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

Workplace Safety in High Rises 

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


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

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

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


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

The Yellow HelmetTo prevent high-rise fires:

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


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

Workplace Safety Best Practices:

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

Remember that safety is an ever-present priority, at home and at work. So be sure to think about disaster planning all of the time–not just during September. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about our system, or to subscribe, click here.

Posted in BE SAFE, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Fires, High-Rise Buildings

Happy National Fire Prevention Month

Fire Prevention 2014 firedogThe National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) announced that the week of October 5-11, 2014 is Fire Prevention Week. The theme of the week-long fire prevention campaign, which is the 90th annual event of its kind, is “Working Smoke Alarms Save Lives: Test Yours Every Month!” I love National Fire Prevention week because I have devoted my life to fire safety and prevention.

“Smoke alarms can help make the difference between life and death in a fire, but they need to be working,” said Lorraine Carli, NFPA’s vice president of Outreach and Advocacy. “This year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign reinforces the importance of testing smoke alarms each month, and works to ensure that people have the needed protection in the event of a home fire.”

Educating people about smoke alarm devices is important, since nearly two-thirds of home fire deaths reportedly result from fires in homes without operational smoke alarms. My doghouse is only 5 ft x 5 ft and my wife and son and I have two alarms…just to #BeSafe.

“The common presence of smoke alarms in the home tends to create a false sense of security,” said Carli. “Simply having smoke alarms isn’t enough. They need to be tested and maintained properly.”

Here are ways that smoke alarms figured in United States’ fires between 2007 and 2011, which is the most recent national smoke alarm study:

  • Smoke alarms sounded in half of the home fires reported to U.S. fire departments.
  • Three of every five home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.
  • No smoke alarms were present in more than one-third (37%) of the home fire deaths.
  • If you don’t have a working smoke alarm, you won’t be alerted if a fire starts in your home.

Fire Prevention firedog 2In addition to monthly testing, smoke alarms should be installed and maintained according to the following 10 steps:

  1. Install smoke alarms inside and outside each bedroom and sleeping area. Install alarms on every level of the home.
  2. Install alarms in the basement.
  3. If you own a large home, you may need to install extra smoke alarms.
  4. If possible, use interconnected smoke alarms. When one smoke alarm sounds, they all sound.
  5. Test smoke alarms at least once a month. Press the test button to be sure the alarm is working. And if it isn’t working, replace the batteries or the entire unit.
  6. Be aware that there are two kinds of alarms – ionization smoke alarms are quicker to warn about flaming fires, and photoelectric alarms are quicker to warn about smoldering fires. If possible, use both types of alarms in the home.
  7. A smoke alarm should be on the ceiling or high on a wall.
  8. Keep smoke alarms away from the kitchen to reduce false alarms. They should be at least 10 feet (3 meters) from the stove.
  9. People who are hard-of-hearing or deaf can use special alarms. These alarms feature strobe lights and bed shakers.
  10. Replace all smoke alarms when they are 10 years old.

fire prevention 2014 calendar corpThe NFPA website has a wealth of additional smoke alarm information and resources for parents and teachers, and for fire departments working to implement the campaign in their communities. In addition, the NFPA  Sparky the Fire Dog® website ( features award-winning apps and games for kids that reinforce the campaign’s fire safety messages. What’s more, the NFPA and its 2014 FPW partners are working together to promote the importance of monthly testing and related smoke alarm education. For more information about Fire Prevention Week and upcoming events, visit

For relevant fire prevention information relative to high rise buildings and facilities’ management, check out our recent fire prevention blog posts. We hope you will observe National Fire Prevention Week, and take steps to make sure you and your tenants or building occupants are #FireSafe. The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a convenient and affordable solution to helping improve and save lives. Visit our website for ways proper planning can make a difference in numerous aspects of your professional and personal life.

Posted in Disaster Preparedness, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Fires, Uncategorized

Be Wildfire Safe this Summer

Insurance designThe National Weather Service issues Red Flag Warnings & Fire Weather Watches to alert fire departments of the onset, or possible onset, of critical weather and dry conditions that could lead to rapid or dramatic increases in wildfire activity. According to news reports, this season promises to be one of the worst potential wild fire seasons of record. And even though we all know that weather forecasters aren’t exactly 100% accurate, it is true that the combination of dry weather and high winds lead to increased danger.

