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 (http://www.vaemergency.gov/readyvirginia).  If you have additional ideas or lessons learned, please share them with your team and feed them back to teams@fairfaxcountycert.org.

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 teams@fairfaxcountycert.org.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Fairfax County CERTs Appear on 'Good Morning Washington'

Last Friday morning, with the San Bernardino mass shooting terror attack still fresh on people's minds, Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department Volunteer Liaison Jeffrey Katz and Fairfax County CERT Deputy Lead Anita Van der Merwe did a live appearance on WJLA's Good Morning Washington to talk about the Community Emergency Response Team program, and how the free training can help members of the community prepare for all types of disasters and incidents.


Responding to questions from Good Morning Washington anchor Larry Smith, Jeff and Anita covered the origins of CERT and the disaster response skills that CERTs learn in the free training, including disaster triage, fire suppression, and disaster medicine -- basic "duct tape first aid" where people can treat life threatening injuries using simple tools like duct tape, rags, or a torn t-shirt.

WJLA anchor Larry Smith, with Jeffrey Katz and Anita Van der Merwe. (Photo courtesy of WJLA)

Anita also showed off her CERT gear, starting with the issued personal protective equipment (helmet, reflective vest, eye protection, and N95 mask), then her own customized gear... including several varieties of duct tape, which caused Mr. Smith to compare CERT training to "training people to be MacGyver in emergency situations."

Since CERT training does teach people to be aware, prepared, and adaptable in emergencies, this is very true -- especially since, as Jeffrey mentioned, CERTs must be able to create tools like stretchers, splints, and backboards, using only their ingenuity and the materials they have on hand.

Larry Smith, Jeffrey Katz, and Anita Van der Merwe. (Photo courtesy of WJLA)
Telling people about the value of preparedness and how CERT training can help people is one of the most important aspects of the CERT program, so great job Jeffrey and Anita!

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 blog@fairfaxcountycert.org

Monday, October 26, 2015

Get Your Ham Radio License in a Weekend!

CERTs love ham (radio), because every time we list an amateur radio class, it fills up nearly instantly. Here's one more opportunity to get your Technician-class license training in a single weekend, sponsored by CERT of Clinton, MD. Sign up now!


Date: Saturday, Nov. 7 and Sunday, Nov. 8
Time:  9AM to 4PM (both days)
Location: The Cranford-Graves Fire Services Building
6820 Webster Street
Hyattsville, Maryland, 20784
Cost: Free -- no charge for the class, but you need to purchase the ARRL Ham Radio License Manual 3rd Edition (list price, $29.95, available from ARRL and other online sources)
Registration and More Information: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/a-free-ham-radio-technician-classhamcram-hyattsville-maryland-tickets-18853671840

Following the training class, there will be a free examination session Saturday, Nov. 21 in Laurel, MD. See full details on the class registration page.

p.s. Don't forget, once you become a ham, or if you're already a CERT and a ham, join the Fairfax County CERT Radio Net discussion group. For more information, email James at james32CERT@gmail.com.


Joe Loong is a Blog Editor and Social Media Specialist for Fairfax County CERT. You can email him at blog@fairfaxcountycert.org

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Upcoming CERT Victim Actor Opportunities, Training, and More

We've got a bunch of interesting Victim Actor and training activities happening soon, including some training classes that will help you broaden your CERT skill set.

Victim actors wearing wound makeup during some of our recent CERT exercises. You could be one of them!
Saturday, Aug. 29, 2015: Victim Actors -- CERT 99 Graduation Exercise, Annandale: We need victim actors for CERT 99's final graduation exercise, which takes place in a neighborhood location (the Capital Baptist Church in Annandale). Victim actors will be needed from about 10AM-2:30PM, and will receive moulage (wound makeup), so you should wear clothes you don't mind getting dirty, bloody, or ripped. All actors must sign a waiver, and victim actors under 18 years old must be accompanied by an adult. Actors should also bring a bag lunch. If you're interested in being a victim actor, please contact Donna at events@fairfaxcountycert.org ASAP to be put on the actors list.

Monday, Aug. 31 to Oct. 3: Online Training -- Psychological First Aid:
The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health is offering a free class on Psychological First Aid. The class, which is completely online using the Coursera learning platform, starts on August 31st and runs for 5 weeks. Students will learn to learn to provide psychological first aid to people in an emergency by employing the RAPID model: Reflective listening, Assessment of needs, Prioritization, Intervention, and Disposition. The class is free, although if you want to be eligible for a certificate, there's a fee. For more information and to register, visit the course page: https://www.coursera.org/course/psychfirstaid

Saturday, Sept. 5: Operational Role -- Good Shepherd 5K and Fun Run, Alexandria: This 5K race sponsored by the Good Shepherd Catholic Church, near Mount Vernon High School. The church has requested CERT support for first aid stations at the start/finish line, and at intervals around the course. The race begins at 8:00AM; CERT members should arrive by 7:00AM to be positioned along the race route. We need up to ten CERT members, which will also allow us to put on a demonstration of CERT techniques like improvised stretcher carries at the end of the race. To sign up, please send email to the attention of Bob McDonald via Outreach@fairfaxcounty.gov.

