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First, make sure you have a firm handle on what you need to do DURING a warm weather emergency. The County Office of Emergency Management offers a series of great tips you and your family/fellow residents can use to be ready to stay safe and sound in your home when mother nature begins to rage outside. See the OEM web page for more details. Or if you would like hard copy information sent to you contact OEM by phone at 703-792-5627 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Second, when the storm is over there are some critical things you need to remember before you venture outside. The rule of thumb used by both professional and volunteer emergency responders that you need to follow is that the first priority is that YOU remain safe and do not risk endangering yourself -- even if you intend to perform a rescue or render assistance to a neighbor.
This is important! Survey the scene outside. If ANYTHING seems unsafe (for example downed power or other utility lines, falling or blowing tree limbs, spilled chemicals, running floodwater, or anything that could potentially cause you bodily harm) you must not approach the area EVEN IF you know a rescue needs to be made or other assistance is required.
Instead, dial 911 or another local emergency number. Make sure you note to the emergency operator the location of the dangerous condition and the nature of the required rescue or assistance at or beyond the unsafe area. If you can do so safely, you can wait for emergency personnel to arrive and direct them to the exact location of the situation.
Remember, survey the scene and ONLY perform a rescue or other assistance if the scene is entirely safe FOR YOU. There are good reasons for this. If, with all the right intentions of a good Samaritan, you put yourself in danger while attempting to help others, chances are you could become an additional victim or yet another person in need of emergency assistance. That just endangers the emergency personnel who will eventually arrive at the scene and further exacerbates the original dangerous situation for all involved. Survey the scene for safety and get the help you need BEFORE considering a rescue or rendering any assistance after a damaging weather event!
Third, once you've checked and secured your property and family/fellow home residents after the storm, if conditions are safe outside consider checking on neighbors who are elderly or disabled if you feel comfortable doing so. If you know a neighbor is away on vacation when the storm hits, take a moment to check their property for any situation requiring immediate attention -- doing so from outside of their property line (unless you have explicit permission from the property owner to enter the property).
Fourth, work with your neighbors to see about organizing a community debris cleanup in the days or weeks after the storm. It is a good idea to properly dispose of leaf and tree debris after a summer storm especially because of the fire danger this material can pose in neighborhoods if left piled through the hot and dry dog days of summer and early fall. This material is also a haven for pests and can become an eyesore and can become a property code violation.
Remember, it is ALWAYS free for residents to drop off compostable materials like leaves, clippings, and branches at the County's Balls Ford Road Composting Facility during their open hours. The facility is located at 13000 Balls Ford Road in Manassas near the intersection of Balls Ford Road and Wellington Road. You can contact the facility at 703-335-8181. If you can bring together neighborhood volunteers with pick-ups and SUVs, it is entirely possible that you can properly dispose of all or most of the storm debris in your neighborhood in one fell swoop! See the composting facility's web page for more details on how to transport the materials.
Or, if you live in an HOA, ask the board or property management company to organize a debris cleanup and contact your contracted waste hauler to arrange for debris disposal.
If your neighborhood isn't formally organized, you could try to band together with other residents and even other neighborhoods to arrange a debris cleanup event and negotiate with a local hauling business for a fair pick-up and disposal charge participating residents can share.
HOA or not, your community debris cleanup event may qualify for a Free Dumpster Tipping Voucher that can be provided by our non-profit community improvement partner Keep Prince William Beautiful. Contact KPWB at 571-285-3772 or see their web page for more details.
A "Free Tipping" voucher should help the hauling companies you contact offer your neighborhood a competitive price on storm debris pickup and disposal services. (Remember, while tipping fees are a major factor in a hauler's pickup and disposal costs, these are NOT the only costs a hauler faces. That is why we recommend you contact a variety of companies to find the most competitive deal.)
Please be aware that the County does not have the manpower or resources available to provide pickup and disposal services of storm debris in individual neighborhoods.