Posted in BE SAFE, Building Evacuation, Floods, Health & Welfare, High-Rise Buildings, Uncategorized, Winter Weather Hazards

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 in be prepared for emergencies, BE SAFE, Building Evacuation, Disaster Preparedness, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Fires, Health & Welfare, High-Rise Buildings, Safety at Home, Uncategorized, Workplace Safety

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 in BE SAFE, Building Evacuation, Disaster Preparedness, FEMA, Health & Welfare, Uncategorized

Happy National Pet Preparedness Month

Graphic: Pet Preparedness

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:

  1. Order a pet alert 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

Graphic: Prepare Your Pets
 
Photo courtesy of FEMA
  • 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
  • Favorite toys and comfort items
  • Disposable bags for dogs, litter boxes for cats
  • Photo of your pet
  • Flashlight
  • Blanket
  • A bag of cooked bacon (Just a suggestion…)
  • Click here for a list of supplies to include in your emergency kit for humans.

Graphic: Make a Plan with Pets

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.

Posted in be prepared for emergencies, Building Evacuation, Earthquakes, High-Rise Buildings

Recent Earthquakes Highlight Need for Disaster Prep

The ring of fire hit hard by recent earthquakes is not the one Johnny Cash sang about.
The ring of fire hit hard by recent earthquakes is not the one Johnny Cash sang about.

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!Fotolia_76149984_XS (1)

Ecuador Earthquake

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.

Japan Earthquake

Fotolia_54095366_XSAfter 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.

Despite the terrible losses from the 2011 earthquake, Japan’s strict building code improvements helped limit the damage this time around. The country made a concerted effort to improve codes after the 1995 Kobe earthquake and has emerged as a global leader in earthquake construction and retrofitting.

FEMA and Local Agency Involvement

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.Property market. Stamp sale of real estate. 3D.

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.

 

 

Posted in be prepared for emergencies, BE SAFE, Building Evacuation, Disaster Preparedness, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Fires, High-Rise Buildings, Uncategorized

Fire Risk in High-Rise Buildings

RJW Firedog High Rise FireProper fire emergency planning and prevention for residential high-rise buildings require special tactics. To that end, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has assembled a “High-Rise Building Safety Advisory Committee” to spot the unique needs and issues relative to safety in high-rise buildings. Since the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services has recently launched several residential training modules, we wanted to take the opportunity to highlight some of the NFPA strategies, with the goal of helping our subscribers and friends to #BeSafe.

Prepare Your Building and Residents

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!):tafel mk brand loeschen II

  • 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.

corridor of modern office building

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.exit icon

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.

 

Posted in be prepared for emergencies, BE SAFE, Building Evacuation, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Fires, Uncategorized

Why Your Building Needs Fire Sprinklers

illustration of firefighterLast weekend, a band at a Phoenix, AZ nightclub used a flammable liquid at the front of the stage, which started a fire. Because the fire sprinkler closest to the fire activated and extinguished the flames, no one was injured in the event. Thirteen years ago, a similar fire (caused by band pyrotechnics) in West Warwick, R.I. took the lives of 100 people and injured 230 others. The sole difference between the two events? The Rebel Lounge in Arizona has a fire sprinkler system; the Station nightclub in Rhode Island did not. Is it just me, or is it pretty obvious that fire sprinklers are a good idea?

Dalmation Fire DogThe National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA) commends not only those involved in extinguishing the Arizona fire, but also the local officials who had the foresight to adopt fire sprinkler requirements. Fire safety professionals, victims and firedogs agree that sprinkler systems save lives.

John Barylick, author of “Killer Show, The Station Nightclub Fire, America’s Deadliest Rock Concert,” said, “Unfortunately, humans can be very slow learners when it comes to playing with fire in places of public assembly – witness this week’s near-tragedy at the Rebel Lounge. Fortunately, local officials there had enacted common-sense sprinkler requirements, and disaster was averted.”

Some Rebel Lounge customers complained that sprinklers stopped the show. I understand why they were angry that the band stopped playing. But how were they supposed to play with a fire raging? In response, one Rhode Island survivor, Rob Feeney, who lost his fiancée and received second and third-degree burns, offered his own insights:

“As a survivor of the Station Nightclub fire, I want to tell everyone who is upset because the fire sprinkler activation stopped the show, (to) be thankful for that. Fire is fast, and while you think you can escape, I’m here to tell you it’s too fast. We must unite in support of fire sprinklers.”

