Wednesday, November 30, 2011

This Ain't The Same CERT That Got Started In The 1980s

From Emergency Management Blogs // Disaster Academia by Valerie Lucus-McEwen
(November 24, 2011)


Most of us have been involved in – or at least are familiar with – CERT (Community Emergency Response Teams). The 59th Annual IAEM Conference and EMEX 2011 in Las Vegas last week gave us an opportunity to hear Rachel Jacky, Director of the FEMA Citizen Corps CERT Program, talk about how the program has evolved into something much different than many of us remember.

"This ain't the same CERT that got started in the 1980's", she said. "It has expanded and grown while keeping it's original purpose."

What hasn’t changed is the fundamental concept of CERT (the first responders to any incident are the people who are already there) or it’s basic rationale (training helps keep them safe). The core skills that CERT teaches hasn’t changed, although they have been updated and overhauled.

The most important thing that hasn’t changed is the ownership. CERT’s are still primarily owned on a local basis. “FEMA can provide a lot,” Jacky said. “They can’t know what is the smartest and best way to involve volunteer responders in a community’s best interests.”

What has changed is that CERT has been around long enough to have a solid track record. This gives it the freedom to adapt itself, so it is more valuable to an ever-changing emergency management program.

Much of that is because there is now an agency (FEMA’s Citizen Corps) to keep records. Citizen Corps is the umbrella for other groups (like the MRC – Medical Reserve Corps), and is affiliated with others (the VFW, ARRL, CAP, and – my personal favorite – Girl Scouts), but CERT can certainly be considered one of the more resilient.

The CERT web page is impressive. There are links to find CERT’s in your community, stories of CERT’s in actions, training and video materials, and – most impressive – a place to register your local CERT so it doesn’t get lost or forgotten.

Jacky said there are almost 1850 local CERT programs registered, and in 2010, there were almost 430,000 individuals trained who provided 1.3 million volunteer hours.

“More impressive than numbers, and a terrific development in the life of CERT,” she said, “is its growing inclusiveness.” The majority of CERTS target their training for the general public, but there are also CERT groups targeted to faith-based organizations, businesses, teens, college/universities, special needs and military groups.

Recent statistics show that over 10% of the registered CERT teams have been deployed in actual emergencies over 10 times, but 30% have never responded. What are those groups doing? Some of them are new, but some of this is related to the expanding mission of CERT teams and how CERT teams are being every more consciously integrated into Emergency Management as a discipline.

In addition to the activities you might expect CERT’s perform (neighborhood checks, staffing shelters, sandbagging) they are also supporting emergency management by doing outreach for emergency preparedness, fire safety or public health. “Who better to deliver that kind of information?” Jacky said. “The best messenger for preparedness is a neighbor who is already prepared.”

The CERT program has some lofty goals for the next couple years. Continued growth, of course, but also an increased emphasis on training effective CERT trainers. There are two courses taught at FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute: E428 Train the Trainer and E427 Program Manager

Jacky said another goal is to train CERT members for their expanded functions by developing training modules to expand their skills in areas like animal response, crowd management, leadership or communications.


END

Friday, November 25, 2011

HEADS UP!!! Role play for Exercise 28 December 2011

Volunteer victims are needed for an exercise at the Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale campus. The date is 28 December 2011. I know this is a month out but, with Christmas and News Years planning, I want ya’ll to have an opportunity to get in an event towards your yearly refresher, plus role play is FUN!!
It will be partially indoors and outdoors, depending on the weather .We will not put anybody in a dangerous situation. (Temperature wise) So, it being December, it will be participant dependent to watch the weather and dress appropriately. If it too cold or there is snow and it’s too dangerous to conduct the exercise we will cancel. Unfortunately, due to the complexity of the drill, participants may not know the status of the drill, if weather is a problem, until they get to location. The exercise will be somewhere from 1300 - 1500. You should be able to leave shortly following the end of the exercise.
Role players need to be at the location to check in get their assignments, moulaged as needed and then placed at 10:00 - 10:30.
As always, bring something to sit/lay on and something to do, Kindle, etc. and probably a snack and water.
Contact Kevin, our victim/actor coordinator kmullinsva@aol.com to be put on the list and to get the actor handout. The Assumption of Risk form will need to be filled out prior and brought with you.

Monday, November 7, 2011

VATF-1 Receives DHS “Concrete Buster” Tool (VATF-1 Provides Demonstration)

Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department
4100 Chain Bridge Rd, Fairfax, Virginia 22030
Phone: 703-246-3801, TTY: 711 and Fax:703-385-1687
Duty PIO (Weekends/After-hours): 703-877-3702
fire-rescue.PA-LSE@fairfaxcounty.gov


News Release 11-84
Date: November 7, 2011

On Wednesday, November 9, 2011 at approximately 1 p.m., Virginia Task Force 1 will demonstrate and formally transfer a new Controlled Impact Rescue Tool (CIRT) from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The presentation and demonstration will take place at the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department Academy, 4600 West Ox Road, Fairfax.

CIRT is a new concrete buster that could mean the difference between life and death to those trapped under collapsed concrete caused by natural and manmade disasters.

