Tuesday, August 23, 2011

CERT Preparation for Hurricane Irene

Following Hurricane Isabel, Fairfax County experienced a number of difficulties with critical infrastructure, and many families were left less prepared than they needed to be for the loss of water, power, and fuel for several days. Today, Hurricane Irene is a Category 2 storm on the Saffir-Simpson Scale, but she is expected to strengthen over the next 48 hours, and may be classified as a major hurricane tomorrow. CERT members should begin acting now to prepare themselves and their neighborhoods for the arrival of the storm. While it is far too early to know what, if any, impact Irene may have, the storm is tracking to arrive in the national capital Region by Sunday. It's important to start planning now, so that members are not caught off guard because stores may run short of necessary supplies in the period immediately prior to or after the storm's arrival. CERT members can do these things this week: - Tuesday and Wednesday - Make sure you have your issued gear and tools assembled and ready - Wednesday/Thursday/Friday/Saturday - Find out where the vulnerabilities are in your neighborhood for high water and make a plan for alternate travel routes to safely avoid roads that flood during regular storms, as well as roads that flooded during the storm when Isabel happened, in the event you must evacuate your home. Consider taking photos of your home and vehicles this week to use in documenting property losses should they occur. Charge your digital camera, and buy batteries if you have a standard camera, for use following the storm's departure - Wednesday/Thursday/Friday - Stock up on dry goods, bottled water, and essential medications for your family members and your pets. Assemble extra dry clean clothing so that they are readily available to take with you if you must evacuate, or to have on hand if access to regular services is lost - Thursday/Friday/Saturday - Check all of your vehicles for proper operating condition and top off your fuel in all of them. If power is lost, gas stations cannot dispense any product, and that could be critical if you need to travel. All chain saws should be checked and run, and necessary oil/fuel mixes prepared before Saturday to assure they are available when needed. If necessary, chains should be sharpened before the weekend, too. - Wednesday/Thursday/Friday/Saturday - Develop a family emergency plan that provides for the safety and protection of family members and pets who may be with or without their CERT volunteer once the storm arrives. The website www.ready.gov offers good guidance. CERT members should consider alternate locations away from the region where they could send their families if needed for better shelter or as a rendezvous point should volunteers become separated from their families. This may seem like a lot of activity for something we aren't sure will happen, but consider this: A weekend storm landing means some of the infrastructure resources you might need may not be available, or may not open after the storm arrives to be of help; but remember, we still have 3 full months of hurricane season beyond August to prepare for and it's likely that even if this storm misses us, others will not. We can use this as a live exercise. John S. "Pete" KirbyAssistant Fire ChiefCentreville Volunteer Fire Department.