Ceiling Fire Sprinkler isolated on whiteSprinklers were invented by an American named Henry S. Parmalee, in 1874, to protect his piano factory. Until the 1940s and 1950s, sprinkler systems were installed almost exclusively for the protection of buildings, especially warehouses and factories. Insurance savings, which could offset the cost of the system in a few years’ time, were major incentives.

Automatic fire sprinklers are individually heat-activated, and tied into a network of piping with water under pressure. When the heat of a fire raises the sprinkler temperature to its operating point (usually 165ºF), a solder link will melt or a liquid-filled glass bulb will shatter to open that single sprinkler, releasing water directly over the source of the heat. Isn’t science cool?

According to a recent study by the NFPA, when sprinklers operated, they were effective 96 percent of the time, resulting in a combined performance of operating effectively in 87 percent of all reported fires. Sprinklers are effective because they do not rely upon human factors such as familiarity with escape routes or emergency assistance to operate automatically in the area of fire origin. I have seen that, in many cases, it seems wise to eliminate the risk associated with human error. Sprinklers go to work immediately, preventing a fire from growing undetected to a dangerous size, while simultaneously sounding an alarm. In most cases, this prevents the danger of intense heat associated with fast-growing infernos, which are capable of trapping and killing dozens of building occupants.

If you are still on the fence about incorporating a fire sprinkler system into your facility, consider these five fire sprinkler facts, adapted from the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA):

  1. Smoke does not set off fire sprinklers. Sprinklers are activated by heat. In fact, the heat necessary to set off the average sprinkler is anywhere from 150° F to 165°, achievable only by fire. So that’s good. It means the sprinklers won’t go off on a hot day.
  2. The only sprinkler heads that will activate in the event of a fire are the ones located closest to a fire. In 81 percent of structure fires, only one or two sprinkler heads are activated.
  3. Upset couple with a dog sitting in a canoe in their flooded living room, under a leaking ceiling, EPS 8 vector illustration, no transparenciesFire sprinklers produce far less water damage than fire hoses. The average sprinkler discharges just 10-26 gallons of water per minute, while a fire hose produces 150-250 gallons. In most cases, structures without fire sprinklers are heavily or completely destroyed by the mix of fire and water damage caused by fire hoses.
  4. Nationally, fire sprinklers cost $1.61 per square foot of coverage. Overall, the cost of installing fire sprinklers is comparable to installing carpeting or cabinets. Most insurance companies provide discounts to businesses and homeowners that have fire sprinklers, which compounded over time can pay back the costs. Isn’t it hard to put a price on safety?
  5. Fire sprinklers are not unsightly. Modern advances in fire sprinkler technology have enabled architects, contractors and designers to install fire sprinklers into residential properties and businesses in ways that are aesthetically pleasing and concealing. In fact, most people do not even notice fire sprinklers.

Over the past two decades, building codes have increasingly called for sprinklers throughout buildings for life safety, especially buildings in which rapid evacuation of occupants is difficult or the hazard posed by contents is high. That is a good thing! And, according to the NFSA, “Aside from firefighting and explosion fatalities, there has never been a multiple loss of life in a fully-sprinklered building due to fire or smoke.”

Fire sprinklers buy time. Time buys life. Remember that safety is a daily priority, not just where fire safety is concerned. So be sure to think about ways to #BeSafe all of the time. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

 

Posted in BE SAFE, Building Evacuation, Disaster Preparedness, Earthquakes, Emergency Evacuations, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Fires, Health & Welfare, High-Rise Buildings, Workplace Safety

Workplace Safety in High Rises 

Fotolia_66830031_XSThis week, we are covering several threats to workplace safety in high-rise buildings: earthquakes, fire, accidents, and running out of kibble. High-rise buildings pose specific risks for occupants as well as property owners and managers, due to their large size and the sheer number of potential affected tenants, visitors and on-site staff. September is National Pork Chop Appreciation Month. (Every month is pork month, according to National Hog Farmer.) But I should probably focus on the fact that it’s also National Preparedness Month, which makes it the perfect time to review workplace safety procedures.

Earthquakes

Sitting in even a well-built, earthquake-prepared high-rise during an earthquake can be a harrowing experience. The worst part for pooches is that we can sense earthquakes before they strike. Check out this great clip of one of my canine buddies reacting to a quake seconds before it hits!

