Posted in BE SAFE, Biological Warfare, Building Evacuation, Cyber Security, Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Evacuations, Health & Welfare, High-Rise Buildings, Terrorism, Uncategorized, Version 2.0

More Lessons Learned in the 10 Years since 9/11

9/11 Lessons Learned

Part 3 in our continuing series

September 11, 2001, this series of blog posts do not include my regular Fire-dog isms. I’d just like to take the opportunity to thank all of the brave firefighters, paramedics, emergency responders, occupant EAP team members and others who gave their lives to help others on 9/11. My firedog hat is off to you all.

Since August is U.S. Army Anti-Terrorism Awareness Month, and with the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 just around the corner, we are devoting five weeks to discuss the 10 lessons the world has learned from that fateful day and recommend emergency precautions that you should take now to give you and your family, friends, employees and colleagues the best chance of surviving another terrorist attack. In our third installment this week, here are two more lessons we’ve learned:

1. Security-related incidents will likely impact transportation and travel.

The 9/11 attacks affected public transit, commuter rail, commercial vehicles and ferries, and resulted in the need for significant road repairs. What’s more, the way people travel has shifted since the now infamous act of terrorism on our country. According to the U.S. Travel Association:

  • Business travel was hit particularly hard by 9/11. Between 2011 and 2010, total volume declined, as businessmen and women exercised the option of replacing short business trips with conference calls.
  • The good news is that American leisure travel, on the other hand, has been resilient. Despite long lines and other symptoms of policies implemented by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the leisure segment has seen a 17% increase in travel since 2001.
  • International leisure travel to the U.S. basically lost an entire decade following the attacks. While global long-haul travel increased by 40%. During the same period, overseas travel to the United States rose by less than 2%.

While the travel industry reels, emergency management professionals strategize about ways to ensure safety for anyone traveling to or within the United States. Carefully monitoring and protecting travelers has become a critical part of safeguarding our nation. If you’ve flown since 2001, you’ve undoubtedly experienced the effects of heightened security at our nation’s airports. Among the changes:

  • Restricted Items—box cutters and other sharp objects as well as large quantities of liquids and gels are no longer allowed on airplanes.
  • Heightened security on aircraft—cockpit doors are bulletproof to prevent unauthorized access. Pilots also have the option to carry a gun. And more air marshals have been placed on flights. Curtains that used to divide first class and coach cabins have been removed.
  • Improved security screening—many passengers are patted down, everyone has to remove jackets, shoes and belts before passing through security checkpoints. Even casual comments made in passing (relative to terrorism or hijacking) are taken seriously.
  • Tighter Identification checks—all passengers must carry valid IDs.

Since restrictions could be placed on domestic and international travel in the event of another attack, systems have been put in place to alert citizens if it becomes necessary to ask residents to evacuate and/or avoid certain roads or areas for safety.

2. Law enforcement involvement is necessary at local, state and federal levels due to the criminal nature of any and all terrorist attacks. Most counter-terrorism strategies involve an increase in standard police and local authorities. But did you know that you can play a part to aid officials in their efforts to protect the public?

  • Keep your eyes open and report suspicious activities to local agencies. The best way to do this is to become familiar with your surroundings so you will notice anything out of the ordinary.
  • The Army’s iWATCH Program encourages people to identify and report suspicious behavior that may be associated with terrorist activities.
  • The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) encourages people to help authorities by suggesting: If you see something, say something. If you notice suspicious activity, report it to your local police department. If you are experiencing an emergency, call 911.
  • Since attacks can come in the 3-D world or cyber space, the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team offers a US-Cert Incident Reporting System. Learn to identify potential threats to your cyber security along with your physical safety.

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, Biological Warfare, Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Evacuations, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Health & Welfare, High-Rise Buildings, Safety at Home, Terrorism, Travel, Uncategorized, Version 2.0

Don’t take your safety for granted: Lessons learned from 9/11

Twin towers outline against American flag
September 11 taught us we can't afford to take our safety for granted.