Here are 11 facts about wildfires:

  1. The number one cause of wildfires in the U.S. is mankind. Man-made combustions from arson, human carelessness, or lack of fire safety cause wildfire disasters every year. I take pride in the fact that canines aren’t even mentioned in this statistic. We hardly ever start fires.
  2. More than 80 percent of all wildfires are started by humans. See-more proof that dogs aren’t pyromaniacs.
  3. Wildfires (AKA forest or peat fires) are uncontrolled fires which often occur in wild, unpopulated areas. However, they can occur anywhere-destroying homes, other buildings, agriculture, humans, and animals in their path.
  4. Firefighters refer to wildfires as surface fires, dependent crown fires, running crown fires, spot fires, and ground fires. Firefighters refer to wildfires as surface fires, dependent crown fires, “running crown fires,” spot fires, and ground fires. A ‘running crown fire’ is a forest fire that advances with great speed jumping from crown to crown ahead of the ground fire. Whatever they are called-all of us hate fires and work hard to prevent them.
  5. “Running crown fires” are a firefighter’s worst nightmare because they burn extremely hot, travel rapidly, and can change direction quickly.
  6. The most dangerous aspect of “running crown fires” are the convection currents which produce massive fire storms and tornadoes. These subsequent storms can send embers well ahead of the main fire front, causing spot fires that in turn can start new fires in other directions.
  7. Weather conditions can directly contribute to the occurrence of wildfires through lightning strikes or indirectly by an extended dry spell or drought.
  8. Wildfires can be started by an accumulation of dead matter (leaves, twigs, and trees) that can create enough heat in some instances to spontaneously combust and ignite the surrounding area.
  9. Lightning strikes the earth over 100,000 times a day. Ten to 20 percent of these lightning strikes can cause fire.
  10. An average of 1.2 million acres of U.S. woodland burn every year.
  11. A large wildfire-or conflagration-is capable of modifying the local weather conditions (AKA producing its own weather). That is pretty spooky. Huh?

Firedog 7-10-14A Red Flag Warning is issued for weather events which may result in extreme fire behavior that will occur within 24 hours. A Fire Weather Watch is issued when weather conditions could exist in the next 12-72 hours. A Red Flag Warning is the highest alert. During these times extreme caution is urged by all residents, because a simple spark can cause a major wildfire. And a tiny cat can cause a huge mess. Just sayin’. A Fire Weather Watch is one level below a warning, but fire danger is still high.

The type of weather patterns that can cause a watch or warning include low relative humidity, strong winds, dry fuels, the possibility of dry lightning strikes, or any combination of the above. During heightened fire danger, additional firefighters are generally added to active duty, more engines are on standby and more equipment is at the ready 24 hours a day, to be able to respond to new fires. It is important that everyone takes steps to prevent wildfires. One less spark could mean one less wildfire.

Here are tips for preventing wildfires:

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


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

How to Prepare For and React During an Apt Fire

??????????????????????????????Investigators are trying to determine the cause of a fire that broke out early Monday morning, May 19, at a Memphis-area apartment complex. A woman was reportedly inside the unit where the fire originated. She was treated on the scene for minor smoke inhalation. Smoke inhalation is gross. That’s why I can’t understand how anyone can smoke. Fortunately, most of the damage from this fire was contained to the one where it began — although other units sustained associated water and smoke damage. Would your tenants know how to respond if a similar incident occurred in your high-rise building?

When fires break out in high-rise structures, the potential for loss of high if occupants are untrained and proper fire life safety systems are not utilized. The reasons for this are many, including the fact that fires can burn for extended periods of time before occupants even become aware of the burn. I guess I should be glad my doghouse is relatively small. Smoke and deadly gases from the fire are just as deadly as the fire and are major cause of injury and death during a fire situation. What’s more, the sheer size of tall structures increases the amount of time it takes for firefighters to reach flames.

According to the US Fire Administration (USFA), it is not uncommon for 15 minutes to elapse from the start of a fire to the time when first responders reach the blaze. And a lot of damage can be done in a quarter of an hour. Just look at what cats do when their step out. So the best way to manage high-rise fires is to provide training so occupants will immediately know what to do when they hear an alarm, smell smoke or discover a fire.

Did you know that federal, state, and local laws require annual training for every commercial building occupant? That’s a good thing. Unfortunately, despite this fact, studies show that less than 20% of occupants have ever trained or know what to do in an emergency. That’s a bad thing! That means 80% of your occupants are at risk and could represent a liability to both themselves and you.

We believe that every occupant should have the ability to be trained anytime, at their convenience, as often as they want to learn. We also believe that most dogs can be trained, too. Our mission is to create a safer, more informed occupant who understands their responsibilities and may be capable of helping others.

The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services helps commercial, residential, educational, institutional, government, retail and industrial buildings with compliance to fire life safety codes. Our interactive, building-specific e-learning training system motivates and rewards building occupants instantly! It’s a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your facility. Choosing our service cuts property management training related workloads by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! Most importantly, IT SAVES LIVES! And that’s always a good thing.

