Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Congratulations to CERT 34 and CERT 35!

Hi folks,
On Saturday November 22nd another group of citizens became part of our Fairfax County CERT community. Our CERT 2 class, CERT 34 AND our first CERT basic class, CERT 35 both completed the final exercise on a very cold day. You had lots of victims to rescue, triage and treat, and you all did fine. Welcome, new CERT brothers and sisters! Each of you stood up to the test of preparing yourselves, your families and your community for the prospect of major disaster. Each of you excelled at the task!
I wanted to throw in some special mention to the CERT 35 class. The CERT 35 class is our first ever basic CERT class, and frankly I couldn't tell you apart from the CERT 34 class members. AWESOME job, CERT 35. A huge "YOU ROCK" go out to the CERT basic training team of Jack and Susy, you two as always did a great job!

Everyone did a great job Saturday-so good they made the papers! Check out this link-

Congratulations, CERT 34 and CERT 35!
your volunteer PIO

Monday, November 17, 2008

Winter Preparedness Week is Nov. 30-Dec. 6

Although this year's winter forecast is for above normal temperatures and near normal precipitation, Virginians should be prepared for severe winter weather by following a few simple steps to keep their families safe.
  • Plug space heaters directly into wall sockets, not extension cords.
  • Fireplaces and wood stoves should be prepared for winter by having professionals inspect and clean them. Residue can build up that can cause fires.
  • Driving is most dangerous when the temperature is at or under 32° F, and most vehicle crashes occur within the first two hours after a storm begins. For road conditions call 511 or go to http://www.511Virginia.org.
For more winter weather preparedness tips, go to http://www.ReadyVirginia.gov.

Turkey time, revisited

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, I have gone to the CERT archives to pull out and beat this dead horse I posted last year. I know it is repetitive, but it is still good information to have on hand.

Have you thought about how you might be cooking your Thanksgiving 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? Has cooking with Emeril Lagasse gone to his head? 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.

There are many reasons a deep fryer can be dangerous. Since using the typical pedestal type turkey fryer SHOULD NEVER BE DONE INDOORS (this includes a garage or barn, even if is not entirely closed in), making sure you have the space and equipment to do this outdoors is important. Also bear in mind, the weather; if it is windy, 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 ...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....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 Administration's website for a copy of: Behavioral Mitigation of Cooking Fires by going here: http://www.usfa.dhs.gov/fireservice/research/other/cooking-mitigation.shtm

For a short demo on a fryer fire, go here: http://www.ul.com/turkeyfryers/

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

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Tick-Tock Tick-Tock

Time is running out! There are only two more dates to volunteer as a victim this year! If you are an existing CERT and need to re-certify, you know what that means. I know you were waiting for the best of the opportunities, so here we go. Our actor/victims give these drills that realistic flavor, so we really appreciate your efforts. The current CERT 34 class will have their 'Disaster Scenario' class Wednesday 11/19 at the Fire & Rescue Training Academy. You'll get fixed up, nice and bloody, maybe with a stick coming out of your gut. We'll run a couple drills for them so they will feel comfortable and confident for the 'BIG KAHUNA' on Saturday 11/22, also at the Academy. Join us for the all day event over several acres of complete disaster mayhem. Bring a friend, spouse or a neighbor. The more the merrier. We'll feed you lunch too! Bring your 'best of show' acting abilities and a strong voice. This gives you an excellent opportunity to see for yourself how the County helps prepare it's citizens to prepare for disasters and how to help in a safe manner. Maybe you'll join our next class.

Email actors@fairfaxcountycert.org to sign up for one or both days and more details. This is an experience you won't forget. We give Community Service Hours certificates too!

So, what does CERT mean to you?

Hi folks!
As the title line suggests, what does CERT training mean to you? Being better prepared for disasters? Learning new and creative uses for duct tape? Hearing Derek holler, "You're killing me!" ? Wearing really cool green hardhats,vests and playing in the burn building?
Here is why I'm asking- the CERT 34 class final exercise takes place on Saturday, November 22nd. We will have members of the press coming out to the exercise; to watch, to interview, to take pictures and write stories about OUR CERT program.
As part of having media at the exercise, I'm trying to put together a first ever "Fairfax County CERT press kit"-a binder with background information on Fairfax County CERT and the event the press will be witnessing.

It would be REALLY nice to have stories from CERT members for that kit. CERT's best asset are our fellow brother and sister CERT members.

So, if you would, between now and Monday, November 17th-please send me an email at pio@fairfaxcountycert.org with your full name and CERT class number. Put in the email subject line "What CERT means to me".
And give me a few lines, or a paragraph, or a page......... on what CERT means to you. What would you say to a reporter if one asked what CERT meant to you? Speak up,this is your chance. Let people know! what CERT means to you.
Each one I get will be included in the press kit; but I do need to have them all in my hands by Monday November 17th.
Thank you all for your help on this; let's make the Fairfax County CERT voice-your voice, our voices; heard- loud and proud!

your volunteer PIO

Check this out!

Hi folks,
CERT 15 graduate Andrew had an opportunity to help others in a big way earlier this year. Take a look at the flash feature at the link below.
Nice job Andrew!

your volunteer PIO


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Keep those cards and letters coming, folks!

