In an excellent November presentation, a Fairfax County official warned that most households and neighborhoods are woefully underprepared for emergencies, such as major storms, that can shut down power and other systems for days or even weeks.
Marcelo Farriera, community liaison officer for the Office of Emergency Management, said that certain basics, especially water supplies and gas for auto, should be maintained year round, and not left for last-minute scavenger hunts as a storm approaches.
The program was held a few weeks after the Washington region dodged Hurricane Sandy, and at a time when major storms seem to be more frequent. In just the last two years, the county has been affected by flooding, extended power outages, and an earthquake.
Full information is available at the Emergency Management web site. But according to Farreira, and the web site, the basics include:
- Assemble a kit. Farreira recommended at least five days of water (one gallon per person per day), as well as flashlights, three days of nonperishable food, a first aid kit, a whistle and local maps.
- Stay informed. Many emergencies, including flooding, hazardous-materials emergencies and tornadoes, can be highly local in their impact. By signing up for the county Community Emergency Alert Network, residents can receive advisories on any registered electronic device, including cell phone text message.
- Make a family communication plan. Local cell phone networks often are flooded during and after an emergency. The county recommends designating an out-of-area contact whom all family members can reach, as a coordinating point.
Farreira noted that all regional officials are more closely coordinated than ever, and that response plans are continually rehearsed for a wide array of emergencies. He also said the county is working with individual neighborhoods, to help them develop localized community emergency response plans, to ensure that elderly and others in need are attended to if the power grid stops for an extended time.
To learn more, or to contact Marcelo Farreira for help in developing a neighborhood emergency response plan, contact the Office of Emergency Management at 571-350-1000, or by e-mail.