Posted in be prepared for emergencies, BE SAFE, Holiday Safety, Safety at Home, Uncategorized

All About Holiday Safety

Cartoon Santa Claus thief is stealing a house at christmasWith so much to do during the holidays, it can be easy to forget that safety should remain a primary concern at home, at work and on the job. My wife and JR and I have got a lot going on all year long. The holidays are hardly the time to turn a blind eye to safety:

  • One of every three home Christmas tree fires is caused by electrical problems.
  • A heat source too close to trees causes one in every four of Christmas tree fires.
  • December is the peak month for home candle fires.
  • One out of three candle fires originate in the bedroom. This is why we never use candles in our dog house.
  • Typical symptoms of foodborne illness are vomiting, diarrhea, and flu-like symptoms, which can start anywhere from hours to days after contaminated food or drinks are consumed.
  • In the United States, motor vehicle crashes are in the top 10 causes of death for people aged 1-54, and more than 30,000 people are killed in crashes each year.

As a courtesy to our subscribers and friends, we have assembled some easy tips to help you and yours make this holiday season a safe and happy one.

Cartoon Santa Claus having an electric shock accident at christmDecorations

  • Don’t use lit candles near trees, boughs, curtains/drapes, or with any other potentially flammable item. In fact, why use the kind that burn when nice, safe electronic versions are available?
  • When using artificial snow on windows or other surfaces, follow directions. These sprays can irritate lungs if they are inhaled.
  • Many holiday plants are poisonous if ingested. These include: mistletoe, holly berries, Jerusalem cherry and amaryllis. Keep these plants out of children’s reach.
  • When displaying a tree, cut off about two inches off the trunk and put the tree in a sturdy, water-holding stand. Keep the stand filled with water so the tree does not dry out quickly. This is especially important if you have a dog in the house; we like tree water.
  • Position trees away from fireplaces, radiators and other heat sources. Make sure the tree does not impede foot traffic.
  • Avoid placing breakable ornaments where small children or pets can reach them.
  • If you opt for an artificial tree, choose one that is tested and labeled as fire resistant. Artificial trees with built-in electrical systems should have the “Underwriters Laboratory” (UL) label.
  • Use indoor lights indoors and outdoor lights only outdoors. Look for the UL label. Check lights for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, and loose connections. Replace or repair any damaged light sets.
  • Use no more than three light sets on any one extension cord. Extension cords should be placed against the wall to avoid tripping hazards.
  • Inspect all lights, decorations and extension cords for damage before using.
  • Don’t ever run cords under rugs, around furniture legs or across doorways.
  • Turn off tree lights and decorations when you go to bed or leave the house. Unplug extension cords when not in use.
  • When displaying outdoor lights, fasten them firmly to a secure support with insulated staples or hooks to avoid wind damage.
  • Never nail, tack or stress wiring when hanging lights and keep plugs off the ground away from puddles and snow.
  • Don’t leave candles unattended. Whenever possible, opt for electronic versions, which provide a warm glow without the associated risk of fire.

Little girl making Christmas cookiesFood

  • Never eat dough or uncooked batter. This one is hard for me. I like dough more than the baked version of most treats.
  • When preparing a holiday meal for friends and family, be sure to wash your hands, utensils, sink, and anything else that touches raw poultry.
  • Don’t defrost food at room temperature. Instead, thaw it in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave.
  • Keep your knives sharp. Most knife injuries occur due to dull blades.
  • Use a clean food thermometer to cook foods to a safe internal temperature before serving.
  • Avoid cleaning kitchen surfaces with wet dishcloths or sponges, which harbor bacteria. Use paper towels, instead.
  • Keep cold foods cold and hot food hot. If you’re concerned that your coworker’s casserole has been sitting out too long, move along. Better to be food-safe than sorry.
  • Refrigerate or freeze leftovers in covered shallow containers within two hours of cooking. Or, better yet, give them to your pooch. We love leftovers.
  • When reheating leftovers, bring to at least 165°F to eliminate bacterial growth.

VehiclesCouple with suitcases.

Custom 3d illustration contact me!

