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 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:

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

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:

For more information, contact class coordinator Rich Adamy, KA4GFY,

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

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

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 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 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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Sign Up to Be Part of the CERT Community Assessment Program (a.k.a. Windshield Surveys)

In the event of a major countywide disaster, like a widespread flood, hurricane, or derecho storm, first responders will have their hands full responding to calls to protect life and property.

And when the Fire Department does get a chance to do its Rapid Assessments (informally known as "windshield surveys") to figure out how hard the county has been hit... well, Fairfax County covers over 400 square miles. That's a lot of territory.

So how can decision makers in the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) get the timely and accurate reports they need to make informed decisions? Can trained CERTs help out?

A look at the damage assessment process, and how CERTs might fit in. Photos by Joe Loong

You Bet CERTs Can Help!
This is where trained CERTs can play a role. Fairfax County is trying out a model where, after major disasters, CERTs equipped with their personal smartphones would be activated to look for damage in their immediate neighborhoods, and send reports back to the EOC. This information would be collected as aggregated statistics for decision-making, and for reporting to state authorities to help inform requests for federal aid.

In this model, 12-24 hours after a disaster (or when conditions were determined to be safe), the EOC would send a message out to registered and trained CERTs via a smartphone app. The CERTs would then go out into their local areas (staying within "wheelbarrow distance" of their homes), and use their smartphones to take pictures and send geocoded text messages reporting damage back to the EOC. (If they encountered any fires or medical emergencies, CERTs would call 911.)

Earlier this month, a test group of Fairfax County CERTs participated in a pilot class to train on the system. After identifying some areas for refinement and improvement, the Community Assessment training is now being rolled out to the general CERT membership.

Be a Part of the Program: Register Now!
If you're interested in taking part in the program, there will be two training opportunities starting in August at the McConnell Public Safety and Transport Operations Center (MPSTOC), right down the road from the Fire Academy:

* Wednesday, August 5, 7-9PM

* Wednesday, August 12, 7-9PM

(Each class is limited to 20 participants, so register now!)

All participants must have completed CERT training, and must possess:

* A Smartphone (either Android or iOS)

* An account with Fairfax Alerts, Fairfax County's free emergency notification system. Sign up now for free if you don't have an account. (You will also need to know your current Fairfax Alerts username and password -- you'll need them in the class.)

If you want to save time in class, you can also download and install the free Everbridge Mobile Member app now. (Android users, go to the Google Play store; users of iPhones and iPads should go to the iTunes App Store.)

The test report I sent in shows up on the big screen in the Joint Operations Center at the Emergency Operations Center.
Now, the CERT Community Assessment Program is starting out by focusing on the basics.  The program is still being refined, and there are details that will need to be adjusted as we learn from the early training classes. Take advantage of the opportunity to help shape this unique role for CERTs, the only volunteer organization in Fairfax County currently being trained for this capability!

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

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Registration Open: Fall CERT Training Classes Start August, September, and October

Registration is OPEN for Fall 2015 Fairfax County CERT classes starting in September and October. Learn disaster response skills that you can use to help yourself and your community in case of a major disaster. All classes are free, and students will receive CERT disaster response gear at no charge. Space is limited! Choose from classes at the Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Academy, or at two three locations in the community.
CERT students practice fire suppression as part of their training. Photo: Joe Loong
Click a class title to register now:

* [Registration Closed] CERT 99 meets at the Capital Baptist Church in Annandale on four Saturdays from 8AM-3PM. Class dates are August 1, 8, 22, and 29.

* [CLASS FULL] CERT 100 meets at the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Academy; class will meet on both Monday and Wednesday nights from 7-10:30PM. Class dates are September 14, 16, 21, 23, 28, 30, and October 5 and 7.

* CERT 101 also meets at the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Academy; class will meet on both Monday and Wednesday nights from 7-10:30PM. Class dates are October 14, 19, 21, 26, 28, and November 2, 4, and 9.

* CERT 102 meets at the Old Firehouse Teen Center in McLean; class will meet Tuesday nights from 7-10:30PM. Class dates are September 22, 29, October 6, 13, 20, 27, and November 3. [Dates corrected.]

* CERT 103 meets at the Lorton Volunteer Fire Department in Lorton; class will meet Wednesday nights from 7-10:30PM. Class dates are September 23, 30, October 7, 14, 21, 28, and November 4 and 11.

Interested? Learn more about training with Fairfax County CERT Training, and sign up now!

