Sunday, February 28, 2010

Changing of the PIO guard...Welcome our new CERT volunteer PIO!

Hi folks!
This will be my last post as your volunteer PIO. I've accepted a new position with my old company, in a new and more exciting/demanding/time intensive role. Between the commute and the demands of running a very busy rental operation; I will no longer have the time to devote to volunteer PIO duties. (Who's the most important person?)
Since taking on this position in August, 2007 I've seen CERT outreach grow from doing single events to working over 125 events a year-from running an outreach booth at small community events to putting on extrication demonstrations for thousands at the Home and Garden show this weekend. Folks, CERT outreach has grown by leaps and bounds; much like the program overall.
I'm proud to say I had a part in making this happen. And it has been just a small part; because each and every one of YOU have made this growth happen. Each time you put on your vest and PPE, each time you tell a neighbor about the stuff you did during training; you did outreach duties. You all have let people know who we are and what we're all about-furthering interest and participation in the Fairfax County CERT program. (And I bet you told people about creative uses of duct tape and sharpies too!) Together we have made this program one of the finest in the country. I am honored to have helped in this quest to prepare the community at large for disasters. And I've had a blast doing it too!

Please welcome our new volunteer PIO, Matteo Recanatini. Matte0 a graduate of CERT 39 and has a first class resume in PR, marketing and outreach activities. He does promotion, PR and marketing professionally; and has stepped up to offer his wealth of experience to the program. CERT will benefit in a huge way from his expertise. Matteo, welcome aboard!
The email address will transfer over to him very shortly; for now this email can be used to reach him-
I have one final request for all members of the CERT family-welcome Matteo, support him as much as you can and help carry the CERT program forward !

Thanks to all of you for your support and camaraderie over the years; I am honored to have served a group of such fine people and such a fine organization.

You ROCK, Fairfax County CERT!


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Fireplace Safety

While we hit on fireplace and chimney safety during the Fire Extinguisher class, here is a video which outlines how to inspect your fireplace, types of fireplaces, how to select the wood you use in your fireplace, lighting and tending to a fire, how to extinguish a fire and fireplace maintenance.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

See the new CERT Trailer

Coming to the Home & Garden Show February 25-28, the new Fairfax County CERT trailer! Come see it for yourself, free! You just need to participate at our outreach booth for a few hours one of the 4 days of the show. Email If you can't wait, here is a sneak peek.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Help Fairfax County Public Schools Dig Out Today!!

The following request came from Fairfax County Schools and Volunteer Fairfax. Although schools are closed for students, all the adults are working hard to make it safe for the kids to return to school. If you can help out from 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. 2/15, grab your shovel and head over to your local school. Thanks! Cathleen

Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) is calling for volunteers to help clear sidewalks, walking paths, fire hydrants, and bus stop locations, as part of the school system's efforts to re-open schools as soon as possible. Schools will be closed Monday, February 15, but hope to re-open on Tuesday. When schools do re-open, road and sidewalk conditions will remain less than ideal and the school system is worried about the safety of its students and staff. Considering the extraordinary circumstances created by the recent winter weather, FCPS and Volunteer Fairfax are asking community members to join in an extraordinary effort to help with student safety.

On Monday, while schools are closed for students, school staff members will be in their buildings preparing for the return of students. FCPS and Volunteer Fairfax are asking that volunteers report to the school in their neighborhood anytime between the hours of 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., with shovels or other snow-clearing tools. Someone in the school will give directions on what sidewalks, walking paths, and bus stops need to be cleared based upon those most used by students. Fire hydrants will also need to be cleared.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Hi folks!
I am reposting this request with some new information. We could REALLY use the help!

Fairfax County CERT has been given a unique opportunity-placing a CERT display and doing extrication demonstration drills at the Capital Home & Garden Show running February 25-28th at the Dulles Expo Center. Check out the advertising for Fairfax county CERT on the home and garden show web page! The relevant link is below.

FYI- We can expect to see an average of 35,000 people over the course of the 3 ½ days. In addition we can expect media coverage of our activities.

Show Dates & Times-we will be doing CERT skill demonstrations every two hours (or less-if we get a crowd we can do a demo on the spot as necessary) of these times. We are committed to doing the drills every two hours (and signage will be placed all around the show with our drill times on them).

Thursday, February 25-5:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Friday, February 26-10:00 am - 9:00 pm
Saturday,February 27-10:00 am - 9:00 pm
Sunday, February 28-10:00 am - 6:00 pm

Folks,we are going to need LOTS of CERT help on this one. We need CERT help with the demonstrations and to help with the display. Our greatest need for CERT help will be Friday, Saturday and Sunday-these days will be the largest in terms of crowds.

