Posted in be prepared for emergencies, BE SAFE, Disaster Preparedness, disaster recovery, Emergency Alert System, Emergency Communications, Uncategorized

How Smartphones Can Aid in Disasters

Smartphones DisastersThe first cellphone was developed in 1973 by Motorola Researcher Martin Cooper. Heavy and clunky, that first device was a far cry from the sleek, versatile mobile phones of today. Without opposable thumbs, I find every cellphone clunky. Since Cooper’s invention, companies have competed to produce more portable technology and offer better connectivity. And they have largely succeeded. In fact, as a result, worldwide today, 2.53 billion people own smartphones. According to a Pew Research study, 95 percent of Americans own a cellphone of some kind, with 77 percent of the devices qualifying as “smart.” With smartphone use at an all-time high, it’s time to examine the myriad ways the device can aid disaster preparation, survival and recovery. I wonder what would make some cellphones dumb? Continue reading “How Smartphones Can Aid in Disasters”

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

Resolutions for a Safe 2018

Safety ResolutionsIf 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!

5 Safety Tips for 2018

Continue reading “Resolutions for a Safe 2018”

Posted in be prepared for emergencies, BE SAFE, Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Communications, Tornadoes, Uncategorized

Tornado Prep & Survival

Tornado Preparation and SurvivalAt least 13 people died and dozens more were injured as recent, severe storms brought flooding and tornadoes to Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi and Texas. That sounds even worse than the one Dorothy survived in the Wizard of Oz! Just one snapshot of the havoc that tornadoes cause, this event demonstrates why tornadoes are considered nature’s most violent storms – able to level entire neighborhoods and city streets in mere seconds. Equally disturbing, in many areas of the country, the question about tornadoes is not “if,” but “when?”Subscribers to the Allied Universal Fire Life Safety Training System have access to a comprehensive tornado training module

Tornado captain
Subscribers to the Allied Universal Fire Life Safety Training System have access to a comprehensive tornado safety module.

Your community could face the wrath of the phenomenon described as a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground with whirling winds of up to 300 miles per hour. I hope our community doesn’t experience a tornado. I’m not sure the doghouse would survive. Subscribers to the Allied Universal Fire Life Safety Training System have access to a comprehensive tornado training module, which explains how to be safe before, during and after a tornado hits. In our ongoing effort to help educate and keep our friends and subscribers safe, we have also assembled some valuable tornado trivia and tips:

Hurricane spinning around with leaves and books insideTornado Trivia:

  • Damage paths can exceed one mile wide and 50 miles long. I’ve seen cats do that much damage.
  • The average forward speed of a tornado is 30 mph, but may vary from stationary to 70 mph.
  • Although the average tornado moves Southwest to Northeast, tornadoes can move in any direction.
  • Every state is at some risk of tornadoes, although certain states are more tornado-prone. For example, in the Midwest, tornadoes are frequently reported east of the Rocky Mountains during spring and summer months.
  • Peak tornado season in southern states is March through May; in the northern states, it is late spring through early summer.
  • Tornadoes are most likely to occur between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m., but can occur at any time.
  • Some tornadoes are clearly visible, while others are obscured by rain or nearby low-hanging clouds.
  • Certain tornadoes develop so rapidly that little advanced warning is possible.
  • Before a tornado hits, winds may die down and air may become still. In fact, some attribute the idiom, “calm before the storm,” to this phenomenon.
  • Tornadoes generally occur near the trailing edge of a thunderstorm.
  • A cloud of debris may mark the location of a tornado even when a funnel is not visible. A cloud of debris seems to follow my son, JR.
  • They may appear nearly transparent until dust and debris are picked up or a cloud forms in the funnel.
  • It is not uncommon to see clear, sunlit skies behind a tornado.
  • A Tornado Watch means tornadoes are possible. Remain alert for approaching storms.
  • A Tornado Warning indicates a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Immediately take shelter.

blue digital radioBefore a Tornado

  • Build an emergency kit.
  • Make a family communications plan.
  • Consider building a “safe room.” For more about this, see Gov.
  • Listen to National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio or to commercial radio or television newscasts for the latest information.
  • Notice changing weather conditions. Look for approaching storms.
  • Be aware of the following danger signs: dark, greenish sky; large hail; a large, dark, low-flying cloud, and/or a loud roar (like a freight train).
  • If you see approaching storms or any of the danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately.