Buildings caught in an earthquake can sway and move ever so slightly (which is intentional). I sway a little after a giant meal. Sometimes, it’s hard to stay upright when my tummy is full! Shaking can cause light nausea and movement of light fixtures, blinds, and ceiling panels. Building managers and owners can help tenants manage the risk of earthquakes and feel relatively secure during them by:

  • Encouraging tenants to stay seated during an actual earthquake (the dog in that video didn’t listen!). Most quakes are quite short in duration. In fact, most last less than one minute. So it is highly recommended that people refrain from using elevators while the earth shakes. It’s better to simply sit down (away from built-in cabinets and artwork) and wait for the quake to stop. I’m great at sitting. Someone just needs to say the word, and I go right down.

Fire

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that fires cost stores and businesses upwards of 708 million dollars. This is a staggering sum of money, and can be reduced if building occupants closely follow fire prevention best practices. In high rises, the damages caused by fires can be severe, as fires can rise quickly to upper floors. What’s more — it can be logistically challenging to evacuate large numbers of people unless those people have been properly trained about emergency evacuation procedures.

The Yellow HelmetTo prevent high-rise fires:

  • Remove combustible materials and eliminate walkway obstructions. Talk to tenants about the importance of maintaining clutter-free offices. Mounds of paper can fuel fires, and cluttered pathways could impede evacuation, and block the entrance to firefighting crews. Stairways should always be clear of debris.
  • Locate and check fire extinguishers. Consider creating and posting a video instructing tenants about the proper use of fire extinguishers. Selecting and installing the right type of extinguisher for any given area is also important. High rise buildings can contain thousands of extinguishers, so it’s important to monitor their locations and expiration dates. I have an extinguisher in the doghouse. Sometimes it gets a little smoky when I’m making a rack of ribs.
  • Plan and practice evacuation plans. Property owners and building managers should work closely with tenants to explain and practice evacuation procedures in the event of fire. Moving a large number of people through stairwells can prove challenging, particularly for the disabled and elderly individuals. Fire drills can help identify evacuation roadblocks and educate residents about safe evacuation routes. Fido and Whiskers must be safely escorted out of the building, too, if applicable.

Accidents

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4,679 individuals were killed on the job in 2014, with tens of thousands of deaths attributable to occupational diseases. Although great strides have been made over the decades to improve worker safety, companies and property managers and their tenants will benefit when the safest possible workplace environment is provided.

Workplace Safety Best Practices:

  • Eliminate slippery floors. Falls are one of the most common causes of workplace accidents. This is why I use four stable legs. Property managers can arrange to have floors cleaned at night, to allow surfaces to dry properly before workers arrive. In snowy climates, melting ice and snow could leave slick surfaces. Non-slip mats and salt can also reduce this risk.
  • Uneven floors can also lead to falls. Look closely at cracked sidewalks and entryways, as well as the transitions between different types of flooring. For example, if tenants are allowed to make office or residence improvements and choose their own flooring, examine the area between hallways and tenant entrances to make sure the height of the surfaces match.

Remember that safety is an ever-present priority, at home and at work. So be sure to think about disaster planning all of the time–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 our system, or to subscribe, click here.

Posted in BE SAFE, Building Evacuation, Disaster Preparedness, Floods, High-Rise Buildings, Hurricanes, Workplace Safety

How to prepare for and respond to flooding when you are in a high-rise commercial building

Case Study: Hurricane Sandy

(Because much of this post was graciously provided by Chris Rodriguez of Brookfield Property Partners, I have not added my usual “firedogisms.” Thanks for your help, Chris!)

City submerged in water because of climate changeThe most common natural disaster in the United States is a flood. In the U.S., floods kill more people each year than tornadoes, hurricanes or lightning. This week, we will focus attention on this severe weather-related disaster, because El Nino could potentially produce the types of conditions that often result in floods.

Since flooding generally occurs at or below ground level, you may be surprised to learn that there are specific flood-related dangers and steps to take to deal with floods if you work or live in a high-rise building. As a service to our subscribers and friends, this post focuses on preparations to take before, during and after flooding if you are in a high-rise commercial building.

