Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church

Happy Valentine’s Day! The history of Valentine’s Day is unclear. Did it start as a pagan fertility observance? A Christian martyr story? Whatever its origin, Valentine’s Day is an economic success story, with millions of greeting cards, bouquets, and candy (mostly chocolate) purchased and presented as tokens of love and admiration.

Sadly, not much love and admiration, or even civility, is on display in some of our political processes today. Tomorrow is the deadline for a resolution, at the federal level, of the president’s demand for billions of dollars for a border wall, and Congressional opposition to that demand. Hundreds of thousands of federal employees again are at risk of being furloughed as the spectre of another government shutdown looms. Using employees’ livelihoods as a cudgel in this conflict not only is unacceptable; it is mean-spirited and dangerous, creating needless financial emergencies for hardworking families.

Fairfax County’s new and updated Community Emergency Response Guide recently was released, and a copy of the extensive guide soon will be available in each Supervisor’s office and each branch of the Fairfax County Public Library system. However, you don’t have to leave the comfort of your home or office to access the guide. Simply log on to www.fairfaxcounty,gov/emergencymanagement/cerg, for all the information you and your family may need to make an emergency kit and a plan, what steps to take during emergencies, such as flooding, gas leaks, power outages, and other useful information and guides to resources.

In a presentation last Saturday, Seamus Mooney, director of the county’s Office of Emergency Management, reminded civic association leaders that “An emergency happens to someone else; a disaster happens to you.” The Emergency Response Guide is designed to help avoid that disaster. Simple steps taken now can help ensure your personal safety before emergency personnel can get to the scene. A “72-hour emergency kit” for your home and office should provide enough supplies to help you survive for three days without any additional aid. Food, water, first aid supplies, a change of clothes, walking shoes, and flashlight are just a few of the items suggested. Family records (birth and marriage certificates, adoption papers, naturalization forms, insurance and financial records, for example) should be readily available to pick up and go in the event of an emergency. Make copies of the original documents and put the copies into a gallon size zip-lock bag, along with your emergency kit. This will make the recovery process go more smoothly and quickly. Similar information about your pets, especially rabies vaccinations, can go into the same plastic bag. Don’t forget to update the information as needed.

Want to do more? The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) trains volunteers in neighborhoods, workplaces, and schools in basic disaster response skills, including fire suppression, and search and rescue, to augment our professional public safety personnel. CERT is just one of many opportunities for volunteers to use their skills, or receive training, to help neighbors. On this Valentine’s Day, in addition to the usual flowers and candy, sign up for CERT and other volunteer groups. Your neighbors will love you for it!