Posted in be prepared for emergencies, BE SAFE, Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Communications, Tornadoes, Uncategorized

Tornado Prep & Survival

Tornado Preparation and SurvivalAt least 13 people died and dozens more were injured as recent, severe storms brought flooding and tornadoes to Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi and Texas. That sounds even worse than the one Dorothy survived in the Wizard of Oz! Just one snapshot of the havoc that tornadoes cause, this event demonstrates why tornadoes are considered nature’s most violent storms – able to level entire neighborhoods and city streets in mere seconds. Equally disturbing, in many areas of the country, the question about tornadoes is not “if,” but “when?”Subscribers to the Allied Universal Fire Life Safety Training System have access to a comprehensive tornado training module

Tornado captain
Subscribers to the Allied Universal Fire Life Safety Training System have access to a comprehensive tornado safety module.

Your community could face the wrath of the phenomenon described as a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground with whirling winds of up to 300 miles per hour. I hope our community doesn’t experience a tornado. I’m not sure the doghouse would survive. Subscribers to the Allied Universal Fire Life Safety Training System have access to a comprehensive tornado training module, which explains how to be safe before, during and after a tornado hits. In our ongoing effort to help educate and keep our friends and subscribers safe, we have also assembled some valuable tornado trivia and tips:

Hurricane spinning around with leaves and books insideTornado Trivia:

  • Damage paths can exceed one mile wide and 50 miles long. I’ve seen cats do that much damage.
  • The average forward speed of a tornado is 30 mph, but may vary from stationary to 70 mph.
  • Although the average tornado moves Southwest to Northeast, tornadoes can move in any direction.
  • Every state is at some risk of tornadoes, although certain states are more tornado-prone. For example, in the Midwest, tornadoes are frequently reported east of the Rocky Mountains during spring and summer months.
  • Peak tornado season in southern states is March through May; in the northern states, it is late spring through early summer.
  • Tornadoes are most likely to occur between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m., but can occur at any time.
  • Some tornadoes are clearly visible, while others are obscured by rain or nearby low-hanging clouds.
  • Certain tornadoes develop so rapidly that little advanced warning is possible.
  • Before a tornado hits, winds may die down and air may become still. In fact, some attribute the idiom, “calm before the storm,” to this phenomenon.
  • Tornadoes generally occur near the trailing edge of a thunderstorm.
  • A cloud of debris may mark the location of a tornado even when a funnel is not visible. A cloud of debris seems to follow my son, JR.
  • They may appear nearly transparent until dust and debris are picked up or a cloud forms in the funnel.
  • It is not uncommon to see clear, sunlit skies behind a tornado.
  • A Tornado Watch means tornadoes are possible. Remain alert for approaching storms.
  • A Tornado Warning indicates a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Immediately take shelter.

blue digital radioBefore a Tornado

  • Build an emergency kit.
  • Make a family communications plan.
  • Consider building a “safe room.” For more about this, see Gov.
  • Listen to National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio or to commercial radio or television newscasts for the latest information.
  • Notice changing weather conditions. Look for approaching storms.
  • Be aware of the following danger signs: dark, greenish sky; large hail; a large, dark, low-flying cloud, and/or a loud roar (like a freight train).
  • If you see approaching storms or any of the danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately.

During a Tornado

If you are in a structure when a tornado hits:

  • Go to a pre-designated area such as a safe room, basement, storm cellar, or the center of a small interior room on the lowest building level. In a high-rise building, go to a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible.
  • Put on sturdy shoes.
  • Keep windows closed.
  • Bring your pets inside.

If you are in a manufactured home or office when a tornado hits:

Immediately exit and head to a pre-identified location such as the lowest floor of a sturdy, nearby building or a storm shelter. This advice would also probably apply to doghouses.

If you are outside without shelter when a tornado happens:

If you are not in a sturdy building, there is no single research-based recommendation for the last-resort action to take because many factors can affect your decision. Possible actions include:

  • Immediately get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter. If your vehicle is hit by flying debris while you are driving, pull over and park.
  • Take cover in a stationary vehicle. Put the seat belt on and cover your head with your arms and a blanket, coat or other cushion if possible.
  • Lie in an area noticeably lower than the level of the roadway and cover your head with your arms and a blanket, coat or other cushion if possible.

In every situation:Tornado myth 2

  • Never seek cover under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.
  • Don’t try to outrun a tornado in urban or congested areas, while in a car or truck. Instead, leave the vehicle immediately for safe shelter. Sounds like it might be hard to outrun tornado wherever you are.
  • Watch out for flying debris. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most fatalities and injuries.

After a Tornado

  • Listen to local weather reports and officials for updates and instructions.
  • Check-in with family and friends by texting or using social media.
  • Watch out for debris and downed power lines.
  • If you are trapped, do not move about or kick up dust. Tap on a pipe or wall or use a whistle, if you have one, to alert rescuers about your location.
  • Stay out of damaged buildings and homes. Sounds like a good idea even without the tornado.
  • Photograph the damage to your property to assist in filing insurance claims.
  • Do what you can to prevent further damage to your property, (e.g., putting a tarp on a damaged roof), as insurance may not cover additional damage that occurs after the storm.
  • If your home is without power, use flashlights or battery-powered lanterns rather than candles to prevent accidental fires.Rechargeable floured lantern

Remember that safety is important for everyone across continents. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the Allied Universal Fire Life Training System, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

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

Are you ready for Extreme Weather?

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

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

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

Extreme Heat

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

Thunder and Lightning

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

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

Tornadoes

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

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

Posted in be prepared for emergencies, BE SAFE, Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Evacuations, High-Rise Buildings, Tornadoes, Workplace Safety

RJWestmore Training System Tornado Module Part 2

Fotolia_90922777_XS

Tornadoes present a significant weather-related risk across much of the country. Last week, we began a two-part series about how to prepare for and recover from tornadoes, which is particularly important in 2016, thanks to El Niño. I sure hope El Niño won’t affect bacon production. That’s at the top of my emergency supply list.

As noted in last week’s post, the RJWestmore Training System has recently added a tornado module to further enhance our comprehensive training program. Last week, our post covered what to do to prepare for a tornado. The following post will wrap up our two-week series, focusing on what to do during and after a tornado.

During a Tornado

Vintage old fashioned radioMany cities use an undulating, wailing warning system that sounds for three to four minutes to alert the public about tornadoes. I know a lot of dogs who use a similar system to warn their masters of impending doom. If you hear this signal or are otherwise notified that a tornado is imminent:

  • Remain calm.
  • At home or work, go to the pre-determined safe zone or basement as quickly as possible.
  • If you are in a high-rise building, don’t stay in a large, open area that has windows. Instead, seek out a closet or interior hallway to take cover.
  • Do not leave the building.
  • If you cannot get to a safe zone or basement, seek shelter under a large, sturdy piece of furniture. I find that desks and chairs provide comfort as well as protection.
  • Steer clear of windows and avoid being hit by flying objects.
  • Listen to NOAA weather conditions.
  • If you are away from home, find a small, interior room or hallway and protect your head and neck with your arms and a coat or blanket. And if you’re a canine, tuck in your tail.
  • If you are in a vehicle, do not attempt to outdrive the tornado. But do not stay in the car, as tornadoes can significantly damage automobiles. Park the car as quickly as possible, well away from traffic. If possible, find shelter in a sturdy building or underground. If you are not near a building, seek shelter in a spot that is at the lowest level possible. It is a myth that an overpass would provide shelter from a tornado. It is far safer to literally lie low and cover your head and neck with your arms and a coat or blanket. But make sure you are far from trees and vehicles.

After a Tornado

Emergency Survival Preparedness KitStudies have shown that a great deal of tornado-related injuries occur after a tornado when people are walking among the debris and enter damaged buildings. Injuries can also occur during rescue attempts, cleanup and other post-tornado activities. So be careful and follow these tips:

  • Unless you are facing a life-threatening situation, do not leave the safe zone until the warning has officially been lifted.
  • Listen for emergency information and instructions as well as weather updates and the “all clear” signal.
  • Do a quick survey of the damage to determine major hazards, looking for fires, leaks and electrical shorts.
  • Anticipate power outages and use the flashlight in your emergency kit to light the way as you check interior spaces and during evacuation.
  • Take time to have a snack. (Okay…I added that suggestion. But I think that snacks are always a good idea.)
  • Do not use an open flame or turn on electrical switches, especially if you smell gas.
  • Establish a safe location to use for triage. Do not move seriously injured people unless they are in immediate danger of further injury.
  • When it is safe to do so, use telephones for emergency calls, only.
  • Avoid unnecessary movement, which could stir up debris and affect breathing.
  • If you are trapped, tap on metal or another loud surface or, better yet, use a whistle to alert emergency responders. Shout only as a last resort. Bark, if applicable.
  • When evacuation routes are determined to be safe and you are instructed to do so:
    • Evacuate
    • Remain calm
    • Do not use elevators
    • Proceed to the safest exit, using the most continuous handrail
    • Before opening any doors, feel the door with the back of your hand (or paw), to check for heat.
    • Proceed to your designated safe refuge area and check in.
    • Do not reenter the building until you are told it is safe to do so by building management and emergency responders.

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 prepared for emergencies, BE SAFE, Disaster Preparedness, High-Rise Buildings, Tornadoes, Workplace Safety

Training Enhancements to RJWestmore System

Big TornadoPart one in a two-part series

Arguably nature’s most violent storms, an average of 1,000 tornadoes strike each year in the United States. Spawned from powerful thunderstorms, tornadoes often strike with little or no warning, wreaking havoc on communities of all kinds…from suburban neighborhoods to metropolitan areas. And here I thought that cats were the only thing to spawn something capable of wreaking havoc on canine communities! Surprisingly, tornadoes actually pose a risk to virtually every state in the union, not just tornado-prone regions. And this is especially true in 2016, thanks to El Niño.

The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a subscription-based e-learning training system that prepares high-rise building occupants to anticipate and respond to disasters of all kinds. A recent addition to the comprehensive system is a tornado module, which uses sound educational material, presented in an entertaining format, to train building occupants to understand their emergency plan as well as their role in it; how to make their home or workplaces safe; and what to do before, during and after an emergency. I love watching the videos in the RJWestmore Training System. Cartoons and voiceover are a great way to educate! In this first post in our two-part blog series, we will cover safety steps relative to tornado preparation.

Screenshot (1054)In part two, we will discuss what to do during and after a tornado. Here are some highlights of the life-saving topics covered in the first few video segments of the RJWestmore Training System tornado module:

  • Some tornadoes develop with little or no warning. So preparation is vital long before a siren wails, signaling the start of a tornado event. My appetite also hits with little or no warning.
  • Before a tornado hits, it is important to stay informed about weather conditions and listen for radio or televised instructions given by local emergency management officials.
  • Long before a tornado hits, make sure you identify and practice moving to your closest safe zone or basement and that you understand the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning:

Tornado Watch

Tornado Warning

  • A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar.
  • Take shelter immediately.

This is a summary of how our training system instructs subscribers about the steps to take for safety before, during and after a tornado:

Screenshot (1053)Before a Tornado

  • Practice evacuation procedures.
  • Maintain an emergency supply kit. (The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services provides subscribers with a complete list of emergency supplies, available in the resources section of the training system website.) We sure provide lots of great options. I’m happy to be the mascot for such a safety-focused corporation!

Click here to check out part two of our two-part series about tornado safety. In it, we cover the steps you should take during and after a tornado. 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 Disaster Preparedness, safety plans and procedures, Tornadoes, Winter Weather Hazards

El Niño & the Risks of Unpredictable Weather 

Tornado icon.The early January storms in Southern California brought not only rain and wind, but also a rare tornado warning for Los Angeles and San Diego (which would have likely rained fish tacos!). While the warnings didn’t pan out, meteorologists agree that 2016 will bring an increased chance of storms of many types across the entire country.

Thanks to El Niño, emergency management professionals across the country are gearing up for what may be a banner year for weather. In fact, citing a worrying El Niño storm pattern this winter that could rival flooding in 1997 and 1998, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has prepared a 66-page Severe El Niño Disaster Response Plan targeted to milder climates such as California and other western states. I would read the whole thing, but it’s hard for me to turn the pages since I don’t have opposable thumbs.

What exactly is El Niño? As the official mascot for RJWestmore, leaders in disaster preparedness training, I need to know such things!  Technically, it is the warm phase of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (commonly called ENSO). In simple terms, bands of warmer ocean water develop near the equator. This abnormally warm ocean water then alters the atmospheric conditions to produce unpredictable weather events. Here are some tips for handling several potential facets of El Niño weather and tips for preparing your building for severe weather. I also have some “Carolina style” BBQ tips if that is relevant? They always seem relevant to me.

Perform Storm Water Inspections of Your Properties

Conduct a property walk-through to spot water drainage problems that could be aggravated by El Niño storms. While on the walk-through:

  • Check drainpipes and other piping used to channel rainwater. Be sure these are free of debris to potentially handle large quantities of water. I once backed up a drain at the firehouse. I’ll admit it was probably too much bacon grease. Review storm patterns and associated damage from previous years to identify potential problem areas.
  • If your building has water pumps, ensure they remain in good working condition. Remove debris from strainers.
  • If storm drains are severely backed up, you may need to hire a professional who has tools such as cameras to quickly identify and solve the problem.
  • We’ve got some serious surveillance equipment in our doghouse—the “Cat Detectormatic 9000” and the “Ultrasonic Porkchop Finder 2.5.” They were great investments.
  • Test the drainage system for leaks. This is especially important in areas that house electrical equipment.
  • Does your building have ground-level storage or parking areas? Check the grading to identify areas which may be susceptible to flooding. Sandbags and other measures can help channel water flow away from high traffic areas. Whiskers and Tabby tried to help once by pouring cat litter into shopping bags; it didn’t work out.

Managing Snowfall

The Weather Channel’s Winter Storm Central details the typical effects of El Niño and La Nina relative to snow patterns. The hope is that the subtropical or southern-branch jet stream, typically turbo-charged during strong El Niño, will deliver long-awaited relief for at least some in the West. However, no one can equivocally guarantee that the drought will end even if El Niño performs as expected. The good news is that, so far this year, California is already experiencing heavier snowfall than normal, with several feet reported.

Winter City
How to Handle Snow:

  • Use chains. Necessary even if you have a four-wheel drive vehicle, snow chains provide the traction necessary to escape snow-packed surfaces, though they remain relatively useless for traversing slick ice. Thankfully, as Dalmatian, I have all-time, four-wheel drive and amazing stability. Practice putting chains on your car in the comfort of your driveway instead of opening the package for the first time while you are stranded at the side of the road during a blizzard.
  • Keep exhaust pipes clear. If the pipe is blocked while the car is running, shovel an area around it for the gases to escape, instead of allowing them to filter back into the car.
  • Work with other motorists. If you are stranded during a snowstorm, make contact with other people so you can pool resources such as food, water, charged devices, and other items from your emergency supply kit. Dogs do this at the dog park, usually by sniffing each other.
  • Stay with the vehicle. Unless you have veered off the road, stay with the car as it will provide a certain degree of shelter.

Prepping your Building

Rain, tornadoes, and snow from El Niño could lead to a wide range of disaster threats this year. Here are some tips to help you (and building occupants) survive and resume normal operations as quickly as possible:

  • Use backup generators to provide a source of electricity to run sump pumps and to provide essential services to stranded occupants. You also need electricity to check your favorite Twitter accounts. My handle is @RJtheFiredog. I’m well on my way to reaching 2,000 followers! Feel free to tweet and follow me too for some sage advice.
  • If applicable, paint your building (especially wood trim) with treated paint, which will repel water.
  • Conduct flood-proofing of your building, including the use of sandbags, attention to gutters, altering rooflines, and other fixes. FEMA has an extension section devoted to flood-proofing. I know I talk about bacon a lot, but just consider the use of congealed bacon fat as an amazing waterproofing sealant. You can use that fancy “caulk” stuff, but I’ll take bacon fat any day!

The effect of El Niño are global, with NASA predicting “weather chaos.” A theme of El Niño weather events is their unpredictability, with unusually-timed floods, blizzards, and the potential for tornadoes in unexpected places. Planning for the unexpected is a requirement for building and safety managers, so follow best practices to protect lives and property in 2016.

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, Tornadoes

Tornadoes–Severe Weather

vector illustration of kawaii tornadoes which is eating houseLast week, we launched a series about preparing for severe weather. This week, we will focus on one of the most chilling of all severe weather storms—tornadoes. Tornados can cause flash floods, lightning, and winds up to 140 miles per hour. What’s more, tornadoes can produce hail stones as big as grapefruit. I don’t care for grapefruit. So I would rather say hail can be as large as a pork roast. Tornadoes occasionally develop in areas where a severe thunderstorm watch or warning is in effect, and they may strike with little or no warning.

Tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms. Spawned from powerful thunderstorms, they can cause fatalities and devastate neighborhood in mere seconds. Initially, a tornado appears as a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground with whirling winds that can reach 300 miles per hour. According to Ready.Gov, damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long. That’s a whole lot of damage.

Did you know that every state in the union is at some risk from this hazard? Admittedly, some states are at greater risk than others. While many tornadoes are clearly visible, rain or nearby low-hanging clouds can obscure others. Occasionally, tornadoes develop so rapidly that little, if any, advance warning is possible. Before a tornado hits, the wind may die down and the air may become very still. A cloud of debris can mark the location of a tornado even if a funnel is not visible. Tornadoes generally occur near the trailing edge of a thunderstorm. It is not uncommon to see clear, sunlit skies behind a tornado.

If you see approaching storms or any of the danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately. Most injuries associated with high winds are from flying debris. So remember to protect your head! You might even want to consider wearing a helmet at all times. Then again, that might be a little drastic.

Before a Tornado:

  • Look for danger signs such as dark, greenish skies; large hail; a large, dark low-lying cloud (particularly if it is rotating); or a loud roar reminiscent of an approaching freight train. It would be difficult to sleep through that.
  • Listen to radio and television for updates.
  • Keep a map nearby to follow storm movement.
  • Secure a battery-powered National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) All Hazard Radio.
  • Stay away from windows. My doghouse doesn’t have any windows.
  • If an underground shelter is unavailable, move to an area that puts as many walls between you and the outdoors as possible.
  • Move to the lowest floor of the building.
  • Do not stay in a car or motor home.
  • Sit underneath a sturdy piece of furniture. Dogs do this all of the time.
  • Cover yourself with thick padding, such as a mattress or blanket, and use your arms to protect your head and neck from debris.

Description of tornado states of alert:

  • A “Tornado Watch” denotes that tornadoes are possible for your area. Remain alert.
  • A “Tornado Warning” means a tornado has been sighted, or its presence is indicated by weather radar. In the event of an alert, finding shelter is imperative. Sirens are activated in response to warnings.

During a Tornado:

Outside

  • Try to get inside and seek a small protected space devoid of windows.
  • Avoid large-span roof areas such as school gymnasiums, arenas, or shopping malls.
  • If you cannot get inside, crouch for protection beside a strong structure or lie flat in a ditch or low-lying area and cover your head and neck with your arms or a piece of clothing. Crouching is another thing that dogs do naturally.

In a Car

  • If you are caught outdoors, seek shelter in a basement, shelter or sturdy building. If you cannot quickly walk to a shelter.
  • Immediately get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter. I really should get a driver’s license. It seems like cars provide lots of protection.
  • If flying debris occurs while you are driving, pull over and park.
  • Stay in the car with the seat belt on. Put your head down below the windows, covering with your hands and a blanket if possible.
  • If you can safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway, exit your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands.

Inside

  • When a tornado warning has been issued, you may have very little time to prepare. How you respond now is critical. And how you react depends on where you are.
  • If you’re inside a house, make sure you have a portable, battery-operated or hand-crank radio on hand.
  • Seek shelter in the lowest level of your home (basement or storm cellar). If there is no basement, go to an inner hallway, a smaller inner room, or a closet. Keep away from all windows.
  • You can cushion yourself with a mattress, but never use one to cover yourself. Cover your head and eyes with a blanket or jacket to protect against flying debris and broken glass.
  • Keep your pet on a leash or in a carrier. We will appreciate the extra protection.
  • Multiple tornadoes can emerge from the same storm, so do not go out until the storm has passed.
  • Don’t leave a building in a vain attempt to escape a tornado.
  • If you are in a manufactured (mobile) home, leave immediately and take shelter elsewhere.

After a tornado

  • Injuries can occur in the aftermath of a tornado, during cleanup or rescue attempts, from exposed nails or broken glass. Wear sturdy shoes, gloves and long sleeves.
  • Be careful entering any structure that has been damaged by a tornado.
  • Don’t touch downed power lines or objects that are in contact with power lines.
  • Beware of open flames. Use battery-powered lanterns or flashlights to light homes without electricity.
  • If your home has been damaged, shut off electrical power to avoid natural gas and propane tanks from catching fire.
  • If you see damaged electrical wires, tell authorities. Make sure your canine companions don’t chew on loose cords.
  • Cooperate with public safety officials and respond to requests for assistance from emergency responders. However, do not go into damaged areas unless your assistance is requested.

Measuring damage on the EF-scale

  1. You’ve probably heard a tornado described as “an F3″ or “barely an F0.”
  2. The “F” comes from the Fujita scale, developed by T. Theodore Fujita in 1971.
  3. The 2004 update of the system came with a new name: the Enhanced F-scale or EF-scale, which measures estimated tornado wind speeds based on the damage they cause.
  4. To determine where a tornado falls on the EF-scale, surveyors look at the damage in its wake. Investigators examine 28 types of free-standing structures to see how much damage they sustained.
  5. Based on all the damage, the National Weather Service can estimate the wind speed of the tornado itself and put it on the EF-scale.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The best way to prepare for severe weather is to be aware. 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, Hurricanes, Tornadoes, Tsunamis

National Severe Weather Preparedness Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take Action: Be prepared for severe weather.

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

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

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

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

Posted in Disaster Preparedness, Tornadoes, Winter Weather Hazards

Tornado Preparation & Recovery

vector tornadoRescuers are flocking to the Midwest to help tornado-ravaged areas. The storm that hit Washington, Illinois with a vengeance last week killed at least six and injured dozens more. The storm unleashed powerful winds that flattened entire neighborhoods, flipped over cars and uprooted trees. The unusually powerful late-season wave of thunderstorms brought damaging winds and tornadoes to 12 states including Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and western New York.

Although certain areas of the United States are considered more at risk than others, every state could potentially encounter the hazard—which is why we want to devote this week’s blog posts to tornado preparation and recovery.

Often referred to as nature’s most violent storms, tornadoes grow out of powerful thunderstorms, which first appear as rotating, funnel-shaped clouds that extend from a thunderstorm to the ground with whirling winds that can reach 300 miles per hour. I guess they look like the Tasmanian Devil on the Road Runner Show? Damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long.

Here are a few facts about tornadoes:

  • Some tornadoes are clearly visible, while others might be obscured by rain or nearby low-hanging clouds.
  • Unlike hurricanes, tornadoes can develop so rapidly that little, if any, advance warning is possible.
  • Tornadoes may appear nearly transparent until dust and debris are picked up or a cloud forms in the funnel.
  • Immediately before a tornado hits, wind may die down and the air may become very still.
  • Sometimes, a tornado can leave a cloud of debris in its wake, marking the location of a tornado even when a funnel is not visible. I’ve been known to leave a cloud of debris in my own wake, or so I’m told.
  • The average tornado moves southwest to northeast, but can move in any direction.
  • Tornadoes generally occur near the trailing edge of a thunderstorm.
  • It is not uncommon to see clear, sunlit skies behind a tornado.
  • The average forward speed of a tornado is 30 mph, but may vary from stationary to 70 mph. My average speed is 30-40 mph.
  • Tornadoes can accompany tropical storms and hurricanes as they move onto land.
  • Waterspouts are tornadoes that form over water.
  • Tornadoes are most frequently reported east of the Rocky Mountains during spring and summer months. I love Colorado. So I think it might be worth the risk to live there.
  • Peak tornado season in the southern states is March through May; in the northern states, it is late spring through early summer.
  • Tornadoes are most likely to occur between 3 pm and 9 pm, but can occur at any time. That’s a little confusing…

How to Prepare for a Tornado

1. Assemble an emergency preparedness kit. And don’t forget to include turkey jerky!

2. Make a family and/or workplace communications plan.

3. Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or to commercial radio or television newscasts for the latest information. In any emergency, listen to instructions given by local emergency management officials. What to listen for:

  • Tornado Watch: Tornadoes are possible in the immediate area. Remain alert for approaching storms.
  • Tornado Warning: A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. If a tornado warning is issued for your area and the sky becomes threatening, move to your pre-designated place of safety.
  • Severe Thunderstorm Watch: Severe thunderstorms are possible.
  • Severe Thunderstorm Warning: Severe thunderstorms are occurring.

4. Tornadoes occasionally develop in areas in which severe thunderstorm storm watches or warnings are in effect. Remain alert to signs of an approaching tornado and seek shelter if threatening conditions exist.

  • Pay attention to changing weather conditions. Watch for approaching storms.
  • Look for danger signs:
    • Dark, greenish sky
    • Large hail
    • A large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if is rotating)
    • Loud roar—similar to a freight train

5. If you see approaching storms or any of the danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately. Most injuries associated with high winds are from flying debris. So remember to protect your head!

If you are inside when you see a Tornado approaching

  • Go to a pre-designated shelter area such as a safe room, basement, storm cellar, or the lowest building level. If there is no basement, go to the center of an interior room on the lowest level (closet, interior hallway) away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Get under a sturdy table and use your arms to protect your head and neck.
  • In a high-rise building, go to a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible.
  • Put on sturdy shoes.
  • If an underground shelter is not available, move to an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor and seek shelter under a sturdy piece of furniture.
  • Stay away from windows.
  • Do not try to outrun a tornado in your car; instead leave it immediately.
  • If caught outside or in a vehicle, lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression.
  • Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes and should be abandoned.

If you are outside and see a tornado approaching

  • Immediately get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter.
  • If your vehicle is hit by flying debris while you are driving, pull over and park.
  • Stay in the car with the seat belt on. Put your head down below the windows; cover your head with your hands and a blanket, coat or other cushion if possible.
  • If you can safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway, leave your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands.
  • Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.
  • Don’t try to outrun a tornado in urban or congested areas in a car or truck. Instead, leave the vehicle for safe shelter.
  • Watch for flying debris. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most fatalities and injuries.

What to Do After a Tornado

  • If you are trapped, try to attract attention to your location. I would bark.
  • Injury may result from the direct impact of a tornado or it may occur afterward, when people walk among debris and enter damaged buildings.
  • Do not attempt to move seriously injured people or pets unless they are in immediate danger of further injury.
  • If necessary, get medical assistance immediately.
  • If someone has stopped breathing, begin CPR if you are trained to do so.
  • Stop a bleeding injury by applying direct pressure to wounds.
  • Do not touch downed power lines or objects in contact with downed lines. Report electrical hazards to the police and the utility company.
  • Use battery-powered lanterns, if possible, rather than candles to light homes without electrical power.
  • Don’t use generators, pressure washers, grills, camp stoves or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside your home, basement, garage or camper— or even outside near an open window, door or vent.
  • Hang up displaced telephone receivers, but stay off the telephone, except to report emergencies. Now is not the time to chat about your new outfit!
  • Cooperate with public safety officials.
  • Respond to requests for volunteer assistance by police, fire fighters, emergency management and relief organizations. But do not go into damaged areas unless assistance has been requested. Your presence could hamper relief efforts and you could endanger yourself.
  • Because tornadoes often damage power lines, gas lines or electrical systems, there is an associated risk of fire, electrocution or explosion.

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 Alert System, Fire Safety, Health & Welfare, High-Rise Buildings, Safety at Home, Tornadoes, Uncategorized, Workplace Safety

Why Humans Should Learn How to Shelter in Place

Safe RoomThe recent tornadoes in the Midwest have reminded all of us that evacuation is not always the wisest choice for anyone facing a disaster. This is important to remember, since our natural “flight or fight” response may urge us to flee when sheltering in place may be the better move.

Emergency management professionals have long maintained that it’s often preferable to stay put during and immediately after any disaster (as long as you are inside anything other than a mobile home.) Better by far is preparing an easily accessible safe room well in advance of any emergency. Or there is always a well-constructed doghouse. That’s what I use to keep my family safe during disasters.

According to a report by CNN, to date, at least 16 are dead in Oklahoma following the vicious storm which spawned at least five tornadoes. A spokeswoman from the Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office noted that the death toll may rise even further. Tragically, among the dead are two children — an infant who was sucked out of the car with its mother and a 4-year-old boy who, along with his family, had unsuccessfully sought shelter by hovering in a drainage-ditch. Whether or not these deaths could have been prevented, we feel it is important to remind people that the time to think about disaster preparation is while you are safe and sound…not during the actual emergency when stress mounts and time is short.

The American Red Cross defines the term Shelter-in-Place as “taking immediate shelter wherever you are—at home, work, school, or anywhere else. It may also mean “seal the room.” In other words, in the event of a natural or manmade disaster, to BE SAFE, you might need to take steps to prevent outside air from coming in. This is particularly difficult for most dogs to understand since we love sticking our noses out of windows.

Just a few instances where sheltering in place makes more sense than evacuating include:
•    The release of chemical or radiological contaminants
•    Weather-related hazards
•    Active shooter incidents (including, but not limited to terrorist attacks)
•    Shortage of bacon

If any of these occur, it is important to listen to TV or radio to accurately be able to determine whether the authorities recommend simply that you remain indoors or that you take additional steps to protect yourself and your family and building occupants if you own or manage a facility. The first step to prepare for any such emergency is to determine which alert systems are used in your area. Fire or police department warning procedures could include:

  • “All-Call” telephoning – an automated system for sending recorded messages, sometimes called Reverse 911.
  • Emergency Alert System (EAS) broadcasts on the radio or television.
  • Outdoor warning sirens or horns.
  • The Twilight Bark
  • News media sources – radio, television and cable
  • NOAA Weather Radio alerts. NOAA offers several online resources and apps to make sure you are made aware of any disasters in your area.
  • Residential route alerting – messages announced to neighborhoods from vehicles equipped with PA systems.
  • Facilities that handle potentially dangerous materials, such as nuclear power plants, are required to install sirens and other warning systems (flash warning lights) to cover a 10-mile area around the plant.

At Home
1.    Choose a “shelter” room in advance of any actual emergency. No matter the type of incident, the safest room is one that has as few windows and doors as possible.
2.    Consider using a master bedroom that is connected to a bathroom. This is often a good choice because it is connected to a water supply.
3.    Develop a family emergency plan so that everyone knows what to do.
4.    Find out when warning systems will be tested. If alarms are tested in your area, determine whether you can hear or see sirens and/or warning lights from your place of business.
5.    Assemble a disaster supplies kit that includes emergency water and food supplies.
6.    Check the Disaster Supply Kit regularly. Make sure it has plenty of dog food and treats.
7.    Practice “sheltering in place” regularly.

Away from Home
1.    Contact your workplaces, your children’s schools, nursing homes where you may have family and your local town or city officials to learn about their plans for “sheltering-in-place.”
2.    Help ensure that the emergency plan and checklist involves all employees and/or tenants of your building.
3.    Assign volunteers or recruits specific duties to fulfill during an emergency. Also, assign alternates to each duty.
4.    Create an Emergency Supply Kit for building occupants. Check the kit on a regular basis. (Items like duct tape and first aid supplies can sometimes disappear when employees or tenants know where the kit is stored. Also, even if the kit is sealed, batteries for the radio and flashlight require regular replacement.
5.    Learn CPR, First Aid and how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED). Contact your local American Red Cross chapter for more information.

When you are notified of a “Shelter in Place” disaster, take these steps:

  • Bring children and pets indoors immediately. If your children are at school, do not try to bring them home unless told to. The school will shelter them. If you have pets, prepare a place for them to relieve themselves where you are taking shelter. Pets should not go outside during a chemical or radiation emergency. Consider including plastic bags in your Disaster Supply Kit. Or, better yet, potty-train your dog. Some of us are bright enough to learn how to flush.
  • Close and lock all outside doors and windows. Locking may provide a tighter seal.
  • If you are told there is danger of explosion, close the window shades, blinds, or curtains.
  • Turn off the heating, ventilation, or air conditioning system. Turn off all fans, including bathroom fans operated by the light switch.
  • Close the fireplace or wood stove damper. Become familiar with proper operation of flues and dampers ahead of time.
  • Get your disaster supplies kit and make sure the radio is working.
  • If you are instructed to seal the room, use duct tape and plastic sheeting, such as heavy-duty plastic garbage bags, to seal all cracks around the door into the room. Tape plastic over any windows. Tape over any vents and seal electrical outlets and other openings. As much as possible, reduce the flow of air into the room.
  • Call your emergency contact and keep the phone handy in case you need to report a life-threatening condition. Otherwise stay off the phone, so that the lines will be available for use by emergency responders.
  • Keep listening to your radio or television until you are told all is safe or you are told to evacuate. Do not evacuate unless instructed to do so.
  • Stay where you are until you are told that the emergency is over. Only then should you open windows and doors and turn on ventilation systems.
  • After the “all clear,” go outside until the building’s air has been exchanged with clean outdoor air. Follow any special instructions given by emergency authorities to avoid chemical or radiological contaminants outdoors.

Although this blog post is longer and more entertaining than most, it should not be considered a comprehensive digest about sheltering in place. However, subscribers to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services have access to instructional videos which explain the concept in great detail. For more about sheltering in place, check out previous RJWestmore blog posts, as well as information provided by the National Terror Alert Response Center, the CDC and FEMA.

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 workloads by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES!

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

Lessons from the Oklahoma Tornado

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Our hearts go out to everyone who was affected by the recent tornadoes in the Midwest. Out of respect for the victims, we will not include my usual fire dog-isms in this post.

Since a category EF5 tornado ripped through several Midwestern states this May, leaving devastated communities (most severely in Moore, Oklahoma) in its wake, reporters en masse have questioned the higher than average natural disaster rate in Oklahoma. ABC7 News, in fact, went so far as to call Oklahoma “Disaster Central.” A writer with the StarTribune called the state “the Bull’s Eye for awful tornadoes.” And FEMA ranks Oklahoma No. 1 in tornados, No. 3 in floods.

According to a story in The Denver Post, the long-time Director of Emergency Management in Oklahoma, Albert Ashwood, has overseen 36 major disasters during his 25-year tenure with the state. The tornado was the 74th presidential disaster declared in the Sooner State in the past 60 years. Also noteworthy:

  •  Only much-larger and more-populous California and Texas have had more.
  • According to FEMA records, when disaster declarations are measured on a per-person basis, Oklahoma gets nearly three times the national average.
  • When disaster figures are computed based on how much land is in a state, OK gets twice the national average.

The reason for Oklahoma’s tendency toward disaster is owed mainly to atmospheric conditions, which position it right in the middle of Tornado Alley…the cluster of states in the nation’s midsection which are particularly prone to twisters. Another explanation for Oklahoma’s role as Disaster Central is urban sprawl, which puts more people in the path of disasters. Moore has 56,000 people. As more such suburbs pop up, the chances of homes being hit increases.

Since Oklahoma has been especially hard-hit in recent years, experts in emergency management say Emergency Manager Albert Ashwood’s experience and innovative thinking have helped ease recovery efforts in Oklahoma.

“(Ashwood’s know-how) makes all the difference,’ said Trina Sheets, executive director of the National Emergency Management Association. “Disaster victims can be assured he understands everything that needs to be done for recovery.’” As a result of Ashwood’s experience, search-and-rescue teams were quickly deployed, demonstrating that Oklahoma was well prepared.

Since Ashwood is arguably the most experienced emergency managers in U.S. history, we can learn a few things about disaster preparation and recovery from him:

  1. A good emergency manager is more of a coordinator than a first responder.
  2. Readiness will result in the quick deployment of search-and-rescue teams.
  3. A well-prepared emergency manager won’t run around like a chicken with his head cut off. Ashwood is well respected among emergency management professionals. 
  4. A well-prepared community will rebound. Oklahoma is the leading state when it comes to safe rooms, which probably saved lives in Moore, according to FEMA.
  5. When federal aid comes quickly, so does recovery. ABC reports that several disaster experts say Oklahoma is particularly adept at working the bureaucracy to obtain federal aid.
  6. Total recovery requires help from private sector investment in disaster risk management. For our part, the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is committed to equipping people to prepare for disaster. We’ve learned that prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. So we have created an interactive, building-specific e-learning training system which motivates and rewards tenants instantly!

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 workloads by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES!