Posted in BE SAFE, Disaster Preparedness, Earthquakes, FEMA, Health & Welfare, Social Media, Uncategorized

Tech & Disaster Management

Press conference presentation.It wasn’t long ago that disaster management professionals handled crises primarily through landlines and press conferences. In fact, I still use the Twilight Bark. Thankfully, over the past 10 years, technology has redefined global emergency management and disaster communications. One of the first national disasters to heavily rely on technology, according to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), was Hurricane Sandy, as users sent more than 20 million Sandy-related tweets. I was tweeting like crazy during Hurricane Sandy. Social tablet

Since people have embraced mobile technologies, it’s increasingly important for disaster management professionals to adopt a social media strategy as well as the ability to use multiple forms of technology to communicate and connect with an increasingly networked population. What’s more, building owners and managers, as well as members of the public, should take advantage of the many ways technology can help them prepare for, survive, and recover after a disaster.

Technology and Disasters:

  • The American Red Cross offers free mobile apps that put lifesaving information at the user’s fingertips. The apps give people instant access to more than 35 customizable emergency weather alerts, as well as safety tips and preparedness information for 14 different types of emergencies and disasters. The Emergency App contains an “I’m Safe” feature, which helps people use social media to let loved ones know they are okay following an emergency. These apps have been downloaded over seven million times and have been credited with saving lives in Oklahoma, Texas and other states. Other Red Cross apps include Blood Donor, Earthquakes, First Aid, Flood, Hero Care, Hurricane, Pet First Aid – which is my personal favorite, Radio Cruz Roja, Swim, Tornadoes, Transfusion Practice Guidelines and Wildfires.Graphic: Download the FEMA App
  • Disaster Apps. While it would be virtually impossible to list every available disaster app, here are a few noteworthy options, available on Google Play as well as the Apple App Store: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), FEMA, My Hurricane Tracker, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), QuakeFeed, Storm Distance Tracker, and WeatherCaster. Another good one is put out by the ASPCA Mobile App. NOAA-1030x496
  • Facebook offers a natural disaster page, which is set up so that people can check on loved ones, get updates about the developing situation, and look for information about how to help. Disaster Response on Facebook highlights tips, news, and information on how to prepare for, respond to and recover from natural disasters. Facebook users who like and follow the page can stay up to date and connected with affected communities around the world. They can also donate with the “Donate Now” call-to-action button, so nonprofits can connect with people who care about their causes and encourage them to contribute. safetycheckmobielcarousel
  • Twitter has emerged as a legitimate means of emergency communication for coordinating disaster relief. A 2015 study, What to Expect When the Unexpected Happens: Social Media Communications Across Crises, focused on 26 different crisis situations (such as earthquakes, floods, bombings, derailments and wildfires) for two years. The event which obtained the most Twitter attention at the time of the study was the Boston Marathon bombings, with 157,500 tweets. What’s more, Twitter Alerts provide trusted sources with a platform to disseminate accurate information to concerned parties in real time, and for those people to offer immediate feedback about the impact and hierarchy of needs relative to the associated disaster. My Twitter handle is @RjtheFireDog.Screen Shot 2017-04-24 at 3.44.27 PM.png
  • OneEvent is an algorithm developed by a small startup in Wisconsin. For a monthly subscription fee, OneEvent detects household disasters like fires and floods up to 20 minutes before they happen. The software-based approach uses sensors to monitor things like heat and humidity in key areas of the subscriber’s home. I wonder if it would work in our doghouse? If things start to deviate from the norm due to a leaky pipe or a hot oven, the system will catch it, let the user know, and learnfrom the situation. Online learning.
  • Online Fire Life Training systems, which provide subscribers with access to information about emergency and disaster prevention, management and recovery. A leader in the field is Allied Universal Fire Life Safety Training Systems. The fully-automated system allows property management companies to manage one site or an entire portfolio, with all users in the same system. Subscribers get access to training for building occupants, floor wardens, and fire safety directors. All user training and testing is recorded. Building-specific information is sent to first responders for immediate access during emergencies. Our mission is to save lives through training, with the motto “Be Safe!”

