Posted by: RJ the Fire Dog Blogger | November 19, 2015

All about Thanksgiving Safety (and eating!)

The holiday season brings food, fun and family as well as something you may not have considered — health and safety concerns. Stress, rich food and alcohol are examples of the types of things that can lead to an elevated risk of heart attack during the holidays. That’s why we pooches are always moving –to keep our tickers in shape. Since our primary concern is safety, (pork chops are secondary), we wanted to take this opportunity to offer our subscribers and friends some tips for Thanksgiving safety. Let’s get to the food!

Thanksgiving turkey runs. Illustration in vector format

Cooking Safely on Turkey Day

Thanksgiving means elaborate home-cooked meals – turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, cherry pie, and rhubarb, boysenberry, shepherd’s pie, bacon pie, ribs pie…to name a few of my holiday favorites. Cooking a big meal requires patience as well as careful attention to detail. Follow these safety tips to ensure your family and friends’ safety before, during and after Thanksgiving:

  • Keep a fire extinguisher on hand. Grease fires can start quickly and can be difficult to contain. A properly-rated and current fire extinguisher is essential.
  • Sharpen knives before cooking. While it sounds counterintuitive, sharp knives are safer than dull ones, the reason for this is that a clean slice is easier to repair than one created by jagged edges. Ouch. Sounds painful either way.
  • Be sure to place your cooked turkey on the very edge of a low countertop, so I can reach it. Well, I guess it would actually be safer to keep food out of your pets’ reach. But that should be decided on a case-by-case basis.
  • Watch hot liquids. From gravy boats to hot beverages, scalding risks abound during the holidays. So keep foot traffic in the kitchen to a minimum, especially by children. And if you decide to fry your turkey, use extreme caution. For more details about how to safely prepare and cook a Thanksgiving meal, check out this post about Thanksgiving safety.
  • Keep little ones out of the kitchen. Kids carry germs (we dogs are much more fastidious) so they should be carefully supervised. Double-dipping isn’t just an annoying habit. It has the potential to quickly spread holiday germs.

Preparing the Bird

Since a turkey dinner is usually the centerpiece of any Thanksgiving meal, take into account these turkey-specific tips:

  • Use the oven! While cooking the bird in a deep fryer outside might sound fun, this process is prone to accidents or even injuries…especially if there are a few cocktails involved. Sober or impaired cooks agree that oil and water do not mix. So using a frozen turkey in a fryer is a recipe for disaster.
  • Regardless of your preparation method, make sure you properly thaw frozen turkeys to ward off germs. Most birds need to be refrigerated for several days, to ensure even cooking. Don’t thaw your turkey on the countertop, as this is a breeding ground for foodborne illnesses. I was stuck outside for four hours one time during Thanksgiving. I didn’t thaw out until early March!
  • Heat the turkey thoroughly. The internal temperature of the gobbler must reach at least 165 degrees. So, to be safe, invest in a food thermometer.
  • Carefully clean surfaces. Poultry-borne bacteria is a leading cause of food poisoning. Be sure you wash everything in hot water including your hands, utensils, plates, cutting boards, and anything else that comes into contact with the turkey.
  • Cook stuffing outside of the bird! Stuffing cooks more uniformly and safely when placed in a casserole dish in the oven.

#BeSafe after the meal

  • Pack leftovers quickly when Thanksgiving dinner is over. After the meal, you might want to stretch on the couch or watch football. But remember that food should not be left on the table for more than two hours. Freeze or refrigerate leftovers so you can enjoy turkey sandwiches for days!
  • When in doubt, toss it out (or give Fido a treat!) If you aren’t able to pack up leftovers in a timely manner, toss them in the trash. Better to lose a few cents than to spend the rest of the holiday weekend in bed.
  • If you are feeling especially lethargic after the meal, organize a family walk around the neighborhood to rev up your metabolism. I do this after every big meal. Oh wait, I just do circles on my bed and then plop down and sleep for nine hours. Be careful about strenuous activity immediately after your meal. Again, I recommend napping.

Remember that safety (and eating well) is a daily priority, so be sure to think about disaster planning all of the time. 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. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

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

The Red Cross Offers ReadyRating

RedCrossReadyRating 2At the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, we frequently work side-by-side, with an iconic disaster relief agency – the Red Cross. Although the agency is always at the front lines of a disaster and is best known in that regard, its mission extends beyond immediate relief into disaster preparedness and education, much like our own. Well, my mission includes attacking those things that pop-up on the lawn and spray water. What is going on with those things? Where do they go when the water stops!!?

Why is disaster planning so important for business owners? According to FEMA, 40% of small businesses will not reopen following a disaster, a sobering (that’s a big word!) statistic, which illustrates both the challenge in managing a small business and the severe impact disasters can have on otherwise potentially successful companies.

The American Red Cross Rating Program

ReadyRating is designed to help schools, companies, and other organizations prepare for disasters. This free service provides members with access to information about how to both evaluate and improve their disaster planning procedures and save lives… something that we strive to do through our own training modules. I saved a squirrel once. Whiskers and Mr. Tubbington had cornered the little guy, so I swooped in to save the day. Squirrels are nuts.


