Friday, October 19, 2007

Free Service To Notify Your Families (And Team Members) In An Emergency

We are pleased to announce the launch of Stargazer in the Fairfax County Citizen Corps Council.

In Fairfax County Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training, we ask a simply question who is the most important person in a disaster. All of the students are trained to say “ME!”

The order of importance that we train is as follows:

Emergency Response Team

In the event of a disaster where members of the Fairfax County Citizen Corps Council (not just CERT) are called to service, how can we keep in touch with our families and let them know we are okay.

Let's say there is a situation in your community and you need to notify all members of your Neighborhood Watch team, how would you do it? Do you have an easy way to do it directly from your cellphone, computer, and other devices?

If we look at one of the lessons learned from the Virginia Tech tragedy, we see that communication was key. While voice systems were down, it is the digital systems that are usually first to return.

While Fairfax County has the CEAN network and other systems that provide emergency update messages, there did not appear to be a system that can help you notify family, team members, neighbors, or even co-workers.

Yesterday, at the CIO Forum & Executive IT Summit, I had the opportunity to speak on a panel with the President of Stargazer. He spoke on using technology to help improve communications among our team members that expands well beyond the bounds of our blogs.

There are some nice features, including the ability to be able to instant message members of your team, share forms, pictures, etc. The ability to let people know you are okay! This system is not limited to emergency response/notification.

As Chairman of the Fairfax County Citizen Corps council, I recommend that each of you to go to Stargazer at and sign up yourself and your family. Once you have done so, please email me at and we can work together to have you added to the Fairfax County Citizen Corps Team.

Also setup your own individual teams (like a Herndon Reston CERT Team, Mount Vernon Neighborhood Watch Team, Chantilly High School Medical Reserve Corps Team, Volunteer Mobilization Leadership Team, National Capital Region Roleplayer/Actor Team, etc.) and let us know.

Keep in mind, if we do not know that our families are okay, we cannot be at our best to serve our community. If we do not know our teammates are okay, we cannot best serve our community and we end up putting others at risk. And on top of that, all of your family out of town that cannot reach you as well?

In recent meetings, we discussed needing to come up with ways to be better prepared with limited funding. This is one no cost tool that helps provide a mechanism to help us be better prepared to respond and be prepared.

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