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.

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Posted in be prepared for emergencies, BE SAFE, Disaster Preparedness, FEMA, Health & Welfare, Uncategorized

Civil Unrest: How to Be Safe

Out of respect for the victims and loved ones of the recent events that claimed the lives of police officers as well as members of the public, in this post, I have refrained from my usual “firedogisms.” Our hearts go out to all of those affected by the violence. 

Group of people carrying.

Civil disorder, also known as civil unrest, is a broad term typically used by law enforcement officials to describe an unhappy group of people whose goal is to express displeasure through riots, violence and mayhem which disrupt a community. Although the motivation for action varies (political unrest, severe weather, fire, or socio-economic instability, to name a few), the ensuing outcomes are often dire. In fact, in recent weeks, civil unrest has led to loss of life in the United States in Dallas, TX; Baton Rouge, LA; Ferguson, MO; and Falcon Heights, MN…to name just a few. According to CNN, the Dallas shooting and murder of five officers was the deadliest for police since Sept. 11, 2001 when 72 officers were killed in the line of duty.

In addition to life-threatening injuries sustained by police officers and demonstrators, some of the fallout from these events has impacted innocent bystanders. So, even as we collectively mourn as a nation over the heartbreaking loss of life, we want to take this opportunity to provide tips for staying safe if you find yourself in the mix during a riot or other violent public demonstration.

What to do if you are at work when a protest breaks out nearby
During the protest:

  • Make contact with the senior responsible party for your office (onsite) and follow their instructions. If you are the senior person in charge, follow the instructions from your onsite security/property management team. If you have an emergency plan, refer to standard protocols set forth.
  • Check with the senior person in charge to determine if a lockdown of the property is necessary.
  • Relocate to the incident command center, building lobby or other location per their instructions.
  • Record any pertinent information, such as signage, group size, group name and group location. Determine if the gathering is peaceful, organized, and/or on the building’s property. If the answer is “yes” to all three questions, approach the leader and ask that the group remove themselves from the property.
  • If the crowd fails to disperse or becomes hostile, call 911 immediately. Once emergency personnel arrive, allow them to handle the situation and assist only as requested.
  • If violence erupts and you are unable to evacuate, move away from all windows and close window coverings. Move to the safest areas in the building, taking cell phones, a fire extinguisher, first aid supplies and other provisions.

911 emergency symbol

Following an Emergency Situation:

  • Reset and/or restore all systems and equipment to operational condition.
  • Respond to any emergency conditions as necessary.
  • Conduct a full assessment of building and grounds for damage.
  • Take photographs to document the incident and any property damage.
  • If people are evacuated, implement a full or partial reentry as directed by the local authorities. Hold doors open and call elevators for customers. Do not discuss the incident, just state that the local authorities authorized reentry. Document the chain of events that occurred. Answer the question who, what, where, when, why and how.
  • Incorporate dates, times, location, full names of participants, employers and titles.
  • When directed by the person in charge, or the police department, use the PA system to share information with the building occupants. Repeat the message three times, per floor.

Wherever you are when a protest breaks out:
1. Stay put. You may be out and about when a demonstration and associated violence spontaneously evolve. Most experts agree that the best way to steer clear of chaos is by staying put until the fervor dies down. If you are able to, in advance of the event, set up a safe room, such as what the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends. Otherwise, make sure your doors and windows are locked.

2. Be informed. Don’t bury your head in the sand. To #BeSafe, you need to make sure you are aware of escalating tensions. This is one of the reasons we so often recommend including a hand-crank or battery-operated radio in your emergency supply kit. Don’t make the mistake of counting on technology in an emergency. Depending on the severity of the situation, you could lose cell service and/or electricity. In such cases, a ham radio and police scanner could prove useful.

