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Winter Weather Preparedness Archived Discussion Room

Fairfax County, Virginia

Winter Weather Preparedness

As part of Winter Preparedness Week, Dec. 5-11, Office of Emergency Management Deputy Coordinator Roy Shrout answered questions about how to prepare for the upcoming cold weather, including how to assemble an emergency supply kit for your home and car, and how you can stay informed of approaching severe winter weather. Find out how to keep your family safe this winter – at home, on the road or at work.

Roy Shrout : Good Afternoon Everyone, I would like to welcome you to this afternoons session on Winter Preparedness. I have been with Fairfax County Government for more than 22 years with almost 8 years in Emergency Management. Please visit our agency website at and the county emergency information website at Both sites have a great deal of usefull information for winter preparedness as well as other seasonal information, emergency notification, making plans and utilizing social media. Our agency also puts out a monthly electronic newsletter on preparedness which you can sign up for at Thank you for participating and I look forward to answering as many questions as i can during the next hour.

Anonymous User : What is the best way to prevent ice dams forming at the edge of a roof and the resulting water damage they cause?

Roy Shrout : Thanks for the question, ice dams can be prevented by controlling the heat loss from the home. In most cases, its due to poor circulation of air in your attic. In many cases you should look at getting a contractor to come and check the air flow. In particular you will see a pattern on your roof where some parts remain snow covered and others not. This is a good sign you have different temperatures in the attic area. There are no easy fixes and you can look on the web for information about ice dams. Some fixes would include additional attic insulation, duct insulation, installing an electric fan in the attic, etc. The important thing to remember is to be safe. Should and ice dam form, be careful around it. Brush snow at the edge of the roof if possible and can be done safely.

Anonymous User : What should I keep in an emergency supply kit and how long should it last me?

Roy Shrout : Good Afternoon, Fairfax County has developed an excellent website which covers a variety of weather hazards and information. In particular we have put on the site an extensive list of what you should put in your kit. Remember, not only do you need a supply kit for your home but also your car and workplace. In general, you should have enough at home for at least 72 hours and take into account you may not have power or heat so electric can openers for your canned food will not work. Remember to include food and water and medication for your pets and comfort food for the kids.

Anonymous User : How do i keep the pipes in my house from freezing in the winter?

Roy Shrout : Great question and thanks for asking today. I would recommend going to one of your local home improvement centers such as Lowes, Home Depot etc. for their guidance. One thing you should do is to shut off all of the exterior spigots. This will minimize any freezing issues you may have with some of those pipes. When you do shut off these lines, make sure you keep the access panel open so that warm air can continue to circulate. Another recommendation is that in any exterior wall pipe such as those in bathrooms or in the kitchen you may find it necessary to put insulation around those pipes to minimize the chance of freezing. If its extremely cold which it has been these past couple of nights, you need to keep the under cabinet door open to ensure warm air circulates more easily.

Tina : What is the best way to get closings information from the county and the schools?

Roy Shrout : Their are many ways to get this information. The two best ways are to tune into you local news stations either radio or television and to sign up for our Community Emergency Alert Network (CEAN). When you sign up with CEAN you can specify the types of information you can receive such as closings in the county, weather, significant accidents, disaster notification and traffic updates. We also have all of that information posted on the county website, as well as channel 16 and our social media sites such as facebook and twitter. To sign up for emergency alerts please go to

Jeff from Herndon : What plans are in place to clear sidewalks on major thoroughfares and bus stops if a major snowfall occurs? Last February, walkers and bus riders had to walk down Herndon Parkway to get to Elden Street for at least 2 weeks, and the stop at Reston North (which will have significantly more traffic now that Reston East is closing) wasn't cleared for days, forcing riders to stand within 2-3 feet of cars traveling 40+ mph.

Roy Shrout : Great question and I know is a hot topic for many. Neither the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) nor Fairfax County clears snow and ice from public walkways (sidewalks and trails). While not legally obligated, residents and businesses are asked to help keep sidewalks safe. With regards to the Town of Herndon which is the location you mentioned in your question. I spoke with their Superintendent of Public Works and he indicated that in their Town, they do clear some of their sidewalks, however, mainly those going to the schools. They do also plow around bus stops if applicable. If you would like to call him for further clarification for the Town of Herndon, Sonny Lynch at 703-435-6860.

Anonymous User : Do we have any indication on how bad this winter will be? Hopefully there will be less snow than we had last year.

Roy Shrout : Great question and as the case with all predictions its only that, a prediction. Our agency utilizes the National Weather Service located in Sterling, Virginia for all of our weather information forcasts. Essentialy a similar weather pattern is possible as we saw last year, however, the moisture flows from the Gulf should not be as great as they were last year. With that said, we are less likely to see the large snows we saw in December and February. We are not forecasters here so please consult the NWS website at www.erh.noaa/gov/er/lwx. You can find a variety of information on current and forecast predictions. Our recommendation is to always be prepared for any large event. Make sure you are prepared at home and your business as you may find yourself in either location or on the road.

Anonymous User : Are there any general tips for keeping pets safe in the winter? I have an inside/outside cat for the first time this year and I'm worried about her in the cold.

Roy Shrout : Thanks for asking this question. Please look at our website at and it will point you at the section on pets. If a pet is outdoors, by law, it must be provided with shelter. The pet's house should be elevated off the ground to prevent moisture accumulation and have a door of some kind to keep out winter winds, sleet and snow. Shelters should be insulated or heated in severely cold or inclement weather, no pet should be kept outside. Indoor pets should have sleeping quarters in a draft-free warm area with their bed or mattress elevated slightly off the floor. For bedding, use hay or other non-absorbent materials that will remain dry during inclement weather. Other tips include Dont let dogs off their leash as they may get lost Snow and salt should be removed from pet's paws immediately to avoide burning their paw pads Outdoor pets require extra calories to keep warm so feed your pet a little more duing cold weather months Be sure the pet's water does not freeze And in particular with cats, they may climb onto vehicle engies for warmth during cold weather. Be sure to check under the hood before starting your vehicle. You may also want to consult with your vet for further suggestions.

Roy Shrout : Thanks to everyone for participating in todays winter weather preparedness chat. Should you have any further questions, please contact the Office of Emergency Management via email at or by phone at 571-350-1000. We also provide preparedness presentations for groups and organizations. If you are interested and would like to have a speaker please contact our office. Stay safe and Be Prepared