Posted by: RJ the Fire Dog Blogger | February 2, 2016

Be Heart Smart

3d blackboard with the word heart health. Medical conceptEach February, the American Heart Association marks the month dedicated to love as the time to call attention to heart health. Although the iconic romantic symbol of a heart bears no resemblance to the physical organ that pumps blood to human tissue, the association is obvious: we should do whatever it takes to help loved ones stay healthy. I love celebrating Valentine’s Day with my wife and our son, JR. I love them both, with all of my heart. And to that end, heart disease prevention is paramount.

The term “heart disease” refers to several types of heart conditions. In the United States, the most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease, which restricts blood flow to the heart. Decreased blood flow can lead to a heart attack. Here are some of the most common types of heart conditions:

  • Aortic Aneurysm – a bulge in a section of theaorta, the body’s main artery. The aorta carries oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Because the section with the aneurysm is overstretched and weak, it can burst. If the aorta bursts, it can cause serious bleeding that can quickly lead to death.
  • Atrial Fibrillation – often called AFib or AF, is the most common type of heart arrhythmia. An arrhythmia is when the heart beats too slowly, too fast, or in an irregular way. When a person has AFib, the normal beating in the upper chambers of the heart (the two atria) is irregular, and blood doesn’t flow as well as it should from the atria to the lower chambers of the heart (the two ventricles). AFib may occur in brief episodes, or it may be a permanent condition. I wonder if those episodes are anything like what I see on TV at the fire station. Some of that stuff the characters go through is crazy.
  • Cardiomyopathy – The normal muscle in the heart can thicken, stiffen, thin out, or fill with substances the body produces that do not belong in the heart muscle. As a result, the heart muscle’s ability to pump blood is reduced, which can lead to irregular heartbeats, the backup of blood into the lungs or rest of the body, and heart failure.
  • Congestive Heart Failure – Does not mean theheart has stopped working. Rather, it means that the heart’s pumping power is weaker than normal. With heart failure, blood moves through the heart and body at a slower rate, and pressure in the heart increases. As a result, the heart cannot pump enough oxygen and nutrients to meet the body’s needs. I wonder if it would help to eat more bacon? Bacon seems to help with everything. But, in this case…maybe not?
  • Coronary Artery Disease – This happens when the arteries that supply blood to heart muscle become hardened and narrowed. This is due to the buildup of cholesterol and other material, called plaque, on their inner walls. This buildup is called atherosclerosis. As it grows, less blood can flow through the arteries. As a result, the heart muscle can’t get the blood or oxygen it needs. This can lead to chest pain (angina) or a heart attack.
  • Heart Attack – This happens when the flow of oxygen-rich blood to a section of heart muscle suddenly becomes blocked and the heart can’t get oxygen. If blood flow isn’t restored quickly, the section of heart muscle begins to die.heart with arms and legs measure blood pressure
  • High Blood Pressure – A common disease in which blood flows through blood vessels (arteries) at higher than normal pressures. Sometimes called “the silent killer,” uncontrolled high blood pressure (HBP) can injure or kill because HBP has no symptoms. So victims may not be aware that their arteries, heart and other organs are being damaged.
  • Pulmonary Hypertension – High blood pressure that occurs in the arteries in the lungs. It is a different measurement altogether from systemic blood pressure, reflecting the pressure the heart must exert to pump blood from the heart through the arteries of the lungs.
  • Stroke – A stroke is a “brain attack,” which can happen to anyone at any time. It occurs when blood flow to an area of brain is cut off. When this happens, brain cells are deprived of oxygen and begin to die. When brain cells die during a stroke, abilities controlled by that area of the brain such as memory and muscle control are lost. These seem like pretty important areas of the brain.

The best way to prepare yourself and loved ones to handle heart-related health problems is to take care of yourself:

Heart Attack Symptoms

  • Chest discomfort (It usually lasts for more than a few minutes, or goes away and returns. It can feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body

FAST (Stroke Symptoms)

  • Face Drooping – Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile.
  • Arm Weakness – Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • Speech Difficulty – Is speech slurred? Is the victim unable to speak, or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “the sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?
  • Time to call 9-1-1– If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 911 and get him or her to the hospital immediately.

Cardiac Arrest Symptoms

  • Loss of responsiveness
  • Loss of normal breathing

Remember that safety is a daily priority, not just during Heart Health Month. So be sure to think about ways to #BeSafe 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 | January 26, 2016

RJWestmore Training System Tornado Module Part 2

Fotolia_90922777_XS

Tornadoes present a significant weather-related risk across much of the country. Last week, we began a two-part series about how to prepare for and recover from tornadoes, which is particularly important in 2016, thanks to El Niño. I sure hope El Niño won’t affect bacon production. That’s at the top of my emergency supply list.