Photo courtesy of Brookfield Property Partners
Photo courtesy of Brookfield Property Partners

In the third edition of his High-Rise Security and Fire/Life Safety, Vice President of Universal Protection Service, Geoff Craighead, writes this about flood safety as it relates to high-rise buildings:

“Torrential rain, melting snow, a tsunami or a hurricane may produce too much water for land, rivers and flood control panels to handle and therefore results in serious flooding that will impact an entire area, including high-rise buildings. Floods also can occur as a result of a public water main pipe break or a reservoir failing.

Subterranean parking garages located beneath high-rise buildings can become flooded with water. This can result in damage to vehicles and substantial damage to elevator systems because of water cascading into elevator shafts. Building operations can be paralyzed for days as a result of cleanup of impacted areas and repair of damaged equipment. Also, a severe landslide could result in the collapse of a building.”

Photo courtesy of Brookfield Property Partners
Photo courtesy of Brookfield Property Partners

Our friend and client, Chris Rodriguez, is the Director of Security for Brookfield Property Partners at One New York Plaza. He was onsite at that location in 2012 during Hurricane Sandy. Chris stayed on the scene for days, and was kind enough to provide us with the steps he and his team took before, during and after the hurricane. We chose to include excerpts from his notes despite their length, because we believe it provides great insight into a real-world scenario relative to managing and recovering from flooding in a high-rise commercial building.

Pre-Sandy

  • Secured the building perimeter and all entrances to the building, 12 hours prior to the expected landfall of the storm.
  • Protected all street-level entrances with sandbags.
  • Advised tenants to remove their personal vehicles from the subterranean parking garage.
  • Monitored perimeter surveillance as well as live television broadcasts.
  • Brought in an evening security platoon prior to the shutdown of public transportation systems.
  • Advised personnel to be prepared for an extended stay.
  • Reviewed the Emergency Action Plan.
  • Double-checked the security cache of radios, flashlights and backup batteries.
  • Instructed critical operation staff personnel to don high-visibility clothing that identified them as “security, engineers, or life safety personnel.”
  • Made sure that engineers checked and tested critical building emergency utility systems, days prior to impact.

During Sandy

  • Equipped building personnel on duty with walkie–talkies.
  • Maintained perimeter surveillance from the elevated plaza level.
  • Continued to monitor local TV news and weather.
  • Upon notification that the sandbag “levee” had been breached by the incoming tidal surge, instituted the Emergency Action Plan.
  • Gave evacuation orders over the public address system for all areas below the lobby level.
  • When water started entering the loading dock and other areas of the building from the street level, parked elevators on upper floors.
  • As the three sub – surface levels of the building continued to flood, one final check was conducted.
  • When emergency power and lighting was lost throughout the building and downtown area, made sure all personnel were accounted for.
  • Ordered everyone in the building to assemble at a refuge point.
  • Continued to monitor the rising flood waters.
  • After the tidal surge appeared to have peaked, personnel “hunkered down” for the night.
  • The engineers on duty threw all the breakers connecting the service from the sub-cellar to the upper floors, which proved to be a vital maneuver contributing to the rapid recovery of power to the upper floors.

Post-Sandy Actions

  • By daybreak, the tidal surge had receded. The streets were dry but the damage was done. All three sub-levels of the building were under water.
  • The building was officially closed to all tenants.
  • All civilians remaining in the building were evacuated to allow for a damage assessment and to address safety concerns.
  • Perimeter patrols were resumed to ward off inquisitive sightseers and maintain the integrity of the building. Manual sign-in was mandatory and enforced.
  • The building Life Fire Safety system was non-functioning. So a fire guard patrol was established for all 50 floors.
  • Everyone was required to have a flashlight and walkie-talkie at all times.
  • Personal cellphones were the sole means of contact with the outside world.
  • Emergency generators were brought in to supply limited power to critical areas of the building.
  • Security Supervisors contacted all off-duty personnel to inquire about their personal wellbeing and potential availability to relieve peers. (The personnel onsite from the evening of the storm remained on-site for four days before relief was available from off-duty personnel).
  • Food vendors in the area of the city with power delivered three hot meals, per person, each day.
  • Security measures were addressed as the first sub-level street entrances were compromised and exposed by the receding water.
  • New security posts were established to maintain a secure environment.
  • The building remained closed to tenants for one business week, which is when sufficient emergency generators were in place to light stairways and restore the Life Fire Safety system.
  • On week two, the building was partially opened only to Critical Information Personnel for certain high-profile tenants’ data centers.
  • Security teams supplied supplemental officers to assist the newly established posts deemed necessary to protect tenants’ assets during their absence.

