Posted by: RJ the Fire Dog Blogger | September 13, 2016

What to Do After a Flood

fotolia_89746277_xsAccording to the National Weather Service, the recent historic flooding in Louisiana was a result of torrential rains that dropped three times as much water as what fell relative to Hurricane Katrina. When storms like this occur, dangerous floodwaters can lead to immediate loss of life. What’s more, the aftermath is often greater still.

In Baton Rouge, cleanup crews are moving street-by-street to pick up flood-related debris.  Officials report that teams gathered 12,000 cubic yards of refuse in a single day. And this figure only reflects refuse on the street. Massive cleanup efforts are still underway, with sanitation companies repairing, cleaning and demolishing homes which were devastated by the flood.

Rescue Service assorted debris
Floodwaters destroy homes simply because most household items do not do well under water (That goes double for dog houses, which are light enough to float away in heavy floods):

  • When saturated, wood floors swell. Sounds a little like how my stomach swells when I eat too many bones.
  • Window casings can quickly rot and shift, breaking windows.
  • Electronic components can short, posing electrical fire risk.Electric outlet fire icon
  • Drywall absorbs water readily, and should be removed before mold grows.
  • Extreme flooding within a structure can cause a home to shift, stressing the foundation.

 

 

 


 

Important Note for Property Managers and Building Owners:

Prior to a flood, make sure that important records and operating equipment are not located in underground basements or parking garages, as these are typically the first areas to flood. 

underground parking


Mold Removal after a Flood

Mold is a major concern for homeowners and disaster relief agencies following floods. Even if the variety of mold that grows is not toxic, the side effects of exposure can produce serious health issues – such as hives, bloody noses and migraines. So, regardless of the type of mold that grows following a flood, it’s important to seek out an experienced remediation firm. Avoid scammers who prey on flood victims, demanding payment in full, upfront, for mold remediation that will never be provided. Mold removal requires special chemicals, breathing masks and equipment; so leave the job to professionals. And if you do run into someone who is trying to scam you after a disaster, I would love to give them a peace of my mind!

Steps a pro will take to prevent and remove mold growth following a flood:

3d render of abstract organic mold structure

  • Replace carpeting, drapes, and pads that were exposed to water. Mold spores can remain in carpets even after thorough drying.
  • Remove drywall to properly sanitize walls.
  • Discard affected materials to remove mold spores.
  • Open windows and utilize masks rated N-95 or higher to prevent respiratory illness.
  • Wash affected areas with special detergent.
  • Use ammonia to kill mold spores. Be careful not to mix bleach and ammonia-containing cleaners.
  • Dry the entire home using dehumidifiers, heat-producing devices, and high-speed fans. I could use one of those fans after I take a bath.
  • Inspect areas in walls and behind wall coverings.
  • Use infrared cameras to detect and target moisture.

In some cases, where moisture penetration is pronounced, insurance providers could deem the dwelling a total loss. Talk to a mold remediation specialist, or a facility services company such as Universal Building Maintenance, which is part of Allied Universal,  and your insurance provider about the severity of conditions affecting your home.

Remember that safety is a daily priority. Flooding is not only extremely dangerous while it is occurring, but could also lead to a long and potentially toxic cleanup process. Homeowners and business owners should understand the flooding risk inherent in their buildings, review flood insurance coverage to make sure it is sufficient, and plan to quickly remediate flood damage in the event it occurs. 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 | September 1, 2016

Have you packed your “Go-Bag?”

Fotolia_44516466_XSSeptember marks National Preparedness Month, an annual awareness campaign sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The event is intended to encourage individuals and businesses to take steps to proactively plan for disasters. The need for such awareness is great, since 60 percent of American adults say they have yet to put together and/or practice an emergency plan. I’m just a simple pup, but even I know that 60 percent is a majority. That’s a lot of unprepared people!

This year’s theme is “Don’t Wait, Communicate. Make Your Plan Today.”

The campaign also features a sub-theme for each week of the month

  • Week 1: Kick-off to National Preparedness Month
  • Week 2: Preparing Family and Friends
  • Week 3: Preparing through Service
  • Week 4: Individual Preparedness
  • Week 5: Lead-up to National Day of Action on September 30

Since a well-made emergency kit or “go-bag” (AKA a Bug-Out Bag) is the epitome of preparedness, we thought it fitting to focus this week’s post on how to prepare your own kit. With the right “go-bag,” you will be ready for any type of emergency and able to take care of yourself and possibly help others.