  • Check items such as the brakes, spark plugs, battery, and tires. Check your owner’s manual and follow recommendations for tune-up and oil change intervals.
  • Before heading out on winter roads, evaluate the condition of your tires. When in doubt, take your vehicle to a mechanic to make sure tread is sufficient.
  • Be prepared for emergency situations on the road by keeping a winter “survival kit” in your trunk. Include items such as a working flashlight, extra batteries, reflective triangles, compass, first aid kit, exterior windshield cleaner, ice scraper, snow brush, wooden stick matches in a waterproof container, and non-perishable, high energy foods like unsalted canned nuts, dried fruits and hard candy.
  • Keep anything of value in the trunk or covered storage area.
  • But that doesn’t apply to your canines.

Remember that 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 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.

Visit www.AUS.com/tips for more ways to stay safe during the holidays.

Posted in BE SAFE, Cyber Security, Safety at Home, Uncategorized

Black Friday and Cyber Monday Shopping Tips

 

Angela BurrellMany thanks to our guest blogger, Allied Universal Public Relations Manager Angela Burrell. 

Christmas shoppingThanksgiving is not only a time for expressing gratitude and enjoying family and friends, the holiday marks two of the busiest shopping opportunities in the U.S.—Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Follow these extra tips for a safe holiday and secure shopping experience.

Black Friday (Day after Thanksgiving) 

Staying Alert

  • Deals are now beginning well before Friday, with stores staying open later, so businesses and shoppers should plan for crowds.
  • Park close to your destination, in a well-lit area, and lock packages in the trunk, out of sight.
  • Avoid parking next to vans or large trucks that can block your vehicle from the sight of others.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. If you witness any suspicious behavior, leave the area immediately.

Black Friday saleGuarding Against Theft

  • Use ATMs in well-populated areas during the day, and do not leave receipts at the ATM location.
  • Never leave your purse or smartphone unattended in a shopping cart, on a countertop or in your car.
  • Take extra care with purses and wallets; carry your purse close to your body and your wallet in an inside or zippered pocket.

Protecting Yourself

  • Shop with others, when possible. If shopping with small children, establish a meeting point in case of separation inside a store or mall.
  • Teach small children how to seek help from store personnel or store security in case you are separated.
  • Report any suspicious activity to store/mall security or law enforcement. If you see something, say something.
  • Request a security escort to help with oversized purchases and to accompany you to your car if you feel vulnerable while shopping alone at night.
  • When returning to your vehicle, keep your keys out and lock your doors as soon as you are inside.Fotolia_124178374_XS.jpg

Cyber Monday (Monday after Thanksgiving)

Online Shopping

  • Shop with known businesses; do your research about their past performances and financial stability.
  • Conduct transactions on a secure server only; look for the padlock device on the browser’s status bar. The URL should change from http to shttp or https when asked for payment information indicating that the purchase is encrypted or secure.
  • Do not record your social security or driver’s license number online, as it is not needed for purchases.
  • Have packages delivered to an address where they will not be left unattended.

Fotolia_111324631_XS.jpgProtecting Data

  • Secure web servers that contain customer information.
  • Add the latest anti-virus and anti-spyware software to your computers, and update firewalls regularly.
  • Check your receipt to ensure that the actual price paid is the same amount charged to your card.
  • Monitor your credit card statements for any unauthorized charges.

www.AUS.com

Remember that safety is a daily priority for everyone, whether in the real world or cyber space. 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.

Posted in be prepared for emergencies, BE SAFE, Building Evacuation, Disaster Preparedness, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Fires, Health & Welfare, High-Rise Buildings, Safety at Home, Uncategorized, Workplace Safety

Elevator Recalls and Safety Tips

image002The 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:image001

  • 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

woman hands try to stop doors of the closed elevator

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.out of order elevator to success, please take the stairs
  • 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.

For more info on elevator safety or to learn about escalator safety, visit the National Elevator Industry website at www.neii.org.

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.

