Posted in BE SAFE, Disaster Preparedness, Earthquakes, FEMA, Health & Welfare, Social Media, Uncategorized

Tech & Disaster Management

Press conference presentation.It wasn’t long ago that disaster management professionals handled crises primarily through landlines and press conferences. In fact, I still use the Twilight Bark. Thankfully, over the past 10 years, technology has redefined global emergency management and disaster communications. One of the first national disasters to heavily rely on technology, according to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), was Hurricane Sandy, as users sent more than 20 million Sandy-related tweets. I was tweeting like crazy during Hurricane Sandy. Social tablet

Since people have embraced mobile technologies, it’s increasingly important for disaster management professionals to adopt a social media strategy as well as the ability to use multiple forms of technology to communicate and connect with an increasingly networked population. What’s more, building owners and managers, as well as members of the public, should take advantage of the many ways technology can help them prepare for, survive, and recover after a disaster.

Technology and Disasters:

  • The American Red Cross offers free mobile apps that put lifesaving information at the user’s fingertips. The apps give people instant access to more than 35 customizable emergency weather alerts, as well as safety tips and preparedness information for 14 different types of emergencies and disasters. The Emergency App contains an “I’m Safe” feature, which helps people use social media to let loved ones know they are okay following an emergency. These apps have been downloaded over seven million times and have been credited with saving lives in Oklahoma, Texas and other states. Other Red Cross apps include Blood Donor, Earthquakes, First Aid, Flood, Hero Care, Hurricane, Pet First Aid – which is my personal favorite, Radio Cruz Roja, Swim, Tornadoes, Transfusion Practice Guidelines and Wildfires.Graphic: Download the FEMA App
  • Disaster Apps. While it would be virtually impossible to list every available disaster app, here are a few noteworthy options, available on Google Play as well as the Apple App Store: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), FEMA, My Hurricane Tracker, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), QuakeFeed, Storm Distance Tracker, and WeatherCaster. Another good one is put out by the ASPCA Mobile App. NOAA-1030x496
  • Facebook offers a natural disaster page, which is set up so that people can check on loved ones, get updates about the developing situation, and look for information about how to help. Disaster Response on Facebook highlights tips, news, and information on how to prepare for, respond to and recover from natural disasters. Facebook users who like and follow the page can stay up to date and connected with affected communities around the world. They can also donate with the “Donate Now” call-to-action button, so nonprofits can connect with people who care about their causes and encourage them to contribute. safetycheckmobielcarousel
  • Twitter has emerged as a legitimate means of emergency communication for coordinating disaster relief. A 2015 study, What to Expect When the Unexpected Happens: Social Media Communications Across Crises, focused on 26 different crisis situations (such as earthquakes, floods, bombings, derailments and wildfires) for two years. The event which obtained the most Twitter attention at the time of the study was the Boston Marathon bombings, with 157,500 tweets. What’s more, Twitter Alerts provide trusted sources with a platform to disseminate accurate information to concerned parties in real time, and for those people to offer immediate feedback about the impact and hierarchy of needs relative to the associated disaster. My Twitter handle is @RjtheFireDog.Screen Shot 2017-04-24 at 3.44.27 PM.png
  • OneEvent is an algorithm developed by a small startup in Wisconsin. For a monthly subscription fee, OneEvent detects household disasters like fires and floods up to 20 minutes before they happen. The software-based approach uses sensors to monitor things like heat and humidity in key areas of the subscriber’s home. I wonder if it would work in our doghouse? If things start to deviate from the norm due to a leaky pipe or a hot oven, the system will catch it, let the user know, and learnfrom the situation. Online learning.
  • Online Fire Life Training systems, which provide subscribers with access to information about emergency and disaster prevention, management and recovery. A leader in the field is Allied Universal Fire Life Safety Training Systems. The fully-automated system allows property management companies to manage one site or an entire portfolio, with all users in the same system. Subscribers get access to training for building occupants, floor wardens, and fire safety directors. All user training and testing is recorded. Building-specific information is sent to first responders for immediate access during emergencies. Our mission is to save lives through training, with the motto “Be Safe!”

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

Advertisements
Posted in be prepared for emergencies, Disaster Preparedness, FEMA, Workplace Safety

The Red Cross Offers ReadyRating

RedCrossReadyRating 2At the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, we frequently work side-by-side, with an iconic disaster relief agency – the Red Cross. Although the agency is always at the front lines of a disaster and is best known in that regard, its mission extends beyond immediate relief into disaster preparedness and education, much like our own. Well, my mission includes attacking those things that pop-up on the lawn and spray water. What is going on with those things? Where do they go when the water stops!!?

