Thursday, June 16, 2016

After Fatal Fire, Fairfax County CERTs Assist in Smoke Detector Campaign

[Editor's Note: After a fatal house fire on June 7, Fairfax County CERTs responded to a call for assistance from the Fairfax City Office of Emergency Management, to help canvas the affected neighborhood for a smoke detector campaign. The following is CERT Vincent Scott's activity report, originally sent to the members of his Local CERT Team. ]

Photo from the City of Fairfax Fire Department Facebook page, via CERT Outreach Lead Char, who served as CERT IC for the event.
In the early morning of June 7, Fairfax City FD Station 33 responded to a fire in a townhome of a multi-unit housing complex. An elderly man appears to have fallen asleep while smoking. Unfortunately, the gentleman succumbed to the smoke/fire.  The victim's smoke alarm did activate, but did not wake him. A neighbor was awakened by the alarm, called the Fire Department, and alerted other neighbors in the building. In all, it could have been much worse had the neighbor not engaged.

The Fairfax City FD decided that they were going to take on the task of checking every fire detector throughout that complex. They asked for Fairfax County CERT assistance, and a group of approximately 15 CERTs from throughout the county responded to the call.

Approximately seven teams of two CERTs each subdivided the multiple building complex and began knocking on doors. Their assigned mission: To gain occupant permission to confirm installation of smoke detectors and to test installed smoke detectors. Where there was no answer upon knocking (or if the occupant declined), an informational brochure was provided.

As the CERT Teams canvassed the area, several Fairfax Fire Department teams deployed immediately following the CERTs. Where no smoke detectors were found, new smoke detectors were installed by the Fairfax Fire Department free of charge. Where inoperable smoke detectors were noted, the fire squad attempted to reactivate with new batteries, or installed a new smoke detector. All addresses and installs/repairs were documented for the record.

Bill Terry and myself from TEAM 22033 responded in support of the larger CERT contingent. Bill and I personally checked smoke alarms in 27 homes. I don't have the specific operation-collated data, but if you extrapolate from our experience, the overall CERT contingent probably inspected in excess of 160 homes.

Bill and I found several homes with multiple smoke detectors, one or more of which failed. However, the most eye-opening finding was one home with zero smoke detectors installed (who would have thought in this day and age) and one home with five smoke detectors installed... none of which worked (to the occupants surprise).

This operation was a success. The residents became better informed and we now know that each residence has at least one working smoke detector. The time effort for this event was less than three hours, but I believe the effort resulted in big dividends in the enhancement of the community's safety and Fire Department/CERT community relations. Personally, I found my participation very satisfying in that I know that we made a difference.

I know everyone is busy. However, when such an operational call presents itself, I would encourage your participation. The feeling of community contribution and making a difference you receive is well worth the time and effort.

Hope to see everyone at our TEAM 22033 Social/Meeting on Jun. 23.  I am still taking RSVPs, for head count/reserved seating purposes.

Best regards, Vince

Vincent Scott is a graduate of Fairfax County CERT Class 73 and current member of the Local CERT Team for ZIP code 22203. 

If you have questions about the Local CERT Team program, or are interested in joining with or starting a Local CERT Team in your area, please send an email to the Fairfax County CERT Local Team Coordinators at