During a Tornado

If you are in a structure when a tornado hits:

  • Go to a pre-designated area such as a safe room, basement, storm cellar, or the center of a small interior room on the lowest building level. In a high-rise building, go to a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible.
  • Put on sturdy shoes.
  • Keep windows closed.
  • Bring your pets inside.

If you are in a manufactured home or office when a tornado hits:

Immediately exit and head to a pre-identified location such as the lowest floor of a sturdy, nearby building or a storm shelter. This advice would also probably apply to doghouses.

If you are outside without shelter when a tornado happens:

If you are not in a sturdy building, there is no single research-based recommendation for the last-resort action to take because many factors can affect your decision. Possible actions include:

  • Immediately get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter. If your vehicle is hit by flying debris while you are driving, pull over and park.
  • Take cover in a stationary vehicle. Put the seat belt on and cover your head with your arms and a blanket, coat or other cushion if possible.
  • Lie in an area noticeably lower than the level of the roadway and cover your head with your arms and a blanket, coat or other cushion if possible.

In every situation:Tornado myth 2

  • Never seek cover under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.
  • Don’t try to outrun a tornado in urban or congested areas, while in a car or truck. Instead, leave the vehicle immediately for safe shelter. Sounds like it might be hard to outrun tornado wherever you are.
  • Watch out for flying debris. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most fatalities and injuries.

After a Tornado

  • Listen to local weather reports and officials for updates and instructions.
  • Check-in with family and friends by texting or using social media.
  • Watch out for debris and downed power lines.
  • If you are trapped, do not move about or kick up dust. Tap on a pipe or wall or use a whistle, if you have one, to alert rescuers about your location.
  • Stay out of damaged buildings and homes. Sounds like a good idea even without the tornado.
  • Photograph the damage to your property to assist in filing insurance claims.
  • Do what you can to prevent further damage to your property, (e.g., putting a tarp on a damaged roof), as insurance may not cover additional damage that occurs after the storm.
  • If your home is without power, use flashlights or battery-powered lanterns rather than candles to prevent accidental fires.Rechargeable floured lantern

Remember that safety is important for everyone across continents. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the Allied Universal Fire Life Training System, 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, Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Communications, Holiday Safety

How to #BeSafe during Tax Season

taxes 7Since the majority of consumers take advantage of e-filing, tax preparation fraud is at an all-time high. Although your personal information is at risk if you use the Internet at all (because it is basically floating around in Cyberspace), your risk increases exponentially if you fail to practice due diligence when selecting an accounting firm. Beware that nearly anyone can hang a shingle or put up a quick website, offering to inexpensively do your taxes and maximize your refund. I’m glad dogs don’t have to file taxes. Sounds like a big headache!

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen warns taxpayers, “Filing a tax return can be one of the biggest financial transactions of the year, so taxpayers should choose their tax return preparers carefully. Most tax professionals provide top-notch service, but we see bad actors every year that steal from their clients or compromise returns in ways that can severely harm taxpayers.”

taxes 3Since about 60 percent of people file returns prepared by an official agent, reputable tax preparation firms are a vital part of the U.S. tax system. But it is important to note that taxpayers are legally responsible for what is on their tax return even if it is prepared by someone else. So make sure the preparer you hire is up to the task. In other words, you won’t be able to blame your tax preparer if your forms are messed up. So pay attention, people!

If you plan to hire someone to file for you, minimize your risk of fraud, by applying these 10 tips when choosing a tax preparer:

1. Make sure your preparer has an IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). Anyone with a valid 2015 PTIN is authorized to prepare federal tax returns. Ensure the preparer signs and includes their PTIN with your completed return.

