plenty of fluids: Drink two to four glasses of cool fluids each hour. Your body needs water to keep cool. Drink water even if you don’t feel thirsty.
- Keep cool indoors: If you can, stay in an air-conditioned area. Resting for just two hours in air conditioning can significantly reduce heat-related illnesses. Consider spending the warmest part of the day in public buildings such as movie theaters, shopping malls and other community facilities. Several Fairfax County facilities also serve as cooling centers where you can go for respite from the heat. These include libraries and community centers, as well as the county Government Center.
- Electric fans may provide comfort, but with temperatures in the 90s, fans do not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath, or moving to an air-conditioned place is a much better way to cool off.
- Avoid strenuous physical activities or reschedule them for the coolest part of the day, usually the early morning. Limit physical activity until your body adjusts to the heat.
- Eat light meals.
- Wear light-colored clothing, which helps reflect sunlight.
- Wear sunscreen to prevent sunburn. Sunburn makes it more difficult for your body to cool off.
- Make sure your home is well insulated and that you have weather stripping around your doors and window sills to keep the cool air inside. Also keep shades pulled down to keep extra heat out.
And please, never leave children or pets unattended in a car — not even for a few minutes. In addition, McKernan says that if you have elderly neighbors or people with special needs, take a few minutes and check on them to make sure they are okay.
Today: Showers and thunderstorms are likely, mainly after 4 p.m. Some storms could be severe, with hail and damaging winds. Partly sunny, with a high near 95. Heat index values as high as 102. Southwest wind 10 to 15 mph, with gusts as high as 24 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60 percent. New rainfall amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.
Tonight: Showers and thunderstorms likely, mainly before midnight. Some storms could be severe, with hail and damaging winds. Mostly cloudy, then gradually becoming mostly clear, with a low around 70. Northwest wind 8 to 10 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New rainfall amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.
Posted at 11:50 a.m.
Summer is here, which means school is out, pools are open and baseball season is in full swing. Unfortunately, the summer months also bring higher possibilities for thunderstorms and other severe weather.
Although thunderstorms can occur any time of year, they are much more common during the summer, especially in the late afternoon hours. Besides just ruining your barbecue or golf outing, thunderstorms pose a real danger. In fact, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management reports that lightning kills over 60 people and injures over 400 more each year in the U.S. They can also develop very quickly — sometimes in less than 30 minutes — and with little warning, making it difficult to plan ahead and prepare.
The next time you see dark clouds rolling in over your picnic, party or day at the pool, remember these tips for staying safe during a summer storm.
- Everyone knows to avoid open areas during a thunderstorm, but did you know that taking shelter under a tree is more dangerous? In Virginia, more deaths and injuries were reported from lightning strikes under trees than in open space from 1959-2000. When it’s raining hard our natural instinct is to find shelter, but unless you can get inside a building or car, you’d be better off in the rain than under a tree.
- If you can hear thunder, you’re close enough to be struck by lightning. This means you need to take caution even if you feel like the storm has nearly passed, as lightning can still strike up to 15 miles from the center of the storm.
- Contrary to popular belief, lying down in a thunderstorm is not a safe practice. The idea is that by getting as low as possible one might lessen their chances of being struck. In reality, by increasing the amount of the ground’s surface you are covering, you are actually much more likely to be struck.
- Getting inside is a great first step, but be sure to avoid plumbing, like baths, sinks and faucets, and electrical equipment, like phones and computers, as well as windows, porches and concrete floors and walls.
- In the event that someone is struck by lightning, medical attention will likely be needed immediately. Once medical assistance has been called try to move the victim to a safe place. Don’t worry about touching a victim of a lightning strike; they won’t hold a charge. There is a chance that the victim’s heart or breathing may have stopped as a result of the strike, in which case CPR or AED will be needed.
The warm, humid conditions of summer are a perfect recipe for thunderstorms. Keep these tips in mind for a fun, safe summer, no matter what Mother Nature has in store.
For more information on thunderstorm and lightning safety, visit our emergency information page or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s thunderstorm basics Web page or the National Weather Service lightning safety Web page.
Posted at 9:30 p.m.
After heavy rain in Fairfax County, Richmond Highway in both directions is closed due to high water on the road. Other roads in the county also may be affected.
Do not drive through water on roadways and avoid small streams that may flood. Also, keep children away from creeks and streams.
Fairfax County remains under a flash flood warning this evening.
Sign up for Fairfax Alerts to stay in touch with weather watches and warnings.
Posted at 1:30 p.m.