Our fully-integrated system helps building owners and property managers:

  • Manage one site or an entire portfolio
  • All users are in the same system
  • Train occupants, floor wardens & fire safety directors
  • Keep track of user training and testing
  • Monitor building specific Emergency Responder information

Our Fully Automated System provides automatic:

  • Certificates to each user (instantly via email)
  • Annual reminders to each user (per training module)
  • Employee compliance reports to each tenant – quarterly
  • Notifications to local fire departments
  • Creation of real time Special Assistance and Floor Warden lists
  • Notification of updates to Special Assistance list
  • Regular updates to Floor Warden & Fire Safety Director lists
  • Updates and maintenance notifications

Distinct levels of user access:

  • Property Manager: Full rights and access to one or multiple properties. Receive automatic updates & reminders.
  • Fire Department: Online access to confidential FD documents, reports and training records. Automatic emails.
  • Fire Safety Director: Access to Fire Dept. documents & invites and tracks Floor Wardens.
  • Floor Warden: Tracks occupant training per floor
  • Tenant Manager: Add/update/delete/track employees — all reports
  • Occupant/Employee: View training/tests view & print documents. Add & remove themselves from the individuals who need assistance list.
  • Each level is secure and you can update the contents any time.
  • Each user level has its own Resources section.

Property owners/managers and their tenant employers should make sure they train their tenants to calmly and quickly respond to emergency situations including high-rise fires. Here are a few simple fire safety steps you can take to prevent the loss of life and property in high rise fires.

Before the Emergency:

  • Don’t lock fire exits or doorways, halls or stairways. Fire doors provide a way out during the fire and slow the spread of fire and smoke. So never prop stairway or other fire doors open.  If your property has locking stairwell egress doors for security reasons, make sure they all automatically unlock upon alarm.
  • Familiarize yourself with your building’s evacuation plan. And know your primary and secondary escape routes. Make sure everyone knows what to do if the fire alarm sounds and where their interior and exterior safe refuge areas are located.
  • Plan and execute frequent drills so escape plans become second nature. You can use your RJWestmore Online Training System to conduct tabletop drills and virtual evacuation route walks using the “Map View” button on your homepage.
  • If you’re in a position of leadership, lead by example. Participate in all drills, set training deadlines that include recognition for compliance. Make participation and creating a safety conscious environment part of your everyday life.
  • Learn to immediately recognize the sound of your building’s fire alarm and post emergency numbers near telephones.

During the Emergency:

  • Remain calm.
  • Don’t assume someone else has called the fire department. It is better to over-report than run the risk of failing to contact emergency personnel. After all, early notification is critical.
  • Before you try to leave the office or living space, feel the door/door knob with the back of your hand.  If the door/door knob feels warm to the touch, do not attempt to open it. Move to the safest secondary escape route and evacuate.
  • If the doorknob is too hot to handle, stay where you are and wait for rescue.
  • Stuff cracks around the door with towels, rags, bedding or tape and cover vents to keep smoke out.
  • If you have access to a telephone, call the fire department to explain exactly where you are located. Do this even if you can see can see emergency personnel outside at the scene.
  • Wait at a window and signal for help by waving something bright or with a flashlight, etc.  Anything to attract attention.
  • As a last life safety resort, if possible in your building, open the window, but do not break it, you may need to close the window if smoke rushes in.
  • Once you are sure that emergency responders are aware of your location and need to be rescued, be patient.

If the door/door knob DOES NOT feel warm, carefully open it.

  • If you do attempt to open the door, brace your body against the door while staying low to the floor and slowly open it just a crack. This is the best method for detecting the presence of smoke or fire.
  • If no smoke appears in hallway or stairwells, follow your building’s evacuation plan and move to your safest predetermined alternate escape route.
  • If the building’s fire alarm is not sounding, pull the nearest one while safely and calmly exiting your floor.
  • If you encounter smoke or flames anywhere as you exit the building, stay low to avoid hot smoke and gasses.  If you cannot evacuate, move as far from the fire as possible (closing as many doors as possible between you and fire) and shelter in place.  Stuff the cracks around doorways and vents to block out smoke.  Call 911 and building management/security to let them know your exact location.  If you are near a window DO NOT BREAK THE WINDOW. Wave something to attract attention. Breaking a window as a last resort may draw the smoke and fire closer to you. I guess I should be glad our doghouse doesn’t have any windows.

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

Posted in Disaster Preparedness, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Fires

So what’s up with these Red Flag Warnings?

Red Flag Warning CorpMy grandfather used to say he once saw wind so strong that it threw a chicken into a Coke bottle. Sounds to me like that type of weather would call for a Red Flag Warning. Due to a dreadful combination of dry conditions and crazy wind right now, several areas across the country are under a Red Flag Warning, which is also known as a Fire Weather Warning.