Photo provided courtesy of the Red Cross. All rights reserved. 2015

The ReadyRating is promoted by agencies such as the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD), an agency with whom we are proud to partner. We are pleased to join agencies such as LAFD to encourage businesses to participate in the Red Cross’ program, in order to gauge and improve their disaster readiness. Free membership into ReadyRating provides users with a dashboard that helps them evaluate their level of preparedness. Customized feedback is based on assessment scores, as well as the ability to create an “Organization Manager” with linked member-accounts. The steps and recommendations found within ReadyRating are adopted from scientific research and expert opinions from noted industry professionals. This means they know their stuff!

ReadyRating features a three-step process for participating members:

  1. Conduct an Assessment

Organizations can choose either a “ReadyGo” assessment or a “ReadyAdvance” assessment to determine preparedness. The ReadyGo 25-question version is basic, designed to help companies see the most critical steps they should undertake to best manage disasters. The ReadyAdvance plan is more in-depth, with 60 questions. More comprehensive in nature, ReadyAdvance results effectively measure the merits of an organization’s existing preparedness plan, and provides users with roadmaps for improving their existing plans. Before another pooch can hang with me, I ask them to complete an in-depth assessment to gauge their willingness to chase rabbits and chew shoes.

The assessment contains five sections that score the preparedness level of the company, including level of current emergency planning, commitment to preparedness, knowledge of hazards, love of bacon, implementation of the plan, and resiliency of the community.

  1. Create a Well-Informed Emergency Plan

ReadyRating features a template generator that utilizes the company’s assessment information to create an Emergency Action Plan (EAP), specific to the company. The plans are OSHA-compliant, which is a primary concern for businesses required to meet OSHA regulations.

  1. Leverage Expert Resources

The final component of the plan is to encourage businesses to utilize Red Cross resources such as emergency preparedness guides, checklists, and other tools. For example, the resource center on the Red Cross website include disaster drill forms, emergency contact card templates, and a step-by-step guide for organizing a blood drive. I told you these people know what they are doing! The resources, including videos and guides, are designed to be actionable – offering clear advice to companies that want to strengthen their disaster planning.

Remember that safety is a daily priority, so be sure to think about disaster planning all of the time. 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. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

Posted by: RJ the Fire Dog Blogger | October 27, 2015

Cyber Attacks. Would you be prepared?  

Cyber Security concept on keyboard button

While we usually cover safety issues relative to incidents such as falls, earthquakes, or fire, the damages of failing to observe cybersecurity safety protocols, which — though life-threatening, can be equally devastating. Cybersecurity Awareness Month is observed in October, and is designed to raise awareness about the risks of electronic data and information breaches that can happen to individuals, companies and organizations. I guess I should consider myself lucky that my lack of opposable thumbs limits my ability to tweet. So it keeps my electronic risk at a minimum.

Last week, the focus of National Cyber Security Awareness Month 2015 was on the “smart world,” meaning all of the internet-connected devices that exist — from phones to thermostats. And here, I’ve always thought of “smart world” as contestants on the TV show, Jeopardy. This week, we focus on building the next generation of cybersecurity professionals, with an emphasis on promoting education and awareness to spark interest in the field. Education is essential for companies that want to protect their critical data from hackings and/or breaches.

Tips for Business Owners

Up to 95% of breaches are caused by human error. Notice that canines are not even mentioned. Whew! So, it is vitally important to train employees, first by giving them context, so they understand the consequences of data breaches and hacking incidents. Then, employers can guide them about best practices such as protecting passwords, carefully guarding data relative to outside agents, avoiding phishing scams, and adhering to data storage policies. Empower employees to alert management when something seems suspicious or odd or such as when someone from graphic design requests company financial data for something other than an infographic. Also, make sure staff members are careful not to post sticky notes with passwords on their monitors. I don’t use sticky notes, myself. They get stuck to my fur.

Additional best practices include:

  • Set automatic updates. Instruct IT to program automatic operating system and software updates, so the latest virus definitions and security protocols are always in place. Asking staff to perform these tasks manually opens you up to risks.
  • Establish login tracking. Login monitoring should be in place to spot external access attempts and identify employees who are accessing sensitive information or data outside their purview.
  • Set a security “fence” around sensitive data. I’m not usually a major fan of fences. But, in this case, they seem like a good idea. A company’s most important data (for example, personal customer information) should be protected behind a company firewall at all times. Restrict access to this data to a select few staff members. Also, make sure it is protected from potential download to personal devices or hard drives.

Tips for individuals to protect data and avoid cybersecurity issues:

  • Follow password procedures. Using “12345” or “password” for computer passwords is not recommended. Staff members should be trained about methods for selecting strong passwords and protecting sensitive documents.
  • Avoid storing data locally. News stories often recount employee losing laptops or thumb drives, with the device contents being used for illegal purposes. Discourage individuals from storing sensitive data directly on their devices. For greater security, instruct them, instead, to access data online. I guess that’s the mysterious “cloud” I keep hearing about? How safe can a cloud be for storing sensitive data?
  • Protect mobile devices. Employers increasingly allow employees to use their own devices to check email and access work data. Before approving this practice, instruct employees about methods for wiping their devices if they are lost or stolen. For maximum protection, establish and follow written “bring-your-own-device” procedures.
  • Don’t download unapproved software. Malware and other nasty computer bugs often reside in seemingly innocuous software. Beware of employees downloading free PDF-maker tools from the web. This software could be a launching pad for an attack. Staff should only download IT-approved software or apps to either their computer or mobile devices.
  • Don’t click on unknown links. Many businesses are targeted with official looking emails that provide an “important link.” Clicking on the link could infect the user’s computer, which can then travel throughout the employer’s network. Encourage employees to run suspicious emails by the IT department for a thorough review and safe deletion. Makes sense to me!

