It’s best to plan for a catastrophe before it happens, says Whitney Kazragis, community outreach liaison with the Fairfax County Office of Emergency Management, at a meeting of the Mason Police District’s Community Advisory Committee Sept. 2.
She advises residents to assemble emergency kits for the house, car, and workplace with everything the family might need if forced to evacuate or shelter in place without power or basic services.
The kit should include food, water, flashlight, radio, batteries, emergency blanket, cash, tools, trash bags, duct tape, can opener, change of clothes, sanitation supplies, light sticks, contact information, and waterproof container. If your family includes pets, children, older people, or people with disabilities, be sure to include anything they might need, too.
An emergency plan should include contact information for an out-of-town relative; copies of medical records and important documents, such as passports, banking records, car title, and insurance policies; a communications plan in case there is no power; and information about predetermined shelter-in-place and evacuation locations.
ReadyNOVA, a partnership of local governments in Northern Virginia, has templates for creating preparedness plans for families and businesses. Kazragis suggests mailing copies of critical documents to an out-of-state relative as backup.
Fairfax County maintains a registry of people who are homebound or have critical medical needs and who might need special help during an emergency.
Noting that it’s critical to stay alert to official announcements during an emergency, Kazragis urges everyone to sign up for Fairfax Alerts, a messaging system that supersedes the old Community Emergency Alert Network. With Fairfax Alerts, you can choose up to five locations and 10 delivery methods, including phone, text, email, iPhone app, and Android app.
The key question for many people during an emergency is “should I stay or should I go?” Kazragis says. The answer depends on what the authorities recommend. It might be better to stay put than try to evacuate and get stuck on a congested interstate for eight hours.