3. Move on. If you are in public and notice that protestors begin to get loud and raucous, quickly vacate the area. In the case of an active-shooter situation, if you can do so safely, run! If not, then you should seek shelter and stay quiet. Click here to read more about what to do in the case of an active shooter.

4. Blend in. First, always be aware of your surroundings, especially in large crowds. Avoid the area around the demonstration and do not provoke the protesters, as any unnecessary conversation could turn a peaceful situation into a problematic scenario. If you are unable to safely leave an area where violence has broken out, hide.

5. Practice makes perfect. Don’t wait until a civil unrest incident occurs to find out whether your plan to avoid danger and stay safe is effective. Review and update your emergency plan. Then hold table top exercises and drills to make sure it works. Stay in contact with local law enforcement officials and public agencies.

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Staying safe at times of civil unrest can be challenging. But situational awareness and advanced preparation could give you an edge. Remember to take proper disaster preparation steps because safety is a daily priority. 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, BE SAFE, Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Evacuations, FEMA

FEMA Adds New Features to Natural Disaster App

Transparent smartphone with apps on three dimensional screenEarlier this month, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) added a noteworthy new feature to their free smartphone app, which pushes notifications to users’ devices to remind them to take important steps to prepare their homes and families for disasters. I think someone should come up with an app to remind dog owners to feed their pets.

The FEMA app reminds users about:

  • Pre-scheduled safety and preparedness tips
  • Routine smoke alarm testing
  • Fire escape plan drillsFotolia_89811476_XS
  • Emergency kit updates
  • Smoke alarm battery replacement

“In just two minutes, a home fire can become life-threatening,” said U.S. Fire Administrator Ernest Mitchell Jr. “Remembering to take small steps to prepare, such as ensuring your smoke alarm is properly maintained and practicing your home fire escape plan, will reduce fire fatalities and ensure our communities are safer. We hope this new feature to FEMA’s app will help save lives by encouraging more families to be prepared.”

At the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, we are committed to pointing our subscribers to helpful disaster preparedness information from a variety of reputable sources, including FEMA. What’s more, we have recently tweaked our own offerings, so our subscribers can e-train at their convenience, on desktop computer, laptop or iPad. Those are great options for millennials, since they spend a lot of time on their devices.Flat Design Concept about People Using Smartphone

For their part, FEMA officials tout their new app reminder feature, saying it provides a customizable checklist of emergency supplies, maps of open shelters and open recovery centers, and offers tips for surviving natural and manmade disasters. The app also incorporates push notifications of weather alerts from the National Weather Service. Through the feature, users can stay on top of weather patterns for up to five national locations.

Other key features of the app:

  • Weather Alerts: Users can elect to receive alerts on severe weather happenings in specific areas, so users can follow potential weather-related threats to family and friends.
  • Safety Tips: Includes tips about how to stay safe before, during, and after more than 20 types of hazards, including floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes.
  • Disaster Reporter: Users can upload and share disaster-related photos.
  • Maps of Disaster Resources: Users can locate and receive driving directions for open shelters and disaster recovery centers.Tablet Computer - Spanish Everywhere
  • Apply for Assistance: The app provides easy access to federal disaster assistance applications.
  • Information in Spanish: The app defaults to Spanish-language content for smartphones set to Spanish as the default language.
  • Dog Treat Reminders. Okay, I admit this isn’t one of their features, but I think it would be a great addition.

The latest version of the FEMA app is available for free in the App Store for Apple devices and Google Play for Android devices. Users who already have the app downloaded on their device should download the latest update for the reminder alerts feature to take effect. The reminders are available in English and Spanish. To learn more, visit: The FEMA App: Helping Your Family Weather the Storm.

Remember that safety is a daily priority. 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 prepared for emergencies, BE SAFE, CDC, Disaster Preparedness, FEMA, Health & Welfare, How to stay healthy

All About MRSA

MRSA Staphylococcus aureus  CartoonCommonly known as MRSA, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus is a staph bacterium often (but not always) contracted in medical facilities, deeming it a super bug because it is resistant to many antibiotics. What a mouthful! No wonder they had to come up with an acronym! According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIH), in recent years, MRSA has evolved from a controllable nuisance into a serious health concern. Most MRSA infections are confined to the skin or in the nose. However, the infection can also burrow deep into the body, causing life-threatening infections in the bones, joints, bloodstream, heart valves, lungs, and at surgical incision sites. It can even lead to pneumonia. I am against anything “burrowing into” my body.

