Posted in BE SAFE, Disaster Preparedness, Terrorism, Travel

Spring Break Travel Safety

airport checkpoint 3d renderA series of bomb explosions at Brussels Airport and a metro station in the city this week have led to heightened travel alerts across the world. Based on these events, as well as numerous other recent terrorist attacks, it is imperative that travelers exercise caution this spring. Our hearts go out to everyone whose life was affected by the Brussels’ attacks.

According to Orbitz, each March, 55 percent of college students travel by plane to celebrate Spring Break, with the most popular destinations including Las Vegas, Cancun and Punta Cana, Mexico. I wonder if they bring their pets. But young adults are not the only springtime wanderers. To wit, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is reportedly preparing to screen more than 65.1 million travelers over the 2016 Spring Break travel season. With the ever-present threat of terrorism, airline passengers can rest assured that safety is the top priority for TSA. Safety is also the top priority for all of us at the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services.Passengers passes x-ray check at airport. Airport transport security scan tape portal. Officer computer monitoring baggage.

“Our dedicated officers do their absolute best to screen passengers both effectively and efficiently, with a primary focus on traveler security,” said Peter V. Neffenger, TSA administrator. “We want to ensure that everyone arrives at their destination safely, while at all times providing the highest standards of security screening possible.”

But don’t trust your safety entirely to others. Here are five common sense steps you can take to guarantee your own safe travels this spring break season (and always):

  1. Remain alert. The less you have to do while at the airport, the more focused and prepared you will be to remain alert about your surroundings. If possible, print boarding passes prior to arriving at the airport. Arrive early, to allow enough time to park, print your boarding pass, or go paperless by downloading the appropriate boarding pass app, check baggage, and proceed through the checkpoint. In dog terms, I would say to keep your nose up. phone online booking concept illustration
  2. Keep calm. Passengers who violate rules will cause delays for themselves and everyone behind them. So do your part to keep a lid on traveler rage. Pack liquids, aerosols, gels, creams, and pastes in compliance with the 3-1-1 liquids rule. And avoid wearing large metal jewelry or clothing with large metal embellishments to reduce the possibility of alarming the screening machine. And we don’t want to alarm the scream machine!
  3. Watch your stuff. Thieves often case populated places like airports, looking for easy marks. Make sure your purse and carry-on bag are zipped and that your wallet is out of site. This is why I travel light. Without baggage, I am able to stay focused on the wonderful sights and smells of an airport. If you appear to know what you are doing, you won’t appeal to opportunistic muggers and pickpockets, who will move on to easier prey. Also, if you pay attention to your own belongings, you will be prepared to quickly identify unmanned baggage. If you see an unattended suitcase, report it immediately to airline security.Full suitcase of a traveler with travel stickers
  4. Blend in. Refrain from carrying large quantities of cash. With the prevalence of ATM’s in virtually every location, you don’t need to carry large sums of cash. Bring small amounts and keep your credit and debit cards close at hand, to protect yourself from unauthorized purchases as well as identity theft. Also, try to blend in with locals. Pull your camera out only when you’re ready to use it. Watch your footing when taking selfies. And refrain from looking at maps while you are standing in the middle of a crowded public square. I prefer to sniff my way around new places instead of using maps.
  5. Stay informed. If you are traveling internationally, in advance of your flight, check on travel security warnings and alerts released by the state department. Examples of reasons for issuing a travel warning might include unstable government, civil war, ongoing intense crime or violence, or frequent terrorist attacks. Alerts might include an election season that is bound to have many strikes, demonstrations, or disturbances; a health alert like an outbreak of H1N1; or evidence of an elevated risk of terrorist attacks. For domestic travel, check with your airline carrier for flight delays and other updates.

Security AlertRemember that safety is a daily priority. So be sure to think about ways to #BeSafe all of the time, not just while you are traveling. 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, Terrorism, Uncategorized, Workplace Safety

Preparing Against Attacks

poster against terrorism

Due to the sensitive nature of the recent attacks of terrorism in Paris, I have abstained from adding my usual “firedogisms.” Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of those affected by the attacks.

This week’s blog topic is a somber one, because it refers to the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, France. The horrifying and cowardly incident included mass shootings at the Bataclan Theatre, suicide bombings, and the taking of hostages. A total of 130 victims died in the attacks, representing 20 different countries. The terrorist group ISIL claimed responsibility for the attacks, and promises to target more Western countries in the coming months and years. Following the incidents, France was thrust into a state of emergency, and actions were taken throughout Europe and the Middle East to find and eliminate those responsible for the atrocities.

Here in the U.S., terrorism remains a persistent (and now heightened) concern for public agencies as well as the private sector. Nevertheless, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) assures us that there are currently no credible attacks planned for the U.S. or Canadian soil. In fact, the risk of incidents to North America is at an all-time low, due to increased awareness and tight safety precautions. Unfortunately, however, as the Paris attacks demonstrated, the need for worldwide disaster prevention and mitigation relative to terrorism will likely remain mission critical in perpetuity.

terrorist with bomb old backgroundPrevention Tactics

Fortunately, North America is free, allowing citizens and visitors to move about as they wish. This is an important part of life in the United States and Canada, but one that also means that potential terrorists also have freedom to move about. Here are some tactics to employ to keep your high-rise building safe from the threat of terrorism:

  • Establish security protocols for anyone who wants to enter the building. For example, require escorts and verification for all visitors. The lobby should be carefully protected, with limited access provided to more secure areas.
  • Require package deliveries to be left in the lobby with staff members who can screen mail and appropriately alert building occupants.
  • Install security barriers outside entrances to stop vehicles from ramming into the front of your building. Large companies have employed these tactics, to great effect.
  • Prevent access to the roof of your building, by carefully guarding access to internal stairwells, elevators and fire escapes.
  • Train staff members to properly check incoming mail and package deliveries. Make sure they know how to spot suspicious materials.
  • Learn about building-specific upgrades such as hardening outer walls and installing security glass. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) offers a detailed guide about several types of improvements. Our subscribers also enjoy access to lots of safety training materials relative to high-rise preparedness.

