Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Fairfax County Citizen Corps-A look back at 2007

Hi folks!
I just took a peek at the Fairfax County Citizen Corps blogsite (available at www.citizencorps.blogspot.com ) and saw some items of interest to CERT.
The first post on the site are slides from a presentation documenting activities of Faifax County citizen corps throughout 2007. CERT is VERY prominently displayed in the pictures; a lot of our activities this year are documented very well too. (WOW, CERT has participated in a BUNCH of community outreach events since earlier this year.)
The second post involves our county Citizen Corps chairman Andrew Levy. (He's a graduate of CERT 15, by the way). Looks like he walked off with Virginia's Citizen Corps volunteer of the year award at the recent VPSOC conference in Newport News, VA. Congratulations, Andrew!
Remember, this Saturday December 1st is the date of the final drill for the current CERT 29 class; hope to see you there!

your volunteer PIO

Monday, November 26, 2007

Fryer Fires in the news.....

Apparently nobody in Billings, Montana reads the Fairfax CERT blog..... this person not only left the fryer unattended, they also used it on a covered deck.

A turkey fryer is to blame for a fire that destroyed a Billings home Friday night.
Flames broke out shortly before 9:00 on Friday, when an unattended turkey fryer, on a covered deck, caught the home on fire.
The fire leveled the home, a detached garage and two vehicles. A neighbor's home was also damaged.
The Billings Fire department has ruled the blaze accidental.
No one was injured, but a neighbor, who arrived after the family escaped says two dogs were still in the home at the time of the fire. Neighbor Dale Sekora describes the scene, "When I got there, I could look under the smoke, but within seconds. The smoke was right on the floor. It was just too dangerous to go in the house. I called the dogs to see if they would come, but it was just too dangerous to go in." Four adults and two children made it out safely but a small dog died in the fire.

In St. John, Indiana, someone decided to place the fryer near a car in their garage......I believe we covered this as well.

ST. JOHN, Ind. — Firefighters blame a turkey fryer for starting a fire that destroyed a garage and a sport utility vehicle in St. John.

Fire Chief Jim Funk says firefighters from two departments were called to the home in the community about 10 miles south of Gary about 5:30 Thursday evening.
Funk says the fire began when oil in the turkey fryer boiled over. All the residents were able to get out of the house and no injuries were reported.
The fire destroyed the garage and an SUV parked nearby. The house had smoke and water damage.

And finally, someone in Freeman Township, Maine, who left the fryer unattended and was using it indoors.....

FREEMAN TOWNSHIP - Arlene Bubier prepared a turkey Friday for a second Thanksgiving dinner and was getting ready for work when someone came to the house and told her smoke was coming from the barn.Bubier's husband, Steve, was cooking the turkey in a propane-run turkey fryer in the barn and had just stepped into the house, according to Linda Brackley, the mother of Arlene Bubier. Fire Chief Scott Dyar said it was the turkey cooker that started the morning fire, but was unable to say if the cooker malfunctioned or specifically how it caused the blaze. The barn and a business it housed were destroyed, and the house was heavily damaged, he said. Firefighters thought they had saved the house, he said, but they ended up having to tear off half the roof on the back side to get at the fire.The Bubiers were able to escape uninjured and get the family's dogs out, Brackley said.About 45 firefighters from Strong, Kingfield, Phillips, Farmington, New Vineyard and Salem Township responded to the fire call at 10:45 a.m.They hosed down the structure to keep the fire from spreading into the house, but it got into the eaves and the walls, Dyar said.

No reports of drinking and frying.....

And you thought I was just being Chicken Little....or Turkey Little, as the case may be.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Fairfax County CERT talks to West Springfield Neighborhood Watch members

Hi folks!
Tonight Fairfax County CERT did a presentation on the CERT program for West Springfield's neighborhood watch monthly meeting. This was held at the Kings Park library in Burke, and was a good community outreach event.
We "tag teamed" the participants with information this evening; I was fortunate in having Kevin Mullins from CERT 20 and John Bauer from CERT 21? there to help with the talk. Both John and Kevin are members of neighborhood watch,John is also a member of our "sister" Citizen Corps organization, the VIPS program. VIPS is short talk for Volunteers in Police Service; and John is a tireless 160 hour per month !! volunteer in this program. Way to go John!
I gave the participants an overview and history of the CERT program,and a short session on emergency preparedness. We also explained what activities we would be doing in a disaster that might overwhelm normal first responder activities. Kevin, John and I went through the class schedule; and described what incredibly well organized training we go through to help our fellow citizens in times of disaster. The participants were most interested in how we would "self deploy" in our neighborhoods; and interested in our "fun with duct tape and sharpies" medical techniques. (Folks, peoples' ears perk up when you mention "duct tape" and "lifesaving first aid" in the same sentence...........)
Kevin wrapped up the talk with a detailed CERT gear demonstration. Kevin "walked" the people through the contents of his CERT pack; showing the use of the various items and emphasizing the importance of PPE when doing CERT activities. He did a great job doing this; and we ended up the presentation with a short question and answer session.
Thanks to John and Kevin for setting up this event; events such as this help further the ideals of personal emergency preparedness among the members of our community. Would you be interested in having CERT come out and talk about preparedness at your next community event? Hey, let me know; I'll be happy to do it. Just shoot me a short email to ffxcertvolunteerpio@gmail.com
your volunteer PIO

