A 5.9 earthquake and a major hurricane within a five day span? What on earth is going on? Perhaps it was Mother Nature’s way of reminding us to have an emergency plan in place for anticipated, and unanticipated, events.
Admittedly, the earthquake happened without warning and damage was minimal for most residents and businesses. The path of Hurricane Irene was identified well in advance, providing preparation time for everyone. A quick check of the grocery stores on Friday night revealed no bottled water and almost no bread left on the shelves, but there was plenty of bathroom tissue still available!
As I write this column, Dominion Virginia Power and Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) crews are working to clear roads and restore power in several Mason District neighborhoods, where leafy mature trees fell onto power and utility lines. Especially hard hit was a section of Roundtree, where nearly 60 homes were still without power 36 hours after the storm passed. The toppled tree completely blocked the roadway, phone and electrical services were affected, and a white utility van was destroyed in the process. Socializing with your neighbors on the front porch can be fun for only awhile. At some point, it’s time to get on with normal routines.
Back to that emergency plan…Fairfax County’s website, www.fairfaxcounty.gov, has loads of tips about preparation for emergencies, what you need to have in your home, car, and/or business to shelter in place, and what to do after the emergency has passed. An emergency plan is more than just having a kit ready. You can have all the water, batteries, and extra food ready, but without a plan, it’s essentially just groceries. Have your important phone numbers written down in one place (saving the numbers in your cell phone is great, but what if cellular service goes down, your phone dies, or you lose it). Include your family pet(s) in your emergency plan, and that means food, water, and a carrying cage in case of evacuation. Do you have a full tank of gas? Do your family members know how to contact you, and you them? Fallen trees, debris, or high water might block your regular route. Figure out alternative ways to leave your neighborhood, just in case.
Some quick and easy ideas right now are: sign up for Fairfax County’s Community Emergency Alert Network at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/cean. It’s free and will send text alerts to your email, cell phone, etc. Also, pick up a “Make A Plan” form in my office, fill it out, and carry in your wallet or purse. This easy little Z-file, about the size of a credit card, is easy to complete and even easier to use. It’s free, too. Another option that you can access on-line is www.readynova.org, an emergency planning process developed for families and businesses through a federal UASI (Urban Area Security Initiative) grant.
It’s been 10 years, but few will forget the emergency and the horror of 9/11, when we truly were unprepared. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will host a Remembrance Ceremony on Sunday, September 11, 2011, from 2 to 3 p.m., at the Fairfax County Government Center, 12000 Government Center Parkway in Fairfax. The ceremony will take place in the Forum, followed by a procession outside to the Memorial Grove. The public is invited to participate, and I look forward to seeing you there.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be e-mailed at [email protected]