Posted in BE SAFE, Disaster Preparedness, Health & Welfare, Safety at Home, Uncategorized, Version 2.0

The CDC, Emergency Kits, and …..Zombies?!

 

cartoon zombie
Prepare for: Zombies?!

When you think about preparing for an emergency, you likely worry about threats that occur in your area. Californians contend with fires, mudslides and the specter of big quakes. East Coasters have hurricanes, floods, and damaging thunderstorms. But one threat can affect everyone from San Francisco through Topeka and beyond to Jacksonville. Zombies. Yep, brain-eating zombies who are bent on destruction. Ummm…what? Did you think I was going to say tabby cats?

Few scary scenarios capture popular culture quite like zombies. Well, for me it would be this ranking.

#1 fear – running out of teeth-cleaning treats.

#2 – the pig ear bank has a run and a shortage.

#3 – well, ZOMBIES!!!

In real life, some individuals such as this man profiled by National Geographic Television view zombies and a possible outbreak as real scenarios that deserve proper planning. There even exists a book called “The Zombie Survival Guide.”

Wait. Isn’t this blog about disaster planning? Well, the CDC has a current campaign that warns of the coming “Zombie Apocalypse.” Citizens are encouraged to plan for “zombies” by taking certain initiatives. My main tactic would be “playing dead,” which I think would be incredibly effective. While the premise is silly, the CDC is using thoughts of a zombie takeover to get people really thinking about how to plan and manage big disasters.

For businesses that want to promote the zombie campaign, the CDC offers various images such as this one that look like the poster art for the newest zombie scare fest.

To prepare for the coming hordes of zombies, the CDC recommends some planning tips:

Create a disaster plan:

  • Discuss a disaster plan in advance to allow cooler heads to prevail (and not be eaten…) during an emergency.
  • Establish two emergency meeting places. A primary spot and a distant alternate to be used in case the first one is inaccessible.

Stock your disaster kit:

  • Include some of the basics, such as light, food, and water. You need multiple flashlights with extra batteries, some canned or dried meals, and up to one gallon of water per person per day.
  • Don’t forget such essentials as duct tape, plastic tarps, radios, and a whistle allow you to be prepared or reenact an episode of MacGyver.
  • Throw in 15 pounds of beef jerky for person. 75 pounds of dry dog food. A portable tummy scratcher.
  • Collect and organize important family documents such as passports, insurance papers, and other essentials.
  • Include land mines or bats which would truly be useful in a real zombie pandemic. Wait, zombies aren’t real? No fun!

It’s refreshing to see such a serious organization as the CDC employing some humor like “Zombie Apocalypse” to get its point across. Let’s be honest, any section of the government having a sense of humor is simply shocking. The campaign was also perfectly timed, coming days before the “end of the world” that thankfully did not come to pass. The zombie blog was so popular that it crashed the campaign’s site (not the CDC’s main site). I put a video on YouTube once called “Dog digs a hole in the yard.” Last time I checked, it had 1.2 million hits.

So what exactly is the point of the “Zombie Apocalypse?” Do those nerdy CDC folks know something we don’t? Are they stockpiling the zombie vaccine? (Sorry, I spend too much time on the interwebs looking at conspiracy forums…) For any type of disaster, preparation is the key. If you over prepare for the worst case scenario (it doesn’t get worse than flesh-eating zombies), then you will be able to handle any 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, Health & Welfare, Tsunamis, Uncategorized, Version 2.0

Obscure Disasters Can Pose a Major Risk

fire, sky, water, earth pics
Are you prepared for each and every type of disaster?

With the Japan earthquake, frequent hurricanes, and massive tornadoes, many are wondering if we should expect more and bigger disasters. Major disasters by their very nature are unpredictable, which further enforces the need to imagine worst-case scenarios when implementing or rehearsing disaster response efforts. My worst-case scenario is when “Air Bud” came out on DVD. Worst. Movie. Ever.

The effect of some disasters, such as floods and hurricanes, can be minimized by advanced planning. For instance, governments can build levees and coastal swamp areas can be left undeveloped to provide natural flood protection. If the origins of a disaster come from beyond our planet or miles under the surface, then prevention is impossible, and preparation and planning are the only possible means of recourse.