Thursday, Sept. 17: Victim Actors -- Capital Shield, Fort Belvoir: In conjunction with the annual Capital Shield exercise, Fort Belvoir is planning a multifaceted emergency response exercise designed to challenge (overwhelm) Fort Belvoir's relatively small emergency response team, as well as to test the hospital mass casualty response capability. They need 50+ victim actors, as well as 6-8 controllers and evaluators.

The exercise will simulate a post-hurricane response that will commence 24 hours after the "hurricane," so there won't be a search and extraction element. However, some victim actors will be involved in hazmat/decontamination; transport and hospital treatment; and assistance coping with post-event victim recovery needs (loss, insurance, family needs, financial issues, etc.).

The exercise is planned for the morning of Thursday, September 17 on the Fort Belvoir installation.  Participants will need to be on the post by 6:00AM for briefings, wound makeup, and staging. To enter the base via Tulley Gate, participants will need to pre-submit their names for security screening no later than September 10.

The exercise will start at approximately 8:00AM and should be completed no later than 2:00PM (including hotwash review and check-out). Light breakfast will be served.

This is a great opportunity for CERTs to participate and support Fort Belvoir.  No prior exercise experience is needed to be a victim actor (just a sense of humor); volunteer controllers should have some exercise experience; and volunteer evaluators should have prior exercise evaluation experience.  If you are available and interested in participating please contact one of the personnel listed below:


Get your ham radio license and you might find yourself someday operating a rig like this.
Tuesdays, Oct. 6 to Dec. 8: Training -- Amateur Radio Operator Training, Alexandria:
If you're interested in getting your ham radio license, the Alexandria Radio Club is having its fall amateur radio license class. Many Fairfax CERT members have gotten their ham radio licenses thanks to this class.

When: 7-9PM Tuesdays beginning October 6, 2015 and ending December 8, 2015 (10 weeks). The FCC Exam will be given on December 8th.
Where: Alexandria Police Department HQ, 3600 Wheeler Ave, Alexandria, VA (just off Duke Street, about 1 block west of Quaker Lane).
Cost: ARRL Study Book $30.00 + FCC Exam Fee $15.00 + Misc. Study Class Material $5.00 = $50.00
Register Online: http://w4hfh.org/

For more information, contact class coordinator Rich Adamy, KA4GFY, ka4gfy@cox.net.

For additional CERT training classes and activities, visit volunteer.fairfaxcounty.gov and search for "CERT."


Joe Loong is a Blog Editor and Social Media Specialist for Fairfax County CERT. You can email him at blog@fairfaxcountycert.org

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

CERTs: Help Spread the Word -- Outreach Roundup, August 25, 2015

Welcome to the Fairfax County CERT Outreach Roundup! We've got some great events coming up in the next few months to promote our CERT program, and we could really use your help to staff events and help spread the word about preparedness!

Upcoming Outreach Events

Jeff McKay, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, shakes hands with Fairfax County CERTs during the 2014 BridgeWalk. Photo: Linda Waller, Office of Supervisor Jeffrey C. McKay.
Tuesday, Sept. 1: 15th Annual Springfield Community Bridge Walk -- Represent CERT at this community event by walking in the parade. The event goes from 7-9PM. All CERT volunteers must wear khaki-colored pants, closed-toe shoes, and the green Fairfax County CERT t-shirt. If you're going to walk and don't yet have a green CERT t-shirt, email me at Outreach@fairfaxcountycert.org no later than Friday, August. 28. Get more info and register for the Bridge Walk on the volunteer management site.


American Red Cross's Marco Johnson and Fairfax County CERT's James Sobecke help a festivalgoer in disaster wound makeup at the Wheel of Disaster during the 2014 Ready-Set-Know Festival. Photo: Tracy Friend, Volunteer Fairfax.
Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 12 & 13: Ready-Set-Know at the Burke Centre Festival: Last year's event was a great success, and we're looking forward to another great one! We'll be joining other Fairfax County Citizen Corps Council groups to spread the message of CERT and preparedness to hundreds (make that thousands!) of festival-goers. The weekend event goes from 9:30AM-5PM Saturday, and 10:30AM-5PM Sunday at the Burke Centre Conservancy, and you can sign up for 4-hour shifts on either day. Register now on the Ready-Set-Know Eventbrite page (open only to members of CERT and other Citizen Corps Council groups).

Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 3-4: Fall for Fairfax Kidsfest -- Many CERTs are needed for the Outreach booth at this popular kid-focused event at the Fairfax County Government Center. The event runs from 10AM-7PM Saturday; 10AM-5PM Sunday. Multiple CERTs needed for each of the three shifts on Saturday and two shifts on Sunday, and you should be outgoing and comfortable talking to kids and families about the benefits of preparedness. Click to sign up for one or more shifts.

Saturday, Oct. 10: Fire Prevention Week, Fire Station Open Houses -- This is a big one; we need CERTs to staff Outreach tables at volunteer fire stations all around Fairfax County. The more CERTs we can get, the better, and it's also a great chance for Local Neighborhood CERT Teams to build relationships with your local station. The event generally goes from 9AM-4PM (exact times will depend on the station), and we'll be at volunteer fire stations throughout the county. After you register, we'll coordinate with you for preferred time slots and station assignements. Sign up now on the volunteer management site.

