Wednesday, February 18, 2015

CERTs Getting Together at Local CERT Team Networking Meetings

Disaster responders say, "You don't want to be exchanging business cards during a disaster." With that in mind, the Fairfax County Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Local CERT Teams Working Group has set up a series of networking sessions around the county, so that folks interested in leading or joining a local CERT team can meet the other interested CERTS in their area.

Local CERT Teams Working Group member Jonathan Kiell addresses gathered CERTs.

The first networking session happened last week, where about 30 current and prospective CERTs from the Herndon/Reston area met at the Reston Library, diving deeper into the Local Teams concept and getting to know some of their fellow CERTs... many of whom lived just around the corner from each other without even knowing it.

The idea behind the Local CERT Teams program is simple: CERTs who live close to each other form up into teams that meet, talk, and train together. That way, the CERTs get to know and work with each other before a disaster, and can come together in the event of a major emergency where professional responders are delayed.

At the meeting, maps and rosters showed active and interested CERTs across Fairfax County.

Not surprisingly, the majority of people who've expressed interest in becoming active with a Local CERT Team are recent CERT graduates, or have otherwise remained active with CERT. One of the goals of the Local CERT Teams initiative is to provide a way for all CERTs to remain engaged with the program by participating in activities right in their own neighborhoods. These might include regular meetings; skills workshops and drills; training from visiting instructors; and outreach events designed to get neighbors interested in becoming CERTs themselves.

Reston-area CERTs circle up to talk about Local Teaming opportunities.

Local CERT Teams can be organized around boundaries like supervisory districts, police and fire stations, and homeowner's associations. A great starting point is ZIP code, and at this first Local Team networking meeting, participants broke out into Reston- and Herndon-area ZIP codes to talk about next steps for teams in specific areas.

(It's also important to note that CERTs in local teams should get to know their neighboring teams. There's nothing preventing you from joining multiple teams, especially if your home straddles two team areas, or if you live and work in two separate ones.)

Next Steps

Now that they've been introduced, CERTs who want to form or join Local CERT teams will meet to figure out ways to continue the momentum, collaborate, and have followup meetings to develop their teams.

The next Local CERT Team networking session is Thursday, February 19, from 7PM to 9PM at the Burke Centre Library (Meeting Room 116K), 5935 Freds Oak Road, Burke, VA. (Recommended for people in the following ZIP codes: 20120, 20121, 20124, 20151, 2201, 22030, 22032, and 22039... though CERTs from any area who wish to learn more about Local CERT Teams are welcome.)

After that, the next two networking sessions are:
  • Monday, March 2, 6:30PM to 9PM at the Kingstowne Library, 6500 Landsdowne Centre, Alexandria, VA.

    (Recommended for people in ZIP codes: 22060, 22079, 22150, 22152, 22153, 22303, 22306, 22307, 22308, 22309, 22310, and 22315)

  • Tuesday, March 3, 6:30PM to 9PM at the Patrick Henry Library, 101 Maple Ave. East, Vienna, VA.

    (Recommended for people in ZIP codes: 22003, 22027, 22031, 22037, 22041, 22042, 22043, 22044, 22046, 22101, 22102, 22151, and 22180)
If you have questions about Local CERT Teams, or have not yet expressed your interest in joining or starting one in your area, please send an email to

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

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