Posted in Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Alert System, Fire Safety, Health & Welfare, High-Rise Buildings, Safety at Home, Tornadoes, Uncategorized, Workplace Safety

Why Humans Should Learn How to Shelter in Place

Safe RoomThe recent tornadoes in the Midwest have reminded all of us that evacuation is not always the wisest choice for anyone facing a disaster. This is important to remember, since our natural “flight or fight” response may urge us to flee when sheltering in place may be the better move.

Emergency management professionals have long maintained that it’s often preferable to stay put during and immediately after any disaster (as long as you are inside anything other than a mobile home.) Better by far is preparing an easily accessible safe room well in advance of any emergency. Or there is always a well-constructed doghouse. That’s what I use to keep my family safe during disasters.

According to a report by CNN, to date, at least 16 are dead in Oklahoma following the vicious storm which spawned at least five tornadoes. A spokeswoman from the Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office noted that the death toll may rise even further. Tragically, among the dead are two children — an infant who was sucked out of the car with its mother and a 4-year-old boy who, along with his family, had unsuccessfully sought shelter by hovering in a drainage-ditch. Whether or not these deaths could have been prevented, we feel it is important to remind people that the time to think about disaster preparation is while you are safe and sound…not during the actual emergency when stress mounts and time is short.

The American Red Cross defines the term Shelter-in-Place as “taking immediate shelter wherever you are—at home, work, school, or anywhere else. It may also mean “seal the room.” In other words, in the event of a natural or manmade disaster, to BE SAFE, you might need to take steps to prevent outside air from coming in. This is particularly difficult for most dogs to understand since we love sticking our noses out of windows.

Just a few instances where sheltering in place makes more sense than evacuating include:
•    The release of chemical or radiological contaminants
•    Weather-related hazards
•    Active shooter incidents (including, but not limited to terrorist attacks)
•    Shortage of bacon

If any of these occur, it is important to listen to TV or radio to accurately be able to determine whether the authorities recommend simply that you remain indoors or that you take additional steps to protect yourself and your family and building occupants if you own or manage a facility. The first step to prepare for any such emergency is to determine which alert systems are used in your area. Fire or police department warning procedures could include:

  • “All-Call” telephoning – an automated system for sending recorded messages, sometimes called Reverse 911.
  • Emergency Alert System (EAS) broadcasts on the radio or television.
  • Outdoor warning sirens or horns.
  • The Twilight Bark
  • News media sources – radio, television and cable
  • NOAA Weather Radio alerts. NOAA offers several online resources and apps to make sure you are made aware of any disasters in your area.
  • Residential route alerting – messages announced to neighborhoods from vehicles equipped with PA systems.
  • Facilities that handle potentially dangerous materials, such as nuclear power plants, are required to install sirens and other warning systems (flash warning lights) to cover a 10-mile area around the plant.

At Home
1.    Choose a “shelter” room in advance of any actual emergency. No matter the type of incident, the safest room is one that has as few windows and doors as possible.
2.    Consider using a master bedroom that is connected to a bathroom. This is often a good choice because it is connected to a water supply.
3.    Develop a family emergency plan so that everyone knows what to do.
4.    Find out when warning systems will be tested. If alarms are tested in your area, determine whether you can hear or see sirens and/or warning lights from your place of business.
5.    Assemble a disaster supplies kit that includes emergency water and food supplies.
6.    Check the Disaster Supply Kit regularly. Make sure it has plenty of dog food and treats.
7.    Practice “sheltering in place” regularly.

Away from Home
1.    Contact your workplaces, your children’s schools, nursing homes where you may have family and your local town or city officials to learn about their plans for “sheltering-in-place.”
2.    Help ensure that the emergency plan and checklist involves all employees and/or tenants of your building.
3.    Assign volunteers or recruits specific duties to fulfill during an emergency. Also, assign alternates to each duty.
4.    Create an Emergency Supply Kit for building occupants. Check the kit on a regular basis. (Items like duct tape and first aid supplies can sometimes disappear when employees or tenants know where the kit is stored. Also, even if the kit is sealed, batteries for the radio and flashlight require regular replacement.
5.    Learn CPR, First Aid and how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED). Contact your local American Red Cross chapter for more information.