The CERT extrication demonstration drills will be held every two hours for the benefit of the audiences. We have been given an entire corner of one of the exposition halls (which was given to us for free; the show exhibitors pay around $ 12.00 per square foot for it!) This space will be used for fire department and CERT activities. This is an event widely covered by local and regional media. With the recent earthquake in Haiti still fresh in everyones' minds; this would be the ideal event to keep emergency preparedness in the minds of the population.

Our event IC , James from CERT 32 has planned a very interesting and safely orchestrated demonstration for the crowds at the event. This will be an extrication drill that will show how CERT basic and CERT 2/3 members can work side by side in a challenging disaster environment scenario. For those who have participated in prior public CERT demonstrations, you know crowds will be attracted to us like a magnet.......So come on out and show your CERT stuff!

We need CERT help for all hours, all days of this event; this event is open to CERT Basic and CERT 2/3 graduates.If you are interested in helping, please email James at with your name, CERT class number; what day/days you can work and a good phone number. Please CC me at and CC judy, our outreach coordinator at as well.

This will be a great chance to promote CERT and preparedness to people all over the region. Come and be a part of it!

your volunteer PIO

Before & after in just 15 minutes

Taking 15 minutes of your day can save property or a life!
Adopt a hydrant this weekend!

Community Preparedness Webinar Series: Earthquake Preparedness - Feb 18th at 2:00 EST

Hey everyone ... our own Steve Willey is presenting!!

LIVE Webinar:
Earthquake Preparedness – Lessons Learned from Haiti and California
Feb 18 @ 2pm ET

The Community Preparedness Webinar Series focuses on bringing together government and community leaders to involve citizens in all-hazards preparedness and resilience. The recent 7.0 earthquake that shook Haiti less than 800 miles from Miami, FL, has raised awareness that such an event could occur in America.

Presenting on the topics of education, preparedness, training, and community involvement will be Mark Benthien, Director for Communication, Education and Outreach (CEO) for the Southern California Earthquake Center and Executive Director of the Earthquake Country Alliance, and Steve Willey, a member of the Fairfax County Urban Search and Rescue Team (Virginia Task Force 1) and a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) instructor for Fairfax County, VA.

The Community Preparedness Webinar Series features new community preparedness topics several times each month and is free to the public. Registration is not required to attend. Each webinar will accommodate the first 500 visitors that enter the website at the time of the webinar. In addition to airing live, the webinar will be recorded and viewable after it completes at your convenience.

If you need special accommodations or require additional assistance to view or listen to this webinar, please email no later than 5pm EST on Tuesday, February 16th.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

And now the digging out begins..........

Hi folks!
Well, it looks as though all of the snow has finally fallen. Now comes the joys of digging out. (Who needs a gym membership, we now have 2'-3' feet of snow to remove........)
As with any physical exercise, snow removing is done best with a little personal and equipment preparation . These tips are from Popular Mechanics magazine, and you may find them particularly useful.

your volunteer PIO

1. Stretch first!

Don't be in a hurry to get outside. Stretch thoroughly using the same sorts of moves that runners, mountain bikers and other athletes use. Stretch your hamstrings, stretch your back, and stretch your shoulders. Then dress in removable layers, grab your shovel and resist the urge to fly at the white stuff just to get the job done. Pace yourself. Start slowly and ramp up to speed.

2. Don't move snow twice.

Before you even take your first scoop, decide where you're going to dump the snow. Drop the first shovelful farther away from where you are standing, then dump remaining snow closer and closer to where you are. That way, the last scoops that you shovel are moved the shortest distance. Don't block access to snow that needs to be removed by piling it up in a way that will force you to move it twice.

3. Move snow the shortest distance possible.

Consider that everything from a driveway to a patio to a walkway is really a rectangle, and rectangles have a center point. Move the snow from the center of the rectangle to the nearest edge.

4. Clear cars first.
Brush snow off cars then clear around the cars.

5. Do the foreground then the background.

For example, to clear snow from a rectangle, first shovel a strip clear along the perimeter of the rectangle. Then, moving from the center to the edge, push the snow into the cleared area. Next, lift and throw the snow out of the area.

6. Maintain proper posture:

A. Use your leg muscles as much as possible - push snow when you can and use your legs to lift when you can't push it.
B. Keep your back straight as you move from the squat position to the upright position.
C. Use your shoulder muscles as much as possible.
D. Hold the snow shovel as close to your upper body as possible.
E. Keep one hand close to the shovel blade for better leverage.
F. Don't twist your upper body as you throw snow.