Solar Flares are a known sun phenomena that affect communications on earth. In the past, such interruptions were temporary and were limited to certain types of devices and services. However, scientists who study solar storm patterns now contend that the severity of storms is cyclical and we are now entering an intense phase. (Let me get this straight, we can predict storms on that big glowing ball of fire, but you can’t tell me if my afternoon walk will be rained out!?).

  • NASA officials have equated a large solar storm to a “bolt of lightning” that could damage electronics and communications’ equipment around the globe.
  • Solar flares dramatically change the earth’s magnetic field, which could cause serious consequences for satellites, computers, handheld devices and myriad other items. My magnetic field gives me a great sense of direction. I was once 126 miles from home and was able to tell the limo driver exact directions to get me back.
  • If international power grids fail, potential losses are estimated to be in the trillions.
  •  Solar storms are monitored by the appropriately named Space Weather Prediction Center, which is run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Disasters come in all shapes and sizes. Make sure you’re prepared for each type.

On the west coast, scientists are concerned about what they refer to as an ARKstorm, a massive storm that dumps rain on California, Oregon, Washington, and Nevada for up to two weeks straight. The storms pull so much heat and moisture, that they develop “atmospheric rivers.” Such rainfall amounts would produce massive flooding in the California central valley and in major metropolitan areas. It would simply be a case of too much water with nowhere to go.

  • Such a storm is based upon historical precedent, with winter rains in 1861 and 1862 leaving some parts of central California completely impassable. In San Francisco, nearly 30 inches of rain was reported. That’s taller than me!
  • The USGS offers a video titled “This is ARKstorm” that some might consider to be a little over the top. But it does clearly describe the possible effects.
  • Projected damage estimates are pegged at several hundred billion dollars. If my doghouse is washed away, somebody’s calling FEMA.

Yellowstone Caldera” might sound like the latest trendy micro-brew. But it actually refers to a potential “super volcano” that could erupt in Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone sits on a “hotspot,” which is an area where molten mantle rock moves towards the surface over time. As it moves closer, it can become trapped, and needs release of pressure to prevent catastrophic explosions.

  •  The latest eruption occurred only 640,000 years ago, which is a very long time compared to a human or canine lifetime, but a relatively recent event geologically speaking.
  •  Half of the United States could be covered in ash.
  • Global cooling would result from atmospheric sun-blocking particles, restricting agriculture and leading to food shortages. Umm, not good.

The existence of such mega-disasters underscores the broader point of knowing there are various risks and that it is necessary to do your best to plan ahead and prepare for unforeseen contingencies. While you certainly shouldn’t live your life in a potential state of abject fear, it is important to take time to consider the unknown.

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, Disaster Preparedness, Health & Welfare, Package Delivery, Safety at Home, Terrorism, Travel, Uncategorized, Version 2.0

The Aftermath of the Raid in Pakistan

drawing of Osama Bin Laden
How to Remain Vilgilant Following Osama Bin Laden's Death.

After the raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan and his subsequent death, some law enforcement officials and property owners are concerned about the threat of new terrorist attacks. Congratulations are in order for the brave soldiers who risk their lives overseas. But are we any more at risk than we were prior to Bin Laden’s death?

Many residents of the United Kingdom consider a new attack to be likely. In fact, the U.K. Metropolitan Police Commissioner warned that: “Vigilance should be our watchword.”

In the United States, the presence of security personnel has been beefed up in numerous locations. Still, despite the perceived risk of potential terrorist repercussions, the official terror threat level in the United States was not elevated following the announcement of Bin Laden’s death. (The new alert system differs from the former multi-color-coded system in that it only offers two-threat levels— “elevated” and “imminent.”) My alert system gets to “code red” when I’m out of kibble!

Potential risks might result:

  • A branch of al-Qaida in Yemen or some other disconnected country might be the source of the next attack.
  • The next threat might come from a lone individual who sympathizes with al-Qaida, such as occurred with the Fort Hood shooter, who some contend was linked to terrorist groups.
  • Terrorist cells in North Africa have either loose or no affiliation with al-Qaida and have many connections to ethnic groups in the United States.
  • A broader risk is a decreased emphasis on funding for anti-terrorism training due to the perception of the “War on Terror” coming to an end.
  • As the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 approaches, many experts caution of an interest in terror groups to commemorate the sad day with new attacks.
    • U.S. officials have confirmed that documents retrieved from bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan show that al Qaeda was in the early planning stages for an attack on U.S. railroads to mark the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
    • According to Homeland Security, the FBI has advised local officials to be on the lookout for clips or spike missing from train tracks, packages left near the tracks, and/or any other indications that a train could be at risk.