A forecast alert issued by the United States National Weather Service, a Red Flag Warning is meant to inform firefighting and land management agencies that conditions are ideal for wild land fire ignition and rapid propagation. After drought conditions, particularly when humidity is low, and especially when high or erratic winds are a factor (with or without lightning), the warning helps firefighting and emergency management professionals prepare for potential weather-related flare ups. To the public, a Red Flag Warning means that there is a higher than normal probability of fire-related danger. And whenever fire danger is high, you should take precautions!

sparkyA Red Flag Warning is the highest alert level. During these times, extreme caution is urged because a simple spark can cause a major wildfire. That’s the reason my good friend Sparky, from the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), warns folks about the dangers of windy weather. One level below a warning, a Fire Weather Watch means the danger of fire remains high but is not as severe as a Red Flag Warning. During heightened fire danger, firefighting agencies typically beef up staff and make sure equipment is ready to go 24 hours a day. One of the areas currently under warning is San Bernardino County, California, where a structure fire erupted behind a radiator shop this weekend in Fontana.

“A lot of these fires, whether it’s this refuse fire or vegetation or structure fire, will grow exponentially with the wind and the speed of the wind—so the more man power, the more people on duty, the better, and the more equipment that can converge on the actual incident, the better,” said San Bernardino Fire Department Captain Shawn Millerick.

These weather patterns lead to a watch or warning:

  • Low relative humidity
  • Strong winds
  • Dry fuels
  • The possibility of dry lightning strikes
  • Any combination of the above

Since a single spark can ignite and level an entire forest, do your part to prevent wildfires by following these tips for prevention:

1. Equipment Use Safety

  • Don’t mow or trim dry grass on Red Flag Warning days. Instead, mow before 10 a.m. when it is not hot and windy. Or you could landscape with dirt. I love playing in it!
  • Never use lawn mowers in dry vegetation.
  • If you are in a wild land area, make sure you have a spark arrester, which is required for portable gasoline powered equipment.

2. Campfire Safety

  • Before starting a campfire, obtain a campfire permit.
  • Never leave a fire unattended.
  • Carefully extinguish the fire when you are finished. Douse with plenty of water and stir to make sure everything is cold to the touch. Dunk charcoal in water until it is cold. Do not throw live charcoal on the ground.
  • Better yet—eat your food raw. (Works for me!)

3. Outside

  • Keep 100 feet of defensible space around structures.
  • Clear dead weeds and vegetation.
  • Remove leaves and needles from gutters.
  • Trim branches 6 feet from the ground.
  • If you are allowed to burn grass clippings, etc., in your area, all burn barrels must be covered with a weighted metal cover, with holes no larger than 3/4 of an inch.

4. Vehicles

  • Never pull over in dry grass.
  • Make sure trailer chains don’t drag on the ground.
  • Properly maintain your vehicle.
  • Monitor tire pressure to avoid driving on wheel rims, which can ignite.
  • Don’t let brake pads wear too thin.
  • Never throw cigarettes or matches out of a moving vehicle. In fact, we’ve written several posts about how wise it is to quit smoking. So reference those if you are on the fence about lighting up in the car.

5. Other

  • Properly extinguish cigarette butts.
  • Don’t make the mistake of burning landscape debris like leaves or branches on No Burn Days, when it is windy, or if it is prohibited in your area.
  • Target shoot only in approved areas, use lead ammunition only, and never shoot at metal targets.
  • To prevent arson, report suspicious activities to authorities.

Subscribers to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services have access to lots of fire prevention information. What’s more, several of the training modules cover fire safety. 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 costs by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES.

Posted in Disaster Preparedness, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Fires, Health & Welfare

This Holiday Season; Prevent Tree and Candle Fires

card with Christmas treeOver the weekend, an Oklahoma family suffered a house fire which originated in their living room and was reportedly caused by a live Christmas tree. Thankfully, no one was hurt and the bulk of the damage was caused by smoke. However, not everyone is so lucky. The NFPA reports that, across the country, fire departments respond to an average of 230 home fires which start with Christmas trees.

Over the past several weeks, we’ve blogged about a myriad of holiday safety issues. This week, we would like to turn our attention to two of the most flammable holiday decorations—Christmas trees and candles. This post makes me glad I don’t have room for either in my doghouse.

NFPA Facts about Home Holiday Fires

  • Christmas trees account for hundreds of fires annually.
  • One of every three home Christmas tree fires is caused by electrical problems.
  • Although Christmas tree fires are not common, when they do occur, they are likely to be serious.
  • On average, one of every 40 reported home structure Christmas tree fires results in a death compared to an average of one death per 142 total reported home structure fires.
  • A heat source too close to the tree causes roughly one in every six of Christmas tree fires. Don’t set up a space heater near your tree!
  • Typically, shorts in electrical lights or open flames from candles, lighters or matches start tree fires. That’s why I would never decorate our doghouse the way Snoopy did on “Merry Christmas Charlie Brown.”
  • Well-watered trees are not a problem. A dry and neglected tree can be.