Second in a series about 9/11

Given the serious and sensitive nature of the somber events of September 11, 2001, this series of blog posts do not include my regular Fire-dog isms. I’d just like to take the opportunity to thank all of the brave firefighters, paramedics, emergency responders, occupant EAP team members and others who gave their lives to help others on 9/11. My firedog hat is off to you all.

With the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 just around the corner, we are devoting five weeks to discuss the 10 lessons the world has learned from that fateful day and recommend emergency precautions that you should take now to give you and your family, friends, employees and colleagues the best chance of surviving another terrorist attack.

Two of the 10 things we’ve learned from 9/11:

1, We can’t afford to take our safety for granted. The aftermath of 911 will likely be with us in perpetuity. The plus side to this is that many people now realize they should take steps to protect themselves and prepare for potential future attacks.

Prior to the events of September 11, 2001, many of us took our safety for granted. Doing so was easy. After all, planes generally took off and landed as scheduled. Going to work was relatively uneventful. Multi-million dollar buildings stood tall.

All of that changed when pilots hijacked planes and, in a coordinated suicide effort led by al-Qaeda, crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. A third plane which was likely headed for either the Capital or the White House was overtaken by passengers and crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. Thousands of workers and civilians died in what has since become known as the greatest terrorist attack on American soil in history.

The good news is that, as a nation, we have learned. We have learned to recognize threats and to take action in order to ward off potential assaults against our country. Security is tighter now than it has ever been. And, as a result, we are safer. In fact, the likelihood of broad attacks involving multiple agents has actually decreased since 2001.

What’s more, because we are no longer naïve about potential threats to our personal and national safety, we are more willing to participate in drills and develop emergency preparedness plans. For those of us in the safety training business, this is good news because we have long understood the importance of preparation. In fact, at RJWestmore, Inc. has been providing safety and security solutions to commercial real estate companies for more than 20 years. Our mission is to save lives through training with the motto “BE SAFE!”

You can take an active part in your own safety by observing National Preparedness Month (NPM) in September. Sponsored by FEMA, the month-long campaign encourages citizens to get a kit, make a plan and be informed. Leading by example, RJWestmore, Inc. is a member of the NPM Coalition.

2. Terrorism can cause thousands of casualties and/or extensive damage to buildings as well as infrastructure. According to the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 cost nearly $2 trillion.

Small Business—Cyber security firm Symantec reports that, despite the plethora of information about terrorism attacks, most small business owners remain unprepared. Don’t wait until it’s too late. The cost of training your employees to act and assemble simple disaster kits is far less than what you will lose if and when you and your colleagues face another terrorist attack. Potential threats include cyber security. So make sure your information systems are secure.

Property Owners & ManagersEmerald Research reports that terrorist attacks on buildings are becoming an increasing threat. So it is essential that property managers prepare for potential attacks. Building owners and managers should understand the types of devices used by terrorists and assess the threat, determine how buildings can be physically protected and the ways that property managers should respond to perceived threats, both proactively and reactively.

As our series continues, we’ll examine the remaining eight lessons we’ve learned from 9/11 so you and your loved ones and colleagues will BE SAFE. Once you have determined the possible events and their potential affects to your community, you’ll want to discuss them with your family, friends and coworkers.

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, Biological Warfare, Building Evacuation, Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Evacuations, High-Rise Buildings, Safety at Home, Terrorism, Uncategorized, Version 2.0

How to Prepare for a Terrorist Attack: 10 Lessons we’ve learned in the10 years since 9/11

American flag wrapped around the Twin Towers
Lessons we've learned in the 10 years since 9/11

First in a series about 9/11

Given the serious and sensitive nature of the somber events of September 11, 2001, this week’s blog post does not include my regular Fire-dog isms. I’d just like to take the opportunity to thank all of the brave firefighters, paramedics, emergency responders, occupant EAP team members and others who gave their lives to help others on 9/11. My firedog hat is off to you all.

With the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 just around the corner, we would like to take the next five weeks to discuss the lessons the world has learned from that fateful day and recommend emergency precautions that you should take now to give you and your family, friends, employees and colleagues the best chance of surviving another terrorist attack.