But the truth is that regardless of recent developments, it is always advisable to prepare for the threat of terrorism. Domestic terrorism is possible. This is not a time for complacency. Property owners, tenants/employers and everyone should continue to follow best practices.

How can you remain vigilant to the threat of terrorism?

  • Set protocols for monitoring any incoming delivery packages and personnel.
  • Establish rules for suspicious items that are left at or near your facility.
  • Pay attention to the Department of Homeland Security’s threat monitoring.
  • For high-traffic and value buildings, consider installing metal detectors at each entrance. I’ve heard that you need a doctor’s note if you have a metal plate in your noggin!
  • Develop a check-system to verify visitors with tenants. A good watchdog might be just the ticket!
  • Double check current evacuation procedures make sense if a terrorist attack occurs.
  • Install security cameras, which can capture individuals who could be “casing” your building.
  • Read information about altering your HVAC systems to protect from possible chemical, biological, or radiological attacks.
  • Terrorists increasing usage of online media for propaganda also increase the risks of cyber terrorism attacks that could strike at key facilities. If you operate a secure facility that handles sensitive materials, be sure to catalog and report any suspicious hacking attempts.
  • Flag individuals who ask for detailed information about your building or the surrounding areas. Scrutinize any requests for blueprints or other schematics. Just sayin’.

The best way to manage the risks of terrorism is similar to planning for natural disasters. It demands practicing common sense and planning ahead to make a facility a less desirable target. While the death of al-Qaida’s leader will hopefully destroy the terror network, threats remain that require attention.

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, Burns, Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Evacuations, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Fires, Health & Welfare, Uncategorized, Version 2.0

Preparing for Wildfire Season

cartoon fire
Wildfire season is fast approaching. Are your prepared?

With average temperatures rising nearly every year, the risk of spring and summer wildfires continues to grow. Already this year, Texas is approaching an annual record for acres burned, with more fires likely to spark. Controlling and stopping wildfires is expensive. A finance officer with the Texas Forest Service reports associated costs of $1 million per day. And fighting them is dangerous as well, so, when the opportunity arises, please give your thanks to my friends in fire prevention and rescue!

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, 71,908 wild land fires in 2010 damaged 3,423,136 acres—an area about six times the size of Rhode Island. Why is Rhode Island always the measuring yardstick? Do you think Delaware gets jealous? Fires wreak havoc not only via flames, but also through harmful particulates in smoke, which are dangerous to people as well as pooches and property.

If your commercial or residential property is located near woodlands, you should know that you can take steps now to minimize structural and smoke damage, and maybe even safe a life, should a wildfire break out near your facility:

Clear brush and plant fire-resistant foliage adjacent to your building:

  • A fire that breaks out near your building could potentially spread unless you maintain defensible space.
  • The recommended distance of defensible space varies by the type of wild land vegetation growing near the structure and the steepness of the terrain. But firefighters suggest a minimum of 30 feet of cleared space around any given structure, since sparks from wildfires can jump a considerable distance. I once saw a squirrel jump nearly 15 feet to get some bird seed.
  • According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, proper clearance to 100 feet dramatically increases the chances of your structure surviving a wildfire. Defensible space also assures safety for firefighters who battle the blaze.

For a list of fire-resistant plants for your neck for the woods, contact the local forestry agency or do a little bit of research online. For example, San Diego County provides a detailed list of fire-resistant plants suitable for Southern California; a website about the Pacific Northwest explains the way to plant trees and bushes in order to Keep Oregon Green; and the Virginia Department of Forestry website lists regional fire-resistant trees and plants.

  • To prevent soil erosion, plants should be trimmed down instead of removed entirely. Mudslides are no fun, unless they entail a pile of dirt and a garden hose in the backyard.
  • Avoid planting trees near power lines as high winds might cause a line to break and start a fire.