All of these Outreach events are a great way for CERT graduates to earn your CERT t-shirt! (Reminder: This isn't a t-shirt giveaway -- shirts are for trained CERTs who are representing CERTs at official events.) Come out, represent CERT, and help spread the word!

CERT Training Classes Are Open -- Tell Your Friends!
Also, don't forget to tell your family and friends about our Fall 2015 CERT Training Classes! Class 100 at the Fire Academy is full, but we still have spots in classes starting September and October -- click to see more details and register: Class 101 (Fire Academy), Class 102 (McLean), and Class 103 (Lorton).

For more information about these events or any other Outreach activities, please email me at outreach@fairfaxcountycert.org. Thanks, and we hope to see you at an upcoming event!


Char Silberstein is Outreach Lead for Fairfax County CERT. You can email her at outreach@fairfaxcountycert.org.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Virginia Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday Weekend Ends SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY!

This isn't a repeat: In 2015, there are two Virginia's Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holidays, and this one goes through Sunday, August 9:


That's right, through Sunday, whether you shop online or in a brick-and-mortar store, skip the sales tax on CERT-favorite supplies under $60, including:

Duct Tape:
The Duct Tape Moving Van. Photo: Source
 
Light Sources Like Flashlights, Lanterns, Glow Sticks, and Headlamps:
Helmet Lights
Helmet Lights by Flickr user Tomas.Quinones. Used under Creative Commons: BY-NC-SA.

First Aid Kits:
First Aid, Second World War
If your first aid kit looks like this, it's probably time for a new one. First Aid, Second World War by Flickr user Telstar Logistics. Used under Creative Commons: BY-NC.

Fire Extinguishers:
Memed screencap from The IT Crowd. Source: Google Images.

Batteries and Cell Phone Chargers:
AA Meeting. Photo: Source

Plus:
And like last year, chain saws under $350 and generators under $1,000 are also exempt.

Stock up and save! The Virginia Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday Weekend ends midnight, Sunday, August 9.


Joe Loong is a Blog Editor and Social Media Specialist for Fairfax County CERT. You can email him at blog@fairfaxcountycert.org

Monday, August 3, 2015

CERT Training Recap: Wide Area Search Operations

[Editor's Note: Brendan O'Neill, CERT Class 80, recently participated in a three-day CERT CERT class on Wide Area Search Operations, which as the name suggests, is about conducting searches that cover a large geographical area. Here's his writeup of the class.]

Fairfax County CERT continuing education’s second offering of the class Wide Area Search (PER-213-WAS), was held at the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Training Academy,   Tuesday through Thursday, July 21-23.

Susann Brown, Ken Sutcliffe, and Wayne Ibers, from the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX), came to Fairfax, VA to teach this course as part of the National Domestic Preparedness Consortium and National Response Framework. The three-day training is designed to help search resources to effectively plan, manage, and conduct search operations for large-incident search response.

We learned how to utilize documents from TEEX and FEMA to plan, prepare, practice and perform wide area search functions as both a search resource (boots on the ground) and as a search manager (overview and management). We used forms such as the Team Assignment Form (WAS 104), Team Debriefing Form (WAS 110), Sketch Grid Map, and FEMA’s Resident Accountability Form and Incident Command System Form: Activity Log (ICS 214) during tabletop exercises and field exercises to demonstrate how proper planning, preparation, practice, and performance aid in the overall management of complicated wide area search functions.

We also learned acronyms like LCES (Lookouts, Communications, Escape Routes, Safety Zones) to maintain structural collapse awareness, and standardized GPS waypoint markings (seen below) used for situational updates and archival incident documentation.

Standardized GPS Waypoint markings. Photos by Brendan O'Neill.

During the class, we learned a wide range of topics used to make difficult wide area search operations more systematic, and thus easier to manage. These included Search Tactics, Marking Systems, Exterior Search Markings, Victim Markings, and Wilderness Search Markings.

We also learned techniques for managing the geography of a search, like sketching a map of your search areas and defining smaller search areas (numbered segments) within a larger area (alphabetical divisions). We about the United States National Grid (USNG) system, a great tool for mapping locations -- even without landmarks -- that can be accurate to 1 meter (when using the 10-digit system).

Other essential skills that we learned during the course included search management, resource management, victim management, and hand-off and brief/debrief up the ICS chain.

All in all, the three-day training overview was presented in an easy-to-understand fashion, and left this CERT volunteer better able to understand what is required to manage a wide area search operation. I'm looking forward to the next Wide Area Search class that Fairfax County CERT is planning on offering in October, 2015: Search & Rescue in a Community Disaster (PER 334).

A few of the Fairfax County CERTs who participated in the Wide Area Search training (L-R): Brendan O’Neill, James Sobecke, Jonathan Kiell, and Edgar Rodriquez.

Brendan O’Neill is volunteer Logistics Coordinator for Fairfax County CERT. You can email him at logistics@fairfaxcountycert.org.