As noted in last week’s post, the RJWestmore Training System has recently added a tornado module to further enhance our comprehensive training program. Last week, our post covered what to do to prepare for a tornado. The following post will wrap up our two-week series, focusing on what to do during and after a tornado.

During a Tornado

Vintage old fashioned radioMany cities use an undulating, wailing warning system that sounds for three to four minutes to alert the public about tornadoes. I know a lot of dogs who use a similar system to warn their masters of impending doom. If you hear this signal or are otherwise notified that a tornado is imminent:

  • Remain calm.
  • At home or work, go to the pre-determined safe zone or basement as quickly as possible.
  • If you are in a high-rise building, don’t stay in a large, open area that has windows. Instead, seek out a closet or interior hallway to take cover.
  • Do not leave the building.
  • If you cannot get to a safe zone or basement, seek shelter under a large, sturdy piece of furniture. I find that desks and chairs provide comfort as well as protection.
  • Steer clear of windows and avoid being hit by flying objects.
  • Listen to NOAA weather conditions.
  • If you are away from home, find a small, interior room or hallway and protect your head and neck with your arms and a coat or blanket. And if you’re a canine, tuck in your tail.
  • If you are in a vehicle, do not attempt to outdrive the tornado. But do not stay in the car, as tornadoes can significantly damage automobiles. Park the car as quickly as possible, well away from traffic. If possible, find shelter in a sturdy building or underground. If you are not near a building, seek shelter in a spot that is at the lowest level possible. It is a myth that an overpass would provide shelter from a tornado. It is far safer to literally lie low and cover your head and neck with your arms and a coat or blanket. But make sure you are far from trees and vehicles.

After a Tornado

Emergency Survival Preparedness KitStudies have shown that a great deal of tornado-related injuries occur after a tornado when people are walking among the debris and enter damaged buildings. Injuries can also occur during rescue attempts, cleanup and other post-tornado activities. So be careful and follow these tips:

  • Unless you are facing a life-threatening situation, do not leave the safe zone until the warning has officially been lifted.
  • Listen for emergency information and instructions as well as weather updates and the “all clear” signal.
  • Do a quick survey of the damage to determine major hazards, looking for fires, leaks and electrical shorts.
  • Anticipate power outages and use the flashlight in your emergency kit to light the way as you check interior spaces and during evacuation.
  • Take time to have a snack. (Okay…I added that suggestion. But I think that snacks are always a good idea.)
  • Do not use an open flame or turn on electrical switches, especially if you smell gas.
  • Establish a safe location to use for triage. Do not move seriously injured people unless they are in immediate danger of further injury.
  • When it is safe to do so, use telephones for emergency calls, only.
  • Avoid unnecessary movement, which could stir up debris and affect breathing.
  • If you are trapped, tap on metal or another loud surface or, better yet, use a whistle to alert emergency responders. Shout only as a last resort. Bark, if applicable.
  • When evacuation routes are determined to be safe and you are instructed to do so:
    • Evacuate
    • Remain calm
    • Do not use elevators
    • Proceed to the safest exit, using the most continuous handrail
    • Before opening any doors, feel the door with the back of your hand (or paw), to check for heat.
    • Proceed to your designated safe refuge area and check in.
    • Do not reenter the building until you are told it is safe to do so by building management and emergency responders.

Remember that safety is a daily priority, so be sure to think safety 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 | January 19, 2016

Training Enhancements to RJWestmore System

Big TornadoPart one in a two-part series

Arguably nature’s most violent storms, an average of 1,000 tornadoes strike each year in the United States. Spawned from powerful thunderstorms, tornadoes often strike with little or no warning, wreaking havoc on communities of all kinds…from suburban neighborhoods to metropolitan areas. And here I thought that cats were the only thing to spawn something capable of wreaking havoc on canine communities! Surprisingly, tornadoes actually pose a risk to virtually every state in the union, not just tornado-prone regions. And this is especially true in 2016, thanks to El Niño.

The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a subscription-based e-learning training system that prepares high-rise building occupants to anticipate and respond to disasters of all kinds. A recent addition to the comprehensive system is a tornado module, which uses sound educational material, presented in an entertaining format, to train building occupants to understand their emergency plan as well as their role in it; how to make their home or workplaces safe; and what to do before, during and after an emergency. I love watching the videos in the RJWestmore Training System. Cartoons and voiceover are a great way to educate! In this first post in our two-part blog series, we will cover safety steps relative to tornado preparation.

