Thursday, September 25, 2014

Fairfax County CERTs Trigger Zombie Outbreak at NVCC Annandale

The United States government wants people to prepare for a zombie apocalypse, with their alleged reason being that if people are prepared for zombies, they're prepared for any disaster.   
Blood-spattered zombie on the NVCC Annandale campus. All photos by Donna Hosek (except where noted)

Whether you believe this is sound advice, or merely a cover story for an inevitable zombie outbreak masquerading as sound advice, we know that zombies catch people's attention and imagination, and can spur them to take preparedness measures in a way that warnings about more "mundane" disasters like hurricanes or earthquakes might not.

With this in mind, Northern Virginia Community College's (NVCC) Annandale campus enlisted the Fairfax County CERT Moulage (wound makeup) Team to provide zombie makeup for actors raising preparedness awareness on campus.

Moulage Lead Susy Ledgerwood applies zombie makeup to a participant.

Under the guidance of CERT Volunteer Instructor and Moulage Lead Susy Ledgerwood, the moulage team did its homework on the types of zombie makeup seen in popular shows like The Walking Dead and Dawn of the Dead, then adapted the supplies in their moulage kits (normally used to simulate injuries suffered by disaster victims) to create realistic zombie effects.

The results speak for themselves:

Once made up, the zombies shuffled across campus to participate in activities designed to raise awareness for National Preparedness Month.

In addition, members of the Fairfax County CERT Outreach team set up a booth to give participants and onlookers preparedness information, including how to build 72-hour emergency kits and develop disaster communication plans.

CERT Gary Nisker at the CERT Outreach booth at the NVCC Zombie Day event. Photo: Char Silberstein
CERT Outreach Lead Char Silberstein reports that they were nearly overrun by NVCC staff and students interested in learning more about the free preparedness and disaster response training offered by Fairfax County CERT.

With zombies still at the forefront of popular culture, and with Halloween fast approaching, CERT organizations looking to help raise awareness for preparedness might want to consider jumping on the zombie bandwagon and using their moulage skills to promote their CERT programs.

For more photos and videos from the campus zombie invasion, check out the Northern Virginia Community College Facebook page.

Update -- September 26: The zombie outbreak widened on Thursday, this time striking the Loudoun Campus of NVCC. Once again, Susy and Ginny of the Fairfax County CERT Moulage Team were on the scene. A reporter from FOX 5 DC captured video of the zombie invasion:

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

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Step Up to the Mic: Amateur (Ham) Radio Training Classes Starting September 30

CERTs (and friends): Volunteer Liaison Jeffrey Katz passes along two low-cost opportunities for you to get your amateur radio (ham) license from two area amateur radio clubs, both starting September 30 -- one in Alexandria and one in Manassas. (Skip to the class info.)

An amateur radio setup during an annual Field Day event. Photo: Joe Loong.
Why should CERTs get involved with amateur radio?  We've seen time and time again that in major disasters where regular communications networks are disrupted, hams are often the only reliable way of getting messages through.

Amateur radio communications are also useful managing large-scale events, where you need something more powerful and with more frequency bands than a Family Radio Service (FRS) radio.

There's a natural cross-connect between hams and CERTs, with many folks getting involved in one program and then learning about the other. (I'm one of them: WWW4JOE reporting in.)

You don't need to own any equipment, and you won't need to learn Morse code. See the links below for more information:

The Classes:

Where: Alexandria Police Department Headquarters, Community Room, 3600 Wheeler Avenue, Alexandria, VA
When: Weekly, 7-9PM starting Tuesday, Sept. 30 through Dec. 2.
Cost: $50 (includes books and exam fee)
More Information and Registration: See the web site or call 703.969.6615 or email Rich Adamy at
Sponsored by: Alexandria Radio Club

Where: City of Manassas Public Works Facility, 8500 Public Works Drive, Manassas, VA
When: Weekly, 7-9PM starting Tuesday, Sept. 30 (Four sessions: 9/30, 10/7, 10/14, 10/28)
Cost: Free (but students must provide own course materials [$30 + shipping] and exam fee [$15])
More Information and Registration: Contact Mark Braunstein,
Sponsored by: The Ole Virginia Hams Amateur Radio Club

Register for the classes now and get on the air in 2014!

