Weather-related disasters across the world lead to devastating loss of life and cost billions of dollars each year. Our last post about severe weather disasters focused on extreme heat. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) breaks weather-related disasters into eight major categories. We’re working on a flood of upcoming blog posts! This week, we will tackle one such designation, floods. Check back, as the final post in this series will focus hurricanes, landslides and mudslides.
Despite the migration of millions of American employees to home offices, 78 percent of the U.S. workforce still report for duty at a company facility, at least part-time. I love reporting to the firehouse. So, safety in the workplace remains of paramount importance. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports there were approximately 2.9 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses reported by private industry employers in 2016, which occurred at a rate of 2.9 cases per 100 full-time workers.
Potential causes of workplace injuries and death range from fatigue (due to inadequate ergonomics or overexertion); substance abuse; slips, trips and falls; to natural and manmade disasters, including workplace violence. If a major emergency occurs or you get hurt on the job, everyone pays the price—in down time, lost productivity, low morale and economic impacts. Sounds like it would be better to avoid the whole thing! But when we work together to create a safer place to work, we’re all more productive and satisfied with our jobs and business operations are better prepared to recover.
For the purposes of this post, we will focus on workplace safety before, during and after disasters.
The U.S. Department of Laborestimates two million people fall victim to workplace violence each year. Employees in retail and healthcare are particularly vulnerable, but it can happen anywhere. Working with your local police department can help you control risk and plan for incidents that might occur. Whatever the cause of the workplace emergency, your attitudes and actions can impact your ability to survive the situation. Whether manmade (terrorist attack or coworker’s violent aggression) or natural (severe weather or earthquake), workplace disasters require specific preparation and reactions. I guess that applies to feline-made disasters, too?
Official Safety Training
One way to make sure you are ready is to complete Community Emergency Response Team training (CERT). The CERT program supports local response capability by training volunteers to spontaneously organize themselves at the disaster site, to provide immediate assistance to victims, and to collect disaster intelligence to support responders’ efforts when they arrive. But CERT is not the only way to prepare yourself for a workplace emergency. Wherever you work, you play a critical role in creating a safe and healthy workplace for everyone by following pre-established emergency procedures and measures.
To help, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has produced a free booklet about citizen preparedness, which may help you if disaster strikes when you are at work. Entitled “Are You Ready?”—the in-depth guide walks readers through steps to take to keep them safe in any hazardous situation. I want my wife and J.R. to read this guide, too. We all need to be ready! FEMA’s awareness campaign is called: “Disasters Don’t Plan Ahead. You Can.” That’s wise advice for employers as well as individuals.Emergency response planning can save lives, reduce the number of injuries, and prevent loss of property.
To be safe at work, before disaster strikes:
Identify potential workplace hazards and safety roles and responsibilities. Know that workplace disasters can strike at any time, with little or no warning.
Conduct a job safety analysis to establish proper work procedures to help prevent workplace injuries and illnesses.
Executives and safety officers must keep communication open to make sure workers are comfortable with learning and offer feedback.
Maximize personal safety at your regular workspace. Keep area free from clutter.
Participate in safety training drills. “Practice makes perfect!)
Report hazards, incidents, and near-misses.
Take steps to control flammable and combustible materials in your department and make sure they do not pose a fire or explosion hazard. (For example, large accumulations of waste paper or other combustible materials can pose fire risk.)
Ask for help, when needed, to maintain your safety.
About the Allied Universal Fire Life Safety Services System
No matter the type of emergency you may face while at work, take steps to make sure you are safe. Our interactive, building-specific e-learning program helps commercial, residential, educational, institutional, government, retail and industrial buildings with compliance to fire life safety codes and rewards building occupants instantly! It’s a convenient and affordable solution to the training needs of your facility. Click here for more information or to subscribe.
If you’re like 41 percent of Americans, before the ball drops in New York City to ring in 2018, you will make a few New Year’s resolutions. According to Statistic Brain, although a mere 9.2 percent of people report following through with the resolutions they make, individuals who make them are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than those who fail to make them at all. My resolution is always the same – spend more time chasing my tail. This year, why not make a New Year’s resolution that could literally save your life? In 2018, resolve to be safe!
According 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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:
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.
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
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.
If the elevator car stalls, use the elevator phone and/or your cellphone to alert authorities. Remain calm.
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.
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.
According to the American Humane Association, June is National Pet Preparedness Month. Can I just say that I think that’s great? Pet safety is important because animals suffer in the face of natural and man-made disasters in many of the same ways as their human counterparts.