Screenshot (1054)In part two, we will discuss what to do during and after a tornado. Here are some highlights of the life-saving topics covered in the first few video segments of the RJWestmore Training System tornado module:

  • Some tornadoes develop with little or no warning. So preparation is vital long before a siren wails, signaling the start of a tornado event. My appetite also hits with little or no warning.
  • Before a tornado hits, it is important to stay informed about weather conditions and listen for radio or televised instructions given by local emergency management officials.
  • Long before a tornado hits, make sure you identify and practice moving to your closest safe zone or basement and that you understand the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning:

Tornado Watch

Tornado Warning

  • A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar.
  • Take shelter immediately.

This is a summary of how our training system instructs subscribers about the steps to take for safety before, during and after a tornado:

Screenshot (1053)Before a Tornado

  • Practice evacuation procedures.
  • Maintain an emergency supply kit. (The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services provides subscribers with a complete list of emergency supplies, available in the resources section of the training system website.) We sure provide lots of great options. I’m happy to be the mascot for such a safety-focused corporation!

Check back next week to read part two of our two-part series about tornado safety. In next week’s post, we will cover the steps you should take during and after a tornado. In the meantime, remember that safety is a daily priority, so be sure to think safety 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 | January 12, 2016

El Niño & the Risks of Unpredictable Weather 

Tornado icon.The early January storms in Southern California brought not only rain and wind, but also a rare tornado warning for Los Angeles and San Diego (which would have likely rained fish tacos!). While the warnings didn’t pan out, meteorologists agree that 2016 will bring an increased chance of storms of many types across the entire country.

Thanks to El Niño, emergency management professionals across the country are gearing up for what may be a banner year for weather. In fact, citing a worrying El Niño storm pattern this winter that could rival flooding in 1997 and 1998, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has prepared a 66-page Severe El Niño Disaster Response Plan targeted to milder climates such as California and other western states. I would read the whole thing, but it’s hard for me to turn the pages since I don’t have opposable thumbs.

What exactly is El Niño? As the official mascot for RJWestmore, leaders in disaster preparedness training, I need to know such things!  Technically, it is the warm phase of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (commonly called ENSO). In simple terms, bands of warmer ocean water develop near the equator. This abnormally warm ocean water then alters the atmospheric conditions to produce unpredictable weather events. Here are some tips for handling several potential facets of El Niño weather and tips for preparing your building for severe weather. I also have some “Carolina style” BBQ tips if that is relevant? They always seem relevant to me.

Perform Storm Water Inspections of Your Properties

Conduct a property walk-through to spot water drainage problems that could be aggravated by El Niño storms. While on the walk-through:

  • Check drainpipes and other piping used to channel rainwater. Be sure these are free of debris to potentially handle large quantities of water. I once backed up a drain at the firehouse. I’ll admit it was probably too much bacon grease. Review storm patterns and associated damage from previous years to identify potential problem areas.
  • If your building has water pumps, ensure they remain in good working condition. Remove debris from strainers.
  • If storm drains are severely backed up, you may need to hire a professional who has tools such as cameras to quickly identify and solve the problem.
  • We’ve got some serious surveillance equipment in our doghouse—the “Cat Detectormatic 9000” and the “Ultrasonic Porkchop Finder 2.5.” They were great investments.
  • Test the drainage system for leaks. This is especially important in areas that house electrical equipment.
  • Does your building have ground-level storage or parking areas? Check the grading to identify areas which may be susceptible to flooding. Sandbags and other measures can help channel water flow away from high traffic areas. Whiskers and Tabby tried to help once by pouring cat litter into shopping bags; it didn’t work out.

Managing Snowfall

The Weather Channel’s Winter Storm Central details the typical effects of El Niño and La Nina relative to snow patterns. The hope is that the subtropical or southern-branch jet stream, typically turbo-charged during strong El Niño, will deliver long-awaited relief for at least some in the West. However, no one can equivocally guarantee that the drought will end even if El Niño performs as expected. The good news is that, so far this year, California is already experiencing heavier snowfall than normal, with several feet reported.

