Posted in BE SAFE, Disaster Preparedness, Floods, High-Rise Buildings, Version 2.5

Would you be prepared for a Spring Flood?

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), floods kill more people in the United States than any other type of severe weather. Some floods develop slowly, while others, such as flash floods, can develop in just a few minutes and without visible signs of rain. Whatever the cause of a flood, taking steps to prepare will not only help keep your family, tenants, employees and pets safe, but can also help minimize potential property damage and reduce the costs of recovery. Most importantly…it can help save lives!

Although this year’s weather in the U.S. has been relatively odd, with far less snow and rainfall than what is typical, the risk of flooding remains high. In fact, severe winter weather could actually increase your risk of flooding no matter where you live in the United States. My wife and I have battled a few floods in our doghouse. But most of them were caused by overflowing water bowls.

FloodSmart.gov, which is the official website of the national flood insurance program, provides information to property owners designed to help protect assets in weather-related incidents. Take a few minutes to gather the facts so you will be able to prepare for these potentially problematic conditions:

  1. Heavy Rains—several areas of the country are currently at risk for flooding due to heavy rains. Excessive rainfall can happen throughout the year, putting your property at risk. Rain is sometimes refreshing. I like to walk in it even though it gives me muddy paws.
  2. Rain Following a Fire—after a wildfire, the charred ground where vegetation has burned away cannot easily absorb rainwater. This increases the risk of flooding and mudflow for a number of years. Any property which was directly affected by fires or is located downstream of burn areas are at risk.

To assess your building’s risk for floods, survey the area immediately around the property. Has brush burned? Is your structure located in a valley or in an area where water could pool? If you determine that your property is at risk for flooding, take steps to prepare well before the first raindrop falls. One of the things I recommend is to stock up on bacon at the first sign of severe weather.

  1. Ice Jams—these occur when extended cold spells freeze the surface of rivers. When a significant rise in the water level or a thaw breaks the ice into large chunks, these floating masses can jam up man-made or natural obstructions, resulting in severe flooding.
  2. La NinaUSA Today reports that extreme weather can be attributed mostly to a strong La Nina, which is associated with cooler than normal water temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific Ocean and an atmospheric flow that causes drier than normal conditions in the Southwest and wetter than normal in the Northwest. Extreme weather often leads to flooding. And here I thought La Nina was finished with her fury…
  3. Snow Melt—while heavy rains overtly alert people to the possibility of flooding, melting snow is a subtler, but no less significant threat. Even if you don’t live in Portland or Seattle, you could encounter a flood.
  4. Spring Thaw—a midwinter or early spring thaw could produce large amounts of runoff in a short period of time. Because the ground is hard and frozen, water fails to penetrate and be reabsorbed. The water runs off the surface and flows into lakes, streams and rivers, causing excess water to spill over onto dry land. Again, overflowing water bowls can have the same affect.
  5. West Coast Rainy Season—heavy rains from late October through March mark the rainy season in the western United States, bringing the majority of annual rainfall to the region. Each year during the winter rainy season, residents on the West Coast face the risk of flooding and mudflows that can damage homes and businesses.

The National Weather Service puts floods in three categories:

  1. Minor (little or no property damage)
  2. Moderate (some inundation of structures and roads near streams and some evacuations of people to higher ground)
  3. Major (extensive inundation and significant evacuations of people to higher elevations)

Regardless of the cause or severity of a flood, there are several ways you can prepare to handle and recover:

  • Hire a professional to install check-valves in plumbing to prevent flood waters from backing up into the drains of your building.
  • Store enough non-perishable food and potable water for three days. Although pork chops and bacon are perishable, I would be willing to take the risk.
  • Make sure a First-Aid kit and medications are at the ready.
  • Stay informed. Make sure your “go bag” includes a hand-crank or battery-operated radio. Use it to tune to NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards.
  • Develop a personal/business evacuation and safety plan. Also, familiarize yourself with your community’s preparedness plan.
  • Keep your automobile fueled. If the flood affects gas station power, you might not be able to get gas for days. But you can always do what I do…walk!
  • If you are driving, when you approach a flooded road, turn around, don’t drown.

These are a just a few ideas to get you thinking. For a comprehensive list of everything you can do to prepare for a flood, check out the free guide produced by NOAA: Floods—the Awesome Power.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJ Westmore, Inc. Our new Version 2.5 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit www.RJWestmore.com  for more information.

Posted in BE SAFE, Building Evacuation, Cyber Security, Disaster Preparedness, Earthquakes, Emergency Evacuations, Fire Life Safety Training, Fires, Floods, Hurricanes, Uncategorized, Version 2.5

Is Disaster Recovery for Electronic Data?

Does your emergency management plan include electronic data?

To recover from any type of disaster, the best prescription is often done on the front end—with proper planning. But when it comes to disasters such as major earthquakes or hurricanes, there is only so much you can do to prevent damage. On the other hand, when it comes to your electronic data, there are many concrete steps you can take to safeguard your data. Unfortunately, many businesses do not take these steps in order to back up their data. I run a sophisticated backup system for my dog bone supply. I bury two of them in my yard, and then at night I dig under the fence and plant four in Sparky’s backyard. If I could just remember where I put them…

Before you begin to plan, you need to establish what types of data you possess and where it is:

  • Talk to IT and other departments to sort through all of the data that you possess. For some businesses, the data can be strewn all over the place. Sales contact information might be kept on a manager’s thumb drive while product specs are simply on an engineer’s local hard drive. Work out what you have and then give each subset of data a priority number.
  • Once the data is identified, appoint some staff members to be in charge of monitoring and caring for the data. I put Whiskers and Tabby in charge of my data once. I come back for a progress report and they are both napping in the sun. Worthless felines!
  • A next step is to review your current capabilities. Do you have any type of backup system for files, intellectual property or email?

Creating a sound disaster recovery plan is the next crucial step:

  • Think about the various likely types of disaster in your area and how they relate to your technical infrastructure. If you have an on-premises data center, make sure it has backup power and other safeguards.
  • Your data recovery plan should be flexible to account for changes in your business as well as new technologies. If you merge with another company or open a new division, would your IT staff be able to quickly integrate new data? Poochie has too much leveraged debt and now he’s going down!
  • Replacement of hardware is an important part of your plan. Talk with your IT staff about the likely usable life of servers and computers and put them on a schedule for replacement in order to prevent failures.
  • Practice makes perfect!  Find ways to simulate the loss of data to properly test both your IT staff and any third-party vendors.

Over the course of business, it’s very likely you have heard about companies and services moving their disaster recovery needs “to the cloud:”

  • Cloud computing simply means that data and services are stored and powered by off-site servers, so companies don’t need on-premises equipment. It can cut down on costs and is able to provide storage on the fly.
  • Backing up your data to a cloud platform allows it to be securely accessed even if your company’s physical location is destroyed.
  • Do some research and pick a cloud provider that has its own backup data center. If they only have one, and it goes down, then your protection is limited!
  • Another option is to hire a company to pickup backup tapes on a regular basis and transport them offsite. But this method is outdated. Companies need information immediately following disasters. Unfortunately, retrieving data from backup tapes can take days.

With disaster recovery planning, it’s important to consider your data. As more and more companies become internet-based, their data and intellectual property is often many times more valuable than their physical assets. I have a detailed spreadsheet that describes 40 different kibble manufacturers, with breakdowns of protein content and a “deliciousness rating.” This is vital stuff!

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

Posted in BE SAFE, Building Evacuation, dehydration, Disaster Preparedness, Earthquakes, Emergency Evacuations, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Fires, Floods, Health & Welfare, High-Rise Buildings, Hurricanes, Insurance, Tornadoes, Tsunamis, Uncategorized, Version 2.5

2011 Marks Banner Year for U.S. Disasters: 5 Tips for Dealing with Weather-Related Disasters

RJW Shares 5 Tips for Dealing with Natural Disasters

President Barack Obama recently named New Jersey a federal disaster area as a result of floods that came before Hurricane Irene. In so doing, he cemented 2011 as the United States’ most disaster-prone year ever. The U.S. is not alone in boasting a banner year. At the Firedog household, JR ate more pig ears than any other puppy on the planet.

As of the third week of September, Obama had issued 84 federal disaster declarations at the request of governors. That is more declarations than in any year since the score was first kept 60 years ago. And there are still three months left in 2011! Since many of the recent emergencies resulted from extreme weather, we want to use this week’s blog post to discuss the ways that you can prepare for weather-related disasters. By the way, these tips might also apply to canine territory-marking accidents, as well.

While weather has always been a contributing factor to damage to hearth, office and home, natural disaster-related damage affects more people than it used to because of urban sprawl. When tornados strike open, undeveloped areas, dollar amount damage is relatively low. Centered in a densely populated area, the same storm will wreak considerably more havoc. I know a few dogs of a different breed who can wreak quite a bit of havoc no matter their location.

So how should urban residents and professionals who work in major metropolitan locations prepare for natural disasters? Here are some tips, prepared for you by the fire life safety training professionals at RJWestmore, Inc:

  1. Take cover. This is important regardless of temperature. If you’re outside in the heat, make sure you have a hat, sunglasses and lip balm as well as sunscreen in case you get caught in any situation that leaves you stranded for an extended period of time.

Likewise, in snow, rain or hail, you should make sure you have plenty of protection against the elements. Invest in protective, waterproof outerwear and make sure your emergency supply kit includes plenty of blankets and waterproof matches.

Also, one of the best ways to protect from loss is to purchase insurance to cover repairs to infrastructure. We are not experts in insurance. But it is likely that a standard policy will not cover flood damage. The only way to protect against flood losses is to purchase flood insurance directly from the National Flood Insurance Program. Policies must be in place for 30 days before coverage takes effect. For information, contact your insurance professional.

  1. Drink Up. One of the risks of any type of disaster is dehydration. Consider miners who are stranded for hours underground or motorists whose cars get stuck on snowy roadways in blizzard conditions. Dehydration is not relegated to desert environments.  A good rule of thumb is to make sure you include plenty of water in each of your emergency preparedness kits. You should have one in your car, one at work and a third at home, all in easily-accessible locations. This is one of my favorite tips. My wife and I make sure all of the bowls in our doghouse are full 24/7.
  2. Tune In. Another suggestion for your disaster preparedness kit is to include a portable, hand-crank radio to make sure you can stay connected even in power outage. Storms of any kind can knock out phone lines, electricity, gas, water and even wireless cell phones. So don’t make the mistake of relying on high-tech forms of communication to stay abreast of news in emergencies. Tuning in will alert you to the threat level relative to the storm, be it Winter Storm Watch, Winter Storm Warning or Winter Weather Advisory. There is also always the Twilight Bark, which works in any emergency.
  3. Stay Put. In many cases, you will be safer if you shelter in place than if you venture out in hazardous conditions. Of course, you must use common sense when deciding whether you should stay or go. For example, in the event of a tornado, seek shelter in a steel-framed or concrete building. However, in case of a flood, you might be putting yourself in danger by staying in an area that will likely be consumed by fast-flowing water. For detailed instructions about what to do in every possible weather scenario, visit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Weather Service website. All RJWestmore Safety Trainees have immediate access to NOAA information from inside our fully-integrated training system.
  4. Remain Calm. Whatever the disaster, you will make better choices if you avoid the temptation to panic. How can you remain cool, calm and collected when surrounded by turmoil? One surefire way is to prepare well in advance of emergency. Another is a shock collar. But I prefer the former.

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

Posted in BE SAFE, Building Evacuation, Burns, Disaster Preparedness, Earthquakes, Emergency Evacuations, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Fires, Floods, Golden Guardian, Health & Welfare, Hurricanes, Terrorism, Uncategorized

Golden Guardian Program Prepares Folks for Disaster Response and Recovery

Golden Guardian 2011 Logo
The Golden Guardian 2011 Program will prepare agency representatives for disaster response and recovery.

The Golden Guardian is an annual event that tests the responsiveness and readiness of a particular area of California for specific disasters. I thought it was the title of a feature film about everyone’s favorite pooch—the Golden Lab. I get it! They are so cute and furry and playful!

First implemented in 2004, The Golden Guardian is now an annual statewide exercise that tests government agencies, volunteer organizations and other entities. The Golden Guardian is the largest disaster planning event of its kind.The result of multiple agency cooperation, Golden Guardian plans are developed by FEMA Region IX and the California Emergency Management Agency (Cal EMA), among others.

Each year, the Golden Guardian event has a certain theme which reflects on the risks of a potentially devastating natural or man-made disaster. For 2011, the theme was flooding for the inland region of the state.  The event brought together several agencies including the Inland Region Emergency Operations Center, the State Operations Center, federal agencies and partners in the private sector. From May 17th through the 19th, these agencies worked together to forecast the impact of a major flood and examine where responsibilities would lie for cleanup and evacuation as well as health and food assistance efforts.

The risk of a major flood is demonstrated by scientists who detailed the availability of an ARKstorm for inland California. This massive storm could potentially create a flooded area 300 miles long and up to 20 miles wide in the Central Valley of California.  Wow! That is bigger than a bunch of states! It would be the size of some of the Great Lakes.

The theme for 2012 is a major earthquake in Southern California. For 2013, the theme is a catastrophic earthquake in the Bay Area, for 2014, it is Northwest Coast earthquake and tsunami risks, and in 2015, the theme is civil disturbance.

I have a breakdown of my own personal potential disasters that I will be planning for in the coming years:

  • 2012 – Managing a pig ear shortage, including stockpiling tips and grief counseling
  • 2013 – Tips and tactics for enduring bath time
  • 2014 – How to alert people through barking that Timmy is caught on the railroad tracks again (Sorry, Lassie.)

The 2012 Golden Guardian event is intended to open discussion about the entire scope of disaster response—from evacuation routes to shelters for domestic animals. A comprehensive review of readiness, the 2012 event will cover such issues as:

  • Protocols for airlifting supplies, including the establishment of offshore Naval resupply ships, if necessary. I could use a good airlift drop in the backyard—14 tubes of tennis balls, 79 pounds of beef strips…throw in an old shoe to chew on!
  • A review of the “Hub and Spoke” concept of focusing assistance efforts on areas where affected individuals will congregate, such as stadiums, schools and open areas
  • Stabilization of public utilities in order to support infrastructure for critical care facilities like pet food factories
  • Management of public information announcements such as traffic guidelines or water safety alerts that will help citizens manage the disaster
  • Estimation about the number of fires resulting from earthquakes and also calculations about the water and personnel needed to combat the fires.

Preparation and knowledge are always critical for handling emergencies with speed and sound decision-making. Thorough planning helps to uncover unforeseen circumstances and close gaps in safety, logistics and recovery efforts. There are many lessons to be learned from the Golden Guardian campaign that can be applied to individuals as well as business. The first is the benefits of cooperation and the power of groups who work together to achieve goals.

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

Posted in BE SAFE, Building Evacuation, CDC, Disaster Preparedness, Earthquakes, Emergency Evacuations, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Floods, Health & Welfare, Uncategorized, Version 2.0

What is the “Holistic Approach” to Disaster Recovery and Planning?

Group gathered around a table, everyone holding a puzzle piece
The Holistic Approach to Disaster Planning & Recovery Brings everyone to the table.

What do we mean by a “holistic” approach to disaster recovery and planning? I’ve heard of holistic dog food, but even that isn’t good enough for me. I demand ground rib roast!! In broad terms, a holistic approach simply means the properties of a system cannot be described by its separate parts—the system as a whole influences the parts. Just consider me. A brilliant white smile and thunderous bark don’t define me. You have to look at the whole package.

With disaster recovery and planning, considering a disaster as a whole system promotes broader planning and better cooperation among different groups. For example, with flood planning, engineers could have procedures in place to divert water toward a historical or shopping district area instead of a  parking lot or open area capable of more safely handling overflow. If the building flood planners fail to converse with other members of the city utilities, emergency responders, neighboring properties, etc, they might make plans that would cause more damage to surrounding assets and possibly their own property. A holistic approach brings more information to the table, allowing better planned prevention as well as recovery. I like “bringing things to the table” as well. Pork chops. Chicken gravy. A squirrel.

An example of the need for a broader approach can be seen in the aftermath of the recent Japan earthquakes. As the production capacity of many Japanese plants is rebuilt and comes back online, segments of the Japanese economy were captured by other countries following the disaster. A holistic approach would have demanded better integration between emergency management teams and economic development individuals, who could have worked together to focus efforts on top economic priorities. This would have kept needed resources in the area following the disaster. I like to have integration with several groups, including the local butcher shop, a tennis ball manufacturer, and my favorite salon. That’s synergy!

For some areas of the world that don’t frequently experience disasters, complacency can prevent the formation of a holistic approach. For me, complacency is vitally important. Somebody has to occupy that grassy spot in the sun! Paradoxically, a major disaster can also slow down the development of holistic methods, as individual stakeholders often feel repeated disaster occurrences are less likely, despite the fact that this is not necessarily true.

Key benefits of the holistic approach:

  • Better communication is encouraged when different agencies or groups confront disasters together. Resources or labor can be pooled together avoiding costly duplications of efforts. If disaster recovery is too fragmented, then many cases of “left hand not talking to the right” can occur. Do people’s hands literally talk to each other? Does this occur during sleep? Why can’t humans have four legs like a normal animal!?
  • Major disasters don’t discriminate. They affect large swaths of individuals and businesses. A holistic approach encourages a true community response, where actions are taken by the community for the community, with less emphasis on special interest groups or people with hidden agendas. An example of this is the rebuilding efforts in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina, where groups worked together to clean debris and save houses as part of a broader longer-term affordable housing plan.
  • Holistic approaches mean a country, state, or city is more resilient to the effects of disaster and able to quickly regain former capacities. After my doghouse was ruined, I rebuilt. Now it can withstand a Category 5 hurricane!
  • The holistic approach covers mental and emotional states instead of just the physical safety of disaster victims. Such focus allows individuals to quickly return to society, providing an economic benefit to their immediate area.

For disaster recovery and prevention, a holistic method means more than just cooperation. It’s also a way to get more out of the efforts of every group and individual, which is a stark example of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.

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

Posted in Biological Warfare, Building Evacuation, Disaster Preparedness, Earthquakes, Emergency Evacuations, Fire Life Safety Training, Fires, Floods, Health & Welfare, Hurricanes, Influenza, Swine Flu, Terrorism, Tsunamis, Uncategorized, Version 2.0

The DHS Will Use New Technology to Announce Threats

New Sample DHS Alert System Snapshot
The Dept of Homeland Security will use social media to announce two tiers of alerts.

Very shortly, news network viewers and their canine companions will no longer find out about updates via color-coded threat levels from the Department of Homeland Security. The current threat-level chart will be replaced by a two-level threat system known as the National Terrorism Advisory System. The first threat level will be coined “elevated,” and would warn about a credible threat, but not list possible targets. (As far as I know, the Midnight Bark will remain unchanged.)

A distinct difference to the previous system is that the two-level system will provide a start and end date for the threat. The second level will be “imminent” when law enforcement officers working with DHS determine a credible threat will very likely be attempted against certain targets. This level of alert would continue for not more than seven days, but could be extended. DHS will also incorporate social media alerts into the two-level system, recognizing the reach and the importance of such networks in the fast sharing of information.

First put into use in March 2002, the current system (officially known as the Homeland Security Advisory System), was established in response to the devastating 9/11 terrorist attacks. The system initially came under frequent criticisms, with many individuals claiming the threat level was often raised for political motives to incite citizen unrest. Others claimed the threat level did not move sufficiently to recognize actual threats, and was often held at an elevated status level.

According to DHS, the risk of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil remains, and citizens are encouraged to remain vigilant and report suspicious behavior. Loud barking is another option for alerting folks about potential threats. Law enforcement is continually training for possible attacks, even participating in testing exercises to measure readiness.

This type of readiness was evident in the thwarted New York’s Time Square bombing attempt in 2009, where a quick-thinking street vendor alerted authorities to a smoking van. The terror alert system reminds citizens about the threat of terrorism and encourages common sense as well as a broader sense of civic responsibility.

Government officials announced that terror alerts and information about threats will be distributed via two primary social networks when deemed appropriate, Twitter and Facebook. The department’s Twitter alerts page is @ntasalerts. The Department of Homeland Security’s Facebook page can be found at Facebook.com/HomelandSecurity. In some cases, distribution of specifics regarding an alert could jeopardize ongoing investigations. In such cases, information about terror threats might not reach the public until after the alleged terrorists are captured and the threat has been mitigated. If you haven’t yet found me on Twitter, be sure to check out my tweets @rjthefiredog.

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

Posted in BE SAFE, Biological Warfare, Building Evacuation, Children in Crisis, Disaster Preparedness, Earthquakes, Emergency Evacuations, Fire Safety, Fires, Floods, Health & Welfare, Hurricanes, Terrorism, Tsunamis, Uncategorized, Version 2.0

How to Help Children Cope Following a Disaster

Cartoon teacher reading to five children
At home or at school, use these strategies to help children cope after disasters.

Whether children personally experience trauma, watch events unfold on television or overhear adult discussions, natural and manmade disasters can leave them feeling frightened, confused and insecure. To help kids or pups cope, parents, teachers and friends should take steps so they understand how to easily identify and reduce disaster-related stress.

Identifying Risk Factors

While individual reactions to natural and manmade disasters vary, there are some common denominators in young folks who experience stress brought on by emergency situations such as fires, earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, hurricanes, terrorism and the like. To help you identify risk factors, consider these common childhood reactions to disaster:

  • Fear, especially at night
  • Sadness
  • Bedwetting or (in JR’s case), missing the puppy pad
  • Sleep disturbances and nightmares
  • Separation anxiety, clinging, dependant behavior
  • Anger
  • Acting out with whining, tantrums or (in my family’s case), excessive barking
  • Physical aggression (or, with my breed, bearing of teeth)
  • Problems in elementary or obedience school
  • Unexplained aches and pains

Although it is normal for both children and adults to react for a time to disasters near and far, for some, response to abnormal events can lead to more substantial, enduring psychological distress. Particularly at risk for this more serious, sustained negative behavior are children who have been directly exposed to physical disasters—such as those who were evacuated from their homes, have come in close contact with accident victims, witnessed deaths, suffered personal injuries or feared for their life and safety.

Also significant are secondary effects of disasters such as temporary changes in living arrangements, interruption in communication with friends and social networks, loss of personal property, parental unemployment and costs incurred during recovery to return the family to pre-disaster life and living conditions. A secondary effect for canines might be recovery from kennel cough.

In most cases, primary and secondary symptoms will diminish over time. But for those who were directly exposed to disasters, reminders may occasionally pop up such as high winds, smoke, cloudy skies, sirens, aftershocks or howling.

No matter the emergency, the ability of children to cope with disasters or emergencies is often tied to the way their parents cope. Kids and most animals are bright; so they can detect adult fears and sadness. So the best way to reduce trauma for kids is to take steps to effectively manage your own feelings as parents are almost always the best source of support for children in disasters.

Prior to disasters, FEMA advises the best way to establish a sense of control and to build confidence in children is to engage and involve them in preparing a family disaster plan. After a disaster, children can contribute to a family recovery plan.

After the Disaster/How to Help

  • Encourage children and adolescents to share their thoughts and feelings.
  • Clarify misunderstandings about risk and danger by listening to children’s concerns.
  • Maintain a sense of calm by validating children’s concerns and perceptions.
  • Listen to what the child is saying or the dog is barking.
  • If a young child asks questions about the event, answer them.
  • If a child has difficulty expressing feelings, allow the child to draw a picture or tell a story of what happened. Since it is always difficult for puppies to explain themselves, I suggest providing plenty of treats.

Suggestions to Help Reassure Children

  • Hug your kids. Physical affection can restore feelings of security.
  • Share just enough details about the event to assuage fears without contributing to insecurity.
  • Quickly reestablish a daily routine. (For what it’s worth, I suggest the more mealtimes, the better.)
  • Involve kids in your efforts to return to normal.
  • Praise responsible behavior.
  • Monitor media exposure.
  • Take advantage of available support networks.

If, despite your efforts, your child continues to exhibit stress, and particularly if the reactions worsen over time or interfere with daily behavior at school, home, or with other relationships, it might be time to call in a professional. Seek assistance from a primary care physician, mental health professional, member of the clergy or veterinarian.

For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJ Westmore, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

Posted in BE SAFE, Building Evacuation, Disaster Preparedness, Earthquakes, Emergency Evacuations, Fire Safety, Fires, Floods, Going Green, Health & Welfare, High-Rise Buildings, Hurricanes, Terrorism, Uncategorized, Version 2.0

The Second Line of Response

Cartoon Oil Dripping
Second Responders do a lot of the dirty work following disasters.

 

Throughout our disaster planning and prevention blog posts, we often focus on the safety and actions of first responders. For example, we suggest proactively working with the fire department when the schematics of your building change or to get their advice about the best way to implement cutting-edge safety measures. Understandably, first responders also get lots of press due to the inherent danger of their jobs. I’ve been on some four-alarm fire calls with these braves gals and guys. And it’s some serious work! Firefighters and EMS personnel rush directly into dire circumstances just as everyone else is racing out.

 

For large scale disasters, after the first responders do their high-profile jobs, significant hazards remain which must be dealt with, properly cleaned or contained, or even rebuilt. This is where second responders come in. From cleaning oil spills and radioactive waste to assessing the safety of bridges, second responders serve a vital role by bringing communities back from disasters.

Second responders face multiple challenges:

  • In many instances, the job of the second responder is considerably less glamorous than that of the first people to arrive on scene who are seen battling blazes and pulling people from piles of debris. It’s important to publicly recognize the work of second responders to be sure they feel appreciated. And just a pat on the head won’t cut it! These industrious folks aren’t pooches, you know!
  • Second responders who participated in Hurricane Katrina cleanup efforts were met by the health hazards from standing water, including mold and bacteria exposure and hordes of insects. That doesn’t sound fun. My water bowl gets bugs in it sometimes; I just consider them a high-protein, low-carb snack.
  • After earthquakes, trained engineers need to enter precarious buildings to test structures to determine if they can be repaired or need to be demolished. For example, buildings in New Zealand are being used as test specimens to give an up-close view on earthquake damage.
  • Air quality issues are a considerable issue which harmed second responders following the 9/11 attacks, to Katrina, and the California wildfires. Second responders need proper filtration and breathing equipment in order to be safe.
  • Proper hygiene and disease prevention following emergencies are priorities for second responders who work to prevent outbreaks that are especially common when survivors are grouped together in cramped temporary quarters. Speaking of cramped, the guys went to Vegas for a week, and left me at a kennel. I had a terrible case of kennel cough when they returned because we had been packed in there like sardines!

Keep in mind that there are multiple types of people and jobs which fall into the “second responders” category. After some disasters, social workers and counselors are part of very important response units that can help mend broken families and allow people an outlet for expressing frustration or anguish. There are also categories of second responders who serve over a longer period of time. For instance, there is a group called the Lambi Fund of Haiti Earthquake Recovery which is a planning on civic rebuilding and growth of the nation after the major relief organizations have moved onto the next disaster.

