Thursday, January 21, 2016

Are You, Your CERT Team and Your Neighborhood Prepared?

[Editor's note: As we prepare for what looks to be a historic blizzard for the region, here's a note that the Fairfax County CERT Local Team Coordinators sent to their Local Team leaders.]

Members of the Wesleyan University Campus Community Emergency Response Team (C-CERT) clear out paths around emergency exits after a February 2013 winter storm.
At yesterday evening’s Monthly Program Meeting at the County Government Center, about twenty CERTs discussed IDEAS & OPPORTUNITIES regarding the approaching snow storm. This note shares key portions of that discussion and includes a number of recommendations and opportunities. (Note that the monthly CERT program meetings are open to all, and are a very good opportunity to stay connected with -- and even influence -- what is going on in our CERT program.)

First, the two CERT events scheduled for this weekend (training on Saturday 1/23 and the Pot Luck on Sunday 1/24) have been cancelled.

Second, we discussed PREPARATIONS and PRECAUTIONS regarding what could be a fairly substantial and disruptive snow storm. Please modify and share this with your CERT team and your neighborhoods as appropriate:
  • Check, and supplement as necessary, your food and consumables; don’t wait until the last minute to stock up. Include batteries, fuel, and other supplies that may become scarce or unavailable during and immediately after the storm. If the power goes out, gas pumps, ATMs, and charge card readers may not work. A supply of small bills for emergency purchases should be part of the plan.
  • Anticipate power outages and safe alternatives for keeping the family (and the pipes in the house) warm.
  • Plan the best location and orientation for parking cars; avoid impeding the snow plows on your street. Of course, stay off the roads as much as possible.
  • If this storm does bring a lot of snow, consider clearing snow while it is falling to avoid overtaxing yourself.
Third, the coming storm provides OPPORTUNITIES to exercise your CERT team.  These include:
  • Forward some or all of this email to your team; modify as appropriate to make it relevant for your community.
  • Coordinate mutual team support efforts – this is a good opportunity to exercise and demonstrate the value of an active local CERT presence.
  • Plan and exercise your team FRS and HAM capability - establish a communications plan including pre-determined frequencies and contact times. Can you reach everyone? Have phone numbers or email addresses changed? Additional HAM classes are being offered - encourage team members to get involved.
  • Call selected team members to coordinate your ideas and gather any input they might have to enhance your CERT preparations and initiatives.
Fourth, consider that this snow storm offers OPPORTUNITIES to serve our Neighborhoods and highlight the value of CERT Training and the CERT Program.  Several ideas that surfaced include:
  • Forward some or all of this email to your local HOA (or equivalent) and neighbors – make it clear that the local CERT team is helping to coordinate local storm preparedness.
  • In advance of the storm, as well as during (if safe) and after, check with those neighbors who might require assistance due to infirmities or special needs. Be a great neighbor!
  • This storm may provide an opportunity to expand your local CERT team by helping your neighbors recognize the value of CERT and emergency preparedness. There are quite a few new CERT classes already planned for the upcoming months – make sure your neighbors are aware of the CERT program and your local team; encourage your neighbors to get involved.
  • If you are part of the County Community Assessment team, look for a request from OEM for input of your local neighborhood situation.
  • Note that numerous CERTs in the County have volunteered to assist with their all-wheel drive vehicles if mobilized by OEM. Consider becoming involved in this effort.
  • Remember to keep neighborhood fire hydrants shoveled clear of snow.  Fire hydrants should have a three foot radius clear area so they are both accessible and easily visible if needed.  This may save precious minutes if a fire response is necessary.
Other ideas for preparation and recovery can be found at Ready Virginia (  If you have additional ideas or lessons learned, please share them with your team and feed them back to

Finally:  Stay safe and enjoy our weather if you can.

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 the Fairfax County CERT Local Team Coordinators at

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