-- 73 -- 

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

Friday, September 12, 2014

Fairfax County CERT 85 and 86: First Class

This week, the nearly 70 students of Fairfax County Community Emergency Response Team Classes 85 and 86 got their first taste of what it means to be a CERT.

Meeting in Classroom 1 of the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Academy, the students learned about potential disaster threats in northern Virginia, and what the CERT program prepares them for: Doing the greatest good for the greatest number of people in a disaster.

Lead Instructor Steve Willey goes over the purpose and guiding principals of CERT. All photos by Joe Loong, CERT Class 45.
The CERTs of Class 85 also received their issue of CERT gear -- the green backpacks containing protective helmets, vests, pry bars, lights, and other materials they'll be using throughout the rest of the course. (The CERTs of Class 86 will get their gear next week.)

CERT Class 85 students go through their newly issued CERT gear.
Over the next six weeks, CERT students will learn how to safely size up and manage disaster scenes; how to treat and triage injured victims; perform light search and rescue; put out small fires using fire extinguishers; and much more.

Steve Willey in front of the CERTs of Class 86.

The CERT students were also given an exercise -- the details of which I won't reveal, to preserve the element of surprise -- that tested their leadership skills, teamwork, and ability to adapt in the face of ambiguous, ever-changing, and often contradictory requirements.

Confusion reigns during the "Tower exercise."
Who Takes the CERT Training, and Why?

As the CERT students introduced themselves, it was clear that they were a diverse group. There were married couples; former and active-duty Army, Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard members; accountants; defense contractors; government procurement officers; nurses; retirees; and more. Some had prior disaster and disaster response experiences; others had none.

Here's a snapshot of some of the members of the new Fairfax County CERT classes:

Class 85

Name: Mike Cerino

Occupation: US Navy Explosives Ordnance Disposal Technician, retired

Reason for Taking CERT Training: A self-described disaster prepper type, Mike learned about the CERT program from a prepper friend in Washington state. Aware of the threat from terrorism and other disasters, Mike knows from his prepping that you can't do everything yourself, and that you need to build a network of people for mutual self-help, with which he hopes CERT will help.
Name: Heather Selzer

Occupation: Healthcare Attorney

Reason for Taking CERT Training: Heather, learned about CERT from a friend, though is no stranger to volunteering and preparedness. She's an American Red Cross CPR, AED, and First Aid Instructor Trainer, and helped out with the metropolitan New York area's response after the September 11 attacks.
Name: Anne Monroe

Occupation: Office Manager

Reason for Taking CERT Training: In her professional role, Anne has had training in crisis and mass casualty response. She learned about CERT through a co-worker, and wants to gain extra skills, which she notes are good to have.
Name: Mike Dow

Occupation: Information Technology

Reason for Taking CERT Training: Mike also has experience with volunteering and disaster response skills, having previously volunteered with the US Coast Guard Auxiliary and American Red Cross. He wants to build his skills in case another incident occurs. Mike, like others in the class, learned about CERT from an emergency communications course from his amateur radio association.

Class 86

Name: Reecie Ford

Occupation: Accountant

Reason for Taking CERT Training: Reecie is attending along with her husband Kent, who works in the emergency management field. The Fords are taking the course so they can better help out in their neighborhood, which includes a number of senior citizens that they'd like to be able to assist in a disaster.
Name: Lynnette Morales

Occupation: Mom

Reason for Taking CERT Training: Lynnette would like to be able to better help her family, which includes several young children, in the event of an emergency. She learned about CERT through a posting on her community's Facebook page.
Name: Jim Peña

Occupation: Cybersecurity contractor

Reason for Taking CERT Training: Aware of recent manmade and natural disasters, Jim wants to be able to better help for the next one. Jim learned about CERT from a neighbor, and he also knows Fairfax County CERT's resident moulage expert, Susy.
We'll try to check in on our CERT classes as they go through their training, and introduce you to more CERTs from classes 85 and 86.

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

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Outreach Roundup: September 11, 2014

First off, on this September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance, let's take a moment to say we'll never forget, and always prepare.

Welcome to the Fairfax County CERT Outreach Roundup, where we highlight recent Outreach activities and point out opportunities for you to get involved with events in the next 30-60 days (and beyond)!

Upcoming Outreach Events

We're going to flip the script, as we have some urgent needs that popped up for CERTs to help at Outreach events, where we help our community be more prepared for disasters and encourage them to take Fairfax County CERT training.

For more information and to volunteer for an event, click the volunteer management system (VMS) sign-up link (where available) or email

Saturday, Sept. 13: Pimmit Hills Day -- we really need 1-2 CERTs to staff an Outreach table at this family-friendly event at Olney Park in the Falls Church area. 10:30AM-4:30PM. Sign-up: Outreach Lead.

Wednesday, Sept. 24: NVCC Zombie Preparedness Day -- Zombies invade the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College to raise awareness for National Preparedness Month. The CERT Moulage team will be doing the zombie makeup, and we need 1-2 more CERTs to spread the word about preparedness and CERT. 10:30AM-2:00PM. Sign-up: Outreach Lead.

Saturday, Sept. 27: National Public Lands Day -- NPLD is the nation's largest, single-day volunteer effort for public lands. Volunteers at the Meadowood Special Recreation Management Area in Lorton will be helping repair Hidden Pond Trail and clear the pond's bank. 2-3 CERTs are needed to staff an Outreach booth. 9:00AM-12:00 noon. Click to sign up.

(In addition, there's an Operational role for CERTs to help out as medical observers.)

Oct. 4-5: Fall for Fairfax Kidsfest -- Many CERTs are needed for the Outreach booth at this popular kid-focused event at the Fairfax County Government Center. The event runs from 10AM-7PM Saturday; 10AM-5PM Sunday. Multiple CERTs needed for each of the three shifts on Saturday and two shifts on Sunday. Click to sign up for one or more shifts.

Oct. 11: Fire Prevention Week, Fire Station Open Houses -- Team Leader and event staffer positions still available! This is a big one; we need CERTs to staff Outreach tables at fire stations all around Fairfax County. The more CERTs we can get, the better. Sign-up: Outreach Lead (VMS link pending)

Outreach Recap

The highlight of our Outreach efforts was the Ready-Set-Know! Fairfax County Disaster Preparedness Expo at last weekend's Burke Centre Festival.

Organized by CERT's own James Sobecke (wearing his Citizen Corps Council hat), the event highlighted disaster preparedness and featured volunteers from Fairfax County CERT, American Red Cross, Medical Reserve Corps, Volunteer Fairfax, and the Fairfax County Office of Emergency Management.

American Red Cross's Marco Johnson and Fairfax County CERT's James Sobecke help a festivalgoer in disaster wound makeup at the Wheel of Disaster. Photo: Tracy Friend, Volunteer Fairfax.
In addition to promoting CERT, CERTs worked with other volunteers to help show people how to build a 72-hour emergency kit and develop a family disaster plan. Photo: Adam Samuels.
A highlight of the event was free disaster makeup done by the Moulage team for attendees of all ages:

The disaster makeup table was popular all weekend. Over 400 visitors received fake wounds. Photo: Joe Loong.
Festival attendee before and after he gets his fake wound. Photo: Joe Loong.
Over the course of the weekend-long festival, CERTs helped reach over 2,000 attendees, helping them increase their preparedness, and encouraging them to take CERT training (including the CERT Class 88 training starting October 9 at the Burke Conservancy.)

More Highlights

Other Outreach activities were on a slightly smaller scale, but no less important:

* CERTs Jonathan Kiell, Gary Nisker, and Adam Samuels staffed a table at the Fort Belvoir Defense Logistics Agency Preparedness Fair on September 4, generating a great deal of interest and a possible future CERT training class:

DLA employees were very receptive to the CERT message. Photo: Jonathan Kiell

* CERTs participated in the Springfield BridgeWalk on August 26, staffing an Outreach booth and participating in the march:

Jeff McKay, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, shakes hands with Fairfax County CERTs during the 2014 BridgeWalk. Photo: Linda Waller, Office of Supervisor Jeffrey C. McKay.
* On National Night Out (the first Tuesday in August), several CERTs (including Donna Hosek and her son, a frequent CERT victim actor) helped teach their neighbors about CERT:

CERT display at the Middleridge National Night Out activities. Photo: Donna Hosek
For more information about these events or any other Outreach activities, please email the Outreach team at Thanks, and we hope to see you at an upcoming event!

Char Silberstein is Outreach Lead for Fairfax County CERT. You can email her at

Friday, September 5, 2014

What to Expect Your First Night of Fairfax County CERT Training

Next week marks the beginning of Fairfax County CERT's Fall 2014 classes at the Fire Academy. Class 85 is Monday nights, Class 86 is Wednesday nights. (In addition, we'll have two more Fall CERT classes at locations in the community: Vienna and Burke. Stay tuned for more details.)

Before Your First Class
When you've registered for CERT training, you'll get a welcome email from Lead Instructor Steve Willey. Please read it carefully, as it tells you what you'll learn and gives you directions to the Fire Academy, a class syllabus, some forms, and a list of what you'll need to bring, including:
  • Work gloves (we recommend mechanic-style gloves that fit well)
  • Latex or equivalent exam gloves (you'll use a bunch over the course of the training)
  • Two rolls of quality gray duct tape
  • Retractable black Sharpie magic marker
  • Government-issued photo ID
  • The completed forms
  • An empty 3-inch three-ring binder (to hold your class materials)
Stuff you'll need on your first night of CERT class: work gloves, duct tape, exam gloves, retractable Sharpie. Not pictured: Government-issued photo ID, a 3-inch three-ring binder, and your completed forms.
Items you shouldn't bring to class include any form of tobacco product (this also means e-cigs), sandals, flip-flops, or any form of open-toed shoe.

For clothing, wear weather-appropriate clothes you don't mind getting dirty -- there are locker rooms at the Academy where you can change.

Knowing Is Half the Battle
Although there are plenty of hands-on activities, CERT training is largely about knowledge and mindset. Before the class starts (or as soon as you can after) we recommend you take the free, online independent study course, FEMA IS-317: Introduction to CERT.

The course will give you an overview of CERT and a firm foundation to build on, but it's not a substitute for class. In class, you'll also get real-world examples of how things work (and don't work) in the field from instructors who've "been there, done that." Plus, you'll go through exercises and activities, like searching buildings, carrying patients, and putting out small fires.

A word about those activities: CERT training is for all ages and abilities. You don't have to do anything you're not capable or comfortable doing. So don't worry -- it's not boot camp.

Get to Class on Time!
Classes begin promptly at 7pm. Especially if you're not familiar with the facility, give yourself time to get through traffic in Fairfax, find the Academy (if you're heading south on West Ox Road, it's after the Fairfax County Animal Shelter -- make a right at the blue sign just after the school bus parking lot), and find parking.

The second of two blue signs marking the Fire and Rescue Academy.
Also, class runs from 7pm to 10:30pm. For real -- there's a lot of learning to cover. Some nights you might end a bit earlier or a bit later. For breaks, the Academy has vending machines and a kitchenette.

About the Fire Academy
Like we say, CERTs who train at the Fire Academy train in the same place as Fairfax County Fire & Rescue personnel. Some nights, there may be firefighters and EMTs training in adjacent classrooms, in the High Bay (the big garage), or in one of the nearby burn buildings.

Also note that construction on the brand-new Academy expansion is just about finished. You'll be taking your CERT training in the classroom area in the "old" part of the building, usually Classroom 1.

To get to the classroom area, you'll typically park in the parking lot (by the big satellite dishes and antenna), walk in through the High Bay, and walk down the hallways until you find it (which is filled with displays gifted by previous  firefighter and EMT training classes).

The Gear
At your first class, you'll receive gear including a CERT backpack, helmet, reflective vest, crowbar, kneepads, headlamp, N95 dust mask, and other items you'll use in training (including that very same night).

Members of CERT Class 83 try on their gear on their first class.
Although not required, many CERTs choose to supplement their gear, buying items to better suit their needs.

Other Stuff
Your syllabus will cover the subject matter you'll learn each week. Each week will build on what you've learned previously, so it's important that you attend every class.

In addition to what you learn in the classroom, as you progress in class, you'll do things like conduct searches in a burn building:

Towards the end of training, you'll have a chance to put out a small fire with a fire extinguisher:

And eventually, you'll end with a final exercise, where you'll put everything you've learned together, in a realistic simulation, complete with victim actors (note that you're responsible for recruiting at least two victim actors):

Other than that, pay attention to your instructors, ask questions, and have fun! If you have any questions about Fairfax County CERT training, you can ask in the comments or email me at the address below.

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

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Exclusive Volunteer Opportunity for CERTs Only: 2015 World Police & Fire Games

[Editor's Note: Jeffrey Katz, Volunteer Liaison, Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department, reminds us of a unique volunteer opportunity for CERTs coming up in 2015. Read on!]
CERTs pose with the mascot of the 2015 World Police & Fire Games. Photo by Carlos Santiso.
The World Police & Fire Games are a spectacular international sporting event, offering police officers, firefighters, customs and correction officers from around the world an opportunity to showcase their athletic excellence in 'Olympic'-style sporting events.

Held biennially, the Games will be held in Fairfax County, VA from June 26 – July 5, 2015.

They are expecting 12,000 athletes from 70 countries participating in 60 sports at 53 venues over the 10 days, and we need you.

VOLUNTEERS have been integral to the success of the World Police & Fire Games since they were first used during the 1985 Games in San Jose, and as Fairfax County and the National Capital Region prepare to host the Games once again, the role of VOLUNTEERS has never been more important.

The 2015 World Police & Fire Games will need upwards of 3,000 people to take on a wide variety of roles across the National Capital Region during the Games: from welcoming visitors to transporting athletes, assisting Sports Coordinators in the delivery of sport, helping out behind the scenes in the Technology team and making sure the results are displayed as quickly and accurately as possible.

Without VOLUNTEERS the Games cannot exist. The organizing committee for the 2015 World Police & Fire Games is determined that this will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for thousands of people to help deliver the most spectacular Games ever.

So what does that mean?

Well, if you are over 18, we would love to have you, your family and your friends volunteer for a minimum of 4 shifts during the duration of the event.  If you want to be a general volunteer, and help make this the best games ever, please click here.

General VOLUNTEERS perform tasks such as greeters, ushers, logistics, drivers, etc…

However, if you want to be more than just a general volunteer, and utilize your CERT training, please click here.

The organizing committee recognizes that because of your CERT training, you have unique qualifications and they want to make the most of your abilities!  They understand that CERTs are trained to be calm and act appropriately in emergency situations.  They also know that you will recognize when it is necessary to call first responders and when you can render simple first aid to spectators yourselves.  This is the first opportunity we have had where CERTs will have a defined, meaningful role in the ICS for a county-wide event.  Let’s show them what we can do!

CERTs will sign-up for your shifts on the World Police & Fire Games website, but you will sign up as a “Medical Volunteer” not a “General Volunteer.”  (That is, if you have completed the full CERT curriculum, have a current CPR/AED card, and have been trained in basic first aid.)

We will be offering many more sessions of CPR/AED training to help boost our cadre of CERT VOLUNTEERS who have attained these certifications.  There will be other classes offered as well in the coming year to help prepare you for this event.

There will be many benefits for volunteering for this event!  The World Police & Fire Games will be providing staff T-shirts and in some cases, uniforms, for all VOLUNTEERS. These will be yours to keep. There will also be many stores and businesses that will be offering discounts during the games to World Police & Fire Games VOLUNTEERS.

Your insurance needs will be completely covered by the World Police & Fire Games.  There is no need to worry if your jurisdiction does not cover you to work outside of your city or county.  You will be covered for accident or injury.

This is the last time the World Police & Fire Games will be held in the United States for at least 10 years.  Fairfax County and the National Capital Region want to go above and beyond what has been done in the past and make these the best games ever for the athletes, families, and spectators.  Please go to the website and sign up today for at least four shifts and help us accomplish this goal!

Jeffrey Katz is Volunteer Liaison, Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department. You can email him at