Reducing the Risk of Airborne Attacks

Terror organizations may utilize chemical and airborne agents to attack a building. What should building owners and managers do to reduce this threat?

  1. Conduct a review of the building’s HVAC system, including how to quickly shutoff the system in the event of an airborne or chemical attack.
  2. Restrict access to air intake vents on the outside of buildings.
  3. Consider moving vents to inaccessible locations — the higher, the better. If this is impossible, use strong fencing or grating to secure intake areas.

Preparedness Tips for Handling Terrorist Attacks

Managing the lives of building occupants during a terrorist attack requires the same calm and well-planned actions that are needed during other emergencies. Here are some tips to help you prepare to handle emergencies before, during and after an attack:

  • Identify any critical infrastructures and ensure those areas and systems are locked down and closely monitored at all times.
  • Review your terrorism and emergency response plans. Create a plan to tighten security protocols at a moment’s notice.
  • Instruct and train your staff to be extra vigilant and report anything that seems suspicious or out of the ordinary.
  • Use the DHS “If You See Something, Say Something” approach to prepare yourself and your staff.
  • Keep first aid kits at the ready.
  • Establish evacuation routes for everyone in the building, including alternate routes that could circumvent an ongoing attack.
  • Utilize a hand-crank radio and cell phone for alerts about the situation, and be prepared to accordingly adjust actions.
  • Follow the instructions of emergency first-responders.
  • Don’t leave the safety of a building until emergency responders tell you to exit the building.
  • Make sure your emergency supply kit includes flashlights and bottled water.
  • Once you are outside the affected building, wait for instructions from emergency personnel. 

The Importance of Security Procedures

A suicide bomber involved in the Paris attacks was discovered trying to enter a France vs. Germany soccer game, when a security officer patted him down and discovered his explosive vest. Building owners and managers who employ security personnel should teach them to spot and deter suspicious behavior so they can stop an attack.

While vigilance and planning for terrorist attacks are warranted, it should also be noted that the risks of terrorism are still incredibly low in our post-9/11 nation. Nevertheless, implementing security measures is recommended, and building managers and owners should take steps to prepare occupants for the possibility of an attack.

Remember that safety is a daily priority, so be sure to think about disaster planning 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 Cyber Security, Disaster Preparedness, Terrorism, Workplace Safety

Cyber Attacks. Would you be prepared?  

Cyber Security concept on keyboard button

While we usually cover safety issues relative to incidents such as falls, earthquakes, or fire, the damages of failing to observe cybersecurity safety protocols, which — though life-threatening, can be equally devastating. Cybersecurity Awareness Month is observed in October, and is designed to raise awareness about the risks of electronic data and information breaches that can happen to individuals, companies and organizations. I guess I should consider myself lucky that my lack of opposable thumbs limits my ability to tweet. So it keeps my electronic risk at a minimum.

Last week, the focus of National Cyber Security Awareness Month 2015 was on the “smart world,” meaning all of the internet-connected devices that exist — from phones to thermostats. And here, I’ve always thought of “smart world” as contestants on the TV show, Jeopardy. This week, we focus on building the next generation of cybersecurity professionals, with an emphasis on promoting education and awareness to spark interest in the field. Education is essential for companies that want to protect their critical data from hackings and/or breaches.

Tips for Business Owners

Up to 95% of breaches are caused by human error. Notice that canines are not even mentioned. Whew! So, it is vitally important to train employees, first by giving them context, so they understand the consequences of data breaches and hacking incidents. Then, employers can guide them about best practices such as protecting passwords, carefully guarding data relative to outside agents, avoiding phishing scams, and adhering to data storage policies. Empower employees to alert management when something seems suspicious or odd or such as when someone from graphic design requests company financial data for something other than an infographic. Also, make sure staff members are careful not to post sticky notes with passwords on their monitors. I don’t use sticky notes, myself. They get stuck to my fur.

Additional best practices include:

  • Set automatic updates. Instruct IT to program automatic operating system and software updates, so the latest virus definitions and security protocols are always in place. Asking staff to perform these tasks manually opens you up to risks.
  • Establish login tracking. Login monitoring should be in place to spot external access attempts and identify employees who are accessing sensitive information or data outside their purview.
  • Set a security “fence” around sensitive data. I’m not usually a major fan of fences. But, in this case, they seem like a good idea. A company’s most important data (for example, personal customer information) should be protected behind a company firewall at all times. Restrict access to this data to a select few staff members. Also, make sure it is protected from potential download to personal devices or hard drives.