Lessons Learned

Chris had this to say about his experience: “No matter how much you prepare, you will likely never be ‘totally prepared’ for an event of historical magnitude. A storm the likes of Hurricane Sandy strikes only about once every 100 years. So the road to recovery is much longer than the avenue of destruction. Patience is indeed a virtue.”

Here are a few of the other lessons Chris says he learned:

  • A three-foot levee of sandbags does not standup to a 12- foot storm surge.
  • You probably will not have sufficient resources to handle a large-scale emergency and safely equip all personnel.
  • An easily assessable cache of equipment and resources must be maintained off-site, like radios, food, water, extra uniforms, toiletries, flashlights, etc.
  • Certain critical building resources should be relocated to upper floors, where feasible.
  • A team of supervisors trained and experienced in handling emergency situations begets a staff of efficient, disciplined and task-oriented personnel.
  • Personnel including supervisors must be able to accept and adapt to modified working conditions and hours.
  • Supervisors must be able to execute and display confidence in new and revised policies.
  • It will take some time to get back to “business as usual.”

FEMA has prepared a free, comprehensive 12-page PDF booklet that goes into great detail about flood preparation and recovery. We hope the FEMA resources and this blog post will motivate you to do whatever it takes to #BeSafe in floods as well as every other type of emergency…particularly if you live or work in a high-rise building! 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 our system, or to subscribe, click here.

Posted in BE SAFE, Building Evacuation, Disaster Preparedness, Safety at Home, Workplace Safety

Happy  National Safety Month

National Safety MonthEach June, the National Safety Council celebrates National Safety Month as a time to bring attention to key safety issues. We bring attention to key safety issues all year long. So we are happy to promote the campaign! Thousands of organizations across the country are taking part in the campaign to reduce the risk of the safety issues, including ending prescription drug abuse; preventing slips, trips and falls; being aware of surroundings; ending distracted driving and practicing summer safety. Safety is a high priority for those of us at the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services. In fact, our motto, #Be #Safe, highlights the priority we put on safety. So we are using this week’s blog posts to celebrate safety:

Week 1: Prevent Prescription Drug Abuse

Prescription drug abuseis the use of a medication without a prescription, in a way other than as prescribed, or for the experience or feelings elicited. I don’t get this one. But maybe that’s because my RXs are always for things like allergies. According to several national surveys, prescription medications, such as those used to treat pain, attention deficit disorders, and anxiety, are being abused at a rate second only to marijuana among illicit drug users. The consequences of this abuse have been steadily worsening, reflected in increased treatment admissions, emergency room visits, and overdose deaths.

safety first

According to results from a 2010 national survey on drug use and health:

  • 2.4 million Americans used prescription drugs non-medically for the first time within the past year, which averages to approximately 6,600 initiates per day.
  • More than one-half were females.
  • About a third were aged 12 to 17.
  • Although prescription drug abuse affects many Americans, certain populations, such as youth, older adults, and women, may be at particular risk.
  • Bacon is not considered a prescription or recreational drug. What a relief!

If you or anyone you know has a problem with prescription drugs, contact the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Week 2: Stop Slips, Trips and Falls

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, slips, trips and spills make up the majority of general industry accidents, which account for:

  • 15 percent of all accidental deaths per year, the second-leading cause behind motor vehicles
  • About 25 percent of all reported injury claims per fiscal year
  • More than 95 million lost work days per year – about 65 percent of all work days lost
  • Falls are one of the leading causes of unintentional injuries in the United States, accounting for approximately 8.9 million visits to the emergency department annually (NSC Injury Facts 2011).
  • Dogs fall too…although not as often as people, I’ve noticed.

Adults 55 and older are more prone to becoming victims of falls, with the resulting injuries often diminish the victim’s ability to lead active, independent lives. The number of fall-related deaths among those 65 and older is four times the number of falling-related deaths among all other age groups.

Most slips and trips occur due to a loss of traction between the shoe and the walking surface, or an inadvertent contact with a fixed or moveable object, which may lead to a fall. There are a variety of situations that may cause slips, trips and falls. Pads on paws help a lot with traction.

