Posted by: RJ the Fire Dog Blogger | October 18, 2016

The Great Shakeout 2016

shakeout_global_getready_300x250Drop, Cover, and Hold On at 10:20 a.m. on October 20, 2016 during The Great California ShakeOut. Participating in the annual event is a great way to make sure you are prepared to survive and recover quickly from substantial earthquakes – whether you are at home, at work or traveling. Personally, I think Shake-n-Bake pork chops would be a great way to mark the occasion.

To help mark the occasion and call attention to earthquake preparedness, we want to take this opportunity to educate our subscribers and friends about earthquake preparedness in high-rise buildings. We would like to extend our thanks to Safe-T-Proof, which provided their “Quake Cottage” for a Pre-Great California Shakeout event. They offer superior earthquake fasteners and straps for offices as well as survival kits and additional earthquake-safety supplies.quakeshack

The latest and greatest in earthquake-resilient design is currently being implemented to build the Wilshire Grand Center in Los Angeles, which, at 1,100 feet, will make it the tallest building on the Pacific coast. The building’s massive foundation is so robust that its construction is noted in the Guinness Book of World Records for the “longest continuous concrete pour.” I wonder who holds the record for the longest bacon feast?

Despite how odd it feels to stand in a tall building that sways during an earthquake, modern California high-rises provide safer refuge during earthquakes than most shorter facilities. This is because architectural plans and construction for high-rise California structures built after the Sylmar quake in 1971 are required to follow stringent seismic codes. You can further improve your high-rise earthquake survival odds by taking preparedness steps.

shakeout_global_joinus_160x600Safety Tips for High-Rise Earthquakes

  • Stay put. Sitting down under a desk or doorway is the safest way to “ride out” a quake while it’s happening. Most earthquakes are relatively short. So it is safer to patiently wait a quake out instead of trying to exit the building as it moves. Even with four legs, I find it difficult to maneuver during earthquakes.
  • Stay alert. After exiting a building, tenants should move under cover in order to avoid falling debris such as panes of glass. Also, pay attention to warnings of fires or tsunamis which can follow any quake.
  • Stay informed. Tenants in high rises should be familiar with evacuation protocols for their building. A speedy yet orderly evacuation is crucial for ensuring building occupant safety. The National Fire Protection Association offers an evacuation plan video that encourages individuals to take ownership of their safety while following safety procedures.

Allied Universal offers these earthquake safety tips for anyone who may not be in a high-rise to follow:


  • Drop to the ground. Take cover by getting under a sturdy table and hold on. Stay inside until the shaking stops.
  • Stay away from glass or anything that can fall, like light fixtures and furniture.
  • Stay in bed if you are there when the earthquake strikes.

In a Fire…R-A-C-E to Safety!

  • Rescue—Remove any employees or visitors from immediate danger.
  • Alarm—Pull the nearest Fire Alarm and call the proper emergency phone number.
  • Contain—Contain all smoke and toxic fumes by closing all doors and windows.
  • Extinguish and Evacuate—Follow all posted and verbal procedures.


  • Stay where you are if you are not near any buildings, streetlights or utility wires.
  • Do not move from the area you are in until the shaking stops. Remember that aftershocks can be just as bad as the earthquake itself.

In a Moving Vehicle

  • Stop as quickly as possible, but stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses and utility wires.
  • Proceed cautiously once the shaking has stopped. Avoid roads, bridges, or ramps that have been damaged.

Built to Withstand QuakesTerremoto en una ciudad

Modern high rises, such as the Wilshire Grand Center, undergo considerable earthquake modeling and testing before they are complete. Taller buildings must withstand massive amounts of force from earthquakes and wind, so engineers make sure construction will withstand the “worst case scenario.” To me, any worst case scenario involves cats.

High-Rise Earthquake Safety Features

  • Tuned mass dampers. These are massive weights that are mounted within a building and designed to move opposite to the oscillations of the structure. For example, the massive Taipei 101 skyscraper damper weighs 660 tons.
  • Simple roller bearing. This is a type of “base isolation” where the movement of the building is mitigated by bearings, which absorb some of the energy, thereby minimizing the building’s lateral movement. This is a common technique that essentially removes the structure from the ground, so it “floats” freely.
  • Sway. Engineers build the structure to withstand a certain amount of sway, knowing that there is a direct relationship between the height of the building and seconds of associated, safe side-to-side movement.

Low and extremely wide angle view of Office BuildingsBuilding design is always dynamic, with new materials and procedures explored that can make buildings safer and more aesthetically pleasing. For instance, the growing use of cross-laminated timber (CLT) is pushing architects to consider high-rise wood buildings in Seattle and other areas. Sounds like a good idea to me!

Remember that safety is a daily priority for everyone, not only those working or living in high-rise buildings. 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 Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

Posted by: RJ the Fire Dog Blogger | October 11, 2016

How to Avoid Heat Exhaustion & Heat Stroke 

Man suffering from heat and strongly sweats

Several hikers in Arizona were killed this summer when they engaged in strenuous activity during the hottest part of the day. And an Indiana landscape crewman died when his body temperature soared to 108 degrees after he worked for nine hours in the direct sun, in 110 degree heat. These deaths are especially tragic because they could have been avoided if the victims had taken steps to avoid heat exhaustion – the precursor to heat stroke, potentially leading to death.

Heat stroke affects people engaged in recreation, at home, and on the job. What’s more, workplace heat exhaustion is a significant problem, with agencies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) working diligently to educate workers about the risks of heat-related deaths. Operations involving high air temperatures, radiant heat sources, high humidity, direct physical contact with hot objects, or strenuous physical activities can lead to heat-related illness.