Keyboard, MRSA text and StethoscopeAccording to the MRSA Survivors’ Network, more Americans die each year from invasive MRSA infections than from HIV/AIDS or H1N1 flu. MRSA was first discovered in 1961, and is resistant to methicillin, amoxicillin, penicillin, oxacillin, and many other common antibiotics. I am resistant to cats in much the same way. The bug constantly adapts and changes, which leaves researchers hard pressed to keep up. Although approximately two percent of the population has MRSA on their skin, not everyone suffers ill effects from its presence. Troubling infections are most common among people who have weak immune systems. I was alarmed to discover that MRSA can even affect dogs.

MRSA infections are transmitted from person to person by direct contact with the skin, clothing, or area (for example, sink, bench, bed, and utensil) that had recent physical contact with a MRSA-infected person. Workers who are in frequent contact with MRSA and staph-infected people and animals are most at risk of contracting a MRSA-related staph infection. These include employees who work in healthcare, corrections, daycare, or veterinary medicine-related fields. However, alarmingly, MRSA has started appearing in healthy people who have not been hospitalized. This type of MRSA is called community-associated MRSA, or CA-MRSA.

Virus attack AThe good news (Finally!) is that Congress recognizes the threat to public health, approving $160 million in new funding to the CDC in fiscal year 2016, to combat antibiotic-resistant bugs. With the funding, the CDC will:

  • accelerate outbreak detection and prevention in every state;
  • enhance tracking of resistance mechanisms and resistant infections;
  • support innovative research to address current gaps in knowledge; and
  • improve antibiotic use.

Most staph skin infections, including MRSA, appear as a bump or infected area on the skin that might be:

  • Red
  • Swollen
  • Painful
  • Warm to the touch
  • Full of pus or other drainage
  • Accompanied by a fever

Fotolia_94616183_XSThe CDC suggests taking these personal hygiene steps to reduce your risk of contracting a MRSA infection:

  1. Maintain good hand and body hygiene. Hand washing remains one of the easiest, most effective ways to prevent the spread of any and all germs.
  2. Keep cuts, scrapes, and wounds clean and covered until healed.
  3. Avoid sharing personal items such as towels and razors.
  4. Seek medical attention early if you suspect you might have an infection.

Remember that health safety is a daily priority. 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 prepared for emergencies, Disaster Preparedness, FEMA, Workplace Safety

The Red Cross Offers ReadyRating

RedCrossReadyRating 2At the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, we frequently work side-by-side, with an iconic disaster relief agency – the Red Cross. Although the agency is always at the front lines of a disaster and is best known in that regard, its mission extends beyond immediate relief into disaster preparedness and education, much like our own. Well, my mission includes attacking those things that pop-up on the lawn and spray water. What is going on with those things? Where do they go when the water stops!!?

Why is disaster planning so important for business owners? According to FEMA, 40% of small businesses will not reopen following a disaster, a sobering (that’s a big word!) statistic, which illustrates both the challenge in managing a small business and the severe impact disasters can have on otherwise potentially successful companies.

The American Red Cross Rating Program

ReadyRating is designed to help schools, companies, and other organizations prepare for disasters. This free service provides members with access to information about how to both evaluate and improve their disaster planning procedures and save lives… something that we strive to do through our own training modules. I saved a squirrel once. Whiskers and Mr. Tubbington had cornered the little guy, so I swooped in to save the day. Squirrels are nuts.

