Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Fairfax County CERTs Train for Trains at WMATA-CERT Exercise

[Editor's note: Earlier this year, Fairfax County CERTs attended training classes held by the Washington, D.C. Metro Transit Police, under a program that teaches CERTs how, in event of emergency, to help themselves and their fellow transit riders until first responders arrive.

On Saturday, June 14, those students underwent a training exercise designed to test their new knowledge. Carlos Santiso, Fairfax County CERT Class 74, shares his photos and account of the training.]

The WMATA-CERT Exercise is part of the training provided by the Metro Transit Police to CERT members. The class training previous to this exercise teaches us how to react to emergencies ranging from rail safety to identification of terrorist activity.

Fairfax County CERTs during the pre-exercise briefing. All photos by Carlos Santiso.
This exercise is the culmination of the training and consists of a classroom presentation/briefing and two drills.

A view of "The Rollover Rig."
The first drill takes place on a "derailed" train car where its inclination can be changed at will by the trainers.

Rings around the train car allow the inclination to be controlled by trainers.

The exercise asks for the rescue of victims (mannequins) inside the car, with the challenge of extricating them while fighting the steep incline of the vehicle.

The incline adds to the challenge of maneuvering a mannequin between seats.
The other exercise is performed in a "tunnel simulator" where two Metro cars have suffered an accident. While looking for victims (actors) and checking out for hazards, the challenges are the damage suffered by the cars, the dark environment, and the smoke in the tunnel.

Students in the dark, smoky tunnel simulator.
According the Metro Police, there is no other facility like this one in the U.S.

Participants in the drills were CERT teams from Fairfax County; Arlington County; the City of Alexandria; Washington, DC; and Montgomery County, Maryland.

CERTs from multiple area jurisdictions participated in the exercise.
A difference to note: Although we used our hardhats, vests, and gloves, we were asked not to use our backpacks. The reason was to pretend we were there just on a normal day's commute when the tragedy happened. The only tool we were to use was our knowledge.

This is a unique opportunity to increase our level of preparedness (and it’s fun too!)

Fairfax County CERTs pose in front of the rollover simulator.
If you didn't take it yet, don’t miss the next one!

[See more photos from this and other exercises on the Fairfax County CERT Facebook page. The next WMATA training class for Fairfax County CERTs is tentatively scheduled for September 2014. To take the free training course, you must have completed CERT training, be an active CERT and Metro rider, and be a U.S. citizen over 18. For more information about this and other CERT training opportunities, visit volunteer.fairfaxcounty.gov and search for "CERT". ]

Carlos Santiso is a Communications Coordinator for Fairfax County CERT and member of various CERT teams in the region. You can email him at radio@fairfaxcountycert.org.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Try This One Simple Trick to Make Yourself More Prepared*

What's one concrete step Fairfax County residents can take right now to increase their emergency preparedness?

Sign up for free emergency alerts from Fairfax County's updated emergency alert system, Fairfax Alerts.

Rolling out today, Fairfax Alerts is the county's system for sending you alerts for severe weather, traffic, and other emergencies. And you can get them the way you want to receive them: text message, email, smartphone app, and even landline phone.
Fairfax Alerts logo
Fairfax Alerts replaces the previous CEAN alerting system; if you had alerts set up on CEAN (which is shutting down in October), you'll need to set up a new account on Fairfax Alerts. Here's the message they sent out:

Fairfax County has transitioned to its new and improved “Fairfax Alerts” system, as of today June 19, 2014. We encourage all CEAN users to visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/alerts to register for the new system.

Some Fairfax Alerts features include:

• Choose to receive traffic updates, emergency alerts and county government notifications.
• Choose automatic weather notifications for up to five (5) geo-targeted locations and the ability to set quiet periods for chosen weather alerts.
• Add up to ten (10) delivery methods such as email, cell phone, home phone and text messages.
• Mobile application available via iPhone or Android devices.
• Fairfax Alerts is FREE. You may incur charges from your cell phone company if you have a per-call or per message limit on your mobile device.

For additional information about Fairfax Alerts, please visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/alerts and share with family, friends and co-workers!

Fairfax Alerts: If we can’t reach you, we can’t alert you!
Questions about Fairfax Alerts click OEM-AlertSupport@fairfaxcounty.gov
Like the message says, you can customize your alerts for specific locations, as well as for the types of alerts you want to receive. For example, in the screenshot below, in my Severe Weather Alerts, I've skipped warnings and watches for excessive heat, freezes, and hurricanes (because we usually get a few days' warning from regular news), but kept thunderstorm and tornado watches and warnings (which can happen very quickly).

Screenshot of the Fairfax Alerts customization screen.

Check out answers to Frequently Asked Questions and register now for Fairfax Alerts.

Remember, the 3 steps for being prepared for emergencies are:

1. Make a plan
2. Have a kit
3. Stay informed

Setting up Fairfax Alerts is a great way to do #3, staying informed.

p.s. Sorry for the clickbait headline, but it's actually an adapted version of something I heard FEMA administrator Craig Fugate say at a preparedness conference: He asked us all to do one thing on the spot to increase our preparedness, which was download the FEMA mobile app. And we did.

Joe Loong, volunteer Social Media Specialist for Fairfax County CERT, is an editorial content and community engagement consultant. You can email him at blog@fairfaxcountycert.org