Many people have a friend or relative who has fallen, or have fallen themselves. In fact, falls are the second-leading cause of unintentional death in homes and communities, resulting in more than 25,000 fatalities in 2009. The risk of falling, and fall-related problems, rises with age and is a serious issue in homes and communities. So take the time to remove slip, trip and fall hazards to keep your family and/or your tenants safe.

Week 3: Be Aware of Your Surroundings

  • Whether it’s driving to the grocery store or going on a daily walk, to be safe, it’s crucial that you make yourself aware of your surroundings. By using simple precautions, you can safely enjoy the time you spend outside of your home. Here are some specific instructions for your safety. (But please remember that, while these tips can be helpful, they do not guarantee your safety. Immediately contact the police if you detect any suspicious behavior.):
  • Take a friend (especially a furry one). Walking a dog, especially one inclined to bark at strangers, is better than venturing out alone.
  • Take your cell phone with you so you can call 911 if you see something suspicious.
  • Let a friend or family member know where you’re going and when you plan to return.
  • Avoid walking too closely to bushes or areas with any kind of tall overgrowth.
  • Stay attentive to your surroundings and if listening to music, keep the volume at a low level so you can hear what’s going on around you.
  • Only run or walk in familiar areas.
  • Use caution when out at night. If you are out after dark, always carry a flashlight with fresh batteries.
  • Walk on the sidewalk facing traffic. Facing traffic makes it more difficult for someone to drive up behind you without being noticed.
  • Before heading to your destination, make sure you have enough gas to get you there and back. You wouldn’t want to be stranded alone.
  • If you feel like you are being followed, drive to the nearest gas station or open business. Do not drive home until you are completely sure you are alone.
  • Roll up the windows and lock all car doors every time you leave your car.
  • When you approach your car, have the key ready.
  • Avoid parking in isolated areas especially at night. If possible, park your car under a lamppost.
  • Whenever possible, walk instead of drive. This is good for your health and for your canine companion.

If You Are Attacked:

  • Noise is your most immediate defense. Not only will sound attract attention to you and make your location known but it may also cause the would-be attacker to flee.
  • If possible, run in the direction of help. An assailant usually will not engage in a pursuit because it could increase the possibility of detection or apprehension.
  • If the assailant demands your purse, keys or money, give it to him or her. Don’t risk your life.
  • Never leave the site of the attack when prompted by an attacker. Don’t believe an assailant that says he or she won’t hurt you if you leave with him or her. Stay where you are, fight and scream.

Week 4: Put an End to Distracted Driving

We recently wrote detailed blog posts about distracted driving. For details, please check out the links.

Bonus week: Summer Safety

It’s only fitting that we cover summer safety before the official start of summer on June 21. But because the topic is rather broad, we will feature the content in next week’s blog posts. So check back. And, in the meantime, #BE #SAFE.

When a disaster of any kind strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your building(s). Choosing our service cuts property management training-related costs by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES.

Posted in Building Evacuation, Disaster Preparedness, High-Rise Buildings, Terrorism, Workplace Safety

More About Active Shooting Incidents

Bullet Holes

Out of respect for the victims of the Isla Vista rampage, as well as the others who have been affected by active shooting incidents, I will refrain from including my usual firedog-isms in this post. Our hearts go out to all of the victims of active shooting incidents, worldwide.

The recent active shooter tragedy in Isla Vista – the cold-blooded murder of two women, four men and the maiming of 13 others by a gunman who said he acted out of bitterness caused by years of rejection, has become menacingly common of late.

Recent tragedies such as the shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, the Sandy Hook Elementary School rampage, and the murder of employees at the Washington Navy Yard in D.C. have made preparation for active shooting incidents mandatory for everyone. So, although we’ve covered active shooting in previous blog posts, we wanted to delve a little more deeply into the subject with this week’s offering.

Profile of an Active Shooter

An Active Shooter is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area; in most cases, active shooters use firearm(s) and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims. Active shooter situations are unpredictable and evolve quickly. Typically, the immediate deployment of law enforcement is required to stop the shooting and mitigate harm to victims. Because active shooter situations are often over within 10 to 15 minutes, before law enforcement arrives on the scene, individuals must be prepared both mentally and physically to deal with an active shooter situation.

How to respond when an Active Shooter is in your Vicinity

Quickly determine the most reasonable way to protect your own life. Remember that customers and clients are likely to follow the lead of employees and managers during an active shooter situation.

