Fairfax County Celebrates Designation as First StormReady County in the Commonwealth
Office of Public Affairs
12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 551
Fairfax, VA 22035-0065
703-324-3187, TTY 703-324-2935, FAX 703-324-2010
Nov. 17, 2003
Fairfax County Celebrates Designation as
First StormReady County in the Commonwealth of Virginia
At the Board of Supervisors meeting held today, Nov. 17, the board celebrated the county’s designation as the first StormReady county in the commonwealth of Virginia.
The StormReady program, created by the National Weather Service, is a nationwide program that helps communities better protect their citizens during severe weather by being more proactive in improving their hazardous weather operations. Although many laws and regulations are in place to guide emergency managers with handling a variety of crises, there are few guidelines to help with weather related emergencies. The National Weather Service recognized this as a significant void when considering nearly 90 percent of all presidentially declared disasters are weather related. These events lead to roughly 500 deaths each year and approximately $14 billion in damage.
The StormReady program focuses on improving communication and preparedness in communities through outreach and public awareness education. Communities who are a part of this program are even more prepared for all types of severe weather, because they have detailed and clear guidance to improve procedures and formalize plans for hazardous weather situations.
To be certified as StormReady, communities must:
• Establish a 24-hour warning point and have an emergency operations
• Have more than one way to receive severe weather forecasts and warnings and to alert the public
• Create a system that monitors local weather conditions
• Promote the importance of public readiness through community seminars
• Develop a formal hazardous weather plan, which includes training severe weather spotters and holding emergency exercises
The county has reached all these goals through a variety of initiatives. There already is an established Public Safety Communications Center (also called the 911 call center), and the presence of 24-hour, on-duty emergency management personnel trained to respond to an event and make notifications as required. The county’s staff monitors the weather through the multiple weather forecasts received from National Weather Service direct telephone link, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio, Live Doppler Radar through METEORLOGIX, live warnings and alerts from the National Weather Service Satellite link through EMWIN (Emergency Management Weather Information Network) and the Emergency Alert Network. The public is notified through NOAA weather radios as well as the emergency alert system which is broadcast on both radio and television. Fairfax County residents will also receive notifications via the county cable channel 16. Also, the Emergency Alert Network paging system is currently set up to notify county employees and eventually will begin allowing specific groups in the county to receive the same weather and event notifications.
Education and outreach is a key component of the county’s efforts. Through extensive community outreach programs the county’s emergency management office gets the word out to the public about awareness not only for weather related emergencies but also for emergency preparedness concerns. They attend on average one community meeting a week. In addition, Fairfax County has held several emergency exercises involving county staff and our partners. In June, a table top exercise was held involving a detonation of a “dirty bomb” at the Tysons Corner Mall. Emergency Management also worked closely with the Health Department during a full scale exercise in October at Marshal High School regarding an outbreak of small pox. A table top exercise is slated in December for an off-airport crash involving numerous county as well as federal agencies. These exercises incorporate the weather as a key factor in how to handle an event. In addition, all Public Safety Communications Center supervisors and emergency management staff have received formalized national weather training in what to look for in storms and other severe weather.
StormReady can help community leaders and emergency managers strengthen their local hazardous weather operations, making communities safer in times of hazardous weather.
For more information, please call C. Douglass
Bass, coordinator – Emergency Management, at 703-324-2362, TTY 711,
e-mail at Emergmgmt@fairfaxcounty.gov
or visit their page on the county Web site at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/ps/es/es.htm.