Digital Preparedness Kit – Fairfax County, Virginia

Post by: Kim Stephens

I like to scan emergency management websites looking for best practice examples to share. Due to the recent #derecho storm on the easter corridor I checked into Fairfax County–always a great example–to see what they were up to and I stumbled onto their Digital Preparedness Kit. Although this recent storm was humbling regarding the use of cell phones in a crisis, now that power is being restored, cell service is actually one of the first things coming back online.

Verizon announced Tuesday afternoon that nearly all of its customers had cellphone service restored, but there were lingering problems with TV, landline and Internet service in Virginia, Maryland and The District. Mitchell  [of Verizon] said there was no timetable for when those problems might be resolved. (Washington Post Local)

Recommending how citizens can have their cell phones “emergency ready” therefore, is still a great idea. Fairfax has ten great tips that should be a staple on all emergency preparedness websites.  Recommendation #7, which describes the importance of conserving cell power in case the user needs to dial 911, is a bit ironic considering 911 was out of service for an unacceptable amount of time in the county during the storm. That recommendation should also come with a side note for government agencies: “avoid sending tweets with links to information that needs to be downloaded by citizens, therefore increasing network congestion.” Nonetheless, this page is a great resource which also provide information and links to all of their mobile apps.

Do you have a “cell preparedness” page on your local agency website? Let me know. Here are their tips:

Top 10 Digital Preparedness Tips

  1. Tell your friends & family you are OK via text, email, Twitter, Facebook and other social media.
  2. Learn how to send updates via text and internet from your mobile phone to your contacts and social channels in case voice communications are not available. Avoid calling by phone.
  3. If you have a life-threatening emergency, call 9-1-1. Remember that you cannot currently text 9-1-1.  If you are not experiencing an emergency, do not call 9-1-1.
  4. Save important phone numbers to your phone.
  5. Keep charged batteries and car-phone chargers available as back-up power for your cell phone.
  6. Conserve your cell phone battery by reducing the brightness of your screen, placing your phone in airplane mode, and closing apps you are not using that draw power.
  7. Immediately following a disaster, resist using your mobile device to watch streaming videos, download music or videos, or play video games, all of which can add to network congestion. Limiting use of these services can help potentially life-saving emergency calls get through to 9-1-1.
  8. If you do not have a cell phone, keep a prepaid phone card to use if needed during or after a disaster.
  9. Charge your digital camera or buy batteries for your film camera if you need to document storm damage afterwards.
  10. Get connected with us through the tools listed on this page: texts, Twitter and more.

9 responses to “Digital Preparedness Kit – Fairfax County, Virginia

  1. In Arlington County, VA, which also had a 911 outage, additional information included a special (conventional) phone no. for emergencies and advice to go to the nearest fire station to get 911 type assistance. Also CERT volunteers were staffing the fire houses to help forward requests from walkins. Not everything has to be electronic to get the task done!

  2. kim26stephens

    You are 100% right Claire, I agree–and using volunteers in this creative way is another best practice example. Thanks for sharing!

  3. We have posted similar items in the past to our website and social properties and did so again during this past event. Ours includes instructions to fast-follow during an event, directs to our local electrical utility’s mobile app for outage status and reporting, includes registration info for our notification system, keeping insurance and home inventory online, etc. The current version on our website is here:

  4. Pingback: Weekly Hot Topics: Customers, Campaigns & Crisis Management

  5. kim26stephens

    Thanks James! I should have known you would have that type of info listed!

  6. Pingback: Digital Preparedness Kit – Fairfax County, Virginia | #UASI

  7. Pingback: Cell Phone Preparedness: Small County, Great Example | #UASI

  8. Great tips! They follow closely with the messaging my non-profit, The Safe America Foundation, is promoting through a public awareness campaign called “Text First. Talk Second.” If you get a second, check out our program page on in texting in an emergency:

    BTW, good blog you’ve got here. You’ve earned yourself a new follower.

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