Wednesday, December 19, 2007

More Power!

Ok, so the title of this posting is a bit deceiving. Today I am writing to discuss a problem occuring throughout the United States as ice storms wreak havoc on power supplies. If you find yourself without power here are a few things to bear in mind:

If you are staying in your home:
If you do not have heat, close unneeded rooms, stuff towels or rags in cracks under doors, and cover the windows at night.
Eat and drink. Food provides the body with energy for producing its own heat. Keep the body replenished with fluids to prevent dehydration. Do not consume alcoholic beverages, as this can dehydrate the body and cause it to lose heat.
Wear layers of loose fitting, lightweight, warm clothing.
Remove layers to avoid overheating, perspiration, and subsequent chill.
Use flashlights or other battery-powered lights instead of candles, if possible. If you must use candles, place them in candleholders and away from anything that could catch fire. Never leave a burning candle unattended or sleep with candles burning.
When using a fireplace, wood stove or space heater for heat or if you are using a generator for electricity, practice fire safety and observe the precautions against carbon monoxide poisoning given below.

Protecting Against Carbon Monoxide (CO) Poisoning
Fireplaces, wood stoves and portable heaters and generators are often used when power outages occur. These and other appliances produce carbon monoxide, which can be fatal if people are exposed to high levels even for a brief time. CO cannot be seen or smelled and can kill in minutes.
Tips to avoid CO poisoning include:
Never run a generator or any petroleum-fueled (kerosene, propane, gasoline) engine or appliance inside a basement, garage or other enclosed structure, even if the doors or windows are open, unless the equipment is professionally installed and vented.
Keep vents and fireplace flues free of debris, especially if winds are high. Flying debris can block ventilation lines.
Never run a motor vehicle, generator or any gasoline-powered engine outside an open window, door or vent where exhaust can vent into an enclosed area.
Regularly check and properly maintain fuel-burning appliances, especially when in use.
Carefully monitor household members for signs of CO poisoning.
Exposure to CO can cause loss of consciousness and death. The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. People who are sleeping or who have been drinking alcohol can die from CO poisoning before ever having symptoms.
Anyone who suspects symptoms of CO poisoning should go outside and seek fresh air immediately. If a person has collapsed or is not breathing, call 9-1-1 for emergency medical assistance immediately from a safe location.

Food Safety
Winter storms and power outages mean food safety issues require special attention:
Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible.
Refrigerated foods should be kept at 40F or below.
Check the temperature when the power comes back on. If the appliance thermometer reads 40F or below, the food is safe and may be kept refrigerated. It is safe to refreeze the food, but the quality and flavor of the food may be affected.
If a thermometer has not been kept in the unit, check each package of food after power is restored. If the food still contains ice crystals or is 40F or below, it is safe to refreeze or cook and use. Do not rely on appearance or odor to determine if food is safe.
Refrigerated food should be safe as long as the power was out for no more than 4-6 hours and the refrigerator door was kept closed.
Discard any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs or leftovers) that has been above 40F for two hours or more.
Remember: When in doubt, throw it out!


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Christmas Tree Safety....

As I mentioned before, the holidays see an influx of fires throughout the country. Here is a short breakdown of some fires which occured over the last few days. If you are choosing to celebrate the season with a Christmas tree, again, please beware of the problems lights can have on your tree. If you are celebrating the holidays with lots of candles, please, never leave them alone.
San Antonio
Lights left running on a Christmas tree were blamed for a fire that damaged a home Monday on San Antonio's North Side. A passer-by called 911 after seeing flames shooting out of a home in the 1100 block of El Monte at 9 a.m.
District Fire Chief Robert Elizondo said that it appears the lights overheated and ignited an artificial tree. Elizondo said it's important that residents not leave Christmas lights on when they are away from their home.
"They can get significantly hot, sometimes overload," he said. "It may be good to make sure you put them on power strips, so that if they detect overheating ... (it can) turn off before it gets to the tree." Elizondo added that the best to do is unplug indoor decorations when you are out of the house.
The home suffered significant water and smoke damage.

