Storms Provide Wake-Up Call

Storms Provide Wake-Up Call

Dust off emergency plans; sign-up for Fairfax County alerts.


Jeffrey McKay

I’ve been thinking a lot about emergencies lately—a derecho, four days without power in a heat wave with two small kids, and a flooded kitchen floor will do that to you. So will a magnitude 5.8 earthquake such as the one we experienced last August.

In this part of the country, we’re accustomed to weather emergencies that give a few days’ notice. With hurricanes and snow storms, there’s usually time to make a store run, secure loose items around the house, and alter travel plans. Garden-variety thunderstorms are a normal part of our summers, and any power outages are usually short. The derecho - violent straight line thunderstorms with the power of tornados - that roared into our area on June 29 was something else entirely, and a sharp reminder of what nature can do to our infrastructure. I’d say we’ve had a loud wake-up call to government at all levels, to utilities, and most of all, to us as individuals to plan for the unexpected.

Back in the days and months after the 9/11 terrorist attack, you couldn’t read a news story or turn on the TV without hearing about family emergency plans. Many of us put those plans in place, and then - as the years rolled by without incident - those plans and emergency kits gathered dust and got shuttled off to a closet somewhere. Emergencies come in many different forms and some of the most damaging have natural causes. Now would be a good time to dust off and replenish those emergency kits and communication plans.

Fairfax County’s web page has a lot of very useful information at If you go to you’ll be guided through creating a family emergency plan. It’ll be a half hour well spent that could save you hours and days later.

If I could ask for just one thing, it’s for every Fairfax County resident to sign up for the County’s CEAN (Community Emergency Alert Network) text alert system. This system delivers important alerts, notifications, and updates during a major crisis or emergency, in addition to day-to-day notices about weather and traffic. You can sign up online at Messages will be delivered to all devices you register, including email accounts, cell phones, text pagers, satellite phones, and wireless devices.

This is information that I hope you’ll never need to use, but it can help you to sleep better at night knowing you’re well prepared.