Posted in be prepared for emergencies, BE SAFE, Disaster Preparedness, High-Rise Buildings, Hurricanes, Uncategorized

How to Prepare for Hurricanes

Huracn azotando una ciudad costeraHurricanes 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. hurricane season in blue

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30, with the peak occurring between mid-August and late October. The Eastern Pacific hurricane season begins in May and ends November 30. Unfortunately, cat season is year round.

Hurricanes can cause loss of life and catastrophic damage to property along coastlines and can extend several hundred miles inland. The extent of damage varies according to the size and intensity of the storm, amount and duration of rainfall, path of the storm, and other factors such as the number and type of buildings in the area, terrain and soil conditions.

The additional toll hurricanes can take include:Warning hurricane sign

  • Damage or destruction of buildings and other structures
  • Disruption of transportation, gas, power, communications (including my tweets), and other services
  • Coastal and inland flooding from heavy rains and storm surge.

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale divides hurricanes into five categories based on wind speed, central pressure and potential damage to homes, structures, power lines and trees, and the ability to block roads and bring areas to a standstill, or even render them uninhabitable.

Category 1: Sustains winds of 74 to 95 mph.

Category 2: Maintains winds of 96 to 110 mph.

Category 3 (Major): Whips up winds of 111 mph to 129 mph.

Category 4 (Major): Produces winds of 130 to 156 mph.

Category 5 (Major): Drums up 157 mph or higher winds.

Here’s how to prepare for a hurricane (adapted from Ready.Gov):Fotolia_31644140_XS

  • Know where to go. If ordered to evacuate, know the local hurricane evacuation route(s) and have a plan in place for where you will check in with family and take shelter.
  • Assemble a disaster supply kit, including flashlight, batteries, cash, first aid supplies, and copies of critical information in case you need to evacuate. Don’t forget to include pet supplies.
  • If you are outside the evacuation area and decide to stay in your home, put together adequate supplies in case you lose power and water for several days, as you could be stranded, due to flooding or blocked roads.
  • Make a family emergency communication plan. My wife and JR and I have a plan in place.
  • Utilize text or email alerting systems for emergency notifications, if data service is available in your area. To find out which alerts apply to you, search the Internet using your town, city, or county name plus the word “alerts.”

Strong Wind destroys a HouseWhat to do after a hurricane:

  • Listen to local officials for updates and instructions.
  • Check-in with family and friends via text (if cell service is available) or social media (if WIFI is operational). The Allied Universal Fire Life Safety Training System includes notes about what to do in a power failure.
  • Return home only when authorities indicate it is safe to do so.
  • Watch for debris and downed power lines.
  • Avoid walking or driving through flood waters. Just six inches of moving water can knock a person down, and fast-moving water can sweep away a vehicle. What’s more, it could be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines or contain dangerous debris.
  • Photograph the damage to your property to assist with insurance claims.

Remember that safety is important for everyone, before, during and after hurricanes. 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.

This video from the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) offers additional hurricane preparedness tips:

Posted in be prepared for emergencies, BE SAFE, Disaster Preparedness, Floods, Hurricanes, Tornadoes, Uncategorized

Are you ready for Extreme Weather?

Tsunami devastating the cityThe Global Climate Risk Index 2017 analyzes the extent to which countries have been affected by the impact of weather-related loss. I wish there was an index for cat-related loss. My entries would be at the top of the list! This year’s climate index confirms that, although less developed countries are generally more likely to be devastated by weather than industrialized nations, even areas that are typically immune from such risk would do well to prepare. Regardless of where you stand on the issue of climate change, experts agree that the risk of extreme weather events threatens the entire world. And wherever it strikes, extreme weather profoundly impacts facilities, operations and personnel –financially, emotionally and physically. 

So how should you prepare for a weather-related disaster?

  1. Don’t wait until the threat is imminent. Instead, proactively plan and stock supplies and run drills to make sure your family, friends, staff and/or building occupants are set to “weather the storm.” Most canine drills involve chasing our tails or circling over an area to properly flatten the grass.
  1. Familiarize yourself with the threats that are most likely to strike your region. If you aren’t sure, check the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Storm Prediction Center to find out about your geographic risks. rain storm backgrounds in cloudy weather
  2. Take specific steps to prepare for each and every potential weather-related emergency. Here are a few specific tips three of the most common extreme weather emergencies:

Extreme Heat

  • Keep fans on hand.
  • Regularly service your AC.
  • Make sure your emergency kit contains plenty of fresh water – enough for at least one gallon per day per person, for three days. And if you have a dog, make sure you leave the lid off of the toilet so we have access to our favorite water source.
  • Cover windows to reduce “heat gain.”
  • Learn about heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Thunder and Lightning

lightening boltThe sound produced by high temperature bursts of lightning, thunder rapidly expands surrounding air, resulting in a sonic boom. I’ve never been a fan of thunder. I guess that’s why the guys at the fire station pitched in to get me a thunder shirt.

  • If you are inside, steer clear of exterior windows.
  • If you are outside, avoid isolated tall trees.
  • Wherever you are, seek inside shelter immediately.
  • Within a building, avoid using electricity, which contains conductive elements.

Tornadoes

  • Designate a safe room to shelter in place during the storm.
  • Practice tornado drills at home and in the office.
  • Remove dead or diseased trees near buildings. In fact, it probably wouldn’t hurt to remove anything that’s dead or diseased even if you don’t face a tornado.
  • If you are in your car, drive to a safe shelter location. Or, if that is not possible, stay in the vehicle, buckle your seatbelt, and place your head between your knees.
  • The CDC offers tips for safety after a tornado, including watching for downed power lines, and avoiding the use of gas-powered generators or heaters inside a building.