In development since 2007, the 36-inch long, 100-pound tool is capable of breaching reinforced concrete and works up to four times faster than traditional methods which require drilling, chipping, or sawing. VATF-1 will receive two CIRT tools for evaluation, training, and use in actual emergency responses. Developed in partnership with Raytheon, the CIRT is now commercially available for federal and military agencies.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Fry, or Fry Not

I am posting this a little early this year, but I figure many people are starting to plan their Thanksgiving menus now. If you have never seen it, this is the annual "be careful when frying a turkey" post! I want to make sure if you are planning to fry a turkey, you do so safely. Turkey Fryer fires are extremely dangerous and I want to see everyone enjoy their holiday, no have it end in tears.

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Have you thought about how you might be cooking your Thanksgiving turkey? What the heck does this have to do with CERT, safety or anything other than a cooking class or something on the Food Network? Has Mike gone completely crazy? Has cooking with Emeril Lagasse gone to his head? Good questions all! Over the past few years there has been a growing trend of people frying their turkeys. I have to say, fried turkey sure do taste good, this is a fact. Unfortunately, if you are novice, or even have experience frying a turkey, it is a serious and dangerous prospect.




There are many reasons a deep fryer can be dangerous. Since using the typical pedestal type turkey fryer SHOULD NEVER BE DONE INDOORS (this includes a garage or barn, even if is not entirely closed in), making sure you have the space and equipment to do this outdoors is important. Also bear in mind, the weather; if it is windy, raining or snowing, this could affect your fryer. In order to fry your turkey you will need to get the oil in the fryer up to at least 350 degrees ...350 degrees, which, if you did not know, IS REALLY HOT!




Working with an unstable product such as blazing hot oil over an open flame is dangerous, even if you know what you are doing. Other safety issues include:



* If the burner is not on level ground, the units can easily tip over, spilling hot oil (3-5 gallons of hot oil at 350 degrees!!!) onto the burner and creating a LARGE, FAST fire.



* If the pot is overfilled with oil, the oil may spill over when the turkey is lowered into the pot. Oil will hit the flames on the burner and engulf the burner with fire. There are ways to measure out the right amount of oil, which is imperative to ensure you do not have the pot overfilled.



* Water and hot oil do not go together. Partially frozen turkeys contain water of course, so if you lower a partially frozen turkey into a fryer, expect an extensive fire. Heaven help you if you place a frozen turkey in the fryer; to help defrost it....this will cause an explosion as the water expands in the hot (350 degrees ) oil. DON'T do it.



* The outdoor fryers have no thermostat controls, so they can overheat quickly and cause the oil to boil over the sides of the pot before you can react.



* The pot and handles get EXTREMELY hot (remember, 350 degrees of boiling oil), posing severe burn hazards.



I am sure there is someone out there saying to themselves, "I won't let Mike yuck my yum, I am going to fry a turkey anyway". It won't be the first time someone did not listen to what I said. You still want to fry that turkey? Ok, fine. Please, remember these things as you go about frying. These are not guaranteed to stop a fire or keep you from getting burned, but they may help in mitigating a larger disaster (such as burning your house down):



* Never use a turkey fryer on a wooden deck or inside a garage, home, or within any structure.



* Place the fryer a safe distance away from any building ( if you place it in the grass, the grass should not be overly dry, nor overly wet. Also count on the grass dying and never growing back).



* Fryers should be used on a firm, flat surface to prevent them from tipping over. Try the middle of a parking lot....not the sloping driveway in front of your house next to your car.



* Once the pot is filled with the recommended amount of oil (probably peanut oil) and the burner is ignited, you should NEVER leave the fryer unattended. This also means do not cook if you are under the influence. Please, don't drink and fry.



* Keep pets inside and keep children at a safe distance. A safe distance being somewhere where they will never see the fryer, because once they do, they will want to get close.



* Use well-insulated gloves or oven mitts and wear safety glasses (I think I know where you might have a pair laying around) to guard against oil splatters.



* Do not wear loose clothing as these may ignite if you get too close to the flame or the oil, or both. If your clothes do catch on fire, remember, Stop, Drop and Roll!



*Turkeys must be thoroughly thawed. While very tasty, be very careful of injecting marinades into your turkey. The extra liquid in the bird may cause the oil to spill over.



*Keep a portable dry chemical fire extinguisher nearby. Never use a water type extinguisher to extinguish a grease or oil fire. Do not deploy the garden hose to assist with your turkey fryer fire, this will do MUCH, MUCH more harm than good.



* If your fryer does catch fire call 9-1-1 immediately!




Finally, remember the oil inside the pot will remain hot for hours after your turkey has been removed. DO NOT bring it indoors and again, keep children and pets away from the pot. For more information on some of the hazards of cooking fires (not just the turkey fryer fires), please visit the United States Fire Administration's website for a copy of: Behavioral Mitigation of Cooking Fires by going here: http://www.usfa.dhs.gov/fireservice/research/other/cooking-mitigation.shtm




For a short demo on a fryer fire, go here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQYTMFCLy5E




Thanks for reading and I hope everyone has a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!




Mike