Why is disaster planning so important for business owners? According to FEMA, 40% of small businesses will not reopen following a disaster, a sobering (that’s a big word!) statistic, which illustrates both the challenge in managing a small business and the severe impact disasters can have on otherwise potentially successful companies.

The American Red Cross Rating Program

ReadyRating is designed to help schools, companies, and other organizations prepare for disasters. This free service provides members with access to information about how to both evaluate and improve their disaster planning procedures and save lives… something that we strive to do through our own training modules. I saved a squirrel once. Whiskers and Mr. Tubbington had cornered the little guy, so I swooped in to save the day. Squirrels are nuts.

RedCrossReadyRating7
Photo provided courtesy of the Red Cross. All rights reserved. 2015

The ReadyRating is promoted by agencies such as the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD), an agency with whom we are proud to partner. We are pleased to join agencies such as LAFD to encourage businesses to participate in the Red Cross’ program, in order to gauge and improve their disaster readiness. Free membership into ReadyRating provides users with a dashboard that helps them evaluate their level of preparedness. Customized feedback is based on assessment scores, as well as the ability to create an “Organization Manager” with linked member-accounts. The steps and recommendations found within ReadyRating are adopted from scientific research and expert opinions from noted industry professionals. This means they know their stuff!

ReadyRating features a three-step process for participating members:

  1. Conduct an Assessment

Organizations can choose either a “ReadyGo” assessment or a “ReadyAdvance” assessment to determine preparedness. The ReadyGo 25-question version is basic, designed to help companies see the most critical steps they should undertake to best manage disasters. The ReadyAdvance plan is more in-depth, with 60 questions. More comprehensive in nature, ReadyAdvance results effectively measure the merits of an organization’s existing preparedness plan, and provides users with roadmaps for improving their existing plans. Before another pooch can hang with me, I ask them to complete an in-depth assessment to gauge their willingness to chase rabbits and chew shoes.

The assessment contains five sections that score the preparedness level of the company, including level of current emergency planning, commitment to preparedness, knowledge of hazards, love of bacon, implementation of the plan, and resiliency of the community.

  1. Create a Well-Informed Emergency Plan

ReadyRating features a template generator that utilizes the company’s assessment information to create an Emergency Action Plan (EAP), specific to the company. The plans are OSHA-compliant, which is a primary concern for businesses required to meet OSHA regulations.

  1. Leverage Expert Resources

The final component of the plan is to encourage businesses to utilize Red Cross resources such as emergency preparedness guides, checklists, and other tools. For example, the resource center on the Red Cross website include disaster drill forms, emergency contact card templates, and a step-by-step guide for organizing a blood drive. I told you these people know what they are doing! The resources, including videos and guides, are designed to be actionable – offering clear advice to companies that want to strengthen their disaster planning.

Remember that safety is a daily priority, so be sure to think about disaster planning all of the time. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

Posted in Disaster Preparedness, Fire Safety, Health & Welfare

Volunteerism is Crucial in Disasters

???????????????????????????????????????????????When Typhoon Haiyan tore through the Philippines last week, it left thousands dead and 660,000 people displaced. Volunteers from across the globe are rushing to the devastated area to muck out homes, hang drywall, clean, deliver food, and offer financial assistance. The storm’s impact is all the more troubling considering the fact that many of those affected by the typhoon were already left homeless by an earthquake in mid-October.

Charitable organizations around the nation are assembling in and around the city of Tacloban to help residents in much the same way they did to help hard-hit New Jersey recover from Superstorm Sandy. But the volunteer pool is relatively thin because even as we approach the one-year anniversary of Sandy, many of the volunteers and sponsoring organizations who lent a hand in the critical first days after the disaster remain in New Jersey, still helping.

In fact, according to CNN, as of the end of September 2013:

  • 173,544 volunteers had invested more than 1 million volunteer hours in the Sandy recovery effort.
  • The value of their contributions now totals more than $30 million.

“In (times of) disaster, the efforts of volunteers are critical to the recovery,” said Gracia Szczech, federal coordinating officer for FEMA in New Jersey. “Volunteers have made a substantial contribution to helping (victims) respond and recover from the challenges they faced after Hurricane Sandy.”

Volunteerism plays a crucial role in disasters of all kinds. Due to the sheer breadth and depth of associated devastation, paid workers can’t possibly meet all of the needs. American Red Cross volunteers constitute about 94 percent of the American Red Cross workforce. Volunteers make it possible to respond to nearly 70,000 disasters every year—most of which were home and apartment fires.

Immediately following Hurricane Sandy, volunteers from more than 500 organizations showed up. These included internationally recognized agencies like the American Red Cross, to smaller groups which routinely travel whenever and wherever major disasters strike. Among these groups are the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, Habitat for Humanity, Feed the Children, Lutheran Disaster Response, United Jewish Communities, Catholic Charities, National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, Medical Teams International…to name a few.