2, Ask to see credentials. Although professional certification is not necessary, your preparer should be either an enrolled agent, certified public accountant, attorney, belong to a professional organization, or attend continuing education classes. A number of tax law changes, including the Affordable Care Act provisions, can be complex. So only a competent tax professional will be up-to-date in such matters. Tax law is complicated. So it makes sense to hire someone who knows what they are doing.

3, Check about service fees upfront. Avoid preparers who base theirs fee on a percentage of your refund. Also, steer clear of anyone who says they can get you a larger refund than others. If your taxes are prepared properly and honestly, your refund will be the same no matter who prepares it. Although I’m glad I don’t have to file taxes, I wish I could somehow qualify for a refund. Then I could get more doggie treats!

4, Designate refunds to be sent to you or deposited directly into your bank account. Don’t allow funds to be deposited into a preparer’s bank account. Or, if you prefer, send them straight to me.

Tax deadline5. Make sure your preparer offers IRS e-file and request your return be submitted to the IRS electronically. Doing so is the safest and most accurate way to file a return, whether you do it alone or pay someone to prepare and file for you.

6. Make sure the preparer will be available in case you have questions. You should be able to contact the tax preparer after you file your return – even after the April 15 due date. In other words, avoid fly-by-night places that pop up and close down right after the tax deadline.

7. Provide records and receipts. Qualified preparers will ask to see your records and receipts. They will also ask questions to determine your total income, deductions, tax credits and other items. Do not rely on a preparer who is willing to e-file your return using your last pay stub instead of your Form W-2, which is against IRS e-file rules.

8. Don’t sign an incomplete or blank return. This seems pretty basic. But you might be surprised.

9. Review your return before signing. Make sure you’re comfortable with the accuracy of the return before you sign it.

10. Report abusive tax preparers to the IRS. You can report abusive tax return preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS. Use Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer, which is available at

To find other tips about choosing a preparer, better understand the differences in credentials and qualifications, and learn how to submit a complaint regarding a tax return preparer, visit

We hope that this blog post will help you take steps to be safe during tax time and all year long. 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. Visit to read about the many ways proper planning can make a difference in numerous aspects of your professional and personal life.

Posted in Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Communications, Social Media, Winter Weather Hazards

Disaster Preparation and Recovery Smartphone Apps

Mobile phone with floating iconsWorldwide, disasters affect an average 450 million people at a cost of $17.6 billion. If we’ve learned nothing else from recent disasters such as the Colorado floods, Hurricane Sandy, and active shooter incidents at Sandy Hook and the Naval Shipyard, we’ve discovered that one of the most important tools for preparing for and recovering from disasters is two-way communication.

So, while social media platforms such as blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest were originally conceived as ways for people to interact socially, they have emerged as integral tools for emergency management and disaster response. The newest social media tools and, arguably, the most cost effective for managing disasters and emergencies are Smartphone apps. I don’t have a Smartphone because my paws are too big to push the little buttons.

According to social media guru Zoe Fox of Mashable:

  • One in five Americans has used an emergency app.
  • 76% of Americans affected by natural disasters have used social media to contact friends and family
  • 44% have asked their online communities to contact responders
  • 37% have used social media to help find shelter and supplies
  • 24% used social media to let loved ones know they’re safe
  • 25% have downloaded disaster apps
  • 99.9% of dogs love bacon. (This doesn’t have a lot to do with emergency management. But I think it’s an important statistic.)