Winter City
How to Handle Snow:

  • Use chains. Necessary even if you have a four-wheel drive vehicle, snow chains provide the traction necessary to escape snow-packed surfaces, though they remain relatively useless for traversing slick ice. Thankfully, as Dalmatian, I have all-time, four-wheel drive and amazing stability. Practice putting chains on your car in the comfort of your driveway instead of opening the package for the first time while you are stranded at the side of the road during a blizzard.
  • Keep exhaust pipes clear. If the pipe is blocked while the car is running, shovel an area around it for the gases to escape, instead of allowing them to filter back into the car.
  • Work with other motorists. If you are stranded during a snowstorm, make contact with other people so you can pool resources such as food, water, charged devices, and other items from your emergency supply kit. Dogs do this at the dog park, usually by sniffing each other.
  • Stay with the vehicle. Unless you have veered off the road, stay with the car as it will provide a certain degree of shelter.

Prepping your Building

Rain, tornadoes, and snow from El Niño could lead to a wide range of disaster threats this year. Here are some tips to help you (and building occupants) survive and resume normal operations as quickly as possible:

  • Use backup generators to provide a source of electricity to run sump pumps and to provide essential services to stranded occupants. You also need electricity to check your favorite Twitter accounts. My handle is @RJtheFiredog. I’m well on my way to reaching 2,000 followers! Feel free to tweet and follow me too for some sage advice.
  • If applicable, paint your building (especially wood trim) with treated paint, which will repel water.
  • Conduct flood-proofing of your building, including the use of sandbags, attention to gutters, altering rooflines, and other fixes. FEMA has an extension section devoted to flood-proofing. I know I talk about bacon a lot, but just consider the use of congealed bacon fat as an amazing waterproofing sealant. You can use that fancy “caulk” stuff, but I’ll take bacon fat any day!

The effect of El Niño are global, with NASA predicting “weather chaos.” A theme of El Niño weather events is their unpredictability, with unusually-timed floods, blizzards, and the potential for tornadoes in unexpected places. Planning for the unexpected is a requirement for building and safety managers, so follow best practices to protect lives and property in 2016.

Remember that safety is a daily priority, so be sure to think safety 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 | January 5, 2016

Seven Safety Resolutions for 2016

Goals 2016According to StatisticBrain.com, 45 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, but only eight percent actually succeed in achieving them. (Does this include dogs?) So maybe the first resolution you should make this year is to keep the resolutions you make! Our idea for ensuring success? Buck the trend of focusing your goals on popular resolutions involving weight, money and relationships in favor of resolving to be safe. I’ve never understand humans’ focus on weight goals! So you have a few extra pounds; it’s a badge of honor! Want to know my resolutions list?

  1. Take more naps. Easily attainable and lots of fun.
  2. Eat more food. I will resolve to learn the magic ways of the refrigerator and figure out how to help myself to leftovers.
  3. Guilt people into giving me more belly rubs. My “puppy dog eyes” still work magic.

Seven Safety Resolutions (for Humans) in 2016:

  1. Mr.Simple in SWOT AnalysisReview recent history. Where safety is concerned, consider the steps you took to be safe in 2015 as well as the emergencies that arose, so you can identify emergency strengths and weaknesses. For example, did anyone slip or fall at one of your properties in 2015? If so, how was the incident handled? What steps can be taken to prevent future accidents? The National Safety Council offers several ideas for reducing the risk of slips and falls. I remember slipping in a puddle once. It was glorious!
  1. Plan for earthquakes. Review your earthquake preparedness plan, making sure that evacuation routes are clear and furniture, boilers and water heaters are secure. If your building is located in an earthquake-prone area such as Southern California, use this interactive map to see if your building is located on an active fault line. Understanding the severity of the risk can aid in earthquake planning.
  1. Remove clutter throughout the building. Hallways that are littered with boxes impede safe passage. So make sure stairwells remain accessible and that exits are clearly marked. Cats are another impediment! Who needs them? For suggestions about preparing exit routes and creating a fire prevention plan, check out the emergency evacuation factsheet on the OSHA website.
  2. Reduce fire risks. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), cooking equipment is the leading cause of fires that start at home. As for nonresidential buildings, the most recent available data from FEMA (for 2013) suggests the leading reported causes of fires are cooking, followed by arson, carelessness and heating equipment. Prominently display safety guidelines for heating food (might I suggest bacon or bratwurst?), reporting suspicious behavior and carefully dealing with electricity and open flames. While I love people to cook up great meals such as bacon and burgers, I always want the cooking to be done safely!
  1. Assemble a “Go-kit”. After any emergency, building occupants might need to shelter in place or move to a safe location on your property, potentially for days. The important components of a go-kit are one gallon of water per person, for three days, non-perishable food, flashlights, medications, first-aid kit, whistle, hand-crank or battery-operated radio (and extra batteries) and emergency blankets. And don’t forget to pack stuff for pets. Learn more about assembling an effective go-kit from the Red Cross.
  1. Emphasize cybersecurity. IT security experts predict 2016 will bring an increase in cybersecurity threats such as ransoming, cloud infiltrations, identity theft, and advanced phishing. The damages from a hacking attempt and possible leak of electronic data can be enormous. Learn best practices to prevent cybersecurity breaches, such as using strong passwords, limiting access to key employees, and regularly installing software updates and patches that can plug security holes.
  1. Subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services. I love promoting our system because it helps commercial, residential, educational, institutional, government, retail and industrial buildings with compliance to fire/life safety codes. Our interactive, building-specific e-learning training system motivates and rewards building occupants instantly! It’s a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your facility, cuts property management training related workloads by 90% and saves building owners and managers over 50% compared to conventional training! Most importantly, IT SAVES LIVES! For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.
Posted by: RJ the Fire Dog Blogger | December 23, 2015

