Posted in BE SAFE, Disaster Preparedness, Health & Welfare, Hurricanes, Travel, Tsunamis, Uncategorized, Winter Weather Hazards

Are you prepared to survive outdoors in the elements?

feet poking out of a pup tent, under the sun and a small tree
Outdoor Survival: Are You prepared?

 

While we typically discuss disasters as they relate to office buildings and other structures, our lessons about emergency preparedness also apply to survival outside.

Today we tackle some basic winter survival skills to help you prepare for unexpected winter weather whether you are trapped in your car or if you get lost while you’re hiking. Recent severe snowstorms on the East Coast tested both emergency responders and numerous individuals who were affected by the stormy conditions.

Motorists in New Jersey were stranded for some 30 hours—stuck in their cars, surviving on snack food like beef jerky and crackers. That really doesn’t sound so bad to me. But that’s beside the point. Some of the storm victims used common sense, which is vital when trapped in the elements (not to mention in other circumstances, as well). These wise folks conserved fuel resources when running the car’s heater and, above all, they didn’t panic. I reserve panic for real emergencies, like when “Lassie” reruns were taken off of the air.

Here are safety tips to remember if you are stuck in your vehicle in the elements:

  • Before any emergency, take steps so you are prepared. Make sure your car is packed with reflective blankets, extra hats and gloves, a small shovel, food and water and flares or other signaling device.
  • Keep your gas tank full. You will need gas to run the heater (or the air conditioner, if you’re stuck in the desert). Experts recommend running the heat for 10 minutes every hour. That is a similar timeframe to my eating schedule. Every hour, I like to munch for at least 10 minutes. It keeps my metabolism going!
  • Stay in your car! Unless you can clearly see rescuers or a better alternative for shelter, staying in the security of your car is the best option. This is particularly important if you are stranded on a busy roadway or have limited visibility. While your first impulse might be to abandon your vehicle and search for shelter, you risk being hit by other cars on a highway or freezing to death in winter or getting heat stroke in summer if you walk, unprotected, in the elements. So stay with your vehicle.
  • Don’t drink alcohol to warm up. Although that big St. Bernard with a barrel flask is a lovable pooch, you are better off asking him to bring Gatorade instead of liquor. Ignore those who recommend taking a sip of brandy to knock off the chill. Blood rises to the surface of the skin when you drink, which causes rapid heat loss. Also especially important in an emergency situation—you don’t want to risk impairing your judgment.
  • Watch out for carbon monoxide poisoning. In big snow drifts, it’s likely your car’s tailpipe may be covered with snow. Crack the window when running the heat and use a shovel or other tool to clear some space for exhaust to escape.

If you are out in the elements when a storm breaks, you might get stuck in the snow. If so, take these basic steps to ensure your survival:

  • If you are going for a hike or cross country skiing, tell people where you are going and when you will be back. Search teams won’t come looking if they don’t know you are lost.
  • Make sure you know how to start a fire. Simply carrying a box of matches on your hike won’t help if you get stuck in the rain. Even waterproof matches can fail. Although dogs are very handy to have around, we aren’t much help starting fires. So bring alternative fire-making sources such as magnesium fire starters to create sparks.
  • Staying dry and warm are essentials, regardless of weather. Wear more layers than you think is necessary. This way, you will be able to remove unnecessary layers. Use the three-layer system to stay warm and toasty. Even though I have fur, I still get chilly when wet. So you might consider buying one of those nifty doggie raincoats, as well.
  • Shelter in place. Build a debris hut. When you are certain you are far from traffic, find a pole or log about one and a half times your own height. Prop it about three to four feet up with a boulder or stump. Then, take smaller branches and lay them diagonally on the main beam. Place leaves, grass or any other debris in between the branches and put at least one foot of similar material inside the hut. It might not win any design awards. But it will keep you relatively warm and dry. Man’s best friend can definitely help gathering sticks for the hut!

Unlike disasters such as earthquakes or hurricanes, getting caught out in winter weather is largely avoidable. If there is a blizzard outside, you probably don’t have any urgent need to be in the car. Paying an extra $1 to return that Red Box movie isn’t going to hurt you! And you can probably skip our afternoon walk. We would rather stay inside by the fireplace. If you are skiing or backcountry-hiking, use a portable radio to stay informed. Consider joining an outdoor survival school to learn the latest techniques for safety.  As always, staying safe comes down to advanced preparation and cool-headed thinking during an emergency.

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 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

 

Posted in BE SAFE, Building Evacuation, Disaster Preparedness, Earthquakes, Emergency Evacuations, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Fires, Going Green, Health & Welfare, High-Rise Buildings, Hurricanes, Identity Theft, Influenza, Swine Flu, Travel, Tsunamis, Uncategorized, Version 2.0, Winter Weather Hazards

11 Safety Tips for 2011: How to BE SAFE in the Coming Year

 

road sign with with "2010" red-lined and "2011" with an arrow
BE SAFE in 2011
  1. Be prepared…for everything and anything! At home and at work, the most important step you can take to ensure your own safety as well as the safety of coworkers, employees, family and friends, is to prepare. For ideas, look to FEMA’s recently announced “Resolve to be Ready in 2011” campaign, which features several suggestions for disaster preparedness. What’s more, our own blog posts provide food for fodder. And, as everyone knows, I love food of any kind…fodder or otherwise.
  2. Drill. A timely example of how preparation is critical for saving lives occurred at a San Antonio CPS office building which caught fire on December 20.  According to news’ reports, all 400 of the building’s occupants were forced to evacuate the building before 9 a.m., at which point the company’s emergency evacuation plans were put into effect. No doubt benefiting from the safety plan and associated regular fire drills, preparation paid off as every employee escaped without injury. I’m a big fan of drills, myself. But the guys at the firehouse didn’t appreciate the Chinese Fire Drill I started when we were on a recent call.
  3. Protect yourself from cyber-terrorism. As we rely more and more on all things electronic, we must be diligent to guard ourselves against identity theft. Four out of five victims of Identity Theft encounter serious issues as a result of the crime, such as lowered credit scores, bankruptcy, foreclosure, or even prison time. So protect your Internet passwords by creating them randomly and changing them frequently. This isn’t a huge risk for me, personally, since I don’t have opposable thumbs.
  4. Guard against health risks. Although the flood of sensational news’ stories about Cholera, the Swine Flu and SARS have ebbed, you still run the risk of contracting viruses and bacteria if you fail to take precautions to remain healthy. One of the easiest ways to do this is to regularly and thoroughly wash your hands (or paws, whatever the case.) Also, take advantage of vaccinations designed to protect you against illnesses such as Influenza or Respiratory Syncytial Virus.
  5. Consider your location. Since different types of disasters occur depending on your location, pay attention to geography and history when you prepare for natural or man-made disasters. If you live on the coast, for example, plan for tsunamis. If you get snow, make winterizing a priority. If you live near a fault line, make sure you are ready for earthquakes. No matter where you live, you should probably stock up on kibble and rawhide chews.
  6. Heed storm warnings. While some natural disasters, such as earthquakes, come without warning, many others are relatively easy to predict. So, if you live in an area where hurricanes or tornadoes are common, follow forecasts. And when an event is anticipated, take necessary steps to ensure your own safety as well as that of emergency workers, who might be put in harm’s way if they have to brave the elements in order to rescue you. In other words, don’t sit on your roof in a flood. This is especially true if you live in a doghouse.
  7. Do the right thing. Don’t cut corners. Take a cue from the recent Shanghai Fire, which some believe resulted from contractors who cut corners. Applicable to all areas of life, doing what’s right will help keep everyone safe in 2011 and beyond.
  8. Go green. You don’t have to be a hippie to understand the importance of protecting our planet. Today, millions of electronics are shipped to developing countries where they are dissembled, often in a crude manner, which exposes workers and the environment to contaminants such as mercury, sulfur, and lead. This practice puts us all at risk. So do your part this year to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. You can start by sharing your leftovers instead of throwing them away. Every little bit helps! So I’ll do my part to reduce the refuse.
  9. Travel safely. Try to be patient if you fly. While it might be inconvenient to take off your belt, shoes and jewelry at the security gate, and possibly undergoing a TSA pat-down, these safety measures are in place to keep us safe.
  10. Fight fire with fire prevention. The surest way to fight fire is to prevent it. The National Fire Protection Association has sponsored Fire Prevention Week each year since the Great Chicago Fire roared through Chicago in 1871. This year’s push is to install smoke alarms. So if you haven’t installed them in your commercial property building or at home, do so today!
  11. Keep learning. Our corporate mission is to save lives through training with the motto “Be Safe!” The RJWestmore Training System 2.0 is a fully integrated system which allows property management companies to manage one site or an entire portfolio, with all users in the same system.

If you own or manage commercial property, by enrolling in the system, please consider our system, which trains occupants, floor wardens, and fire safety directors. What’s more; all user training and testing is recorded. Get quick access to building-specific Emergency Responder information and other resources. We hope you’ll allow us to do our part to help keep you safe in 2011 and beyond.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives.  For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJWestmore, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

Posted in BE SAFE, Building Evacuation, Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Evacuations, Health & Welfare, High-Rise Buildings, Hurricanes, Tsunamis, Uncategorized, Version 2.0, Winter Weather Hazards

How to Winterize Your Business: Baby It’s Cold Outside!

Icicles
Prepare for winter weather hazards.

 

For businesses located in northern climes, the chill of winter brings snow, ice and sleet. What’s that? No, I don’t need booties or a doggie jacket! Is that a reindeer on this sweater? Get it off! I already have a fur coat, for goodness sake!

The winter storm season got off to an early start with an enormous Midwest blizzard. The popular video of the Metrodome collapsing in Minneapolis is a vivid reminder of the potential hazards of winter weather. I ask the guys at the firehouse to shovel snow off of my “dogdome” whenever necessary.

You likely know some tips about winterizing your home. Many of those same ideas apply to business. But commercial properties present some unique winterization challenges of their own.

Heating and ventilation winterizing tips

  • Schedule an annual cleaning of your HVAC system. Neglecting regular maintenance can wear out the equipment and lead to high fuel bills.
  • Check the caulking around your windows and doors, to make sure warm air is not escaping. Another key for staying warm in the winter is to take lots of naps in a sunny spot. A good 14 hours a day of sleep is optimal.
  • Use a door blower to judge whether or not your building is airtight. A blower door uses a calibrated fan with a pressure-sensitive device to measure air pressure and identify leaks.
  • Hire a HVAC professional to check for duct leakage, in the same fashion that a plumber checks pipes for water leaks. This is commonly done with a duct-blaster, a machine similar to a door blower that pressurizes the ductwork in an HVAC system. Some companies even use a fog machine to inject non-toxic fog into the system to visually note air leaks. I have a lot of fog-machine related memories myself, from back in the day when Rex and I were in a Cheap Trick cover band.

Avoid the winter “slip and slide”

  • Install a programmable thermostat. Keeping the temperature at 64 degrees at night instead of turning it completely off does not save energy. Still too cold? Consider growing a full coat of hair, it worked for me! Modern HVAC systems work quickly and can quickly bring room temperature to comfortable levels.
  • Make sure sidewalks and building entryways are free of ice. While salt is the most commonly used method for melting ice, there are new environmentally-friendly alternatives including sugar beet formulas. Remember that traction is the key. So be sure to use traction mats or even sand to cover slippery spots.
  • Is snow blocking the fire lane? Consider safety first. And clear snow to allow emergency access to hydrants (I heartily approve) and emergency exits.
  • Watch for falling icicles. Although it might look like a scene from a cartoon or movie, a 20-pound block of ice from 30 stories up can be dangerous. Consider heating the building’s exterior or using glycol-based de-icing agents.

Preventing “popsicle pipes”

  • Frozen pipes are best prevented by proper insulation of pipes and fittings.
  • In cases of extreme cold, consider letting faucets drip slightly since moving water takes longer to freeze than standing water.
  • Pay attention to wet pipe sprinkler systems for freezing. Review codes which often mandate dry pipe sprinkler systems (water is not in the pipes until system operation) for temperatures under 40F.
  • Do not use a blowtorch or other open flame on frozen pipes. This causes rapid expansion which can easily crack your pipes. (Not to mention that if you do this you just might burn the place down in the process!)

Stop the thermostat wars

  • Squabbles among office workers about the temperature can cause tensions and lead to decreased productivity. I quibble with my friends over more important issues, such as who gets to sniff a new dog first!
  • Consider setting a standard office temperature and name one person whose job it is to adjust the thermostat. Be sure to communicate this standard with your employees. To make your case, relay studies on temperature’s effect on worker efficiency!
  • Set policies on usage of space heaters. If they are allowed, make sure employees follow strict safety rules including proper storage of paper. (Don’t store near space heaters.) Make sure employees and tenants unplug space heaters before they leave their home or office.

In addition to protecting the physical systems in your building, take a look at your emergency supplies. Can your building accommodate every tenant overnight or for multiple days in case of a blizzard? Make sure you have plenty of warm blankets, portable heat sources and extra food in case you get snowed in. Hiring a St. Bernard with one of those barrel collar things is probably overkill.

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 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

Posted in BE SAFE, Disaster Preparedness, Earthquakes, Emergency Evacuations, Health & Welfare, Hurricanes, Tsunamis, Uncategorized

The Tsunami Threat

Cartoon drawing of a tsunami with sun in background
Are you prepared for the threat of a tsunami?

Another serious topic! Don’t fret. I’ll still throw in my legendary wit and wisdom. Although rare, tsunamis pose extreme danger in coastal areas due to their sheer size and difficult predictability. In the United States, tsunamis are a threat that could one day cause a major disaster. According to the California Seismic Safety Commission, 80 tsunamis have been recorded over the past 150 years in California. In 1964, the Great Alaskan Earthquake produced numerous tsunamis, including some that killed twelve people in California and four in Oregon.

Although they are often referred to as “tidal waves,” tsunamis are not generated or affected by tidal forces. In fact, tsunamis can do considerable damage even if they occur during low tides.

How Tsunamis are formed:

  • They are categorically caused by giant furry Newfoundlands running into lakes and oceans, causing massive wave vibration things. Right?
  • Actually, tsunamis result from the displacement of a large volume of water, which is similar to what happens to my water bowl when a toddler walks into it. How does he feel when I try to eat his grilled cheese?
  • Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and landslides can lead to tsunamis.
  • When an earthquake occurs in the ocean, two plates are slipping, which causes a release of energy. (Speaking of plates slipping. I’ve been waiting for a whole plate of dry rubs ribs to slip or tilt when they’re en route to the grill. If they fall, they’re mine!) In the water, this movement of plates is transferred into wave- energy.
  • Although the waves generated at first have a very small height, they are very long (and are referred to as wavelengths). In the open ocean, tsunamis often pass by unnoticed by ships.
  • Reaching speeds of up to 500 mph, the waves slow and increase in height as they reach shore. I swear I reached 501 mph once when I was chasing Whiskers. I almost got him.
  • “Mega-Tsunamis,” with waves hundreds of feet high, can be caused by massive landslides.

Detection Systems:

After the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, the Bush Administration enacted more tsunami planning and early-warning systems for the United States. Part of this effort included an increase in the number of Deep-Ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunami (DART) program buoys. Each of these buoys is anchored to the sea floor and relays valuable information including pressure and temperature data which are used to calculate wave height. GPS-based information is relayed back to a satellite and picked up by the receiving station. Don’t ask me how it works. It just does!

very simple line drawing of a wave
Refer to NOAA for weather-related warnings.

Implications for Building Owners and Property Managers:

  • Review tsunami inundation zone maps that are offered by Federal agencies. These maps are similar to flood plain maps and provide a clear picture of potential threats. In California, the State Office of Emergency Services produces these maps, which are increasingly used by municipalities for evacuation planning.
  • Read California’s Seismic Safety Commission tips on earthquakes and the related tsunami threat.
  • Be aware of warnings issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In June of 2005, a watch was quickly issued for the Washington and California coasts.
  • Consider your building’s structure to determine if it can sustain tsunami forces, which differ greatly from that of earthquakes.

We all know that knowledge and preparedness saves lives. Although tsunamis that cause extreme damage are rare, they are potentially devastating and occur with minimal warning. For coastal properties, implementing tsunami-specific information into disaster planning helps building owners and facility managers cover all the bases and remain prepared for any threat. Don’t rely on “it hasn’t happened yet” thinking. Plan for the unexpected!

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 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.