Posted by: RJ the Fire Dog Blogger | May 26, 2015

Don’t Trip Yourself Up!

Businessman slipping and falling from a banana peel

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, two million broken bones occur every year in the U.S. due to osteoporosis. What’s more, most people proceed with fracture repair without ever realizing they have osteoporosis or low bone mass. Join us in celebrating National Osteoporosis Month this May by taking action to Break Free from Osteoporosis. The Break Free from Osteoporosis campaign encourages everyone to get to know their risk factors for osteoporosis and make the lifestyle changes needed to build strong bones for life.

At the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, our first priority is the safety of our employees, clients and the general public. As a company, it is our goal to make every attempt to eliminate the potential for accidents. Slips, trips and falls represent a serious hazard to workers in the security industry and are responsible for well over half of the nonfatal injuries that result in days away from work. In honor of National Osteoporosis Month, we have devoted this week’s blog post to an important part of bone health—preventing slips, trips and falls.

The following post was written by Angela Burrell, manager of public relations for our corporate company, Universal Services of America, (with “Firedogisms” by me—RJ the Firedog, noted by italics).

First and foremost, stay focused and alert for hazards that may cause a slip, trip or fall. Good housekeeping, quality of walking surfaces (flooring), proper footwear and preparing facilities are all critical for preventing accidents that could result from wet surfaces, occasional spills, loose mats or other hazards. I trip myself up regularly, probably because I have twice as many legs as humans.

By partnering with clients, security teams can help prevent slips, trips and falls to reduce serious injuries that could lead to customer civil liability lawsuits and expensive worker compensation claims.

Here are some tips to follow and recommendations that you could make:

Reduce the risk of slipping on wet flooring by:

  • Encouraging the use of slip-resistant footwear.
  • Taking your time, paying attention and making wide turns at corners while walking.
  • Protecting entrances to employee areas with matting designed to absorb water.
  • Placing paper towel holders, trash cans and umbrella bags near entrances to reduce wet floors.
  • Providing slip-resistant stair treads on permanent stairs.
  • Recommending installation of grab bars or railing in doorways and stairwells. Although I can’t use railings myself, they seem like a very good idea.

Report or correct the following housekeeping conditions:

  • Debris, spills or wet areas on floors, stairs or walkways
  • Mats, rugs and carpets that may become obstacles themselves
  • File cabinet or storage drawers left open, especially on top levels
  • Exposed cables or bulky power cords that are not properly secured or protected
  • Burned out lights in work areas, parking structures or walkways
  • Bacon on the floor (not really a hazard, but important information, nonetheless!)

Be proactive

  • Mark hazardous areas whenever necessary. Use temporary signs, cones, barricades or floor stand signs to warn people passing by.
  • Block off areas during floor cleaning. Remove all signs once the floor is clean and dry so they do not become commonplace and ignored.

For more information about National Osteoporosis Month, check out the National Osteoporosis Foundation website. We hope that this blog post will motivate you to begin or maintain a regular physical fitness routine for optimal health and aspire to prevent accidents. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. Visit RJWestmore.com to read about the many ways proper planning can make a difference in numerous aspects of your professional and personal life.

Posted by: RJ the Fire Dog Blogger | May 12, 2015

Get Moving During Fitness & Sports Month

Physical Fitness 4Despite what we know about the benefits of physical fitness relative to health, weight, longevity and emotional well-being, as a nation, on average, we remain alarmingly sedentary. This fact applies more to people than to dogs. We tend to actually prefer walking to lying around all day. To call attention to the situation, and in an effort to affect change, the President’s Council has named May as National Physical Fitness and Sports Month.

As far as physical fitness, these statistics released by Fitness.Gov demonstrate the need for improvement: 

  • Only one in three children are physically active every day.
  • Less than 5% of adults participate in 30 minutes of physical activity each day.
  • More than 80% of adults do not meet the guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities.
  • More than 80% of adolescents do not get enough aerobic physical activity to meet the guidelines for youth.
  • Nationwide, 25.6% of persons with a disability reported being physically inactive during a usual week.
  • Only about one in five homes have parks within a half-mile, and about the same number have a fitness or recreation center within that distance.
  • Only six states require physical education in every grade, K-12.
  • Nearly one-third of high school students play video or computer games for three or more hours on an average school day.
  • Children now spend more than seven and a half hours a day in front of a screen (e.g., TV, videogames, computer).
  • Unfit dogs are usually mirror images of their physically unfit masters. So take advantage of your pet’s desire to stay active. Take your dog for a walk!

Physical Fitness 5For those who remain unconvinced, there is ample evidence that exercise drastically improves physical health for people and pets of all ages. Here are five ways physical activity can vastly improve lives:

  1. Improve muscular fitness and bone and heart health.
  2. Lower risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer.
  3. Reduce the risk of falls and improve cognitive functioning (like learning and judgment skills).
  4. Control weight – Not only does physical fitness burn calories, but muscle burns more calories than fat. So modest strength training and cardio affect weight. And maintaining a healthy BMI (Body Mass Index) reduces a myriad of health issues.
  5. Improve mental health and mood – The CDC maintains that regular physical activity can help keep your thinking, learning, and judgment skills sharp as you age.
  6. Dogs who exercise are happier and live longer than their sedentary peers.