When you are notified of a “Shelter in Place” disaster, take these steps:

  • Bring children and pets indoors immediately. If your children are at school, do not try to bring them home unless told to. The school will shelter them. If you have pets, prepare a place for them to relieve themselves where you are taking shelter. Pets should not go outside during a chemical or radiation emergency. Consider including plastic bags in your Disaster Supply Kit. Or, better yet, potty-train your dog. Some of us are bright enough to learn how to flush.
  • Close and lock all outside doors and windows. Locking may provide a tighter seal.
  • If you are told there is danger of explosion, close the window shades, blinds, or curtains.
  • Turn off the heating, ventilation, or air conditioning system. Turn off all fans, including bathroom fans operated by the light switch.
  • Close the fireplace or wood stove damper. Become familiar with proper operation of flues and dampers ahead of time.
  • Get your disaster supplies kit and make sure the radio is working.
  • If you are instructed to seal the room, use duct tape and plastic sheeting, such as heavy-duty plastic garbage bags, to seal all cracks around the door into the room. Tape plastic over any windows. Tape over any vents and seal electrical outlets and other openings. As much as possible, reduce the flow of air into the room.
  • Call your emergency contact and keep the phone handy in case you need to report a life-threatening condition. Otherwise stay off the phone, so that the lines will be available for use by emergency responders.
  • Keep listening to your radio or television until you are told all is safe or you are told to evacuate. Do not evacuate unless instructed to do so.
  • Stay where you are until you are told that the emergency is over. Only then should you open windows and doors and turn on ventilation systems.
  • After the “all clear,” go outside until the building’s air has been exchanged with clean outdoor air. Follow any special instructions given by emergency authorities to avoid chemical or radiological contaminants outdoors.

Although this blog post is longer and more entertaining than most, it should not be considered a comprehensive digest about sheltering in place. However, subscribers to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services have access to instructional videos which explain the concept in great detail. For more about sheltering in place, check out previous RJWestmore blog posts, as well as information provided by the National Terror Alert Response Center, the CDC and FEMA.

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 workloads by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES!

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Posted in Emergency Alert System, Fire Life Safety Training, Social Media, Uncategorized, Version 3.0

New Upgrade to RJWestmore Fire Life Safety Training System

RJWestmore Inc. is proud to announce the release of Version 3.0 of our comprehensive e-based safety training program. The new system boasts features that property managers and building owners, employers, occupants and canine cohorts have come to depend on for building specific safety training, such as the integration and automation that brings together facility managers, fire safety directors and local fire departments. The system upgrade showcases our continued commitment to offer the most user-friendly and complete training system on the market. Here is a snapshot of some of the new functionality that RJWestmore trainees will enjoy with Version 3.0:

New “Basics for individuals who need Special Assistance”

Basic Special Assistance Guidelines are now automatically sent when individual users add themselves to the RJWestmore Special Assistance List. Users will find copies of this in “Your Resources,” under the “Forms, Lists and Guidelines” bullet point. I am lobbying for another bullet point called Bacon. I think it would be nice for folks who want to check out helpful information about meaty snacks.

New “Management Report”

All user-training base information (relative to the past and current year) is contained in one easy-to-use Excel report. Excel isn’t easy for me to use. I think I would need opposable thumbs to enter data like that.

New “Occupants” Page

The “Occupants” Tab in all users’ database management system now displays:

  • Floor and suite information for every person
  • Color-coded “Previous” and “Current Year” certification dates
  • Past due training alert icon (over12 months)

New “System Notifications” Page

  • Users are able to choose how to view messages
    • New Messages
    • Read Messages
    • Archived Messages—users can choose which messages to archive

New Social Media Links

  • This enables users to share news of their life-saving training with friends.
  • I am a big proponent of social media. Have you subscribed to the RSS feed for my blog and followed me on Twitter yet?