7. Keep hydrated!

Take bottles of water out with you and keep them accessible, either in the car or on the front stoop or somewhere else convenient.

8. Rest frequently.
Clearing an area by hand means that you may lift and carry anywhere from hundreds of pounds to tons of snow.

9. Be thorough but not fussy.

The sun is relatively strong this time of year. Clear an area, spread de-icer if necessary and then let the sun do the rest. The fact is, any surface color that you expose in shoveling (gray, green, brown or black) will be far less reflective than a thick blanket of snow, and remaining snow will melt more easily from that darker surface.

10. Don't overdress.

You need to stay warm, but if you overdress you're going to be soaked in sweat in no time. Dress in loose-fitting layers that you can peel off as you heat up.

11. Whenever possible, team up!
Shoveling with a friend or neighbor is inherently more enjoyable than shoveling on your own. Plus, it's quicker to get the job done with two or three sets of hands.

12. Go easy on the de-icer.

Once the area is clear, all you need is a thin scattering of de-icer to keep it that way. If you're scattering by hand, throw the salt, pellets or granules low along the ground so they bounce and roll into a uniform layer.

13. Whenever possible, get a head start!

It's easier to remove snow in thin layers than wait until all the snow is down to have at it. If it looks like your area is going to get dumped on, try to get out there and shovel it in several passes.

14. Maintain your equipment.

The front edge of a snow shovel takes a beating. If it's metal, hammer it straight when it gets bent; if it's plastic use a utility knife to carve off the burr that forms on its end. Tighten a loose handle by driving a large hex head sheet metal screw through the blade socket and into the handle.

15. Stretch when you're done!

Stretch gently when you're done and use an ice pack and ibuprofen to take care of inflamed muscles. Rest and remain hydrated.

How to Use a Snow Thrower.

In case all that stretching sounds like too much work, here are some tips for using a snow-throwing machine.

1. Test run the machine before the storm.
2. Keep necessary spare parts on hand: drive belts, spark plugs and shear pins.
3. Keep a wire brush, a scrap piece of wood and spray de-icer handy. You may well need any number of tools to keep the machine's auger and other moving parts cleared of ice and compacted snow. Never clear a clogged auger with the engine running.
4. Don't forget the newspaper that's been thrown into the driveway or onto the sidewalk. A frozen newspaper can clog a snow thrower like nobody's business. If you spot the paper or circular's outline under the snow when you come home (let's say) just remember to go out there and pick it up.
5. Keep a can of spray lubricant handy. Moving parts that worked fine in the garage can suddenly get cranky when exposed to cold, wet conditions.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Roof Safety tips from Fairfax County OEM

Hi folks!
I know each of us are looking out the window this evening, watching the snow come down yet again. (Snowmageddon 2? SnOMG 2010? Snowmageddon 2-the "freezquel"? There are some great nicknames for this snow we have had!)

Call it what you wish; but we are expecting another 10" to 20" between tonight and tomorrow evening. With the 24" already on the ground (and the roofs of our homes) roof safety is something to consider.
Below are some useful very good roof safety tips from our county office of emergency management.
Stay safe and warm!

your volunteer PIO
(still snowed in!)

As heavy snow continues to accumulate, the Fairfax County Snow and Roof Safety Web page at offers important safety measures for flat roofs. If a roof has collapsed, call 9-1-1.

Information from the Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services addresses:

Single Family Homes and Townhomes — If there is a flat roof, monitor the ceiling below and look for signs of roof distress. Evacuate if you notice any of these warning signs:
• Sagging ceiling beneath the flat roof.
• New cracks on ceiling drywall or plaster.
• Popping, cracking or creaking sounds.
• Doors and/or windows that can no longer be opened or closed.

Residents should not attempt to access their roofs to try to clear the snow due to the safety concerns of slipping off the roof and exposure to electrical wires. Residents should clear the areas around downspouts and roof drains so that melting water has a path to flow away from the house when the snow begins to melt.

Commercial Buildings — Most commercial buildings are designed to accommodate a roof snow load associated with 24 inches of dense, compact and/or wet snow. If there are any of the warning signs below, the building needs to be evacuated immediately:
• Sagging roof members including steel bar joists, metal decking, wood rafters, wood trusses and plywood sheathing.
• Popping, cracking and creaking sounds.
• Sagging ceiling tiles and/or sagging sprinkler lines and sprinkler heads.
• Doors and/or windows that can no longer be opened or closed.

Residents also may contact the Fairfax County Emergency Information Line at 703-817-7771, TTY 711 for more information; voice mail messages will be monitored and returned.