Tree Fire Safety

  • Purchase only fresh trees. If needles are brittle or shed easily, choose a different tree. (Maybe it’s me; but live trees seem to be more decorative than brown, dead ones.)
  • When setting up the tree at home, place it at least three feet away from any heat source.
  • Steer clear of the fireplace, radiators, heating vents and lighting. These can dry out a tree and increase flammability.
  • Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times. If you have a dog, this might be a difficult task to stay on top of. Nothing like cold, fresh tree water.
  • Don’t leave the tree up for an extended period. Fire safety professionals recommend you do not leave it up for longer than two weeks.
  • When you dismantle the tree, discard it immediately. Do not leave it in a garage, on a porch or at the side of the house. A dried-out tree is highly flammable and can cause major damage even when it is just sitting outside, not to mention it’s an eyesore. Check with your local community for a recycling program.

 Candle Fire Safety

  • Candles cause home fires — and home fire deaths.
  • A candle is an open flame, which means that it can easily ignite anything that can burn.
  • More than half (56%) of home candle fires occur when something that can catch fire is too close to the candle. So don’t put hay near the Menorah.
  • December is the peak time of year for home candle fires. In December, 11% of home candle fires began with decorations compared to 4% the rest of the year.
  • Extinguish candles when you leave the room or go to bed. If you aren’t there to enjoy them, what’s the point anyway?
  • Avoid the use of candles in the bedroom and other areas where people may fall asleep.
  • Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn.
  • Think about using flameless candles in your home.
  • If you decide to burn candles, make sure that you:
  •  Use candle holders that are sturdy, and won’t tip over easily.
  • Put candle holders on a sturdy, uncluttered surface.
  • Light candles carefully.
  • Keep hair, fur and any loose clothing away from the flame.
  • Don’t burn a candle all the way down — put it out before it gets too close to the holder or container.\Don’t use a candle if oxygen is used in the home.
  • Have flashlights and battery-powered lighting ready to use during a power outage.

Religious Candle Safety

  • Whether you are using one candle, or more than one on a candelabra, kinara, or menorah, make sure you take a few moments to learn about using candles safely.
  • Candles should be placed in a sturdy candle holder.
  • Handheld candles should never be passed from one person to another.
  • When lighting candles at a candle lighting service, have the person with the unlit candle dip their candle into the flame of the lit candle.
  • Lit candles should not be placed in windows where a blind or curtain could catch fire.
  • Candles placed on, or near tables, altars, or shrines, must be watched by an adult.
  • If a candle must burn continuously, be sure it is enclosed in a glass container and placed in a sink, on a metal tray, or in a deep basin filled with water.

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

Posted in BE SAFE, Disaster Preparedness, Fire Safety, Fires, Safety at Home

Halloween Safety Tips

halloween character using helmetEach year, on October 31, millions of American children will dress up in costumes and go door-to-door begging for candy. Admittedly a rather strange tradition on close examination, Trick-or-Treating is a cultural celebration which can be fun but can also pose risks. I think we should start a new tradition…door-to-door bacon-begging. This year, practice these safety tips so you and your family will enjoy a happy and safe Halloween:

Costume Precautions

  • If you buy your costume, ask an adult to check to see if it has a label that says “Flame Resistant.” Flame Resistant means that your costume will be hard to catch on fire and if it does, the fire will go out fast.
  • If you make your costume, try not to make one that is big and baggy so that the material doesn’t touch candles or other flames.
  • Plan costumes that are bright and reflective. Make sure that shoes fit well and that costumes are short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement or contact with flame.
  • Consider adding reflective tape or striping to costumes and trick-or-treat bags for greater visibility.
  • Because masks can limit or block eyesight, consider non-toxic makeup and decorative hats as safer alternatives. Hats should fit properly to prevent them from sliding over eyes.
  • When shopping for costumes, wigs and accessories look for and purchase those with a label clearly indicating they are flame resistant.
  • If a sword, cane, or stick is a part of your child’s costume, make sure it is blunt, short and flexible.
  • Only use decorative contact lenses after an eye examination and prescription from an eye care professional. Decorative contact lenses are dangerous and illegal. Poor quality lenses can cause pain, inflammation and serious eye disorders or infections, which could cause permanent vision loss.
  • Test makeup in a small area before applying en masse. Also, remove it before bedtime to prevent possible skin and eye irritation.
  • Choose masks, costumes and shoes fit well.
  • I recommend Dalmatian costumes. They make everyone look great!

Fire Safety

  • Avoid candles and Jack-o’-lanterns on steps or porches. Many costumes are highly flammable.
  • Don’t allow children to carry candles while trick-or-treating. (Use a flashlight or glow stick instead.)
  • Remind family members to keep a safe distance between candles and Jack-o’-lanterns and curtains.
  • If your kids see anyone playing with matches or lighters, make sure they know they should tell an adult right away!
  • Make sure fabrics for costumes and decorative materials are flame-resistant.
  • Tell children to stay away from open flames. Be sure they know how to stop, drop and roll if their clothing catches fire. (Have them practice stopping immediately, dropping to the ground, covering their face with hands, and rolling over and over to put the flames out.)
  • Keep your pets far away from open flames. Our tails can get swat at candles and cause a fire hazard.