If you own or manage a building, or know someone who does, do them a favor. Let them know about the RJWestmore Training System. Choosing our service cuts property management training related workloads by 90% and saves users over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES! BE SAFE.

When a disaster of any kind strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJWestmore, Inc. Our new Version 3.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. What’s more, the NEW RJWestmore Property Messaging System is included FREE for all RJWestmore Online Training System users. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information.

Posted in Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Alert System, Emergency Communications

Do Your Disaster Plans Include a Mass Notification System

Emergency managers are experiencing a “sense of urgency” about the importance of including mass notification systems in professional disaster plans. I often experience a “sense of urgency” when I haven’t gone for a walk. But I digress.

A mass notification system is a means of delivering a message to a large set of recipients. The complexity of the system is often dependent on the type of message that must be sent. For example, a mass email might be sufficient to alert employees about a drill, whereas notifying individuals when a building is on fire would require real-time interaction, escalation, scheduling, rosters and fail-over scenarios. One such mass notification system is the Emergency Alert System (EAS). I’m telling you—the Twilight Bark is the best Mass Notification System known to canine.

Homeland Security describes the EAS like this: “The EAS is a national public warning system that requires broadcasters, cable television systems, wireless cable systems, satellite digital audio radio service (SDARS) providers, and direct broadcast satellite (DBS) providers to provide the communications capability to the President to address the American public during a national emergency. The system also may be used by state and local authorities to deliver important emergency information, such as AMBER alerts and weather information targeted to specific areas.”

At a recent international security system conference, emergency manager, Mike Madden, explained the sense of urgency about creating mass notification systems of all kinds: “I think we are beginning to see a trend towards MNS spreading to larger corporate campuses and large manufacturing facilities because of the very nature of these large complexes and violence in the workplace. People are looking at more options to protect their employees.”

Incidents like the bombing of the Khobar Towers in 1996 and the shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007 moved the concept and importance of mass notification to the forefront for government as well as secondary education. As a result, the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs are adopting mass notification systems for hospitals and clinics around the country. What’s more, large defense contractors like Boeing are starting to explore the need for bring mass notification for military bases. I saw the need for this kind of system when the Red Baron started attacking Snoopy. What’s up with that guy, anyway?

Part of the reason for interest in the systems is a basic cost benefit analysis for business owners who realize that, in an emergency, a mass notification system can get everyone to rapidly assemble at the onset of a disaster and quickly return to work stations following emergencies. And time is money. And money is bacon.

Peter Ebersold, director of marketing for Notifier/Honeywell Fire Group said that, post September 11, most people expect mass notification to be employed. And at airports, that’s probably true. However, such is not always the case. In fact, a host of public transportation stations and large commercial buildings have no such system in place.

Fortunately, the RJWestmore Training System features a fully-integrated messaging system, which allows all users to instantly communicate with tenant managers or occupants in any property, without the necessity of leaving the RJWestmore Training System. While logged in, users can easily send mass messages which are delivered to everyone located in one or multiple properties, simply by clicking “all,” or targeting particular groups. So subscribers of the RJWestmore Training System don’t have to invest in cost-prohibitive free-standing notification systems for their commercial properties. You gotta love a system that comes free within another system.

When a disaster of any kind strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJWestmore, Inc. Our new Version 2.5 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. What’s more, the NEW RJWestmore Property Messaging System is included FREE for all RJWestmore Online Training System users. Visit www.RJWestmore.com for more information.

Posted in Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Alert System, Emergency Communications, High-Rise Buildings, Uncategorized, Version 2.5

How would you prepare for Severe Weather Events?

Recently, on both the east and west coast, it’s felt a lot more like spring or summer than winter. Nevertheless, severe snow, avalanche warnings and damaging winds loom. No matter where you live and work, despite meteorological assertions to the contrary, weather is unpredictable. Something else that is unpredictable is the availability of bacon at the firehouse on any given day. Even the most methodical forecasts often underestimate the severity of weather events. And even storms that come with prior warning can cause catastrophic results.