Survival GearInclude These Items in Your Disaster Kit

  • A container for storage. If the kit will be stored in your home or office, you could use a new 33-gallon trash can. If you plan to stow the bag in the trunk of your car, consider using a large backpack or duffel.
  • A fixed-blade knife
  • A paper map of the immediate area
  • A portable, hand-crank radio or a battery-powered radio with extra batteries
  • Blankets or sleeping bags
  • Books to read, games for kids to play
  • Can opener
  • Cash, preferably in small denominations
  • Copies of personal documents such as birth certificates, passports, deeds, proof of address, insurance policies, etc.
  • Duct tape
  • Emergency contact information (Don’t rely on the information contained in your cell phone, as cell service could be temporarily disrupted depending on the type of emergency.)
  • Enough food for up to three days, per person if evacuated, and enough for seven days per person at home. Don’t forget about your pets! We need food, too!
  • Enough water for one gallon per day, per person, for three days if evacuated, and enough for seven days per person at home. Remember to include pets in this calculation, as well. We drink a lot of water.
  • Extra clothing and a spare set of shoes (If packing for children, remember to swap out sizes as they grow.)
  • Extra set of house and car keys
  • First-aid kit with adhesive bandages, cold packs, sanitizer, gauze, tweezers, and antibiotic ointment
  • Latex-free disposable gloves
  • LED flashlights – especially valuable for building occupants who might need to spend the night in the dark following a major disaster
  • Liquid bleach
  • Matches
  • Multi-purpose tool, such as a Leatherman
  • Mylar-coated space blankets, which conserve heat and serve as signals
  • N-95 or surgical masks (in case air quality is compromised)
  • Pay-per-use cell phone and chargers, in case yours is damaged during the disaster
  • Personal hygiene items
  • Pet supplies including water and food as well as bowls and medication (Hear, hear.)
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Portable water containers, ideally in non-breakable containers
  • Prescription drugs, especially insulin, inhalers, or other life-dependent medicines (seven-day supply)
  • Prescription eyeglasses, reading glasses, and/or contact lenses
  • Rain gear
  • Scissors
  • Stainless steel water bottle that can withstand boiling water, if necessary (to purify drinking water)
  • Towels
  • Whistle
  • Work gloves

doodle first aid bag illustrationWhen preparing a go-bag, consider the types of disasters you’re likely to encounter in your area. For example, if you live in a hurricane zone, pack dry clothes, ponchos, waterproof containers, and water purification tools. In wildfire country, pack breathing masks and extra water. If you live in Tornado Alley, add bike helmets to your kit, to keep your head safe from flying debris and add sturdy shoes to keep your feet safe while walking around devastated areas. Just a suggestion; avoid buying those goofy boots for dogs. The indignity!
For home or business, consider these additional items for managing a disaster that won’t fit into a traditional go-bag:

  • A portable generator, along with extra gasoline
  • Large LED lamps
  • Long-term food storage containers should be on hand and should be stocked to feed everyone in the home for at least two weeks
  • Water barrels and various accessories to purify and periodically clean the water

Develop a Communication Plan

As part of National Preparedness Month, the Federal Emergency Management (FEMA) agency offers tips for creating a family communication plan for usage during an emergency. Such a plan is as important as food or water because it provides a guide for staying connected with loved ones when disaster strikes. Our family emergency plan includes use of the Twilight Bark.

To create the plan:

  • Collect information about each family member including health history, as well as contact information for their physicians. And don’t forget to include information about your pets!
  • Print the contact information and ensure every member of the family has a copy in their bag. Also, consider posting a copy in a central area of the home.
  • Make sure that contact and communication information expressly details meeting places after disaster.
  • Practice following directions in the communication plan, including drilling children so they will memorize phone numbers and necessary safety steps to take following an emergency.

Maintaining a state of preparedness is essential for every month of the year, not just during September. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

Posted by: RJ the Fire Dog Blogger | August 23, 2016

Elevator Recalls and Safety Tips

image002The advancing age of many elevators and decreased preventative maintenance have recently given rise to the number of elevator failures, such as stalled cars. Nevertheless, elevators remain an exceedingly safe mode of transportation, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Consumer Product Safety Commission reporting an average associated fatality rate of just 0.00000015% per trip, which represents a total of 27 deaths per year resulting from 18 billion rides. This statistic positions elevator rides as safer than vehicles, airplanes or even stairs

Unfortunately, elevator rides can be nerve-wracking and potentially dangerous for dogs. In fact, a dog in Russia was nearly killed because his leash got caught in a moving elevator. Thankfully, someone pulled him to safety.

Elevator manufacturers stake their reputation on safety, investing considerable resources into redundant systems to help protect elevator occupants. Nevertheless, elevators occasionally malfunction and even break down. Safety malfunctions can involve doors, buttons, cables, and additional components. Here are a few recent strides made in elevator safety:

  • Recall given for Porta elevators. The recall was necessary due to faulty electro mechanical door locks.
  • Elevators manufactured by ThyssenKrupp elevator doors were opening between floors, exposing people to the elevator shaft. When I retire from the fire station, I’m thinking about adding three more stories to our dog house. But stairs will probably suit us just fine.
  • Firefighter Emergency Operations (FEO) transfers control and accessibility of elevator cabs from the public to firefighters during emergencies. Removing public access to elevators in emergencies reduces the possibility of injury or death resulting from cars that accidentally open up on a floor that has an active fire.
  • Otis elevator operates a 38-story elevator test facility in Bristol, Connecticut to properly test cars, cables, and motors. I’d love to be in the “dog biscuit” test facility where I could taste new treats.

Core safety features of modern elevators:image001

  • Electromagnetic brakes are used to keep the car in place, and will automatically snap shut if the elevator system loses electrical power. Modern elevators also feature braking systems located at the top and bottom of the elevator shaft, which can detect excessive elevator movement and apply brakes, when necessary.
  • Despite the common Hollywood movie scene of an elevator cable snapping and elevator car plummeting, this scenario is unrealistic. Elevator cables are comprised of sturdy steel strands, which have been designed to single-handedly support the entire weight of the car and occupants. Each elevator contains between four and eight cables for each car, which provides multiple levels of redundancy.

Stuck in a Tin Can

woman hands try to stop doors of the closed elevator

As alarming as it can be, getting stuck in an elevator is rarely a life-threatening situation. Elevators occasionally get stuck. But even when this occurs, core safety systems remain intact.

Elevator safety tips:

  • Do not attempt to rush into an elevator while the doors are closing. Simply wait for the next car. Also, keep leashed pets very close to you, for their safety as well as the safety of everyone in the car.
  • Try not to panic about oxygen. While the car is an admittedly confined space, you should have plenty of available air to breath. Elevator cars are not airtight.
  • Never, ever try to exit a stalled elevator car through the roof hatch or by prying the doors apart. This is the most important tip, as several deaths have tragically occurred when people try to escape stalled cars. In many cases, the elevator will stop between floors, leaving occupants with the mistaken impression that they would be able to crawl out to safety. However, if the elevator moves as someone is trying to escape, they could be trapped and tragically, crushed. So stay put and be patient.out of order elevator to success, please take the stairs
  • If the elevator car stalls, use the elevator phone and/or your cellphone to alert authorities. Remain calm.

Additional Tips from our friends at Allied Universal

While elevators have proven to be a very safe way of transporting both people and merchandise, occasionally malfunctions do occur. Common problems can include elevators that do not correctly align with the floor, doors that do not open or close properly, stopping between floors or stopping altogether and entrapping occupants.

Universal Services of America offers the following tips to help ensure your safety and knowledge regarding proper elevator use.

When you approach the elevator

  • Stand aside for exiting passengers.
  • Wait for the next car if the elevator is already full.
  • Do not attempt to stop a closing door.
  • Use the stairs, not an elevator, if there is a fire in the building.

When you enter and exit the elevator

  • Watch your step, as the elevator floor may not be level with the landing.
  • Stand clear of the doors, and keep your clothing and any carry-on items away from the opening.

When riding on the elevator

  • Stand back from the doors and hold the handrail, if available.
  • Pay attention to the floor indications, so you may exit when you arrive at your floor.
  • Discern between the “open door” button and the “close door” button to avoid confusing them, if needed.

If you find yourself in an elevator that has become stuck

  • Push the “door open” button. If that does not work, ring the elevator alarm.
  • Use the emergency phone, alarm or help button, if available, to summon emergency personnel. Or use your cell phone to call 9-1-1.
  • Do not attempt to force the doors open.
  • Never try to leave the elevator car on your own, as doing so could result in serious injury.
  • Remain calm. Elevators contain sufficient oxygen levels to last until help arrives.

For more info on elevator safety or to learn about escalator safety, visit the National Elevator Industry website at www.neii.org.

Remember that safety is a daily priority, whether or not you use elevators. 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 | August 16, 2016

Knock-Knock; You’ve Been Robbed!

Knock door hand

A home invasion robbery is a terrifying experience. The crime represents an alarming invasion of privacy which disrupts the place people and pets should feel safe. Unfortunately, the trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down, as dozens of people have been targeted by a home invasion referred to as “Knock-Knock” crimes. This increasingly common event is troublesome, because criminals find it relatively simple to execute.

A thief can work alone, knocking on doors in any given neighborhood until he or she discovers an empty house, or in a group – one person knocking and then standing guard, while others break in. Another tactic is for criminals to take advantage of homeowners by falsely claiming that they need to use the phone because their car broke down and their cellphone battery died – all as a means of entering the home. These thieves wouldn’t want to try this at my house; I announce every intrusion with gusto.

Another scam involves thieves entering victims’ homes under false pretenses – posing as utility technicians or pretending to have lost their ball it the yard. I can understand the concern over a lost ball. Those things are magical! While inside the home, thieves may steal items surreptitiously or could use entry as a way to case the house for a future visit.

What can homeowners and/or tenants do to prevent such intrusions?

Worker Driving A Utility TruckHere are some possible deterrents to knock-knock crimes:

  • Don’t open the door unless you know who is knocking. A simple, “No thanks, not interested” may be all it takes to convince the suspect to move along. Most criminals look for targets of opportunity. So make sure you remain alert. If a stranger at your door claims to work for Edison or Southern California Gas, ask to see his or her uniform and I.D. badge. Also, check to make sure he or she arrived in a labeled utility truck. Remember – it’s your home; you’re in charge. Better safe than sorry. But if someone says they are from the pork chop delivery company, you should let them in!
  • Do not hesitate to call police. If you feel threatened or see a burglary in progress at a neighbor’s home, dial 9-1-1.
  • Keep your phone handy when you are at home. A teenage girl who was home alone at the time of a recent home invasion talked to authorities while robbers were tearing apart her home.
  • Lock windows and doors when you are away from home. Use motion sensor lights, and “Beware of Dog” signs. The more deterrents you can place in the path of thieves, the better. It probably goes without saying that I suggest you get a dog for protection.Beware Very Cute Dogs Signs. Friendly Dogs Signs. Vector Illustration on  blue background
  • Use a safe. Criminals using the knock-knock method are looking for a quick score. A secured and heavy safe is an easy and affordable way to deter theft of valuable possessions. Choose a safe that is sufficient to contain your valuables and make sure it is heavy enough to eliminate the potential of robbers making off with the locked safe. And don’t use 1234 as your lock combination. Even I could crack that; and I don’t have opposable thumbs.

Thieves don’t just use distraction as an element of surprise in knock-knock crimes. Consider these other scams:

  • Robbed while pumping gas. This crime occurs when a person driving solo has to exit the vehicle to pay and pump gas. Most people make the mistake of leaving car doors unlocked. So, when their attention is fixed on swiping and entering credit card information, a thief squats down so he or she can quietly open the passenger side door to grab a purse or phone. To avoid this type of crime, lock your doors as you exit your car. And stay next to or inside the car while pumping gas. Criminals engaged in this type of theft are known as “sliders,” a reference to the thieves sliding alongside cars under the guise of buying gas.
  • Watch for pickpockets. When traveling through crowded areas, such as in airports or subways, keep a hand on your valuables. A common pickpocketing scam is for thieves to yell, “Someone stole my wallet” and then watch as potential victims instinctively grab their wallets or purses – disclosing the location of their valuables. I’ll admit, I resort to “puppy dog eyes” at the firehouse to get treats, but I don’t resort to trickery!Pickpocket

The RJWestmore Training System now offers residential training modules, designed to keep our subscribers safe whether they are at work or home. Remember that safety is a daily priority. Staying aware of common scams and threats is essential for protecting your property, life, and family. 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 | August 9, 2016

Vaccine Matters

cartoon doctor with a syringe

In the United States, children and adults receive vaccinations for a variety of preventable diseases. We pooches receive vaccinations as well. By the way, do you know what Heartworm is? The name disturbs me. Many vaccines are recommended because they not only protect the child who is vaccinated, but also create what is commonly known as “herd immunity,” which provides protection for the broader community.

This is particularly helpful for people with weakened immune systems. While some parents worry about some of the substances found in vaccines, many such fears can be alleviated by researching information provided by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) as well as the World Health Organization (WHO).

The basic ideas behind vaccines was first developed by Hippocrates in 400 B.C. When I was a younger pup, I thought his name was about crates given to hippos. He identified several diseases and suggested that cures could be developed. In 1798, Edward Jenner proposed a cure for smallpox might be found by inoculating healthy individuals. Known as the father of immunology, Jenner’s work later came to be called variolation, wherein healthy individuals were exposed to a disease in order to build immunity. Other medical professionals, such as Louis Pasteur and Jonas Salk, capitalized on Jenner’s seed work. These pioneers eradicated some of the world’s most dangerous and contagious diseases.

Microscope

Ground-breaking vaccinations currently available to children and adults throughout the world:

  • Cholera
  • Diphtheria
  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Herpes Zoster (shingles)
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Influenza (the flu)
  • Invasive Haemophilus Influenzae Disease
  • Invasive Meningococcal Disease
  • Invasive Pneumococcal Disease
  • Japanese Encephalitis
  • Measles
  • Mumps
  • Pertussis (whooping cough)
  • Poliomyelitis (polio)
  • Rabies (This is one I have heard of in my circles.)
  • Rotavirus
  • Rubella (German Measles)
  • Smallpox
  • Tetanus
  • Tick-Borne Encephalitis
  • Tuberculosis (BCG Vaccine)
  • Typhoid
  • Varicella (chickenpox)
  • Yellow Fever

Preventive immunization is crucial, as some of the aforementioned diseases still result in death. For example, in 2015, a case of the measles killed the first person in the U.S. in 12 years, which many scientists blame on falling vaccination rates. Rabies kills nearly 50,000 people annually, due to incomplete vaccination efforts and the frequent interactions between people and rabies-carrying animals. That’s scary stuff!Fotolia_62710469_XS

Vaccine Success

Smallpox

Especially alarming due to its high mortality rate, Smallpox is said to have killed 300-500 million people in the 20th century. The disease is one of two to have been officially declared “eradicated.” This represents a global achievement and underscores the need for aggressive vaccine research to help combat new worldwide threats.

Polio

Polio is another disease eliminated from the U.S. due to successful vaccine programs. The disease used to cripple tens of thousands of people a year. It still remains a global threat, but is much reduced due to widespread vaccinations developed famously in the 1950s by Jonas Salk.

Vaccines on the Horizon

Developing new vaccines is tricky and requires considerable funding and forward-thinking science.

Here are some of the more pressing diseases and associated efforts to create vaccines:

  • Scientists are working quickly to develop a Zika vaccine to prevent the spread of the virus beyond primarily South America and Mexico. Since the 2016 Summer Olympics are underway in Rio, where the virus has gained traction, and with additional confirmed cases in Florida, Zika is on the minds of travelers and health organizations, alike both in the U.S. and abroad. In fact, the National Institute of Health (NIH) is already performing human vaccine trials, a promising development. On a lighter note, I qualified for the 100-meter dog paddle race, but I’m sitting this one out.
  • New emphasis is turned towards an HIV vaccine, with recent human trials released and specific research tied to the way that certain people’s bodies react to the virus.
  • In late 2015, the first-ever vaccine for dengue fever launched in several countries.
  • Researchers are still developing a malaria vaccine, and pushing forward despite recent setbacks which illustrate a short-lived duration for a recent vaccine effort.

