Thursday, March 15, 2012

10 Questions to Ask When Tornadoes Strike Fairfax County

10 Questions to Ask When Tornadoes Strike Fairfax County

We continue our conversation with you about tornadoes as we get closer to the county government’s three-day emergency exericse next week. Tornadoes are a real threat. The last tornado to strike Fairfax County happened in Reston on April 27, 2011. According to a National Weather Service analysis:

“The tornado began in a parking lot along Sunset Hills Road where small limbs were snapped from a hardwood tree and a large limb was snapped from a softwood tree. It crossed Sunset Hills Road and entered the Hidden Creek Country Club golf course where it intensified and uprooted or snapped several hardwood and softwood trees. The tornado weakened slightly as it crossed North Shore Drive and Wedge Road where a few trees were snapped or uprooted. A few homes appeared to suffer minor damage from fallen trees. As it crossed Wiehle Avenue, the tornado intensified again snapping or uprooting numerous trees adjacent to Tall Oaks Village Center before weakening rapidly.”

This tornado was ranked a zero according to the tornado damage scale chart, but if conditions are ripe, more severe twisters can strike our community (as will happen during our exercise next week).

We’re preparing and responding during the Operation Enduring Collaboration exercise, but our response will never be enough for our community to recover. We need the whole community — families, businesses, nonprofits, faith communities and other key groups — to prepare, respond and recover. Important activities you can do to prepare include:
•Have preparedness kits in your homes, cars and places of work/worship.
•Establish a communications plan so you can notify people you are OK either through text messages, social media posts, or phone calls to one designated out of town person who can then relay your status.

But even more importantly, have you thought about some of the questions (in no particular order) that a tornado or any hazard could pose:
1.If you work in D.C. or other points far away from your home and roads are impassable for long periods of time, what arrangements should you think about?
2.If you have children in daycare or schools, what are their policies for sheltering and holding students?
3.If you run a small business and you can’t travel to your business or if you do not have power/internet for long periods of time, how will your business operations continue?
4.If mass transit is affected, how will you get around the area (assuming roads are passable, too)?
5.If your home or business is damaged, do you have proper insurance and other recovery issues documented (or at least discussed)?
6.Do you have important digital files backed up off site or in the “cloud” away from your home or business?
7.Do you know first aid or CPR to help people who may be trapped or injured?
8.Do you have enough medications on hand in case pharmacies are unable to refill them for a few days?
9.Do you have plans for your pets?
10.Are there people in your community such as the elderly or home-bound that you can check on if your situation is OK?

After each day of the exercise next week, we’ll provide a snapshot of what happened in the scenario so you can ask yourself these questions and many others that could be a little more specific and lead to more questions. Talk about these questions with your family, co-workers, faith community members and others so our whole community is ready.