Remember that safety is a daily priority, so be sure to think about disaster planning all of the time. 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. For more information about our system, or to subscribe, click here.

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

Zombies are coming. Are you prepared?

Vector poster about zombie.Shortly before publishing this lighthearted blog post about disaster preparation relative to a fictional Zombie Apocalypse, we learned of a real life active-shooter incident at ZombiCon in Fort Meyers, Florida. As a result of the event, one person was killed and five were injured. Our hearts go out to all of those affected by the shooting. For helpful information about how to prepare for, and survive an active shooter incident, see our Active Shooter blog posts.

With The Walking Dead back on television, and Halloween right around the corner, it’s time to consider whether you have a sufficient Zombie Apocalypse plan. While I would rather ask the mail carrier and the vacuum cleaner to tea and biscuits than deal with zombies, we are taking a cue from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to use the season to prepare our subscribers and friends for disasters of any kind…including those of the zombie variety. After all, although the chances of encountering such an attack might be rare, prepping for “walkers” is a good way to get serious about disaster planning.

The series of blog posts and posters that the CDC recently released emphasizes preparedness, discussed protocols for quarantine as well as relevant medical procedures which would be implemented in the case of any disaster…including a zombie attack. The point of the CDC’s campaign is that disasters can happen entirely out of the blue. So plan for the worst-case scenario–which, in this case, would be hungry zombies. As terrible as it was, the great bacon shortage of 1999 would probably pale in comparison to an actual Zombie Apocalypse.

Build Your Zombie Kit

Cartoon zombie charactersPlanning in advance is the best way to survive any disaster. Zombie attacks happen quickly and without warning, so create a zombie defense kit to avoid becoming part of the brain-sucking horde. This post reminds me of the Will Smith movie I Am Legend. Dogs in the film turned into vampire/zombies. That was a scary scene!

Key pieces of your zombie kit should include:

  • A First Aid Kit. If a zombie takes a nibble instead of a huge bite, you might be able to ward off infection with antibiotic ointment and a bandage.
  • Emergency Flares. Use these to either spotlight or repel zombies (depending on your game plan) and to signal first responders. Unfortunately, for me and my canine companions, use of a flare gun is impossible without opposable thumbs. So, with a little luck, I’m hoping we would survive without them.
  • Fresh water. Quickly moving from place to place makes you thirsty. And when adrenaline is pumping, hydration is vital. In fact, people can only survive a few days without water. So store enough to allow one gallon per person per day, and make sure you have a three-day supply. Dogs are lucky. Give us a puddle of rainwater and we have instant drinking water.
  • A multi-function tool, with a knife, screwdriver, can opener, and other handy accessories. A knife is useful for dispatching zombies as well as cutting rope, and an opener is helpful if you need to open a can of tuna.
  • Sturdy work gloves, which will come in handy in potentially sticky situations. Zombie guts will slip out of your hands unless you have a secure grasp on them.
  • Battery-powered or hand-cranked radio for important alerts. You will want to make sure to stay up on where “the walkers” are headed. In the event that the zombie invasion leads to an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP), the only way to stay connected will be with a hand-cranked or battery-operated radio.
  • Copies of personal documents such as passports, birth certificates and contact information. You should also have your rabies shots on file. You don’t want a little froth to be confused for zombie drool. The zombies will likely have to pass through customs. So have your ID on hand in case you need to cross international borders.

Funny Zombie Apocalypse Signs, Symbols and Billboards Vector eps8 big collection

Establish Safe Zones

Pick a safe place to meet in the event of the Zombie Apocalypse–preferably someplace where you won’t have to climb over lots of obstacles, which would make escape more difficult.

Some tips:

  • If applicable, practice the evacuation plan for your high-rise building, setting alternate meeting locations (in case the zombies decide to host a party in your first location). Be sure to grab puppies on your way out, as well, in case you’re awesome and bring your pet to work.
  • Discuss communication methods beforehand, so you know how to contact people who fail to show up on time. Walkie-talkies with fresh batteries are essential.

If you’ve seen The Walking Dead or any of the dozens of zombie movies, then you can glean some advice, which is prudent during any disaster:

  • Stick together. Work with a group to best manage a disaster. Going solo is typically not a good idea. I might talk tough, but when it comes to zombies, I’m staying in a big group!
  • Don’t make rash decisions. Think about various options before rashly choosing the one that would put you in danger. I made a decision to eat a squirrel once. Not a wise move.
  • Use resources wisely. Ration water and food and keep track of necessary equipment in case the disaster continues for an extended period of time.

While this post is meant to be “tongue-in-cheek,” it is serious in that we want to remind our subscribers and friends about the very real need for proactive disaster planning. If you are prepared for the Zombie Apocalypse, you will also be ready to face the unexpected, which is the right mindset to adopt during any type of disaster.

Remember that safety is a daily priority, so be sure to think about disaster planning all of the time. 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. For more information about our system, or to subscribe, click here.