Remember that safety is a daily priority. Following proper vaccination schedules can save lives and prevent the fast and furious spread of infectious diseases. 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 Allied Universal, 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 | July 25, 2016

How to Avoid Disaster-Related Fraud

Fotolia_114103052_XSWhen disasters such as earthquakes or floods strike the United States, an outpouring of financial and emotional support pours in for the victims. Unfortunately, some people prey upon this type of generosity by defrauding disaster victims, donors, and the government. Disaster-related fraud takes several forms, from bogus websites luring people to make donations to fake construction contractors who extract money from vulnerable homeowners. I was once taken in by a bacon-of-the-month scam artist. I should have known that it was too good to be true!

Another example occurs when merchants hike the prices of supplies that are in high demand by disaster victims. For example, during the recent West Virginia flooding, some merchants, such as local hotels and restaurants, were raising rates for bottled water and toiletries in order to cruelly capitalize on short-term demand. I’ll admit that I once stockpiled pig ears. But I didn’t do it to defraud anyone. I just figured I should have an ample supply.

Avoid Fraudulent Donation Workers and Sites

Some unscrupulous individuals pose as workers for charitable organizations, saying that they  are “collecting donations” after a disaster. They will push people to give cash donations which are untraceable and cannot be rescinded. Always ask for identification from volunteers seeking donations, and to be 100% sure of their affiliation,  donate directly through the charity’s main website. After Hurricane Katrina, several people were convicted of impersonating Red Cross workers and dozens of fraudulent donation websites were shut down by authorities.

Online scammer reaching to steal money out of a pocket of a naive internet user, vector illustration, EPS 8Red Flags to help you spot fake donation sites:

  • 100% to victims promise! Genuine charities have overhead, so they can’t possibly give 100% of the donations they collect directly to victims.
  • Site and email misspellings and grammar errors. Compare each website with the official website for the charity. And before inquiring on the satellite site, do a search for the email address on the main charity’s website. After Katrina, unscrupulous scammers purchased the domain name @redcross.org and set up an email account support2@redcross.org, a spoofed Red Cross email address which took people to a fraudulent website for “donations.”
  • Check the site’s “contact us” information. Legitimate charities will provide phone, email and chat support to connect with potential donors.
  • Google to identify fake charities. If an organization’s name sounds unfamiliar, search for it along with the word “scam” to find out if anyone has written news stories or filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau.

Spotting Contractor and Vendor Fraud

Contractor fraud involves someone posing as a qualified contractor. This person will, for example, contact homeowners after a flood and tell them they can repair wood floors or install carpeting on the cheap. Then, they collect deposits from multiple homeowners under the guise of doing work, but simply take the money and run. I have to say that this is abhorrent behavior. And I thought cats were bad!

During Hurricane Sandy, which devastated areas of New Jersey, millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded relief money was fraudulently secured. Some homeowners even pulled from savings or retirement accounts in order to pay contractors, thinking their expenses would be reimbursed. Unscrupulous contractors took advantage of these homeowners and were later indicted on federal charges. The problem prompted the Department of Community Affairs for New Jersey to create a website that educates residents about identifying and preventing contractor-related fraud.

Red Flags for spotting and preventing contractor fraud following disaster:Fotolia_32734369_XS

  • The contractor wants a large upfront payment. Contractors can ask for a portion of the funds upfront, but be very wary of anyone who asks for more than 30%.
  • Poor Reviews or lack of listing on the Better Business Bureau website. Also, check sites Yelp and Angie’s List.
  • Request payment by cash or check. Use a credit card when putting down a deposit, since most credit card companies offer fraud protection. I prefer using Bitcoins for my Amazon dog treat purchases.
  • Rushing you into an agreement. If a contractor is pushy or demanding and/or fails to offer a detailed work plan, then they could running a scam.
  • Address is out of the area. If the contractor claims to be well-known in the area, make a few hours to follow up on his or her referrals. Many scam artists come into an area from out-of-state to prey on homeowners affected by disasters and then flee the scene.
  • Exceptionally low bids. An overeager contractors with a “too good to be true” quote is a warning sign. Even if a low-bid is legitimate, if the contractor is willing to work at such a deeply discounted rate, he or she could have intentionally or carelessly made mistakes when providing the estimate. Many times, these contractors go back to the homeowner to ask for more money when they run out of funds.

Remember that safety is a daily priority. And one of the items you should be careful to safeguard is your money! 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 | July 17, 2016

Travel Safety Tips

Air safety Abstract concept digital illustrationThe recent attack in the Istanbul Airport was a grim reminder of the reasons the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was forced to adopt stringent security protocols in airports throughout the world. Unfortunately, the emphasis on security equates to excessively long lines at security checkpoints, thousands of missed flights, and mounting aggravation among travelers. In fact, according to a report done in May 2016, on American Airlines, alone, more than 70,000 passengers missed flights due to TSA-related delays. I’ve been with some humans at the airport when they missed a flight. Temper, temper! Passengers of other airline carriers also miss flights due to security checkpoints, which can result in wait times of several hours.