Port Huron
Firefighters from Port Huron's three fire stations responded to the call at about 3:38 p.m., but said the damage largely was restricted to the immediate area of the tree.
Port Huron fire Battalion Chief Kevin Anderson said the fire will be listed as accidental, caused by a malfunctioning Christmas light.
"We think the tree may have fallen, and the weight of the tree sandwiching the lights (between the floor) and itself may have started the fire," he said.

New York City
A fire in a Bronx apartment building, apparently caused by faulty Christmas lights, left a man fighting for his life last night, authorities said.
Eleven firefighters and 13 civilians suffered minor injuries in the blaze at 2334 Boston Post Road.
The critically injured victim, a 58-year-old man, was found in cardiac arrest in the eighth-floor hallway. Neighbors said firefighters told them that lights on a tree were to blame for the 6:20 p.m. blaze

Chandler, AZ
Firefighters extinguished a blaze in a home Monday that began with unattended candles that ignited a Christmas tree, fire officials said.A woman who lives in the home told fire officials she left candles burning and left the home shortly before the fire, said Battalion Chief Dan Couch, a Chandler Fire spokesman. No one else was in the home.The fire, contained to the living room, began at 12:10 p.m. and created “a lot of smoke damage,” in the home, in the 1600 block of West Ironwood Drive near Dobson and Ray roads, Couch said. No one was injured, he said. “The lesson in this is, anytime you leave the house even if it is to walk to the mailbox, you've got to put out those candles,” Couch said.

Carpinteria, CA
A set of Christmas tree lights are being blamed for a fire in Carpinteria that killed an elderly woman.
It happened at the San Roque Mobile Home Park in the 5700 block of Via Real in Carpinteria. Firefighters say the Christmas lights that caused the Saturday blaze overheated, setting a pair of drapes on fire.
The lights were the big style bulbs, the kind that firefighters do not recommend because they produce a dangerous amount of heat.
A charred shell is all that's left of the Carpinteria mobile home. The blaze broke out Saturday morning and took the life of the 88-year-old woman who had been asleep inside.

Be sure to pay attention to any manufactuer recalls regarding lights which may be faulty.

You can also go sans tree, decorations, etc. as I am doing this every year.

Stay safe.


Thursday, December 6, 2007

Holiday Fire Safety

As we close in on the holidays, please be sure to take steps to make your holidays “fire safe” this year. Statistics show the number of house fires increase during the winter holiday season – fueled in part by holiday decorations, candles and Christmas trees.

All told, house fires during the winter holiday season kill about 500 and injure about 2,000 people, and cause more than $500 million in damage.

Here are a few helpful hint so keep your house fire safe this year:

If you are celebrating using a Christmas tree, select a fresh tree that is kept in water at all times.
Needles on fresh trees should be green and should not fall off easily. Do not put your tree up
too early or leave it up longer than two weeks. Dried out Christmas trees can ignite easily and boost a fire by spreading it rapidly to nearby combustible materials!

Remember this video?

Place your tree in a safe place away from heat sources such as a fireplace or heat vent.

Maintain your holiday lights.
Inspect your lights before you use them to ensure they do not have frayed wires, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets or excessive wear. Do not do this while the lights are plugged in or else you run the risk of shocking yourself on any possible frayed or broken spots. Only use lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory and do not leave the lights on when you are not home.

Avoid overloading electrical outlets.
Do not link more than three light strands unless the directions indicate it is safe. Periodically check the wires. They should not be warm to the touch.

• Use only non-flammable decorations that are placed away from heat vents.
If you are using an artificial tree make, certain it is flame retardant. (FLAME retardant meaning it slows or inhibits the spread of fire. FIRE retardant pertains to something which delays or prevents combustion from occuring. These terms are NOT synonymous). Never put candles on a Christmas tree.

If you are celebrating the holidays with candles, ensure they are in a stable holder and place
them where they cannot be easily knocked down. Do not leave lighted candles unattended.
Never leave the house with candles burning. Also, never place fireplace askes in anything other than a metal container and only do so when the coals are completely cool. Never place the ashes in your basement, nor in your garage. If you do, you will probably burn your garage know who you are.

