Wednesday, September 14, 2016

CERTs Attend 30th Anniversary CERT Conference

The 6th Annual National Capital Region CERT Conference is coming up in 10 days (Sept. 24 & 25), but Fairfax County CERTs also represented at the 30th Anniversary National CERT Conference in Universal City, California.

The CERT contingent consisted of Missy, Anita, and our special representative, CERTainly Jeffrey:

Fueling up for the big trip. (What, no nuts?)
Buckled in and ready to go!
Only the best for CERTainly Jeffrey... exit row, because he's trained.
Napping during the flight...
Ready to paint the town duct tape gray!
We'll see if we can get some thoughts about the conference from our intrepid travelers, but if you come to CERTCON 2016, you can ask them yourselves!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

CERTs Participate in Metro Exercise UNDER Tysons Corner

Early Sunday morning, June 26, a group of about two dozen Fairfax County CERTs, along with over a hundred other volunteer actors, boarded a Metro train at the new Greensboro Station in Tysons Corner as part of a quarterly Metro emergency exercise.

Fairfax County CERTs who served as victim actors during the Metro exercise. Photos courtesy of Jonathan Kiell.
The train left the station and headed toward the District, but did not get very far before it stopped in a tunnel. Power on the train shut down, leaving only emergency lights on.

Shortly after that, the passengers began to notice smoke -- theatrical smoke was used to enhance the realism of the exercise.

Responders in the tunnel help evacuate victim actors from the stopped train.
Eventually, the order was given for those who could evacuate without assistance to move toward the back of the train, which was closest to the nearest station stop. Passengers exited the train and walked through the tunnel back to the station, while responders from the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department and Metro (as well as other emergency personnel) provided assistance to those who could not evacuate on their own.

The exercise provided an interesting learning opportunity for the victim actors as well as valuable training for the first responders. And the passengers were not charged for the train ride!

Jonathan Kiell is a graduate of Fairfax County CERT Class 70 and is one of the Fairfax County CERT Local Team Coordinators; you can reach him at

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

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

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

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:

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

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

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