Despite the frustration, most travelers are willing to endure security measures because they realize the importance of airline travel safety. But there are additional steps you can take to ensure your safety as you travel by air this summer:

Overseas Travel

Before heading overseas, check the U.S. Department of State website which advises U.S travelers about the safety or lack thereof relative to foreign destinations. The site provides travel alerts, which are short-term advisories tied to specific events; and travel warnings, which are recommendations about countries which should be avoided, altogether. Some areas currently included on the travel warnings’ list include Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Turkey, and Ukraine. On May 31, the U.S. Department of State issued a Europe Travel Alert to warn about the risks associated with traveling to Europe during the summer months.

Even those destinations not currently included on an active warning list could prove problematic, as intelligence gathering is an inexact science. But don’t let that keep you from traveling. According to the National Safety Council, Americans are 353 times more likely to die from a slip-and-fall accident than from a terrorist attack. And data released by the CDC asserts that we are 110 times more likely to succumb to contaminated food than from an act of terror. So don’t ignore the risks. Just don’t let fear keep you from enjoying a vacation or traveling for business. baggage control in airport

Tips for safe and comfortable overseas travel

  • Be respectful of others’ cultures and institutions. If, for example, the recommended dress code for visiting a church/holy site/mosque requires you to cover your arms and legs, respect the request.
  • Learn basic native-language phrases. If you speak English and are traveling to a country with limited English speakers, take the time to learn and practice words to help you make basic requests.
  • Avoid large crowds or protests where there is an elevated risk of danger. For more about this, check out our recent post about safety during civil unrest.
  • Add the U.S. Embassy’s 24—Hour Hotline to your cellphone contacts. If only I had opposable thumbs!
  • Carry your hotel’s native language business card to show cab drivers and police, if necessary.
  • Take pictures of your passport photo, driver’s license and credit cards and email them to yourself. Keeping the photos on your phone instead of emailing them is inadvisable in case your phone is lost or stolen. If you travel with a canine companion, this type of theft is less likely.
  • Avoid confrontation whenever possible. Don’t attract attention by arguing with someone unnecessarily. Try to calmly settle disagreements, especially if you are in a crowded setting.

Airport Security and Safety

Situational awareness is essential when navigating airports and all related security procedures. For example, if you see someone leave a bag on the ground for an extended period, alert airport police. Will this mean that you and other travelers might potentially miss your flight due to security protocols? Yes! But it’s important to follow the Department of Homeland Security’s request that “If You See Something, Say Something.” My mantra is “If you want something, eat something.”Airport Security

  • Only allow official personnel to inspect or move your luggage. Always keep an eye on your belongings. This is especially important in curbside loading/unloading areas where people have not been screened. Someone could potentially tamper with your luggage before you check it in and you could end up unwittingly carrying an incendiary device on board.
  • Keep your tickets and passports close to your person at all times – not dangling out of your purse or pocket or resting on top of your bags.
  • Watch your valuables go through x-ray machines and pick them up as quickly as possible. Loudly alert security staff if you see someone pick up your bag or loose articles such as your watch or wallet or tennis balls (you know – the things that matter most).
  • Don’t make jokes about “terrorists” or “bombs” or other loaded language. TSA agents and foreign airport officials are working to keep you safe. Making this kind of a joke could land you in serious trouble.

Despite my wisecracks, it’s important to remember that airport security and traveling safely are no laughing matter. Follow these tips to ensure you come back home to everyone in your family…even those of us of the four-legged variety.

Remember that safety is a daily priority – whether you are working at home or traveling the globe. 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 | July 12, 2016

Civil Unrest: How to Be Safe

Out of respect for the victims and loved ones of the recent events that claimed the lives of police officers as well as members of the public, in this post, I have refrained from my usual “firedogisms.” Our hearts go out to all of those affected by the violence. 

Group of people carrying.

Civil disorder, also known as civil unrest, is a broad term typically used by law enforcement officials to describe an unhappy group of people whose goal is to express displeasure through riots, violence and mayhem which disrupt a community. Although the motivation for action varies (political unrest, severe weather, fire, or socio-economic instability, to name a few), the ensuing outcomes are often dire. In fact, in recent weeks, civil unrest has led to loss of life in the United States in Dallas, TX; Baton Rouge, LA; Ferguson, MO; and Falcon Heights, MN…to name just a few. According to CNN, the Dallas shooting and murder of five officers was the deadliest for police since Sept. 11, 2001 when 72 officers were killed in the line of duty.

In addition to life-threatening injuries sustained by police officers and demonstrators, some of the fallout from these events has impacted innocent bystanders. So, even as we collectively mourn as a nation over the heartbreaking loss of life, we want to take this opportunity to provide tips for staying safe if you find yourself in the mix during a riot or other violent public demonstration.

What to do if you are at work when a protest breaks out nearby
During the protest:

  • Make contact with the senior responsible party for your office (onsite) and follow their instructions. If you are the senior person in charge, follow the instructions from your onsite security/property management team. If you have an emergency plan, refer to standard protocols set forth.
  • Check with the senior person in charge to determine if a lockdown of the property is necessary.
  • Relocate to the incident command center, building lobby or other location per their instructions.
  • Record any pertinent information, such as signage, group size, group name and group location. Determine if the gathering is peaceful, organized, and/or on the building’s property. If the answer is “yes” to all three questions, approach the leader and ask that the group remove themselves from the property.
  • If the crowd fails to disperse or becomes hostile, call 911 immediately. Once emergency personnel arrive, allow them to handle the situation and assist only as requested.
  • If violence erupts and you are unable to evacuate, move away from all windows and close window coverings. Move to the safest areas in the building, taking cell phones, a fire extinguisher, first aid supplies and other provisions.

911 emergency symbol

Following an Emergency Situation:

  • Reset and/or restore all systems and equipment to operational condition.
  • Respond to any emergency conditions as necessary.
  • Conduct a full assessment of building and grounds for damage.
  • Take photographs to document the incident and any property damage.
  • If people are evacuated, implement a full or partial reentry as directed by the local authorities. Hold doors open and call elevators for customers. Do not discuss the incident, just state that the local authorities authorized reentry. Document the chain of events that occurred. Answer the question who, what, where, when, why and how.
  • Incorporate dates, times, location, full names of participants, employers and titles.
  • When directed by the person in charge, or the police department, use the PA system to share information with the building occupants. Repeat the message three times, per floor.

Wherever you are when a protest breaks out:
1. Stay put. You may be out and about when a demonstration and associated violence spontaneously evolve. Most experts agree that the best way to steer clear of chaos is by staying put until the fervor dies down. If you are able to, in advance of the event, set up a safe room, such as what the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends. Otherwise, make sure your doors and windows are locked.

2. Be informed. Don’t bury your head in the sand. To #BeSafe, you need to make sure you are aware of escalating tensions. This is one of the reasons we so often recommend including a hand-crank or battery-operated radio in your emergency supply kit. Don’t make the mistake of counting on technology in an emergency. Depending on the severity of the situation, you could lose cell service and/or electricity. In such cases, a ham radio and police scanner could prove useful.

3. Move on. If you are in public and notice that protestors begin to get loud and raucous, quickly vacate the area. In the case of an active-shooter situation, if you can do so safely, run! If not, then you should seek shelter and stay quiet. Click here to read more about what to do in the case of an active shooter.

4. Blend in. First, always be aware of your surroundings, especially in large crowds. Avoid the area around the demonstration and do not provoke the protesters, as any unnecessary conversation could turn a peaceful situation into a problematic scenario. If you are unable to safely leave an area where violence has broken out, hide.

5. Practice makes perfect. Don’t wait until a civil unrest incident occurs to find out whether your plan to avoid danger and stay safe is effective. Review and update your emergency plan. Then hold table top exercises and drills to make sure it works. Stay in contact with local law enforcement officials and public agencies.

image.jpeg
Staying safe at times of civil unrest can be challenging. But situational awareness and advanced preparation could give you an edge. Remember to take proper disaster preparation steps because safety is a daily priority. 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 | July 5, 2016

Toxic Water Proves Problematic

What’s in the Water?

image.jpegIdentifying the Danger of Algae and other Contaminants

According to UNICEF, in 2015, nine percent of every child’s death, worldwide, resulted from illnesses caused by toxic water. Poor water quality contributes directly to life-threatening ailments as common but potentially deadly as diarrhea to as rare and dangerous as malaria and schistosomiasis. Thankfully, in most parts of the U.S., the water supply is exceedingly clean — especially when compared to what’s available in developing countries. Nevertheless, United States’ officials are becoming increasingly concerned about the presence of toxic algae in dozens of areas in the Midwest. In Flint Michigan, for example, poor water supply (and mismanagement of the same) has caused serious health problems for residents, as well as massive political fallout. Personally, I prefer muddy water when it comes to splashing and playing.

Algae in a Nutshell

watrcolor algae seamless vector pattern

Present in all bodies of water, algae plays an important role as a building block in the food chain.

  • It functions as a carbon sink, which pulls excess CO2 from the air, reducing the risk of climate change.
  • Blooms are outsized algae growths which often occur due to increased temperatures, as well as fertilizer and wastewater runoff.
  • The most dangerous kind of algae is cyanobacteria, otherwise known as blue-green algae. This type is toxic to animals and humans.

How Algae Affects Humans
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has recently noted an alarming rise in incidences of algal blooms in drinking water reservoirs. They identify golden alga (Prymnesium parvum) as a frequent culprit relative to algal blooms, which include those which have affected Lake Erie in the recent past. Steps taken to mitigate the problem include better monitoring, and, in the case of Lake Erie, an ongoing effort to minimize farm runoff — which has contributed directly to the algal bloom. Algal bloom sounds like the name of a band.

Sometimes, large geographical regions can be affected. For example in 2014, the entire city of Toledo, Ohio had to avoid drinking tap water due to the presence of Cyanobacteria. More than 500,000 residents were impacted, including thousands of business owners who had to think quickly in order to provide alternative drinking sources for staff and visitors. Since Cyanobacteria are not killed by boiling, the only viable solution is to use bottled water during an algae-related water supply crisis. Boiling kills most micro organisms; so this makes me wonder just how tough these bacteria are!

chiken cartoon character with water drop

To combat algal blooms, the water source must be treated. This includes restricting usage of fertilizers and other agricultural runoff sources, adding phosphorous, suction dredging, and wetlands conservation.