Remembering 9/11:

The September 11 attacks were a series of four coordinated suicide attacks by al-Qaeda upon the United States on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. On that morning, 19 al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four commercial passenger planes. The hijackers intentionally crashed two of the airliners into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, killing everyone on board and thousands of people working in the buildings.

Both towers collapsed within two hours, destroying nearby buildings and damaging others. A third airliner was crashed into the Pentagon. Hijackers redirected the fourth plane toward Washington, D.C., targeting either the Capitol Building or the White House, but were diverted when passengers tried to retake control. The airliner crashed in a field in rural Pennsylvania, leaving no survivors.

Nearly 3,000 victims and 19 hijackers died in the attacks. Among the 2,753 victims who died in the attacks on the World Trade Center, there were 343 firefighters, 60 police officers from New York City and the Port Authority, and 8 private EMTs and paramedics. Another 184 people were killed in the attack on the Pentagon. The overwhelming majority of casualties were civilians, including nationals of more than 70 countries.

Ten things we’ve learned from 9/11:

  1. We can’t afford to take our safety for granted. The aftermath of 911 will likely be with us in perpetuity. The plus side to this is that many people now realize they should take steps to protect themselves and prepare for potential future attacks.
  2. Terrorism can cause thousands of casualties and/or extensive damage to buildings as well as infrastructure. According to the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 cost nearly $2 trillion.
  3. Security-related incidents will impact transportation. The 9/11 attacks affected public transit, commuter rail, commercial vehicles and ferries, and resulted in the need for significant road repairs. Further, restrictions could be placed on domestic and international travel and citizens may be asked to evacuate and avoid certain roads or areas for their safety.
  4. Law enforcement involvement is necessary at local, state and federal levels due to the criminal nature of any and all terrorist attacks.
  5. Resources for physical and mental health in affected communities will likely be overwhelmed.
  6. Public fear, fed by extensive media coverage, may continue for a prolonged period of time.
  7. Workplaces, government offices and schools might be closed.
  8. Terrorism has many faces. Osama bin Laden, Timothy McVeigh, a female suicide bomber…terrorism has many faces. And, as MSNBC travel columnist James Wysong notes: “We must never judge a book by its cover.”
  9. Clean-up could take many months and cost millions.
  10. As a people, we share what Time Magazine writer Nancy Gibbs called, “a sharp resolve to just be better, bigger, to shed the nonsense, rise to the occasion.”

What You Can Do to Prepare

Referring to these ten lessons, in our next several blog posts, we’ll examine specific steps you can take so you and your loved ones will BE SAFE. Once you have determined the possible events and their potential affects to your community, you’ll want to discuss them with your family, friends and coworkers.

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, CDC, Disaster Preparedness, Earthquakes, Emergency Evacuations, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Floods, Health & Welfare, Uncategorized, Version 2.0

What is the “Holistic Approach” to Disaster Recovery and Planning?

Group gathered around a table, everyone holding a puzzle piece
The Holistic Approach to Disaster Planning & Recovery Brings everyone to the table.

What do we mean by a “holistic” approach to disaster recovery and planning? I’ve heard of holistic dog food, but even that isn’t good enough for me. I demand ground rib roast!! In broad terms, a holistic approach simply means the properties of a system cannot be described by its separate parts—the system as a whole influences the parts. Just consider me. A brilliant white smile and thunderous bark don’t define me. You have to look at the whole package.

With disaster recovery and planning, considering a disaster as a whole system promotes broader planning and better cooperation among different groups. For example, with flood planning, engineers could have procedures in place to divert water toward a historical or shopping district area instead of a  parking lot or open area capable of more safely handling overflow. If the building flood planners fail to converse with other members of the city utilities, emergency responders, neighboring properties, etc, they might make plans that would cause more damage to surrounding assets and possibly their own property. A holistic approach brings more information to the table, allowing better planned prevention as well as recovery. I like “bringing things to the table” as well. Pork chops. Chicken gravy. A squirrel.