Posted by: RJ the Fire Dog Blogger | October 8, 2015

Shakin’ it in October

Shakeout 2015c

Each October marks another Great California Shakeout, a month-long event designed to educate people about earthquake preparedness. As an aside, the month also brings the worst holiday of the year. Imagine the horror of hearing the doorbell dozens of times in one night! Halloween is dreadful to pooches. Don’t you know we’re allergic to chocolate? What’s the point?

Held annually in California, and many other states, The Great Shakeout offers expert resources and an earthquake drill that happens at exactly the same time all across the state. This year’s Shakeout will take place on October 15 at 10:15 a.m. PST.  With more than nine million individual participants, the Shakeout will drill people from businesses, schools, museums and more.

Drop, Cover, and Hold On are the instructions for anyone participating in an earthquake drill. Lucky for us, our four legs provide us with a stable base. The exercise reinforces several actions to take during and immediately following earthquakes:

  • Cover your head with your arms and take shelter under a desk or table. Ignore the old advice about finding a doorway to stand under. Instead, move towards a desk or table (if they are close by). The next alternative is to move to the corner of a room and place your hands over your head.
  • Don’t try to go outside. It’s safer to be inside a structure, especially with the associated risk of falling glass and other debris that might shake loose during the quake. The ground during an earthquake is unstable, so you could potentially injure yourself if you move around too much. Keep your pets close by after the quake as they’ll likely be freaked out!
  • Move slowly away from large hanging pictures and heavy bookcases. I have several “dogs playing poker” paintings in the doghouse. Good thing they’re secured with epoxy-strength glue!
  • Once the shaking stops, take a minute to remember proper evacuation procedures. Leave the building in a quick and orderly fashion.
  • If you are on a sidewalk near a building, try to enter via the lobby, to avoid falling glass. If you are on a sidewalk during a regular day, then maybe keep your hands off the fire hydrants. We pooches occasionally like to “greet” the hydrants.
  • Stay alert for aftershocks which can approach the same intensity as the main quake.

Shakeout 2015b

The Great Shakeout website offers resources for groups preparing for earthquakes. These include drill manuals for business owners, with tips for creating and conducting preparedness drills. Here are a few great tips from the manual:

  • Simulate actual earthquake conditions by asking employees to stay in the crouched safe position for a minute or longer. I paid a guy five bucks to give our doghouse a good shaking. I’m glad I installed the rebar and steel beams.
  • Conduct meetings after the drill to discuss possible ways to improve procedures and communications. Adjust your business disaster plan based on this feedback.
  • Designate staff members to be in charge of certain activities after a quake. For example, the Shakeout is a great time to make sure your high-rise building’s Floor Wardens understand their job relative to emergency preparedness and disaster management.

Fotolia_76149984_XSWhile much of the focus on earthquakes centers on California and other western states, the need for earthquake preparedness is great throughout the country. For instance, Ohio and other Midwestern states experience occasional strong quakes. In fact, a massive quake in 1812 reportedly caused parts of the Mississippi River to flow backwards. A 7.3 quake struck South Carolina in 1896, and remains the strongest East Coast quake in recorded history. Dangerous earthquakes can happen in any part of the U.S., so building managers and owners should be certain quake preparedness is part of any disaster plan.

Remember that safety is a daily priority, so be sure to think about disaster planning all of the time–not just during October. 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. For more information about our system, or to subscribe, click here.

Posted by: RJ the Fire Dog Blogger | September 29, 2015

Workplace Safety in High Rises 

Fotolia_66830031_XSThis week, we are covering several threats to workplace safety in high-rise buildings: earthquakes, fire, accidents, and running out of kibble. High-rise buildings pose specific risks for occupants as well as property owners and managers, due to their large size and the sheer number of potential affected tenants, visitors and on-site staff. September is National Pork Chop Appreciation Month. (Every month is pork month, according to National Hog Farmer.) But I should probably focus on the fact that it’s also National Preparedness Month, which makes it the perfect time to review workplace safety procedures.


Sitting in even a well-built, earthquake-prepared high-rise during an earthquake can be a harrowing experience. The worst part for pooches is that we can sense earthquakes before they strike. Check out this great clip of one of my canine buddies reacting to a quake seconds before it hits!

Buildings caught in an earthquake can sway and move ever so slightly (which is intentional). I sway a little after a giant meal. Sometimes, it’s hard to stay upright when my tummy is full! Shaking can cause light nausea and movement of light fixtures, blinds, and ceiling panels. Building managers and owners can help tenants manage the risk of earthquakes and feel relatively secure during them by:

  • Encouraging tenants to stay seated during an actual earthquake (the dog in that video didn’t listen!). Most quakes are quite short in duration. In fact, most last less than one minute. So it is highly recommended that people refrain from using elevators while the earth shakes. It’s better to simply sit down (away from built-in cabinets and artwork) and wait for the quake to stop. I’m great at sitting. Someone just needs to say the word, and I go right down.


The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that fires cost stores and businesses upwards of 708 million dollars. This is a staggering sum of money, and can be reduced if building occupants closely follow fire prevention best practices. In high rises, the damages caused by fires can be severe, as fires can rise quickly to upper floors. What’s more — it can be logistically challenging to evacuate large numbers of people unless those people have been properly trained about emergency evacuation procedures.