Other Common Water Contaminants
Beyond algal blooms, there are many other water contaminants that must be properly monitored and treated:

  • Lead seepage was the main problem relative to the drinking water crisis in Flint. This is typically caused by corroded lead pipes which leech contaminants into the water supply, over time. Lead is exceedingly toxic, especially for children, and causes damage to the nervous and reproductive systems, and compromises affects brain development.
  • Arsenic is another common contaminant typically found in private wells, as it is found in the earth’s crust. Detrimental health effects include cancers of the bladder, kidney, and skin, as well as blood vessel diseases.
  • The EPA lists dozens of other potential contaminants including cleaning supplies, medications, and various other organic and inorganic substances. This makes me rethink my habit of dropping tennis balls and dog toys into my water bowl.Hungry Dog

Ensuring the safety and availability of drinking water during a crisis requires diligent monitoring of water quality alerts and preparation of emergency supply kits containing sufficient stores of potable water. So remember to take proper disaster preparation steps and remember that safety is a daily priority. 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 | June 28, 2016

Drones in Disaster Management

 

Air drones carrying cardboard, cityscape background

Originally novelty items, drones are poised to become a multi-million dollar industry. These small remote-controlled devices are perfectly suited for industrial, emergency response, and building management purposes. This is due to their comparatively low cost compared to traditionally manned aircraft and because they can easily access remote target areas without putting operators at risk. This is how I would use a drone: I would buy one that comes with a scoop, and send it into the pantry to fetch full bags of treats.

Improving Emergency Response

3d Fireman using a magnifying glass

Locating hurt or missing persons after a disaster is crucial for reducing loss of life. Drones work well for search and rescue because they are uniquely capable of enabling disaster response teams to quickly traverse dangerous locations resulting from floodwaters, wildfires, collapsed buildings, and the like. That’s the job of many of my canine companions, who use their noses for good!

Consider, for example, a large earthquake that causes buildings to crumble. Dangerous rubble could pose a serious risk to would-be rescuers, whereas drone operators could quickly scan the area to safely survey the integrity of remaining walls and structures while simultaneously searching for survivors. Using drones in this fashion reduces some of the risks to first responders by reducing their time spent in dangerous situations. I love any technology that helps my firefighting team members do their jobs so they can safely return to the firehouse.

Building Inspections

builder and inspector

Building operators use drones to investigate the exterior of structures for cracks or maintenance issues. I wanted to have a drone check out the shingles on our doghouse. But I couldn’t get the FAA to approve a fly-by. Equipped with a camera, drones can provide engineers and maintenance teams with detailed views of a facility’s exterior. Using drones in this manner can reduce the need for human inspectors, which is a cost-efficient way to detect small but potentially catastrophic problems.

Drones also enable inspection of dangerous building components without associated risks. For example, drone operators can check radiation levels near reactors and closely view chemical factory processes from a safe distance.

Utility giant Con Edison is testing the use of drones to inspect steam boilers that power some of New York City’s iconic buildings. Whereas traditional inspection methods involve building scaffolding and teams of workers traversing tight space, drones armed with traditional and thermal imaging cameras can review deforested areas and correlate the links between primates, mosquitoes and humans.

Disaster Management and Support

Retrieving samples, such as blood or saliva cultures, is crucial when managing a biological threat. Organizations in New Jersey recently conducted drone test flights carrying simulated blood packets and other items on a ship-to-shore mission. Drones are ideal for this type of transport because they vibrate less than traditional automobile journeys, which can damage samples. Drones can also be outfitted to deliver vital supplies, such as telecommunications equipment, to provide instant communication links between disaster victims and first responders. What’s more, drones can be used to deliver vital supplies including dog cookies, bacon, chew toys, old socks — the essentials!

High-rise DisastersTsunami arrasando una ciudad

Drones are ideal for high-rise fire rescue assistance, as they can monitor the intensity of a fire through sensors, and provide associated real-time updates to firefighters relative to the exact location and number of people involved, as well as additional relevant intel. Large commercial drones of three to four feet widths (and multi-thousands dollar price points) can even carry and disperse fire retardant agents, which could provide firefighting teams with precious time needed to save lives.

Other Uses:

  • Organizations around the world utilize drones for planning purposes before disasters strike.
  • Communities in flood plains can use drones to assess risks and spot particularly vulnerable areas.
  • Drones used in Malaysia are providing data about the links between rates of deforestation and malaria outbreaks, allowing response teams to better prepare for and prevent outbreaks.
  • Speculators think that Amazon will one day use drones for instant deliveries. I’ll be the first to sign up for this, so I can order pork chops and have them delivered in time for lunch.

Rectangular Drone parcel Drop Zone sign

Remember that safety is a daily priority. And with the advances in drone technology, safety is receiving a boost from an affordable tool that could prevent or provide relief from disasters. 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.

 

Older Posts »

Categories