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Thanks Ed! Great radio classes!

Hi folks,
I just wanted to pass on a big THANKS to Ed Harris of CERT 8 for planning and producing the CERT radio classes earlier this week. They were well put together and very informative! If anyone would like the course materials from this most informative series of classes, please email me at ffxcertvolunteerpio@gmail.com and I'll make sure you get the info.
volunteer PIO

Friday, November 16, 2007

It's almost turkey time.....

With less than a week before Thanksgiving, have you thought about how you might be cooking your turkey? What the heck does this have to do with CERT, safety or anything other than a cooking class or something on the Food Network? Has Mike gone completely crazy? Who does he think he is, Bobby Flay, Emeril Lagasse? Good questions all!

Over the past few years there has been a growing trend of people frying their turkeys. I have to say, fried turkey sure do taste good, this is a fact. Unfortunately, if you are novice, or even have experience frying a turkey, it is a serious and dangerous prospect. For example, the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) has decided not to certify any turkey fryers with the UL sticker.

There are many reasons a deep fryer can be dangerous. Since turkey frying SHOULD NEVER BEEN DONE INDOORS (this includes a garage, even if is not entirely closed in), making sure you have the space and equipment to do this outdoors ins important. Also bear in mind, the weather; if it is raining or snowing this could affect your fryer.

In order to fry your turkey you will need to get the oil in the fryer up to at least 350 degrees (so says the Queen of Southern Cuisine, Paula Deen)...350 degrees, which, if you did not know, IS REALLY HOT! Working with an unstable product such as blazing hot oil over an open flame is dangerous, even if you know what you are doing.

Other safety issues include:
* If the burner is not on level ground, the units can easily tip over, spilling hot oil (3-5 gallons of hot oil at 350 degrees!!!) onto the burner and creating a LARGE, FAST fire.
* If the pot is overfilled with oil, the oil may spill over when the turkey is lowered into the pot. Oil will hit the flames on the burner and engulf the burner with fire. There are ways to measure out the right amount of oil, which is imperative to ensure you do not have the pot overfilled.
* Water and hot oil do not go together. Partially frozen turkeys contain water of course, so if you lower a partially frozen turkey into a fryer, expect an extensive fire. Heaven help you if you place a frozen turkey in the fryer; to help defrost it, of course....this will cause an explosion as the water expands in the hot (350 degrees ) oil. Don't do it.
* The outdoor fryers have no thermostat controls, so they can overheat quickly and cause the oil to boil over the sides of the pot before you can react.
* The pot and handles get extremely hot (remember, 350 degrees of boiling oil), posing severe burn hazards.
I am sure there is someone out there saying to themselves, "I won't let Mike yuck my yum, I am going to fry a turkey anyway". Fine, be that way. It won't be the first time someone did not listen to what I said and partially burned their house down.....you know who you are.

You still want to fry that turkey? Ok, fine. Please, bear these things in mind as you go about frying. These are not guaranteed to stop a fire or keep you from getting burned, but they may help in mitigating a larger disaster (such as burning your house down):

* Never use a turkey fryer on a wooden deck or inside a garage, home, or within any structure.
* Place the fryer a safe distance away from any building (bear in mind if you place it in the grass, the grass should not be overly dry, nor overly wet. Also count on the grass in that area dying and never growing back).
* Fryers should be used on a firm, flat surface to prevent them from tipping over. Try the middle of a parking lot....not the sloping driveway in front of your house next to your car.
* Once the pot is filled with the recommended 3-5 gallons of oil (probably peanut oil) and the burner is ignited, you should never leave the fryer unattended. This also means do not cook if you are under the influence. Please, don't drink and fry.
* Keep pets inside and keep children at a safe distance. A safe distance being somewhere where they will never see it because once they do, they will want to get close.
* Use well-insulated gloves or oven mitts and wear safety glasses (I think I know where you might have a pair laying around) to guard against oil splatters.
* Do not wear loose clothing as this might ignite if you get too close to the flame or the oil, or both. If your clothes do catch on fire, remember, Stop, Drop and Roll!
*Turkeys must be thoroughly thawed. While very tasty, be very careful of injecting marinades into your turkey. The extra liquid may cause the oil to spill over.
*Keep a portable dry chemical fire extinguisher nearby. I know, we have not had extinguishers yet, so, in this instance, pull the pin on the extinguisher, point it at the fire, squeeze the trigger, spray and pray. Never use a water type extinguisher to extinguish a grease or oil fire. Do not deploy the garden hose to assist with your turkey fryer fire, this will do MUCH, MUCH more harm than good.
* If your fryer does catch fire call 9-1-1 immediately!