The Yellow HelmetTo prevent high-rise fires:

  • Remove combustible materials and eliminate walkway obstructions. Talk to tenants about the importance of maintaining clutter-free offices. Mounds of paper can fuel fires, and cluttered pathways could impede evacuation, and block the entrance to firefighting crews. Stairways should always be clear of debris.
  • Locate and check fire extinguishers. Consider creating and posting a video instructing tenants about the proper use of fire extinguishers. Selecting and installing the right type of extinguisher for any given area is also important. High rise buildings can contain thousands of extinguishers, so it’s important to monitor their locations and expiration dates. I have an extinguisher in the doghouse. Sometimes it gets a little smoky when I’m making a rack of ribs.
  • Plan and practice evacuation plans. Property owners and building managers should work closely with tenants to explain and practice evacuation procedures in the event of fire. Moving a large number of people through stairwells can prove challenging, particularly for the disabled and elderly individuals. Fire drills can help identify evacuation roadblocks and educate residents about safe evacuation routes. Fido and Whiskers must be safely escorted out of the building, too, if applicable.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4,679 individuals were killed on the job in 2014, with tens of thousands of deaths attributable to occupational diseases. Although great strides have been made over the decades to improve worker safety, companies and property managers and their tenants will benefit when the safest possible workplace environment is provided.

Workplace Safety Best Practices:

  • Eliminate slippery floors. Falls are one of the most common causes of workplace accidents. This is why I use four stable legs. Property managers can arrange to have floors cleaned at night, to allow surfaces to dry properly before workers arrive. In snowy climates, melting ice and snow could leave slick surfaces. Non-slip mats and salt can also reduce this risk.
  • Uneven floors can also lead to falls. Look closely at cracked sidewalks and entryways, as well as the transitions between different types of flooring. For example, if tenants are allowed to make office or residence improvements and choose their own flooring, examine the area between hallways and tenant entrances to make sure the height of the surfaces match.

Remember that safety is an ever-present priority, at home and at work. So be sure to think about disaster planning all of the time–not just during September. 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. For more information about our system, or to subscribe, click here.

Posted by: RJ the Fire Dog Blogger | September 15, 2015

Celebrating National Preparedness Month

Black PrepWhy is September National Preparedness Month? The month was chosen, in part, to honor the victims of the September 11 attacks and, also, because it is the start of hurricane season. Sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), National Preparedness Month is intended to promote individual and business safety preparedness to effectively manage man-made threats such as terrorism as well as natural disasters. If I had my way, it would be “Devouring Pork Chops Best Practices Month,” but I suppose safety readiness is more important. While safety should be of utmost concern every month, it’s useful for companies to designate a month for review and adjustment of safety plans and procedures.

Here are some initiatives that property managers can take during National Preparedness Month:

Use Available Resources

My pal, Ready Wrigley, has some great visual tips for reminding folks to be prepared.

My pal, Ready Wrigley, has some great visual tips for reminding folks to be prepared.

The website has a wealth of free safety resources:

  • Information about becoming a safety leader, with classes offered through FEMA, Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) and other organizations.
  • Disaster-specific information and appropriate responses are offered for power outages, chemical hazards, severe weather, floods, and dozens of other scenarios.
  • Information about disaster kits, including wise food choices (pork chops, sausage, baby carrots are my suggestions) and management of water resources is crucial for waiting out a major emergency.

Revisit Disaster Plans

National Preparedness Month is an ideal time to take a critical look at your building’s disaster plan. Learn about best practices for disaster management and make sure that your plan matches up to the latest advice. Perhaps your building has changed since the creation of the last plan, with a new addition or additional parking structure, or an influx of new tenants? I added a wing to the doghouse, and it’s easy to get lost in the place. You thought the Palace of Versailles was imposing…

Walk through every part of the plan to be sure it still makes logical sense for current conditions. You should also talk to tenants to ensure they have copies of the plan and to address questions and concerns. Work with the tenants to nominate floor wardens and other volunteers who can aid others. Offices that allow pets are more common, so there should be notes in the plan about helping four-legged visitors.

The disaster plan should not only cover ways to safely evacuate or handle dangerous situations, but should also provide a roadmap for getting back to normal operations. Tenants will want to return to work as soon as possible following a disaster, so retain the services of various construction/plumbing/ electrical contractors that might be needed for repairs or inspections following a disaster.

Focus on Communication

The official motto of the 2015 National Preparedness Month is “Don’t wait. Communicate.” My motto when it comes to table scraps: food on the floor, and new shoes is “Don’t wait. Obliterate.” The focus of the theme is to encourage proactivity among individuals to create and talk about disaster plans. For building managers and owners, communication is crucial to disaster planning:

  • Alert tenants and other parties about how to access disaster plans and keep them updated about any changes.
  • Use social media and other channels, such as mobile apps, to send crucial information about upcoming disaster threats or distribute communications after an emergency occurs.
  • My communication technique is simpler. I bark at the mail carrier and whine when I don’t get ground chuck freshly prepared for dinner.

By simply communicating what is being done, property management shows they care about the wellbeing of tenants and understand the importance of transparency of communication.

Review the Details

fema-stan_mediumIn addition to reviewing your disaster plan, take time in September to check other areas of your preparedness. One of the keys to being prepared is to be proactive, which means checking to make sure you and your tenants have the tools, supplies, and information they need to best handle an emergency.