In CERT training, you'll get classroom and hands-on training in disaster response. You'll learn how to save lives with duct tape and Sharpie markers; conduct triage and disaster medical operations; put out small fires; perform search and rescue; prepare for disasters: and much, much more.

Training is free to all adults over 18, of all physical abilities, who live or work in Fairfax County.

To Register for CERT Training:

Signups for CERT training are managed through Fairfax County's volunteer management system. To register for free CERT Training, you'll need to set up a volunteer profile:

1. Here or above, click the title of the class you want: CERT 100, CERT 101, CERT 102, CERT 103
2. On the Opportunity Details page for the class, click "Apply."
3. Click the "New Volunteer Sign Up" button and create a profile by entering your information in the required fields. (If you already have a Fairfax County volunteer account, you can sign in with that.)

You can view an instructional video that walks you through the registration process: How to Register for Fairfax County CERT (skip ahead to the 2:20 mark).

If you have problems trying to register, email Jeffrey Katz at 

In addition, here are some additional training opportunities and events:

Disaster Preparedness Seminar, Saturday, July 25, 9AM to 6PM. In this all-day session, students will participate in seminars on food storage, water, and hygiene and sanitation.

Arlington Getting It Right Seminar, Thursday, July 30 (reception, 5:30PM) to Friday, July 31 (8AM to 4PM). The workshop will provide tools to facilitate full integration and inclusion of all community members, including people with disabilities, in all aspects of emergency preparedness and response. Click to register.

CERT Outreach at the Middleridge National Night Out in 2014. Photo: Donna Hosek
Infectious Control and Blood-Borne Pathogens for CERT Responders, Saturday, August 1st, 8:30 to 10 AM. This class will expand the knowledge base of infection control precautions that should be practiced during patient-handling situations, and give an overview of infectious disease-causing organisms that CERT providers could potentially encounter due to different types of disasters.

National Night Out, the annual community-building event, happens Tuesday, August 4. It's a great opportunity to meet your neighbors and talk to them about CERT (including about our upcoming CERT classes in September and October). If you're interested in representing Fairfax County CERT at your community's National Night Out event and would like some brochures, please email Char at

Red Cross Shelter Fundamentals, Saturday, August 8, 1PM to 5PM. This class is offered by the Red Cross, which will prepare participants in opening, organizing, operating, and closing Red Cross disaster shelters. To register:
  1. Click the course registration link 
  2. You will be directed to a login/registration page on the Red Cross's SABA/EMBARC system. You'll need to create an account.

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

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Lost Child Search Conducted by Crosspointe Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Students

Fairfax Station, Virginia, June 18, 2015 – In a serendipitous chain of events one recent June evening in the Crosspointe neighborhood of Fairfax County, a class of adult emergency response students instantaneously shifted from a simulated learning exercise, to a real-world search and rescue for a missing child.

Fairfax County’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program educates people about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area. CERT trains county residents in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations. Using the training learned in the classroom and during exercises, CERT members can assist others in their neighborhood or workplace following an event when professional responders are not immediately available to help. CERT members also are encouraged to support emergency response agencies by taking a more active role in emergency preparedness projects in their community.

At about 9:15 in a dark urban setting, eleven CERT students from CERT Class 98 were exercising their search and recovery skills in a darkened building. Students were all decked out in green hard hats, helmet lights, reflective vests, backpacks, and personal protective equipment. Suddenly, with three blasts of a whistle, the exercise was terminated. A pair of Crosspointe residents had come up to class members and informed them that a search had been initiated for a preteen who had failed to return home from school. Lead Instructor James Sobecke made contact with the investigating Fairfax County Police Department officer, and shortly after, the CERT class members (along with their instructors) were enrolled in the search.

In the blink of an eye, well-motivated Crosspointe and Fairfax County residents shifted from students to searchers.  Their classroom goals of “someday” helping their neighbors were being put into practice. The CERTs formed up into 9 pairs, and utilized their CERT training and protocols to systematically and thoroughly search the fields and woods behind Crosspointe Elementary School and other wooded areas adjacent to Heron Pond.

Fortunately, this story ended very well, as the missing child was soon located unharmed.  But the experience was made to order for this soon-to-be graduating class of CERT students and their cadre of instructors, who can never tell when they might be called upon to step up into an emergency response situation, and to embody the spirit of "Neighbors Helping Neighbors!"

The CERT members of Fairfax County CERT Class 98. Photo by Dan Liebman.

If you would like to learn more about CERT and enroll in this free training, please visit

Jim McPheeters is a volunteer with the Fairfax County CERT, and one of the leads of the Fairfax County CERT Local Neighborhood CERT Teams initiative. You can email him at