Thursday, May 29, 2014

Action Alert: Download the FEMA Disaster Reporter App and Share Your CERT Selfie!

Fairfax County CERTs -- you can help raise the profile of Fairfax County CERT, just by taking a selfie!

Your humble blogger, taking a selfie to upload with the FEMA mobile app.
  1. Download the FEMA smartphone app (available free for Android, iOS, and BlackBerry devices)
  2. Use the app's Disaster Reporter feature to take a photo: It should be a self portrait of you wearing your CERT gear; a pic of you and your emergency preparedness kit; or one from a previous CERT drill or exercise. (Note: You can only upload geotagged photos.)
  3. Add a caption and description to your photo and share it using the app.
Special Note: If you can upload your photo by noon ET on Thursday, May 29, your photo may be seen in a briefings for high-level federal officials... and perhaps even the President! (If you can't make it by noon, you can still upload your CERT selfie through June 6.)

The FEMA mobile app's Disaster Reporter submission screen.

Background: As part of National Hurricane Preparedness Week, FEMA administrator Craig Fugate is challenging all CERTs to download FEMA's mobile app, and use its Disaster Reporter feature to take a CERT selfie and upload it.

Administrator Fugate wants to literally put CERT teams "on the map" (take a look at what other CERTs have uploaded); show how crowdsourced information can be used to help emergency responders; and use the CERT selfies in demonstrations and briefings showing the capabilities of CERT and hard-working CERT volunteers.

Once you've taken and shared your CERT selfie, try out the other features of the FEMA app, which is an easy way for CERTs and non-CERTs alike to instantly increase their emergency preparedness knowledge and get resources useful before, during, and after a disaster.

So, what are you waiting for? Share your CERT selfie, and help raise the profile of CERT and Fairfax County CERTs!

(p.s. If you don't already get email updates from FEMA, sign up now: Get free updates from FEMA via email or text message)

Joe Loong is a Blog Editor and Social Media Specialist for Fairfax County CERT. You can email him at

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Save on CHAINSAWS (and Duct tape, Flashlights, and More) During Virginia Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday, May 25 to 31, 2014

I hope everyone is enjoying their Memorial Day Holiday weekend; I also wanted to remind you that today marks the beginning of National Hurricane Preparedness Week (May 25-31).

Even though the weather right now is terrific, remember that hurricane season in the US starts June 1!

To help people prepare, the National Weather Service's National Hurricane Center will feature a different hurricane preparedness video every day this week, which you can see in the embedded player below, or on their YouTube channel:

What About Chainsaws? You Promised Chainsaws!

This week also marks the Virginia's Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday, where you can build or restock your 72-hour-emergency kit and get other hurricane and disaster preparedness supplies without having to pay sales tax.

CERTs will no doubt be interested in items like:
  • First aid kits
  • Duct tape, rope, and tarps
  • Weather radios and two-way radios
  • Flashlights, lanterns, headlamps, and glow sticks
  • Batteries and cell phone chargers
  • Fire extinguishers
  • And bigger-ticket items like portable generators, and for the first time, chainsaws!
You talk to me...
Chainsaw photo by Flickr user Stf.O. Used under Creative Commons: BY.
You can see the full list of qualifying items embedded below, as well as at the Virginia Department of Taxation page.

Shop smart, be safe, and have a great holiday weekend!

Joe Loong is a Blog Editor and Social Media Specialist for Fairfax County CERT. You can email him at

Friday, May 16, 2014

Demoing Duct Tape Triage Tags and Dashboards at the Emergency Management Institute

Here's a dispatch from Fairfax County CERT Assistant Volunteer Lead Anita Van der Merwe, who, along with Fairfax County Fire & Rescue's Dana Powers, is taking a training course at the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Emergency Management Institute in Emmitsburg, Maryland:
Asst. Volunteer Lead Anita Van der Merwe demonstrates duct tape triage tags and dashboards. Photo: Dana Powers.
I am taking the CERT "Train the Trainer" class at the Emergency Management Institute (EMI) in Emmitsburg Maryland this week.

There are 41 students in the class from all over the country. Many of the students are the program managers for their CERT programs.

The Course Manager saw a demo I did in my breakout group and asked me to present it to the full class, which also includes 4 FEMA instructors.

I covered the Fairfax County way of using duct tape for tagging the injured: desktop on one leg, tags on the other. It was well received, and there were good questions.

Go Fairfax! Go duct tape!
Good work, Anita! Here's a portion of her demonstration, which is available on the Fairfax County CERT YouTube Channel (which is a thing -- don't forget to subscribe to our channel to get notified when we post new videos):


Why Duct Tape?

Now, why does Fairfax County CERT use duct tape and magic markers (we recommend Sharpie-brand retractable markers, for easy, one-handed use) to tag and record patient information, when there are purpose-built triage tags already used by first responders?

The simple answer is: Triage tags (and triage tape, and colored flagging tape, and...) are great, but citizen responders are probably not going to have those specialized items handy during a disaster, whereas you can find magic markers and duct tape just about anywhere.

And once you're trained using the "duct tape tag and dashboard" method, it's easy to adapt what you've learned to other methods.

About EMI Training

CERT groups in the DC metro area are lucky we have the Emergency Management Institute fairly close by (it's only an hour-and-a-half drive away). Anita and Dana are taking the "Train the Trainer" course, which teaches CERT leaders how to train others in CERT skills.

The EMI offers specialized training for all sorts of emergency management and first responder types. Trained, committed CERTs have the opportunity to take EMI courses at no charge -- though you first need to get approval from our sponsoring organization, the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department.

Of course, the EMI has lots of other courses useful for CERTs that you can take from the comfort of your own home -- check out the EMI's Independent Study Program, where you can take courses on the emergency manager role, the Incident Command System (ICS), and much, much more.

Joe Loong is a Blog Editor and Social Media Specialist for Fairfax County CERT. You can email him at

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Request for CERT Volunteers for May & June Events

Greetings, CERTs! Spring weather is heating up, and so is the Fairfax County CERT events calendar. We need CERT volunteers for events in May and June.

At some events, CERT has an Operational role, where we provide valuable service to the community, while at the same time, we practice organizing and operating under an Incident Command Structure (ICS), just like we would in a disaster response.

At other events, we have an Outreach role, promoting awareness of the CERT program and community disaster preparedness.

And, at some events, we do both.

Registration note: Eventually, we'll use the new countywide volunteer management system to manage just about every volunteer opportunity we've got. Right now, we're still integrating it into our process, so please read each listed opportunity to see how you can step up and register.

CERT bike team from the May 2013 Girls on the Run. Photo: James Sobecke
Spring 2014 Girls on the Run 5K Race
Date: Saturday, May 17, 6:30 AM - 9:30 AM
Location: Mosaic District, Merrifield, VA
Type: Operational -- Course Marshalling
Details: We need 30 volunteers who have completed CERT training to serve as Course Marshals; CERTs will help with communications, logistics, maintaining runner safety, managing crowds, and more. This is a high-visibility event that always has a strong turnout.
To Register:
1. Go to the volunteer management system and sign up at Hit "Apply" and enter the requested data.
2. Within 24 hours, you'll be approved for the event.
3. Once you're approved, register with Girls on the Run

If you have problems or questions when registering, please email Jeffrey Katz at 

6th Annual Ambulance Chase 5K & 1/2 Mile Fun Run
Date: Saturday, May 24
Location: Fairfax, VA
Type: Operational -- Course Marshalling; Incident Commander Needed
Details: This 5K event benefiting the Fair Oaks Volunteer Fire & Rescue Company begins at the Government Center and goes through Fair Oaks. We need CERTs as Course Marshals; this is also your opportunity to be Incident Commander and apply your CERT training to manage a non-emergency event.
To Register: Please email Rolf at

Herndon Festival
Date: Thursday, May 29 through Sunday, May 31
Location: Herndon, VA
Type: Operational -- Crowd Management, First Aid Station Help
Details: We need CERTs to help manage crowds and staff the First Aid Station at the very popular Herndon Festival.
To Register: Please email Rolf at

Springfield Days
Date: Sunday, June 1
Location: Springfield, VA
Type: Outreach
Details: Do you like talking to people about CERT? Meet people at this community celebration and encourage them to learn more about CERT and preparedness. See more about the event:
To Register: Please email Rolf at

Celebrate Fairfax
Date: Friday, June 6 through Sunday, June 8
Location: Fairfax, VA
Type: Operational -- Lost Child Station; Outreach
Details: CERTs will assist with Lost Child registration, as well as doing community outreach at the CERT booth. Volunteers are needed starting Friday from 6 PM to midnight, Saturday from 10 AM to midnight, and Sunday from 11 AM to 7 PM. Four-hour shifts are appreciated, though we will welcome whatever assistance you can provide. See more about the event:
To Register: Please email Incident Commander Donna Hosek and Shannon Klee

Events Being Planned

Date: Saturday, Sept. 13
Location: Fairfax, VA
Type: Outreach - Demonstration Station
Details: A multi-organization event to increase community awareness for disaster preparation.
To Help: Contact Planning Chief: James Sobecke at

Boy Scout Camporee
Date: Saturday, Sept. 13
Location: Fire and Rescue Academy, Fairfax, VA
Type: Outreach - Demonstration Stations
Details: Staffing CERT skills demonstrations and instruction at this event for Boy Scouts at the Fire Academy.
To Help: Contact Incident Commander Rolf Madole at