To BE SAFE, building managers and property owners should create a severe weather event plan and be ready to implement it with little or no advanced warning. This practice is a fundamental part of emergency preparedness which is essential to life safety and building protection. So, prepare today for potential severe weather such as hail storm, cyclone, hurricane, electrical storm, ice storm, thunderstorm, tornado, blizzard, flood and winter storm, extreme cold or extreme heat.

Here’s how to prepare for severe weather:

  • Before you need it, set up and consistently test your ability to communicate during emergencies. I’ve found the Twilight Bark to be a very effective form of communication. But that could be just for Dalmatians.
  • Make use of applications that instantly transmit messages and weather advisories to tenant subscribers via voicemail, email and text messaging. The RJWestmore Training System includes an integrated property messaging system for just this type of communication.
  • Whatever system you use, send notifications before, during and after severe storms. For use in extreme emergencies, these applications also have a reply feature that allows recipients to tell building staff that they are safe.
  • Make sure lines of communication are open to your city’s emergency services so you will be alerted to disaster-related information. Learn your community’s warning signals and evacuation plans.
  • Familiarize yourself with the terms that are used to identify severe weather, such as advisories, watches and warnings.
  • Purchase and program a NOAA Weather Radio for alerts. The RJWestmore training system includes NOAA weather watchers warnings and alerts button that users can click to enter zip code and then sign up for text messaging, desktop warnings, etc.
  • Evaluate the current condition of your building:

o    Keep roofs and setbacks clean and clear, with scaffolding or loose equipment securely tied down.
o    Double check storm drains to prevent ice build-up.
o    Set up sandbags when preparing for a flood.
o    Test emergency backup equipment and systems.
o    Make sure adequate supplies are accessible.
o    Buy plenty of dog food, biscuits, jerky treats, bacon and pork chops!
o    Check flashlight batteries.
o    Confirm your energy management software functions properly.
o    Prepare an emergency kit that includes dog and people food, water, blankets and medical supplies as well as a whistle to signal for help. For a more complete list of provisions to gather for impending storms, check out the free preparedness tips from FEMA.

  • If necessary, call extra operations and security staff.
  • Monitor the status of mass transit services and roadways for tenant advisories.
  • Consider retaining a 24/7 disaster recovery company to assist with storm damage remediation. I’ve heard tell that these companies can take care of puppy training remediation too.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJWestmore, Inc. Our new Version 2.5 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. What’s more, the NEW RJWestmore Property Messaging System is included FREE for all RJWestmore Online Training System users. Visit www.RJWestmore.com  for more information.

Posted in Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Alert System, Emergency Communications, Fire Life Safety Training, Uncategorized

Integrated Property Messaging Now Part of RJWestmore Training System

Before the advent of email, if you wanted to contact someone, no matter how dire the emergency, you had only a few ways to do so—in person (or canine-to-canine), by phone, with a telegram or via snail mail. Fortunately, technology has revolutionized the way people communicate, especially relative to emergency management. The speed and flow of disaster communications is exceptional now thanks in part to an electronic tool known as property messaging.

In our effort to improve emergency preparedness and help SAVE LIVES, the new RJWestmore Training System leverages this new technology in an integrated property-messaging system which saves property owners and building managers valuable time and money before, during and after disasters. What’s more, the messaging system makes life easier for first responders. You know what I think makes life easier? Access to lots of pork chops!

The system features an effective method for users to instantly communicate with all tenant managers or occupants in any property, without the necessity of leaving the RJWestmore Training System. When logged into the system, users can easily send mass messages which are delivered to everyone located in one or multiple properties, simply by clicking “all,” or targeting particular groups. I like to target particular groups when our pack meets.