Safely managing extreme weather events requires planning and teamwork with building occupants and staff. Remember that safety is a daily priority for everyone, regardless of whether the disaster you face is weather related. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

Posted in BE SAFE, Building Evacuation, Disaster Preparedness, Floods, High-Rise Buildings, Hurricanes, Workplace Safety

How to prepare for and respond to flooding when you are in a high-rise commercial building

Case Study: Hurricane Sandy

(Because much of this post was graciously provided by Chris Rodriguez of Brookfield Property Partners, I have not added my usual “firedogisms.” Thanks for your help, Chris!)

City submerged in water because of climate changeThe most common natural disaster in the United States is a flood. In the U.S., floods kill more people each year than tornadoes, hurricanes or lightning. This week, we will focus attention on this severe weather-related disaster, because El Nino could potentially produce the types of conditions that often result in floods.

Since flooding generally occurs at or below ground level, you may be surprised to learn that there are specific flood-related dangers and steps to take to deal with floods if you work or live in a high-rise building. As a service to our subscribers and friends, this post focuses on preparations to take before, during and after flooding if you are in a high-rise commercial building.

Photo courtesy of Brookfield Property Partners
Photo courtesy of Brookfield Property Partners

In the third edition of his High-Rise Security and Fire/Life Safety, Vice President of Universal Protection Service, Geoff Craighead, writes this about flood safety as it relates to high-rise buildings:

“Torrential rain, melting snow, a tsunami or a hurricane may produce too much water for land, rivers and flood control panels to handle and therefore results in serious flooding that will impact an entire area, including high-rise buildings. Floods also can occur as a result of a public water main pipe break or a reservoir failing.

Subterranean parking garages located beneath high-rise buildings can become flooded with water. This can result in damage to vehicles and substantial damage to elevator systems because of water cascading into elevator shafts. Building operations can be paralyzed for days as a result of cleanup of impacted areas and repair of damaged equipment. Also, a severe landslide could result in the collapse of a building.”

Photo courtesy of Brookfield Property Partners
Photo courtesy of Brookfield Property Partners

Our friend and client, Chris Rodriguez, is the Director of Security for Brookfield Property Partners at One New York Plaza. He was onsite at that location in 2012 during Hurricane Sandy. Chris stayed on the scene for days, and was kind enough to provide us with the steps he and his team took before, during and after the hurricane. We chose to include excerpts from his notes despite their length, because we believe it provides great insight into a real-world scenario relative to managing and recovering from flooding in a high-rise commercial building.

Pre-Sandy

  • Secured the building perimeter and all entrances to the building, 12 hours prior to the expected landfall of the storm.
  • Protected all street-level entrances with sandbags.
  • Advised tenants to remove their personal vehicles from the subterranean parking garage.
  • Monitored perimeter surveillance as well as live television broadcasts.
  • Brought in an evening security platoon prior to the shutdown of public transportation systems.
  • Advised personnel to be prepared for an extended stay.
  • Reviewed the Emergency Action Plan.
  • Double-checked the security cache of radios, flashlights and backup batteries.
  • Instructed critical operation staff personnel to don high-visibility clothing that identified them as “security, engineers, or life safety personnel.”
  • Made sure that engineers checked and tested critical building emergency utility systems, days prior to impact.

During Sandy

  • Equipped building personnel on duty with walkie–talkies.
  • Maintained perimeter surveillance from the elevated plaza level.
  • Continued to monitor local TV news and weather.
  • Upon notification that the sandbag “levee” had been breached by the incoming tidal surge, instituted the Emergency Action Plan.
  • Gave evacuation orders over the public address system for all areas below the lobby level.
  • When water started entering the loading dock and other areas of the building from the street level, parked elevators on upper floors.
  • As the three sub – surface levels of the building continued to flood, one final check was conducted.
  • When emergency power and lighting was lost throughout the building and downtown area, made sure all personnel were accounted for.
  • Ordered everyone in the building to assemble at a refuge point.
  • Continued to monitor the rising flood waters.
  • After the tidal surge appeared to have peaked, personnel “hunkered down” for the night.
  • The engineers on duty threw all the breakers connecting the service from the sub-cellar to the upper floors, which proved to be a vital maneuver contributing to the rapid recovery of power to the upper floors.

Post-Sandy Actions

  • By daybreak, the tidal surge had receded. The streets were dry but the damage was done. All three sub-levels of the building were under water.
  • The building was officially closed to all tenants.
  • All civilians remaining in the building were evacuated to allow for a damage assessment and to address safety concerns.
  • Perimeter patrols were resumed to ward off inquisitive sightseers and maintain the integrity of the building. Manual sign-in was mandatory and enforced.
  • The building Life Fire Safety system was non-functioning. So a fire guard patrol was established for all 50 floors.
  • Everyone was required to have a flashlight and walkie-talkie at all times.
  • Personal cellphones were the sole means of contact with the outside world.
  • Emergency generators were brought in to supply limited power to critical areas of the building.
  • Security Supervisors contacted all off-duty personnel to inquire about their personal wellbeing and potential availability to relieve peers. (The personnel onsite from the evening of the storm remained on-site for four days before relief was available from off-duty personnel).
  • Food vendors in the area of the city with power delivered three hot meals, per person, each day.
  • Security measures were addressed as the first sub-level street entrances were compromised and exposed by the receding water.
  • New security posts were established to maintain a secure environment.
  • The building remained closed to tenants for one business week, which is when sufficient emergency generators were in place to light stairways and restore the Life Fire Safety system.
  • On week two, the building was partially opened only to Critical Information Personnel for certain high-profile tenants’ data centers.
  • Security teams supplied supplemental officers to assist the newly established posts deemed necessary to protect tenants’ assets during their absence.