Here is just a small sampling of the thousands of disaster preparedness and emergency management Smartphone apps available to download for a maximum price of $5.99:

  • Are You Ready? Helps prepare users to pass the FEMA IS-22 exam so they can receive an official FEMA certificate of completion.
  • BioAgent Facts from the Center for Biosecurity of the University Pittsburgh Medical Center provides facts about pathogens that could cause serious disease resulting from a natural epidemic or use as a biological weapon.
  • Centers for Disease Control (CDC) app and web page provides health and safety information related to emergencies and disasters.
  • Clinicians’ Biosecurity Resource from the Center for Biosecurity of the University Pittsburgh Medical Center provides clinicians with detailed information and recommended treatments for the most dangerous potential bio weapons.
  • Disaster Alert developed by Pacific Disaster Center provides access to information in both a list and on an interactive map about active hazards occurring around the globe.
  • Disaster Prep features an Emergency Preparedness Checklist and Guide. The app provides users a means to collect necessary information.
  • Disaster Preparedness for the Family is an eGuide which has an all-hazards overview of disaster information to help families prepare so they can provide for their family’s most basic needs during a disaster.
  • Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) mobile enhanced web page identifies nearby industrial facilities and toxic chemical releases as reported through the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) Program.
  • ERS: Emergency Response and Salvage from the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training outlines critical stages of disaster response for damage to collections and significant records.
  • FEMA app and mobile enhanced web page provide government disaster response information.
  • First Aid from the American Red Cross provides free lifesaving first aid instruction and disaster preparedness information including videos, interactive quizzes and simple step-by-step advice.
  • FluView developed by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracks influenza-like illness activity levels across the U.S.
  • Hands-Only™ CPR from the American Heart Association provides quick instructions for CPR without mouth-to-mouth breaths.
  • JusticeMobile gives officers direct access to criminal information. The app was tested by 600 San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) officers and will soon be available across the state, including 3,600 Los Angeles Police Department officers.
  • Know Your Plan features property protection guidance and contains disaster preparedness checklists for hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes, earthquakes, severe winter weather and evacuations. It also gives the option of setting up reminders to complete a task, tracking progress and customizing and sharing checklists with social networks.
  • LactMed from the National Library of Medicine app provides access information about maternal and infant drug levels and possible effects of vaccines and radiologic agents on lactation and on breastfed infants.
  • LibraryFloods from the National Library of Medicine covers basic steps for recovering collections after a water emergency in your library.
  • MedlinePlus mobile enhanced web page from the National Library of Medicine provides access to consumer-oriented health information on disaster topics in English and Spanish.
  • Mobile Medical Unit Field Operations Guide was developed for the Northern New England Metropolitan Response System but is applicable to other response teams such as MRC, CERT, DMAT and others. The app contains access to packing lists, deployment guidelines, treatment reference, and more.
  • National Weather Service mobile enhanced web page provides weather, hydrologic, and climate-forecasts and warnings for the United States.
  • NFPA 1600 developed by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), provides a foundation for disaster and emergency management planning. The entire text is fully searchable and contains active links and phone numbers for NFPA and other agencies involved with emergency management programs, risk mitigation and response.
  • OutbreaksNearMe provides real-time, searchable disease outbreak information for your neighborhood on interactive maps.
  • Pet Lover Apps are not necessarily disaster or emergency-related. But they will help you feed and care for your pet in the manner to which he or she has become accustomed.
  • Pocket First Aid & CPR from the American Heart Association provides quick, concise and clear first aid and CPR instructions from a user’s Smartphone.
  • PubMed Mobile from the National Library of Medicine provides access to more than 21 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books.
  • REMM (Radiation Emergency Medical Management) from the National Library of Medicine provides guidance about clinical diagnosis and treatment of radiation injuries during radiological and nuclear emergencies.
  • Shelter Finder displays open Red Cross shelters and their current population on an easy to use map interface.
  • SOS app from the American Red Cross provides step-by-step video narration and follow demonstrations allowing people to quickly and confidently respond to common emergency situations with the goal of saving lives.
  • UbAlert — Disaster Alert Network is a global social network that operates to save lives by sharing the knowledge of the world’s citizens with those in danger.
  • WISER (Wireless Information System for Emergency Responders) from the National Library of Medicine assists first responders in Hazmat incidents, with features including substance identification support, containment and suppression advice, and medical treatment information.