Safety on the Trick-or-Treat Trail

  • Provide kids and escorts with flashlights and fresh batteries.
  • Teach children how to call 9-1-1 (or their local emergency number) if they have an emergency or become lost.
  • If your older children are going alone, plan and review the route that is acceptable to you. Agree on a specific time when they should return home.
  • Allow kids to go to only approach homes that have a lit porch light
  • Make sure your trick-or-treaters know they should never enter a home or car for a treat…even if it’s a pork chop!
  • Make sure kids only eat factory-wrapped treats. Avoid homemade treats if they have been made by strangers.
  • Use reflective tape for costumes and candy bags.
  • Make sure someone in each group has access to a cellphone for quick communication.
  • Tell kids not to eat treats until they have been checked by an adult for potential choking hazards or tampering. (And while we’re on the topic of candy…tell kids not to feed it to the family dog.)
  • Tell kids to remain on well-lit streets to stay on the sidewalk.
  • If sidewalks are unavailable, tell kids to walk at the far edge of the roadway facing traffic and never to cut across yards or use alleys.
  • Make sure children know they shouldn’t cross between parked cars or out driveways.
  • Since motorists may have trouble seeing Trick-or-Treaters, yield to oncoming traffic.
  • Notify law enforcement authorities immediately if you notice anything suspicious.

Safe Home Décor

  • Don’t let small children carve pumpkins. Instead, let them draw faces with markers. Leave carving to the adults.
  • Consider using a flashlight or glow stick instead of a candle to light your pumpkin. If you must use a candle, choose a votive, which is the safest option.
  • Candlelit pumpkins should be placed on a sturdy table, away from curtains and other flammable objects.
  • To keep homes safe for visiting trick-or-treaters, remove everything from the porch and front yard that could trip up a child. Consider items such as hoses, toys, bikes and lawn decor.
  • Check outdoor lights and replace burned-out bulbs.
  • If your yard contains wet leaves or snow, sweep or shovel sidewalks and steps.
  • Restrain pets so they won’t inadvertently jump on or bite trick-or-treaters. Some of us won’t make that kind of a mistake. But not everyone is as well behaved as me and my family.

For More Tips about Halloween Safety

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 Burns, Disaster Preparedness, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Fires, Workplace Safety

Part 2 of Summer Safety & Fire Prevention Tips

It's BBQ Grilling Time!As we head into the heavy summer fire-season, we agree with FEMA’s assertion that the best fire prevention is fire education. To that end, this blog post is the second in a two-part series that focuses on summer safety tips. Last week, we covered fire safety before, during and after the 4th of July. This week, we will cover additional fire safety tips.

Barbeque Safety

  • Before using a grill, check the connection between the propane tank and the fuel line. Make sure the tubes where the air and gas mix are not blocked.
  • Also, before using a grill, make sure you have plenty of steak to cook. (My personal favorite.)
  • Do not overfill the propane tank.
  • Do not wear loose clothing while cooking at a barbecue.
  • Be careful when using lighter fluid. Do not add fluid to an already lit fire because the flame could flashback up into the container and explode.
  • Keep all matches and lighters away from children. Teach your children to report any loose matches or lighters to an adult immediately. Supervise children around outdoor grills.
  • Dispose of hot coals properly – douse them with plenty of water, and stir them to ensure that the fire is out. Never place them in plastic, paper or wooden containers.
  • Never grill/barbecue in enclosed areas – carbon monoxide could be produced.
  • Make sure everyone knows to Stop, Drop and Roll in case a piece of clothing does catch fire. Call 911 or your local emergency number if a burn warrants serious medical attention.

Campfire Safety

  • Build campfires where they will not spread, away from dry grass and leaves.
  • Keep campfires small, and don’t let them get out of hand.
  • Keep plenty of water and a shovel around to douse the fire when you’re done. Stir it and douse it again with water.
  • Never leave campfires unattended.
  • Never leave steaks on the grill unattended unless you want them to disappear.

Home Smoking Fire Prevention

Of course, the surest way to avoid a cigarette, pipe or cigar-related fire is to stop smoking immediately and discourage smoking in your home or office. Personally, I’m glad I don’t have opposable thumbs, because I think smoking is an unsafe habit. However, if you have contact with folks who insist on smoking, encourage the following BE SAFE tips:

  • The safest place to smoke is outside. Encourage smokers to head outdoors before lighting up. But please point them away from the doghouse.
  • Use deep sturdy ashtrays to contain potentially dangerous ash.
  • Before disposing of cigarette butts and ashes, make sure they are completely cool. The best way to do this is to distinguish them in a pail of cool water.
  • Keep all smoking materials out of the reach of children and puppies.