Emergency information is available on Fairfax County’s Web site (, Facebook (, Twitter (, emergency information phone line (703-817-7771), the Community Emergency Alert Network (CEAN) and on Fairfax County Government Channel 16. In addition, 1670 AM, emergency radio for Fairfax County, is broadcasting continuous weather information directly from the National Weather Service.

Additional winter weather preparedness information can be found at

Sent by Fairfax OEM to All users (e-mail accounts, cell phones & pagers) through the Fairfax County CEAN

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A CERT way to help during "Snowmageddon 2010"..

Hi folks!
I wanted to show you some beautiful sights-to our firefighters. I know we're all drowning in two feet or more of snow right now; but so are the fire hydrants.

If a building is on fire, every second counts. Firefighters having to locate and dig out snow covered fire hydrants just slows down response times; time that can truly make a difference in saving lives and property. Some, but not all fire hydrants in the county have flags attached to them for easy locating. (The ones in my community do not). We CERT members can do an important service that will help our neighbors and our families. And it's GREAT exercise too!

If you have a fire hydrant in your neighborhood, dig it out! I was told by one of the county fire marshals that digging a 3 foot space around a snow buried fire hydrant is a HUGE help to them. This simple act allows easy access to attach hoses and manouver around the hydrant.
Be safe! while doing this; and remember the most important person-ME. There is no priority list of fire hydrants; all of them need to be visible and accessible.

For example, I live in a 165 apartment community in the south county area. The roads in the community have been untouched. There are five fire hydrants on the property and all of them were almost completely covered with drifting snow. None of them have marking flags on them either. I dug all of them out. If a fire occurs here; it will take additional minutes for the fire department to get into the community-because our community has not been plowed yet. But, valuable time will be saved because all of the hydrants are cleared off and ready for use.
I can also tell you it is a great way to meet your neighbors, and it's a sure fire way to cure cabin fever!

your volunteer PIO

Winter Storm Warning Remains in Effect; Residents Encouraged to Check on Neighbors

A flash news release from VDEM for you.PLEASE be careful if you have to go out!
your volunteer PIO

A winter storm warning remains in effect until 10 p.m. tonight, with additional accumulations of 4-6 inches of snow anticipated throughout the day.

With many thousands of people living in Fairfax County without power, residents are encouraged to check on their neighbors, especially the elderly. If a neighbor is without power and you have power service, please help as possible.

Road conditions remain hazardous. The Fairfax County Office of Emergency Management strongly recommends that residents remain indoors where occupants are not exposed to the current hazardous weather conditions. Also, Fairfax Connector bus service is suspended for Saturday Feb. 6.

Caution should be used with any approved auxiliary heating devices, such as kerosene, propane or natural gas heaters. Please keep combustibles away from all portable heating devices and candles, monitor their use and don't leave them unattended.

Please do not dial 9-1-1 to obtain information on the restoration of power. For power information, call your local provider.

Dominion Virginia Power: 1-888-667-3000

Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative (NOVEC): 703-335-0500 or toll-free 1-888-335-0500

Fairfax County Government offices and facilities, including libraries, are closed until 6 a.m. Monday, Feb. 8. Emergency service personnel should report as scheduled. Fairfax County Public Schools are closed for the weekend.

Emergency information is available on Fairfax County's Web site, Facebook, Twitter, emergency information phone line (703-817-7771), the Community Emergency Alert Network (CEAN) and on Fairfax County Government Channel 16. In addition, 1670 AM, emergency radio for Fairfax County, is broadcasting continuous weather information directly from the National Weather Service.

Additional winter weather preparedness information can be found online.

CERTs with 4x4 vehicles- HELP NEEDED

Hi folks!
I believe all of you got this important email request. I am reposting this to ensure every CERT got the message. THIS REQUEST IS OPEN TO ALL CERT BASIC, CERT 2 AND CERT 3 MEMBERS.

your volunteer PIO

The Fairfax County Office of Emergency Management has requested that we ask CERT for assistance. If you have a four-wheel drive vehicle and are willing to drive and transport individuals without power in their homes,
please email your contact information to include:

Name, address, and phone to Marcelo Ferreira at

If you do not have a four wheel drive or you are not willing to drive it, then please do not respond.


Marcelo Ferreira, Chairman, Citizen Corps Council

Friday, February 5, 2010

Fairfax County government services update

Here is some information regarding Fairfax county government offices and services for you.
Stay safe!

your volunteer PIO

Fairfax County Government offices and facilities will be closed from 2
p.m. today, Friday, Feb. 5, through 6 a.m. Monday, Feb. 8. Emergency
service personnel should report as scheduled.