Finally, remember the oil (3-5 gallons of it) inside the pot will remain hot for hours after your turkey has been removed. DO NOT bring it indoors and again, keep children and pets away from the pot.

For more information on some of the hazards of cooking fires (not just the turkey fryer fires), please visit the United States Fire Administrations website for a copy of: Behavioral Mitigation of Cooking Fires by going here: http://www.usfa.dhs.gov/fireservice/research/other/cooking-mitigation.shtm

Thanks for reading and I hope everyone has a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Reminder: Radio Workshops Tonight and Thursday

There is still room at Mason District tonight and lots of space at the Government Center Thursday.

The LA Times has a great example of tactical audio + photos of firefighter shelter deployment during burnover in LA. Outstanding example of good communications, accounting for personnel, which saved lives.

Monday, November 12, 2007

December is Winter Storm Awareness Month

It's time to be thinking winter-time thoughts. The temperatures are starting to plunge and fall is here full-force in Fairfax County. Before it gets too cold, it's time to prepare your home against winter storms. Helpful resources include:

Winter Storms and Extreme Cold - from Ready.gov.

Winter Storms and Extreme Cold - from FEMA.

Winter Preparedness Reminder - from Fairfax County.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Fire Safe Heating Systems

This list is from the Fairfax County web site ... http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/fr/educate/fire_safe_heating_systems.htm.

Cold winter weather brings snowball battles, cozy evenings, and an increase in the use of home heating equipment. It's probably time to give your heating system a safety check. Heating equipment failures or malfunctions are one of the leading causes of all home fires. We can reduce the occurrence of these types of fires with a little preventative maintenance and some good fire safety habits.

The following are some tips for safety around heating systems:

  • Never discard hot ashes inside or near the home. Place them in a covered metal container outside and well away from the house.
  • If you use a wood-burning stove or fireplace, have a licensed chimney sweep clean and inspect your chimney at least once a year.
  • Place a glass or metal spark screen in front of the fireplace and install caps on chimneys.
  • Never use a flammable liquid (gasoline, kerosene, lighter fluid, etc.) to start a fire or rekindle a small one.
  • Keep paper, clothing, trash, and other combustibles at least three feet away from your furnace, hot water heater, or wood-burning device.
  • Have a professional clean and check your heating system yearly. This may prevent a fire and will make your heating system more energy efficient.
  • Keep portable heaters away from curtains, beds, clothes, and children. Make sure there is at least three feet of clearance around the heater for proper ventilation.
  • Turn heaters off when you leave the room or go to bed.
  • Never refuel the heater while it is operating or while it is still hot. Always refuel outside. Avoid overfilling.
  • Be sure your space heater has an emergency shut off in case the heater is tipped over.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Interested in Communications? Take it to the next level....

If you are interested in becoming a licensed Amateur Radio Service operator, you can help serve Fairfax County in another dimension.

The Amateur Radio Emergency Service® of Fairfax County, Virginia is an organization of licensed Amateur Radio Service operators who volunteer time and resources to provide communications support when disaster strikes. The organization provides support to citizens of Fairfax County and neighboring jurisdictions, as required, to serve the public interest. Its members train, prepare and work together to develop and maintain the technical and operational skills required to ensure individual and team effectiveness in communicating under adverse conditions. The organization demonstrates and improves proficiency through public service events, public safety exercises, and emergency operations.

To find our more, please visit http://fairfaxares.googlepages.com/.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Community Emergency Response Team Final Exercise: Call for Volunteers 12/1/07

You can participate in one of two ways ...

1.) Come as a CERT member -- you will need to provide a $12 check payable to the NCAC for food AND you will need to bring two victims to participate. This is a great way to freshen up your skills since your last CERT class. Your check will save your slot.