It’s all over social media, and it did over $54 million at the box office in its opening weekend. What are we talking about? The movie “San Andreas,” which chronicles the potential destruction from a magnitude 9 earthquake and subsequent, even larger, aftershocks.
The great thing about the movie — and all of the Hollywood special effects — is that after the movie is over and the popcorn is eaten, you get to go home safe and sound. However, the reality is that an earthquake can very well be a devastating natural disaster.
Reality vs. Hollywood
Prior to the movies’ release, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake last month, followed by a 7.3 magnitude earthquake, rocked the country of Nepal, with casualties in the thousands and tens of thousands left homeless; over 8,000 people have been killed from these combined earthquakes.
You also may remember the 5.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Mineral, Va., in August 2011. It caused significant structural damage from central Virginia to southern Maryland and the Washington D.C. area, to include Fairfax County. The quake, with hundreds of aftershocks, damaged more than 1,400 homes and businesses in Virginia.
Now’s a great time — while the topic is fresh on our minds — to remind ourselves of the proper steps to take during an earthquake: “Drop, Cover and Hold On!”
There are simple actions we all should do to get prepared to survive and recover. Visit www.earthquakecountry.org/sevensteps to learn more.
- Preparedness and San Andreas Movie fact/fiction: www.earthquakecountry.org
- Earthquakes, Megaquakes and the Movies: http://earthquake.usgs.gov/learn/topics/megaquakes.php
- Earthquake Facts and Earthquake Fantasy: http://earthquake.usgs.gov/learn/topics/megaqk_facts_fantasy.php
Posted at 11 a.m.
Now is a good time to plan how to protect your family during these powerful storms in advance of the Atlantic hurricane season, which begins on Monday, June 1. The “How to Prepare for a Hurricane” guide (PDF) provides valuable information about planning for evacuation and shelter, and how to avoid flood waters and high winds during a hurricane.
Whitney Kazragis from our emergency management office also has some great advice on preparing — as well as how to save money on your preparedness supplies during the statewide hurricane preparedness sales tax holiday, underway now through Sunday, May 31.
Posted at 1 p.m.
The 2015 hurricane season begins June 1 and ends Nov. 30. Though hurricanes don’t typically make landfall in Fairfax County, the effects of high winds and flooding can wreak havoc on our community and businesses.
To assist in preparing for hurricane season, Virginia will hold its Hurricane and Emergency Preparedness Equipment Sales Tax Holiday May 25-31.
During this time, items such as batteries, generators up to $1,000, chainsaws up to $340, smoke detectors, first-aid kits, flashlights and more will be tax-free. Check out the flyer below with details on items you can purchase — tax-free — or this list of tax-exempt items (PDF) from the Virginia Department of Taxation.
The hurricane preparedness sales tax holiday is part of the statewide Hurricane and Flooding Preparedness Week, May 24-30, that coincides with National Hurricane Preparedness Week sponsored by the National Weather Service.
Posted at 10 a.m.
Our Office of Emergency Management (OEM) is hosting several emergency preparedness volunteer opportunities this month.
Volunteers are invited to participate in a new outreach program — Be a Home HERO (Home Emergency Response Options) — that delivers emergency preparedness information and supplies to neighborhoods across Fairfax County.
Help your community get better prepared. Check out these events where you can be a Home HERO.
- Emergency Information Bag Packing – Volunteers are invited to pack emergency information bags from 5:30-8 p.m. on Thursday, May 7, at the McConnell Public Safety and Transportation Operations Center (MPSTOC), 4890 Alliance Drive, Fairfax. Volunteers will receive dinner, a t-shirt and a tour of the Fairfax County Emergency Operations Center. Register online at http://bit.ly/1DyowbK.
- STEP Program Bag Packing – The Student Tools for Emergency Planning (STEP) program brings emergency preparedness to Fairfax County Public School (FCPS) fourth grade classrooms. Volunteers are invited to help pack student backpacks with emergency flashlights, blankets, homework assignments and other preparedness information. Volunteers will be provided drinks and snacks. The STEP bag packing effort will be held on Saturday, May 9, from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at MPSTOC, 4890 Alliance Drive, Fairfax. Register at http://bit.ly/1HfWj0y.
- Emergency Information Neighborhood Program – Saturday, May 16, from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. at Oakton High School, 2900 Sutton Road, Vienna. Breakfast and lunch are provided! Register at http://bit.ly/1J6GxWu.
For more information about any of these events, contact OEM at 571-350-1000, TTY 711, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.