Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Fairfax County CERT Wins Volunteer Fairfax 2017 Volunteer Service Award

The Fairfax County Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) was selected as the outstanding Fairfax County Government Volunteer Program for 2016 at the annual Volunteer Fairfax awards breakfast held at The Waterford in Springfield on April 21, 2017.

CERT, a Citizen Corps program managed by the county’s Fire and Rescue Department, prepares county citizens to safely help themselves, their families, and their communities during major emergencies when first responders are delayed or overwhelmed due to the size or nature of the emergency.

Fairfax County CERT representatives accept the 2017 Volunteer Service Award for Fairfax County Volunteer Program. Photo via Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department (@ffxfirerescue)
Some highlights for the Fairfax County CERT program for 2016 which led to their award include:
  • Donating almost 22,000 volunteer hours by 621 active CERT volunteers, for an estimated value to the county of over $550,000
  • Delivering 10 community-based CERT classes, taught by CERT volunteer instructors, at government centers, churches, Ft. Belvoir, and similar venues
  • Assisting the professional Fire and Rescue Academy instructors in teaching six CERT classes at the Fire and Rescue Academy
  • Training 226 new CERTs in those six classes, enhancing Fairfax County’s resiliency by expanding the community of prepared, self-sufficient citizens, ready to help their neighbors in a disaster
  • Hosting and participating in 57 continuing education classes for CERT volunteers during the year
Unique accomplishment for the Fairfax County CERT program for 2016 included hosting CERTCON 2016, a two-day conference for CERTs in the mid-Atlantic/National Capital Area region; teaching a Pet First Aid/CPR class in support of establishing a Fairfax County Community Animal Response Team (CART); and assisting the City of Fairfax/American Red Cross and Volunteer Fairfax in smoke detector testing and installation after a fatal fire in the Comstock neighborhood.

CERTs also served as role players in the National Guard’s 2016 Sovereign Guardian exercise, Virginia Task Force 1’s re-certification exercise, and a Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Silver Line Metro train drill. These and other exercises and drills supported by Fairfax County CERT members enhanced realism, helped build first responder critical skills, and ensured their readiness to respond to emergencies.

Additionally, CERT volunteers partnered with the county’s Health Department and Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) in the first-ever Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response (CASPER). CERTs participated in both CASPER training and the conduct of CASPER surveys within the community.

CERTs trained in applying trauma simulation make-up (moulage), continued to provide services for local, state, and federal public safety and emergency management organizations. During county EMT classes and examinations and CERT exercises, they created realistic injuries for first responders and CERTs to treat, improving the training experience.

2016 also saw an increase in CERT volunteers obtaining their amateur radio (Ham) radio licenses, and maintaining proficiency through monthly radio net testing, significantly expanding the county’s volunteer emergency communications resources.

Finally, CERT volunteers participated in 39 annual events throughout Fairfax County, providing outreach and operational support to events that included Celebrate Fairfax, Herndon Festival, Fall for Fairfax, Springfield Bridge Walk, Burke Center Festival (Ready-Set-Know), National Night Out, Fire Station Open Houses, and Fairfax Station Railroad Museum’s First Responder Day, to name a just few.

For these and many more contributions, Fairfax County’s CERT program is well-deserving of this award from Volunteer Fairfax for 2016. Well done, and may you continue to do great things to support the county in the future.

Susy Legerwood, CERT Class 4, is Moulage Team Lead. Steve Richardson, CERT Class 14, is a ham (KK4GOR) and Logistics Lead.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

When 911 Isn't Coming: Community Emergency Response

We've all seen a movie or read a book where the rugged protagonist fights his or her way through a caustic post-apocalyptic landscape, banding together with others in similarly dire situations. Urgency and adrenaline often drive the plot, but it is always tapered with a sense of wonder — what must it feel like to strike out on your own with little to no guidance? What would a society with no structure look like, and how might we survive when there is no one else to call on?

You don't need to wait until the end of the world to ask these questions. Real disasters happen every day — and sometimes these disasters can become massively disruptive for emergency services. In many situations, this can leave you and everyone in your neighborhood to fend for yourselves in a dangerous environment for an extended period of time. But when 911 isn't there to help, who is?

