Tuesday, February 24, 2009

More on the Proposed Budget

The main web page about the Fairfax County 2010 budget contains a few important highlights about how we can comment. Please take advantage of these options:

  • YOU can voice your opinion online. Using this form, please share your comments and specific suggestions for developing the FY 2010 budget (limited to 1500 characters).
  • YOU can call online and leave a recorded message at 703-324-9400.
  • YOU can sign up to Speak at a Public Hearing at the Government Center: March 30, 7 p.m.; March 31, 3 p.m. (Schools presentation at 7 p.m.); April 1, 3 p.m.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Ok folks, our CERT is in trouble...

I attended the Fairfax County board of supervisors' meeting today. If you remember, I promised to report on the official presentation of the fiscal year 2010 county budget to the board and the public at large.

Below is the "line of business" budget cut we were afraid would happen. I have the sad duty to report that our CERT administrator Dana is going to lose her job; and with her job loss; the fire and rescue department will not be able to continue support for our CERT program. I will have each of you read the page at the very bottom and come to your own conclusions. You can click on the page to enlarge it.
The page was taken directly off the FY 2010 budget CD provided during the meeting today. The entire FY 2010 budget plan is also available on the internet at:


There are a total of 524 county employees that will lose their jobs by April 27th, 2009 (the date of the budget adoption). There are a number of cuts in this budget, encompassing every department and agency in our county. A very high percentage (almost disproportionately high?) number of personnel cuts come from the public safety sector.

Below are some other highlights of the FY 2010 budget for you.

The total recommended county budget for FY 2010 is $ 5.8 billion dollars, a decrease of 3.7% from the FY 2009 budget.

Funding for the county school system will not be cut; but will not increase either. The budget will remain at FY 2009 levels (FYI-54% of the total county budget goes to the school system).

The real estate property tax rate jumps from $0.92 per $100 average to a new rate of $ 1.04 per $ 100 average.During the presentation, it was inferred that this rate could change, upward, by a few cents per hundred before the final budget is approved.

The fire department will eliminate one uniformed PIO and one civilian PIO position.

The fire department loses their official photographer, and the fire department will no longer participate in the Celebrate Fairfax event (CERT's largest community outreach event during the year, by the way).

Athletic services fees will increase from $ 5.50 to $ 13.00 per participant per season.

There will be no raises for county employees in FY 2010.

County park and building maintenance will be reduced to necessary/emergency repairs only.

Temperatures in county buildings will be raised/lowered to conserve energy. This means offices with temps up to 3*higher in the summer, and 3* lower in the winter.

I urge each of you to take a peek at the budget. The county is currently showing a $ 650 million dollar budget shortfall. The budget cuts this year are broadly based and they cut deeply across all aspects of county operations.

Public hearings will be held on this budget on March 30, March 31 and April 1, 2009 at the Fairfax County government center. These hearings will give us an opportunity to voice our thoughts ( and perhaps change their minds) on these budget cuts.

Today was not a good day for CERT. But these cuts, while being on the table, are not entirely a "done deal".

If we fight this, we may be able to change the outcome. We will have to let our district supervisors know what CERT means to us; what it gives to us and to the community at large. Each district supervisor is holding public budget discussions within their respective districts. As I get the schedules for these district meetings I'll post them to the blog.

If we show up, write emails and generally never let them forget of the importance of the CERT program to our families and communities; they may reconsider this action.

Folks, I don't know about you, but I love the training, the knowledge and the safety that CERT gives to my family and my community.

your (angry but very motivated)volunteer PIO

Monday, February 16, 2009

Listen, Protect and Connect-with your children in disaster

Hi folks!
CERT members know there are many different things to do when faced with a disaster. We all have three day disaster kits stuffed away; our CERT backpacks are always handy, and duct tape and sharpies in quantity. We are all well equipped to manage the physical aspects of a many types of major disasters. We all have the knowledge and skills to make a difference (thanks to Derek, Mike, Steve, and the CERT volunteer instructors).