An example of the need for a broader approach can be seen in the aftermath of the recent Japan earthquakes. As the production capacity of many Japanese plants is rebuilt and comes back online, segments of the Japanese economy were captured by other countries following the disaster. A holistic approach would have demanded better integration between emergency management teams and economic development individuals, who could have worked together to focus efforts on top economic priorities. This would have kept needed resources in the area following the disaster. I like to have integration with several groups, including the local butcher shop, a tennis ball manufacturer, and my favorite salon. That’s synergy!

For some areas of the world that don’t frequently experience disasters, complacency can prevent the formation of a holistic approach. For me, complacency is vitally important. Somebody has to occupy that grassy spot in the sun! Paradoxically, a major disaster can also slow down the development of holistic methods, as individual stakeholders often feel repeated disaster occurrences are less likely, despite the fact that this is not necessarily true.

Key benefits of the holistic approach:

  • Better communication is encouraged when different agencies or groups confront disasters together. Resources or labor can be pooled together avoiding costly duplications of efforts. If disaster recovery is too fragmented, then many cases of “left hand not talking to the right” can occur. Do people’s hands literally talk to each other? Does this occur during sleep? Why can’t humans have four legs like a normal animal!?
  • Major disasters don’t discriminate. They affect large swaths of individuals and businesses. A holistic approach encourages a true community response, where actions are taken by the community for the community, with less emphasis on special interest groups or people with hidden agendas. An example of this is the rebuilding efforts in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina, where groups worked together to clean debris and save houses as part of a broader longer-term affordable housing plan.
  • Holistic approaches mean a country, state, or city is more resilient to the effects of disaster and able to quickly regain former capacities. After my doghouse was ruined, I rebuilt. Now it can withstand a Category 5 hurricane!
  • The holistic approach covers mental and emotional states instead of just the physical safety of disaster victims. Such focus allows individuals to quickly return to society, providing an economic benefit to their immediate area.

For disaster recovery and prevention, a holistic method means more than just cooperation. It’s also a way to get more out of the efforts of every group and individual, which is a stark example of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.

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, Cyber Security, High-Rise Buildings, Identity Theft, Travel, Uncategorized, Version 2.0

Is there a Safe Way to use Public Wi-Fi?

Wi Fi Image
Using public wi-fi can be hazardous to your data's health.

You’re on the road to the next sales meeting and absolutely need a coffee. You pop in for 20 minutes and use your laptop to browse the Internet. Everything is copacetic until you later hear about a breach to your company’s back-office financial data. Are you to blame?

A source called an “ethical hacker” by CBS News says, “Information you’d send to and from your bank, information coming off of your credit card—any of those types of information you’d rather people not have, goes over WiFi.” I’m not sure what an ethical hacker is. Seems like an oxymoron to me. Also according to CBS, security experts estimate hackers can easily take $1,000 worth of data from just one hacked computer.

Unfortunately, little exposes your work to greater security risks than latching onto a public Wi-Fi service. The problem is that most people and pooches don’t realize the risks. And even fewer have the ability to perform the necessary tasks that would fix it. So what’s a modern business person to do?

Here are some tips on browsing safely:

  • Just say no. While this might be unreasonable for road warriors who need to access the Internet at airports and hotel lounges, infrequent users are better off avoiding the temptation to hop on unsecured networks. The wife and I have a strict “doghouse only” use rule for our own laptops.
  • Use a firewall to guard against incoming threats.
  • Conceal your files using encryption, so important documents are not accessible by others who are snooping or phishing on the open network. The RJWestmore Online Training System encrypts all password information, for the safety of all of our clients.
  • Turn off your wireless connection when not in use. Perhaps you are at a coffee shop working on a document but you don’t need to check your email. By turning off the wireless connection, unscrupulous individuals will be cut off from gaining prolonged access to your computer files. This is especially important to keep people from poaching your electronic PetSmart coupons.
  • Don’t enter your Social Security Number or credit card information while using a public network. If you encounter an emergency and need to purchase something, use only the sites that show the padlock symbol and third-part security verification.
  • Find the “S”! On sites such as Facebook, you can change your security settings to only login on “https” enabled pages. While these might run a shade slower than regular connections, they prevent all but the most sophisticated hacking attempts. So check website settings to restriction enabling to this higher security setting.
  • Ask IT to show you how to disable your computer so it won’t actively search for hotspots. Windows is too user friendly at times (the same could be said of several overactive canines I know), and will look for wireless networks wherever you take your laptop…whether you are trying to log online or not.

Beyond public Wi-Fi risks, there are myriad other ways your personal or business information can be comprised through carelessness or bad practices. Additional tips for keeping data safe:

  • Be careful using USB “thumb” drives, which can be easily misplaced. They also are the perfect carrier for viruses and malware. USB drives were the culprit for the spread of the damaging Stuxnet virus which infiltrated industrial computers, including some at nuclear facilities.
  • Use passwords. Protecting access to both the laptop and individual files and folders can slow down or discourage hacking attempts. Every week you hear stories about possible data breaches from stolen or lost or laptops that were unprotected.
  • Mobile devices can be protected with security apps that can remotely “lock and “wipe” your device. Or, if you prefer, give me a call and I will be happy to “lick and wipe” your mobile device for free.
  • Train employees how to spot phishing and scam emails that might distribute viruses. Some scammers will even spoof their emails to look like they are coming from a company’s HR department.

Using public Wi-Fi properly requires some technical know-how and common sense. When feasible, only look at public non-identifying sites on the public network, and purchase items or do banking when you are back at work or at home. While 24/7 access is nice, you can ask yourself “Do I have to do this now?”  Unless pork chops are involved, I am willing to wait for almost anything. If you follow the tips on using public networks and best practices for portable drives and laptops, you will greatly increase your protection from malicious hackers.

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, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Fires, High-Rise Buildings, Safety at Home, Uncategorized, Version 2.0, Workplace Safety

Fire Safety: How to Stay Safe this Summer

bottle rocket and fireworks
Fire and safety: How you and your loved ones can stay safe this summer.

With summer here, thoughts turn to grilled pork chops, fireworks displays and road trips. Did I mention pork chops? All are super fun activities. But there are dangers involved with summer fun. Proper fire safety is extremely important in summer, when people spend lots of time outside even as high heat and drought provide fuel for flames, which is good for cooking pork chops but not so good for safety.

Carelessness and human activity in the summer is a major contributor to seasonal wildfires. In Texas the wildfire season got started early and has burned three million acres and counting.

For many families, summer is the time to dust off the barbecue and grill pork chops. But if used improperly, the grill can turn from friend to foe. Here are some grilling safety tips:

  • Margaritas go good with seared meats. But use care whenever you mix drinking and cooking. You should remain ever mindful of fire-related danger and be careful to exercise common sense. I prefer to stick to water straight from my bowl or the toilet bowl.
  • Check gas or propane hoses and connections for cracking or leaks. A new hose and regulator costs around $20 and is not only safer but will produce a better flame.
  • Squirting lighter fluid may be fun. But it’s also inherently dangerous. Consider using a chimney-starter. They will produce hot coals without the nasty chemical taste.
  • Don’t barbecue indoors or in enclosed areas such as patios that have multiple walls and solid roofs. Enclosed fire lead to carbon monoxide gas buildup.
  • Regular cleaning of grease and food particles will reduce the chance of flare ups and charring, which will also make food tastier. This is especially true when it comes to grilling pork chops.

Fire Safety on the Road:

  • Don’t use signal flares to notify others of emergency situations. Flashing emergency LED lights and reflective signage are better choices.
  • Watch the temperature gauge on your car. If it spikes high, you need coolant or should have the vehicle checked by a mechanic.
  • Avoid parking a hot car near dry leaves or pine straw. Overheated cars can ignite surrounding areas. Personally, I recommend traveling on your own two (or four) feet!
  • Don’t throw cigarettes out of the window. Just another reason to quit the habit is to eliminate the risk of starting a massive fire!

Fireworks are an integral part of summer celebrations. However, it’s always best to leave the show to professionals. In amateur hands or paws, fireworks are accidents waiting to happen. In fact, in the United States, the CDC reports thousands of fireworks-related ER visits each July. If you insist on launching bottle rockets and lighting sparklers yourself, follow a few simple safety rules:

Firework Safety:

  • Keep young children away from fireworks. They are not coordinated enough to manage sparklers and other fireworks which can cause serious eye injuries.
  • High quality safety goggles can prevent eye damage.
  • Don’t light fireworks indoors or near dry brush.
  • Keep a fire hose or large buckets of water available for emergencies.
  • Don’t shoot fireworks into the woods. This tip might seem obvious. But if you can’t see where the bottle rockets land, you won’t know for if they landed safely or started a brushfire.
  • To handle the risks of accidental fire, common sense is always the best ally. Be aware of your surroundings and use good judgment so you don’t put yourself and others in danger.

Campfire Safety:

  • Build campfires where they will not spread, away from dry grass and leaves.
  • Keep campfires small so they are less likely to get out of hand or paw.
  • Make sure you have immediate access to emergency water supplies and a shovel to douse flames. Stir the coals to disperse the heat from the coals and then douse it again just to be safe.
  • Don’t ever leave a campfire (or a pork chop) unattended.

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, Children in Crisis, Health & Welfare, Safety at Home, Uncategorized, Vaccinations, Version 2.0

Whooping Cough Resurgence: How to BE SAFE

Microscopic view of Pertussis
The best way to prevent the spread of Whooping Cough is by getting the vaccination.

A disease that reached near extinction in the industrialized world, Pertussis, or Whooping Cough, is making a comeback in schools and other facilities in the United States. I stayed in a terrible kennel for three days and got “Woofing Cough.” Did you see what I did there? I really am clever! Highly infectious, Whooping Cough is resistant to antibiotics and can quickly spread through schools or office facilities that contain lots of individuals working or living in cramped quarters. This is why I stay away from the dog park. Droolers and barkers spreading germs on me? No thanks!

Some school districts are mandating proof of Whooping Cough vaccination before students can be admitted to attend classes. In California, a state law mandates that students going into 7th through 9th grade receive booster vaccinations before the fall semester. I’m pushing for a “Feline Vaccine”, where people just decide to not keep cats anymore. To explain the requirement, officials point to the 8,000 California-based cases and 10 infant deaths that were reported in 2010.

Dangers associated with Whooping Cough:

  • Most Whooping Cough deaths in the United States occur in infants. Severe Pneumonia, dehydration, and ear infections can all lead to mortality. Antibiotics can shorten the duration of the virus, but by no means cure the disease.
  • For many older children, vaccinations are mandatory, as they prevent the infection from spreading to young siblings and friends.
  • Violent coughing in kids and adults can result in cracked ribs or abdominal hernias.

I once ate an entire roasted chicken and made a terrible coughing noise for three weeks.

Symptoms of Whooping Cough mirror those of a severe cold, making diagnosis difficult. Early symptoms include coughing, runny nose and a mild fever. After one or two weeks, symptoms usually worsen to include high fever, extreme fatigue and the telltale “whoop” noise cough.

To combat the further spread of Whooping Cough, many government agencies are aggressively pushing for vaccination. The dTAP and DPT vaccines have been used for years to beat Diphtheria, Pertussis, and Tetanus and are vital to stopping a Pertussis epidemic.

Information about the various vaccines:

  • DTP is the older version of the vaccine which is used in some countries but has been phased out of the United States.
  • DtAP is the most current vaccine recommended by the CDC for anyone seven years of age and younger.
  • tDAP is the booster shot given to older children to ensure they remain protected from Whooping Cough.
  • The CDC strongly recommends inoculations for anyone who is pregnant.
  • All of the vaccines have been proven safe, with minimal reported side effects including redness at the inoculation area and slight fever. Links between vaccinations and Autism or other behavioral issues have been discredited. And, in fact, some contend that this type of unsubstantiated fear have contributed to the Whooping Cough resurgence.
  • Many health care facilities and some drug stores offer the vaccine at minimal cost or even for free.

Vaccinations provide immense benefits for the health of the general public. Diseases such as Measles, Mumps and Rubella are nearing extinction due to the adoption of safe and convenient vaccinations. Now if we can just get a vaccine for fleas and ticks!

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 Air Quality, BE SAFE, Disaster Preparedness, Fire Safety, Fires, Health & Welfare, Safety at Home, Uncategorized, Version 2.0

Managing Indoor Air Quality

clouds, sun and sky
Clean air is a safety concern.

For building owners and managers, ensuring tenant and visitor welfare is always of paramount importance. And while there is only so much that can be done to control the quality of the air that enters into a building, it is still important to frequently filter and refresh the air for optimal tenant and visitor health. I have a high-velocity air filtration system in our firedoghouse!

Regulations such as the Clean Air Act have saved thousands of lives from diseases such as emphysema, asthma and heart disease. However, there is still much that can be done to control air pollutants to allow everyone to enjoy cleaner air.

What are some of the main contributors to air pollution?

  • Carbon monoxide is odorless and tasteless but very poisonous in large quantities. Facilities that operate furnaces and/or automobiles need to provide adequate ventilation and install carbon monoxide alarms to ensure safety.
  • Let’s be honest. Cat dander is the biggest problem for poor air. Tabby and Whiskers need to be left outside at all times!
  • Particulate matter is basically “stuff” in the air. This can be man-made or naturally caused, resulting from sources as diverse as burning fossil fuels, power plants, dust storms and wildfires. Particulates have wreaked havoc on the human body since ancient times.
  • Nitrogen oxides are the brown plumes of “haze” that can be seen downwind of major cities. I love it when people call it “haze,” like it’s just simply trapped water vapor. It’s smog, people! The result of high-temperature combustion, such compounds produce smoggy reddish-brown skies.

Before embarking on new policies and procedures for improving a building’s air quality, it’s important to record a baseline. Testing for radon, carbon monoxide and particulate levels can help guide you about unsafe conditions and provide guidance on the priority order for steps to clean the air.

What kind of policies can a company institute to improve air quality?

  • If your company is relocating or expanding, avoid purchasing office space that is in close proximity to industrial areas which might produce toxins. Of course, if your property is already located in this type of area, you can take steps to safeguard the air in the interior of the building.
  • Don’t allow smoking either in or around your building. Cigarette smoke contains an alarming number of toxins which can remain suspended in the air for long periods of time. When I see people smoking, I’m really glad I don’t have opposable thumbs…
  • Review furniture choices in tenant offices. Pieces made of out cheap particle board may contain formaldehyde, which is a known carcinogen. I require only top-shelf mahogany for my doghouse…

Cleaning and maintenance tips for air quality:

  • Proper cleaning of carpets is essential. Carpets act as a filter or trap for dust mites and other allergens. Without frequent vacuuming with appropriate filters, carpets can outgas airborne toxins.  I tend get a little gassy after my fourth pig ear.
  • Follow suggested maintenance and cleaning guidelines for HVAC systems. Ductwork should be cleaned to remove mold or other contaminants. Filters should be the highest-quality to effectively remove particles down to the smallest micron.
  • Janitorial staff should be allowed to open windows or other ventilation, whenever feasible. Fumes from high-grade cleaning products are a serious irritant.
  • For residences and businesses in high-humidity areas, consider utilizing dehumidifiers to inhibit the growth of mold. I require a dehumidifier, electronic air cleaner, high-velocity fan, and a white noise machine. I’m a high-maintenance pooch.

Unlike other disasters that can be seen or heard, air quality is (by its very nature) a typically invisible problem. As such, it can pose detrimental health effects over long periods of time, making it a silent but deadly killer. Taking steps to clean the air will have a direct effect on tenant happiness and productivity.

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, Emergency Evacuations, Health & Welfare, Uncategorized, Version 2.0

Getting Back to Business After a Disaster

Business man holding briefcase, walking in the street
RJWestmore helps get you back to business following a disaster.

Your business has planned for any disaster. (maybe not squirrel infestation). Fire extinguishers are frequently checked and positioned in the right area. You have a well thought out evacuation route with primary and secondary meeting places. But does your business have a plan for getting back to work after a disaster?

According to the Insurance Information Institute, up to 40 percent of businesses adversely affected by natural or man-made disasters fail to reopen. (On a completed unrelated note, up to 40 percent of cats are not to be trusted. Thieves and liars!) To be a part of the other 60 percent requires prior planning and a sound disaster recovery and business continuity plan.

Before you begin a disaster recovery plan, you need to take these steps:

  • Form an internal team comprised of individuals from several departments who possess deep knowledge about the business. (Include employees from several levels. You wouldn’t want only upper management involved.)
  • Build a list of critical processes and services that must be up and running after a disaster. Plans that have specific and tested tasks are critical. For example: “Product ordering available within 24 hours of the disaster.” For my owners, the key item on the plan should be “where do we stash the emergency kibble?”
  • Review your rental agreement for specific terms regarding the landlord’s responsibilities. If your building burns down because of the actions of another tenant, what is your recourse?
  • Consider hiring an auditor to review your procedures. These professionals can determine if your plan is unrealistically optimistic or if it includes any logistical holes. I generally stay away from auditors. Let’s just say I shouldn’t have tried to deduct the re-shingling of the doghouse back in ’08.

Key disaster recovery plan components to get your business back to work:

  • Establish procedures to let all employees know that a disaster has occurred. Ensure personal email addresses and cell phone numbers are available and frequently updated for key disaster implementation personnel.
  • Review the disaster to determine if the delay in business functions will be temporary or could last weeks. (The detailed disaster plan should have specific tasks based on the duration of the disaster.)
  • Store insurance documents and other critical documents both as scanned images on an off-site server and in hard copies stowed in a safety-deposit box. I have a box at the bank down the street. Contents: blanket from when I was a puppy, old ham bone from 1987, and $2.5 million in bearer bonds.
  • Select alternative warehouse or inventory locations in case primary locations are damaged in a disaster.
  • Find alternative locations for business operations. Determine, in the planning stages, which employees need to be congregated together and which ones can work remotely.
  • Consider options for manufacturing products if your facility is damaged. Can you lease space from another facility that is under-capacity? (I’m talking to you Mr. Pig Ear factory owner! I can’t handle another shortage!)
  •  If your company produces non-perishable items that aren’t custom built, then you should calculate how many days or weeks you can fulfill orders using current inventory. If the disaster will put you out of commission for a month but you can only fulfill 10 days of orders, then you have a problem!

For many businesses, essential business functions can go on even if the organization’s facilities are determined to be unsafe. With cloud computing storing virtual data, real-time chat and other tools, many employees will be able to work from home or gathered together in small groups at remote locations.

Tips for protecting your company data and enabling seamless work productivity after a disaster:

  • Task the IT department with finding the best solution for off-site data backup. New advancements in cloud computing allow redundant systems to be set up quickly and inexpensively. Older tape-backup systems can be cumbersome to retrieve or lost in transport–putting your company’s data at risk. It’s 2011! Time to think futuristic!
  • Consider backing up entire applications and processes, not just data. Nearly every professional function can now be performed virtually.
  • Give employees the option to check email from home. Even if “working from home” is not currently part of corporate culture, providing access in advance may help your company in the long run, as employees with ready access to key documents and applications will be well prepared to work immediately following any natural or manmade disaster. I’ve been working from home for years. You miss the water cooler interaction, but the flexibility is great.
  • Protect your intellectual property. If you run a manufacturing company, you might use a proprietary process to make your product. Make sure this information is stored offsite and is not simply located in on-site computers or assembly machines.

For businesses, failure to plan concrete steps necessary for recovering after disasters can result in complete business failure. Creating a disaster recovery and business continuity plan is a worthwhile exercise to encourage your company to consider and manage worst-case scenarios.

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.