What to do

Physical Fitness 3Instead of being overwhelmed, take simple steps to improve physical fitness and overall health:

  • Start slowly and build gradually so you won’t abandon an overly ambitious workout routine.
  • Make small changes, like taking a walk after dinner, walking your dog, parking far away instead of fighting for a spot close to your destination or riding a bike.
  • WebMD reports that inexpensive, easy-to-use pedometers are proven to motivate people to move more and sit less.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink water before and after you exercise, even if you aren’t thirsty. Drink a cup of water every 15 minutes during your workout, as well.
  • To prevent soreness and injury and increase flexibility, stretch for five to 10 minutes after workouts, when body temperature and muscles are warm, and hold each stretch for 20 to 30 seconds.

For more information about Physical Fitness & Sports, check out the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition. We hope that this blog post will motivate you to begin or maintain a regular physical fitness routine for optimal health. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. Visit RJWestmore.com to read about the many ways proper planning can make a difference in numerous aspects of your professional and personal life.

Posted by: RJ the Fire Dog Blogger | April 21, 2015

One Text or Call Could Wreck it All

National Distracted Driving Month — Hands-Free is Not Risk-Free

texting 6While drivers are finally starting to agree that hazards are associated with texting while driving, an even larger problem looms, relative to cell phone use while driving a car. To date, most Americans remain unaware of the hazards associated with using cell phones while driving at all…even with a hands-free unit. I am almost glad I don’t have opposable thumbs, which make it impossible for me to drive or use a cellphone.

According to the National Safety Council, more than eight in 10 Americans believe cell phones are addictive, which underscores the need to help drivers kick their cell phone use habit altogether. I suggest dropping phones in the toilet and using the money to invest in bacon. In response to the danger In response to the danger, the council is using Distracted Driving Month 2015 to launch a new national campaign—Calls Kill, to illustrate that hands-free cell phones are not risk-free, and that no call is worth a life.

“For far too long, we have prioritized convenience over safety,” says Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO, National Safety Council, “When we get behind the wheel, we have an obligation to keep one another safe. Drivers who justify cell phone use with the hands-free myth are disregarding that obligation. It’s time to reconcile the cost of being constantly connected with the consequences of risky behavior behind the wheel.”

texting 7Studies have shown that drivers who are talking on cell phones—even hands-free—are cognitively distracted by the conversation so they are unable to adequately focus on the important task of driving. Driving and cell phone conversations both require a great deal of thought. When doing simultaneously, the brain is unable to do either task well. For example, it is nearly impossible to read a book and have a phone conversation. While driving, doing two things at once often results in crashes due to delayed reaction and braking times and failure to see and process traffic signals. So does sniffing while walking around the neighborhood.

Although we know that cell phone-related car crashes are a problem, to date, we are unable to accurately measure the degree because, unfortunately, no breathalyzer-like test exists for cell phone use behind the wheel. And drivers who are involved in crashes are reluctant to admit use. So this results in a huge gap in the data. Nevertheless, research shows:

  • Young Drivers Report the Highest Level of Phone Involvement in Crash or Near-Crash Incidences, per theNational Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
  • No fewer than 1.3 million documented cases of cell phone use have contributed to automobile accidents since 2011.
  • The minimum amount of time it takes to shift attention from a device to the road is five seconds. While driving at a speed of 55 mph, a person travels the length of a football field in this short amount of time. I’ll bet the actual number is much higher, though that’s a scary thought.The minimum amount of time it takes to eat a slice of bacon is not measurable with existing technology.
  • The risk of crash increases by 23% while text-messaging.
  • Dialing increases risk of collision by 2.8 times.
  • Talking or listening increases risk by 1.3 times.
  • Reaching for a device increases risk by 1.4 times.
  • 13 percent of drivers, ages 18-20, involved in car wrecks admitted to texting or talking on their mobile devices at the time of the crash.
  • 10 percent of teens who text while driving spend a considerable amount of time outside their own lanes of traffic.
  • 48 percent of kids ages 12-17 have been in the car while someone who was driving was texting.
  • One in five drivers of all ages confess to surfing the web while driving. Drivers who surf while driving justify their behavior by saying that it is safer to read a text than it is to compose or send one, they hold the phone near the windshield for “better visibility,” they increase the following distance, or they text “only” at stop signs or red lights.

texting 5As part of the Calls Kill campaign, the Council urges drivers to pledge to drive cell free. Drivers who take the pledge will not only increase their safety behind the wheel, but also will be entered into weekly drawings to win prizes including an NSC First Aid, CPR & AED Online course, safety items for kids, and a stuffed animal donated by KidsAndCars.Org.

We hope that this blog post will help you take steps to avoid cell phone use so that you can drive safely. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. Visit RJWestmore.com to read about the many ways proper planning can make a difference in numerous aspects of your professional and personal life.

Posted by: RJ the Fire Dog Blogger | April 7, 2015

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month

widget2Due to the serious nature of the subject of this week’s blog, we have chosen to dispense with my light-hearted “firedogisms.”

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. And, since we at the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services value safety, we thought it pertinent to highlight the importance for people in all walks of life to value child advocacy. In other words, child advocacy is not limited to parents. With the motto, “We All Can Play a Part in Making Meaningful Connections,” this year’s campaign is designed to ensure that parents, friends, teachers and neighbors have the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to make sure children are being cared for.

child abuse 5Each year, more than three million reports of child abuse are made in the United States, involving more than six million children (some reports include multiple children). The United States has one of the worst records among industrialized nations – losing an average four-to-seven children every day to child abuse and neglect.

According to a landmark study done by the CDC/Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences, the breakdown of child abuse includes the following category and associated percentage of prevalence in the U.S.:

  • Physical Abuse – 28.3%
  • Sexual Abuse – 20.7%
  • Emotional Abuse – 10.6%
  • Physical Neglect – 9.9%
  • Emotional Neglect – 14.8%

Where abuse is involved, children suffer the risk of mental health disorders, addictions and related issues which include (but are not limited to) risk for intimate partner violence, alcoholism and substance abuse, smoking and drinking at an early age, depression and suicide attempts. The good news is that we can help eliminate the above and promote children’s social and emotional well-being by preventing child maltreatment within families and communities. Research shows that when parents possess six protective factors, the risk for neglect and abuse diminish and optimal outcomes for children, youth, and families are promoted.

The six protective factors include:

  1. Nurturing and attachment
  2. Knowledge of parenting and of child and youth development
  3. Parental resilience
  4. Social connections
  5. Concrete supports for parents
  6. Social and emotional developmental well-being

April is a time to celebrate the important role that communities play in protecting children, so comprehensive participation is critical. This can be achieved by focusing on ways to build and promote protective factors in every interaction with children and families. In fact, this is the best thing any community can do to prevent child maltreatment and promote optimal child development. In support of these efforts, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau, Office on Child Abuse and Neglect, its Child Welfare Information Gateway, the FRIENDS National Resource Center for Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention, and the Center for the Study of Social Policy – Strengthening Families together have created Making Meaningful Connections 2015 Resource Guide. The guide is designed for service providers who work throughout the community to strengthen families, and is available on the Information Gateway website.

We hope that this blog post will help you take steps to keep children safe during National Child Abuse Prevention Month and all year long. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. Visit RJWestmore.com to read about the many ways proper planning can make a difference in numerous aspects of your professional and personal life.

Posted by: RJ the Fire Dog Blogger | March 24, 2015

How to #BeSafe during Tax Season

taxes 7Since the majority of consumers take advantage of e-filing, tax preparation fraud is at an all-time high. Although your personal information is at risk if you use the Internet at all (because it is basically floating around in Cyberspace), your risk increases exponentially if you fail to practice due diligence when selecting an accounting firm. Beware that nearly anyone can hang a shingle or put up a quick website, offering to inexpensively do your taxes and maximize your refund. I’m glad dogs don’t have to file taxes. Sounds like a big headache!

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen warns taxpayers, “Filing a tax return can be one of the biggest financial transactions of the year, so taxpayers should choose their tax return preparers carefully. Most tax professionals provide top-notch service, but we see bad actors every year that steal from their clients or compromise returns in ways that can severely harm taxpayers.”

taxes 3Since about 60 percent of people file returns prepared by an official agent, reputable tax preparation firms are a vital part of the U.S. tax system. But it is important to note that taxpayers are legally responsible for what is on their tax return even if it is prepared by someone else. So make sure the preparer you hire is up to the task. In other words, you won’t be able to blame your tax preparer if your forms are messed up. So pay attention, people!

If you plan to hire someone to file for you, minimize your risk of fraud, by applying these 10 tips when choosing a tax preparer:

1. Make sure your preparer has an IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). Anyone with a valid 2015 PTIN is authorized to prepare federal tax returns. Ensure the preparer signs and includes their PTIN with your completed return.

2, Ask to see credentials. Although professional certification is not necessary, your preparer should be either an enrolled agent, certified public accountant, attorney, belong to a professional organization, or attend continuing education classes. A number of tax law changes, including the Affordable Care Act provisions, can be complex. So only a competent tax professional will be up-to-date in such matters. Tax law is complicated. So it makes sense to hire someone who knows what they are doing.

3, Check about service fees upfront. Avoid preparers who base theirs fee on a percentage of your refund. Also, steer clear of anyone who says they can get you a larger refund than others. If your taxes are prepared properly and honestly, your refund will be the same no matter who prepares it. Although I’m glad I don’t have to file taxes, I wish I could somehow qualify for a refund. Then I could get more doggie treats!

4, Designate refunds to be sent to you or deposited directly into your bank account. Don’t allow funds to be deposited into a preparer’s bank account. Or, if you prefer, send them straight to me.

Tax deadline5. Make sure your preparer offers IRS e-file and request your return be submitted to the IRS electronically. Doing so is the safest and most accurate way to file a return, whether you do it alone or pay someone to prepare and file for you.

6. Make sure the preparer will be available in case you have questions. You should be able to contact the tax preparer after you file your return – even after the April 15 due date. In other words, avoid fly-by-night places that pop up and close down right after the tax deadline.

7. Provide records and receipts. Qualified preparers will ask to see your records and receipts. They will also ask questions to determine your total income, deductions, tax credits and other items. Do not rely on a preparer who is willing to e-file your return using your last pay stub instead of your Form W-2, which is against IRS e-file rules.

8. Don’t sign an incomplete or blank return. This seems pretty basic. But you might be surprised.

9. Review your return before signing. Make sure you’re comfortable with the accuracy of the return before you sign it.

10. Report abusive tax preparers to the IRS. You can report abusive tax return preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS. Use Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer, which is available at IRS.gov.

To find other tips about choosing a preparer, better understand the differences in credentials and qualifications, and learn how to submit a complaint regarding a tax return preparer, visit Irs.gov/ChooseATaxPro.

We hope that this blog post will help you take steps to be safe during tax time and all year long. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. Visit RJWestmore.com to read about the many ways proper planning can make a difference in numerous aspects of your professional and personal life.

Posted by: RJ the Fire Dog Blogger | March 10, 2015

How to #BeHealthy through Good Nutrition

nutrition 2In our ongoing effort to encourage subscribers and friends to be safe and healthy, we want to call attention to an important way to #BeSafe – through healthy nutrition. What better time to cover the topic than in March, which is National Nutrition Month? With the campaign slogan, “Take a bite out of a healthy lifestyle,” National Nutrition Month is a nutrition education and information program spearheaded annually by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. What a great slogan! I like taking a bite out of anything and everything!

According to NationalNutritionMonth.org, the campaign focuses on “encouraging people to make sound eating and physical activity habits, which include consuming fewer calories, making informed food choices and getting daily exercise in order to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, reduce the risk of chronic disease and promote overall health.” I think this advice applies to canines, too.

nutrition 5In recent years, health crises relative to lifestyles in the United States have reached epidemic proportions. Here are a handful of examples:

  • The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) report the leading cause of death in the nation is heart disease. In fact, about 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year–which is one in every four deaths. Most experts agree that the majority of heart problems stem from physical inactivity and poor nutrition. Did you know that heart disease can affect dogs, too?
  • More than one third of adult Americans are obese. Some economists estimate that obesity related costs account for more than 20 percent of total U.S. Healthcare expenditures and lead to dozens of serious, associated health problems. Obesity is also a growing health problem in dogs, according to the Dog Whisperer, Cesar Milan.
  • Cancer continues to exact a heavy toll on Americans, causing in excess of 600,000 deaths annually. Understandably, the disease ranks highly among health challenges that face the U.S. Although cancer is not entirely attributable to lifestyle choices, there is evidence to support the reduced risk of certain types of cancer with healthy lifestyle choices—such as not smoking, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and getting a good night’s sleep. I love sleeping and can do it for long stretches of the day and night, when given the chance.
  • Sometimes related to obesity, but certainly not exclusively attributable to it, diabetes is currently affects 25 million diagnosed Americans (and likely millions more, who have yet to be diagnosed). A group of diseases marked by high levels of blood glucose resulting from defects in insulin production, insulin action, or both, diabetes can lead to serious complications and premature death. Fortunately, people with diabetes can take steps to control the disease and lower the risk of complications through several means, including (but not limited) to lifestyle choices. Dogs who have diabetes can also take steps to correct the problem.

nutrition fitness firedogFew would argue that it makes sense to make healthy choices. But just what should those choices be? After all; there are virtually limitless opinions on the subject…many of which are contradictory. While some experts recommend whole grains and low fat dairy, others insist the answer lies in following a grain/dairy and legume-free Paleo or nearly the opposite — a meat-free and grain and legume-heavy Vegan diet. Personally, I like to follow the people who suggest a bacon-heavy diet. But, admittedly, that isn’t because it’s a healthy choice.

And while some fitness gurus suggest running as the ticket to stay fit, others say that running is tantamount to suicide and that, instead, a mere 20 minutes of modest cardio a day will do the trick. With all of the conflicting information, no wonder so many decide to chuck it all and stay home watching TV and ordering a pizza! But just that sort of reaction is the root of our national problem.

So what is the answer? While this is not the definitive list, the following five suggestions should help get you on the right track. Little changes over time will result in big results. So use the month of March to get healthy!

  1. Newton’s Law of Inertia still applies. Objects at rest stay at rest, while objects in motion stay in motion. So move your body.
  2. Move more. Once you have started to get your blood flowing on a regular basis, challenge yourself by introducing some basic exercise routines or lifting modest weights. If you are new to exercise, take advantage of introductory free trials at nearby gyms, which usually offer free fitness assessments. If your budget can’t handle gym fees, start by walking around your neighborhood, gradually increasing the duration and speed until you are taking 10,000 steps a day. Pedometers, which count steps, are inexpensive and readily available. If you need a walking buddy, may I suggest your pet? We are great at keeping our family accountable.
  3. Eat right. Trying to make your diet healthy overnight isn’t realistic or smart. Changing everything at once usually leads to cheating or giving up on your new eating plan. Make small steps, like adding a salad (full of different color vegetables) to your diet once a day or switching from butter to olive oil when cooking. As your small changes become a habit, you can continue to add more healthy choices to your diet.

    nutrition 3

  4. Drink plenty of water. Kaiser Permanente nephrologist Steven Guest, MD, explains why: “Fluid losses occur continuously, from skin evaporation, breathing, urine, and stool, and these losses must be replaced daily for good health.”

  5. Limit sugar and salt. While the debate rages about whether it is healthier to eat lots of animal protein or eliminate that source of food altogether, dietitians and nutritionists agree that sugar causes energy ups and downs and can add to health and weight problems and too much salt can cause high blood pressure and lead to other health problems.So consume sugar and salt in moderation.

We hope that this blog post will help you take steps to eat right and be active in order to stay healthy. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. Visit RJWestmore.com to read about the many ways proper planning can make a difference in numerous aspects of your professional and personal life.

Posted by: RJ the Fire Dog Blogger | February 17, 2015

Facts about Food Poisoning

FOOD POISONINGAccording to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), consumers spend about half of their food budget on meals prepared outside of their homes. This statistic is significant, because 60 percent of foodborne outbreaks are reportedly caused by fare which is prepared in restaurants. Does this mean you should baton down the hatches and resolve never to eat out again? Not at all. After all; 40 percent of food that has the capacity to make you sick is sitting in your own pantry or refrigerator. So the best course of action is to make sure you take necessary precautions to remain food-safe, no matter where you choose to dine. I choose to dine wherever there is bacon or pork chops. But that’s just me.

Food Poisoning Corp 3What is Foodborne Illness?
An infection or irritation of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, foodborne illnesses are caused by foods or beverages that contain harmful bacteria, parasites, viruses, or chemicals. Yuck! Common symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, and chills. In more severe cases, patients may experience headaches, tingling or numbness of the skin, blurred vision, weakness, dizziness, and paralysis. Yuck.

I’m glad dogs have a strong constitution. We can get sick from contaminated food, if it contains Salmonella, which is one type of bacteria. We can also suffer from what is known as Garbage Intoxication – ingesting decomposing carrion, garbage, spoiled food, moldy nuts or grains or infected compost. I guess this is a reason I should refrain from rifling through the fire station trash!

Here are some additional facts about foodborne illnesses:

  • Each year, an estimated 48 million people in the United States experience a foodborne illness.
  • Most foodborne illnesses are acute, meaning they come on suddenly and are short-lived. They certainly aren’t “cute.” So I’m glad to clear that up!
  • Many people who contract foodborne illnesses wrongly assume they have the stomach flu.
  • Most victims recover on their own, without medical intervention.
  • For people whose immune systems are compromised – such as the sick, children or the elderly – foodborne illness might lead to more serious complications.
  • In the U.S., foodborne illnesses cause 128,000 hospitalizations and about 3,000 deaths each year.

Food Poisoning Firedog 1Five Steps for Food Safety When Dining Out

  1. Assess the scene. Look for certificates that show food-safety practices (e.g., most recent health inspection score and manager’s completion of food-safety training). Note whether the glasses, silverware, napkins and table cloths and restroom are clean. As a rule, restaurateurs who keep facilities clean also pay attention to the condition of their kitchens.
  2. Cook it well. Make sure your food has been thoroughly cooked. It is particularly important for foods like meat, poultry, and fish to be cooked thoroughly to kill harmful bacteria.
  3. Pick the right place. To be safe, eat sushi only in A-rated kitchens, which purchase sushi-grade fish. If you feel uneasy at a restaurant, don’t second-guess the instinct. Better to be safe than sorry.
  4. Ask before ordering. Beware of potential hazards in raw foods and undercooked eggs, chicken, pork or fish. Ask for meats to be well-done. Check to make sure sauces have been commercially pasteurized.
  5. Refrigerate leftovers—post haste. Unless you are heading right home, leave leftovers behind. As a rule, food should be stowed in cold storage within two hours of being served or, one hour if temperatures are above 90°F. So, storing leftovers in the car while you see a movie is a bad idea. Better idea? Give it to the dog, when you get home, just to be safe. The takeout containers they provide at restaurants are called “Doggie Bags” for a reason!

Five Steps for Food Safety When Dining In
1. Follow proper food preparation rules. When it comes to food prep, proper hygiene is critical. Wash your hands before handling food. And, as you work, pay close attention to which surfaces and utensils come in contact with raw meat and juices. Scrub everything in hot soapy water.

2. Keep hot food hot. Once food is cooked, it should be held at an internal temperature of 140°F or above. Storing food on top of the stove to keep it warm (between 40°F and 140°F) is not safe. Use a food thermometer to monitor the internal temperature of the food and, when in doubt, throw it out!

3. Keep cold food cold. Follow the above rules for cold foods, as well. But make sure internal temperature is kept at or below 40°F.

4. Follow the two-hour rule. Throw away perishable foods such as meat, poultry, eggs, and casseroles and side dishes containing eggs or mayonnaise, if they have been left at room temperature longer than two hours (or one hour if temperatures are above 90°F).

5. Eat leftovers sooner rather than later. If you prepare more food than your family consumes at any given time, put leftovers in the fridge or freezer—and eat them within three to four days.

How to treat foodborne illness
The most common treatment for mild cases of foodborne illness is to replace lost fluids and electrolytes to prevent dehydration. If you suspect you have contracted foodborne illness, drink plenty of liquids such as fruit juices, sports drinks, caffeine-free soft drinks, and broths. Older adults and adults with weak immune systems should also drink oral rehydration solutions to prevent dehydration. I drink plenty of water for maximum hydration.

Over-the-counter medications may also be helpful, as they can be used to halt diarrhea in adults. However, these could pose a danger to infants and children, so contact your healthcare provider for information about treating children. As you begin to recover, gradually reintroduce a bland, “BRAT” diet (bananas, rice, applesauce and toast). Also recommended for recovery are easy-to-digest foods such as potatoes, bread, cereal and lean meat. During recovery, also avoid foods that are high in fat and sugar, or which contain dairy products, caffeine, and alcohol.

We hope that this blog post will help you take steps to stay healthy and avoid contracting foodborne illness. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. Visit RJWestmore.com to read about the many ways proper planning can make a difference in numerous aspects of your professional and personal life.

Posted by: RJ the Fire Dog Blogger | February 3, 2015

Have you considered taking CERT Training?

CERT 6Following major disasters, it is entirely possible that first responders, who are first on scene to provide fire and medical services, will not be able to immediately meet the demand for services. Factors contributing to a potential backup of emergency workers and the public’s inability to successfully reach 911 could include: the number of victims, communication failures, and road blockages. A reason dogs might not be able to reach 911 operators is because we don’t have opposable thumbs. For all these reasons, it is likely that in virtually any major emergency, people will need to rely on each other to meet immediate life-saving and life-sustaining needs.

In emergencies of all kinds, family members, friends, fellow employees, neighbors, and tenants spontaneously help each other. Dogs are also quite eager to be of assistance, whether or not we’ve been formally trained. Thankfully, history has shown that people and pets usually rise to the occasion when major disasters strike. Such was the case recently, in the Mexico City earthquake, where untrained volunteers heroically stepped up to save 800 people. As the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) notes, unfortunately, 100 of those people lost their lives in so doing. The good news is that many accidental deaths and injuries are preventable, through proper emergency training.

Cert 4For the above reasons, in 1985, the L.A. County City Fire Department developed and implemented a formal program for emergency citizen training they called the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). I guess this is different than the breath mint with a similar name…Certs? The Whittier Narrows earthquake in 1987 underscored the area-wide potential for a major disaster in California. It further confirmed the need to train civilians to meet immediate emergency-associated needs.certs-spearmints

Later adopted by public agencies across the country, CERT training benefit those citizens who take it, as it prepares them to respond to and cope with the aftermath of disasters. Since 1993, CERT training has been made available nationally by FEMA, and is now offered in communities in 28 states and Puerto Rico. Many communities tap graduates of the program to form teams of individuals who can be recruited and further trained as volunteer auxiliary responders. I love being part of a team…especially one that’s designed to help save lives!

CERT members receive 17 ½ hours (one day a week for seven weeks) of initial training. The seven-week course is followed by full-day biannual refresher drills, and an opportunity to assist the LAFD at local incidents. In Los Angeles, CERT is provided free of charge to anyone 18 or over. Sounds like a great deal!

CERT Training is divided into the following seven sessions:

  • Session 1: Disaster Preparedness
  • Session 2: Disaster Fire Suppression
  • Session 3: Disaster Medical Operations Part 1
  • Session 4: Disaster Medical Operations Part 2
  • Session 5: Light Search & Rescue Operations
  • Session 6: Disaster Psychology and Team Organization
  • Session 7: Course Review and Disaster Simulation

Cert 2After completing the program, CERT graduates will be able to safely:

  • Search for and rescue victims.
  • Provide basic medical aid, by treating the three main threats to life: opening airways, controlling bleeding, and treating for shock.
  • Manage utilities and put out small fires.
  • Organize themselves and spontaneous volunteers to be effective.
  • Collect disaster intelligence to support first responder efforts.
  • Assist professional responders with prioritization and allocation of resources following a disaster.
  • Find lots of bacon. Okay—I’ll admit they don’t train for this in a CERT program. But I suggest they start offering it as part of the curriculum.

To find a team and/or begin CERT training in your area:

  1. Complete a CERT program, take advantage of an interactive web-based class or search the FEMA website by zip code for classes taught on location.
  2. Complete a CERT Train-the-Trainer (TTT) course conducted by a State Training Office for Emergency Management or the Emergency Management Institute, in order to learn the training techniques used by the LAFD.
  3. Identify the program goals that CERT would meet and the resources necessary to conduct the program in your area.
  4. Seek approval from appointed and elected officials to use CERT as a means to prepare citizens to care for themselves during a disaster, when services may not be adequate.
  5. Identify and recruit potential participants. Naturals for CERT are community groups, business and industry workers and local government workers.
  6. Train CERT instructors.
  7. Conduct CERT sessions.
  8. Conduct refresher training and exercises with CERTs.

In recognition for training completion, CERT members should receive ID cards, vests and helmets. Graduates should also regularly practice their skills. To this end, trainers should offer periodic refresher sessions to reinforce basic training. CERT teams can also sponsor events such as drills, picnics, neighborhood clean-ups, and disaster education fairs.

We hope that this blog post will help you take steps to prepare yourself for potential disasters, and that you might consider starting or joining a CERT in your area. To find a team or pursue CERT training, enter your zip code in the Citizen Corps section of the FEMA website. Another convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for emergencies is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. Visit RJWestmore.com to read about the many ways proper planning can make a difference in numerous aspects of your professional and personal life.

Posted by: RJ the Fire Dog Blogger | January 20, 2015

Measles Watch 2015

Measles Firedog 3A measles outbreak, which reportedly began at Disneyland, in Anaheim, California between December 16 and 20, 2014, has spread to individuals in several other states and Mexico, according to health officials. That’s a pretty hefty price to pay for visiting “the happiest place on earth!” The largest patient-cluster is currently located in California, with 45 confirmed cases, and at least six other infections identified in other parts of the United States and Mexico. Health officials have contacted people who may have come in contact with the virus, asking them to voluntarily stay in quarantine in their respective homes until the threat of potential infection has passed. Staying home if you may have been exposed to the measles makes a lot of sense to me. All of the confirmed cases, to date, were contracted by individuals who were never vaccinated for the virus. Although dogs can’t catch the measles, we can contract a related ailment, known as distemper. So make sure your canines are vaccinated.

Measles Firedog 1People who have the serious yet preventable ailment will experience symptoms including fever, dry cough, runny nose, watery eyes and a pervasive red rash. Spread through the air, usually via coughing, sneezing and/or other close contact, the measles could potentially rise to epidemic proportions because the illness is contagious for up to four days before the rash ever appears. So carriers can spread the virus without even being aware that they are infected. This is significant, as health officials note the outbreaks have begun to affect people beyond the original outbreak area.

CBS News reports, “Health officials report an increase in cases among people who did not visit the parks, indicating that the illness is now spreading to others exposed in their communities.” This is a serious concern, as it implies the illness will be far more difficult to contain than originally thought.

Measles Firedog 2To date, here are confirmed cases, according to the CDC:
• California: 45 confirmed cases
• Mexico: one case
• Utah: two cases
• Washington state: two cases
• Colorado: one case

At least partially to blame for the spread of the virus is the declination in parents agreeing to have their children vaccinated. Kindergarten measles vaccination rates have been falling almost every year since 2002 in California. A Los Angeles Times analysis published last fall reported that the rise in vaccine exemptions among kindergartners because of parents’ personal beliefs was most prominent in wealthy coastal and mountain communities, such as South Orange County and the Santa Monica and Malibu areas. I’ve never understood this phenomenon. My wife and I have JR vaccinated because we figure the benefits outweigh the risks.

Last year, in a report written for the Journal of the American Medical Association-Pediatrics, Dr. Mark Grabowsky, a health official with the United Nations, wrote: “The greatest threat to the U.S. vaccination program may now come from parents’ hesitancy to vaccinate their children. Although this so-called vaccine hesitancy has not become as widespread in the United States as it appears to have become in Europe, it is increasing. Many measles outbreaks can be traced to people refusing to be vaccinated; a recent large measles outbreak was attributable to a church advocating the refusal of measles vaccination.”

Measles Firedog 4While some hesitancy may be understandable, given alarming information available relative to potential, albeit very rare side effects of preserved booster shots, the risks must carefully be weighed against the benefits. Measles can lead to blindness and encephalitis, an infection of the brain. Also called rubeola, measles can be serious and even fatal for small children. While death rates have been falling worldwide as more children receive the measles vaccine, the disease still kills more than 100,000 people a year, most under the age of five. With their parents’ permission, children are typically immunized with a first dose of vaccine at 12 to 16 months and a second at 4- to 6-years-old.

We hope that this blog post will help you take steps to stay healthy. One convenient and affordable way to do so is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. Visit RJWestmore.com to read about the many ways proper planning can make a difference in numerous aspects of your professional and personal life.