Holiday Kitchen Safety

niño cocineroCooking a big meal for the holidays is a joyous event, as you can pour your love and expertise into every bite. But to keep loved ones safe, make sure you are careful in the kitchen. Our first tip? Slow down. Despite the frenetic pace modeled on cooking competition shows, it’s always best to pace yourself while cooking. I like to pace myself during the holiday season. I go from kibble, to nap, to crumb searching, back to nap. Professional chefs work quickly, but they also watch out for one another and take steps to follow basic safety protocols.

Avoid Foodborne Illnesses

Fotolia_82270779_XSAs disheartening as it is, in terms of bacteria, home kitchens are typically more bacteria-ridden than public restrooms. And some people call dogs filthy? The good news is that if steps are taken to follow sanitary practices, you can guard against hosting a houseful of sick holiday guests.

  • Wash utensils thoroughly. The dishwasher is the best method for washing, as it utilizes too-hot-to-handle water and vigorous rinsing. I recommend leaving the dishwasher open for a bit so I can do an “inspection.” I just want a quick lick! If you must hand wash items that have come into contact with raw meat or eggs, use gloves, so you can handle hot water without burning yourself, apply lots of soap, and thoroughly everything, to dispense with soap residue.
  • Prevent cross contamination by using separate cutting boards for meat and veggies and fruit. Several manufacturers offer color-coded cutting boards for just this reason.
  • User paper towels to remove juice from meat and raw eggs. Avoid using cloth towels, which can harbor bacteria. I won’t even eat uncooked meat for safety reasons. But “medium rare?” I’m all over it!
  • Marinate and defrost foods in the refrigerator instead of on top of the kitchen counter or in the sink.

Illustration of cooking pan with firePrevent Kitchen Fires

  • Much of the risk of kitchen fires can be avoided if cooks focus on the task at hand. Do not leave items on the stove and then leave to fold laundry or watch TV (or zone out on your phone – silly humans.) Instead, remain in the kitchen so you can quickly control flare-ups. Remove clutter. If you are cooking an elaborate meal, you want to clean up as you go to keep your work space clutter free. Towels or wooden utensils frequently meet burners, so keep a “clear zone” around the range top and oven.
  • Thoroughly lean cooking surfaces to prevent high-fat food residue buildup, which can be flammable.
  • Be careful if you are frying foods. Remember that water and hot oil are incompatible. So don’t put frozen foods into hot oil. You CAN, however, put frozen corn dogs directly into the dog’s bowl. (Just a suggestion.)
  • Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen to put out fires before they get out of control. Make sure you are using the right type of extinguisher for the fire you are battling.

Additional tips for holidays kitchen safety:

  • Watch the kids. Keep children out of the kitchen during meal preparation (and out of the doghouse!) While you might be able to supervise kids in less hectic times, crowded kitchens and lots of activity can lead to accident. So save culinary lessons for after the holidays. Also, keeping children away from meal preparation will prevent curious little hands from pulling on pot handles.
  • Clean up spills. A slippery floor is a major hazard in the kitchen, since people often carry sharp knives and boiling water. So immediately wipe spills until surfaces are completely dry. I know Fido and Rufus want to lick up the spills, but this is one instance where I say you should not let every dog have his day.
  • Use knives properly. There is a proper way to chop different types of foods, which can prevent the loss of a fingertip and a trip to the ER on Christmas Day. In addition, remember that, as counter intuitive as it sounds, it is safer to use a razor sharp knife than a dull blade.
  • Steam burns. Some foods, such as instant rice and veggies, now come in convenient plastic microwaveable packets. If you decide to use these, make sure to open away from your face.