Here are some areas to check during National Preparedness Month:

  • Check fire extinguishers for expiration dates.
  • Perform routine maintenance and inspection of sprinkler systems.
  • Review insurance coverages.
  • Restock emergency kits with flashlight batteries.
  • Review food and water expiration dates.
  • Review evacuation plans with staff members.
  • Mandate that “bring your pet to work day” becomes an entire month…and that it coincides with the food truck visits.
  • Make sure designated “safe spot” meeting areas remain ideal.
  • Monitor property management staff members’ knowledge about emergency procedures, including how to shut off water or gas lines, if necessary.

Remember that safety is a daily priority, so be sure to think about disaster planning all of the time–not just during September. 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.

Posted by: RJ the Fire Dog Blogger | September 2, 2015

Flooding: Tips for Rising Above it all

Our guest blogger, Angela Burrell, Public Relations Manager for our corporate company, Universal Services of America

Our guest blogger, Angela Burrell

Thanks to our guest blogger, Angela Burrell, Public Relations Manager at our corporate company, Universal Services of America. As a show of appreciation for her help, I have refrained from adding my usual “firedogisms” to this post. 

Being prepared for any type of man-made or natural disaster is the focus all month long during September. The first week of National Preparedness Month is devoted to flood awareness. Please review the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) tips to help  make sure you know how to prepare for a flood.

Fotolia_76091392_XS (1)Flood Risks

Flooding can occur in any region or any season. It may be in the form of a few inches of water or enough to cover a house. For example:

  • Coastal areas are at greater risk during hurricane season (June to November).
  • The Midwest is most at risk in the springtime and during heavy summer rains.
  • Low-lying areas near a body of water or downstream from a levee are also at-risk areas.

Types of Flooding

  • Slow onset occurs due to prolonged rain over several days, whereby flood waters receded slowly.
  • Rapid onset happens when heavy rainfall occurs within hours or days.
  • Flash floods, caused by rapid onset rainfall, occur with little or no warning. They can also be caused by breaks in levees, dams, ice jams or water systems.
  • Storm surges happen when strong winds from a tropic cyclone or hurricane push seawater up onto land and, in some cases, causing storm-tide surges of up to 35 feet high.

National Weather Service Alert Systems

  • Flood Watch advises area flooding is possible. Be prepared to evacuate or move to higher ground on short notice.
  • Flood Warning indicates flooding is occurring or will occur soon. Follow any evacuation advisements.
  • Flash Flood Watch denotes threats of flash flooding in a region, or near a coast or river. You may be advised to evacuate or move to higher ground on short notice.
  • Flash Flood Watch Warning signals a flash flood is in progress or may soon occur in a region, or near a coast or river. You will be advised to immediately seek higher ground.

Fotolia_46876308_XSHow to Prepare

  • Visit to learn how to determine your flood risk:
  • Know your evacuation routes. Plan ahead by selecting methods and routes to evacuate, whom you will notify of your status and where you will stay.
  • Reduce your risk of damage to structures by elevating critical utilities, including electrical panels, switches, appliances and waterproofing basements.
  • Keep emergency kits and supplies on hand and business continuity plans in place.
  • Install battery-operated generators as backup in case of power outages.
  • Hold a tabletop exercise. See a guide in FEMA’s Prepare Your Organization for a Flood Playbook.

Protect your business

  • To prevent structural damage, ensure your building’s drains are free of any debris; you may consider calling a roofing contractor to ensure your roof is water-tight.
  • Ask your engineering, janitorial and security teams to walk through your building frequently to identify any water intrusions.
  • Always protect your data with backup files, and make plans for alternate communication in the event of a power outage.
  • In the event of rain, consider placing heavy mats in all major paths of travel.
  • Review your insurance coverage ahead of time to make sure you will be covered in the event of weather-related damage.
  • Establish a procedure to communicate warnings and other information to employees and tenants during an emergency.
  • Read the RJWestmore Case Study: Hurricane Sandy for examples of how one commercial property management team dealt with severe flooding caused by the 2012 natural disaster.

When driving in the rain

  • Allow for more travel time and drive at a slower pace than normal, as heavy rains, mixed with the buildup of oil and grease on our roads, could lead to extremely slick driving conditions.
  • Brake earlier and with less force, and do not use cruise control.
  • Stay toward the middle of the road and never attempt to cross running water.
  • After crossing a puddle, tap your brakes lightly to knock off some of the water from your rotors.
  • Keep your headlights on, defog your windows and watch out for pedestrians.
  • If you start to hydroplane, slowly release the gas pedal until the car regains traction—never brake suddenly or jerk the wheel.
  • If you can’t see the road or car in front of you, pull over immediately and wait until visibility is good.

If a flash flood occurs

  • Never drive through a flooded area, even if it appears shallow enough to cross. Just six inches of moving water can knock a person off his feet, and a foot of water can sweep a vehicle off the road.
  • If your vehicle stalls, leave it and seek higher ground to avoid being swept away.
  • Keep away from storm drains, streams or ditches, and beware of swift-moving water.
  • Do not go near downed power lines or electrical wires, and report any you see to the authorities.
  • If caught outdoors, be aware of quick wind shifts and drops in temperature, and never try to outrun a flood—move to higher ground immediately.

If you are trapped

  • Call 911 for help. Give your location and detailsand wait for help.
  • Get to the highest level of a building. However, avoid attics, and particularly basements and lower floors. Only retreat to the roof as a last resort.
  • Stay in the vehicle if it is trapped in rapidly moving water.
  • Turn your vehicle around, if you can do so safely, if floodwater is blocking a roadway.
  • Seek refuge on the vehicle’s roof, if you are trapped and water is rising inside.
  • Move to higher ground, climbing as high as possible on a sturdy object, if necessary.

Another failsafe of being prepared is to stay informed by monitoring your local weather reports via news media. Consider signing up for community weather alerts via text or email. Coordinate with your security and emergency preparedness teams and heed any evacuation orders from local authorities.

We hope the FEMA resources and this blog post will motivate you to do whatever it takes to #BeSafe in floods as well as every other type of emergency…particularly if you live or work in a high-rise building! 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. For more information about our system, or to subscribe, click here.


Case Study: Hurricane Sandy

(Because much of this post was graciously provided by Chris Rodriguez of Brookfield Property Partners, I have not added my usual “firedogisms.” Thanks for your help, Chris!)

City submerged in water because of climate changeThe most common natural disaster in the United States is a flood. In the U.S., floods kill more people each year than tornadoes, hurricanes or lightning. This week, we will focus attention on this severe weather-related disaster, because El Nino could potentially produce the types of conditions that often result in floods.

Since flooding generally occurs at or below ground level, you may be surprised to learn that there are specific flood-related dangers and steps to take to deal with floods if you work or live in a high-rise building. As a service to our subscribers and friends, this post focuses on preparations to take before, during and after flooding if you are in a high-rise commercial building.

Photo courtesy of Brookfield Property Partners

Photo courtesy of Brookfield Property Partners

In the third edition of his High-Rise Security and Fire/Life Safety, Vice President of Universal Protection Service, Geoff Craighead, writes this about flood safety as it relates to high-rise buildings:

“Torrential rain, melting snow, a tsunami or a hurricane may produce too much water for land, rivers and flood control panels to handle and therefore results in serious flooding that will impact an entire area, including high-rise buildings. Floods also can occur as a result of a public water main pipe break or a reservoir failing.

Subterranean parking garages located beneath high-rise buildings can become flooded with water. This can result in damage to vehicles and substantial damage to elevator systems because of water cascading into elevator shafts. Building operations can be paralyzed for days as a result of cleanup of impacted areas and repair of damaged equipment. Also, a severe landslide could result in the collapse of a building.”

Photo courtesy of Brookfield Property Partners

Photo courtesy of Brookfield Property Partners

Our friend and client, Chris Rodriguez, is the Director of Security for Brookfield Property Partners at One New York Plaza. He was onsite at that location in 2012 during Hurricane Sandy. Chris stayed on the scene for days, and was kind enough to provide us with the steps he and his team took before, during and after the hurricane. We chose to include excerpts from his notes despite their length, because we believe it provides great insight into a real-world scenario relative to managing and recovering from flooding in a high-rise commercial building.


  • Secured the building perimeter and all entrances to the building, 12 hours prior to the expected landfall of the storm.
  • Protected all street-level entrances with sandbags.
  • Advised tenants to remove their personal vehicles from the subterranean parking garage.
  • Monitored perimeter surveillance as well as live television broadcasts.
  • Brought in an evening security platoon prior to the shutdown of public transportation systems.
  • Advised personnel to be prepared for an extended stay.
  • Reviewed the Emergency Action Plan.
  • Double-checked the security cache of radios, flashlights and backup batteries.
  • Instructed critical operation staff personnel to don high-visibility clothing that identified them as “security, engineers, or life safety personnel.”
  • Made sure that engineers checked and tested critical building emergency utility systems, days prior to impact.

During Sandy

  • Equipped building personnel on duty with walkie–talkies.
  • Maintained perimeter surveillance from the elevated plaza level.
  • Continued to monitor local TV news and weather.
  • Upon notification that the sandbag “levee” had been breached by the incoming tidal surge, instituted the Emergency Action Plan.
  • Gave evacuation orders over the public address system for all areas below the lobby level.
  • When water started entering the loading dock and other areas of the building from the street level, parked elevators on upper floors.
  • As the three sub – surface levels of the building continued to flood, one final check was conducted.
  • When emergency power and lighting was lost throughout the building and downtown area, made sure all personnel were accounted for.
  • Ordered everyone in the building to assemble at a refuge point.
  • Continued to monitor the rising flood waters.
  • After the tidal surge appeared to have peaked, personnel “hunkered down” for the night.
  • The engineers on duty threw all the breakers connecting the service from the sub-cellar to the upper floors, which proved to be a vital maneuver contributing to the rapid recovery of power to the upper floors.

Post-Sandy Actions

  • By daybreak, the tidal surge had receded. The streets were dry but the damage was done. All three sub-levels of the building were under water.
  • The building was officially closed to all tenants.
  • All civilians remaining in the building were evacuated to allow for a damage assessment and to address safety concerns.
  • Perimeter patrols were resumed to ward off inquisitive sightseers and maintain the integrity of the building. Manual sign-in was mandatory and enforced.
  • The building Life Fire Safety system was non-functioning. So a fire guard patrol was established for all 50 floors.
  • Everyone was required to have a flashlight and walkie-talkie at all times.
  • Personal cellphones were the sole means of contact with the outside world.
  • Emergency generators were brought in to supply limited power to critical areas of the building.
  • Security Supervisors contacted all off-duty personnel to inquire about their personal wellbeing and potential availability to relieve peers. (The personnel onsite from the evening of the storm remained on-site for four days before relief was available from off-duty personnel).
  • Food vendors in the area of the city with power delivered three hot meals, per person, each day.
  • Security measures were addressed as the first sub-level street entrances were compromised and exposed by the receding water.
  • New security posts were established to maintain a secure environment.
  • The building remained closed to tenants for one business week, which is when sufficient emergency generators were in place to light stairways and restore the Life Fire Safety system.
  • On week two, the building was partially opened only to Critical Information Personnel for certain high-profile tenants’ data centers.
  • Security teams supplied supplemental officers to assist the newly established posts deemed necessary to protect tenants’ assets during their absence.

Lessons Learned

Chris had this to say about his experience: “No matter how much you prepare, you will likely never be ‘totally prepared’ for an event of historical magnitude. A storm the likes of Hurricane Sandy strikes only about once every 100 years. So the road to recovery is much longer than the avenue of destruction. Patience is indeed a virtue.”

Here are a few of the other lessons Chris says he learned:

  • A three-foot levee of sandbags does not standup to a 12- foot storm surge.
  • You probably will not have sufficient resources to handle a large-scale emergency and safely equip all personnel.
  • An easily assessable cache of equipment and resources must be maintained off-site, like radios, food, water, extra uniforms, toiletries, flashlights, etc.
  • Certain critical building resources should be relocated to upper floors, where feasible.
  • A team of supervisors trained and experienced in handling emergency situations begets a staff of efficient, disciplined and task-oriented personnel.
  • Personnel including supervisors must be able to accept and adapt to modified working conditions and hours.
  • Supervisors must be able to execute and display confidence in new and revised policies.
  • It will take some time to get back to “business as usual.”

FEMA has prepared a free, comprehensive 12-page PDF booklet that goes into great detail about flood preparation and recovery. We hope the FEMA resources and this blog post will motivate you to do whatever it takes to #BeSafe in floods as well as every other type of emergency…particularly if you live or work in a high-rise building! 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. For more information about our system, or to subscribe, click here.

Posted by: RJ the Fire Dog Blogger | August 11, 2015

Online Training Now Available on iPad

People Around the Circle Table Vector Business Meeting Top View Illustration

RJWestmore Corp Blog Announces Exciting Development

Property managers and fire life safety professionals spoke and we have listened by implementing noteworthy changes to our online training software. Subscribers can now easily access safety training via iPads in addition to their laptops and desktop computers. I’ve been told that puppy pads and iPads are very different things. That’s a good thing to point out here.

With the mission to “save lives through training,” the RJWestmore System was developed to help building owners and property managers provide a cost effective, user-friendly way to comply with fire life safety codes. Our interactive, building-specific e-learning training system motivates and rewards tenants instantly (with display-quality certificates) for completing online safety training. Thanks to our new update, this training is accessible not only via desktop or laptop computer but also on an iPad, or even an iPhone! Although I don’t own an iPhone or an iPad, I’m glad our training can be accessed using either of these tools since most humans seem to use these devices often.

“We are thrilled to be able to provide a tool that helps property managers get the job done! Offering iOS-compatible modules will improve safety training options for property managers, offering tenants accessible life-saving training for their employees who would otherwise go unprepared,” says Director of RJWestmore Kimber Westmore. “We are passionate about training because it saves lives.”

SnipImageBy and large, millennial and entrepreneurial tenants tend to prefer open concept working environments. The RJW Training System is perfect for this professional trend for several reasons:

  • When users are sharing space and do not want to cause a distraction to their colleagues, the animated training can be muted and the text-on-screen option can be chosen. I love animation and I don’t think I’m a millennial. Snoopy and his pal, Charlie Brown, are my favorite animated cartoons.
  • Millennials typically do not hold to a 9-5 workday, choosing to use iPads in a coffeehouse or on a couch instead. Access to material that’s available via iPad around the clock makes our training more user-friendly.
  • Millennials typically prefer training online and on-demand videos to attending expensive seminars or reading textbooks or training manuals. The RJWestmore Training System enables users to learn on demand in short, entertaining modules.

SnipImage (1)Rest assured, however, that the RJWestmore Training System is not geared exclusively to the younger generation. That’s a relief, since I’m an old dog who isn’t used to new tricks!

Our system has been designed to meet the needs of property managers and their tenants in all age groups and from all walks of life. In fact, it allows property management companies to manage a single site or an entire portfolio, with all users in the same system. It can also be used to train occupants, floor wardens, and fire safety directors. All user training and testing is documented, and material is always readily available, offering quick access to building-specific Emergency Responder information and other resources.

“People love our training,” says Director of Operations Lora Sargeant. “We continue to grow and we add modules and features on request because we want to make sure that we continue to remain at the forefront of online safety training. The more people who take advantage of our training, the more lives that can be saved.”

We hope this blog post will motivate you to do whatever it takes to #BeSafe. 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. For more information about our system, or to subscribe, click here.

Older Posts »



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.