Posted by: RJ the Fire Dog Blogger | August 4, 2015

Summer Safety: Stay Safe in the Water

A businessman receiving some help.

Part 3 of a 3-part series

This summer, whether you plan to enjoy a stay-cation or leave your house or doghouse for a short or extended period of time, there are several safety-related things to consider. The first two entries in our three-part series covered safety at home and safety while traveling. In this final post about summer safety, we will focus on how to be water safe. I will never understand why humans don’t naturally learn to dog-paddle the way canines do. It comes in handy to know how to swim.

According to the American Red Cross, more than 200 young children drown in backyard swimming pools in the United States each year. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) reports that the six most common causes of drowning include:

1. Inability to swim
2. Absence of barriers to prevent unsupervised water access
3. Lack of close supervision of non-swimmers and/or weak swimmers
4. Omission of life jackets
5. Use of alcohol
6. Seizure-related disorders

Drowning is as significant a concern in natural bodies of water as it is in home and public swimming pools and hot tubs. The U.S. Lifesaving Organization (USLO) says the major causes of ocean-related accidents are weather-related swells and rip currents. In 2014, there were:

  • 90,964 swimmers rescued near U.S. beaches
  • 4,225 boat rescues and 5,240 boat assists boy stranded at sea
  • 7,652,479 preventive actions
  • 341,143 medical aid incidents
  • 93 unguarded drownings
  • 19 guarded drownings
  • 35 other water-related fatalities

So, this summer, take steps to make water safety a priority:

  • Swim only in designated areas supervised by lifeguards.
  • Swim with a buddy. Never swim alone. The buddy system is always a good idea.
  • Make sure that everyone in your family knows how to swim well. Enroll your kids in age-appropriate classes. We didn’t have to enroll JR in swimming classes. He knew how to doggy-paddle the day he was born.
  • Never leave a young child unattended near water.
  • Do not trust your child’s life to someone else.
  • Have young children or inexperienced swimmers wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets around water. Water wings are insufficient to prevent drowning.
  • Do not rely on life jackets, alone.
  • Set firm rules for your family members. Make sure children always ask permission before going near the water. This includes the dog bowl. I can’t tell you how many times toddlers have knocked over my water!
  • Always be cautious around natural bodies of water (even if you do not intend to swim.)
  • If you go boating, wear a life jacket! Most boating fatalities occur from drowning.
  • Water and alcohol do not mix. Alcohol impairs judgment, balance and coordination; affects swimming and diving skills; and reduces the body’s ability to stay warm.

Prevent Unsupervised Access to the Water

  • For safety as well as reduced risk of liability, install and use barriers around your home pool or hot tub. Also consider containers of standing water.
  • Use pool barriers that enclose the entire pool area, with 4-feet high fences and self-closing gates. Install self-latching gates that open outward, away from the pool. Latches should be high enough to remain well out of reach for a small child.
  • Take safety precautions for above-ground and even inflatable pools. Remove access ladders when not in use and cover whenever the pool is not in use.
  • Store or distance anything that could potentially provide access to a pool, such as outdoor furniture, trees, walls or swing-sets. You could be held liable if people break into your backyard to swim. Actress Demi Moore recently learned this lesson firsthand.

Maintain Constant Supervision

  • Actively supervise kids whenever they are around water. Don’t rely on a lifeguard or other swimmers or sunbathers to supervise your kids.
  • Stay within arm’s reach of young children.
  • Avoid distractions when supervising children around water.

What to do in an Actual Emergency

  1. If a child is missing, check the water first. Seconds count in preventing death or disability.
  2.  Call 911.
  3. If you own a home pool or hot tub, make sure you have easy access to appropriate equipment, such as reaching or throwing equipment, a cell phone, life jackets and a first aid kit.

The smartest thing to do is to prepare well in advance of any actual emergency. Enroll in water safety, first aid or CPR/AED courses to learn how to prevent and respond to emergencies. We hope this blog post will motivate you to do whatever it takes this summer to #BeSafe in and around the water. 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 | July 22, 2015

Planes, Trains & Automobiles: #BeSafe this Summer

happy dog in a car windowThis summer, whether you plan to enjoy a stay-cation or leave your house for a short or extended period of time, there are several safety-related things to consider. In our ongoing three-week series about summer safety, we will cover safety at home, while traveling, and around water. To read part one of our series, click here. In this part two post, we will focus on ways to ensure personal safety relative to summer travel, whether you are going by plane, train or automobile. Check back next week to read about water safety.