For More Information

The USFA has created a comprehensive Smoking & Home Fires Campaign Toolkit that contains free, copyright-free materials that can be printed and distributed. The toolkit is a comprehensive resource that contains materials for fire service personnel and others to use within their community.

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 BE SAFE, Disaster Preparedness, Fire Safety, Fires

Loss of Life in Yarnell Wildfire Brings Fire Safety to Mind

no bomb

Out of respect for the families and friends of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, we are dispensing with my usual firedog-isms. Our hearts go out to all who were impacted by the wildfires.

Nineteen members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, based in Prescott, Ariz., were killed Sunday when a windblown wildfire overcame them north of Phoenix. It was the deadliest single day for U.S. firefighters since Sept. 11. Fourteen of the victims were in their 20s.

We at the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services join all Americans in sending our thoughts and prayers to the families of the brave firefighters whose lives have been lost or altered dramatically by these wildfires.

Prescott Fire Department spokesman Wade Ward said they have been getting a tremendous outpouring of help from other fire departments locally and nationally. Mayor Marlin Kuykendall said merchants from the community have been donating food and supplies to the families of the fallen firefighters. Also of note, on June 30, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) approved a Fire Management Assistance Grant, which makes FEMA funding available to reimburse 75 percent of the eligible firefighting costs under an approved grant for managing, mitigating and controlling the fire.

“I would like to express my deepest condolences to all the family, colleagues and friends of the professional Arizona firefighters who lost their lives to protect lives and property,” said Nancy Ward FEMA IX Regional Administrator. “It is a truly heartbreaking loss.”

At the time federal assistance was requested, the fire threatened 578 homes in and around the community of Yarnell, Peeple’s Valley, and Model Creek/Double A Bar Ranch with a combined population of over 1,220. The State of Arizona further reported that the fire at one point burned in excess of 800 and 1000 acres of state, and private land, and also threatened a rail line 3 miles west of the fire and State Highway 89.

While the cause of the blaze remains under investigation, the Yarnell Fire Department reports that the cause was “likely lightning.” In honor of the fallen firefighters, we would like to devote the next two weeks’ blog posts to summer safety, to encourage our subscribers and readers to BE FIRESAFE this holiday week as well as the rest of the summer. This week, we will focus on safety before, during and after the 4th of July. Next week, we will cover additional outdoor fire safety tips.

How to Prevent Outdoor Fires

4th of July

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports:

  • More fires are reported on the Fourth of July than on any other day.
  • Fireworks are the cause of half of those fires.
  • In 2011, fireworks caused an estimated 17,800 reported fires, including 1,200 structures, 400 vehicles, and 16,300 outside and other fires.
  • In total, these fires resulted in an estimated $32 million in direct property damage.
  • Each July 4th, thousands of people, most often kids & teens, are injured while using consumer fireworks.
  • On Independence Day in a typical year, far more U.S. fires are reported than on any other day, and fireworks account for two out of five of those fires, more than any other cause of fires.
  • The risk of fireworks injury was highest for children ages 5-19 and adults 25-44, with one-quarter (26 percent) of the victims of fireworks injuries in 2011 under age 15.
  • Despite the dangers of fireworks, few people understand the associated risks – devastating burns, other injuries, fires, and even death.
  • According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there are about 200 fireworks injuries a day during the month surrounding the Fourth of July holiday. More than half of these injuries were the result of unexpected ignition of the device or consumers not using fireworks as intended.

To BE SAFE on the 4th of July:

  1. Leave fireworks to the professionals! Do not use consumer fireworks! The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to attend a public display conducted by trained professionals.
  2. After a fireworks display, children should never pick up fireworks that may be left over, they may still be active.
  3. Don’t give sparklers to children. Sparklers burn at 1200 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to cause third-degree burns.
  4. If a public fireworks’ display is not available in your area, find other ways to safely celebrate Independence Day.
  5. If you insist on buying and lighting your own fireworks, the Consumer Product Safety Commission offers some extremely important tips. Please spend some time reviewing their fireworks’ safety suggestions.

Check back next week, when we will cover some additional summer safety and fire prevention tips. 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 Building Evacuation, Disaster Preparedness, Fire Safety, Fires

Cause of Death for 4 Brave Houston Firefighters Under Investigation

Photo from the NY Daily News

The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is thankful to count several buildings in the Houston area among our subscribers. Our hearts go out to the victims and families from the Houston Fire Department. Out of respect for all of the victims and their families & friends, we are foregoing my firedog-isms in this post.

On Tuesday, June 4, 2013, a horrific fire broke out at an inn and vegetarian restaurant in Houston, Texas, killing four firefighters and injuring 14 more, making it the single deadliest day in the history of the Houston Fire Department and the third largest in the nation. The incident is just one of several across the country which have recently claimed far too many human lives – from the Boston Marathon bombing to the fertilizer plant explosion in Central Texas to the devastating tornadoes in Oklahoma.

