Opinion: Commentary: A+ Primer for Our Neighborhoods

County Community Emergency Response Guide builds local resiliency, and mitigates potential risks.

Our Fairfax County government is well prepared to deal with emergencies, both large and small, from large storms to disease outbreaks to criminal and even terrorist events. But our communities are not so prepared. In the first 72 hours after a major emergency event, governmental services may not be available. Power may be out, transportation blocked, medical services overwhelmed, and food, gas, and even money difficult to find.

In those first few days, communities would need to come together so neighbors can help each other. And even during those lesser emergency events which occur with some regularity — snowstorms, serious thunderstorms, and the like — neighbors need to help each other out.

That’s why I am so thrilled that Fairfax County has published its first ever Community Emergency Response Guide from the Office of Emergency Management. The publication of this document, and the plan behind it, fulfills a goal of mine that even predates my election to the board. When I served as president of the Kings Park Civic Association I recognized the great need for a citizen-focused emergency planning tool. As a supervisor I have pushed for this program for years. Now the Office of Emergency Management made this idea a reality. The end result is a comprehensive planning tool that will strengthen community, build local resiliency, and mitigate potential risks.

Community coordination is needed in making a successful community emergency plan. It requires citizens to take initiative, reach out to their peers, and work together to identify local risks and assets. The Community Emergency Response Guide breaks down emergency planning into easy-to-follow steps. These including defining your area, recruiting leaders, knowing your area, building an emergency response team, and planning your approach. Everything is laid out in this step-by-step guide, including how to organize an emergency team, creating a family emergency kit, and adding disabled residents to a functional needs registry. It even lists the most likely emergencies and explains how to prepare for, respond to, and recover from them. Users can also find information on local volunteer groups who can assist in these emergencies, such as the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). By filling out the Community Emergency Response Guide will give you a never-before-seen view of your own neighborhood.

You can find the Community Emergency Response Guide online at https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/emergencymanagement/cerg. The Office of Emergency Management offers community workshops to those who would like extra help in creating their emergency response plan. The request form can be found on the Office of Emergency Management website.

I encourage all residents to work within their particular communities to create an emergency response program appropriate for your neighborhood. We are here to help.

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