Plane Safety

  • Pack well. In addition to making sure you have all of the clothing and personal care items you need, remember to pack with safety in mind. Leave sharp objects at home. For carry-ons, invest in airline-approved travel containers so you won’t get stopped by security. And bring bacon if you are traveling with your dog. Dogs love to eat bacon while traveling (…and while standing still. We pretty much always love to eat bacon.)

  • Never agree to watch a stranger’s bag. If you notice unattended baggage, immediately report it to airport security. Leave that to TSA or the police.

  • Once you have boarded, place your luggage in the overhead compartment directly across the aisle from you so, that you can keep an eye on it to make sure it remains untouched throughout the flight.

  • Most airplane accidents occur during take-off and landing. So booking a nonstop flight won’t just save you time. It may reduce your risk of an in-air incident. This is one of the reasons I prefer to use my own four paws to get around.

  • Even on domestic flights, bring your passport with you. During a crisis, U.S. flights could be diverted to Mexican or Canadian airports. If this occurs, you will be glad you have your passport at border crossings.

Train Safety

  • Did you know that someone is hit by a train once every three hours? Since trains can come from either direction at virtually any time, be careful when you are near train tracks or in stations.

  • Pay attention to painted or raised markings at the platform edge. And remain at least three feet from the train whenever it is coming in or out of the station.

  • Listen carefully to directions from the train operator or conductor. This is good advice no matter how you are traveling. Pay attention to the people who are in charge!

  • Be careful getting on and off the train, as there may be a gap between the train and platform or steps.

  • Follow directional signs so you will be sure to cross tracks only when it is safe to do so. Crossing anywhere else is dangerous as well as illegal.

    For more train safety tips, check out OperationLifeSaver.org.

Summer, vintage cars with fins on the beachAutomobile

  • Plan, map and estimate the duration of your drive ahead of time. Then, let family and friends know about your plans. And, if you plan to travel with a pet, schedule lots of pit stops, because we need to stretch our legs.

  • As you plan, remember to expect the unexpected—for instance, you may run into roadwork, road closures, slow traffic or crowded highways. So try to allow enough wiggle room in your schedule so you won’t be tempted to speed to make time.

  • Before you leave, check the tires to make sure they are properly inflated and have plenty of meat on them. I know what you’re thinking. But this kind of meat means tread on tires, not the kind I crave!

  • Hire a mechanic or inspect the car yourself. Evaluate the engine, battery, hoses, belts and fluids for wear and proper levels, and check the A/C.

  • Test the vehicle’s interior and exterior lights, wipers and washer fluid.

  • Prepare an Emergency Roadside Kit. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has some great recommendations about what to include in your kit.

Check back next week, when we will wrap up our series with our final summer safety post, about water safety. 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.

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

Tips for Summer Safety

Summer digital design, vector illustration eps 10

Summertime can be fun. Barbecues, backyard parties, picnics, swimming pools and travel beckon. And so do the smells of grilled meat! But your fun in the sun could be short-lived if you fail to take summertime safety precautions. To help you make the summer of 2015 your best ever, we have compiled some tips to help you avoid potential peril.

Summertime Safety Starts at Home

Whether you plan to enjoy a staycation or leave your house for a short or extended period of time, there are several things to consider, which will keep your home safe this summer. In this three-part series, we will cover ways to protect yourself in the summer whether you plan to leave or stay at home. In the next several blog posts, we will cover safety at home, while traveling, and around water.

This week, we will focus on ways to make your home safe.

  • If you plan to leave for vacation, make copies of all of your important information, so you will have everything on hand. For example, record your credit card account numbers as well as customer service phone numbers in case you notice fraudulent activity on your accounts while you are away from home. Also, don’t forget to pack vital documents such as insurance cards, passports, emergency contacts and health information about your pets.
  • Before you leave, lock every door and window in your home. And, if applicable, call your alarm company to let them know you will be on vacation. This is critical even if your trip is short. According to the FBI, more than half (53%) of home burglaries happen during the day. So homeowners should secure doors and windows every time they leave their home—even if they plan to be gone for only a few hours. Of course, if you have a watchdog, this may not be necessary. I guess you should decide on a case-by-case basis.

    Hello Summer

  • No matter how excited you are to share your travel experiences on social media, resist the urge to post everything on Facebook or Twitter. Thieves have learned to check out social media posts to determine targets of opportunity. When it comes to your house, keep them guessing. That’s the reason I don’t tweet or post about my schedule. Well, that, and because I like to avoid the paparazzi.
  • Don’t leave clues about your absence on your front porch. Nothing says “empty house” more than having stacks of newspapers on the porch or mail hanging out of an overstuffed box. You can avoid both by putting a vacation hold on subscriptions as well as mail.
  • Make your home as unattractive to burglars as possible. Make sure shrubs are well trimmed, so there is nowhere for thieves to hide. Consider installing a security system with cameras to deter would-be robbers.
  • Take steps to make sure your house is as difficult as possible to break into.
    1. Don’t ever hide a key under the mat or above the door.
    2. Use heavy, solid doors with deadbolt locks.
    3. Don’t forget about doors between an attached garage and the house. Purchase and install as heavy duty equipment on it as you do for the front and back doors.
    4. Install poles so windows and sliding glass doors won’t slide.
    5. Light up your house with motion sensors and floodlights. Thieves don’t like to operate on stage. So lighting is an inexpensive way to burglar-proof your home.
    6. Prominently display security signs…even if you don’t subscribe to a security system. The idea is to deter as many would-be thieves as possible.
    7. If you do subscribe to a security system, don’t write your passcode on a post-it and put it next to your keypad. Doing so will defeat the entire purpose of having the system.
    8. Get a guard dog! (Just a friendly firedog suggestion.)

Check back next week, when we will cover personal safety relative to summer travel. 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.

Visit RJWestmore.com to read about the many ways proper planning can make a difference in numerous aspects of your professional and personal life.

 

Posted by: RJ the Fire Dog Blogger | June 23, 2015

For June–it’s all about Men’s Health

Health And Fitness Red Blue Green Each June, you likely celebrate Father’s Day with relatives and friends. Every Father’s Day, my son, RJ, gets me a big bone. But did you know that June is also the time to officially focus on men’s health? Men’sHealthMonth.org reports that:

“The purpose of the (annual campaign) is to heighten the awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys.” What’s more, “The month-long celebration gives health care providers, public policy makers, the media, and individuals an opportunity to encourage men and boys to seek regular medical advice and early treatment for disease and injury.”

Top 10 health risks for men:Walking the Dog

  1. Heart Disease –The American Heart Association says that more than one in three adult men has some form of cardiovascular disease.And, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death for men in the United States, killing 307,225 men in 2009 (which is one in every four adult male deaths). Did you know that your beloved pet could have heart problems too?
  2. Cancer (Malignant Neoplasms) – The American Cancer Society reports that the types of cancer affecting men are cancers of the prostate, colon, lung and skin.
  3. Stroke (Cerebral Diseases) – Although strokes are more likely to occur in men over age 65, they can happen at any age. And strokes are more likely to be fatal and strike earlier in men than in women.
  4. Injuries (Unintentional Accidents) – Men and women are more likely to encounter everyday accidents that lead to death than something catastrophic, which we covered in last week’s blog post about National Safety Month. Since 49.1 percent of the U.S. population is made up of men, it stands to reason they should take steps to avoid injury and #BeSafe. I tend to be the clumsy type. So my wife tries to convince me to calm down, especially when I’m excited about taking a walk.
  5. Chronic Lower Respiratory Diseases – The causes of the chronic respiratory diseases are well known: tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, pollution, allergens, occupational agents, age and hereditary. While not all are preventable, men and women should take steps to rectify those that are.
  6. Blood Sugar Abnormalities (Diabetes) – The American Diabetes Association says that the fear of receiving bad news is the number one reason men don’t typically talk about or take better care of their health. If you are a man, take heed, or if you love one, encourage him to visit his your doctor since many diseases, including Diabetes, need not be fatal, if caught and treated early on. I have found that the best way to keep my blood sugar stable is to eat plenty of pork and beef products.
  7. Influenza & Pneumonia – Influenza and Pneumonia are a leading cause of death in the U.S., although both could easily be prevented by a vaccination, say officials from the American Lung Association.
  8. Suicide (Intentional Self-Harm) – The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reports that, for many years, the suicide rate has been about four times higher among men than among women. If you know someone who needs assistance, connect him to a support network, such as the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255.

  9. Chronic Liver Disease (Cirrhosis) – A doctor’s appointment is immediately necessary for anyone who has persistent signs or symptoms that could be related to liver disease. See a complete list of symptoms on the Mayo Clinic Liver Disease webpage.
  10. Kidney Disease (Nephritis) – The National Kidney Disease Foundation reports that more than 26 million American adults are living with kidney disease. Further, most don’t know they are affected. To see a comprehensive list of warning signs, visit the National Kidney Foundation website.
  11. For more information about men’s health, check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. We hope that 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.

    Visit RJWestmore.com to read about the many ways proper planning can make a difference in numerous aspects of your professional and personal life.

Posted by: RJ the Fire Dog Blogger | June 9, 2015

Safety Matters

Work Safe Be Safe - 3d banner, isolated on white background

National Safety Month

When it comes to safety, many Americans worry most about the stories they see on TV — incidents such as airplane crashes, shark attacks and severe weather. However, while these types of disasters often headline network news, everyday threats to safety are far more common. If you ask me, the greatest threat to our safety is the shortage of bacon I keep hearing about. Save the pigs!

To call attention to safety concerns at home, work, and on the road, the National Safety Council devotes the month of June to raise awareness about what it takes to stay safe. We consider it a privilege to mark the occasion with this week’s blog post, because our mission at the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is to save lives through training, with the motto “Be Safe!”

In observance of National Safety Month, we challenge you to take steps to reduce the leading causes of injury and death at work, on the road and in your homes and communities. You may be surprised to learn that, during the course of your lifetime, you are far more likely to be killed while doing common, everyday things than you are to be the victim of a natural disaster or crime. I spend a lot of blog-time talking about crazy disasters. But some everyday things are just as dangerous. In fact, the National Safety Council reports:

  • Your chances of being killed unintentionally through poison or a fall is one in 31, whereas your risk of being assaulted by someone brandishing a weapon is just one in 358.
  • Your risk of dying following an overdose of a prescription painkiller is one in 234, whereas your likelihood of suffering from electrocution is just one in 12,200. So I guess it’s safer to play outside in the thunder and lightning than to eat prescription medication. Good to know.
  • Your odds of fatality in a motor vehicle crash are one in 112, while your chance of being in a plane crash are just one in 8,015. That’s why I prefer walking to driving.
  • You have a one in 144 chance of dying from falling out of a tree and only a one in 6,780 chance of being killed in a thunderstorm.
  • Your chances of being killed while riding in a car is one in 470. But you only have a one in 164,968 chance of dying from a lightning strike. My own four paws are much safer than any motor vehicle.
  • While walking down the street or crossing the street, your risk of dying is one in 704, but your risk of fatality resulting from a bee, hornet or wasp sting is one in 55,764.

To reduce your risk of injury or death from everyday activities, follow these seven safety tips:

  1. Drive the speed limit. Or walk wherever you need to go.
  2. Wear a seatbelt.
  3. Designate a driver or call a taxi or driving service such as Uber. Or forego the liquor.
  4. Pull over if you need to read or answer a text message or make a call.
  5. Wipe away spills and tuck away cords. This is particularly important if the spills are on top of cords.
  6. #BeSafe at home by installing handrails and non-slip bathmats.
  7. Take only the type and quantity of prescription drugs you have been prescribed.

For more information about National Safety Month, check out the National Safety Council website. We hope that 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.

Visit RJWestmore.com to read about the many ways proper planning can make a difference in numerous aspects of your professional and personal life.

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

Don’t Trip Yourself Up!

Businessman slipping and falling from a banana peel

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reduce the risk of slipping on wet flooring by:

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

Report or correct the following housekeeping conditions:

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

Be proactive

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

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

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

Get Moving During Fitness & Sports Month

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

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

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

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

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

What to do

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

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

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

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

One Text or Call Could Wreck it All

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month

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

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

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

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

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

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

The six protective factors include:

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

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

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

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

How to #BeSafe during Tax Season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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