As adults we can reasonably understand and cope with the spectre of damage and destruction. What about our kids? How would our most precious citizens feel if a disaster damaged their home, took the life of a favorite pet or a loved one? Would you know what to do to help them? Would you know what to say?

Below is a link to a handy guide from www.ready.gov called Listen, Protect and Connect-Psychological First Aid for Children and Parents. This guide offers a wealth of useful information and strategies for helping children cope with, and emotionally recover from disaster. This guide is great for parents and good to have as CERT members too. You can download this free guide at:


your volunteer PIO

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A CERT date of importance to all of us

I just posted one upcoming date of importance to the Fairfax County CERT family. Well, there is another date coming up that is of extreme interest to all of us.

Monday, February 23, 2009.

The dreaded 2010 budget process begins; the meeting starts at 9am at the Fairfax County government center. I will be attending this board of supervisors meeting and will report the outcome here on the blog. The budget this year has great importance to all of us; as citizens and CERT members.

Here is the time line on this years' county budget approval process . This information was provided by our new county board of supervisors chairman Sharon Bulova in November, 2008.
"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."

Let me refresh your memory on why this budget is of such importance to us.

As you may remember, our CERT program is administered under the auspices of the fire and rescue department.
The cost cutting proposals that relate to us, the Fairfax County CERT family are covered in the LOB's (LOB's-lines of business-I.E.political-ese for proposed budget cuts)as "agency 92". Specifically, LOB 92-05 could effectively kill the entire CERT program. Below is the full text.

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.

This LOB proposal eliminates one of two personnel positions in the office of the volunteer liaison at the Fire and Rescue Department. To put it in English-if this LOB is presented at the February 23rd meeting, then this will mean that our CERT program could be in trouble.Here's how- The loss of the Management Analyst II position would lead to the loss of support from the Fire and Rescue Department for CERT.

(Folks, this "proposed budget cut" has a name, and a face. People forget those details when discussing budget cuts.) Her name is Dana. She is a very sweet, very competent lady who, with Jeffrey in the same office administers the entire county CERT program.

In addition to handling the entire CERT program, they handle the administrative affairs for the county's 500 or so volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel. These two folks administratively handle 25% of the entire county's fire and EMS personnel resources! And the county is considering cutting one of these positions, if you can believe it.
By comparison, 1390 career firefighters within Fairfax County are administratively handled by 130 administration personnel. I don't know about you, but there is something seriously wrong with that picture.

Let's take a look at what this this one job loss, and the loss of Fire and Rescue department support would do to our CERT program.

1.Fairfax County CERT would become a program of the Fairfax County Office of Emergency Management. Of course, Fairfax county OEM is going through their own budget woes too. I understand that up to 37% of their personnel are facing the same budget cutting axe. Who in that office would administer the program? In light of their budget issues, would they even have anyone available to administer us? On that thought, another thought.Would they even WANT to administer us?

2. Imagine CERT 2 training without Derek, Mike and Steve..................If CERT is transferred to OEM stewardship it is ENTIRELY possible OEM would wish to use their own instructors, or just the current cadre of CERT volunteer instructors to save money. As a proud member of the Fairfax County CERT family, I find this possibility most disturbing of all. Their many years of valuable experience, their wisdom,hard work and guidance could be lost to us forever. We would lose the world class training we enjoy.

3. We WILL lose access to our training facility.
Specifically, the use of the fire academy for training. Imagine CERT 2 training without the use of the fire academy grounds, the multipurpose building or the burn building. Fairfax County CERT is famous for real world, challenging training. Without the use of the fire academy our training would no no longer be first class, nor as realistic as it is now. We would be forced to find a new place large enough, and safe enough to conduct CERT 2 and CERT 3 training. How easy would that be?

Those three items are distinct possibilities if we lose that ONE admin position, folks. One job cut and over 500 Fairfax County CERTs lose.

