Category Archives: Natural Disasters

Family Earthquake Drill

Many Virginians remember where they were and how they reacted on August 23, 2011, when an historic 5.8 earthquake centered in Louisa County.  Although we do not experience earthquakes often in Virginia, that day is a reminder that we need to be prepared and know what to do.  October is Earthquake Preparedness Month.  If the ground starts shaking, what do you do?  Drop, Cover and Hold On!  Earthquakes happen without warning, and the shaking may be so severe that you cannot run or crawl.  DROP to the ground.  Take COVER by getting under a sturdy desk or table, and HOLD ON to it until the shaking stops.

It is important to know where you should go for protection when your home starts to shake.  By planning and practicing what to do before an earthquake occurs, you can condition yourself and your family to react correctly and spontaneously when the first jolt or shaking is felt.  An earthquake drill can teach your family what to do in an earthquake.

  • Each family member should know safe spots in each room.
  • Safe spots: The best places to be are under heavy pieces of furniture, such as a desk or sturdy table; under supported archways; and against inside walls.
  • Danger spots: Stay away from windows, hanging objects, mirrors, fireplaces, and tall unsecured pieces of furniture.
  • Reinforce this knowledge by physically placing yourself in the safe locations. This is especially important for children.
  • In the days or weeks after this exercise, hold surprise drills.
  • Be prepared to deal with what you may experience after an earthquake — both physically and emotionally.

For more information about earthquake emergency procedures at NOVA, please visit For additional earthquake preparedness tips, visit or

Virginia’s Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday is May 25-31

It is smart to start preparing early for hurricane and flash flooding season which arrives June 1st.  It is even smarter to save money while getting prepared.

You can do both by shopping for such products as batteries, food storage containers, generators, first aid kits, bottled water, radios, and more between May 25th and 31st during Virginia’s annual Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday.  When you do, you will not pay sales tax on many useful products that cost up to $60 or on generators costing $1,000 or less.  See the chart below for more information. 

Hurricane Preparedness

New for 2015! Gas-powered chainsaws that cost $350 or less and chainsaw accessories that cost $60 or less are tax free.  A complete list of exempt items is available at


Purchasing supplies is important, but it is critical to make a family emergency plan. Protect your family now by visiting

Virginia Statewide Tornado Drill March 17th at 9:45 am

The annual Statewide Tornado Drill is scheduled for 9:45am on Tuesday, March 17th.  NOVA’s faculty, satff, and students who are on campuses or in one of the College’s off-campus locations will once again be participating in this mandatory Statewide Drill. 

Tornados can happen anytime, anywhere, with little or no warning. Knowing what to do when seconds count can save lives.  Below is some information from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management’s website on the difference between a tornado watch and warning as well as signs of an impending tornado. 

Watches and Warnings
Learn the terms that are used to identify a tornado. 

  • Tornado Watch:   a tornado is possible in your area.  You should monitor weather-alert radios and local radio and TV stations for information. 
  • Tornado Warning:  a tornado has been sighted in the area or has been indicated by National Weather Service Doppler radar. When a warning is issued, take cover immediately

Know the Signs

  • Strong, persistent rotation in the base of a cloud
  • Whirling dust or debris on the ground under a cloud base – tornadoes sometimes have no visible funnel
  • Hail or heavy rain followed by dead calm or a fast, intense wind shift. Many tornadoes, especially in Virginia, are wrapped in heavy precipitation and can’t be seen.
  • Loud, continuous roar or rumble, which doesn’t fade in a few seconds like thunder does
  • If it’s night, look for small, bright, blue-green to white flashes at ground level (as opposed to silvery lightning up in the clouds).  These lights are power lines being snapped by very strong wind, perhaps a tornado.
  • Persistent lowering of the cloud base  

Spring Power Hour Series is Under Way

Join the Office of Emergency Management and Planning (OEMP) for its upcoming March Power Hour.  This one hour bring-your-own-lunch training session will be offered at the Alexandria, Manassas, and Medical Education campuses.  As with all Power Hours, this session is open to all faculty, staff, and students.

  • Topic:  On March 6th, OEMP staff will train faculty, staff, and students about Earthquake Response.  Come learn what you and others need to do when everything around you begins to shake and what to do when it stops.
  • Time:  Noon to 1:00 pm.
  • Locations for the March 6th Power Hour are as follows:                               

                                Alexandria – AA 417

                                Manassas – MH 110G

                                Medical Education – 352

  • Registration:  The training is open to all but, due to space limitations, we ask that you please register in advance.  Faculty and staff can register through the NOVA Academy.  Once logged in, click on the Learning Center, click on Course Catalog, type OEMP into the Search Text box, and then click Search.   Select NOVA – OEMP:  Earthquake Response, click on the campus session you would like to attend, and then click register.  Students can register by sending an email to  If you have any questions, you may also contact the office at 703-764-5043.

Hurricane Sandy – Will this be a “Frankenstorm?”

While it may be late in the season for a storm the size of Hurricane Sandy, we should always make sure we are prepared for any type of storm or disaster.  As of this morning, the two computer models show that the Northern Virginia area will be impacted in one way or another.  If the storm hits closer to the Chesapeake Bay, our area will get heavy rain and high winds.  If it hits further up the coast closer to NY, we will still get some rain but the winds will not be as high.  Either way, you should prepare for power outages and possible flooding.  

If you have not done so already, we suggest that you pull out your flashlights and dust them off.  Make sure you have spare batteries as well.  Also make sure that you have bottled water.

You can go to FEMA’s website for more information on Sandy as well as useful preparedness tips.  Also,  you can go to our OEMP website for more tips as well.