The holidays are a busy time. Adding several relatives and planning big elaborate meals challenge even the most organized host. So follow these kitchen safety practices to ensure everyone has a happy and safe holiday season. Go into the kitchen now and give your dog gravy.  (Did my “Jedi mind trick” work?)

Remember that safety is a daily priority, so be sure to think safety 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 | December 15, 2015

Be Safe this Holiday Season

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

This post has been adapted from a blog written by Angela Burrell, Public Relations’ Manager of our corporate company, Universal Services of America. Her unaltered version first appeared on December 14, 2015. Many thanks to Angela, for sharing her blog about holiday safety.


 

Santa Claus cartoon scene trying to control fire in fireplaceOur wish for you is that you will keep the following safety and security tips in mind as you celebrate the holiday season. Share them with family, friends, colleagues, co-workers and building occupants to let them know you care. #BeSafe and Happy Holidays!

Nine Smart Shopping Tips 

  1. Park close to your destination, in a well-lit area and lock packages in the trunk, out of sight.
  2. Carry your purse close to your body and stow your wallet inside a zippered pocket.
  3. Report any suspicious activity or unattended packages to store/mall security or law enforcement.
  4. Stay vigilant this holiday season. Be aware of your surroundings: “If You See Something, Say Something.”
  5. Pay by credit card, rather than check/debit card, to reduce the risk of funds being taken from your bank account. Keep all receipts and compare them to your monthly statements.
  6. Avoid being overcharged; review your receipt if you pay by debit, to ensure that the transaction is correct. Seems like a good idea even when it’s not the holidays! 
  7. Keep your car key handy and lock your doors as soon as you get inside your vehicle.
  8. Shop online at home with known businesses. Avoid shopping online through pop-up ads as they may be phishing scams or contain malware.
  9. Conduct transactions on a secure server only; look for the padlock device on the browser’s status bar. The URL should change from http to shttp or https when asked for payment information, which indicates that the purchase is encrypted or otherwise secure. 
Report suspicious persons.

Report suspicious persons.

Eight Workplace Alerts 

  1. Report all solicitors or suspicious persons to security immediately. (The guy in this photo, at right, looks alarmingly suspicious to me. I wonder if all bad guys look the part? Probably not.)
  2. Be suspicious of unfamiliar people claiming to be repair persons, as thieves are apt to disguise themselves.
  3. Make sure your receptionist and/or security team clears any workers or contractors before allowing them into your office.
  4. Question visitors who wander throughout your offices. Legitimate guests will appreciate your offers of assistance, while potential solicitors or thieves will be deterred.
  5. Lock all personal items in a desk or file cabinet. Employees should never leave purses or wallets exposed where they can easily be stolen.
  6. Draw blinds after hours so that computers and other valuables are not visible from the outside.
  7. Close doors when the office is empty, and secure all valuables in a desk or closet when unattended.
  8. Request a security or buddy escort to your car if you are working late and feel vulnerable. 

Seven Home Safety Guides 

  1. Refresh your holiday lights; consider buying energy-efficient LED types that are cooler than conventional incandescent lights and heed indoor or outdoor use labels.
  2. Point any decorative outdoor laser light devices at your home and not towards the sky. Have you seen those new laser light shows? They are so cool. 
  3. Turn off lights or decorations before bedtime, or set automatic timers for six or eight-hour increments to conserve energy.
  4. Monitor candles and fireplace fires, and extinguish them before leaving the house or bedtime.
  5. Consider installing motion or lighting sensors that turn off automatically when no one is around.
  6. Let strangers who knock know you are home without opening your door. Do not feel compelled to donate to solicitors.
  7. Ask a neighbor to collect your mail or have the post office hold it, if you plan to travel for an extended period.

Christmas outdoor Christmas decorations - Snowman and nutcracker lights up house in Brooklyn, New YorkSix Basic Fire Rules 

  1. Fires peak, particularly in kitchens, during the holidays, so remain alert when preparing meals and keep potholders and food wrappers at least three feet away from heat sources.
  2. Test your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, ensuring that they work at optimal level year-round. Replace batteries, as needed.
  3. Know where your exits are located and hold regular fire drills that include practicing at least two evacuation routes from every area or building to your safe refuge area.
  4. Notify the property manager about exit lights that are broken or vandalized.
  5. Never prop open self-closing doors, as they are designed to keep flames and smoke from spreading. I don’t have a self-closing door on my doghouse. Maybe it’s time to invest? 
  6. Keep exits and stairways free from obstructions at all times. Don’t store things on or under stairways, or on landings.