The American Veterinary Medical Foundation reports that 36.5 percent of American households include a dog (far too few), 30.4 percent have a cat (far too many), 3.1 percent own a bird and 1.5 percent include a horse. With such robust pet-representation and because our corporate mascot, RJ the Firedog, is a Dalmatian, we thought it fitting to focus this week’s post on the importance of making safety preparations for your pets. It’s so nice to be appreciated.
Whether the disaster you and your pet face affects an entire community of just your household, there are steps you can take before emergency strikes:
Order a petalert sticker. Offered free of charge from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), these stickers are placed near the front door to alert first responders about the presence of a pet. In addition to noting on the sticker whether pets have been evacuated, information should include the types and numbers of pets in the home. I’ve seen window clings that say “Pet inside.” Those seem good, too.
Choose designated care givers or arrange a safe haven. Pets should never be left behind in unsafe conditions. So, before disaster strikes, contact your vet to ask for contact information for suitable boarding kennels and foster care shelters for pets. Click here for information about local animal shelters.
Identify dog-friendly hotels and motels in the area, in case your entire family is evacuated — or even if you are just going on vacation. We like to go on holiday, too. Or ask friends and relatives if they would be willing to temporarily house your pet if the need arises.
During an emergency
Stay calm.This will help you handle the disaster and, since pets can sense emotion, it will help lessen their stress.
Bring pets indoors, at the first sign of an emergency. Animals can easily become disoriented and could wander away during a crisis.
Create a “lost pet” flier to store on your Smartphone, so you will be prepared to instantly share via social media, if your pet is lost.
Prepare an emergency kit for your pets.
What to include in a pet preparedness kit (FEMA recommends building one for humans and another one specifically for pets. And the American Red Cross and CDC implore pet owners to include their furry friends in emergency prep.)
Water – enough for at least three days. And we do like our water!
A week’s supply of canned or dry dog food (Don’t forget the can opener!)
Bowls for food and water
2-week supply of prescription pet meds
Collar & Leash and/or Pet Carrier (Make sure all tags include updated information or consider having your pet micro-chipped.)
Medical Records, including record of immunizations
First Aid Kit with pet-specific items
Contact list including info for pet-friendly hotels and veterinarians
Be sure to think about ways to #BeSafe all of the time, not only during pet preparedness month and not just relative to your pets. After all, preparation for humans and pets can save lives. 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.
The recent earthquakes in the Ring of Fire focus attention on the importance of earthquake preparedness throughout the western United States. I guess this Ring of Fire is a different one than Johnny Cash sung about? Important components for lowering the incidences of loss of life and property are to follow construction guidelines and retrofit structures while making sure tenants understand the need to follow safety procedures.
The recent earthquakes in Ecuador and Japan highlight the need for proper building codes and preparedness for individuals. These quakes unfortunately caused loss of life as well as property damage, but there are lessons to learn from each disaster, which could potentially limit damage associated with future earthquakes. And we are all about learning at the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services!
On April 16, 2016, a 7.8 magnitude quake hit Ecuador, causing extensive damage and leading to the deaths of at least 587 people. The deadliest disaster in the country since a quake that hit in 1949, it leveled several towns. Due to the upheaval, officials have raised alerts about the associated increased risk of spreading Zika virus and dengue fever among displaced residents. The earthquake destroyed more than 805 buildings and damaged 600 more. Building code enforcement in the country varies by region, and rural homes likely collapsed due to inferior construction materials.
After the horrific quake and tsunami in 2011, Japanese residents are understandably concerned about earthquake safety and loss of life prevention. Earthquakes hit Japan on April 16 – five years, exactly, to the day as the Ecuador quakes. The main shock registered a 7.0 on the Richter scale. Whoever this Richter guy is, he was pretty smart to be able to invent an earthquake scale.
In some areas of the United States, funds are available through individual states or federally, through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for several projects, including the completion of retrofitting. For example, an early 2016 California initiative through the California Residential Mitigation Program offered homeowners in select areas a $3,000 credit for proper crawlspace bolting and bracing of older homes. FEMA also offers programs and educational documents for commercial buildings. In Los Angeles, property owners are pushing for residential tenants to shoulder much of the costs of the county-mandated retrofitting due for completion within coming years. There are several viable options available to property managers and owners relative to mandatory retrofits. That’s a relief!
Building Codes Save Lives
In most earthquakes, the loss of life occurs from building collapse (and tsunamis) instead of shaking associated with the trembler. This underscores the need for countries in the Ring of Fire earthquake zone to follow recommended earthquake building codes for new construction and to properly retrofit older structures, when possible.
