McLean People gathered at the American Legion Post 270 in McLean on Wednesday,
March 29, to learn how to prepare for emergency situations.
The Greater McLean Chamber of Commerce collaborated with the McLean Citizens Association, the Great Falls Citizens Association and the Fairfax County Federation of Citizens Associations to host the public safety preparedness program for the Dranesville District. Delegates Kathleen Murphy, D-34, and Marcus Simon, D-53, also attended.
The event convened a panel of experts including:
Grelia Steele of the Fairfax County Office of Emergency Management
Rob Brown of the Virginia Department of Emergency Management
Special Agent J. Michael Talbot of the FBI Washington Field Office
Maureen Scholz of the McLean Insurance Agency
John Jewell of Jewell Technical Consulting
Alex McLellan of Quality Business Coaching
Ralph Petti of Continuity Dynamics, Inc.
WHILE THE FIRST PORTION of the panel focused on how to safeguard businesses, including investing in business continuity plans and insurance policies, the panel also discussed the realities that face the region.
“Because we’re right next to the nation’s capital, we are prone to terrorism,” Grelia Steele of the Fairfax County Office of Emergency Management, said during the panel.
Her agency, along with the Northern Virginia Hazard Mitigation Advisory Committee, which includes representatives from 21 jurisdictions, recently updated the Northern Virginia Hazard Mitigation Plan.
According to the plan, the potential hazards that could affect Northern Virginia include: flooding, winter storms, high winds, tornadoes, droughts, earthquakes, landslides, wildfires, landslides, dam failures and extreme temperatures.
Since the area is a part of the national capital region, the group’s assessment also identified other threats: pandemics, cyber attacks, terrorism and chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive materials.
The plan identifies 448 critical and historic assets in Fairfax County alone that could be targeted.
“We’ve got a lot of things here,” Rob Brown of the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, said during the panel. “We’ve got a lot of critical infrastructure, not only our transportation systems but also our communication systems, server farms and a lot of federal agencies that have critical assets in Northern Virginia.”
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will vote on whether to adopt the updated plan at its next meeting on Tuesday, April 4, after deadline for this newspaper.
AFTER BUSINESS AND GOVERNMENT safety preparedness were covered, Steele urged the audience to take steps to safeguard their families during emergency situations. One thing families can do is create an emergency preparedness kit, she said.
“Make sure you have materials to keep you going for 72 hours, the materials you use every day,” Steele said.
Brown also urged the audience to use a resource his department helped create: www.readynova.org.
“If you get on this website, it will actually walk you through building a plan,” Brown said.
The site features plans that are tailored for families, businesses and faith communities.
The audience was also encouraged to sign up for Fairfax Alerts at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/alerts.
“That information comes directly from us,” Steele said. “The information that you are getting is directly from the source. We obviously won’t give you all of the details, but the snippets will help you make your next decision.”
TO FINISH THE PANEL, Special Agent J. Michael Talbot of the FBI Washington Field Office talked to the gathering about how to respond to active shooters.
“I do not like that word anymore or that name: active shooter,” Talbot said during the meeting. “If I had anything to do with it, I would change it to active killer.”
His reasoning for his terminology is that perpetrators of these incidents are killing people with knives, cars and bombs and not just guns.
“Their intent is to kill as many people as possible and they usually don’t care if they live or die,” Talbot said.
Talbot said that people dealing with these situations have three options: evacuate, hide or take action. While the third option is of last resort, he says it is better than negotiating.
“I don’t care who you are, you actually now have advantage over the shooter because the shooter is not going to expect any one of you to take the fight to him,” he said.