The Fairfax County General District Court closed at noon today. Juvenile
and Domestic Relations District Court and Circuit Court will close at 2

Fairfax County Public Schools are closed today, Friday, Feb. 5 and for
the weekend.

Fairfax County Park Authority RECenters and other facilities are closed.
For classes offered by contractors at private business locations, please
call the location directly for their schedule.

Reston Community Center facilities at Hunters Woods and Lake Anne will
be closed following the Fairfax County Government decision to close all
county facilities today. Accordingly, all RCC programs, events and
rental activities are cancelled for today. Make-up classes will be
scheduled if possible. No refunds will be issued. Please call RCC at
703-476-4500, TTY 711 for more information.

The McLean Community Center and the Old Firehouse Teen Center be closed
following the Fairfax County Government decision to close all county
facilities today. All events, classes and rental activities are
cancelled for today. Make-up classes will be scheduled if possible.
Please call the MCC at 703-790-0123, TTY 711, or visit for more information.

Fairfax Connector bus service may be affected by the inclement weather.
Check the Connector Web page at for the
current operating status.

FASTRAN will transport critical medical care appointments only. For
general information about FASTRAN, call 703-222-9764, press 8; TTY 711
or online at

The library is also closed.

View the public meetings calendar for any potential cancellations of
public meetings of Fairfax County government Boards, Authorities or

Fairfax County emergency information is available at, on cable Channel 16, the Community Emergency
Alert Network (CEAN) or by calling 703-817-7771, TTY 711.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Winter weather tips from VDEM

Hi folks!
I know each of you are getting ready for this snow storm about to blow into the DC metro area tomorrow. Ah yes, yet again we CERTs get to experience the joys of shoveling sidewalks and digging your car out...........Yay. :(
This press releasel came out as a "flash news" item from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management this afternoon. "Flash news" means there are some very important items contained in the press release. There are some important winter safety tips here to share with your family and friends.
Stay warm!

your volunteer PIO

PS-Do you have a fire hydrant near your house? Lets do our fire and rescue department a HUGE favor-clear the snow from around it! If a fire occurs in your neighborhood; this simple act will help speed up incident response times. Lets help those who help us EVERY day.............

Virginia Department of Emergency Management
10501 Trade Court, Richmond, VA 23236

Bob Spieldenner, VDEM, (804) 674-2400

FOR RELEASE AT WILL - Feb. 4, 2010

Winter safety could save lives
RICHMOND, VA —The approaching winter storm will bring hazardous conditions to Virginia, ranging from freezing rain and high winds to sleet, snow and ice. Residents should take the time now to look at their specific needs and talk with their families and neighbors about what they would do in an emergency.

“Several Virginians have lost their lives due to winter weather this season, and we don’t want to lose any more,” said Michael Cline, state coordinator for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. “It is very important that everyone follow basic winter weather safety instructions and stay aware of the current weather forecast for their area.”

Basic weather safety involves staying off the roads, dressing in layers, having emergency supplies ready and avoiding overexertion.


Once freezing rain or snow begins to fall, stay off the roads. Only travel if absolutely necessary, and if you do, wear a seat belt.
* Know roads conditions before you leave. Current road conditions are available by calling 5-1-1 or visiting
* Have emergency supplies in your car. If you become stranded, you will need water, food, blankets, a radio, flashlight and extra batteries. Stay with your car. The Virginia Department of Transportation recommends running the car engine for heat for 10 minutes and then turning off the engine for 20 minutes.
Health concerns

Wear loose layers and a hat.
* Avoid overexertion during clean up, no matter your age or physical condition.
* Shoveling snow or pushing a car can bring on a heart attack or make other medical conditions worse.
Emergency heat

Generators should always be run outside, in well-ventilated areas. Get to fresh air immediately if you start to feel sick, weak or dizzy.
* Never use a portable generator in any enclosed or partially enclosed space. Windows and doors do not provide enough ventilation.
* Kerosene and propane heaters can cause fires if left unsupervised. If you use one, use only the recommended fuel. Always refuel outdoors safely away from your home.
* Keep an eye on your heater at all times while it is running. Shut it off before you go to bed or when you leave the house.
Emergency assistance
If you have a life-threatening emergency, call 9-1-1.

If you are seeking assistance for an elderly or disabled person during the storm, need information on warming shelters in the area or concerned about an unsheltered individual or family at risk of hypothermia, please dial 2-1-1 or visit

When you dial 2-1-1, a trained professional will listen to your situation and suggest sources of help using one of the largest databases of health and human services in your community and statewide. All referrals are confidential, and you can search for these same services on

Detailed safety information is available at