Lessons Learned

Chris had this to say about his experience: “No matter how much you prepare, you will likely never be ‘totally prepared’ for an event of historical magnitude. A storm the likes of Hurricane Sandy strikes only about once every 100 years. So the road to recovery is much longer than the avenue of destruction. Patience is indeed a virtue.”

Here are a few of the other lessons Chris says he learned:

  • A three-foot levee of sandbags does not standup to a 12- foot storm surge.
  • You probably will not have sufficient resources to handle a large-scale emergency and safely equip all personnel.
  • An easily assessable cache of equipment and resources must be maintained off-site, like radios, food, water, extra uniforms, toiletries, flashlights, etc.
  • Certain critical building resources should be relocated to upper floors, where feasible.
  • A team of supervisors trained and experienced in handling emergency situations begets a staff of efficient, disciplined and task-oriented personnel.
  • Personnel including supervisors must be able to accept and adapt to modified working conditions and hours.
  • Supervisors must be able to execute and display confidence in new and revised policies.
  • It will take some time to get back to “business as usual.”

FEMA has prepared a free, comprehensive 12-page PDF booklet that goes into great detail about flood preparation and recovery. We hope the FEMA resources and this blog post will motivate you to do whatever it takes to #BeSafe in floods as well as every other type of emergency…particularly if you live or work in a high-rise building! A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about our system, or to subscribe, click here.

Posted in BE SAFE, Disaster Preparedness, Health & Welfare, High-Rise Buildings, Hurricanes, Winter Weather Hazards

Make Sure You are Prepared for Hurricane Season

hurricane cartoonIn light of the fact that Hurricane Amanda is gaining strength off the Pacific coast, and in honor of hurricane preparedness week, we wanted to take the opportunity to encourage our readers and subscribers to prepare for hurricane season. I don’t live in a hurricane area myself. But I think hurricane preparation applies to other types of disasters, too!

A hurricane is a type of tropical cyclone or severe tropical storm that forms in the southern Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and in the eastern Pacific Ocean. A typical cyclone is accompanied by thunderstorms, and in the Northern Hemisphere, a counterclockwise circulation of winds near the earth’s surface.

Here are a few facts about hurricanes:

  • All Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastal areas are subject to hurricanes.
  • Hurricanes have nothing to do with bacon.
  • Parts of the Southwest United States and the Pacific Coast also experience heavy rains and floods each year from hurricanes spawned off Mexico.
  • The Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June to November, with the peak season from mid-August to late October.
  • The Eastern Pacific hurricane season begins May 15 and ends November 30. So we have officially entered the Eastern Pac season.
  • Hurricanes can cause catastrophic damage to coastlines and several hundred miles inland.
  • Hurricane can produce winds exceeding 155 miles per hour as well as tornadoes and micro-bursts.
  • Hurricanes can create storm surges along the coast and cause extensive damage from heavy rainfall.
  • Floods and flying debris from the excessive winds are often the deadly and destructive results of these weather events.
  • Slow moving hurricanes traveling into mountainous regions tend to produce especially heavy rain. And fast moving cats can do lots of damage to doghouses.
  • Excessive rain can trigger landslides or mud slides.
  • Flash flooding can occur due to intense rainfall.

So how are you supposed to prepare for a hurricane?

  • Build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
  • Know your surroundings. I am well acquainted with the grassy area around the doghouse and all of the hydrants at the fire station.
  • Learn the elevation level of your property and whether the land is flood-prone.
  • Identify levees and dams in your area and determine whether they pose a hazard to you.
  • Learn community hurricane evacuation routes and how to find higher ground. Determine where you would go and how you would get there if you needed to evacuate.
  • Make plans to secure your property.
  • Cover the windows in your home. I hear storm shutters work well.
  • To reduce roof damage, install straps or additional clips to securely fasten your roof to the frame structure.
  • Make sure trees and shrubs around your home are well trimmed so they are more wind resistant.
  • Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts.
  • Reinforce your garage doors; if wind enters a garage it can cause dangerous and expensive structural damage.
  • Plan to bring in all outdoor furniture, decorations, garbage cans and anything else that is not tied down.
  • Determine how and where to secure your boat.
  • Install a generator for emergencies.
  • If in a high-rise building, when high winds are present, be prepared to take shelter on a lower floor because wind conditions increase with height.
  • Consider building a safe room.

Your hurricane preparations should include the following:

  1. Make a family plan.
  2. Check your disaster kit.
  3. Know your evacuation route (especially if you are new to an area.)

If a hurricane is likely in your area, you should:

  • Listen to the radio or TV for information.
  • Secure your home, close storm shutters and secure outdoor objects or bring them indoors.
  • Turn off utilities if instructed to do so. Otherwise, turn the refrigerator thermostat to its coldest setting and keep the doors closed. No sneaking in for snacks.
  • Turn off propane tanks
  • Avoid using the phone, except for serious emergencies.
  • Moor your boat if time permits. If you don’t have a boat—this step doesn’t apply to you.
  • Ensure a supply of water for sanitary purpose such as cleaning and flushing toilets. Fill the bathtub and other larger containers with water.
  • Find out how to keep food safe during and after and emergency.

After a Hurricane:

  • Continue listening to a NOAA Weather Radio or the local news for the latest updates.
  • Stay alert for extended rainfall and subsequent flooding even after the hurricane or tropical storm has ended.
  • If you have become separated from your family, use your family communications plan.
  • If you evacuated, return home only when officials say it is safe.
  • If you cannot return home and have immediate housing needs. Text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area (example: shelter 12345).
  • For those who have longer-term housing needs, FEMA offers several types of assistance, including services and grants to help people repair their homes and find replacement housing. Apply for assistance or search for information about housing rental resources
  • Drive only if necessary and avoid flooded roads and washed out bridges. Stay off the streets. If you must go out watch for fallen objects; downed electrical wires; and weakened walls, bridges, roads, and sidewalks.
  • Keep away from loose or dangling power lines and report them immediately to the power company.
  • Walk carefully around the outside your home and check for loose power lines, gas leaks and structural damage before entering. Taking a walk is always a great idea.
  • Stay out of any building if you smell gas, floodwaters remain around the building or your home was damaged by fire and the authorities have not declared it safe.
  • Inspect your home for damage. Take pictures of damage, both of the building and its contents, for insurance purposes. If you have any doubts about safety, have your residence inspected by a qualified building inspector or structural engineer before entering.
  • Use battery-powered flashlights in the dark. Do NOT use candles. Note: The flashlight should be turned on outside before entering – the battery may produce a spark that could ignite leaking gas, if present.
  • Watch your pets closely and keep them under your direct control. Watch out for wild animals, especially poisonous snakes. Use a stick to poke through debris.
  • Avoid drinking or preparing food with tap water until you are sure it’s not contaminated. I don’t mind tap water myself—or toilet water.
  • Check refrigerated food for spoilage. If in doubt, throw it out.
  • Wear protective clothing and be cautious when cleaning up to avoid injury.
  • Use the telephone only for emergency calls.
  • NEVER use a generator inside homes, garages, crawlspaces, sheds, or similar areas, even when using fans or opening doors and windows for ventilation. Deadly levels of carbon monoxide can quickly build up in these areas and can linger for hours, even after the generator has shut off.

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, Disaster Preparedness, Hurricanes, Winter Weather Hazards

More about Severe Weather: Hurricanes

hurricane fiiredogThree weeks ago, we began a series about severe weather. We interrupted that series to discuss earthquake safety. This week, we will resume our severe weather series, focusing on a type of tropical cyclone or severe tropical storm that forms in the southern Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, or in the eastern Pacific Ocean. And we aren’t talking about disasters of the feline variety-I’m talking hurricanes. Hurricane hazards come in many forms, including storm surge, heavy rainfall, inland flooding, high winds, tornadoes, and rip currents.

All Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastal areas are subject to hurricanes. Unfortunately, cat disasters occur all over the globe. Each year, parts of the Southwest U.S. and the Pacific Coast also experience heavy rains and floods from hurricanes spawned off Mexico.

Vital Stats about Hurricanes, which can:

  • Cause catastrophic damage to coastlines and several hundred miles inland.
  • Produce winds exceeding 155 miles per hour as well as tornadoes and microbursts.
  • Create storm surges along the coast and cause extensive damage from heavy rainfall.
  • Cause floods and flying debris which are often the deadly and destructive.
  • Slow moving hurricanes traveling into mountainous regions tend to produce especially heavy rain.
  • Excessive rain can trigger landslides or mud slides.
  • Flash flooding can occur due to intense rainfall.

History teaches that a lack of hurricane awareness and preparation are common threads among all major hurricane disasters. The National Weather Service is responsible for protecting life and property through issuance of timely watches and warnings, but it is essential that you and your family and business associates be ready before a storm approaches. Getting to know your vulnerability and what actions you should take, you can reduce the effects of a hurricane disaster.

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Ten Steps to Prepare for a Hurricane:

  1. Get to know your surroundings at home and at work. You never know when and where an emergency will strike.
  2. Build three emergency kits—for work, at home and in the trunk of your vehicle.
  3. Make family and corporate communications plans.
  4. In high-rise buildings, be prepared to take shelter on or below the 10th floor.
  5. Consider installing an emergency generator.
  6. Cover windows. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection.
  7. Install straps or additional clips to securely fasten the roof to the frame.
  8. Trim leaves and branches to make sure trees and shrubs are wind resistant.
  9. Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts.
  10. Bring outdoor furniture, decorations and garbage cans inside.

Ten Ways to Cope During a Hurricane:

  1. Listen to the radio or TV for information.
  2. Only evacuate if you are directed by local authorities to do so.
  3. Do not use the phone, except for serious emergencies.
  4. Close all interior doors and windows – secure and brace external doors.
  5. Turn off propane tanks.
  6. If instructed to do so, turn off utilities. Otherwise, turn the refrigerator thermostat to the coldest setting and keep the doors closed.
  7. Fill the bathtub and other larger containers with water to ensure a sufficient supply of for sanitary uses such as cleaning and flushing toilets.
  8. Stay and away from windows and glass doors.
  9. Take refuge in a small interior room, closet or hallway on the lowest level.
  10. Lie on the floor under a table or sturdy, secure object.

Ten Steps to Take After a Hurricane:

  1. Listen to a NOAA Weather Radio or the local news and updates.
  2. If you have become separated from your family, use your family communications plan or contact the American Red Cross.
  3. Stay alert for extended rainfall and associated flooding, even after the hurricane or tropical storm has ended.
  4. If you were instructed to evacuate, return home only when officials say it is safe.
  5. If you cannot return home and have immediate housing needs. Text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area (example: shelter 12345).
  6. For those who have longer-term housing needs, FEMA offers several types of assistance, including services and grants to help people repair their homes and find replacement housing. Apply for assistance or search for information about housing rental resources
  7. Drive only if necessary and avoid flooded roads and washed out bridges.
  8. Steer clear of loose or dangling power lines and report them immediately to appropriate utility.
  9. Use battery-powered flashlights in the dark. Never use candles.
  10. Check refrigerated food for spoilage and make sure tap water has not been contaminated. When in doubt, throw it out.

Subscribers to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services can take advantage of applicable educational tutorials including instructions for power outages as well as medical emergencies. When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The best way to prepare for severe weather is to be aware. Our system 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, Hurricanes, Tornadoes, Tsunamis

National Severe Weather Preparedness Week

?????????????????????????????????????????Welcome to National Severe Weather Preparedness Week, which runs from March 2nd to the 8th, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Calling on individuals across the country to prepare for severe weather and to encourage others to do the same, the national campaign slogan is: Be a Force of Nature. I consider myself a force of nature because I am a dog for all seasons.

No matter which part of the country you call home, your geographic location poses inherent weather risks—tornado, hurricane, typhoon, thunderstorms, floods, blizzards, snowstorms, water spouts, tropical cyclones, ice storms and dust storms…to name a few. To minimize your risk of severe weather-damage, familiarize yourself with your region’s particular weather-risks so you can prepare accordingly. For example, NOAA National Weather Service Director, Dr. Louis Uccellini, warns residents of tornado-prone areas:

“With the devastation of last year’s tornadoes fresh in our minds and springtime almost here, I urge individuals to become weather-ready now. Make sure you have multiple ways to access forecasts and warnings from NOAA’s National Weather Service before severe weather strikes.”

FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate agrees, “Being ready today can make a big difference for you when disaster strikes. It only takes a few minutes. Talk with your family and agree to a family plan. Learn easy steps on how to prepare at Ready.gov and find out how your community can take action in America’s PrepareAthon through drills, group discussions and community exercises.”

In the coming weeks, we will focus on preparation and response for various forms of severe weather emergencies. In the meantime, for every type of severe weather emergency, the national severe weather safety message is a simple, three-pronged approach: know your risk, take action, be an example.

Know Your Risk: The first step to becoming weather-ready is to understand the type of hazardous weather that can affect where you live and work, and how the weather could impact you and your family. Sign up for weather alerts and check the weather forecast regularly.

Take Action: Be prepared for severe weather.

  1. Your family may not be together when a storm strikes.
  2. Plan how you will contact one another by developing your family communication plan.
  3. Put together an emergency kit.
  4. Store important papers and valuables in a safe place.
  5. Visit Ready.gov/severe-weather to learn more about how to be better prepared and how you can protect your family when severe weather strikes.
  6. Subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, where you will find loads of great, easy-to-understand instructions for disaster preparation.
  7. Store lots of pork chops and bacon in your freezer—just in case you run out of food after a thunderstorm and need to feed the dog.

Be an Example: Once you have taken action, tell family, friends, and co-workers to do the same.

  1. Share the resources and alert systems you discovered through your social media network. For example, I use my blog, RJtheFireDog.com and Twitter account @RJtheFireDog to alert people to weather and other hazards.
  2. Technology today makes it easier than ever to be a good example and share the steps you took to become weather-ready.
  3. You can download apps, sign up for email or text notifications, watch informational videos on YouTube and even subscribe to the new NOAA and FEMA’s Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs) project, a new text-like message system, which is part of a national effort to increase emergency preparedness and build a Weather-Ready Nation. Last year, millions of individuals across the country received WEAs with life-saving weather warnings via their cell phone. These geographically-targeted emergency alerts alert people to weather warnings they would not have otherwise received. And, as a result, many people took life-saving action. To sign up, visit www.Ready.gov/Alerts.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The best way to prepare for the flu is to keep from catching it by having a vaccine. 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 Building Evacuation, Disaster Preparedness, Earthquakes, Fire Safety, High-Rise Buildings, Hurricanes

This week’s theme for Building Safety Month — Disaster Safety & Mitigation

家族で自主防災In last week’s RJWestmore Training System blog, we discussed the public awareness campaign offered by the International Code Council (ICC) each year to help individuals, families and businesses understand what it takes to create and sustain safe and sustainable structures. Celebrated every May, Building Safety Month reinforces the need for industry professionals to adopt modern, model building codes, a strong and efficient system of code enforcement and a well-trained, professional workforce. I also discussed the importance of making sure your canine’s doghouse is in good shape. Since this week’s theme is Disaster Safety and Mitigation, it’s worthwhile to continue the discussion.

No matter where you live and work, you and everyone in your family and circle of friends, professional colleagues and pets are at risk from natural disasters. Thankfully, there is also some good news. Despite the devastation created by now infamous recent earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires give us pause; we are not powerless against these forces. When we learn from mistakes and take steps to prepare as well as help make sure other people learn how to prepare, respond and react, we can share in the miracle of human resilience. People can survive and communities can endure disasters. And they do so because of actions taken beforehand—with purpose, to make structures stronger and people and pets safer.

To make sure your family, friends, colleagues, tenants and pets are prepared for any natural disaster; follow these steps provided by FLASH (Federal Alliance for Safe Homes):

 

  • Develop a family disaster plan that includes a list of food and water supplies needed for each member of your family and supplies for your pets. I suggest plenty of bacon for everyone to munch on during a disaster of any kind. Bacon makes everything better.
  • Make copies of important documents like insurance policies, the deed to your home, and other personal papers, important phone numbers and a home inventory. Don’t forget about your pet’s records!
  • Create a checklist of important things to do before, during and after a disaster. One of those should be to walk the dog. Just a suggestion…
  • Review your evacuation route and emergency shelter locations with your family. Options for evacuation should include either staying with friends and relatives, seeking commercial lodging, or staying in a mass care facility operated by disaster relief groups in conjunction with local authorities.
  • Taking shelter is critical in times of disaster. Sheltering in place is appropriate when conditions require that you seek protection in your home, place of employment, or wherever you are when disaster strikes.

For its part, the ICC has prepared a free downloadable PDF packet with 10 Tips to Remember for Disaster Safety & Mitigation. For details, click the link. Here is a summary:

 

  1. Develop a Family Action Plan.
  2. Create a Disaster Supply Kit.
  3. Stay tuned to Radio or TV news.
  4. Never attempt to cross a flowing stream. I’ve seen dogs rescue people who pull this kind of stunt. Scary stuff. Stay on the shore where it’s safe, people!
  5. In high wind or hurricane-prone areas, make sure windows and shutters are code-compliant.
  6. Secure lawn furniture and any loose outdoor items.
  7. If you live in an affected area, build or retrofit a tornado-safe room.
  8. Use surge protectors in home and offices.
  9. In wildfire prone areas, clear debris within 30 feet of the exterior of any structure.
  10. Before winter, insulate exposed water pipes outside of buildings.

When it comes to protecting your place of business, particularly if it is located in a high rise, the most important step you can take is to make sure your tenants are prepared. The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services helps commercial buildings with compliance to fire life safety codes. Our interactive, building-specific e-learning training system motivates and rewards tenants instantly! It’s a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your building(s).

Posted in Disaster Preparedness, Hurricanes, Tornadoes, Tsunamis, Uncategorized

Top 10 Disasters of 2012: Natural Disasters

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Part 1 of a 2-Part Series (Next week, we’ll focus on manmade disasters in 2012.)

In 2012, we saw many natural disasters strike on a global level—killing thousands and inflicting billions of dollars in property damage. From hurricanes and earthquakes to droughts, heat waves and wildfires, events were widespread and severe.

One of the most prominent disasters of the year in the U.S. was Hurricane Sandy, which killed at least 125 people in the USA and 71 in the Caribbean, and inflicted an estimated $62 billion in damage. Much of the U.S. also encountered prolonged severe weather; including summer heat waves and drought which many pundits believe may prove even more costly than Sandy. With careful reflection, emergency management professionals agree the most important lesson learned is that people survive and recover when they take time to prepare. Another suggestion I have is that it always pays to store plenty of pork chops, beef jerky and steak just in case of a storm or if you want to reward your faithful canine.

  1. Heat Waves. The summer heat wave in North America led to more than 82 heat-related deaths across the United States and Canada. The intense three-week wave began around in June, when a high pressure system centered over Baja California moved into the plains, driving temperatures beyond 110 degrees. The heat spread east from the Rocky Mountains, causing high temperatures in the central states reminiscent of temps not felt for some 80 years. Sometimes it feels like our doghouse is 1,000 degrees. I’m going to have to check into central air conditioning, I guess.
  2. Drought. A historic lack of snow last winter in the United States, combined with several years of below-normal rainfall, produced a devastating drought through much of North America. Meteorologists say this drought was similar to the large-scale droughts of the 1930s and 1950s. Due to crop failure and livestock deaths, this prolonged, multi-year disaster could emerge as the single most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history. Make sure your dog bowl has plenty of water, too. You wouldn’t want your dog to feel like he or she is in a drought.
  3. Wildfires. Starting in early August, a series of Oklahoma wildfires burned 52,000 acres, destroying at least 121 homes and businesses. In Colorado, at least 200,000 acres of Colorado were swept by wildfire in June and July, said to have been sparked by both lightning and human activities. More than 600 homes were destroyed and five lives were lost during this month of fires.

All told, in the American West, wildfires in 2012 burned 30 percent more land mass than during average year by September. Computer renderings and satellite projections suggest the area burned by wildfires in the U.S. will likely double by the year 2050.

  1. Floods. In addition to the storm-related flooding associated with Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast, the southeastern U.S. experienced flooding in July, long before Sandy hit. Timely flood warnings prepared residents in New Orleans. But, while no deaths were reported, many people were rescued from flooded cars and water-covered structures. Power outages were widespread and many homes and businesses suffered damage.Folks in Georgia were also impacted, with flooded streets in Atlanta leading to massive traffic jams. Several drivers reported that they felt they could drive through the high water, only to find that their cars stalled and left them trapped in chest-deep water.

On the other side of the world, 37 people were killed by flood waters in and around the city of Beijing, China. In the rural and suburban areas outside Beijing, many more people died in as a result of flooding, which was said to be the region’s worst in 60 years. Elsewhere, floods occurred in southwest Russia in early July, near the coast of the Black Sea. Five months’ worth of rain fell overnight in southern parts of the country, leaving 144 people dead and damaging the homes of nearly 13,000 residents.

  1. Earthquakes. Iran and Afghanistan were struck with two of the most deadly earthquakes of 2012. In August, 306 people died from the 6.4 magnitude quake that struck East Azerbaijan Province, Iran. This earthquake was in the rural and mountainous areas to the northeast of Tabriz, and was felt as far away as Armenia. Earthquakes can be scary stuff. But just remember to drop, cover and hold on.
  2. Hurricanes. 2012 was an extremely active and destructive hurricane season, producing 19 tropical cyclones, ten hurricanes, and one major hurricane. The season’s most intense hurricane, Sandy, was rated a powerful Category 2 hurricane that brought significant damage to portions of the Greater Antilles and East Coast of the United States, causing damages upwards of 65 billion dollars. This is a lot higher than our turkey jerky bill at the fire station. So I can’t figure out why the guys complain.
  3. Avalanche. In March, several avalanches hit northeastern Afghanistan, destroying a small village of about 200 people. Most buildings and homes were completely buried in the avalanche. Seven people were found alive in the village, but three later died from their injuries and a lack of medical care. Three days later, 50 people had been confirmed dead.

The deadliest avalanche of the year occurred at a Pakistani military base. It was the most severe avalanche the Pakistani military had experienced in the area, trapping both soldiers and civilian contractors under deep snow. Pakistani officials report that 129 soldiers and 11 civilians were killed by the avalanche.

I think St. Bernard’s might be responsible for these high avalanche numbers. Maybe they shouldn’t be allowed to carry alcohol in barrels mounted to their collars.

  1. Thunderstorms. El Derecho was one of the most damaging thunderstorms in recent history. The surprise storm produced wind speeds over 90 mph and hail stones up to 2.75 inches in diameter. The storm traveled from Indiana, across the Midwest, and into the Mid-Atlantic states, causing 22 deaths and widespread damage across an 800-mile swath and left millions without power during a heat wave.
  2. Typhoons. 2012 delivered 34 different weather systems from early summer through late fall. The total damage of those 34 systems is estimated at $4.42 billion. In all, 506 lives were lost in the Pacific storms due to flooding and buildings collapsing in high winds. From the Philippines to Japan and Russia, some of this year’s storms generated winds in excess of 125 mph and produced widespread flooding.
  3. Tornadoes. Although the world’s high-risk tornado corridors are in the United States, Bangladesh, and Eastern India, tornadoes can and do pop up almost anywhere, under the right conditions. In February, a strong tornado struck South Sulawesi province in Indonesia, killing five people and damaging 98 structures. In April, a tornado struck a construction site in Turkey, killing at six and injuring seven others. Several homes were destroyed along the tornado’s seven-mile-long track. In July 14, a group of tornadoes hit Poland, killing a 60-year old man and injuring at least 10 others. In the U.S., 1,039 tornadoes were reported in 2012, resulting in 68 fatalities.

Check back next week, when we’ll cover the top 10 manmade disasters of 2012, in an effort to encourage building owners and managers to prepare tenants in advance for emergencies of all kinds in 2013 and beyond. When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, check out the RJWestmore Training System by Universal/Fire Life Safety Services. Our new Version 3.0 system offers the best emergency training system on the market.

Posted in Disaster Preparedness, Health & Welfare, Hurricanes

Hurricane Sandy Recap as FEMA & SBA Help Recovery

A significant number of RJW Training System subscribers are located on the east coast. Our hearts go out to each of them. If you would like to donate to relief efforts, consider giving through a reputable charitable organization such as the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Samaritan’s Purse, the United Way, World Vision or Operation USA. We are currently devoting RJWestmore blog space to lessons we have learned about disaster preparedness and recovery from Superstorm Sandy. This week will be our final blog post in our Hurricane Sandy series, focusing on statistics provided through FEMA about recovery efforts, to date, as well as ideas to help business owners recover following a disaster.

(We excluded my usual “firedogisms” in this post, out of respect for those who are still suffering from this storm’s devastating effects.)

According to a press release distributed by FEMA, the totals so far relative to how the federal government is responding and assisting post-Hurricane Sandy recovery operations in New York City is $449M, given to date for individual assistance (IA). Still early in the game, this figure does not include other hard hit states in the surrounding area. Experts predict that IA for Sandy will total well over $1B. When it comes to Public Assistance (PA), the total will require billions and billions of additional funding.

These are the FEMA figures regarding disaster recovery effort to date:

  • More than 204,000 New Yorkers have contacted FEMA for information or registered for assistance with FEMA. More than $449 million has been approved.
  • 31 Disaster Recovery Centers (DRC) are open in affected areas. These include mobile sites as well as fixed sites. And, to date more than 27,000 survivors have been assisted at DRCs in New York.
  • 1,249 inspectors in the field have completed 71,992 home inspections.
  • 1,085 Community Relations (CR) specialists are strategically positioned throughout affected communities, going door to door to explain the types of disaster assistance available and providing registration instructions.
  • 20 Points of Distribution (PODs) are open and providing supplies to affected residents.
  • 9 Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMATs), 1 Rapid Deployment Force (RDF) and 1 National Veterinary Response Team (NVRT) from the Department of Health and Human Services are deployed in New York.
  • There are 13 New York counties designated for individual and public assistance, including: Bronx, Kings, Nassau, New York, Orange, Putnam, Queens, Richmond, Rockland, Suffolk, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester.
  • U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) staff members at 15 Business Recovery Centers in the New York area are providing one-on-one help to business owners seeking disaster assistance. $1.9 million has been approved thus far in disaster loans.
  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is employing 220 long-haul trucks, three tugs and 19 barges to transfer material from temporary storage sites in Staten Island and Queens to the Seneca Meadows landfill in Waterloo, N.Y.
  • Individuals can register online at www.disasterassistance.govor via smart phone at m.fema.gov.  Applicants may also call 1-800-621-3362 or (TTY) 1-800-462-7585. Those who use 711-Relay or Video Relay Services (VRS) should call 1-800-621-3362. The toll-free telephone numbers operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week until further notice.

Thousands of business owners, homeowners, and tenants along the East Coast are returning to find physical damage to their buildings and property post-Hurricane Sandy. Even those whose buildings were not directly involved are dealing with the economic blow caused by power outages, damaged inventory, and lost profits from forced closure.

Whether you own a small business in the area affected by Superstorm Sandy, or your company is located well away from the east coast, you may be interested in the tips and suggestions provided by the Small Business Administration (SBA) for recovery from a natural or manmade disaster. Avail yourself to the myriad of resources now, before disaster strikes, so you will be prepared to react and recover quickly if an emergency strikes you and/or your business:

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 RJWestmore, Inc. Our new Version 3.0 system offers the best emergency training system.

Posted in Disaster Preparedness, Floods, Hurricanes

Help Arrives for Some Victims of Hurricane Sandy

A significant number of RJW Training System subscribers are located on the east coast. Our hearts go out to each of them. If you would like to donate to relief efforts, consider giving through a reputable charitable organization such as the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Samaritan’s Purse, the United Way, World Vision or Operation USA. We are currently devoting RJWestmore blog space to lessons we have learned about disaster preparedness and recovery from Superstorm Sandy. This week, we will focus on whether disaster victims should rely on disaster recovery efforts provided by charitable and government organizations.

(We excluded my usual “firedogisms” in this post, out of respect for those who are still suffering from this storm’s devastating effects.)

In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the situation was grim. Millions of people were without power, gas was in short supply and desperate east coast residents dug through dumpsters to find food. Time Magazine estimates the amount of damage caused by the Superstorm will exceed $60 billion. Citing data compiled by a forecasting firm IHS Global Insight, Time projects the sobering figure that Superstorm Sandy will end up causing $20 billion in property damage and $10 billion to $30 billion more in lost business.

Two weeks after the Superstorm slammed the east coast, claiming 43 lives; millions of struggling survivors have criticized organizations including FEMA and the American Red Cross for a perceived slow response.

“I think that we are near flawless so far in this operation,” said Gail McGovern, chief executive officer and president of the Red Cross.

Although the Red Cross continues to list available resource offerings on its website, many victims are still without power and, so, are unable to check the nonprofit group’s updates. The Huffington Post reports that many experts point to the sheer nature of the storm’s damage, which they say precludes relief organizations from offering up a perfect response.

“This is going to be, I think, more challenging than (Hurricane) Katrina in the sense of the large geographical areas that were impacted,” said Ky Luu, head of the Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy at Tulane University. “From a logistical perspective, it’s going to be very complex and difficult to manage.”

Nevertheless, recovery is underway:

  • New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announcing an end to odd-even gas rationing.
  • The head of NJ Transit said a severely damaged rail line could be restored sooner than expected.
  • State officials announced they are readying a shuttered military base to temporarily house residents displaced by the mega-storm.
  • Newark Mayor Cory Booker recently announced the opening of a disaster recovery center in Newark, saying, “The station will help residents dig out from the tremendous damage suffered by the state’s largest city when Hurricane Sandy hit last month.”
  • The Newark Community Center will be run by city officials and representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and will remain open 12 hours a day for at least a month. Mayor Booker urged residents who suffered significant damage to their homes or businesses to come to the center to register for federal aid.
  • FEMA has been directing federal resources to support state, local and tribal communities in affected areas before, during and after the crisis.

However, an editorial in the New York Times recently called attention to what has yet to be done: “For all the efforts of federal, state and local officials to help people after Hurricane Sandy, unacceptable pockets of suffering remain. Ten days after the hurricane struck, thousands of people in New York City’s public housing are still without heat, water, electricity or food. Many people needed assistance after the storm, but the most vulnerable of the city’s inhabitants seem to be among the last in line to get it.”

Since it’s safe to say people are rallying and federal and charitable organizations are working hard to address the myriad needs relative to the storm, it makes sense to consider this:

Is it fair for victims to rely on charitable and government organizations to bail them out after a natural or manmade disaster? Are large groups expected to quickly and efficiently meet each and every need immediately even when so large a geographical location and so many are affected?

We pose the question not as a debate about national politics but to remind folks that prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. So, whether or not you agree with the way FEMA and the American Red Cross and other organizations have administered aid post-Sandy, we would like to offer this suggestion, which stems from our motto to BE SAFE. It always pays to be prepared.

Assemble an emergency kit before disaster strikes to tide you over until help arrives. That way, you will be able to help yourself and others when a natural or manmade emergency strikes. In fact, the life you save might be your own! For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJWestmore, Inc. Our new Version 3.0 system offers the best emergency training system.