RedCrossReadyRating7
Photo provided courtesy of the Red Cross. All rights reserved. 2015

The ReadyRating is promoted by agencies such as the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD), an agency with whom we are proud to partner. We are pleased to join agencies such as LAFD to encourage businesses to participate in the Red Cross’ program, in order to gauge and improve their disaster readiness. Free membership into ReadyRating provides users with a dashboard that helps them evaluate their level of preparedness. Customized feedback is based on assessment scores, as well as the ability to create an “Organization Manager” with linked member-accounts. The steps and recommendations found within ReadyRating are adopted from scientific research and expert opinions from noted industry professionals. This means they know their stuff!

ReadyRating features a three-step process for participating members:

  1. Conduct an Assessment

Organizations can choose either a “ReadyGo” assessment or a “ReadyAdvance” assessment to determine preparedness. The ReadyGo 25-question version is basic, designed to help companies see the most critical steps they should undertake to best manage disasters. The ReadyAdvance plan is more in-depth, with 60 questions. More comprehensive in nature, ReadyAdvance results effectively measure the merits of an organization’s existing preparedness plan, and provides users with roadmaps for improving their existing plans. Before another pooch can hang with me, I ask them to complete an in-depth assessment to gauge their willingness to chase rabbits and chew shoes.

The assessment contains five sections that score the preparedness level of the company, including level of current emergency planning, commitment to preparedness, knowledge of hazards, love of bacon, implementation of the plan, and resiliency of the community.

  1. Create a Well-Informed Emergency Plan

ReadyRating features a template generator that utilizes the company’s assessment information to create an Emergency Action Plan (EAP), specific to the company. The plans are OSHA-compliant, which is a primary concern for businesses required to meet OSHA regulations.

  1. Leverage Expert Resources

The final component of the plan is to encourage businesses to utilize Red Cross resources such as emergency preparedness guides, checklists, and other tools. For example, the resource center on the Red Cross website include disaster drill forms, emergency contact card templates, and a step-by-step guide for organizing a blood drive. I told you these people know what they are doing! The resources, including videos and guides, are designed to be actionable – offering clear advice to companies that want to strengthen their disaster planning.

Remember that safety is a daily priority, so be sure to think about disaster planning 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, Disaster Preparedness, FEMA, Floods, High-Rise Buildings

Flooding: Tips for Rising Above it all

Our guest blogger, Angela Burrell, Public Relations Manager for our corporate company, Universal Services of America
Our guest blogger, Angela Burrell

Thanks to our guest blogger, Angela Burrell, Public Relations Manager at our corporate company, Universal Services of America. As a show of appreciation for her help, I have refrained from adding my usual “firedogisms” to this post. 

Being prepared for any type of man-made or natural disaster is the focus all month long during September. The first week of National Preparedness Month is devoted to flood awareness. Please review the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Ready.gov tips to help  make sure you know how to prepare for a flood.

Fotolia_76091392_XS (1)Flood Risks

Flooding can occur in any region or any season. It may be in the form of a few inches of water or enough to cover a house. For example:

  • Coastal areas are at greater risk during hurricane season (June to November).
  • The Midwest is most at risk in the springtime and during heavy summer rains.
  • Low-lying areas near a body of water or downstream from a levee are also at-risk areas.

Types of Flooding

  • Slow onset occurs due to prolonged rain over several days, whereby flood waters receded slowly.
  • Rapid onset happens when heavy rainfall occurs within hours or days.
  • Flash floods, caused by rapid onset rainfall, occur with little or no warning. They can also be caused by breaks in levees, dams, ice jams or water systems.
  • Storm surges happen when strong winds from a tropic cyclone or hurricane push seawater up onto land and, in some cases, causing storm-tide surges of up to 35 feet high.

National Weather Service Alert Systems

  • Flood Watch advises area flooding is possible. Be prepared to evacuate or move to higher ground on short notice.
  • Flood Warning indicates flooding is occurring or will occur soon. Follow any evacuation advisements.
  • Flash Flood Watch denotes threats of flash flooding in a region, or near a coast or river. You may be advised to evacuate or move to higher ground on short notice.
  • Flash Flood Watch Warning signals a flash flood is in progress or may soon occur in a region, or near a coast or river. You will be advised to immediately seek higher ground.