Hi folks!
Below is part of an email I received yesterday from Ms. Sharon Bulova. Ms. Bulova is the vice-chairperson of the Fairfax County board of supervisors and supervisor of the Braddock district. The email was in response to the previous post regarding CERT and upcoming budget cuts. She clarified the budget schedule for us; I had some dates incorrect.
THANK YOU to all CERT members who have sent emails and calls to your district supervisors; we are being heard. Keep them coming! Ms. Bulova also mentions participating in community dialogue sessions, the link to these upcoming meetings is below. Folks, if you have the time to go we can make our voices heard even more loudly.
your volunteer PIO

Terry, I just received your message (in part below) and wanted to provide a correction. The County is projecting a shortfall for the next fiscal year 2010 should we continue to do business "as usual" with what we expect to be a reduced stream of revenue due to the current downturn in the economy.
The County Board is examining all of our programs and services in order to prepare for that challenging fiscal year. No budget has been advertised yet.

The County Executive will release his recommended budget on February 23rd. In your message you indicate that the budget is "usually voted on and approved in January". In fact the County Executive's Budget is usually advertised in February, public hearings are held during March and the Board eventually "marks up" (or makes changes to the Advertised Budget) in April. We will not be actually adopting the FY 2010 budget until late in April.

I hope you will encourage your members to participate in some of the Community Dialogues that are taking place throughout the County this fall. Information can be found at http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/government/budget/ These Dialogues seek suggestions from the community (and County Employees) on suggestions for finding cost savings and organizational changes in order to "right size" the cost of delivering services with less revenue.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A message to All Fairfax County CERT members-please read.

Hi folks,
I thought today might be the perfect time to bring something to the attention of the Fairfax Co.CERT family. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a problem...............

The proposed fiscal year 2010 budget for the county reflects the current economic climate. This budget goes into effect on July 1, 2009, but is usually voted on and approved in January. The county has a large budget shortfall, so cuts have to be made. You can view the budget cutting proposals at http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/government/budget/ . The individual county departments,and their cost cutting proposals are broken down by "lines of business", or LOBs.

I want to bring to your attention the cost cutting proposals for the fire and rescue department. Our CERT program is administered under the auspices of the fire and rescue department. The cost cutting proposals that relate to this blog post are covered in the LOB's as "agency 92". Specifically, LOB 92-05 DIRECTLY affects our CERT program. Below is the full text of that budget cut proposal.

LOB 19 92-05 Volunteers $60,000 (slide 51)
Loss of this contribution will impact the Volunteer's ability to serve in a support role and enhance the mission of the Fire and Rescue Department.
Elimination of Program.

I know you're saying, "So how does that affect me?" Here's how-that $60,000 reduction will eliminate a position within the Office of the Volunteer Liaison within the county fire and rescue department. Here is how it was spelled out to me,word for word, from a member of the department....

" If the proposed cutting of this person's position were to occur, then the FRD (Fairfax Co. fire and rescue dept.)would be forced to cut the CERT program"

Clearly, this would affect EVERY CERT.....

"This person" in a CERT context is Dana Powers, a very sweet and capable person who administers the CERT program. She is the one that contacts you when classes start up, she is the one who makes sure you have the gear you need to take the training. She does a multitude of things to help make Fairfax County CERT the world class program it is. Without her, the CERT program goes away..........and the sad thing is that CERT is paid for by federal Homeland Security grant money. The county provides an administrator; that's it.

So, what can we as Fairfax County CERTs do about this problem? We need to make our voices heard. I know everyone who has taken CERT training is an enthusiastic supporter of the program. CERT helps us prepare ourselves and our families for disasters that may occur. Loss of the CERT program takes away the opportunity to train others about the need to prepare; to learn techniques that can save their own (and others') lives........

Here is an idea I came up with to try and stop this budget cut from occuring.

If every CERT wrote an email to our county executive AND to their district supervisor; we could at least make them aware that CERT is a useful program to Fairfax County.Here's how CERT is useful-we need to let them know this!

1. We are people who can help others in a disaster; rather than just being another hapless victim.

2.We can (and have) helped the fire department at events like Celebrate Fairfax-saving the county money by using a competent CERT volunteer rather than a paid employee for support functions.

3. In a disaster we CAN help the fire department-we did secondary searches of buildings as CERT 400 last week at the Capitol Shield exercise. We proved this last week.

4. Losing this one position effectively dissolves the CERT program in Fairfax County. The county LOSES a cadre of over 450 trained, motivated volunteers useful to county agencies. And volunteers cost NOTHING to the county.

5. The salary of one administrative position is a mere pittance compared to the help CERT members can provide to the residents of the county. Don't cut Dana's position!!!

Folks, here is a list of the county chairman and board of supervisors, by district. If you could send the chairman and your district supervisor an email, a phone call-let's make them aware that CERT is too important to lose!

You can get more information at this link: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/government/board/

Also,Here's a link to a district map, in case you are not sure of the district you live in. Thanks Micah!
Folks, those who know me know I am not a man to delve into politics. But, CERT is too important a program to lose.

your volunteer PIO