Published at 11:30 a.m.
National Preparedness Month, which begins today, highlights hazard-focused themes leading up to the National PrepareAthon! Day on Wednesday, Sept. 30. During the month, FEMA and our emergency management office will be focusing on several specific hazards, encouraging us to be better prepared for them and offering suggestions on steps to take to be ready.
Over the course of the month, we’ll focus on flooding, hurricanes and power outages — all real events that can happen here and to any one of use at any time.
The overall theme for this year’s preparedness month is “Don’t Wait. Communicate. Make Your Emergency Plan Today.”
Throughout September, we encourage you to take part in preparedness activities and events, know what to do during an emergency and most importantly, make a plan. This means having an up-to-date contact list for those you may need to reach during a disaster and establishing alternate methods of communication in case traditional means are not available.
As we begin our focus on preparedness this month, one of the first steps you should take is to make an emergency plan. FEMA has emergency plan templates on its website that you can use. In addition, our emergency management office partnered with other emergency management agencies in Northern Virginia to create ReadyNOVA.org, a website where you can create your family emergency plan online, save it to your personal computer or mobile device and print it out and keep it with you so you’ll have it when you need it. And the ReadyNOVA site will not save any of your personal information.
We realize that there are special months, weeks and days celebrated and recognized every day of the year and that National Preparedness Month might get lost in all the advertising of other special months, like Eat Chicken Month, Happy Cat Month, National Honey Month, National Mushroom Month, Update Your Resume Month, National Coupon Month and Shameless Promotion Month.
However… and we recognize the fact that we’re a little biased… the importance of making an emergency plan to prepare yourself and your family in case of an emergency seems a tad bit more important than some of these other recognitions, although we do like honey, chicken, mushrooms and saving money with coupons.
So make your emergency plan today (if you have one, update it) and stay tuned throughout the month for more on being prepared for any emergency. And for you over achievers looking to do more, use the 30 ways in 30 days preparedness tips.
Posted at 1:45 p.m.
The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program educates people about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area and also trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization and disaster medical operations.
With this training, CERT members can assist others in their neighborhood or workplace following an event when professional responders are not immediately available.
- CERT Class 100 at the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Academy
Monday, Wednesday, 9/14, 16, 21, 23, 28, 30 and 10/5 — 7-10:30 p.m.
- CERT Class 101 at the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Academy
Monday, Wednesday, 10/14, 19, 21, 26, 28, 11/2 and 11/4 — 7-10:30 p.m.
- CERT Class 102 at the Old Firehouse Teen Center
Tuesday, 9/22, 29, 10/6, 13, 20, 27 and 11/3 — 7-10 p.m.
- CERT Class 103 at the Lorton Volunteer Fire Department
Wednesday, 9/23, 30, 10/7, 14, 21, 28, 11/4 and 11/11 — 7-10 p.m.
CERT training does not require any special physical strength or agility and is free. The CERT program also provides personal protective equipment for the training that students keep.
Those who go through CERT training have a better understanding of the potential threats to their home, workplace and community and can take the right steps to reduce the effects of hazards.
Posted at 10 a.m.
Our Office of Emergency Management is now accepting applications — until Aug. 21 — for its fall internship program.
The office offers several unpaid internship positions and is seeking applicants with the following skills and interests:
- Emergency training and exercises.
- Marketing and communications.
Internship positions are best suited for undergraduates, graduate students or recent graduates with a background in emergency management, homeland security, public safety, public administration, public relations or communications. The ideal candidate should also have a strong interest in the field of emergency management.
Interns are required to commit at least 15-20 hours per week during the regular business hours of Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Interns may be asked to work outside of normal business hours for special events or during a disaster response when the Emergency Operations Center is activated.
More information and position descriptions can be found at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/oem/internship.
Posted at 10 a.m.
Beginning this Friday, Aug. 7, and ending on Sunday, Aug. 9, Virginia will hold a sales tax holiday.