A hot topic among fire departments, property messaging systems boast user-friendly interfaces. The RJWestmore Training System Property Messaging offers these:

  • Users click “New Message” to start creating a new message.
  • Preferences are set using simple drop-down menus. We taught JR to drop-down and roll over. He loves doing tricks.
  • Messages can be sent immediately or delayed, using a popup calendar.
  • Priorities can be set to normal or high
  • Replies can be restricted.
  • Attachments can be added.
  • Drafts can be created.
  • Messages can be sent to individuals or groups. Let me send this message to all people-groups: Buy mass quantities of bacon!
  • Allowed users include regional managers, property managers, tenant/department managers, fire safety directors and fire/floor wardens. What about Dalmatian managers? I might not have fingers, but I manage to type my blog and tweet every week.
  • The new messaging system is just another example of how the RJWestmore Training System takes safety seriously. Our mission is to save lives through training with the motto Be Safe!

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJ Westmore, Inc. Our new Version 2.5 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. What’s more, the NEW RJWestmore Property Messaging System is included FREE for all RJWestmore Online Training System users. Visit www.RJWestmore.com  for more information.

Posted in Emergency Alert System

Emergency Alert System Test–This is Only a Test…

Some viewers heard Lady Gaga singing during the latest EAS Test.

When it comes to emergency management and disaster preparation, communication is king. Wait, I thought I was the king? At least I’m king of my own doghouse. On November 9th, FEMA conducted a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS). In 1997, the EAS replaced the Emergency Broadcast System which had been in use since 1963. The current system uses the familiar signal-sound to alert viewers and listeners to impending emergency announcements and to enable localized hazardous weather alerts. Now take that sound and amplify it times 1.5 billion. That’s a dog whistle for pooches. But the EAS was developed in order to allow the President of the United States the ability to address the nation within minutes.

With about 15,000 radio and broadcast stations participating in the November 2011 national test, most reported a smooth testing procedure, but it was not without its hiccups. Improving the test is an ongoing goal of both the government and broadcast partners which requires the public and private sector working together for a worthwhile common goal of improved emergency communications. I have my doubts about this one, I’ve been watching C-SPAN and I don’t see too much cooperation.

Here are some of the glitches that occurred during the test:

  • One North Dakota county reported that only 33 percent of the area stations broadcasted the test.
  • Some DirectTV subscribers heard a different kind of piercing sound than everyone else—footage of Lady Gaga singing instead of the test alert. Now that’s just awesome.
  • Some Time Warner Cable subscribers saw home-shopping wares in place of the emergency alert. I prefer watching: “When Animals Attack!”
  • Individuals using antennas for reception reported that they saw regular programming, or that the EAS image stayed on the screen long after the audible test was completed.

Despite these glitches, the federal agencies involved assured the public that they were conducting a working test, and that data would be gathered and evaluated in order to improve the system. They even sent out a release prior to the test to make it clear that they were not anticipating a 100-percent success rate. I have a 100 percent success at being awesome. It’s just a natural talent. A shiny coat wins every time. One of their reasons for anticipated glitches was because there are so many stations throughout the country, each one with specialized equipment necessary to successfully accept and transmit the test signal and associated emergency announcement.

A frequent criticism of the EAS is that it ignores new communication methods which most people rely on such as the Internet and mobile devices. Until recently, I thought these mobile phone things were actually attached to people, like a third hand. The EAS was not sent via either of these channels. However, there is a new initiative called the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) which aims to integrate several alert methods and agencies in order to greatly enhance coverage.

Here are a few interesting facts about the new system:

  • Intended as an umbrella system that integrates EAS, the National Warning System (phone-based alerts), NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards and the Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS).
  • Created in response to criticisms about the government alerts for Hurricane Katrina and other similar disasters.
  • Works with the major cell providers to allow the government to send text alerts regarding emergencies. If only I could get a hold of that system…” Mandatory 5-mile walks for all canines. Steady diets of ground chuck and gravy vital to health and national security…” Scheduled to be online in the spring of 2012, the messages from CMAS will have a unique signal and vibration so they will stand out from standard text messages.

Business owners should take a cue from the national warning system, planning in advance of emergencies and developing coordinated methods for communicating urgent messages to their teams. Companies should use multiple technologies including text message, email and available building intercom systems to ensure that occupants and staff members are aware of building-specific emergencies. I use barking as my warning system. It’s simple and effective. What’s more, internal systems should be tested once they are implemented.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives.  For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJ Westmore, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.