2.) Come as as a Victim. You know from your own training that having a large number of victims helps make the final realistic and fun. As a victim you will be expected to play your role as realistically as possible. You will receive "make-up" to show "wounds" and will have fake blood placed on your clothes. As such, please dress for the elements (we have the drill rain or shine) as you will be waiting outside to be found, in clothes that you can get very dirty, stained, and possibly even torn. Some of you may also be called upon to assist the rescuers in performing their duties. You may participate in any way you feel comfortable.
This is a very exciting opportunity to help your community. Live "victims" are essential to providing high quality training, and you'll learn quite a bit too! We'll even throw in lunch.

You need to arrive at the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Academy (4600 West Ox Rd. Fairfax, VA) by 8:00am. The drill should be completed by 2:00pm. We’ll need you to participate for the entire time. However, if you need to leave early due to an emergency, just let a facilitator know so we can account for you. Due to limited parking, it is requested that you carpool as much as possible.
The schedule for the date usually goes something like this:
8:00am - Check in. You'll be registered and your contact information taken. You'll be given a card with a set of "injuries" you are to act out.
8:00am - 9:30am- You'll start in the makeup process. While this doesn't take much time, there is a wait to get through.
9:30am - 11:00am - Bruch will be served and the lead instructor will give you a brief presentation on safety issues, what to expect, etc.
11:15am - 11:30am - You'll be escorted to the area that you'll be "trapped" or laying.
11:30am - The Drill begins. The rescuers will search, sort the victims by severity, extricate those that are trapped, and transport all victims to a treatment area.
1:30pm - Victim checkout, debrief, and "thank-you's" from the students.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Radio Workshops: Pick Your Date 11/13 or 11/15

There are two scheduled radio workshops:

Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Mason District Community Room
6507 Columbia Pike
Annandale, VA 22003
Time: 7:30-9:30 pm

Thursday, November 15, 2007
Fairfax Co. Govt Center,
Conf. Center Room 10
12000 Government Center Parkway
Fairfax, VA 22035
Time: 7:30-9:30pm.

Contact Ed Harris 703-501-1400 to let him know which session you plan will attend, to ensure adequate handouts.

In this refresher participants will review operating characteristics of FRS radio, features and controls and simple operating procedures. New material will explain fundamentals of multi-channel operations used for communicating in complex incidents. In an exercise participants will receive an incident briefing, use a communication plan to determine a “working” frequency and practice using net operating procedures, prowords and phonetics.

Bring your CERT gear, FRS radio with batteries, flashlight, reflective vest, and suitable clothing for the expected weather.

Fairfax County CERT mentioned in VDEM's emergency management update

Hi Folks!
This article about the recent BSA "disaster drill camporee is in the November 7th issue of VDEM's emergency management update. The full newsletter ( sent weekly to emergency management personnel throughout the state of Virginia) is available at www.vaemergency.com
Thanks to all who participated in and planned this super event.
your volunteer PIO

Virginia Department of Emergency Management, EM UPDATE, Issued Biweekly for the Virginia Emergency Management Community

Fairfax County CERT trains area Boy Scouts
Members of the Fairfax County Community Emergency Response Team trained Boy Scouts at the George Mason District BSA "Camporee," Oct. 13-14 at the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Academy. The event focused on methods of effective disaster preparedness and mitigation, with a simulated hurricane recovery center that helped scouts earn emergency preparedness merit badges. CERT subject matter experts led scouts through various training and response scenarios and served as command and control staff, moulage technicians and logistical preparation staff.

CERT Radio Workshop: Tuesday November 13th from 7:30-9:30pm

The ability to effectively communicate in a disaster is a key topic that we have all grappled with during our CERT training. This in-depth class on radio operations provided by Ed Harris, CERT graduate. If you want tips on how to use your radio effectively or would like to learn more about communications, this is a great class to attend. Please contact Ed Harris for more information.

Mason District Community Room
6507 Columbia Pike
Annandale, 22003
Time: 7:30-9:30pm.
Questions contact Ed Harris 703-501-1400

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Fairfax County CERT as a Wikipedia reference!

Hi folks!
One of our CERT members passed this link on to me yesterday. It's a link for wikipedia; a very popular online dictionary. Take a look at the references section at the bottom of the page. The "sample CERT blog" link and sample Citizen Corps blog links point to this blog and the Fairfax County Citizen Corps blogs respectively. Here's the link:


Thanks to our CERT 15 graduate and Citizen Corps Chairman Andrew Levy for passing on this most interesting link.

your volunteer PIO

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Email Subscription Services by a couple of Federal Websites of Interest

FEMA, DHS and US Fire Administration have all recently added functionality to allow users to subscribe to receive email updates when content is changed. It's an easy way to keep tabs on preparedness resources from the federal government.

Subscribe to DHS updates

Subscribe to FEMA updates

Subscribe to USFA updates (above pink box on home page)