Tips for individuals to protect data and avoid cybersecurity issues:

  • Follow password procedures. Using “12345” or “password” for computer passwords is not recommended. Staff members should be trained about methods for selecting strong passwords and protecting sensitive documents.
  • Avoid storing data locally. News stories often recount employee losing laptops or thumb drives, with the device contents being used for illegal purposes. Discourage individuals from storing sensitive data directly on their devices. For greater security, instruct them, instead, to access data online. I guess that’s the mysterious “cloud” I keep hearing about? How safe can a cloud be for storing sensitive data?
  • Protect mobile devices. Employers increasingly allow employees to use their own devices to check email and access work data. Before approving this practice, instruct employees about methods for wiping their devices if they are lost or stolen. For maximum protection, establish and follow written “bring-your-own-device” procedures.
  • Don’t download unapproved software. Malware and other nasty computer bugs often reside in seemingly innocuous software. Beware of employees downloading free PDF-maker tools from the web. This software could be a launching pad for an attack. Staff should only download IT-approved software or apps to either their computer or mobile devices.
  • Don’t click on unknown links. Many businesses are targeted with official looking emails that provide an “important link.” Clicking on the link could infect the user’s computer, which can then travel throughout the employer’s network. Encourage employees to run suspicious emails by the IT department for a thorough review and safe deletion. Makes sense to me!

Remember that safety is a daily priority, so be sure to think about disaster planning 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 our system, or to subscribe, click here.

Posted in Building Evacuation, Disaster Preparedness, High-Rise Buildings, Terrorism, Workplace Safety

More About Active Shooting Incidents

Bullet Holes

Out of respect for the victims of the Isla Vista rampage, as well as the others who have been affected by active shooting incidents, I will refrain from including my usual firedog-isms in this post. Our hearts go out to all of the victims of active shooting incidents, worldwide.

The recent active shooter tragedy in Isla Vista – the cold-blooded murder of two women, four men and the maiming of 13 others by a gunman who said he acted out of bitterness caused by years of rejection, has become menacingly common of late.

Recent tragedies such as the shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, the Sandy Hook Elementary School rampage, and the murder of employees at the Washington Navy Yard in D.C. have made preparation for active shooting incidents mandatory for everyone. So, although we’ve covered active shooting in previous blog posts, we wanted to delve a little more deeply into the subject with this week’s offering.

Profile of an Active Shooter

An Active Shooter is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area; in most cases, active shooters use firearm(s) and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims. Active shooter situations are unpredictable and evolve quickly. Typically, the immediate deployment of law enforcement is required to stop the shooting and mitigate harm to victims. Because active shooter situations are often over within 10 to 15 minutes, before law enforcement arrives on the scene, individuals must be prepared both mentally and physically to deal with an active shooter situation.

How to respond when an Active Shooter is in your Vicinity

Quickly determine the most reasonable way to protect your own life. Remember that customers and clients are likely to follow the lead of employees and managers during an active shooter situation.

  1. Run

If there is an accessible escape path, attempt to evacuate the premises. Be sure to:

  • Have an escape route and plan in mind.
  • Evacuate regardless of whether others agree to follow.
  • Leave your belongings behind.
  • Help others escape, if possible.
  • Prevent individuals from entering an area where the active shooter may be.
  • Keep your hands visible.
  • Follow the instructions of any police officers.
  • Do not attempt to move wounded people.
  • Call 911 when you are safe.
  1. Hide

If evacuation is not possible, nd a place to hide where the active shooter is less likely to nd you. Your hiding place should:

  • Be out of the active shooter’s view.
  • Provide protection if shots are fired in your direction (i.e., an office with a closed and locked door).
  • Not trap you or restrict your options for movement.

To prevent an active shooter from entering your hiding place:

  • Lock the door.
  • Blockade the door with heavy furniture.

Good practices for coping with an active shooter situation:

  • Be aware of your environment and any possible dangers.
  • Take note of the two nearest exits in any facility you visit.
  • If you are in an office, stay there and secure the door.
  • If you are in a hallway, get into a room and secure the door.
  • As a last resort, attempt to take the active shooter down. When the shooter is at close range and you cannot flee, your chance of survival is much greater if you try to incapacitate him/her.

When it is safe to do so, Call 911!

If the active shooter is nearby:

  • Lock the door.
  • Silence your cell phone and/or pager.
  • Turn off any source of noise (i.e., radios, televisions).
  • Hide behind large items (i.e., cabinets, desks)
  • Remain quiet

If evacuation and hiding out are not possible:

  • Remain calm.
  • Dial 911, if possible, to alert police to the active shooter’s location.
  • If you cannot speak, leave the line open and allow the dispatcher to listen.
  1.  Fight

As a last resort, and only when your life is in imminent danger, attempt to disrupt and/or incapacitate the active shooter by:

  • Acting as aggressively as possible against him/her
  • Throwing items and improvising weapons
  • Yelling
  • Committing to your actions

How to respond when law enforcement arrives:

The purpose of law enforcement is to stop the active shooter as soon as possible. Officers will proceed directly to the area in which the last shots were heard.

  • Officers usually arrive in teams of four.
  • Officers may wear regular patrol uniforms or external bulletproof vests, Kevlar helmets and other tactical equipment.
  • Officers may be armed with rifles, shotguns, and hand guns.
  • Officers may use pepper spray or tear gas to control the situation
  • Officers may shout commands, and may push individuals to the ground for their safety.

How to react when law enforcement arrives:

  • Remain calm, and follow officers’ instructions
  • Put down any items in your hands (i.e., bags, jackets)
  • Immediately raise hands and spread fingers
  • Keep hands visible at all times
  • Avoid making quick movements toward officers such as holding on to them for safety
  • Avoid pointing, screaming and/or yelling
  • Do not stop to ask officers for help or direction when evacuating, just proceed in the direction from which officers are entering the premises.

Information to provide to law enforcement or 911 operator:

  • Location of the active shooter
  • Number of shooters, if more than one
  • Physical description of shooter/s
  • Number and type of weapons held by the shooter/s
  • Number of potential victims at the location

The first officers to arrive to the scene will not stop to help injured persons. Expect rescue teams comprised of additional officers and emergency medical personnel to follow the initial officers. These rescue teams will treat and remove any injured persons. They may also call upon able-bodied individuals to assist in removing the wounded from the premises.

Once you have reached a safe location or an assembly point, you will likely be held in that area by law enforcement until the situation is under control, and all witnesses have been identified and questioned. Do not leave until law enforcement authorities have instructed you to do so.

Use the following worksheet to make sure you have easy access to any information you might need in the event of an active shooter incident or another type of emergency:

Emergency Numbers

Emergency Services: 911

Local Emergency Information Line: ___________________________________

Local Police Department: ___________________________________________

Local Hospital: ___________________________________________________

Local FBI Field Office: ______________________________________________

Facility Security: __________________________________________________

Facility Address: __________________________________________________

Floor: __________________________________________________________

Suite/Room: _____________________________________________________

Office #: ________________________________________________________

Ext. ___________________________________________________________

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

Posted in Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Evacuations, Health & Welfare, Terrorism

Will it BE SAFE in Sochi?

Sochi CorpThousands of athletes and their families are either en route or have already arrived to compete in and support the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. Dubbed by some as the “Security Games,” this year’s competitions have sparked intense scrutiny because of credible terrorist threats levied mostly against the United States, which will likely boast at least 200 athletes and more than 10,000 spectators. I’d like to go to the Olympic Games. But I still work full-time at the firehouse. Maybe I can go after I retire.

CBS News senior security contributor Michael Morell, a former CIA deputy director, reports that, “the terrorist group that’s threatening the Olympics is considered capable, dedicated, determined and has been around a long time. They’ve already conducted two recent attacks in Russia, and are saying they want to attack during the Games.”

A Quinnipiac poll conducted in the United States last week found that half of the people surveyed believe a terrorist attack at the Winter Olympics is very or somewhat likely. As far as I know, they never poll dogs. What’s up with that?!

Despite the warnings, the Obama administration has made it plain they are not warning Americans to stay away from the games. And, according to an article in Time, officials refuse to compare the threat level before Sochi to past Olympics events. One official confirmed that “common sense” advice has been given by their security coordinator for American athletes to refrain from wearing their uniforms beyond Olympic venues, for fear of attracting malevolent attention. Have you seen the U.S. Olympic sweaters? Seems to me common sense would suggest leaving them in on the shelf at home in America! But that’s just a humble canine’s opinion.

For their part, the U.S. Olympic Committee is informing athletes and coaches about recommended safety precautions. In a statement, Scott Blackmun, chief executive of the U.S. Olympic Committee, said: “The safety and security of Team USA is our top priority.

Publicized Olympic Safety Precautions:

  • Top U.S. and Russian military leaders have discussed the possibility of sharing technologies used by American forces to counter roadside bombs, according to Pentagon press secretary Adm. John Kirby. The U.S. has used sophisticated technologies in Iraq and Afghanistan to detect and defeat roadside bombs. They should come up with similar technology to detect cats. Sometimes, they just sneak up on you!
  • Two American warships will be in the Black Sea during the Games as part of normal military planning, in case they are needed. The ships would be capable of many missions, including evacuations, medical support and communications.
  • There will be 40,000 Russian security personnel at the Olympic venue, which Vladimir Putin describes as a “ring of steel.” Putin should have considered putting together a ring of bacon.
  • The FBI is dispatching several dozen agents to Russia to help tighten security at the Winter Olympics.

At least part of the American contingent for Sochi, the skiing and snowboard teams is paying a private company, Global Rescue, for additional security. The company promises communications help, “rally points” for athletes to shelter in place and ways to get them around, or out of, Sochi. Sounds like it pays to ski or snowboard.

Other nations are well aware of the security risk attached to any such major event, as well; CNN asserts they are “more coy about their precautions.” Darryl Seibel, spokesman for the British Olympic Association, declined to go into detail about the security measures planned for Team GB in Sochi.

“We will take some extra measures for our delegates,” he said. “But that is not new. We have done that for a number of Games. That’s been part of our planning from the beginning.”

Whether or not you plan to attend the games, there are lots of great safety lessons to be learned from terrorism preparation at the Olympics, which can be applied anytime you are in a large crowd:

  1. The Dept of Homeland Security (DHS) advises people to train, anticipate and drill.
  2. Remain alert about your surroundings. Move or leave if something doesn’t “feel right.”
  3. If you see anything suspicious, report it to authorities.
  4. Take precautions while traveling.
  5. If anyone abandons a package, suitcase or backpack, don’t pick it up. Walk away and inform authorities immediately.
  6. Familiarize yourself with emergency exits so you can act quickly if an emergency occurs.

For more detailed information, see our previous posts about terrorist attacks or download free materials provided by DHS, FEMA, the FBI, or the American Red Cross. When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your building(s). Choosing our service cuts property management training-related costs by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES.

Posted in Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Evacuations, Health & Welfare, Terrorism

Following the Boston Marathon Bombings–How to Prepare for a Terrorist Attack

Boston, Massachusetts skyline city silhouette


Our thoughts & prayers go out to all of the victims and families of those affected by the Boston bombings. Out of respect for them, this post foregoes my usual Fire-dog isms.

 

It’s hard to believe our nation is once again dealing with the aftermath of what many (including the White House) consider to be another terrorist attack—a multiple-blast bombing near the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon. Though details continue to come in and will undoubtedly shed light on the nature and background of these bombings, what is currently certain is the fact that three people (including an eight-year-old boy) were killed and at least 176 were injured on Monday, April 15, 2013 in Boston.

Of the April 15 event, White House Rep Michael McCaul spoke to Fox News where he called for national unity and repeated the sentiments of President Obama:

“Today, we are not Democrats or Republicans. We are all Americans united against terrorism. Some evidence found at the crime scene, including ball bearings, were signs of well-planned terrorist action. We don’t know who’s behind it at this time and we don’t have all the evidence.”

Unexpected disasters like this have the potential to make Americans nervous about the likelihood of future incidents and their potential impact. But there are things you can proactively do to prepare for the unexpected and thereby reduce the stress associated with the terrorism. In fact, taking preparatory action can actually reassure you and your family, coworkers and tenants that you have a measure of control in the face of future emergencies.

Intelligence and law enforcement agencies reveal that dozens of terrorist plots which focused on commercial buildings have been thwarted over the past several years. As seen in a recent attempt in New York City, the actions of diligent civilians can also prevent catastrophe. Also, common sense and surveillance procedures increase awareness about things that “just don’t look right.”

The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services has devoted considerable blog space over the years to topics relative to preparation and recovery of terrorist attacks. But it seems fitting we should highlight this topic yet again today, since the Boston attack occurred on the day citizens of Massachusetts observe Patriot’s Day, which honors patriots from the Battles of Lexington and Concord—the first battles of the American Revolutionary War.

One of the RJWestmore Training System video courses covers steps to take in the event of a bomb threat. If you have not yet signed up for our system, consider subscribing today, as you and your team will have access to detailed training with videos and quizzes, maps, manuals and plans, forms, lists and guidelines, home and family preparedness, emergency info, active shooter instructions, active shooter videos, area-specific training and applicable area tornado preparedness.

Make your building a less attractive terrorism target:

  • In July 2006, a plot by suicide bombers in the NYC commuter rail was revealed by law enforcement personnel, who stated that the conspirator had already obtained detailed blueprints of the rail tunnels prior to the attack. Secure building blueprints which can be used to establish weak points for entering or destroying the structure. Limit the blueprints availability online and train your property managers to follow proper procedures for releasing building information.
  • Pay special attention to tenants who work with or produce materials that could be used to make explosive devices and those that work in aviation-related fields or construction-related companies. For example, Canadian officials recently investigated an individual who purchased a large quantity of manure that is sometimes used to make fertilizer-based bombs. Work with tenants to ensure they follow safety and securing procedures, for both their intellectual and physical properties.
  • A fundamental way to prevent terrorist attacks is to properly report suspicious activity to stop attacks in the planning stages. In the RJ Westmore, Inc. surveillance blog, we talked about identifying suspicious activities but did not explore how to gather and report that activity to law enforcement.

For more about preparation and recovery from any terrorist attack, see RJWestmore How to prepare for acts of terrorism posts.

The best way to combat the dangers of distracted driving is to opt out of the practice even before the law requires it. After all, when a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is an interactive, building-specific e-learning training system which motivates and rewards tenants instantly! It’s a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your building(s). Choosing our service cuts property management training related workloads by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES!

Posted in Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Evacuations, Health & Welfare, Terrorism

Man-made Disasters: Top 10 Disasters of 2012

Crime Scene Evidence

Part 2 of a 2-Part Series

In 2012, we saw many disasters strike on a global level—killing thousands and inflicting billions of dollars in property damage. In last week’s blog, we focused on the top 10 natural disasters of 2012. This week, we’ll discuss those disasters which originated from man and beast…from intentional attacks such as those relative to active shooting incidents to gross negligence, millions of dollars in damage and thousands of lives were lost to manmade events in 2012.

We hope to highlight those that manmade disasters in 2012 which generated the most media attention, in an effort to encourage due diligence and preparation for the manmade disasters that will inevitably occur in 2013.

  1. Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Disaster. An independent parliamentary investigation assigns blame to “man-made” failures before and after last year’s earthquake leading to the 2012 meltdown at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in Tokyo. Breakdowns are said to have involved regulators working with the plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co., which failed to implement important preventative safety measures. Implementing important preventative safety measures is something we value highly at RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services.
  2. Deadly Philippine Floods. In 2012, deadly floods swamped nearly all of the Philippine capital. Although flooding directly resulted from natural storms, the extent of the damage is said to have caused more as a result of poor planning, lax enforcement and political self-interest than from the storm itself. Damaged watersheds, massive squatter colonies living in danger zones and the neglect of drainage systems are some of the factors that experts report have made the chaotic city of 15 million people vulnerable to extensive damage following severe floods. And who knows how many pets were displaced by these events?
  3. Acts of Terror.While individual terrorist attacks could claim all 10 spots on this list of manmade disasters in 2012, we will allow room for just one entry. It is widely believed that terrorism is the most significant national security threat for many countries in the world, despite the capture and killing of key Al Qaeda leaders in 2011 including Al Qaeda founder Osama Bin Laden and Anwar Al-Awlaki of the Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). As written by The Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald, “The ‘war on terror’ – by design – can never end.”
  4. Aurora Movie Theater Massacre. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) defines an active shooter as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area.” On July 20, 2012, a 24-year-old neuroscience grad student allegedly shot 12 people and wounded dozens more at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.
  5. Sandy Hook Elementary Shooting. On December 14, 2012, a 20-year-old man fatally shot 20 children and 6 adult staff members and wounded two at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. After killing students and staff members, the attacker committed suicide by shooting himself in the head as first responders arrived. The massacre was the second-deadliest school shooting in United States history, after the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre. It also was the second-deadliest mass murder at an American elementary school, after the 1927 Bath School bombings in Michigan.
  6. Atlanta Hospital Shooting. An Alabama man opened fire in a hospital, wounding an officer and two employees before he was fatally shot by police on December 15, 2012. Birmingham Police Sgt. Johnny Williams says the officer and employees suffered injuries that are not considered life-threatening.
  1. Clackamas County Mall Shooting. On December 12, 2012, a 22-year-old man, who was wearing a camouflage outfit and a white mask, shot an initial burst of fire and then more rounds at Clackamas Town Center, killing two. The gunman who opened fire on shoppers at the mall had no connection to those he fatally shot and is said to have wanted to kill as many people as possible during his rampage. I’m glad the cops got this guy before he succeeded.
  2. Fort Hood Shooting. Differences of opinion exist between whether the 2009 shooting at Fort Hood which left 13 people dead, was workplace violence or a full-fledged terrorist attack. Three years later, on December 15, 2012, another assailant shot at police from his parked vehicle before police shot and killed the suspect. Officials say the officers tried life-saving measures before emergency medical personnel arrived, but the soldier died. Investigators later determined that the 30-year-old man had been assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division. Makes you wonder what’s happening over at Ft. Hood.
  3. Spinal Meningitis Outbreak. As reported by the New York Times, “one of the many troubling aspects of the national meningitis outbreak caused by a tainted steroid drug is that so many people are at risk: 14,000 are thought to have been exposed, mostly through injections near the spine for back or neck problems. The drug was contaminated with a fungus that causes a severe form of meningitis that can result in stroke.” Since the outbreak can be attributed to poor medical training, the 23 deaths and sickness of 294 others was unnecessary and avoidable. Getting a shot directly in the spin doesn’t sound like a picnic to begin with.
  4. Unintentional Manmade Triggers. The National Geographic Channel recently ran a special about increased incidences of natural phenomenon such as earthquakes, tornadoes and volcanoes which — though on the surface natural — can actually be unwittingly activated by humans. The NGC special examined how efforts to harness natural resources can have the opposite effect…triggering the very disasters they had intended to eliminate. For example, a Chinese dam weighing as much as 3,000 Empire State Buildings caused tremors that claimed the lives of 90,000 people. According to National Geographic reporters, another dam could trigger mudslides that would bury millions. What’s more, growing urban areas can cause tornadoes and mining and drilling have already activated deadly mud volcanoes. Man and beast are often starting problems without even being aware. I can’t tell you how many times my tail has smacked the contents of the firehouse coffee table. Live and learn.

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 Biological Warfare, Building Evacuation, Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Evacuations, Health & Welfare, High-Rise Buildings, Terrorism

The Ominous 11th Anniversary of 9/11

As we observe the ominous 11th anniversary of 9/11, we at RJWestmore Inc. would like to once again thank all of the emergency personnel and civilians who provided much needed assistance in the hours, days, weeks, months and years immediately following what is considered the deadliest domestic terrorism attack in United States History. In the years since the attacks, we, as a nation have grown accustomed to the idea that America may not be as safe and secure as we once believed. And this is actually a good thing—because it has made us realize that we need to prepare. And preparation is always a good thing!

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. So, to mark the occasion of the 11th anniversary, we want to share some tips to help you plan for a terrorist attack. We hope you will never have to use the ideas. But, in the event you do, we want you to BE SAFE. In fact, at RJWestmore Inc., our primary goal is to keep you safe!

Over the years, terrorists have used several different methods to attack at home and abroad. Here are some examples:

  • Armed attacks and Assassinations— these include raids and ambushes. I like to ambush the neighborhood cats. But I don’t really mean them any harm. I just like to see them run for cover.
  • Arsons and Fire bombings—incendiary devices are cheap and easy to hide. So arson and fire bombings are easily conducted by those groups that may not be as well-organized, equipped, or trained as well-funded terrorist organization.
  • Bioterrorism—refers to the intentional release of toxic biological or chemical agents. Some of the guys at the fire station make chili that gives off toxic fumes. But I don’t think that’s the same thing.
  • Cyber Terrorism—using information technology to attack. I prefer to keep my information in paper folders locked in a file cabinet. But that’s just me.
  • Ecoterrorism— a recently coined term describing violence in the interests of environmentalism. In general, environmental extremists sabotage property to inflict economic damage.
  • Hijackings and Skyjackings—the seizure by force of a surface vehicle, its passengers, and/or its cargo. Skyjacking is the taking of an entire aircraft, which creates a mobile, hostage-barricade situation. This is why I don’t fly. Well, that and the fact they won’t give me a passport. I refuse to sleep in the cold belly of the plane like other K9s.
  • Kidnappings and Hostage-Takings—terrorists establish a bargaining position in an attempt to elicit publicity.
  • Narcoterrorism—has had several meanings since 1983. It once denoted violence used by drug traffickers to influence governments which were trying to stop the drug trade. In the last several years, narcoterrorism has been used to indicate situations in which terrorist groups use drug trafficking to fund their operations.
  • Nuclear Terrorism— refers to a number of ways nuclear materials might be exploited as a terrorist tactic. These include attacking nuclear facilities, purchasing or building nuclear weapons or finding ways to disperse radioactive materials.
  • And, finally… Bombings— which are the most common type of terrorist act.

Overall, the best way to prepare for a terrorist attack is to be observant and vigilant. Familiarize yourself with your work, school and community disaster plans. If you are not aware of such plans, contact your supervisor, school administrators, or local fire department for information. If no one has made a disaster plan, come up with one on your own and share it with emergency personnel.

On an ongoing basis, keep your eyes open for unusual activity in your immediate area, as members of terrorist cells often live and work in suburban neighborhoods even as they prepare to attack. If your neighbor receives lots of packages marked “ammo” or “firearms,” call the police department. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Since bombs are the most typical terrorist attack, here are a few hints about handling bomb threats. Now, admittedly, most members of al-Qaeda won’t call to warn about a bomb threat. But domestic terrorists usually do. And the most common way they warn is via telephone. Subscribers to the RJWestmore Training System watch colorful educational videos that walk you through the steps to take if someone calls with a bomb threat:

  1. Take a deep breath. Most bomb threats are false. And even if the threat is real, calls are made by those who want to minimize damage.
  2. Bomb threats are usually made by telephone. So keep emergency numbers by your telephone.
  3. Be polite, calm and patient and ask questions: (This seems weird to me. Be polite to a terrorist? But I think I understand. You have to try to keep him/her calm.)
    • Where is the device?
    • When is it set to go off?
    • What does it look like?
    • Why are you doing this?
    • Do you have any bacon? (Just kidding. But I love any excuse to bring up bacon.)
  4. Pay careful attention to background noises. Does the caller have an accent? Does he/she speak with a lisp or stutter? Write everything down so you will be able to give authorities a clear description of the caller.
  5. A bomb search should only be done by people who are familiar with the area and have been trained to investigate. Some of my best friends are bomb-sniffing dogs.
  6. Do not use two-way radios or cell phones, as these can remotely detonate a device.
  7. Call 911. In this case, the Twilight Bark won’t do!
  8. Notify building management immediately after hanging up.
  9. Open the doors and windows. I recommend doing this all of the time for airflow!
  10. Prepare to evacuate the building following pre-established safety guidelines.
  11. Do not reenter the building until you have gotten the “all clear” from emergency personnel.

For information about what to do during and after a terrorist bombing, check out the free information available on the CDC website. 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 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system.

Posted in Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Evacuations, Terrorism

How to Survive an Active Shooter Incident

(Out of respect for the victims and families of the shooting in Aurora, Colorado, we have eliminated my usual light-hearted “firedog-isms” from this blog post. Our hearts go out to all of those who were affected by the shooting.)

The deadly rampage at an Aurora, Colorado movie theater on Friday, July 20 is being called the worst shooting in U. S. history. Twelve people were killed and 59 were injured when 24-year-old James Holmes allegedly purchased a ticket and walked into the suburban theater along with other movie-goers. He immediately left the screening room and reemerged moments later, dressed in full tactical gear and a mask. After releasing two canisters of gas, the suspect is said to have used an assault rifle, shotgun and at least one handgun, to fire more than 40 rounds into the crowd.

Minutes later, 200 uniformed Aurora police officers converged on the complex and arrested Holmes, who initially cooperated by warning about booby traps he had rigged in his nearby apartment— including incendiary and chemical devices and trip wires.

The shooting has struck a collective nerve across the country because:

  • The event occurred in a “safe” bedroom community.
  • Aurora is located just 17 miles southeast of Littleton, which was the site of the infamous Columbine shootings in 1999.
  • The shooter was a very bright, well-educated student who graduated from Westview High School in San Diego, where he excelled at school and played soccer. He later studied science at the prestigious Salk Institute in La Jolla.
  • It brings to light the fact that incidences of this type can occur anywhere and anytime.

For their part, one of the largest theater chains in the country, AMC, has banned costumes, tightened private security and is working with law enforcement to strategically place plain clothes’ officers in theaters throughout the country. What’s more, officials are increasing security at large venues such as concerts, railway stations and the airport.

The Department of Homeland Security has prepared several free resources which provide lots of helpful instructions, and defines an active shooter scenario:

“An active shooter is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempts to kill people in a confined and populated area; in most cases, active shooters use firearm(s) and there is no pattern or method used to their selection of victims.”

Because active shooter situations are often over within 10-15 minutes, before law enforcement officers arrive on scene, it is important for individuals to prepare themselves mentally and physically to deal with active shooter situations.

Here are FEMA’s best practices for coping with an active shooter situation. If you follow these simple steps, your chance of being a victim can be greatly reduced:

  1. Be aware of your environment and any possible dangers.
  2. Take note of the two nearest exits in any facility you visit.
  3. If you are in an office, stay there and secure the door.
  4. If you are in a hallway, get into a room and secure the door.
  5. As a last resort, attempt to take the active shooter down. When the shooter is at close range and you cannot flee, your chance of survival is much greater if you try to incapacitate him/her.

CALL 911

The FEMA Active Shooter booklet includes comprehensive instructions for evacuating, hiding out, responding when law enforcement arrives, training staff members for active shooter situations [including creating an Emergency Action Plan (EAP)], as well as additional suggestions for preparing for and preventing active shooter situations.

We provide all users of the RJWestmore Training System ready-access to FEMA active shooter booklets, pocket cards and posters. What’s more, you can go online (through the RJWestmore Training System) or directly to FEMA.org for Active Shooter Certification. When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives.  For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJ Westmore, Inc. Our new Version 3.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system.

Posted in Biological Warfare, Disaster Preparedness, Health & Welfare, Terrorism

Olympic Disaster Preparation

Bio-terrorism could threaten the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.

As we look forward to the 2012 Olympic Games to be held this summer in London, officials are doing their due diligence to prepare for potential natural and manmade disasters. After all, planning and preparation is critical for an event that brings together millions of people (but bans all canines except service dogs) from all over the world. For security reasons, the International Olympic Committee will not disclose specific steps they are taking to ensure safety for the games. Nevertheless, some disaster management experts agree about the type of disasters that are most likely to strike after the torch is lit during the opening ceremonies in Olympic Stadium in Stratford on July 27.

Disaster preparation has played a crucial role in every game since the so-called Munich Massacre of 1972 when members of the Israeli Olympic team were taken hostage and eventually killed by Palestinian terrorists. What’s more, the events of 9/11 made preparation all the more critical, tipping the scales in focused planning from natural to manmade disasters.

Two disaster planning and preparedness recently released a novel which explores a likely threat to the 2012 games. Entitled Prion, the work explores the potential of an attack on the London 2012 Olympics using biological agents. Although the thriller is fiction, it sheds light on one of the most likely types of threats to the 2012 games…bioterrorism. Authors, Dr. Italo Subbarao and Dr. Ed Hsu, U.S.-based experts in disaster planning preparedness and emergency medicine, point out the potential dangers of man-made biological agents slipping into the wrong hands.

The authors say their work was inspired, in part, by a 2011 report by the Bipartisan WMD Terrorism Research Center in the United States, which highlighted numerous areas for improvement and concluded that: “The nation does not yet have adequate bio-response capability to meet fundamental expectations during a large-scale biological event.”

“If the U.S. is so unprepared, can the UK—or any other country—honestly claim to be in any better position?” asks Dr. Subbarao.

I favor another fictional work about the case for including dog competitions at the 2012 Olympic Games. Might I suggestion a game of “Chase the Bacon” or “Scare away the Cat?”

Rest assured the WMD Report Card was written in 2011. Since that time, extensive time and attention has been devoted to beefing up security protocols in both the U.S. and the U.K. So, even as officials ready the nations, how should average United States’ citizens prepare for a bioterrorist attack? We say this often at RJWestmore Inc, where our goal is to SAVE LIVES THROUGH TRAINING: With bioterrorism as well as any other disaster, to BE SAFE, your best bet is to prepare:

  1. Assemble a kit. Your standard Emergency Supply Kit should include items like non-perishable food, water, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, extra flashlights and batteries. Don’t forget to include your pets in disaster planning. Stash jerky treats and plenty of bones.
  2. Stay informed. The first evidence of an attack may be when you notice symptoms of the disease caused by exposure to an agent. Follow these guidelines during a biological threat:
  1. Make a plan.
    • Check with your doctor to ensure all required or suggested immunizations are up to date. (Children and older adults are particularly vulnerable to biological agents.)
    • Consider installing a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters in your furnace-return ducts. These filters remove particles in the 0.3 to 10 micron range and will filter out most of the biological agents that might enter your home or office building. If you do not have a central heating or cooling system, a stand-alone portable HEPA filter can be used.
    • Although you might consider investing in gas or surgical face masks, be aware that masks are only effective when worn at the exact time that the agent is released.
    • Familiarize yourself with your community’s warning systems and disaster plans. My pack prefers the Twilight Bark.
    • Public health officials may not immediately be able to provide information on what you should do. Watch TV, listen to the radio or check the Internet for official news and information including signs and symptoms of the disease, areas in danger, if medications or vaccinations are being distributed and where to seek medical attention if you become ill.
  1. BE SAFE. If you become aware of an unusual and suspicious substance:
    • Quickly get away.
    • Protect yourself. Cover your mouth and nose with layers of fabric that can filter the air but still allow breathing.
    • If you have been exposed to a biological agent, remove and bag your clothes and personal items. Follow official instructions for disposal of contaminated items.
    • Wash yourself with soap and water and put on clean clothes.
    • Use common sense, practice good hygiene and cleanliness to avoid spreading germs. My wife and I are trying to teach JR to practice good hygiene.
    • If you believe you have been exposed to a toxic agent, contact authorities and seek medical assistance. You may be advised to stay away from others or even quarantined.
    • In a declared biological emergency or developing epidemic, there may be reason to stay away from crowds where others may be infected.
    • Wait for instructions from doctors, veterinarians and other public health officials.
    • For more information about bio-terrorism, check out CDC.gov.

When a disaster of any kind 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 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. What’s more, the NEW RJWestmore Property Messaging System is included FREE for all RJWestmore Online Training System users. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information.