Structural Challenges:

  • For buildings with cedar shake shingle roofs, consider renovating with asphalt shingles since the newer variety are treated with fire retardant.
  • Install external sprinkler systems which will hydrate nearby plants, making it difficult for flying embers to ignite near your building. If you install such a system, make sure it is properly maintained and frequently tested to be sure it is operational in case of emergency. I have misters in our doghouse—not for fire prevention, but just as a luxury for my family and me to enjoy.
  • Ensure debris is moved away from the building. Shipping materials such as wooden pallets can pose a significant risk if exposed to fire.
  • Cover outside ventilation units with wire mesh to prevent floating embers from entering the property.
  • For buildings with patios, utilize only fire-resistant furniture and make sure that gas cooking grills can be stowed away during fire season. I’m on the fence about this one. Maybe the grill can be used on days where there is little to no fire risk? I love my honey-glazed pork chops!
  • Clear leaves and branches from rooftops and gutters.
  • Make sure the fire extinguishers in your building have not expired. Maybe you can train the neighborhood tabby for this job. Cats have to be good for something. You could probably even pay them with saucers of milk.

The threat of wildfires exists in all 50 states, unlike other disasters which might occur only in coastal areas or in the Midwest. For this reason, businesses large and small should include wildfire mitigation in their disaster management plans to ensure the safety of both their building and tenants. If we work together, we might just be able to SAVE A LIFE.

Proper planning and learning the “Do’s” are the keys to managing the situation when disasters strike.  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, Disaster Preparedness, Earthquakes, Emergency Evacuations, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, High-Rise Buildings, Tsunamis, Uncategorized, Version 2.0

Earthquake Preparedness–the Real Deal

ShakeOut. Don't Freak Out.
Don't Freak Out. Shake Out.

It’s easy to talk about disaster preparedness. Well, if would be easy if I could talk. Anyway, at RJWestmore, Inc., we like to walk the talk. One example of the way we practice what we preach is our participation in the 2010 Great California ShakeOut, which was recognized by Cal EMA and the Earthquake Country Alliance. We were in good company, as some 7.9 million people (and who knows how many dogs) actively participated in the 2010 event.

The 2011 ShakeOut will be held on October 20th, 2011 at 10:20 in the morning! So mark your calendars today! Why are we talking about an event that is six months away? Because earthquakes can happen at any time and often without advance warning. So, to limit loss of life and property, planning ahead is paramount to safety. We want to make sure we give you plenty of notice so you will participate in the next ShakeOut.

Unfortunately, much of the latest information about best practices to deal with earthquakes comes from past incidents. Despite the tragedy in terms of lives lost, it is important to take a review of actual disasters (such as the recent Japan quake), to prepare for the inevitability of future earthquake-related events:

  • Information sharing is critical. Some Japanese agencies received criticism for the slow spread of information relative to the depth of damage to infrastructure, particularly concerning the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. I stand by my assertion that the best solution for quickly sharing information is the Twilight Bark!
  • Tsunami and earthquake damage are under review by teams from several countries. The sheer scale of the disaster makes it an obvious example of a worst-case scenario, where individuals on top of four-story buildings were not even afforded safety. Groups from the United States are examining the types of buildings that did or did not escape the tsunami unscathed. The research could lead to drastic changes in building codes and provide opportunities for better safety in the future.
  • Scientists use data from the Japan quake to examine similarities in other geographic regions. Researchers are closely reviewing the Pacific Northwest of the United States which is in a similar subduction zone to Japan. Further review will allow better future placement of tsunami offshore beacons and will likely lead to changes in building strategies as well as warning systems.
  • In California, greater emphasis is placed on events like the ShakeOut because the desire to mine earthquake preparedness knowledge is so intense. Many large California cities have avoided a massive earthquake for more than a century. And renewed vigilance is important to recognize the threat posed by a quake.

In the disaster planning field, unfortunately, actual disasters are often the most useful for emergency training. For example, large-scale tragedies have lead to analyzing and revamping of building codes and emergency procedures, which have greatly reduced destruction during subsequent disasters. The same is true for potty-training puppies, by the way. So, when educational opportunities such as the ShakeOut arise, make sure you avail yourself of safe opportunities to learn.

Proper planning and learning the “Do’s” are the keys to managing the situation when disasters strike.  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 Biological Warfare, Building Evacuation, Disaster Preparedness, Earthquakes, Emergency Evacuations, Fire Life Safety Training, Fires, Floods, Health & Welfare, Hurricanes, Influenza, Swine Flu, Terrorism, Tsunamis, Uncategorized, Version 2.0

The DHS Will Use New Technology to Announce Threats

New Sample DHS Alert System Snapshot
The Dept of Homeland Security will use social media to announce two tiers of alerts.

Very shortly, news network viewers and their canine companions will no longer find out about updates via color-coded threat levels from the Department of Homeland Security. The current threat-level chart will be replaced by a two-level threat system known as the National Terrorism Advisory System. The first threat level will be coined “elevated,” and would warn about a credible threat, but not list possible targets. (As far as I know, the Midnight Bark will remain unchanged.)

A distinct difference to the previous system is that the two-level system will provide a start and end date for the threat. The second level will be “imminent” when law enforcement officers working with DHS determine a credible threat will very likely be attempted against certain targets. This level of alert would continue for not more than seven days, but could be extended. DHS will also incorporate social media alerts into the two-level system, recognizing the reach and the importance of such networks in the fast sharing of information.

First put into use in March 2002, the current system (officially known as the Homeland Security Advisory System), was established in response to the devastating 9/11 terrorist attacks. The system initially came under frequent criticisms, with many individuals claiming the threat level was often raised for political motives to incite citizen unrest. Others claimed the threat level did not move sufficiently to recognize actual threats, and was often held at an elevated status level.

According to DHS, the risk of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil remains, and citizens are encouraged to remain vigilant and report suspicious behavior. Loud barking is another option for alerting folks about potential threats. Law enforcement is continually training for possible attacks, even participating in testing exercises to measure readiness.

This type of readiness was evident in the thwarted New York’s Time Square bombing attempt in 2009, where a quick-thinking street vendor alerted authorities to a smoking van. The terror alert system reminds citizens about the threat of terrorism and encourages common sense as well as a broader sense of civic responsibility.

Government officials announced that terror alerts and information about threats will be distributed via two primary social networks when deemed appropriate, Twitter and Facebook. The department’s Twitter alerts page is @ntasalerts. The Department of Homeland Security’s Facebook page can be found at Facebook.com/HomelandSecurity. In some cases, distribution of specifics regarding an alert could jeopardize ongoing investigations. In such cases, information about terror threats might not reach the public until after the alleged terrorists are captured and the threat has been mitigated. If you haven’t yet found me on Twitter, be sure to check out my tweets @rjthefiredog.

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, Children in Crisis, Disaster Preparedness, Earthquakes, Emergency Evacuations, Fire Safety, Fires, Floods, Health & Welfare, Hurricanes, Terrorism, Tsunamis, Uncategorized, Version 2.0

How to Help Children Cope Following a Disaster

Cartoon teacher reading to five children
At home or at school, use these strategies to help children cope after disasters.

Whether children personally experience trauma, watch events unfold on television or overhear adult discussions, natural and manmade disasters can leave them feeling frightened, confused and insecure. To help kids or pups cope, parents, teachers and friends should take steps so they understand how to easily identify and reduce disaster-related stress.

Identifying Risk Factors

While individual reactions to natural and manmade disasters vary, there are some common denominators in young folks who experience stress brought on by emergency situations such as fires, earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, hurricanes, terrorism and the like. To help you identify risk factors, consider these common childhood reactions to disaster:

  • Fear, especially at night
  • Sadness
  • Bedwetting or (in JR’s case), missing the puppy pad
  • Sleep disturbances and nightmares
  • Separation anxiety, clinging, dependant behavior
  • Anger
  • Acting out with whining, tantrums or (in my family’s case), excessive barking
  • Physical aggression (or, with my breed, bearing of teeth)
  • Problems in elementary or obedience school
  • Unexplained aches and pains

Although it is normal for both children and adults to react for a time to disasters near and far, for some, response to abnormal events can lead to more substantial, enduring psychological distress. Particularly at risk for this more serious, sustained negative behavior are children who have been directly exposed to physical disasters—such as those who were evacuated from their homes, have come in close contact with accident victims, witnessed deaths, suffered personal injuries or feared for their life and safety.

Also significant are secondary effects of disasters such as temporary changes in living arrangements, interruption in communication with friends and social networks, loss of personal property, parental unemployment and costs incurred during recovery to return the family to pre-disaster life and living conditions. A secondary effect for canines might be recovery from kennel cough.

In most cases, primary and secondary symptoms will diminish over time. But for those who were directly exposed to disasters, reminders may occasionally pop up such as high winds, smoke, cloudy skies, sirens, aftershocks or howling.

No matter the emergency, the ability of children to cope with disasters or emergencies is often tied to the way their parents cope. Kids and most animals are bright; so they can detect adult fears and sadness. So the best way to reduce trauma for kids is to take steps to effectively manage your own feelings as parents are almost always the best source of support for children in disasters.

Prior to disasters, FEMA advises the best way to establish a sense of control and to build confidence in children is to engage and involve them in preparing a family disaster plan. After a disaster, children can contribute to a family recovery plan.

After the Disaster/How to Help

  • Encourage children and adolescents to share their thoughts and feelings.
  • Clarify misunderstandings about risk and danger by listening to children’s concerns.
  • Maintain a sense of calm by validating children’s concerns and perceptions.
  • Listen to what the child is saying or the dog is barking.
  • If a young child asks questions about the event, answer them.
  • If a child has difficulty expressing feelings, allow the child to draw a picture or tell a story of what happened. Since it is always difficult for puppies to explain themselves, I suggest providing plenty of treats.

Suggestions to Help Reassure Children

  • Hug your kids. Physical affection can restore feelings of security.
  • Share just enough details about the event to assuage fears without contributing to insecurity.
  • Quickly reestablish a daily routine. (For what it’s worth, I suggest the more mealtimes, the better.)
  • Involve kids in your efforts to return to normal.
  • Praise responsible behavior.
  • Monitor media exposure.
  • Take advantage of available support networks.

If, despite your efforts, your child continues to exhibit stress, and particularly if the reactions worsen over time or interfere with daily behavior at school, home, or with other relationships, it might be time to call in a professional. Seek assistance from a primary care physician, mental health professional, member of the clergy or veterinarian.

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 Safety, Fires, Floods, Going Green, Health & Welfare, High-Rise Buildings, Hurricanes, Terrorism, Uncategorized, Version 2.0

The Second Line of Response

Cartoon Oil Dripping
Second Responders do a lot of the dirty work following disasters.

 

Throughout our disaster planning and prevention blog posts, we often focus on the safety and actions of first responders. For example, we suggest proactively working with the fire department when the schematics of your building change or to get their advice about the best way to implement cutting-edge safety measures. Understandably, first responders also get lots of press due to the inherent danger of their jobs. I’ve been on some four-alarm fire calls with these braves gals and guys. And it’s some serious work! Firefighters and EMS personnel rush directly into dire circumstances just as everyone else is racing out.

 

For large scale disasters, after the first responders do their high-profile jobs, significant hazards remain which must be dealt with, properly cleaned or contained, or even rebuilt. This is where second responders come in. From cleaning oil spills and radioactive waste to assessing the safety of bridges, second responders serve a vital role by bringing communities back from disasters.

Second responders face multiple challenges:

  • In many instances, the job of the second responder is considerably less glamorous than that of the first people to arrive on scene who are seen battling blazes and pulling people from piles of debris. It’s important to publicly recognize the work of second responders to be sure they feel appreciated. And just a pat on the head won’t cut it! These industrious folks aren’t pooches, you know!
  • Second responders who participated in Hurricane Katrina cleanup efforts were met by the health hazards from standing water, including mold and bacteria exposure and hordes of insects. That doesn’t sound fun. My water bowl gets bugs in it sometimes; I just consider them a high-protein, low-carb snack.
  • After earthquakes, trained engineers need to enter precarious buildings to test structures to determine if they can be repaired or need to be demolished. For example, buildings in New Zealand are being used as test specimens to give an up-close view on earthquake damage.
  • Air quality issues are a considerable issue which harmed second responders following the 9/11 attacks, to Katrina, and the California wildfires. Second responders need proper filtration and breathing equipment in order to be safe.
  • Proper hygiene and disease prevention following emergencies are priorities for second responders who work to prevent outbreaks that are especially common when survivors are grouped together in cramped temporary quarters. Speaking of cramped, the guys went to Vegas for a week, and left me at a kennel. I had a terrible case of kennel cough when they returned because we had been packed in there like sardines!

Keep in mind that there are multiple types of people and jobs which fall into the “second responders” category. After some disasters, social workers and counselors are part of very important response units that can help mend broken families and allow people an outlet for expressing frustration or anguish. There are also categories of second responders who serve over a longer period of time. For instance, there is a group called the Lambi Fund of Haiti Earthquake Recovery which is a planning on civic rebuilding and growth of the nation after the major relief organizations have moved onto the next disaster.

A focus on second responders can be an eye-opening experience into the long-term effects of major disasters. It builds an understanding that there is more to emergency management than literally saving lives in the moment, but also a need to rebuild so those who are saved have a place to call home. On a side note, everyone deserves a good home, so donate to your local pet rescue facility today!

Proper planning and learning the “Do’s” are the keys to managing the situation when disasters strike.  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, Floods, Health & Welfare, High-Rise Buildings, Safety at Home, Uncategorized, Version 2.0

Spring Flooding is On the Rise

Cartoon cityscape and housing symbols in Flood situation
Pay heed to flash flood warnings.

As rivers swell from snow pack runoff and rainstorms become more prevalent, many communities are in great danger of spring flooding. In fact, in western states affected by wildfires where vegetation has burned, heavy rainfall is more likely than usual to lead to floods.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently worked together to promote Flood Awareness Week, held March 14 through 18. Personally, I’m waiting for the announcement for “Belly Rub Awareness Month.” According to FEMA, floods cause more monetary damage to property than any other natural disaster. They offer a great flood-cost calculator tool that details damaged areas.

How to prevent flood damage:

  • Low-lying homes and low-rise buildings can be raised to literally stand above flood waters. While this is certainly a costly fix, it is very effective. I put the doghouse up on six-foot stilts, which would be great, if only I could climb a ladder.
  • Electrical panels and water heaters can be elevated, where feasible, to lessen potential fire and associated damage.
  • Landscaping and the overall slope of land should be considered. Owners should consider whether there is any way to divert water flow from flash floods. By the way, if you need assistance digging, I’m your guy.
  • Flood alerts should be heeded.
  • Waterproofing compound can be used to seal basements in order to prevent seeping water.

Other smart tips for mitigating damage:

  • Store important documents on the highest floor or on raised bookshelves attached to the wall. Don’t put them in basement storage areas! Also consider investing in waterproof containers which can withstand sustained soaking.
  • Fuel tanks can tip over or float during a flood. Cleaning up water is difficult enough, let alone taking care of 100 gallons of fuel oil. To prevent this kind of a nightmare, anchor fuel tanks properly. This will also lessen the risk of fires.
  • Check your sewer system for a backflow valve that will prevent sewer waste from coming into your home or business. Honestly, I would make this the number one priority. Yuck!

What are the risks to structures?

  • With good reason, water is known as the “universal solvent.” And, bacon is of course known as the “universal pain reliever.” Floods cause massive property damage by degrading foundations and crippling walls, making structures uninhabitable.
  • Long-term problems such as mold accumulation are very costly to fix. So take the time to adequately dry and inspect all areas of your building after floods to keep mold from growing. You might find it necessary to hire a specialist to check HVAC systems. Otherwise, damp areas can become fertile breeding ground for mold colonies.

Safety tips:

  • Don’t cross a flooded river or any area with fast-moving water. Cars and people can be carried away very quickly by rising floods. Don’t forget about your pets, either! Dogs and cats don’t weigh very much and need to be held close while traversing rising water.
  • Pay attention to flash flood warnings. A few minutes of preparation might save your life.
  • Be especially vigilant about using electricity during and after a flood. When in doubt, turn off electricity if flooding begins. If necessary, consult the power company to investigate your home or office building to ensure safety after flooding resides. So don’t run into your home and start flipping switches! You can maybe run in to get the beef jerky off of the counter. But that’s it!

Floods are especially damaging disasters as they present a host of both short and long-term risks to both personal property and individual safety. While large scale floods are not avoidable, smaller floods may be prevented if proactive steps are taken to minimize damage in order to protect loved ones and valued possessions.

Proper planning and learning what ‘to do’ are the keys to managing any situation when disaster strikes.  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, Earthquakes, Health & Welfare, Tsunamis, Uncategorized, Version 2.0

Japan Disaster: How You Can Help

Red cartoon character handing giant coin to blue cartoon character
Wonder how to give to relief efforts for recent events in Japan?

The earthquake and ongoing nuclear disaster in Japan brought unimaginable destruction to all facets of the country. Calamities of this magnitude also show people’s ability to give and the global concern for those in trouble. Despite all of the grief I give to you two-legged folks, I’m always impressed with how tragedy brings out your compassion.

For our part, we would like to provide information about how to make donations to help so you will be able to contribute to the Japanese relief efforts. We’d also like to use this post to share some thoughts about the ways that technology and social media are changing communication and fundraising efforts following natural and manmade disasters.

While the donations have been pouring in, they still fall well below similar donation levels given for Haiti and Hurricane Katrina. A week after the devastating quake, donations reached $87 million for efforts in Japan, compared to $275 million in Haiti and $522 million for Hurricane Katrina. With millions of Japanese citizens without power or ready-access to food, more donations are needed to provide just basic necessities. So please donate something, even it is only $1. Those bills add up!

Organizations such as Charity Navigator or GuideStar provide information about how individuals can give to the charity organizations that use donations most efficiently. I would normally recommend the SCPA. But even I have to admit that these disasters need attention first! These websites also detail those organizations that pool together donations to be used for disasters when needed. This is helpful since, in some past disasters, nonprofit groups end up with an overflow of funds that they are required to spend on specific relief efforts even if those monies might be better used elsewhere.

Easy ways to donate to reputable charitable organizations using the latest technology:

  • Mobile phone users can text “redcross” to 90999 to give a $10 donation to help the Red Cross’ efforts in Japan and throughout the world. I would love to send texts. But alas— no opposable thumbs.
  • You can donate online through World Vision.
  • Contribute via web, traditional mail or wire transfer to Samaritan’s Purse.
  • Save the Children is accepting $10 donations via PayPal, Amazon Payments or Google Checkout, or by texting JAPAN to 20222. The organization provides needed food and medical care for children in need throughout the world.
  • (If you have some extra money you can’t figure out how to spend, consider donating to your local dog and cat rescue organization!)

Be careful of scams! Unfortunately, some unscrupulous people try to exploit other’s suffering. So be very wary of replying to any incoming text messages that request credit card information or other financial information. While I love you humans, this kind of thing really baffles me! Can’t some people find a better way to earn money?

Technology in Action

In addition to enabling faster and easier donations, social media proved useful for rescue efforts and to quickly spread vital information.

  • While mobile phone lines were overloaded during and after the quake, sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Skype chat worked well and provided vital communication links.
  • A schoolteacher in England reported chatting with her young cousin in Japan after the quake via Facebook chat. The child couldn’t reach their parents a few miles away, but was able to communicate quickly with a relative on the other side of the world.
  • In the hours immediately following the tsunami and subsequent earthquakes, 50,000 people in Japan downloaded a Smartphone flashlight application, which they purportedly used to navigate through rubble. These apps are truly amazing! We just need one that cooks a steak for us! For you pooch lovers, I have a list of top iPhone apps for those who love their pets!

Technology is opening new avenues for finding lost loved ones and learning more about the latest problems.

  • Google launched a Google Person Finder tool to locate people who are searching for loved ones. After the Red Cross’ Family Links site was overloaded, Google stepped in to help. Searchable in both English and Japanese, the site provides information for specific people including photographs and updates on their well being.
  • Twitter Hashtags (#) including #prayforjapan, #tsunami, #japan, and #textREDCROSS are providing a steady stream of information for victims and loved ones in real time.

As helpful as technology and mobile communication have become, it’s important to remember that these tools can be positive influences to help us quickly connect with people during a disaster as well as a potential tool for criminals to exploit. So be wary of posting too much information about your personal and professional activities online, or you risk alerting thieves when your home is vacant. This is just one example of how proper planning and careful attention to detail is crucial for safely managing situations when disasters strike.

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.