Please ensure your chimney is swept if not now, then certainly at the end of the season. If you are new to your house and do not know when it was last swept, call in the chimney sweep. Maybe if you are lucky you will have a Mary Poppins like sing-along as well as a clean chimney. Either way, a clean chimney is a safe chimney.

Personally, I say forget the tree, the decorations and spend all that money on a trip somewhere warm and splurge on something nice for yourself and block the holidays from your mind. Since I am afraid I am the only one thinking that, do as you will.

Remember, if you simply do as I tell you, there will be no problems.

For more information:


Twelve safe gifts for the holidays

Hi folks!

I know everyone is shopping for that perfect holiday gift for that special person. Here's some really great gift ideas, give the gift of safety! The following list is from the Canada Safety Council.
your volunteer PIO

The Twelve Safe Gifts for the Holidays

The perfect gift is sometimes difficult to find. Canada Safety Council has a dozen suggestions of gifts for this holiday season that are thoughtful, affordable and priceless.

  1. Three smoke detectors and batteries: The ultimate gift that shows you care. Change your batteries twice a year.
  2. Carbon monoxide detector: It may save a life. Install near the sleeping quarters so that the alarm can wake you up to get outside immediately.
  3. Quality all-purpose fire extinguisher: Always a necessity in the kitchen, workshop or garage. Regular maintenance is required.
  4. Winter emergency car kit with road flares: Great gift for anyone that owns a car. Be sure to add a high-energy snack, bottled water and a blanket.
  5. First aid kit: You may want to add the cost of taking a CPR class or First Aid course to this gift. This might be a “gift that gives back” if you ever need CPR or first aid care.
  6. Second floor escape ladder: A small investment for life saving potential.
  7. Flashlight and batteries: One of the most useful items to have in several areas of the house. Be sure to advise babysitters where they can find one.
  8. Bicycle flag, light and mirror: For the environment-friendly cyclist in your family.
  9. Window guards and balcony netting: For keeping the little tots in your life safe from serious falls. Make sure that you always supervise children and have at least one window in each room that can be used as a fire escape.
  10. Safety goggles: For the handy-person planning the next home renovation.
  11. Portable cordless telephone: (or phone message system) Great for making life easier when supervising children in the bath tub, in the pool or outdoors playing.
  12. Defensive driving courses: Wonderful for drivers of all ages. To reacquaint your loved ones with the newest safety tips and advice on road safety.

Holiday tag to attach to gift basket:

You mean so very much to me,
I want you safe and sound.
Accept this gift and you will see
you’ll thank me later on!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Fairfax County CERT mentioned in December Citizen Corps newsletter!

Hi Folks!
This month's national Citizen Corps newsletter mentions our participation in the October Boy Scout disaster drill camporee, and mentions our blog site as well. Check it out at:

your volunteer PIO

Monday, December 3, 2007

Winter is here! Prepare for it!

News Release Archive

VDEM News Release

Marc LaFountain, VDEM (804) 897-6510


Ready Virginia Focuses on Getting Prepared for Winter

Winter Preparedness Week: Dec. 2-8, 2007

Richmond, Va. - As temperatures continue to drop, the Ready Virginia campaign reminds Virginians that winter weather can cause downed power lines and slippery roads. There are simple, low-cost steps any resident can take to get ready for winter.

"Hurricanes and tornadoes are not the only weather-related hazards that can impact the Commonwealth," said Michael Cline, state coordinator for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. "Every family should be ready to deal with the dangers that winter presents."

The Ready Virginia campaign is a coordinated effort to provide vital preparedness information to Virginians. It brings state government agencies together with private sector and local government partners in a statewide initiative to prepare residents for all hazards, including natural disasters and potential terrorist attacks.