Five More Tips and Resources 

  1. The National Fire Protection Association summarizes Christmas tree and holiday lights safety.
  2. Electrical Safety Foundation International’s Holiday Decorating Safety guide lists many resources.
  3. The National Safety Council recommends several Holiday Safety Tips.
  4. Be prepared for more thorough airport security checks by TSA and register for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program before traveling outside of the U.S., per recent travel alerts and warnings issued.
  5. Consult the Consumer Product Safety Commission website for recalls and alerts on toys and other products before making purchases.

We hope you enjoy a safe and secure holiday. Please view CDC’s 12 Ways to Health Holiday Song, and #BeSafe! Remember that safety is a daily priority, so be sure to think safety 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 | December 10, 2015

Holiday Toy and Gift Safety

fireplace and fir-tree and christmas socksDecember is National Safe Toys and Gifts Month, so designated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), to raise awareness about potentially hazardous toys. Since toy purchases are at an all-time high during the holidays, we thought it a good idea to highlight the campaign with this week’s blog post.

Part of the CPSC initiatives include third-party testing laboratories which check toys for lead and phthalate limits, so they can identify dangerous toys before they reach consumer shelves. I would love to be a Greenies and rawhide tester! I’d weigh 250 pounds, but my tail would be wagging all of the time! The commission also produces safety alerts. For example, one highlights the choking hazards of plastic film coverings that are on many toys.

children playing together at homeTypes of toys to avoid this holiday season:

  • Scooters and similar riding toys. Since the popular Razor Scooter’s launch in 2000, there has been a sharp increase in ER visits due to falls associated with the toys. Avoid giving these types of toys as gifts, since they lead to numerous serious accidents every year—especially when operated without a helmet. If you do buy a scooter, be sure to include a properly-fitted helmet, as well.
  • Toys with small parts. Pay attention to the warning labels on toy boxes, because they provide guidelines relative to choking hazards as well as age-appropriateness. Lego sets and other similar toys are fun, but they don’t work for toddlers, since the kits come with lots of small choking hazards. In addition, my paws always stomp on those sharp Lego pieces! I nearly lacerated my pad the other day! A good rule of thumb is to place or imagine the toy- part-in-question fitting inside a toilet paper roll. If it fits, then it’s too small.
  • Toys that could cause eye injuries. Toy guns that shoot pellets or Nerf darts are fun, but are a leading cause of injury, with studies showing a significant increase in the eye injuries resulting from toy parts over the past few years. For example, the “Airsoft” brand of guns led to a significant number of injuries and should only be used with eye protection.

Keep little ones safe during the holidays:

Girl with bearThe holiday season is a hectic time, which means adult attention spans can be stretched to the limit. It also brings dogs’ attention into laser sharp focus. That turkey on the table? We have our eyes on it!

Keeping track of babies and toddlers can be especially difficult during family gatherings and other festive events. Here are some tips for protecting your youngest family members at large functions:

  • Dispose of wrapping paper and plastic packaging. Toy packaging contains various types of plastic covers, twist ties, and other bits and pieces. All of these are potential chewing and choking hazard for babies and toddlers. Whenever possible, collect and recycle materials as presents are opened.
  • Keep an eye on the fireplace. Hanukkah nights or Christmas morning are both great times for a cozy fire. But flammable materials should be handled responsibly. Keep them far from flames. And, because kids are curious, be sure your fireplace screen is sturdy. This is also a great time to talk to children about the serious dangers posed by fire.
  • Watch your plants. Mistletoe and holly are poisonous if ingested, so keep toxic plants out of the reach of young children.
  • Be careful with alcoholic beverages. If you and guests are enjoying a few cocktails during a holiday party, take steps to keep drinks out of the hands of anyone under the age of 21. Children imitate parents. So make sure they can’t reach unattended beverages. Ask guests to remove empty and even partially-empty cups. I slurped up a margarita one time. How can people drink this stuff? Give me the sophisticated flavors of toilet bowl water instead!
  • Carefully string Christmas tree lights. Toddlers and babies love the glow of lights. So keep strands high on the tree to make sure they are out of reach of tiny fingers. Glass ornaments are another potential hazard which should be replaced, moved to a higher location or boxed until children are old enough to ensure their safety.