Back-to-school supplies such as clothes, backpacks, pens, pencils, binders and pads can be purchased tax-free, in addition to energy efficient appliances. Emergency preparedness supplies like flashlights, weather radios, fire extinguishers, batteries and first-aid kits also are available for tax-free purchase.
So get ready for school – and be prepared for any emergency – during the Sales Tax Holiday weekend, Aug. 7-9.
Visit www.tax.virginia.gov for more on the tax holiday and what qualifies for a tax-free purchase.
Posted at 10 a.m.
Fairfax Alerts is Fairfax County’s way of sending you emergency alerts, as well as severe traffic and weather alerts, right to your smartphone and email inbox.
Check out this video showing just one way that Fairfax Alerts can make a positive impact in your life.
Sign up for alerts today at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/alerts.
Posted at 11 a.m.
The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued a heat advisory from noon until 8 p.m. Heat index values are expected to be between 102 – 107 degrees. There also is a marginal risk for a strong or severe thunderstorm.
Wally Simmons of our Risk Management Division has some good tips for staying cool and safe outside, especially for those who have to work outside during high heat.
According to the weather service, heat is one of the leading causes of weather-related deaths in the United States, resulting in hundreds of fatalities each year and even more heat-related illnesses such as heat stroke, heat cramps, and heat exhaustion.
Heat Safety Tips
The best line of defense against these illnesses is prevention. The following tips will help you stay safe when the mercury rises:
- Stay indoors as much as possible and limit exposure to the sun. Should you need some respite from the heat, take in a movie or visit a nearby shopping center or mall. We also have several county facilities that serve as cooling centers — libraries, community centers and the Fairfax County Government Center — where you can get in out of the heat. Please check the operating hours to make sure the facility is open before arriving.
- Stay on the lowest level out of the sun if air conditioning is unavailable.
- Eat well-balanced, light, and regular meals.
- Dress in loose-fitting, lightweight, and light-colored clothes that cover as much skin as possible.
- Avoid doing strenuous work outside during the warmest part of the day.
When necessary, NWS issues heat-related alerts to help you prepare for extreme weather conditions. To learn more about these alerts and how they impact you visit www.nws.noaa.gov/om/heat/ww.shtml. And to sign up for severe weather alerts to you email inbox and by text on your smartphone, sign up for Fairfax Alerts.
Today is also a code orange air quality day, meaning air quality is unhealthy for sensitive groups. Children and adults with respiratory and heart sensitivity should limit outdoor activity. In addition, everyone should take these steps to help our air quality:
- Refuel after dusk, use fuel-efficient vehicles.
- Avoid driving, use transit and telework.
- Avoid using aerosol products.
UPDATE: July 15
Thanks for the amazing response to our call for volunteers! As of today, all of our volunteer spots are now filled, but stay tuned, more programs and volunteer opportunities will be available in the future.
Posted at 11 a.m.
We need 30 volunteers (age 16+) to help stuff emergency information bags on Saturday, July 25, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Volunteer a couple of hours to help our Office of Emergency Management (OEM) prepare for upcoming outreach events.
In addition to the help you’ll provide in preparing emergency information bags, you’ll also get a sneak peek at the county’s Emergency Operations Center and learn about emergency preparedness. Plus, light breakfast snacks will be served!
Listen as Whitney Kazragis, community outreach liaison with OEM, encourages volunteering for the July 25th bag packing event.
Registration – 9:30 a.m.
Volunteer Briefing – 9:45 a.m.
Emergency Information Bag Packing – 10 a.m.
Emergency Operations Center Tour and Presentation – 11:30 a.m.
If you have any questions about the bag packing event, or to learn more about emergency preparedness, call 571-350-1000, TTY 711; email email@example.com. You can also request an OEM representative to attend your community event or give a presentation about emergency preparedness at your homeowners association or civic association meeting.
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.