Posted in be prepared for emergencies, BE SAFE, Disaster Preparedness, Holiday Safety, Safety at Home, Uncategorized

 Summer Water Safety Tips

Dog In A Blue KayakAccording to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), about 10 people die from unintentionally drowning each day in the United States. In fact, drowning is the fifth leading cause of unintentional death for people of all ages, and is the second leading cause of injury death for children ages 1 to 14 years in the nation. Globally, the statistics provided by the World Health Organization are scarier yet, with more than 40 people dying by drowning every hour of every day! But the good news is that accidental drownings are preventable as long as you observe a few safety guidelines whenever you are in or around water this summer. Although it probably won’t win you any points for style, the doggie paddle is a great way to stay safe in water.

Wherever you choose to vacation this summer, #BeSafe and #SafeForLife:Fotolia_112188044_XS

  1. Steady on your feet (or paws). Even if you opt for a “stay-cation” this year, be careful not just in, but around water. This includes areas adjacent to man-made water sources such as the wooden decking around Jacuzzis and spas as well as slick surfaces like freshly watered lawns or pool decks. Slip-and-fall accidents account for a myriad of serious and even life-threatening injuries each year, especially among senior citizens. So instruct children to walk instead of run and help elderly people when they are walking in slippery areas.
  2. Easy does it. Alcohol and water do not mix. If and when you choose to indulge over the summer, do so when you are clear of water-related dangers. The American Boating Association reports that almost half of all boating accidents involve alcohol. So an easy way to reduce your risk of a boating accident is to stay sober whenever you get behind the water wheel. I’m a teetotaler, myself.
  3. Start early. Teach children water safety and swimming skills as early as possible. Even babies can learn basic water survival techniques. Be sure to include swimming lessons in your summer routine. And whenever young kids are around a pool, watch them like a hawk and brief babysitters about the necessity of providing constant supervision around water. My wife and I let JR learn to swim when he was a wee pup. He loves the water.
  4. summer timeMake rescue easy. If you have an above-ground or in-ground pool, live near a dock or have a hot tub, post CPR instructions near the water. Also, learn emergency lifesaving procedures so you can provide aid when necessary, while waiting for first responders. Also, make sure a phone is always on hand whenever anyone is in the water. And stow rescue equipment as close to the water as possible. When it comes to drowning, every second counts.
  5. Discourage accidents. Install proper barriers, covers and alarms on and around your pool and spa. Also, teach your kids to stay away from drains. Tips at Gov point out that children’s hair, limbs, jewelry or bathing suits could potentially get stuck in a drain or suction opening. Also, make sure that all pools and spas (including those in backyards as well as in public areas) have compliant drain covers. And if your pool is not covered, remove bright colored toys or flotation devices from the surface, since these attract curious kids

Be sure to think about ways to #BeSafe all of the time, not just when you are enjoying the water. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

Posted in be prepared for emergencies, Disaster Preparedness, Safety at Home, Uncategorized

All About Situational Awareness

The U.S. Coast Guard defines situational awareness as follows: “the ability to identify, process, and comprehend the critical elements of information about what is happening to the team with regards to the mission.” More simply, it’s knowing what is going on around you. As a dog, I am usually exceedingly aware of whatever is happening around me…especially if it involves food.

PickpocketThe concept of situational awareness is helpful not just for members of the Coast Guard but for anyone who values personal safety. In fact, many life-threatening emergencies, such as muggings, kidnappings, assaults, and car-jacking’s, can be averted if the intended victim takes steps to be prepared and pays careful attention to his or her environment. Seems like a good reason to me!

The ability to scan the environment and sense danger, challenges and opportunities, while conducting normal activities is easier said than done. But the trait can be acquired. The trick is to pay attention to surroundings without succumbing to distraction. I will admit that bacon can distract me from most things.

Three Obstacles to Situational Awareness

  1. Failing to monitor the baseline. On an everyday basis, remember to pay attention to normal patterns and behaviors. If you fail to do this, you won’t recognize when something happens outside the norm.
  2. Normalcy Bias. If you grew up in a relatively safe area, you may have to repeatedly remind yourself to pay attention to people around you. Most people tend to have a bias towards the status quo. They erroneously assume that since nothing of note has ever happened during their regular routines, nothing major is likely to happen. To overcome this bias, make a conscious decision to be on alert whenever you leave the home or office. The guys and I are always on alert at the firehouse. You never know when the siren will sound.
  3. Focus Lock. This is a form of distraction that causes us to focus all of our awareness on one thing to the detriment of everything else in our environment. For example, this is what happens when someone digs for keys in her purse and is surprised when thieves attack. It is also the reason some people walk into water fountains while texting.Head in the Cloud

Here are some tips to help improve your situational awareness:

  • Open your eyes. This might seem like a no-brainer. But the first step towards personal safety is to pay attention to your surroundings at all times. No matter where you are, be on your guard. Or why not bring your trusty canine with you? We love to keep our masters safe.

A good rule of thumb is to be mindful of the Color Code of Awareness, as coined by the late USMC Commander Jeff Cooper. This code differs from the color code which corresponds to the amount of danger our nation faces at any given time. Cooper’s Colors refers to a person’s current state of mind and willingness to take action regardless of real or imagined threats:

Cooper’s Colors

Condition White: Lack of Threat

Condition Yellow: Relaxed Alertness

Condition Orange: Focused Alertness

Condition Red: Ready to Act

Condition Black: Blind Panic/Psychological Shutdown

Although most people operate in “white mode,” yellow should be the rule of thumb. Criminals are more likely to attack someone who is blissfully unaware and distracted than someone who is alert and prepared for action.

  • Avoid unsafe situations. For example, when parking at night, choose a spot that is well lit. Don’t jog at night by yourself. Never park with your car door directly next to a large van. Don’t hitchhike or pick up hitchhikers. Don’t pet a stray dog.
  • Be prepared. As far as situational awareness goes, we are not suggesting you draft a formal evacuation plan every time you leave the house. However, it pays to take steps to be safe. For example, take a few minutes to find your keys before standing next to your locked car. Carry a flashlight with you at night.

Fotolia_50460455_XSBe sure to think about ways to use situational awareness to #BeSafe all of the time. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

 

Posted in be prepared for emergencies, BE SAFE, Health & Welfare, safe driving, Safety at Home

All about Recalls

Man Missing A Car KeyUnless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you are probably aware of the huge air bag recall. Until recently, it was easy to take safety recalls lightly. After all, nearly every television newscast makes mention of one, affecting everything from lettuce to toys. But our outlook on recalls will forever be changed thanks to Takata air bags, which were installed in tens of millions of vehicles manufactured between 2002 and 2015. Subject to the largest and most complex recall in U.S. history, the bags’ internal inflators explode and expel bits of sharp metal shards, leading to serious injuries or death.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has determined the root cause of the problem: airbags that use ammonium nitrate-based propellant without a chemical drying agent. Environmental moisture, high temperatures, and age are associated with the defect. To date, 10 people have died from air-bag related injuries and more than 100 have been injured in the U.S.Airbag word cloud

Millions of cars are included in the recall, so you probably either own an affected vehicle or know someone who does. In cases like this, I am glad I don’t know how to drive! Click here for a complete list of affected vehicles and contact your dealer for the appropriate repair and potential loaner.

Managing Auto Recalls

The problem with most recall notices is that they resemble sales pamphlets, so they are often discarded. This is dangerous. Also, while car manufacturers keep track of original owner information, they may lose track of cars sold to third parties. So we wanted to call attention to the importance of being aware of recall information. The NHTSA campaign motto is similar to our own: “Safe cars save lives.” That’s pretty close to our own motto: “Training Saves Lives.”

Airbag Seat belt worksHere are several tips for staying informed about vehicle recalls:

  • Regularly check out Recalls.Gov , which allows you to check by make, model or Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).
  • Ask your dealer. When you drop your car off at the dealer for an oil change or other routine maintenance, ask about recalls.
  • Check websites such as Edmunds, CarFax, and Kelly Blue Book (KBB.com).
  • Visit your vehicle manufacturer’s website.
  • Don’t throw away things without reading them.

Comprehensive Government Resource Multi-Industry Recalls

Autos are hardly the only consumer products subject to recall. Recalls.gov provides updated information about recalls in several categories including consumer products, motor vehicles, boats, food, medicine, cosmetics, pet items and environmental products. A quick check on the “Food” section, for example, brings visitors to the FDA recall site where an April 28 press release recall announces: “Bakery Express of Southern California Issues Allergy Alert on Undeclared Peanut in 7-Eleven Fresh-To-Go Cookies.” I’ve also heard about recalls on pet food. Why not just play it safe and feed the dog human foods like steak, pork chops and bacon?

Staying on top of recalls does not mean conducting online reviews before buying a bag of chips or spinach. However, it is worthwhile to spend a few minutes each month investigating recall sites, and keeping your eyes out for news stories about the latest problems.

Keep your eyes peeled for potential recalls on your vehicle as well as other consumer products.

Remember that safety is a daily priority. So be sure to think about ways to #BeSafe all of the time, not just relative to items on recall. 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 Computer Safety, Cyber Security, Identity Theft, Safety at Home

Tax Season Cyber Safety

Piggy Bank Accounting. 3D rendered graphics on the subject of 'Financial Accountancy'.March and April usher in several spring-time events: St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, and another annual American ritual — tax time! I’m so glad I don’t have to file taxes. It’s one of the benefits of being a dog. Unfortunately, tax season is prime time for cyber criminals to strike. The IRS expects more than 150 million individual returns to be filed this year, with four out of five returns (above 80 percent) to be filed electronically. Included within those returns are social security numbers, addresses, phone numbers, birthdates, and financial records for millions of Americans, which leaves the Internet teeming with highly confidential information.

According to a study done by a financial strategy company called Javelin, the total number of identity theft victims in 2015 was 13.1 million, totaling $15 billion. In its most recent report, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) revealed that, in 2014, they received more than 2.58 million reports of consumer fraud. I wonder how many cats are involved in fraud. They seem pretty suspicious, to me! Among fraud complaints:3d Burglar has someones credit card

  • The average amount lost by alleged victims was approximately $2,000.
  • The median figure of loss was about $500.
  • In total, approximately $1.7 billion was lost by self-reported victims of fraud.
  • The most common methods of initial contact by fraud perpetrators was telephone (54%) and email (23%).

If you electronically file your taxes, here are some tips to help keep your data safe:

  • Vet the provider who electronically files your return. Authorized e-filers are registered on the IRS website at gov.
  • Monitor your social media presence. Google yourself to uncover any bogus Facebook, or LinkedIn information using your name.
  • Beware of scam Facebook mess Clicking on a tax-related link in your newsfeed may be convenient. But it could connect you to a phishing site. I think that people who scam with spam are scum.
  • Optimize your security. Use the latest, most comprehensive firewalls, anti-spam/virus software. Also, update security patches and choose strong passwords to protect your online return. When possible, enable two-step authentication, which adds an additional security step required for login. Here is a link to comprehensive instructions for installing two-step authentication on a variety of computer platforms: org/2stepsahead/resources
  • File your tax return ONLY on secure HTTPS sites. These encrypted sites will safeguard your information. So make sure a picture of a little lock appears in the website address field.
  • Beware of Wi-Fi hotspots. If you need to access a bank account while you are out, don’t use public Internet service. Cyber criminals can potentially intercept Internet connections while you are filing highly personal information. Don’t do anything relative to your taxes while using public Wi-Fi. Experian reports that seven percent of people do their taxes while logged into unsecured networks.
  • When in doubt, throw it out. Links in emails could direct your computer to malicious sites. If an email appears weird, even if you recognize the sender, delete it.
  • Carefully screen emails that appear to have come from your bank. If they do not contain your financial institution’s website domain name, immediately report the breach to your bank. And don’t forget to delete!
  • Shred documents that contain personal data. Doing so is worth the hassle, because many criminals dig through trash cans in search of sensitive information.
  • Don’t respond to emails claiming to be from the IRS. The IRS does not contact people by mail.
  • Never download documents from or click on links in tax-related emails. One click could unleash information-gathering malware on your computer.
  • Refrain from doing tax-related researching using your web browser. You could be lured to a malicious site.

18 april calendar circleThis year, taxes must be filed by April 18, because Emancipation Day falls on the regular deadline of April 15. Nice that we get a few days of tax relief because of the holiday! So take the extra few days to make sure you are cyber safe. Remember that Internet safety is a daily priority, not just during tax season. So be sure to think about ways to #BeSafe all of the time. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

 

Posted in be prepared for emergencies, Disaster Preparedness, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Fires, High-Rise Buildings, Residential Training, Safety at Home

Announcing Our First Residential Training Module

Kitchen Residential 2Every 19 seconds, a fire department responds to a fire somewhere in the United States, which makes fire an ever-present danger at home, at work, and even while you are traveling. The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services has long provided commercial building occupants, owners and managers with affordable, entertaining training for disaster preparedness. So it was natural that we would want to expand that training from commercial to residential facilities. To that end, we are pleased to announce release of our very first residential training module, which focuses on fire safety. The training is perfect for people of all ages, in any residential building, apartment, condo, or student housing. It is also available in English and Spanish. I wonder if the tips apply to doghouses.

It’s not if, but when an emergency will happen. Knowing what to do in the first few minutes of an emergency can make the difference between life or death. Where fires are concerned, even small fires are extremely dangerous, wherever they begin. So, for fires that begin in commercial or residential buildings, the key to saving your own life and the lives of others will be your ability to remain calm and respond appropriately.Elevator Residential

The new module trains subscribers to recognize the important role they play in any fire event, such as what to do when they: smell smoke, need to safely evacuate (if possible), are unable to evacuate and need to shelter in place.  It also demonstrates ways to prevent a fire from starting in the first place as well as what to do if a fire alarm sounds. I’ve learned a lot about how to react calmly to fires by the guys in the firehouse. They really know how to keep a cool head while they fight fires.

The new online training module is:

Residential HallFast — It’s easy to complete in about 10 minutes. That’s a lot less time than it takes to even watch a single episode of Scooby Doo.

Convenient — Training is available 24/7, with unlimited usage and accessibility by iPhone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer.

Rewarding — Instant personalized certificate of completion is emailed to participants for each topic. Also, management is able to access and print a report to show the status of each occupant’s training. I’ve completed some of these training modules and, I’m telling you — the certificates are suitable for framing.

Informative — It’s loaded with emergency preparedness information, resources and links.

Here are just a few of the lifesaving tips you will learn when you take the training:

  • When to report fire to emergency services.
  • Which information to tell 911 operators.
  • Why you should avoid using elevators during a fire. Here is a hint…they could open onto the floor of the fire. Best to avoid this.
  • When to familiarize yourself with evacuation procedures.
  • The only reason to fight a fire yourself.
  • The method for safely using a fire extinguisher.
  • What to do if someone catches fire.
  • Ways to minimize the risk of smoke inhalation.
  • When to evacuate the building or shelter in place.
  • How to know it is safe to reenter the building.
  • Much more!

Residential Couple on CouchAfter watching a 10-minute animated video, subscribers are able to print building-specific information and take a short quiz, which features key points covered in the online training. The thing I love about the training modules is that I was able to retake the quiz when I missed questions, until I earned a perfect score! Once each question has been answered correctly, certification is immediately issued and emailed to the participant. And more importantly, students who have completed the training will be prepared when the unexpected becomes a reality.

Remember that safety is a daily priority, not just where residential fire life safety is concerned. So be sure to think about ways to #BeSafe all of the time. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

Posted in be prepared for emergencies, Disaster Preparedness, Fire Safety, Holiday Gift Ideas, Holiday Safety, Safety at Home

Be Safe this Holiday Season

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

This post has been adapted from a blog written by Angela Burrell, Public Relations’ Manager of our corporate company, Universal Services of America. Her unaltered version first appeared on December 14, 2015. Many thanks to Angela, for sharing her blog about holiday safety.


 

Santa Claus cartoon scene trying to control fire in fireplaceOur wish for you is that you will keep the following safety and security tips in mind as you celebrate the holiday season. Share them with family, friends, colleagues, co-workers and building occupants to let them know you care. #BeSafe and Happy Holidays!

Nine Smart Shopping Tips 

  1. Park close to your destination, in a well-lit area and lock packages in the trunk, out of sight.
  2. Carry your purse close to your body and stow your wallet inside a zippered pocket.
  3. Report any suspicious activity or unattended packages to store/mall security or law enforcement.
  4. Stay vigilant this holiday season. Be aware of your surroundings: “If You See Something, Say Something.”
  5. Pay by credit card, rather than check/debit card, to reduce the risk of funds being taken from your bank account. Keep all receipts and compare them to your monthly statements.
  6. Avoid being overcharged; review your receipt if you pay by debit, to ensure that the transaction is correct. Seems like a good idea even when it’s not the holidays! 
  7. Keep your car key handy and lock your doors as soon as you get inside your vehicle.
  8. Shop online at home with known businesses. Avoid shopping online through pop-up ads as they may be phishing scams or contain malware.
  9. Conduct transactions on a secure server only; look for the padlock device on the browser’s status bar. The URL should change from http to shttp or https when asked for payment information, which indicates that the purchase is encrypted or otherwise secure. 
Report suspicious persons.
Report suspicious persons.

Eight Workplace Alerts 

  1. Report all solicitors or suspicious persons to security immediately. (The guy in this photo, at right, looks alarmingly suspicious to me. I wonder if all bad guys look the part? Probably not.)
  2. Be suspicious of unfamiliar people claiming to be repair persons, as thieves are apt to disguise themselves.
  3. Make sure your receptionist and/or security team clears any workers or contractors before allowing them into your office.
  4. Question visitors who wander throughout your offices. Legitimate guests will appreciate your offers of assistance, while potential solicitors or thieves will be deterred.
  5. Lock all personal items in a desk or file cabinet. Employees should never leave purses or wallets exposed where they can easily be stolen.
  6. Draw blinds after hours so that computers and other valuables are not visible from the outside.
  7. Close doors when the office is empty, and secure all valuables in a desk or closet when unattended.
  8. Request a security or buddy escort to your car if you are working late and feel vulnerable. 

Seven Home Safety Guides 

  1. Refresh your holiday lights; consider buying energy-efficient LED types that are cooler than conventional incandescent lights and heed indoor or outdoor use labels.
  2. Point any decorative outdoor laser light devices at your home and not towards the sky. Have you seen those new laser light shows? They are so cool. 
  3. Turn off lights or decorations before bedtime, or set automatic timers for six or eight-hour increments to conserve energy.
  4. Monitor candles and fireplace fires, and extinguish them before leaving the house or bedtime.
  5. Consider installing motion or lighting sensors that turn off automatically when no one is around.
  6. Let strangers who knock know you are home without opening your door. Do not feel compelled to donate to solicitors.
  7. Ask a neighbor to collect your mail or have the post office hold it, if you plan to travel for an extended period.

Christmas outdoor Christmas decorations - Snowman and nutcracker lights up house in Brooklyn, New YorkSix Basic Fire Rules 

  1. Fires peak, particularly in kitchens, during the holidays, so remain alert when preparing meals and keep potholders and food wrappers at least three feet away from heat sources.
  2. Test your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, ensuring that they work at optimal level year-round. Replace batteries, as needed.
  3. Know where your exits are located and hold regular fire drills that include practicing at least two evacuation routes from every area or building to your safe refuge area.
  4. Notify the property manager about exit lights that are broken or vandalized.
  5. Never prop open self-closing doors, as they are designed to keep flames and smoke from spreading. I don’t have a self-closing door on my doghouse. Maybe it’s time to invest? 
  6. Keep exits and stairways free from obstructions at all times. Don’t store things on or under stairways, or on landings.

Five More Tips and Resources 

  1. The National Fire Protection Association summarizes Christmas tree and holiday lights safety.
  2. Electrical Safety Foundation International’s Holiday Decorating Safety guide lists many resources.
  3. The National Safety Council recommends several Holiday Safety Tips.
  4. Be prepared for more thorough airport security checks by TSA and register for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program before traveling outside of the U.S., per recent travel alerts and warnings issued.
  5. Consult the Consumer Product Safety Commission website for recalls and alerts on toys and other products before making purchases.

We hope you enjoy a safe and secure holiday. Please view CDC’s 12 Ways to Health Holiday Song, and #BeSafe! Remember that safety is a daily priority, so be sure to think safety all of the time. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

 

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

Holiday Toy and Gift Safety

fireplace and fir-tree and christmas socksDecember is National Safe Toys and Gifts Month, so designated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), to raise awareness about potentially hazardous toys. Since toy purchases are at an all-time high during the holidays, we thought it a good idea to highlight the campaign with this week’s blog post.

Part of the CPSC initiatives include third-party testing laboratories which check toys for lead and phthalate limits, so they can identify dangerous toys before they reach consumer shelves. I would love to be a Greenies and rawhide tester! I’d weigh 250 pounds, but my tail would be wagging all of the time! The commission also produces safety alerts. For example, one highlights the choking hazards of plastic film coverings that are on many toys.

children playing together at homeTypes of toys to avoid this holiday season:

  • Scooters and similar riding toys. Since the popular Razor Scooter’s launch in 2000, there has been a sharp increase in ER visits due to falls associated with the toys. Avoid giving these types of toys as gifts, since they lead to numerous serious accidents every year—especially when operated without a helmet. If you do buy a scooter, be sure to include a properly-fitted helmet, as well.
  • Toys with small parts. Pay attention to the warning labels on toy boxes, because they provide guidelines relative to choking hazards as well as age-appropriateness. Lego sets and other similar toys are fun, but they don’t work for toddlers, since the kits come with lots of small choking hazards. In addition, my paws always stomp on those sharp Lego pieces! I nearly lacerated my pad the other day! A good rule of thumb is to place or imagine the toy- part-in-question fitting inside a toilet paper roll. If it fits, then it’s too small.
  • Toys that could cause eye injuries. Toy guns that shoot pellets or Nerf darts are fun, but are a leading cause of injury, with studies showing a significant increase in the eye injuries resulting from toy parts over the past few years. For example, the “Airsoft” brand of guns led to a significant number of injuries and should only be used with eye protection.

Keep little ones safe during the holidays:

Girl with bearThe holiday season is a hectic time, which means adult attention spans can be stretched to the limit. It also brings dogs’ attention into laser sharp focus. That turkey on the table? We have our eyes on it!

Keeping track of babies and toddlers can be especially difficult during family gatherings and other festive events. Here are some tips for protecting your youngest family members at large functions:

  • Dispose of wrapping paper and plastic packaging. Toy packaging contains various types of plastic covers, twist ties, and other bits and pieces. All of these are potential chewing and choking hazard for babies and toddlers. Whenever possible, collect and recycle materials as presents are opened.
  • Keep an eye on the fireplace. Hanukkah nights or Christmas morning are both great times for a cozy fire. But flammable materials should be handled responsibly. Keep them far from flames. And, because kids are curious, be sure your fireplace screen is sturdy. This is also a great time to talk to children about the serious dangers posed by fire.
  • Watch your plants. Mistletoe and holly are poisonous if ingested, so keep toxic plants out of the reach of young children.
  • Be careful with alcoholic beverages. If you and guests are enjoying a few cocktails during a holiday party, take steps to keep drinks out of the hands of anyone under the age of 21. Children imitate parents. So make sure they can’t reach unattended beverages. Ask guests to remove empty and even partially-empty cups. I slurped up a margarita one time. How can people drink this stuff? Give me the sophisticated flavors of toilet bowl water instead!
  • Carefully string Christmas tree lights. Toddlers and babies love the glow of lights. So keep strands high on the tree to make sure they are out of reach of tiny fingers. Glass ornaments are another potential hazard which should be replaced, moved to a higher location or boxed until children are old enough to ensure their safety.

Remember that safety is a daily priority, so be sure to think safety all of the time. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.