According to Houston authorities, only once before has the city lost multiple firefighters in a single day…in 1929 in a freak accident, when a fire engine was hit by a train, resulting in the death of three firefighters. This month’s fire is believed to have sparked at a restaurant adjacent to the Southwest Inn just after noon, eventually morphing into a monstrous inferno.

According to Houston Fire Chief Terry Garrison, first-responders arrived at the scene at 12:11 p.m. to rescue the 45 motel guests. “At some point during the blaze’s ferocious tear through the motel, one of the building’s structural components collapsed and the firefighters who were risking their lives to save our community became trapped beneath the wreckage.”

Although the cause of the lethal blaze has yet to be determined, authorities believe the cause of the death for the four late first-responders was structural collapse. According to a press release, the victims were Capt. EMT Matthew Renaud, 35, of Station 51; Engineer-Operator EMT Robert Bebee, 41, of Station 51; Firefighter EMT Robert Garner, 29, of Station 68; and Probationary Firefighter Anne Sullivan, 24, of Station 68, who graduated from the Houston Fire Department Academy in April, 2013.

The Bhojan Restaurant, an Indian café neighboring the motel, reportedly received numerous citations by city inspectors, over the years…most recently in March, for allegedly failing to clean grease traps on restaurant grounds. However, authorities have not determined if Friday’s deadly inferno was initially triggered by a grease fire. The HFD Arson Bureau, Houston police homicide division, Texas Rangers, the ATF and the state Fire Marshal’s Office are collaborating in the investigation.

“We had an early and quick catastrophic failure of the roof,” Chief Garrison said. “There’s no way that I would have anticipated that we would lose four firefighters. I want to tell the residents of Houston their firefighters acted absolutely courageously today, that there were probably a dozen acts of heroism on that scene.”

Garrison also said firefighters could not be as cautious (this time) as they can with some structure fires because of the fear that employees or hotel guests might have been trapped inside. During a press conference, he vowed that the lost firefighters’ deaths will not be in vain, “We will improve. We will get better. We will learn from this, and we will keep on keepin’ on.”

Richard Mann, executive assistant chief of emergency operations, said his fellow firefighters had been lost because they took an aggressive approach. “It’s what (firefighters) are trained to do when there is a possibility of people trapped inside a burning building. They were serving the citizens of Houston. They took a calculated risk to save lives. In the end, they lost theirs.”

Although the cause of the blaze remains under investigation, we wanted to devote some blog space to remind our readers about kitchen-fire safety. Authorities suspect the Houston fire originated in a kitchen…perhaps involving grease. To BE SAFE, remember these fire-safe tips:

According to FEMA, the majority of kitchen fires are caused by cooking, followed by other heat or flame and appliance fires. Factors most responsible for ignition include:

  • Unattended equipment, such as people leaving food in the oven or on the stove and forgetting about it.
  • Misuse of material or product
  • Additional factors leading to ignition included combustibles being too close to a heat source, discarded flammable materials, or appliances accidentally turned on or not turned off after use.

Be Prepared for a Kitchen Fire:

  • Fire Extinguisher: An ABC Dry Chemical fire extinguisher is the best option since it won’t accelerate grease fires. Read the instructions, and know how to operate it.
  • Type B Fire Extinguisher on hand, which is for use on fires involving flammable liquids such as grease, gasoline, oil and oil-based plants.
  • Type C Fire Extinguisher in your kitchen, which is suitable for use on fires involving appliances, tools, or other equipment that is electrically energized or plugged in.
  • Every commercial kitchen should include a Class K Fire Extinguisher, which is intended for use on fires that involve vegetable oils, animal oils, or fats in cooking appliances. These extinguishers are generally found in commercial kitchens, such as those found in restaurants, cafeterias, and caterers. Thankfully, Class K extinguishers are now starting to find their way into the residential market for use in kitchens.
  • Smoke Detector: A smoke detector with a pause button is best in case of false alarms. Neighboring rooms to the kitchen should also have smoke detectors.
  • Oven Mitts: Protect hands with a thick, durable pair.

If A Cooking Fire Starts:

  • Water and grease don’t mix. In the event of a grease fire, NEVER POUR WATER ON IT or it will spread. Use a fire extinguisher, or when in doubt, get out and call for help.
  • Put a lid on it. If a pan catches fire, slide a lid over the pan and turn off the stove burner. Leave the lid on until it is completely cool.
  • Keep the oven or microwave door shut if fire starts. Turn off the heat. If the flames do not go out immediately, get out and call for help.
  • Stop, drop, and roll. If your clothes catch fire, smother them on the kitchen floor before getting out of the house.
  • Know when to stop fighting the fire yourself and call in a professional. For detailed instructions about this, check out the free FEMA Fire Prevention Booklet.

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!