  1. Run

If there is an accessible escape path, attempt to evacuate the premises. Be sure to:

  • Have an escape route and plan in mind.
  • Evacuate regardless of whether others agree to follow.
  • Leave your belongings behind.
  • Help others escape, if possible.
  • Prevent individuals from entering an area where the active shooter may be.
  • Keep your hands visible.
  • Follow the instructions of any police officers.
  • Do not attempt to move wounded people.
  • Call 911 when you are safe.
  1. Hide

If evacuation is not possible, nd a place to hide where the active shooter is less likely to nd you. Your hiding place should:

  • Be out of the active shooter’s view.
  • Provide protection if shots are fired in your direction (i.e., an office with a closed and locked door).
  • Not trap you or restrict your options for movement.

To prevent an active shooter from entering your hiding place:

  • Lock the door.
  • Blockade the door with heavy furniture.

Good practices for coping with an active shooter situation:

  • Be aware of your environment and any possible dangers.
  • Take note of the two nearest exits in any facility you visit.
  • If you are in an office, stay there and secure the door.
  • If you are in a hallway, get into a room and secure the door.
  • As a last resort, attempt to take the active shooter down. When the shooter is at close range and you cannot flee, your chance of survival is much greater if you try to incapacitate him/her.

When it is safe to do so, Call 911!

If the active shooter is nearby:

  • Lock the door.
  • Silence your cell phone and/or pager.
  • Turn off any source of noise (i.e., radios, televisions).
  • Hide behind large items (i.e., cabinets, desks)
  • Remain quiet

If evacuation and hiding out are not possible:

  • Remain calm.
  • Dial 911, if possible, to alert police to the active shooter’s location.
  • If you cannot speak, leave the line open and allow the dispatcher to listen.
  1.  Fight

As a last resort, and only when your life is in imminent danger, attempt to disrupt and/or incapacitate the active shooter by:

  • Acting as aggressively as possible against him/her
  • Throwing items and improvising weapons
  • Yelling
  • Committing to your actions

How to respond when law enforcement arrives:

The purpose of law enforcement is to stop the active shooter as soon as possible. Officers will proceed directly to the area in which the last shots were heard.

  • Officers usually arrive in teams of four.
  • Officers may wear regular patrol uniforms or external bulletproof vests, Kevlar helmets and other tactical equipment.
  • Officers may be armed with rifles, shotguns, and hand guns.
  • Officers may use pepper spray or tear gas to control the situation
  • Officers may shout commands, and may push individuals to the ground for their safety.

How to react when law enforcement arrives:

  • Remain calm, and follow officers’ instructions
  • Put down any items in your hands (i.e., bags, jackets)
  • Immediately raise hands and spread fingers
  • Keep hands visible at all times
  • Avoid making quick movements toward officers such as holding on to them for safety
  • Avoid pointing, screaming and/or yelling
  • Do not stop to ask officers for help or direction when evacuating, just proceed in the direction from which officers are entering the premises.

Information to provide to law enforcement or 911 operator:

  • Location of the active shooter
  • Number of shooters, if more than one
  • Physical description of shooter/s
  • Number and type of weapons held by the shooter/s
  • Number of potential victims at the location

The first officers to arrive to the scene will not stop to help injured persons. Expect rescue teams comprised of additional officers and emergency medical personnel to follow the initial officers. These rescue teams will treat and remove any injured persons. They may also call upon able-bodied individuals to assist in removing the wounded from the premises.

Once you have reached a safe location or an assembly point, you will likely be held in that area by law enforcement until the situation is under control, and all witnesses have been identified and questioned. Do not leave until law enforcement authorities have instructed you to do so.

Use the following worksheet to make sure you have easy access to any information you might need in the event of an active shooter incident or another type of emergency:

Emergency Numbers

Emergency Services: 911

Local Emergency Information Line: ___________________________________

Local Police Department: ___________________________________________

Local Hospital: ___________________________________________________

Local FBI Field Office: ______________________________________________

Facility Security: __________________________________________________

Facility Address: __________________________________________________

Floor: __________________________________________________________

Suite/Room: _____________________________________________________

Office #: ________________________________________________________

Ext. ___________________________________________________________

When a disaster of any kind strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your building(s). Choosing our service cuts property management training-related costs by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES.