Hurricanes are massive storm systems that form over the water and move toward land. I know a few cats who do just as much damage. Threats from hurricanes include high winds, heavy rainfall, storm surge, coastal and inland cooling, rip currents, and tornadoes. Called typhoons in the North Pacific Ocean and cyclones in other parts of the world, these massive storms affect regions across the globe – Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastal areas, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Hawaii, parts of the Southwest, the Pacific Coast, and the U.S. territories in the Pacific. Continue reading “How to Prepare for Hurricanes”
Across the United States this winter, even in Southern California, record-setting low temperatures have sent people scurrying to discount stores to purchase space heaters. While the units save energy costs and work well to heat small spaces, they also pose a high risk of fire. I guess space heaters make sense for people because they don’t have a built-in coat like dogs.
National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) officials say that space heaters are the type of heating equipment most often involved in home heating fires—figuring in two of every five such fires and accounting for 84% of associated civilian deaths, 75% of civilian injuries, and 52% of direct property damage. The peak time for these types of fires is December, January and February.
The United States Fire Administration (USFA) reports that the biggest mistake people make relative to the risk of starting fires is to put things too close to heating sources: “Place (flammable materials) at least three feet away from space heaters, fireplaces, wood stoves, and radiators. Remember that skin burns too. Make sure that people and pets stay at least three feet away.” I guess that includes wagging our tails near space heaters.
While most built-in heating equipment remains safely out of reach of flammable materials, portable space heaters are easy to forget. Preliminary reports reveal that such was the case last month in Baltimore, Md., where a raging house fire claimed the lives of six children. The impact of the tragedy on loved ones is more difficult because officials suspect a space heater may have caused the blaze.
In the cool of winter, whether you are at home or at work, take these 10 precautions to make sure you remain fire safe in 2017:
- Use only portable heaters that have been listed by a testing laboratory (look for the laboratory’s label).
- Make sure the space heater you select has an automatic shut-off switch so that it will turn off on its own, even if it is accidentally knocked over or knocked over by an unwieldy tail.
- Select a heater that has automatic overheat protection.
- Plug portable electric heaters directly into wall outlets instead of potentially overloading an extension cord or power strip.
- Since evenings (between 5 – 8 p.m.) are the peak time for home heating fires, turn space heaters off before you leave the room or fall asleep.
- Keep space heaters out of the way of foot and paw traffic.
- Use space heaters only on solid, flat surfaces.
- Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer.
- Keep children and pets away from space heaters.
- Check the condition of space heaters throughout the season.
For additional winter fire safety information, check out free resources:
Allied Universal (AUS) – Fire/Life Safety Training System
American Red Cross – America’s Biggest Disaster Threat
NFPA – Put a freeze on winter fires
National Safety Council (NSC) – Don’t wait. Check the date.
Remember that fire safety is a priority for everyone all year long. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the Allied Universal Fire Life Training System, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.
While news outlets often report about people shooting at drones as they hover over homes, and despite the fact certain irresponsible remote controllers have been known to interrupt emergency fire operations, these tiny fliers are well on their way to becoming invaluable disaster management tools. I would like to buy a drone for my own personal use.
Potential Drone Use
Identifying Threats and Survivors
- Local officials could use drones when a dam is under strain from a flood or earthquake, to safely survey damage so they could alert the public about risks such as imminent collapse, or to allay fears if they are able to determine whether the dam is structurally sound.
- Telecommunication firms are experimenting with drones which can provide a 4G local signal, which could connect responders and survivors.
- Other companies are offering drones to deliver medical and/or food supplies. One such vendor made Pouncer, an inexpensive drone which features a compact, vacuum-packed cargo area. Sounds like the cargo area is the perfect size for bones and chew toys.
- Drones are ideally suited for search and rescue teams, as they can cover a wide area and link to operators’ cellphones, to help pinpoint exact locations.
- Drones are ideally suited for high-rise building inspections because they can travel to great heights. Verizon is currently using drones to check cellphone towers affected by Hurricane Matthew. Drones enable them to view tower damage without putting their employees at electrical risk by venturing into flooded areas.
- A drone operator can launch a UAV that provides a bird’s-eye view of all sides of nearly any bridge.
- Certain drones cling to the side of walls, allowing operators to safely assess structural integrity.
- Bridge inspections conducted with drones don’t impede traffic flow, as the drone operator can stand safely on the shore as cars drive over the bridge, blissfully unaware of the inspection taking place.
Surveying Damaged Areas
- To quickly process claims, insurance agencies are using drones to check damaged buildings and property. This technology enables insurance carriers to inspect roofs without employing ladder teams. That sounds like a smart idea because crawling on roofs is dangerous.
- Government agencies are also using drones to assess flood damages to coastal areas. Instead of renting a plane or helicopter, local agencies can fly drones to take high-definition pictures and videos of an area. They can also safely operate drones without nuisance noise or winds associated with helicopters or small planes.
- Fire departments are using fire-resistant drones built to provide invaluable real-time information about high-rise fires, including the severity of the blaze and exact location of any occupants who might be trapped.
Remember that safety is a daily priority for everyone, and is becoming a priority for many companies that use drones for disaster management efforts. 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 Allied Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.
Drop, Cover, and Hold On at 10:20 a.m. on October 20, 2016 during The Great California ShakeOut. Participating in the annual event is a great way to make sure you are prepared to survive and recover quickly from substantial earthquakes – whether you are at home, at work or traveling. Personally, I think Shake-n-Bake pork chops would be a great way to mark the occasion.
To help mark the occasion and call attention to earthquake preparedness, we want to take this opportunity to educate our subscribers and friends about earthquake preparedness in high-rise buildings. We would like to extend our thanks to Safe-T-Proof, which provided their “Quake Cottage” for a Pre-Great California Shakeout event. They offer superior earthquake fasteners and straps for offices as well as survival kits and additional earthquake-safety supplies.
The latest and greatest in earthquake-resilient design is currently being implemented to build the Wilshire Grand Center in Los Angeles, which, at 1,100 feet, will make it the tallest building on the Pacific coast. The building’s massive foundation is so robust that its construction is noted in the Guinness Book of World Records for the “longest continuous concrete pour.” I wonder who holds the record for the longest bacon feast?
Despite how odd it feels to stand in a tall building that sways during an earthquake, modern California high-rises provide safer refuge during earthquakes than most shorter facilities. This is because architectural plans and construction for high-rise California structures built after the Sylmar quake in 1971 are required to follow stringent seismic codes. You can further improve your high-rise earthquake survival odds by taking preparedness steps.
Safety Tips for High-Rise Earthquakes
- Stay put. Sitting down under a desk or doorway is the safest way to “ride out” a quake while it’s happening. Most earthquakes are relatively short. So it is safer to patiently wait a quake out instead of trying to exit the building as it moves. Even with four legs, I find it difficult to maneuver during earthquakes.
- Stay alert. After exiting a building, tenants should move under cover in order to avoid falling debris such as panes of glass. Also, pay attention to warnings of fires or tsunamis which can follow any quake.
- Stay informed. Tenants in high rises should be familiar with evacuation protocols for their building. A speedy yet orderly evacuation is crucial for ensuring building occupant safety. The National Fire Protection Association offers an evacuation plan video that encourages individuals to take ownership of their safety while following safety procedures.
Allied Universal offers these earthquake safety tips for anyone who may not be in a high-rise to follow:
- Drop to the ground. Take cover by getting under a sturdy table and hold on. Stay inside until the shaking stops.
- Stay away from glass or anything that can fall, like light fixtures and furniture.
- Stay in bed if you are there when the earthquake strikes.
In a Fire…R-A-C-E to Safety!
- Rescue—Remove any employees or visitors from immediate danger.
- Alarm—Pull the nearest Fire Alarm and call the proper emergency phone number.
- Contain—Contain all smoke and toxic fumes by closing all doors and windows.
- Extinguish and Evacuate—Follow all posted and verbal procedures.
- Stay where you are if you are not near any buildings, streetlights or utility wires.
- Do not move from the area you are in until the shaking stops. Remember that aftershocks can be just as bad as the earthquake itself.
In a Moving Vehicle
- Stop as quickly as possible, but stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses and utility wires.
- Proceed cautiously once the shaking has stopped. Avoid roads, bridges, or ramps that have been damaged.
Built to Withstand Quakes
Modern high rises, such as the Wilshire Grand Center, undergo considerable earthquake modeling and testing before they are complete. Taller buildings must withstand massive amounts of force from earthquakes and wind, so engineers make sure construction will withstand the “worst case scenario.” To me, any worst case scenario involves cats.
High-Rise Earthquake Safety Features
- Tuned mass dampers. These are massive weights that are mounted within a building and designed to move opposite to the oscillations of the structure. For example, the massive Taipei 101 skyscraper damper weighs 660 tons.
- Simple roller bearing. This is a type of “base isolation” where the movement of the building is mitigated by bearings, which absorb some of the energy, thereby minimizing the building’s lateral movement. This is a common technique that essentially removes the structure from the ground, so it “floats” freely.
- Sway. Engineers build the structure to withstand a certain amount of sway, knowing that there is a direct relationship between the height of the building and seconds of associated, safe side-to-side movement.
Building design is always dynamic, with new materials and procedures explored that can make buildings safer and more aesthetically pleasing. For instance, the growing use of cross-laminated timber (CLT) is pushing architects to consider high-rise wood buildings in Seattle and other areas. Sounds like a good idea to me!
Remember that safety is a daily priority for everyone, not only those working or living in high-rise buildings. 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 Allied Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.
President Obama officially proclaimed September National Preparedness Month, establishing September 30, 2016 as a “national day of action,” aka “America’s PrepareAthon.” Managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the campaign is designed to spark awareness and preparedness among the general public. In my book, preparedness is always a good thing!
The emphasis on awareness and active participation in safety-related exercises is especially timely in light of the recent terrorist attacks in New York and New Jersey. Also, in a separate and apparently unrelated incident in Minnesota, a terrorist attack was thwarted by a trained firearms expert, whose quick thinking and ready action saved the lives of innocent people.
In each of these incidents, well-prepared Americans, first-responders and members of the general public worked together to lessen the severity of incidents relative to attacks and/or helped the injured while simultaneously staying alert to additional threats. Way to go, people!
America’s PrepareAthon encourages alertness in several types of incidents:
- FEMA provides free materials such as badges and posters to promote preparedness for floods, earthquakes, winter storms, etc.
- A compelling video showcases the way bystanders helped victims.
- Disaster preparedness-related news is announced through the #PrepareAthon Twitter feed.
- Concerned members of the public can conduct drills, test communication plans, safeguard documents, and make plans with neighbors for post-disaster actions.
- Common steps to follow after a disaster such as tornadoes, hurricanes, active shooter incidents, winter storms, wildfires, and earthquakes alert the public.
America’s PrepareAthon could potentially save lives:
Active Shooter Scenarios
America’s PrepareAthon offers useful advice for active shooter incidents. Here is what you can learn:
- Find active shooter training classes, which are held at various locations throughout the country.
- Discern the importance of quickly running, hiding, or fighting (if necessary).
- Take first aid classes which instruct students in emergency procedures, such as how to tie a tourniquet.
- Determine when to report suspicious activity to law enforcement.
Severe winter storms bring ice, freezing rain, and potentially crippling quantities of snow, posing risks to first responders as well as the general public.
How to properly manage a major winter storm:
- Prepare by stocking up on valuable supplies, such as food and water. I also suggest stockpiling cans of food for pets.
- Create a backup heat source in case electrical or gas power are compromised.
- Understand the potential dangers of fallen power lines, which can be pulled down by ice accumulating on trees.
- Prepare your car by keeping the tank full to prevent the gas line from freezing. Also, pack extra blankets and water in your car as well as chains.
- Set outside faucets to trickle to keep the pipes from freezing.
- Create a travel bag containing several layers of clothing, a first aid kid, and signaling devices.
- Prepare a “Go Bag.”
- Grow fur. It works for me!
Remember that safety is a daily priority, not just on September 30th during America’s PrepareAthon. Take advantage of the resources offered through FEMA and other agencies, which can provide you and building occupants with lifesaving tips. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.
According to the National Weather Service, the recent historic flooding in Louisiana was a result of torrential rains that dropped three times as much water as what fell relative to Hurricane Katrina. When storms like this occur, dangerous floodwaters can lead to immediate loss of life. What’s more, the aftermath is often greater still.
In Baton Rouge, cleanup crews are moving street-by-street to pick up flood-related debris. Officials report that teams gathered 12,000 cubic yards of refuse in a single day. And this figure only reflects refuse on the street. Massive cleanup efforts are still underway, with sanitation companies repairing, cleaning and demolishing homes which were devastated by the flood.
Floodwaters destroy homes simply because most household items do not do well under water (That goes double for dog houses, which are light enough to float away in heavy floods):
- When saturated, wood floors swell. Sounds a little like how my stomach swells when I eat too many bones.
- Window casings can quickly rot and shift, breaking windows.
- Electronic components can short, posing electrical fire risk.
- Drywall absorbs water readily, and should be removed before mold grows.
- Extreme flooding within a structure can cause a home to shift, stressing the foundation.
Important Note for Property Managers and Building Owners:
Prior to a flood, make sure that important records and operating equipment are not located in underground basements or parking garages, as these are typically the first areas to flood.
Mold Removal after a Flood
Mold is a major concern for homeowners and disaster relief agencies following floods. Even if the variety of mold that grows is not toxic, the side effects of exposure can produce serious health issues – such as hives, bloody noses and migraines. So, regardless of the type of mold that grows following a flood, it’s important to seek out an experienced remediation firm. Avoid scammers who prey on flood victims, demanding payment in full, upfront, for mold remediation that will never be provided. Mold removal requires special chemicals, breathing masks and equipment; so leave the job to professionals. And if you do run into someone who is trying to scam you after a disaster, I would love to give them a peace of my mind!
Steps a pro will take to prevent and remove mold growth following a flood:
- Replace carpeting, drapes, and pads that were exposed to water. Mold spores can remain in carpets even after thorough drying.
- Remove drywall to properly sanitize walls.
- Discard affected materials to remove mold spores.
- Open windows and utilize masks rated N-95 or higher to prevent respiratory illness.
- Wash affected areas with special detergent.
- Use ammonia to kill mold spores. Be careful not to mix bleach and ammonia-containing cleaners.
- Dry the entire home using dehumidifiers, heat-producing devices, and high-speed fans. I could use one of those fans after I take a bath.
- Inspect areas in walls and behind wall coverings.
- Use infrared cameras to detect and target moisture.
In some cases, where moisture penetration is pronounced, insurance providers could deem the dwelling a total loss. Talk to a mold remediation specialist, or a facility services company such as Universal Building Maintenance, which is part of Allied Universal, and your insurance provider about the severity of conditions affecting your home.
Remember that safety is a daily priority. Flooding is not only extremely dangerous while it is occurring, but could also lead to a long and potentially toxic cleanup process. Homeowners and business owners should understand the flooding risk inherent in their buildings, review flood insurance coverage to make sure it is sufficient, and plan to quickly remediate flood damage in the event it occurs. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.
The advancing age of many elevators and decreased preventative maintenance have recently given rise to the number of elevator failures, such as stalled cars. Nevertheless, elevators remain an exceedingly safe mode of transportation, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Consumer Product Safety Commission reporting an average associated fatality rate of just 0.00000015% per trip, which represents a total of 27 deaths per year resulting from 18 billion rides. This statistic positions elevator rides as safer than vehicles, airplanes or even stairs
Unfortunately, elevator rides can be nerve-wracking and potentially dangerous for dogs. In fact, a dog in Russia was nearly killed because his leash got caught in a moving elevator. Thankfully, someone pulled him to safety.
Elevator manufacturers stake their reputation on safety, investing considerable resources into redundant systems to help protect elevator occupants. Nevertheless, elevators occasionally malfunction and even break down. Safety malfunctions can involve doors, buttons, cables, and additional components. Here are a few recent strides made in elevator safety:
- Recall given for Porta elevators. The recall was necessary due to faulty electro mechanical door locks.
- Elevators manufactured by ThyssenKrupp elevator doors were opening between floors, exposing people to the elevator shaft. When I retire from the fire station, I’m thinking about adding three more stories to our dog house. But stairs will probably suit us just fine.
- Firefighter Emergency Operations (FEO) transfers control and accessibility of elevator cabs from the public to firefighters during emergencies. Removing public access to elevators in emergencies reduces the possibility of injury or death resulting from cars that accidentally open up on a floor that has an active fire.
- Otis elevator operates a 38-story elevator test facility in Bristol, Connecticut to properly test cars, cables, and motors. I’d love to be in the “dog biscuit” test facility where I could taste new treats.
Core safety features of modern elevators:
- Electromagnetic brakes are used to keep the car in place, and will automatically snap shut if the elevator system loses electrical power. Modern elevators also feature braking systems located at the top and bottom of the elevator shaft, which can detect excessive elevator movement and apply brakes, when necessary.
- Despite the common Hollywood movie scene of an elevator cable snapping and elevator car plummeting, this scenario is unrealistic. Elevator cables are comprised of sturdy steel strands, which have been designed to single-handedly support the entire weight of the car and occupants. Each elevator contains between four and eight cables for each car, which provides multiple levels of redundancy.
Stuck in a Tin Can
As alarming as it can be, getting stuck in an elevator is rarely a life-threatening situation. Elevators occasionally get stuck. But even when this occurs, core safety systems remain intact.
Elevator safety tips:
- Do not attempt to rush into an elevator while the doors are closing. Simply wait for the next car. Also, keep leashed pets very close to you, for their safety as well as the safety of everyone in the car.
- Try not to panic about oxygen. While the car is an admittedly confined space, you should have plenty of available air to breath. Elevator cars are not airtight.
- Never, ever try to exit a stalled elevator car through the roof hatch or by prying the doors apart. This is the most important tip, as several deaths have tragically occurred when people try to escape stalled cars. In many cases, the elevator will stop between floors, leaving occupants with the mistaken impression that they would be able to crawl out to safety. However, if the elevator moves as someone is trying to escape, they could be trapped and tragically, crushed. So stay put and be patient.
- If the elevator car stalls, use the elevator phone and/or your cellphone to alert authorities. Remain calm.
Additional Tips from our friends at Allied Universal
While elevators have proven to be a very safe way of transporting both people and merchandise, occasionally malfunctions do occur. Common problems can include elevators that do not correctly align with the floor, doors that do not open or close properly, stopping between floors or stopping altogether and entrapping occupants.
Universal Services of America offers the following tips to help ensure your safety and knowledge regarding proper elevator use.
When you approach the elevator
- Stand aside for exiting passengers.
- Wait for the next car if the elevator is already full.
- Do not attempt to stop a closing door.
- Use the stairs, not an elevator, if there is a fire in the building.
When you enter and exit the elevator
- Watch your step, as the elevator floor may not be level with the landing.
- Stand clear of the doors, and keep your clothing and any carry-on items away from the opening.