Posted by: RJ the Fire Dog Blogger | January 14, 2015

#BeSafe from the Flu

flu 2015 Firedog 2According to reports from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), this year’s strain of Influenza (flu) has already hit epidemic proportions across the United States, with at least 15 associated deaths of children so far this season (most in Texas, Minnesota, Ohio, Florida and California.) The most common strain thus far, is known as Influenza A (H3N2). Sounds pretty scary. But I guess any illness with an official name and number is creepy.

A contagious respiratory illness, the flu can cause mild to severe illness, which can result in hospitalization or even death. Most at risk are the elderly, young children and other people with weaker-than-average immune systems. Most health professionals contend the best defense against catching the flu is to get vaccinated each year. Apparently, dogs can catch the flu, too. But we are susceptible to different strains than our human counterparts.

Carefully monitoring flu activity across the country, the CDC reports: “As of late December, all national key flu indicators are elevated and about half of the country is experiencing high flu activity. Flu activity is expected to continue into the coming weeks, with increases occurring especially in those states that have not yet had significant activity.

The United States experiences epidemics of seasonal flu each year, and right now all of CDC’s influenza surveillance systems are showing elevated activity. Influenza-like-illness (ILI) has been over baseline for the past several weeks, virological surveillance shows a lot of flu is circulating, and the hospitalization surveillance system shows increasing hospitalizations rates, especially in people 65 years and older. Also, the surveillance system that tracks mortality shows that the country is in the midst of this season’s flu epidemic. During influenza seasons, ILI increases first, and then hospitalizations increase, and then increases in deaths occur, so what is being observed is a typical pattern for the flu season.”

Flu 2015 FiredogAlthough this year’s flu season started a few weeks earlier than usual, pharmacists across the country don’t expect the virus to peak until early to mid-February, which means there is still time to get vaccinated, as the shot generally takes two weeks to reach full effectiveness. I don’t understand why some people are afraid of needles. Even my young son, JR, gets boosters without a whimper. As you weigh the pros and cons of vaccination, it might help you to consider the differences between symptoms of a common cold and the flu:

Common Cold

  • Often begins with a sore throat, which usually lasts for just one or two days
  • Nasal symptoms, runny nose, sneezing and congestion follow
  • A cough manifests by day four or five, typically due to sinus drainage and associated nasal congestion
  • Fever is uncommon in adults but slightly more common in children
  • Symptoms generally last for up to one week

Flu 2015 Firedog 3Influenza (Flu)

  • Persistent sore throat
  • Fever (100-102 degrees, which is typically higher than for a cold)
  • Severe headache
  • Severe muscle aches
  • Fatigue, weakness
  • Extreme exhaustion
  • Congestion
  • Cough
  • Chest discomfort
  • The Swine flu is also associated with vomiting and diarrhea.

Although many symptoms overlap, people who catch colds are more likely to suffer far less and rebound much more quickly than those who succumb to the flu. Also of note, while people who vomit often think they have the flu, stomach pain and diarrhea are far more likely to be the result of food-borne illness (food poisoning) than attributable to a case of the flu. I think this is interesting, because people are always saying they have the flu when they are probably suffering from bad Chinese food.

Five Ways to Avoid Catching the Flu

  1. Wash your hands – Even if you are exposed to the flu (by touching a germ-infested counter top at a doctor’s office, for example) if you clean your hands before you touch your face, there’s little chance the germs can reach your eyes, nose, or mouth, all of which are the usual ways they enter your system and start wreaking havoc.
  2. Try not to touch your faceLiveScience.com reports that the average person touches his or her face some 3.6 times per hour. Since cold and flu germs pass from infected surfaces to orifices such as the nose and mouth, the best way to guard yourself is to keep your hands in your lap. Also, try to avoid habits like biting your nails.
  3. Keep surfaces clean – From your home to your cubby a work, the importance of cleanliness cannot be overstated. Take time to disinfect your keyboard, telephone and desk. In fact, set up a reminder to thoroughly wipe down surfaces each time you eat. You might also want to use disinfectant spray or wipes. She always said it’s good to keep things clean. I guess Mother knows best.
  4. Moisturize Your AirWomen’s Health Magazine reports that very humid air might be toxic to flu viruses. Although scientists aren’t quite sure why, one possibility is that droplets that contain the virus shrink quickly in arid environments, allowing them to float around longer. In moist air those same droplets might remain heavy and fall to the floor faster.
  5. Stay home – Although we aren’t recommending you become a hermit, you will lessen your chances of getting sick if you stay away from large crowds. Also, if you are sick, stay home from work so you won’t infect your co-workers. If you’re sick, you probably won’t be at your best, anyway. So take care of yourself and go back to work when you are back in top form. Makes sense to me.

We hope that this blog post will help you take steps to stay healthy in 2015 and beyond. The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services has been designed to help improve and save lives. Visit RJWestmore.com to read about the many ways proper planning can make a difference in numerous aspects of your professional and personal life.

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