It would be virtually impossible to compile a list of each and every available disaster preparation or emergency management app, as new applications are in development each and every day. But the point is that apps aren’t going away. If you have a Smartphone, you have access to a virtually unlimited number of resources to help you before, during and after a manmade or natural disaster. So maybe I need to find one that works for me and my paws?

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

Posted in Children in Crisis, Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Communications, Emergency Evacuations, Health & Welfare

Disaster Planning for College Students

3D university studentsAs September draws close, families throughout the country are preparing to send their teenagers to college— many of whom will be away from home for the first time. I hope JR doesn’t ever want to go to college. My wife and I would really miss him! As students settle into their college routines, the transition may be easier if they know they are prepared to handle themselves in emergencies.

Whether it’s as simple as a power outage or as challenging as a super storm like Sandy, being prepared can help your child remain safe so he or she can calmly handle the situation and even potentially help other classmates do the same. So, as you plan for your son or daughter’s practical needs during their months away, such as clothing, dorm supplies, medications and toiletries, and beef jerky, don’t forget to also provide items to help them in emergencies. Teach your student that weathering a disaster can be similar to passing a challenging course. All it takes is doing their homework and staying prepared!

Here are things to purchase and/or assemble for your college-bound student:

  • Put together a Disaster Readiness Kit, which should include a flashlight, small radio, extra batteries, a solar-powered or hand-cranked cell phone charger, energy bars, water, and first aid supplies. Ready-made disaster kits designed for students can be ordered from the American Red Cross. Information about compiling a disaster readiness kit is available at For more information about building a basic disaster kit and developing a family communications plan, go to
  • Make sure your child knows their college’s Disaster Management Plan. Schools today outline procedures for safely handling natural and manmade disasters and include them in manuals. If your child isn’t automatically issued a copy of the plan, secure one. Check the website to see if plans are posted or call the admissions office to request a copy and to confirm that your student is registered with its emergency notification system. While you have them on the phone, ask if they will supply your student with bacon. At least that’s what I would do.
  • Suggest your son or daughter update their cell phone contact list and adds a contact listed as “In Case of Emergency.” Remind them that cell phone service may be unreliable in the aftermath of a disaster. That’s why I recommend the Twilight Bark. When cell phone calls can’t be placed, texting or communicating via social media may be possible.
  • Create a Family Communications Plan so your student knows where to contact you and your family at any given time. Also let them know where they can leave a message if communications between home and school are disrupted.
  • Prepare an emergency information sheet listing the names, locations and phone numbers for family members, physicians, medical insurance, veterinarian and other important resources.
  • Check your homeowners’ or rental insurance policy to make sure covers your student’s belongings at school. You might need to purchase an additional policy to cover items in your student’s dorm room or your doghouse.
  • Advise your student to keep their emergency kit under their bed or on the top shelf of a closet so it will be easily accessible in an emergency. This is especially important if you store bacon in it.

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

Posted in Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Communications, Health & Welfare, Travel

BE SAFE as you Travel Internationally

around the world

If you are currently traveling abroad or are planning an international holiday, RJWestmore asks that you keep the following safe international travel tips in mind.

  • Renew your passport six to nine months before it expires, as some countries will not grant you entry if your passport expiration is eminent.
  • Some countries require both a passport and visa for entry; make sure you know which documentation is needed from you well ahead of time.
  • When traveling to another country, be aware that you must follow their laws. It is important that you are familiar with the local rules and regulations of each place you plan to visit. The U.S. Department of State provides a full list of updated country customs and laws.
  • Make copies of your itinerary, passport and visa. Leave a copy with family or friends and place another in your checked luggage.
  • Do research before you leave. Check to make sure your medical insurance policy apply overseas. If it does not and you plan to stay abroad for awhile, you may want to purchase a temporary supplemental policy.
  • Do not forget to check with your health care provider regarding vaccinations you may need prior to your trip.
  • To stay healthy during your travels, keep the following in mind:
    • When flying, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids: water, juice and non-caffeinated tea are best.
    • Avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages such as soda and coffee.
    • Keep your distance. By staying at least six feet away from others while you travel (especially those who appear to be sick), you could decrease your risk of contracting germs.
    • Frequently wash your hands. Use warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds at a time. You should also carry a small bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitizer, for times when water and soap are not readily accessible.
  • Carry your ID at all times. Remember to bring your driver’s license and another set of photo identification. Also, make sure you bring:
    •  Health insurance card
    • Allergy bracelets
    • Emergency contact information.
    • Make sure your passport and visa are signed and the emergency information sections are completed.
  • Safe hotels rooms should be equipped with deadbolt locks, peepholes, fire sprinklers and telephones which allow for outside dialing. Also, look for well-lit interior hallways and grounds.
  • Ask for a hotel room located above the first floor and below the sixth. This will limit easy break-ins. Stay within reach of fire ladders. Always lock your door. Use the peephole and do not leave unsecured valuables in your room.
  • Use the ATM only in groups during daylight hours and use caution when entering your PIN number.
  • Electrical outlets outside North America are generally different. Consider purchasing a travel plug adapter in order to access your appliances via foreign outlets.
  • Avoid being the victim of crime.
    • Do not leave luggage unattended in public places.
    • Keep jewelry to a minimum.
    • Do not carry large amounts of cash or credit cards. Consider purchasing one of the numerous money carrying safety devices available, such as the money belt or leg pouch wallet. If you plan to carry a wallet, keep it close to your body and if you carry a purse, pick one that crosses over your body.
  • While traveling, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the location of the nearest U.S. Embassy and Consulate. A list is available at: During the event of an emergency while overseas, you can contact 202-501-4444 for assistance.
  • For extra security while traveling, sign up for the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. Registering your travel plans will help the government to assist you in an emergency. The free service is available at
Posted in Cyber Security, Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Communications, Social Media

Global Tweet-a-thon for Law Enforcement

Girl on Twitter BirdSince being founded in 2006, Twitter has evolved from a virtual gathering place teenagers casually discuss fashion and celebrity news to a 175,000,000-member platform used by law enforcement and emergency management professionals worldwide to share best practices and educate the public about disaster preparedness and recovery. Celebrating the medium, police agencies around the world will connect via Twitter on March 22 to participate in a 24-hour Tweet-a-thon beginning at 8 a.m. EST. I’ve had my own Twitter account since August 2009 and I find it’s a great way to communicate.

The Global Police Tweet-a-thon is sponsored by So far, 90 agencies have signed up to participate. And there is still plenty of time for interested parties to register. All that’s required to enter is submission of agency name, contact information and time zone. Just email the founder of LAWS Communications, All agencies will use the same hashtag, which is yet to be determined, in order to call attention to police work and issues that police officers face as well as promote the use of social media in police work. The hashtag I like most is #bacon.

“We hope to send (a message) to non-law enforcement that their police officers are up to speed with social media, and that they should use social media to talk with police officers and to be stewards of public safety,” explained event organizer Lauri Stevens.

Over the years, numerous police agencies have held tweet-a-thons or tweet-the-beat events to create awareness of police work and call attention to related issues. So far, early entries are from all across the United States as well as Canada and the UK. I’m trying to get all of my canine cohorts to sign up so we can communicate via the Tweet-a-Thon instead of through the Twilight Bark.

One state that understands the importance of relying on social media in times of crisis is Louisiana, where the Chief of Police in Thibodaux said he’s promoting transparency in policing actions and furthering proactive social media integration. A 2012 University of Maryland report called “Social Media Use during Disasters,” revealed detailed information about the public’s use of social media, both generally and during specific disasters, and addressed what prompts the public to use social media during disasters as well as what deters such consumption. The only thing that deters my consumption of bacon is a fully belly.

The report includes specific examples of social media consumption during key catastrophic events including 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and the 2010 Haitian earthquake. The case studies provide insights into how the public uses social media and other media, including preliminary lessons learned from these notable events. Most experts agree that if Hurricane Katrina had occurred after Twitter caught on, the exchange of information between victims and public agency officials likely would have been greatly improved.

Louisiana Police Chief Scott Silveri said his agency “will participate in the tweet-a-thon because (we) hope that other agencies break from the reactive isolationist nature of traditional law enforcement, and begin realizing the benefits of sharing timely and relevant information through social media.”

To participate in the Tweet-a-thon, email Lauri Stevens at with agency name, contact name and email address. Then mark your calendar for March 22 and don’t forget to tweet! I’ll be tweeting and would love to start a conversation with you.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services helps commercial buildings with compliance to fire life safety codes. Our interactive, building-specific e-learning training system motivates and rewards tenants instantly! It’s 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!

Posted in Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Communications, Health & Welfare

Would You Be Prepared if a Meteorite Fell?

Earth, doomsday illustration

Injuries resulting from falling meteorites sounds like scene out of a science fiction movie. But as we all learned on February 19, 2013, truth can be stranger than fiction. According to Reuters,

“Residents of Chelyabinsk, an industrial city 1,500 km (950 miles) east of Moscow, heard an explosion, saw a bright light and then felt a shockwave that blew out windows and damaged the walls and roof of a zinc plant.” At least 1,200 were injured. NASA estimates the meteor was 55 feet across before entering Earth’s atmosphere and weighed about 10,000 tons. Sounds like Chicken Little might have had a point, after all.

How much of a threat do meteorites pose? When an asteroid the size of the White House made a record close pass by earth on the same day that the meteor exploded over Russia, scientists labeled the dual event “Freaky Friday,” citing 100 million-to-1 odds. “We would expect an event of this magnitude to occur once every 100 years on average,” said Paul Chodas of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

As with any other type of emergency, the best way to respond during and recover following any asteroid-related event is to prepare. Since falling meteorites are possible, if not inevitable, we thought it worthwhile to provide you with tips to help you prepare. After all, planning for a falling asteroids isn’t much different from planning for a disaster of any kind. Just remember to Get a Kit, Make a Plan, and Be Informed:

Get a Kit

As with any emergency, the first step in preparation is to put together an emergency preparedness kit or “go bag.” Although you might want to add a hard hat to protect yourself from falling debris, most disaster kits include the same basic items, each of which should be placed into an easy-to-carry kit for use at home or to take with you if you need to evacuate:

  • Water—one gallon per person, per day (3­-day supply for evacuation, 2­-week supply for use at home.)
  • Food—non­perishable items (3-­day supply for evacuation, 2-­week supply for use at home) I recommend turkey jerky.
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Battery­-powered or hand-­crank radio (A NOAA-Weather Radio is recommended.)
  • First aid kit and medications (including OTC and prescriptions)
  • Multi­purpose tool
  • Personal hygiene items
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Copies of personal documents (medication requirements, pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates and insurance policies, family and emergency contact information) I don’t have many personal documents. But if I did, I’d make sure to get copies for my “Go Bag.”
  • Cell phone with chargers so you can text your friends when you find meteorite particles you want to post on ebay.
  • Map(s) of the immediate area so you know where the largest chunks of debris fell.
  • Medical supplies
  • Baby supplies (bottles, formula, baby food, diapers)
  • Games and activities for children
  • Pet supplies (collar, leash, ID, food, carrier, bowl, etc.) This category is extremely important…especially if you have a dog.
  • Extra set of car keys, house or doghouse keys
  • Can opener (again…another VERY important item to include…so you can open the dogfood.)
  • Whistle to alert others if you or any of your family members or coworkers are injured or to call your favorite canine
  • N95 or surgical masks in case of environmental pathogens (or cats…they stink!)
  • Matches
  • Rain gear and plastic sheeting to keep dry
  • Towels, which can be used for bedding, to wipe up messes and as bandages or tourniquets
  • Work gloves
  • Extra clothing, hat and sturdy shoes
  • Duct tape (because duct tape works for anything!)
  • Scissors Household bleach
  • Blankets or sleeping bags

Make a Plan

  • Make sure you have a plan for contacting family and friends if any emergency strikes.
  • Develop an evacuation plan and practice it so you will be able to move quickly.
  • Decide how you and loved ones will connect in case communication and transportation are compromised.

Be Informed

To make sure you are updated about disasters, tune to emergency radio stations and sign up for mobile-phone updates. If your television is working, watch the news. If you can howl, spread news through the Twilight Bark.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services helps commercial buildings with compliance to fire life safety codes. Our interactive, building-specific e-learning training system motivates and rewards tenants instantly! It’s 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!

Posted in Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Communications

Disaster Response Using Robots

Natural disasters such as tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, wildfires and hurricanes are part and parcel for life on planet Earth. Experts handle the threats of these emergency situations with careful preparation as well as immediate mitigation and abatement. Nevertheless, as evidenced by devastation resulting from the recent tornados and wildfires in Colorado, hurricanes in the Atlantic and earthquakes along the Pacific Northwest, we are already well on our way to a dangerous tipping point in our ability to sufficiently and safely respond to and recover from disasters.

To address the problem, engineers have built special tools to manage disasters of many kinds…via robots. Robots of many kinds are already widely used in certain emergency situations:

  • Specially designed robots have legs built to navigate mountainous terrain and move injured firefighters out of harm’s way. Is it just me or isn’t this something that dogs can do?
  • Some robots are built to treats oil spills on the spot, without using harsh chemical dispersants. Robots release bacteria which gobble up oil and use a sonic emitter to keep ocean wildlife away from the fray. I like to gobble up turkey. But petroleum is not on my list of favorite snacks.
  • Researchers are working to network the various robots and sensor systems first responders use so that they can react more quickly and efficiently in emergencies to search for victims and survivors.
  • MIT researchers Jean-Jacques Slotine and Patrick Bechon coordinated the behavior of eight dancing humanoid robots by having the bots send information to—and get information from—an external computer server. This development is important because it will allow robots to work together, in teams, for emergency response in places that are unsafe for humans. I, for one, appreciate the willingness of robots to step in for search & rescue dogs.
  • The Army Corps of Engineers boasts a team which has built a highly maneuverable robotic bomb detection system, which is capable of distinguishing between a grenade and a tin can. I can tell the difference between a can of tuna and a can of dog food. So maybe I could apply for bomb detection duty.
  • Drug-dispensing robots can quickly prepare intravenous medications in sterile environments. This technology is useful in cases of quarantine.
  • Specifically-designed mining robots lead search & rescue efforts following mining cave-ins.
  • Japanese officials deployed wheeled and snake-like robots to assist emergency responders in the search for survivors of the 2011 earthquakes and tsunami.
  • Researcher Eiji Koyanagi of the Chiba Institute of Technology’s Future Robotics Technology Center created a robot called Quince that can probe hazardous sites after a disaster. The robot rolls on treads and can sense chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear dangers in areas that firefighters can’t reach. With an onboard camera, Quince can move about 5.2 feet per second. I don’t mean to brag, but I can move a lot faster than Quince.
  • The Institute of Technology in Tokyo designed a serpentine machine that is capable of slithering around debris. The robot uses a thermographic camera designed to detect body heat under rubble.
  • The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced in April the creation of an ambitious robotics program aimed at revolutionizing disaster response robots.
  • The United States’ military has created a water-to-land machine which is capable of moving cargo containers and a support module with ready-made electricity. The vehicles are called Captive Air Amphibious Transporters. I’ve always been able to maneuver from water to land.
  • American military personnel count future disaster relief operations to include parachuting robots and swimming tractors capable of delivering huge cargo containers to shore. Such technologies designed by the U.S. military could offload needed humanitarian supplies from cargo ships without nearby ports or specialized military ships.

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