Heat can strike any time of the year, in virtually any location, as it did last October when temperatures soared over 100 degrees across California. It gets hot in my doghouse. I wish I could install central air. With fall weather and associated slightly cooler temperatures, people have the tendency to grow complacent about heat exhaustion. But the risks are not relegated to a few summer months or tropical locations.Hot weather. Vector flat cartoon illustration

The following headlines illustrate the point:

Heat Exhaustion – How to Spot it and Stop it

The first step to heat exhaustion prevention is to pay attention to how your body feels and make sure you drink plenty of liquids. Next, heed these signs and contributing factors:

  • If you aren’t sweating enough in heat, take notice. Dehydration occurs when the body cannot properly regulate internal temperature.
  • In high heat, monitor alcohol use, as it can interrupt body heat regulation and cause dehydration. Seems like there are lots of reasons to refrain from imbibing. Personally, I prefer water.

Heat Stroke – the Warning Signs

After heat exhaustion comes heat stroke – a condition wherein death can occur in the absence of swift action. For example, a construction worker in North Naples, Florida recently succumbed to heat stroke after working on a roof in 90-degree heat. 

Symptoms that suggest the onset of heat stroke

  •  Red, hot, dry skin, unlike the clamminess that often accompanies heat exhaustion
  • Cessation of sweating, despite heat
  • Seizures and general confusion/disorientation
  • Rapid heartbeat and shallow breathing 

At-home treatment for heat stroke includes wetting the victim’s skin, fanning him to increase air circulation, and possibly even submerging the person in a tub filled with ice. Heat stroke often requires a speedy trip to the emergency room, so the patient can receive specialized care. Once a person is unconscious or the body temperature reaches 104 degrees or higher, every minute counts.

Funny dog with flying ears up, kitten and rabbit sitting opposite the electric fanDon’t forget to watch your pets for signs of heat stroke. Cats and dogs can suffer from heat stroke. Avoid long walks during the middle of the day and pack plenty of cold water for your dogs. But don’t forego the walk all together. We love to walk it at night. If your pooch is excessively panting, has sticky saliva, shows signs of dizziness, and/or vomits, cool your pet as soon as possible. In California, a bill is being considered which would protect someone who breaks a window to rescue a dog in a hot car. This bill makes sense to me, since we can’t open the car door ourselves and our coats keep us extra hot.

Remember that safety is a daily priority. Maintaining a state of preparedness is essential for every month of the year, no matter the temperature. 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 27, 2016

National PrepareAthon Day

Graphic: Be Smart. Take Part. Prepare.President Obama officially proclaimed September National Preparedness Month, establishing September 30, 2016 as a “national day of action,” aka “America’s PrepareAthon.” Managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the campaign is designed to spark awareness and preparedness among the general public. In my book, preparedness is always a good thing!

America’s PrepareAthon

The emphasis on awareness and active participation in safety-related exercises is especially timely in light of the recent terrorist attacks in New York and New Jersey. Also, in a separate and apparently unrelated incident in Minnesota, a terrorist attack was thwarted by a trained firearms expert, whose quick thinking and ready action saved the lives of innocent people.

Graphic: Be Prepared

In each of these incidents, well-prepared Americans, first-responders and members of the general public worked together to lessen the severity of incidents relative to attacks and/or helped the injured while simultaneously staying alert to additional threats. Way to go, people!

America’s PrepareAthon encourages alertness in several types of incidents:

  • FEMA provides free materials such as badges and posters to promote preparedness for floods, earthquakes, winter storms, etc.
  • A compelling video showcases the way bystanders helped victims.
  • Disaster preparedness-related news is announced through the #PrepareAthon Twitter feed.
  • Concerned members of the public can conduct drills, test communication plans, safeguard documents, and make plans with neighbors for post-disaster actions.
  • Common steps to follow after a disaster such as tornadoes, hurricanes, active shooter incidents, winter storms, wildfires, and earthquakes alert the public.

America’s PrepareAthon could potentially save lives:

Active Shooter Scenarios

America’s PrepareAthon offers useful advice for active shooter incidents. Here is what you can learn:

  • Find active shooter training classes, which are held at various locations throughout the country.
  • Discern the importance of quickly running, hiding, or fighting (if necessary).
  • Take first aid classes which instruct students in emergency procedures, such as how to tie a tourniquet.
  • Determine when to report suspicious activity to law enforcement.

Winter Storms

fema-emergency-supplies-kitSevere winter storms bring ice, freezing rain, and potentially crippling quantities of snow, posing risks to first responders as well as the general public.

How to properly manage a major winter storm:

  • Prepare by stocking up on valuable supplies, such as food and water. I also suggest stockpiling cans of food for pets.
  • Create a backup heat source in case electrical or gas power are compromised.
  • Understand the potential dangers of fallen power lines, which can be pulled down by ice accumulating on trees.
  • Prepare your car by keeping the tank full to prevent the gas line from freezing. Also, pack extra blankets and water in your car as well as chains.
  • Set outside faucets to trickle to keep the pipes from freezing.
  • Create a travel bag containing several layers of clothing, a first aid kid, and signaling devices.
  • Prepare a “Go Bag.”
  • Grow fur. It works for me!

Remember that safety is a daily priority, not just on September 30th during America’s PrepareAthon. Take advantage of the resources offered through FEMA and other agencies, which can provide you and building occupants with lifesaving tips. 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 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

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.


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


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 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 and set up an email account, 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.

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