Remember that safety is a daily priority, so be sure to think safety 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 | December 1, 2015

Preparing Against Attacks

poster against terrorism

Due to the sensitive nature of the recent attacks of terrorism in Paris, I have abstained from adding my usual “firedogisms.” Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of those affected by the attacks.

This week’s blog topic is a somber one, because it refers to the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, France. The horrifying and cowardly incident included mass shootings at the Bataclan Theatre, suicide bombings, and the taking of hostages. A total of 130 victims died in the attacks, representing 20 different countries. The terrorist group ISIL claimed responsibility for the attacks, and promises to target more Western countries in the coming months and years. Following the incidents, France was thrust into a state of emergency, and actions were taken throughout Europe and the Middle East to find and eliminate those responsible for the atrocities.

Here in the U.S., terrorism remains a persistent (and now heightened) concern for public agencies as well as the private sector. Nevertheless, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) assures us that there are currently no credible attacks planned for the U.S. or Canadian soil. In fact, the risk of incidents to North America is at an all-time low, due to increased awareness and tight safety precautions. Unfortunately, however, as the Paris attacks demonstrated, the need for worldwide disaster prevention and mitigation relative to terrorism will likely remain mission critical in perpetuity.

terrorist with bomb old backgroundPrevention Tactics

Fortunately, North America is free, allowing citizens and visitors to move about as they wish. This is an important part of life in the United States and Canada, but one that also means that potential terrorists also have freedom to move about. Here are some tactics to employ to keep your high-rise building safe from the threat of terrorism:

  • Establish security protocols for anyone who wants to enter the building. For example, require escorts and verification for all visitors. The lobby should be carefully protected, with limited access provided to more secure areas.
  • Require package deliveries to be left in the lobby with staff members who can screen mail and appropriately alert building occupants.
  • Install security barriers outside entrances to stop vehicles from ramming into the front of your building. Large companies have employed these tactics, to great effect.
  • Prevent access to the roof of your building, by carefully guarding access to internal stairwells, elevators and fire escapes.
  • Train staff members to properly check incoming mail and package deliveries. Make sure they know how to spot suspicious materials.
  • Learn about building-specific upgrades such as hardening outer walls and installing security glass. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) offers a detailed guide about several types of improvements. Our subscribers also enjoy access to lots of safety training materials relative to high-rise preparedness.

Reducing the Risk of Airborne Attacks

Terror organizations may utilize chemical and airborne agents to attack a building. What should building owners and managers do to reduce this threat?

  1. Conduct a review of the building’s HVAC system, including how to quickly shutoff the system in the event of an airborne or chemical attack.
  2. Restrict access to air intake vents on the outside of buildings.
  3. Consider moving vents to inaccessible locations — the higher, the better. If this is impossible, use strong fencing or grating to secure intake areas.

Preparedness Tips for Handling Terrorist Attacks

Managing the lives of building occupants during a terrorist attack requires the same calm and well-planned actions that are needed during other emergencies. Here are some tips to help you prepare to handle emergencies before, during and after an attack:

  • Identify any critical infrastructures and ensure those areas and systems are locked down and closely monitored at all times.
  • Review your terrorism and emergency response plans. Create a plan to tighten security protocols at a moment’s notice.
  • Instruct and train your staff to be extra vigilant and report anything that seems suspicious or out of the ordinary.
  • Use the DHS “If You See Something, Say Something” approach to prepare yourself and your staff.
  • Keep first aid kits at the ready.
  • Establish evacuation routes for everyone in the building, including alternate routes that could circumvent an ongoing attack.
  • Utilize a hand-crank radio and cell phone for alerts about the situation, and be prepared to accordingly adjust actions.
  • Follow the instructions of emergency first-responders.
  • Don’t leave the safety of a building until emergency responders tell you to exit the building.
  • Make sure your emergency supply kit includes flashlights and bottled water.
  • Once you are outside the affected building, wait for instructions from emergency personnel. 

The Importance of Security Procedures

A suicide bomber involved in the Paris attacks was discovered trying to enter a France vs. Germany soccer game, when a security officer patted him down and discovered his explosive vest. Building owners and managers who employ security personnel should teach them to spot and deter suspicious behavior so they can stop an attack.

While vigilance and planning for terrorist attacks are warranted, it should also be noted that the risks of terrorism are still incredibly low in our post-9/11 nation. Nevertheless, implementing security measures is recommended, and building managers and owners should take steps to prepare occupants for the possibility of an attack.

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 | 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.

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