When riding on the elevator
- Stand back from the doors and hold the handrail, if available.
- Pay attention to the floor indications, so you may exit when you arrive at your floor.
- Discern between the “open door” button and the “close door” button to avoid confusing them, if needed.
If you find yourself in an elevator that has become stuck
- Push the “door open” button. If that does not work, ring the elevator alarm.
- Use the emergency phone, alarm or help button, if available, to summon emergency personnel. Or use your cell phone to call 9-1-1.
- Do not attempt to force the doors open.
- Never try to leave the elevator car on your own, as doing so could result in serious injury.
- Remain calm. Elevators contain sufficient oxygen levels to last until help arrives.
Remember that safety is a daily priority, whether or not you use elevators. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.
Originally novelty items, drones are poised to become a multi-million dollar industry. These small remote-controlled devices are perfectly suited for industrial, emergency response, and building management purposes. This is due to their comparatively low cost compared to traditionally manned aircraft and because they can easily access remote target areas without putting operators at risk. This is how I would use a drone: I would buy one that comes with a scoop, and send it into the pantry to fetch full bags of treats.
Improving Emergency Response
Locating hurt or missing persons after a disaster is crucial for reducing loss of life. Drones work well for search and rescue because they are uniquely capable of enabling disaster response teams to quickly traverse dangerous locations resulting from floodwaters, wildfires, collapsed buildings, and the like. That’s the job of many of my canine companions, who use their noses for good!
Consider, for example, a large earthquake that causes buildings to crumble. Dangerous rubble could pose a serious risk to would-be rescuers, whereas drone operators could quickly scan the area to safely survey the integrity of remaining walls and structures while simultaneously searching for survivors. Using drones in this fashion reduces some of the risks to first responders by reducing their time spent in dangerous situations. I love any technology that helps my firefighting team members do their jobs so they can safely return to the firehouse.
Building operators use drones to investigate the exterior of structures for cracks or maintenance issues. I wanted to have a drone check out the shingles on our doghouse. But I couldn’t get the FAA to approve a fly-by. Equipped with a camera, drones can provide engineers and maintenance teams with detailed views of a facility’s exterior. Using drones in this manner can reduce the need for human inspectors, which is a cost-efficient way to detect small but potentially catastrophic problems.
Drones also enable inspection of dangerous building components without associated risks. For example, drone operators can check radiation levels near reactors and closely view chemical factory processes from a safe distance.
Utility giant Con Edison is testing the use of drones to inspect steam boilers that power some of New York City’s iconic buildings. Whereas traditional inspection methods involve building scaffolding and teams of workers traversing tight space, drones armed with traditional and thermal imaging cameras can review deforested areas and correlate the links between primates, mosquitoes and humans.
Disaster Management and Support
Retrieving samples, such as blood or saliva cultures, is crucial when managing a biological threat. Organizations in New Jersey recently conducted drone test flights carrying simulated blood packets and other items on a ship-to-shore mission. Drones are ideal for this type of transport because they vibrate less than traditional automobile journeys, which can damage samples. Drones can also be outfitted to deliver vital supplies, such as telecommunications equipment, to provide instant communication links between disaster victims and first responders. What’s more, drones can be used to deliver vital supplies including dog cookies, bacon, chew toys, old socks — the essentials!
Drones are ideal for high-rise fire rescue assistance, as they can monitor the intensity of a fire through sensors, and provide associated real-time updates to firefighters relative to the exact location and number of people involved, as well as additional relevant intel. Large commercial drones of three to four feet widths (and multi-thousands dollar price points) can even carry and disperse fire retardant agents, which could provide firefighting teams with precious time needed to save lives.
- Organizations around the world utilize drones for planning purposes before disasters strike.
- Communities in flood plains can use drones to assess risks and spot particularly vulnerable areas.
- Drones used in Malaysia are providing data about the links between rates of deforestation and malaria outbreaks, allowing response teams to better prepare for and prevent outbreaks.
- Speculators think that Amazon will one day use drones for instant deliveries. I’ll be the first to sign up for this, so I can order pork chops and have them delivered in time for lunch.
Remember that safety is a daily priority. And with the advances in drone technology, safety is receiving a boost from an affordable tool that could prevent or provide relief from disasters. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.
The recent earthquakes in the Ring of Fire focus attention on the importance of earthquake preparedness throughout the western United States. I guess this Ring of Fire is a different one than Johnny Cash sung about? Important components for lowering the incidences of loss of life and property are to follow construction guidelines and retrofit structures while making sure tenants understand the need to follow safety procedures.
The recent earthquakes in Ecuador and Japan highlight the need for proper building codes and preparedness for individuals. These quakes unfortunately caused loss of life as well as property damage, but there are lessons to learn from each disaster, which could potentially limit damage associated with future earthquakes. And we are all about learning at the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services!
On April 16, 2016, a 7.8 magnitude quake hit Ecuador, causing extensive damage and leading to the deaths of at least 587 people. The deadliest disaster in the country since a quake that hit in 1949, it leveled several towns. Due to the upheaval, officials have raised alerts about the associated increased risk of spreading Zika virus and dengue fever among displaced residents. The earthquake destroyed more than 805 buildings and damaged 600 more. Building code enforcement in the country varies by region, and rural homes likely collapsed due to inferior construction materials.
After the horrific quake and tsunami in 2011, Japanese residents are understandably concerned about earthquake safety and loss of life prevention. Earthquakes hit Japan on April 16 – five years, exactly, to the day as the Ecuador quakes. The main shock registered a 7.0 on the Richter scale. Whoever this Richter guy is, he was pretty smart to be able to invent an earthquake scale.
Despite the terrible losses from the 2011 earthquake, Japan’s strict building code improvements helped limit the damage this time around. The country made a concerted effort to improve codes after the 1995 Kobe earthquake and has emerged as a global leader in earthquake construction and retrofitting.
FEMA and Local Agency Involvement
In some areas of the United States, funds are available through individual states or federally, through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for several projects, including the completion of retrofitting. For example, an early 2016 California initiative through the California Residential Mitigation Program offered homeowners in select areas a $3,000 credit for proper crawlspace bolting and bracing of older homes. FEMA also offers programs and educational documents for commercial buildings. In Los Angeles, property owners are pushing for residential tenants to shoulder much of the costs of the county-mandated retrofitting due for completion within coming years. There are several viable options available to property managers and owners relative to mandatory retrofits. That’s a relief!
Building Codes Save Lives
In most earthquakes, the loss of life occurs from building collapse (and tsunamis) instead of shaking associated with the trembler. This underscores the need for countries in the Ring of Fire earthquake zone to follow recommended earthquake building codes for new construction and to properly retrofit older structures, when possible.
Retrofitting buildings for earthquake safety involves several procedures for commercial and residential buildings. Commercial buildings might need external bracing of parking garages to prevent floors from “pancaking” due to stress, as well as supplementary dampers that convert motion into heat. I love pancakes, but not when they are made up of smashed buildings.
Prepare Building Occupants for Earthquakes
While the integrity of residential and commercial buildings is vitally important, the onus for earthquake survival and safety is shared by building occupants. Here are tips to observe for optimal earthquake preparedness:
- Secure pictures on walls with approved adhesives, and anchor tall furniture to the wall.
- Understand and follow the evacuation plan. Know when the situation (or building-wide alerts) call for evacuation versus sheltering in place.
- Know how to turn off gas lines to the stove and hot water heater as well as proper fire extinguisher operation. This seems like important info even for people who don’t live in earthquake-prone zones.
- Recognize the importance of listening to floor wardens and follow their directions.
Remember that safety is a daily priority. So be sure to think about ways to #BeSafe all of the time, whether or not you live in an earthquake-prone region. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.
Proper fire emergency planning and prevention for residential high-rise buildings require special tactics. To that end, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has assembled a “High-Rise Building Safety Advisory Committee” to spot the unique needs and issues relative to safety in high-rise buildings. Since the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services has recently launched several residential training modules, we wanted to take the opportunity to highlight some of the NFPA strategies, with the goal of helping our subscribers and friends to #BeSafe.
Prepare Your Building and Residents
Many fires are preventable if proper protocols are put into place and building occupants acquaint themselves with recommended safety procedures. Here are several tips for high-rise building property owners and managers help prevent the occurrence and reduce the impact of fires (which, in my opinion, is always a good idea!):
- Create a formal plan. A written fire emergency plan is essential for optimal safety of residents as well as property. Map evacuation routes, meeting zone locations, sprinkler plans, and fire extinguisher locations. My pack is keen on locating fire extinguisher locations.
- Keep halls and stairways free of impediments. A minute delay can be the difference between occupants’ safe escape and catastrophe. Keeping walkways clear will provide first responders with easy access.
- Test backup and safety systems including emergency lighting and building communication systems. A safety system my canine friends and I love to use is the Twilight Bark.
- Produce a floorplan of the entire building with floor-by-floor layouts, including the location of floor drains, water valves, utility shut-offs, and standpipe locations. Make the evacuation information easily accessible to building occupants.
- Conduct drills. Residential occupants of a high-rise might be tempted to brush off fire drills as “false alarms.” Inform occupants that they should never assume alarms are part of a drill. Instruct them about the need to evacuate or quickly take directives in the event of any and all alarms.
Install and Maintain Sprinkler Systems
Sprinkler systems installed in high-rise buildings reduce both the loss of life and property damage. In addition, they are essential for high rise buildings, since fire truck ladders only reach six or seven floors. And since sprinkler systems are designed to go off only in the immediate area of the fire, you need not worry about unnecessary water damage. That sounds like a good idea. No need to flood floors that aren’t involved in the blaze!
According to NFPA data between 1996 and 2001, the costs incurred in buildings with functioning sprinkler systems was less than $400,000, while buildings without such systems saw losses averaging $2.2 million. Sounds like a significant difference!
Maintenance tips and best practices for sprinkler systems:
- Check water supply and pressure levels. High-rises require greater water pressure to push water against gravity.
- Ensure water valves are open and fire pumps are in good working order.
- Properly brace water sprinkler pipes for buildings that are in high-risk earthquake zones.
- Inspect pipes for corrosion or leaks and check sprinkler heads blocked by dust.
- Test the main drain lines to see how far the water pressure drops with open valves when water is flowing. If the test shows, for example, a bigger drop in pressure difference every six months, then there is likely a valve problem somewhere in the system that should be addressed.
Evacuation Guidelines for High-Rise Occupants
In a typical single-story residence, with sufficient warning from smoke detectors, occupants will likely escape unhurt. In a high-rise, however, people have to navigate stairwells and hallways to exit the building. What’s more, evacuation routes could be blocked due to fire and smoke. Evacuating people from a high rise is difficult, and requires the formation of a sound evacuation plan and following best practices for residents including:
- Memorize the plan. Residents must know what they will do in a fire emergency. Memorization is important for humans because they don’t share my acute sense of smell. So rely on your memory instead of your nose!
- Practice the plan. Encourage residents to conduct their own mock drills (in addition to your formal drills) in order to make the evacuation route familiar.
- Do not use elevators. Create contingency plans for residents who might have trouble walking or difficulty navigating stairs.
- Stay low to stay safe. Smoke rises, so residents should proceed under the smoke whenever possible.
- Remain in the residence. If occupants cannot enter hallways because of impassable smoke or fire, they should stay in their residences and mark their location on exterior windows. Also, place towels at the bottom of the door to block smoke.
Remember that safety is a daily priority. So be sure to think about ways to #BeSafe all of the time, whether or not you live or work in a high-rise facility. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.