Retrofitting buildings for earthquake safety involves several procedures for commercial and residential buildings. Commercial buildings might need external bracing of parking garages to prevent floors from “pancaking” due to stress, as well as supplementary dampers that convert motion into heat. I love pancakes, but not when they are made up of smashed buildings.
Prepare Building Occupants for Earthquakes
While the integrity of residential and commercial buildings is vitally important, the onus for earthquake survival and safety is shared by building occupants. Here are tips to observe for optimal earthquake preparedness:
Secure pictures on walls with approved adhesives, and anchor tall furniture to the wall.
Understand and follow the evacuation plan. Know when the situation (or building-wide alerts) call for evacuation versus sheltering in place.
Know how to turn off gas lines to the stove and hot water heater as well as proper fire extinguisher operation. This seems like important info even for people who don’t live in earthquake-prone zones.
Recognize the importance of listening to floor wardens and follow their directions.
Remember that safety is a daily priority. So be sure to think about ways to #BeSafe all of the time, whether or not you live in an earthquake-prone region. 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.
Many fires are preventable if proper protocols are put into place and building occupants acquaint themselves with recommended safety procedures. Here are several tips for high-rise building property owners and managers help prevent the occurrence and reduce the impact of fires (which, in my opinion, is always a good idea!):
Create a formal plan. A written fire emergency plan is essential for optimal safety of residents as well as property. Map evacuation routes, meeting zone locations, sprinkler plans, and fire extinguisher locations. My pack is keen on locating fire extinguisher locations.
Keep halls and stairways free of impediments. A minute delay can be the difference between occupants’ safe escape and catastrophe. Keeping walkways clear will provide first responders with easy access.
Test backup and safety systems including emergency lighting and building communication systems. A safety system my canine friends and I love to use is the Twilight Bark.
Produce a floorplan of the entire building with floor-by-floor layouts, including the location of floor drains, water valves, utility shut-offs, and standpipe locations. Make the evacuation information easily accessible to building occupants.
Conduct drills. Residential occupants of a high-rise might be tempted to brush off fire drills as “false alarms.” Inform occupants that they should never assume alarms are part of a drill. Instruct them about the need to evacuate or quickly take directives in the event of any and all alarms.
Install and Maintain Sprinkler Systems
Sprinkler systems installed in high-rise buildings reduce both the loss of life and property damage. In addition, they are essential for high rise buildings, since fire truck ladders only reach six or seven floors. And since sprinkler systems are designed to go off only in the immediate area of the fire, you need not worry about unnecessary water damage. That sounds like a good idea. No need to flood floors that aren’t involved in the blaze!
According to NFPA data between 1996 and 2001, the costs incurred in buildings with functioning sprinkler systems was less than $400,000, while buildings without such systems saw losses averaging $2.2 million. Sounds like a significant difference!
Maintenance tips and best practices for sprinkler systems:
Check water supply and pressure levels. High-rises require greater water pressure to push water against gravity.
Ensure water valves are open and fire pumps are in good working order.
Properly brace water sprinkler pipes for buildings that are in high-risk earthquake zones.
Inspect pipes for corrosion or leaks and check sprinkler heads blocked by dust.
Test the main drain lines to see how far the water pressure drops with open valves when water is flowing. If the test shows, for example, a bigger drop in pressure difference every six months, then there is likely a valve problem somewhere in the system that should be addressed.
Evacuation Guidelines for High-Rise Occupants
In a typical single-story residence, with sufficient warning from smoke detectors, occupants will likely escape unhurt. In a high-rise, however, people have to navigate stairwells and hallways to exit the building. What’s more, evacuation routes could be blocked due to fire and smoke. Evacuating people from a high rise is difficult, and requires the formation of a sound evacuation plan and following best practices for residents including:
Memorize the plan. Residents must know what they will do in a fire emergency. Memorization is important for humans because they don’t share my acute sense of smell. So rely on your memory instead of your nose!
Practice the plan. Encourage residents to conduct their own mock drills (in addition to your formal drills) in order to make the evacuation route familiar.
Do not use elevators. Create contingency plans for residents who might have trouble walking or difficulty navigating stairs.
Stay low to stay safe. Smoke rises, so residents should proceed under the smoke whenever possible.
Remain in the residence. If occupants cannot enter hallways because of impassable smoke or fire, they should stay in their residences and mark their location on exterior windows. Also, place towels at the bottom of the door to block smoke.
Remember that safety is a daily priority. So be sure to think about ways to #BeSafe all of the time, whether or not you live or work in a high-rise facility. 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.