Two of today's most used words in politics are "hope" and "change".So, let's use those words in a CERT context.

As your volunteer PIO, I "hope" you will remind your district supervisor what the loss of CERT would do to the community, to our neighbors and our families.

You may also wish to remind those same supervisors of the consequences losing CERT would do to them. As citizens we can most decisively effect regime "change" at their next election. We vote.

your volunteer PIO

Monday, February 9, 2009

Results of the recent CERT admin meeting

Hi folks!
Last Thursday a CERT administrative meeting was held at the fire academy. A lot of different items were discussed; with the goal of making CERT in 2009 even better than 2008 was for us.
Several things were discussed-like a new CERT recruiting brochure, gear issuance to the CERT basic folks, and our pending acquisition of a CERT trailer. CERT is moving right along in 2009!

The new national CERT newsletter is out; there are some interesting stories on other CERT teams around the US-check it out at

Here is a date to mark on your calendars.

Thursday, May 7th, 2008

This is a tentative date for a CERT graduation ceremony! This will be for classes that to date have not gone through a formal graduation ceremony. This is to be held in the atrium at the Fairfax County government center starting at 7pm. Again, this is a tentative date and could change. As more information becomes available, I will post it to the blog.

your volunteer PIO


Someone just sent me note asking if today (2-9-09) was really the 145th anniversary of the first US patent for a fire extinguisher. I have not found out if this is indeed true or not, but I thought the timing was perfect! Tonight we have our fire extinguisher class for CERT 36 and with Valentine's Day fast approaching, what a great gift for your loved one!! (no, I am not married, why do you ask?)
Remember, the most versatile type of extinguisher to have in your house is an ABC as it will put out the typical types of fires you can expect to find in the home. If you do not think your extinguisher has a full charge, then dispose of it and go purchase a new one. I would recommend you take the extinguisher outside, away from your house and discharge it into a plastic garbage bag. With the pressure released, the extinguisher is safe to dispose of in the garbage.
When in doubt, throw it out....it is only your safety we are talking about.

Monday, February 2, 2009

New Citizen Corps Newsletter

Download the full bulletin: Volume 3, Issue 1: January 29, 2009 (PDF 815KB)

Highlights include:
  • Citizen Corps Looks Ahead to New Era
  • 2009 National Conference on Community Preparedness: August 9-12, 2009
  • Share Your Vision and Ideas with the Obama Administration
  • President Obama’s USAService.org Features Citizen Corps
  • Janet Napolitano Sworn in as Secretary of Homeland Security: Former Governor Created Arizona State Citizen Corps Council

First CERT Outreach event of 2009

Our first CERT Outreach event of 2009 was Saturday January 31 at Mt Vernon High School supporting the Mt. Vernon annual Town Hall meeting. We were among many other booths informing the community of services, information and volunteer opportunities throughout the area. NGA (National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency) was there highlighting there new construction called new Campus East. This is the largest construction project at this time on the east coast. Public affairs from Ft Belvoir Community Hospital was there with information about the new hospital that is going up to replace Walter Reed hospital that is closing due to BRAC. The cafeteria of the school was filled by 0745 to greet the residents of the Mt Vernon area. I even got to pet a giant Madagascar hissing cockroach. The Fairfax CERT booth had a great location and had many people stop and ask what we were all about and thanked us for our service to the community.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Mt. Vernon Town Hall Meeting

The first CERT outreach event for 2009! On Saturday, January 31, Terry, your volunteer PIO and Judy, your outreach coordinator, supported CERT with a display of our program at the Mt Vernon Town Hall meeting. The town hall meeting is an annual event hosted by Fairfax County Supervisor Hyland (Mt Vernon)and has many Fairfax County agencies participating. The community turn-out Saturday morning was tremendous, and later there was a debate from the candidates for County Chairman. Each of those candidates stopped by our display to learn more of our program. Terry also doubled for the display for Medical Reserve Corps, which he is also a volunteer. Great job to both of you!