A focus on second responders can be an eye-opening experience into the long-term effects of major disasters. It builds an understanding that there is more to emergency management than literally saving lives in the moment, but also a need to rebuild so those who are saved have a place to call home. On a side note, everyone deserves a good home, so donate to your local pet rescue facility today!

Proper planning and learning the “Do’s” are the keys to managing the situation when disasters strike.  For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJ Westmore, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in BE SAFE, Building Evacuation, Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Evacuations, Floods, Health & Welfare, High-Rise Buildings, Safety at Home, Uncategorized, Version 2.0

Spring Flooding is On the Rise

Cartoon cityscape and housing symbols in Flood situation
Pay heed to flash flood warnings.

As rivers swell from snow pack runoff and rainstorms become more prevalent, many communities are in great danger of spring flooding. In fact, in western states affected by wildfires where vegetation has burned, heavy rainfall is more likely than usual to lead to floods.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently worked together to promote Flood Awareness Week, held March 14 through 18. Personally, I’m waiting for the announcement for “Belly Rub Awareness Month.” According to FEMA, floods cause more monetary damage to property than any other natural disaster. They offer a great flood-cost calculator tool that details damaged areas.

How to prevent flood damage:

  • Low-lying homes and low-rise buildings can be raised to literally stand above flood waters. While this is certainly a costly fix, it is very effective. I put the doghouse up on six-foot stilts, which would be great, if only I could climb a ladder.
  • Electrical panels and water heaters can be elevated, where feasible, to lessen potential fire and associated damage.
  • Landscaping and the overall slope of land should be considered. Owners should consider whether there is any way to divert water flow from flash floods. By the way, if you need assistance digging, I’m your guy.
  • Flood alerts should be heeded.
  • Waterproofing compound can be used to seal basements in order to prevent seeping water.

Other smart tips for mitigating damage:

  • Store important documents on the highest floor or on raised bookshelves attached to the wall. Don’t put them in basement storage areas! Also consider investing in waterproof containers which can withstand sustained soaking.
  • Fuel tanks can tip over or float during a flood. Cleaning up water is difficult enough, let alone taking care of 100 gallons of fuel oil. To prevent this kind of a nightmare, anchor fuel tanks properly. This will also lessen the risk of fires.
  • Check your sewer system for a backflow valve that will prevent sewer waste from coming into your home or business. Honestly, I would make this the number one priority. Yuck!

What are the risks to structures?

  • With good reason, water is known as the “universal solvent.” And, bacon is of course known as the “universal pain reliever.” Floods cause massive property damage by degrading foundations and crippling walls, making structures uninhabitable.
  • Long-term problems such as mold accumulation are very costly to fix. So take the time to adequately dry and inspect all areas of your building after floods to keep mold from growing. You might find it necessary to hire a specialist to check HVAC systems. Otherwise, damp areas can become fertile breeding ground for mold colonies.

Safety tips:

  • Don’t cross a flooded river or any area with fast-moving water. Cars and people can be carried away very quickly by rising floods. Don’t forget about your pets, either! Dogs and cats don’t weigh very much and need to be held close while traversing rising water.
  • Pay attention to flash flood warnings. A few minutes of preparation might save your life.
  • Be especially vigilant about using electricity during and after a flood. When in doubt, turn off electricity if flooding begins. If necessary, consult the power company to investigate your home or office building to ensure safety after flooding resides. So don’t run into your home and start flipping switches! You can maybe run in to get the beef jerky off of the counter. But that’s it!

Floods are especially damaging disasters as they present a host of both short and long-term risks to both personal property and individual safety. While large scale floods are not avoidable, smaller floods may be prevented if proactive steps are taken to minimize damage in order to protect loved ones and valued possessions.

Proper planning and learning what ‘to do’ are the keys to managing any situation when disaster strikes.  For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJ Westmore, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.