Fotolia_46876308_XSHow to Prepare

  • Visit FloodSmart.gov to learn how to determine your flood risk:
  • Know your evacuation routes. Plan ahead by selecting methods and routes to evacuate, whom you will notify of your status and where you will stay.
  • Reduce your risk of damage to structures by elevating critical utilities, including electrical panels, switches, appliances and waterproofing basements.
  • Keep emergency kits and supplies on hand and business continuity plans in place.
  • Install battery-operated generators as backup in case of power outages.
  • Hold a tabletop exercise. See a guide in FEMA’s Prepare Your Organization for a Flood Playbook.

Protect your business

  • To prevent structural damage, ensure your building’s drains are free of any debris; you may consider calling a roofing contractor to ensure your roof is water-tight.
  • Ask your engineering, janitorial and security teams to walk through your building frequently to identify any water intrusions.
  • Always protect your data with backup files, and make plans for alternate communication in the event of a power outage.
  • In the event of rain, consider placing heavy mats in all major paths of travel.
  • Review your insurance coverage ahead of time to make sure you will be covered in the event of weather-related damage.
  • Establish a procedure to communicate warnings and other information to employees and tenants during an emergency.
  • Read the RJWestmore Case Study: Hurricane Sandy for examples of how one commercial property management team dealt with severe flooding caused by the 2012 natural disaster.

When driving in the rain

  • Allow for more travel time and drive at a slower pace than normal, as heavy rains, mixed with the buildup of oil and grease on our roads, could lead to extremely slick driving conditions.
  • Brake earlier and with less force, and do not use cruise control.
  • Stay toward the middle of the road and never attempt to cross running water.
  • After crossing a puddle, tap your brakes lightly to knock off some of the water from your rotors.
  • Keep your headlights on, defog your windows and watch out for pedestrians.
  • If you start to hydroplane, slowly release the gas pedal until the car regains traction—never brake suddenly or jerk the wheel.
  • If you can’t see the road or car in front of you, pull over immediately and wait until visibility is good.

If a flash flood occurs

  • Never drive through a flooded area, even if it appears shallow enough to cross. Just six inches of moving water can knock a person off his feet, and a foot of water can sweep a vehicle off the road.
  • If your vehicle stalls, leave it and seek higher ground to avoid being swept away.
  • Keep away from storm drains, streams or ditches, and beware of swift-moving water.
  • Do not go near downed power lines or electrical wires, and report any you see to the authorities.
  • If caught outdoors, be aware of quick wind shifts and drops in temperature, and never try to outrun a flood—move to higher ground immediately.

If you are trapped

  • Call 911 for help. Give your location and detailsand wait for help.
  • Get to the highest level of a building. However, avoid attics, and particularly basements and lower floors. Only retreat to the roof as a last resort.
  • Stay in the vehicle if it is trapped in rapidly moving water.
  • Turn your vehicle around, if you can do so safely, if floodwater is blocking a roadway.
  • Seek refuge on the vehicle’s roof, if you are trapped and water is rising inside.
  • Move to higher ground, climbing as high as possible on a sturdy object, if necessary.

Another failsafe of being prepared is to stay informed by monitoring your local weather reports via news media. Consider signing up for community weather alerts via text or email. Coordinate with your security and emergency preparedness teams and heed any evacuation orders from local authorities.

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 CERT, Disaster Preparedness, FEMA

Have you considered taking CERT Training?

CERT 6Following major disasters, it is entirely possible that first responders, who are first on scene to provide fire and medical services, will not be able to immediately meet the demand for services. Factors contributing to a potential backup of emergency workers and the public’s inability to successfully reach 911 could include: the number of victims, communication failures, and road blockages. A reason dogs might not be able to reach 911 operators is because we don’t have opposable thumbs. For all these reasons, it is likely that in virtually any major emergency, people will need to rely on each other to meet immediate life-saving and life-sustaining needs.

In emergencies of all kinds, family members, friends, fellow employees, neighbors, and tenants spontaneously help each other. Dogs are also quite eager to be of assistance, whether or not we’ve been formally trained. Thankfully, history has shown that people and pets usually rise to the occasion when major disasters strike. Such was the case recently, in the Mexico City earthquake, where untrained volunteers heroically stepped up to save 800 people. As the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) notes, unfortunately, 100 of those people lost their lives in so doing. The good news is that many accidental deaths and injuries are preventable, through proper emergency training.

Cert 4For the above reasons, in 1985, the L.A. County City Fire Department developed and implemented a formal program for emergency citizen training they called the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). I guess this is different than the breath mint with a similar name…Certs? The Whittier Narrows earthquake in 1987 underscored the area-wide potential for a major disaster in California. It further confirmed the need to train civilians to meet immediate emergency-associated needs.certs-spearmints

Later adopted by public agencies across the country, CERT training benefit those citizens who take it, as it prepares them to respond to and cope with the aftermath of disasters. Since 1993, CERT training has been made available nationally by FEMA, and is now offered in communities in 28 states and Puerto Rico. Many communities tap graduates of the program to form teams of individuals who can be recruited and further trained as volunteer auxiliary responders. I love being part of a team…especially one that’s designed to help save lives!

CERT members receive 17 ½ hours (one day a week for seven weeks) of initial training. The seven-week course is followed by full-day biannual refresher drills, and an opportunity to assist the LAFD at local incidents. In Los Angeles, CERT is provided free of charge to anyone 18 or over. Sounds like a great deal!

CERT Training is divided into the following seven sessions:

  • Session 1: Disaster Preparedness
  • Session 2: Disaster Fire Suppression
  • Session 3: Disaster Medical Operations Part 1
  • Session 4: Disaster Medical Operations Part 2
  • Session 5: Light Search & Rescue Operations
  • Session 6: Disaster Psychology and Team Organization
  • Session 7: Course Review and Disaster Simulation

Cert 2After completing the program, CERT graduates will be able to safely:

  • Search for and rescue victims.
  • Provide basic medical aid, by treating the three main threats to life: opening airways, controlling bleeding, and treating for shock.
  • Manage utilities and put out small fires.
  • Organize themselves and spontaneous volunteers to be effective.
  • Collect disaster intelligence to support first responder efforts.
  • Assist professional responders with prioritization and allocation of resources following a disaster.
  • Find lots of bacon. Okay—I’ll admit they don’t train for this in a CERT program. But I suggest they start offering it as part of the curriculum.

To find a team and/or begin CERT training in your area:

  1. Complete a CERT program, take advantage of an interactive web-based class or search the FEMA website by zip code for classes taught on location.
  2. Complete a CERT Train-the-Trainer (TTT) course conducted by a State Training Office for Emergency Management or the Emergency Management Institute, in order to learn the training techniques used by the LAFD.
  3. Identify the program goals that CERT would meet and the resources necessary to conduct the program in your area.
  4. Seek approval from appointed and elected officials to use CERT as a means to prepare citizens to care for themselves during a disaster, when services may not be adequate.
  5. Identify and recruit potential participants. Naturals for CERT are community groups, business and industry workers and local government workers.
  6. Train CERT instructors.
  7. Conduct CERT sessions.
  8. Conduct refresher training and exercises with CERTs.

In recognition for training completion, CERT members should receive ID cards, vests and helmets. Graduates should also regularly practice their skills. To this end, trainers should offer periodic refresher sessions to reinforce basic training. CERT teams can also sponsor events such as drills, picnics, neighborhood clean-ups, and disaster education fairs.

We hope that this blog post will help you take steps to prepare yourself for potential disasters, and that you might consider starting or joining a CERT in your area. To find a team or pursue CERT training, enter your zip code in the Citizen Corps section of the FEMA website. Another convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for emergencies 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 RJWestmore.com to read about the many ways proper planning can make a difference in numerous aspects of your professional and personal life.