Thursday, September 26, 2013

You Don't Have to Be a Victim (But It'd Be Cool If You Were)

Moulaged victim actor smiles at the CERT Con 2013 full-scale exercise. Photo: Joe Loong

Victim Coordinator Missy sends in her most recent email to CERTs:

Our CERT classes at the Fairfax Fire and Rescue Academy and Station 22 (Springfield Fire Station) are in full swing. We’re looking for Victim Actors on the following dates: 

September 30
October 2
October 7
October 9
October 16
October 21
October 23
October 28
October 30

You may be covered in theatrical make-up (moulage); could be lying in a burn building; or even looking for your imaginary friend. These scenarios allow our students to gain insight and learn to treat multiple victims in a short period of time. 

For more information or to register, email Missy at If this is your first time volunteering with us, no worries! We’ll explain the process and scenarios. You’ll do a lot of screaming and yelling and have a great deal of fun in the process. :)

(And as CERT Jack Ledgerwood reminds us in a comment on our Facebook page, save the date for November 2, when we'll need lots of victim actors for the big graduation exercise, where our current CERT trainees will have to put all of their new skills to the test in a highly realistic training environment. Stay tuned for details!)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

When Was the Last Time You Looked in Your First Aid Kit?

As a CERT, chances are better than average that you have a first aid kit around. (Somewhere.)

However, Jeffrey Katz, Volunteer Liaison, Fairfax County Fire and Rescue, passes along this most recent newsletter from the Center for Wilderness Safety, which asks the provocative question:

When's the last time you really checked out your first aid kit?

First aid kit
Hope your first aid kit isn't this old. Image by Flickr user u07ch, used under Creative Commons license.
If you've ever gone to Target or any other name-brand shop to look at first aid kits, you've probably seen those 1000 piece first aid kits, and thought "Gee, that's a lot of stuff! I think I'll buy it!", only to get home to and open it to find that 900 of the pieces are either Band-Aids or gauze?

Just how useful do you think that kit is going to be out in the woods? If you're running through a field of thistles and thorns, your kit will be more than sufficient. Then again, if anything else were to happen in said field, you'd probably be wishing that you had a better first aid kit.

When you're out and about, enjoying the great outdoors, having a proper first aid kit is essential, but there's a lot more that goes into it than meets the eye. Once you've got your kit built, you have to stay active in its upkeep, or it could let you down when you really need it most.

Over time, gloves will dry-rot, or become brittle and will no longer stretch; instead they will tear and break. Alcohol, iodine, and handy-wipes can dry out. Checking them from time to time is worth the cost of opening one out of the batch to ensure they are still good. Keeping your first aid kit with you even when you aren't in the wilderness promotes being prepared and provides ongoing interaction with your kit.
Click to see the full article from the Center for Wilderness Safety, including tips on how to inventory and restock your first aid kits, and how to deal with medications and perishable items.

Suggestion for CERTs: Check the first aid supplies in your CERT bag and first aid kit, and if you find any items that are expired or otherwise need replacing, leave a comment below and share with your fellow CERTs.

As a side note: Apparently, "First Aid Kit" is also the name of a Swedish folk duo:

First Aid Kit
Image by Flickr user roboppy, used under Creative Commons license.

While I'm sure they're fantastic, they probably won't be around to help you or your family in case of an emergency.

Friday, September 13, 2013

September-October CERT Training Opportunities

Want to keep your CERT skills fresh and learn new ones? Here are Fairfax County CERT training classes and events coming up in September and October. (Remember, you can always see the calendar view of upcoming events on the CERT website, And to register for events and classes on the CERT website, see the instructions at the bottom of the page):

Biohazard! Infectious Control / Blood Borne Pathogens (Training)
Date: Tuesday, September 17, 7:30PM-10PM
Location: Annandale Volunteer Fire Department, Fire Station 8
Details: This annual refresher training covers the types of infectious diseases, presentation of symptoms, likelihood and method of transmission, and other general hazards and risks associated with bodily fluids. The 9/15, 9/16, and 9/23 classes are full; space is still available for the September 17 class.
To Register: Sign up on the CERT website,

(Photo: Flickr user nickelmedia)

CERTs get a safety briefing before last year's Capital Shield. (Photo: Flickr user joelogon)
Capital Shield (Exercise)
Date: Tuesday, October 1 and Wednesday, October 2
Location: Fort Belvior area
Details: Fairfax County CERT has been once again invited to participate in the annual Capital Shield exercise hosted by the Joint Force Headquarters National Capital Region. CERTs will work alongside first responders from civilian and military agencies from around the area, and will be integrated into operations with multiple jurisdictions in a simulated disaster event. Our role this year includes moulage, search and rescue, and victim actor extrication. You can participate one or both days!
Note: This event is limited to individuals who have completed CERT training.
If you have questions, please contact the event planner at
To Register: Sign up on the CERT website, and sign up for October 1 and/or October 2

Fall for Fairfax KidsFest (Outreach)
Date: Saturday, October 5, 10AM-7PM and Sunday, October 6, 10AM-5PM.
Location: Fairfax County Government Center (See event website.)
Details: Staff the CERT outreach table and promote CERT and preparedness to children and their families. Staffing schedules will be determined by the number of CERTs who sign up.
To Register: Sign up on the CERT website,

IMG_1737 Deafness and Hearing Loss: The Communication Challenges for Emergency Responders (Training)
Date: Thursday, October 10, 7-9PM
Location: Fairfax County Government Center
Details: Bonnie O'Leary, Director of Community Outreach Programs, Northern Virginia Resource Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Persons, gave a very popular presentation at this year's CERT Con on what CERTs need to know when working with people who are deaf or hard of hearing. By popular demand, we're offering a more in-depth followup for CERTs.
To Register: Sign up on the CERT website,

(Bonnie O'Leary photo from CERT Con 2013 by Flickr user joelogon)

IMG_4435 Fairfax County Fire Station Open Houses (Outreach)
Date: Saturday, October 12, 10AM-4PM
Bailey's Crossroads, Fire Station 10
Burke, Fire Station 14
Centreville, Fire Station 17
Dunn Loring, Fire Station 13
Fair Oaks, Fire Station 21
Greater Springfield, Fire Station 22
Vienna, Fire Station 02
West Springfield, Fire Station 27
Help educate the public and our first responders about the important role that CERT plays in the community. This is primarily CERT outreach, though some stations may use CERT as a resource to help manage their open house (in which case, they feed us).
Note: Open to CERTs who have completed training.
To Register: If you'd like to participate, or don't see your local station listed, please email Judy Howell at

(Photo from 2010 McLean open house by Flickr user joelogon)

To Register for CERT Training Classes and Events:

Visit and log in. If you don't have an account, you'll need to register for one. After you've logged in:
  1. Click the "Training" tab in the navigation bar
  2. Select "Training Calendar"
  3. You'll see the current month's classes and events. Find the one you want, or click the right arrow (>>) to see events and classes in the next month.
  4. Click on the listing you want. (If you see a listing but can't click on it, enrollment is closed -- the class is probably full.)
  5. You'll see details about the class. To enroll in a class, click the blue "Enroll" button. After you successfully enroll, you'll receive an email confirmation.
Important Technical Note: The site works best with Firefox and Chrome web browsers. Internet Explorer and mobile users may have problems registering. If you're unable to register, please email your name and which class you want to attend to

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

One Simple Step to Make Yourself More Prepared for Disasters

At a disaster resilience conference in DC last week, Craig Fugate, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), asked attendees to do one simple thing that would make them more prepared for disasters:

Take out your smartphone and:

Okay, that's two steps, but the point is, just by doing these two things makes you more prepared for disasters.

Craig Fugate, Administrator, FEMA, speaks at a National Academy of Sciences conference on resilience. Image by Flickr user joelogon, used under Creative Commons license.
Preparedness Starts With a Single Step

Of course, there's a lot more that people should do to get prepared. But as Craig points out, when we try to convince people to prepare for disasters, we usually throw too much information at them.

For example, look at right now: It's National Preparedness Month. There's a lot -- a lot -- of useful information flying around, from a lot of different folks, about what you should know and what you should do to prepare for disasters: How to make a disaster plan. What to put in a first-aid kit. Why preparing for a zombie apocalypse makes sense. How to prepare your pets for disasters.

It's all necessary info, but if you're starting from scratch, it can be overwhelming. Forget 30 things; even getting down into the details of the 3 things you should do to prepare (be informed; make a plan; build a kit) can cause you to throw up your hands.

Don't take it from me: According to a 2013 survey, fewer than half of US families even have an emergency plan for use in a disaster.

Preparing People to Prepare

Asking people to bookmark a page and install an app is a small step that's super easy to do. And that's the point: It's a gateway step that, at the very least, will direct them to news and information in case of a disaster.

More importantly, it's a way to get people to buy into the mindset of disaster preparedness. And here's a direct quote from Craig: "Being prepared is more about a state of mind, not a stack of supplies."

Having a prepared state of mind is completely free. And it's the first and most important step in a journey to preparedness.

As how people should define "preparedness," instead of trying to define it with technical terms like "72-hour" or "shelter in place," Craig characterized preparedness as the ability to answer this simple question:

What are you going to do if something happens and you can't get through on the phone?

Now, if you're reading this blog post, you're probably either already a CERT, or want to become one, so you're already more prepared than most of the people you know. But as we continue on through National Preparedness Month and try to help others prepare, remember that the biggest step may be a small first step.