The campaign's Web site,, provides links to winter-specific safety information from the Virginia departments of Emergency Management, Fire Programs, Social Services and Transportation, as well as the American Red Cross and the National Weather Service. Information includes heating safety, generator safety, fire safety tips, winter driving guidelines, types of winter weather advisories and how to respond to them, winter preparedness information for kids, and the VDSS energy assistance program for low-income Virginians.

"No one should be fooled by the mild forecast," said Bill Sammler, warning coordination meteorologist for the NWS in Wakefield, Va. "Even if the average temperature is higher, there is still the real possibility of severe winter weather."

Simple steps to becoming winter ready include getting emergency supplies, making a communication plan and staying informed about local weather conditions.

  • Emergency supplies for winter weather include, among other things, essential items to last at least three days in the event of a power outage, such as a battery-powered radio and extra batteries, food and water, flashlights, a first aid kit, blankets and medications.
  • Making a communication plan involves discussing the impact of severe winter weather in your area and what your family would do during an actual emergency. Decide on a meeting place if your family cannot return home due to closed roads, designate an out-of-town friend or relative as a point-of-contact and plan for the specific needs of your household. Always tell someone before you travel on snowy or icy roads where you are going and when you expect to arrive.
  • Before, during and after a winter storm, it is critical that you stay informed by listening for the most local, up-to-date information from emergency officials. Local media will convey instructions from local, state and federal government partners, such as details about road conditions, winter storm watches and warnings, and power outages.

Additional winter tips:

  • Plug space heaters directly into wall sockets and keep them at least three feet from other objects. Do not leave them unattended.
  • Install a smoke detector in every bedroom and one on every level of your home. Check the batteries monthly and replace them annually.
  • Make sure that outdoor pets have adequate shelter, unfrozen water and food.
  • Driving is most dangerous when the temperature is at or under 32° F. If the road is wet, ice is likely, especially on bridges, ramps and overpasses. Find current road conditions by calling 511 or visiting
  • Even when roads have been treated with salt and/or sand, drivers should reduce their speed and leave a safe driving distance between themselves and other vehicles on the road.

To see preparedness information for any hazard, visit For more information, contact the Ready Virginia partners listed below.


Sunday, December 2, 2007

32 pages of free disaster preparedness manuals and information

Hi folks!
If your'e interested, here is a link to a site with 32 ! pages! of disaster preparedness books/manuals and information. This site covers a dizzying array of different topics relating to disaster preparedness and mitigation, it's free to download and well worth taking a look at. The site is available at:

your volunteer PIO

Congratulations CERT 29!

Hi Folks!
I wanted to pass on a hearty CONGRATULATIONS to the graduates of the CERT 29 class, who went through their final exercise yesterday at the fire academy! You had lots of victims (47 I believe?) and a lot of heavy extrications to do; you learned how to properly use a fire extinguisher. You all got to deal with the exciting issue of disaster psycholgy; you all either met(or dealt with the consequences of ) CERT 19 graduate Patty Greek's daughter, SHE was the one pulling the tags off the victims!
Above all, you put all the training you've had together in one large, stressful and trying mass casualty disaster situation. You sweated, toiled, stressed and worked hard to find your victims and take care of them. (I can imagine each of you slept very well last night, too.......)
I would like to personally congratulate each and every one of the CERT 29 graduates; thanks to each and every one of you for taking the CERT class; and thanks to each of you for "standing up" and learning skills to make your homes, families and your community safer places. As Derek says, "YOU ROCK!!!!!" MANY thanks to the instructors that trained you; Derek, Mike, Steve, Jim, Donna, Cathleen, Jack, Susy, David, Lani ,Bob and all the prior CERT graduates who helped as victims during the classes and the drill. Combined, these folks must have over a million years of disaster mitigation experience :) Their high levels of professionalism,extensive knowledge and complete willingness to share their experience with all of us make Fairfax County CERT a truly unique and real world training experience.
We all hope that our CERT training will never have to be used; but there is great comfort in knowing that if we're ever needed, we have more CERT team brothers and sisters help shoulder the load.
I'll post some pictures of the exercise as soon as I can.

your volunteer PIO