By training as a member of your local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), the answer could quite easily be you.

What is a Community Emergency Response Team?

In short, a Community Emergency Response Team is a group of community members that train to support emergency or disaster response operations in the case that emergency services become overwhelmed. While CERT members are not actively involved with emergency services during everyday operations, these volunteers are a vital asset to first responders across the country.

The CERT program was officially created in 1993 when FEMA made training available across the entire United States. As a result, local teams began sprouting up immediately. The idea was that a better educated populace could more effectively save themselves, their families, and others from the consequences of a disaster — therefore contributing to the overall wellness of an affected area. The training program focuses on an all-hazard approach, covering subjects from light search and rescue to disaster medical treatment. Most importantly, it focuses on providing the greatest good for the greatest number.

Why should I join my local CERT?

The training not only allows an individual to become a leader in the wake of a disaster, but also a leader in everyday life. By learning skills such as organizing a response team, recognizing and treating life threatening emergencies, and making decisions under pressure, you can develop into a vital resource for your community.

After completing the basic training, your local team might also offer courses that delve into different topics such as emergency radio communications, wide-area searches, and disaster map and compass techniques. If interested, volunteers can often train to become instructors or help out with various operational functions within the team.

In addition, CERT training is an excellent gateway into volunteering in a greater capacity with emergency services. CERT volunteers are not a deployable resource, serving for the most part as a passive asset for disaster response, but the training offers insight into the world of firefighting and emergency medical services. With an emphasis on light search and rescue, CERT classes can also prepare a trainee to join a state-registered search and rescue team.

Where can I find resources to learn more about CERT?

The best way to learn more is to go straight to the source: your local team. By entering your zip code into FEMA's CERT tracker, you can find which teams are closest to you and learn how to join. You can also click here to view more about the training, and how the program continues to be a useful asset across the United States.

In the end, joining your local team is as good for your own development as it is for the community. You will develop leadership skills, learn how to help your family and friends in a disaster, and figure out just how versatile duct tape can be. Make a difference in the way your community responds to disasters tomorrow — join your local CERT today.

[Editor's Note: This article was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse and is reprinted with permission. The next Fairfax County CERT training (Class 127) starts May 22, Mondays & Wednesdays at the Fire & Rescue Academy in Fairfax. Limited space for this free training is still available — for more information and to register, please visit]

Matthew Martinez is a digital marketer and graduate of Fairfax County CERT Class 121.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

CERT Emergency Communications (Amateur Radio) Workshop, April 22 and May 20

Here are a few items that should be of interest to our CERT Hams (and Ham CERTs):

* First, here's an article from Emergency Management magazine, "Emergency Communications Driving Increase in Amateur Radio Operators," which shouldn't be a surprise to hams or CERTs. (The story also urges emergency managers to form relationships with hams and integrate amateur radio into their plans and facilities.)

* Next, Volunteer Coordinator Jeffrey Katz created a map of self-identified Fairfax County CERTs who have ham licenses (the map has a 1.5 mile buffer around the CERT's location). As you can see, we have much of the county covered. (Not sure if you're on the map? Get in touch with Jeffrey):

Fairfax County CERT Hams

* Next, the next CERT Emergency Communications Workshop is this Saturday, April 22. This event is open to anyone who has an interest in amateur radio and emergency communications. (You don't even have to have a ham license yet.)

Date/Time: Saturday, April 22, 2017 // 1:00pm (1300) to 3:00pm (1500) - radio test 3:00-4:00pm

Location: Burke Volunteer Fire Station 414 (Training Room), 9501 Old Burke Lake Rd, Burke, VA 22015

Cost: FREE

Activities: Introduction to Handheld radios and repeaters; programming of Baofeng and other radios; setting up a emergency radio "go-kit"; development of basic communications plans; setting up a station; and more. All are welcome: Click to Register

For More Information: Contact James at

(The next workshop will be May 20, 2017.)

-- 73 (For hams, 73 is an abbreviated signoff that means "best regards.")

Joe Loong is a Blog Editor and Social Media Specialist for Fairfax County CERT. If you're interested in contributing to the blog, email him at