Local churches, charities and nonprofits also work around the clock to provide the help their neighbors needed to survive, recover and rebuild. There are lots of opportunities for volunteers. If you would like to be part of a team to help with the recent disaster in the Philippines, or continuing relief efforts in New Jersey, flood relief efforts in Colorado, or whenever and wherever the next natural disaster strikes, follow these 10 suggestions to maximize your efforts:

  1. Instead of traveling to the disaster site, consider donating funds to a well-established charity, as financial contributions are often requested in lieu of items such as food and clothing—which may be difficult to transport and distribute. Donate $10 now by texting redcross to 90999.
  2. You could sponsor a fundraiser to multiply your efforts. Use your enthusiasm for disaster assistance to encourage others to donate.
  3. If you’d like to work on scene, align yourself with a reputable organization. Consider groups such as the American Red Cross (800) HELP-NOW, Save the Children (800) 728-3843 and UNICEF (800) 4UNICEF.
  4. Show up to all applicable training sessions and read organization materials so you are well prepared for what awaits you.
  5. Give blood. The American Red Cross makes it easy to be a blood donor. Contact them to find out where to give.
  6. Show up. If you say you will be there, follow through.
  7. Be flexible. Humanitarian aid isn’t easily categorized. You might not know what you’ll be doing until you show up on scene.
  8. Take care of yourself. Make sure you eat and get enough rest so you will be a valuable member of a relief team.
  9. Donate Goods. Confirm what is needed before you start gathering items.
  1. Be safe. Wait until it is safe to travel to volunteer sites. Once you’ve been assigned a position, make sure you wearing proper safety gear for the task.

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

Posted in Disaster Preparedness, Floods, Hurricanes

Spring Storms: How to Prepare

April showers bring May flowers...and spring storms

With warm weather comes the fresh breath of spring. To me, spring means extra long walks! But, for millions of two-legged Americans, spring means something else entirely—storm season! This year, devastating tornadoes and storms in the South have already left thousands of families in need of food, shelter and other basic necessities. I hope they didn’t run out of bacon. Other spring storm-related disasters have included flooding, tornadoes and wildfires, all of which have resulted in numerous deaths and hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of property damage.

So, what steps can you take to make sure that this spring, you will BE SAFE? One way to prepare is to follow the Red Cross Be Ready Checklist. Find out if you’re ready by taking this brief quiz: (You are ready as long as you can answer each question with a heart “yes.” Or a “ruff” would do.)

  1. Do you know what emergencies or disasters are most likely to occur in your community?
  1. Do you have a family disaster plan and practice it?
    • FEMA provides free resources to help you create a family plan.
    • RJWestmore trainees have access to the following resources to aid in family planning:
  • Home Fire Escape Plan
  • Home Safety Basics for People with Special Needs
  • Blackouts at Home
  • Children and Disasters
  • Family Communication After a Disaster
  • Home Earthquake Plan
  • Pets & Disaster Planning
  • Planning for Those with Disabilities
  • Red Cross Ready Make a Plan
  1. Do you have an Emergency Preparedness Kit?
  • Tailor your plans and supplies to your specific daily living needs and responsibilities. Most individuals have both specific personal needs as well as resources to assist others.
  • For specific ideas about what to pack in a “go bag,” check out RJWestmore blog posts. You can also find great ideas for preparing an emergency bag at the Ready.gov website.
  • I suggest including pork chops and chew toys in any bag you take to go.
  1. Is at least one member of your household trained in first aid and CPR/AED?

CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) and AED (Automated External Defibrillator) training meets the needs of workplace responders, school staffs, professional responders and healthcare providers, as well as the general public. The American Red Cross offers certified and non-certified training options. Check out the Red Cross website to access course descriptions and materials.

  1. Have you taken action to help your community prepare?

You might consider joining a Community Emergency Response Team. Also known as CERT, this program educates people about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area and also trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations.

Utilizing classroom training as well as exercises, CERT members learn to assist others in their neighborhood or workplace following an event when professional responders are not immediately available to help. CERT members also are encouraged to support emergency response agencies by taking a more active role in emergency preparedness projects in their community. And that’s always a good thing.

When a disaster of any kind strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJWestmore, Inc. Our new Version 2.5 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. What’s more, the NEW RJWestmore Property Messaging System is included FREE for all RJWestmore Online Training System users. Visit www.RJWestmore.com for more information.

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

Hurricanes: Prepare by Keeping Watch

If you live in a high-risk area, prepare by carefully monitoring weather conditions.

Final Post in Our Series about Hurricane Preparedness

Hurricanes are unique emergencies in that they are predictable. So there is no excuse for failing to prepare to respond. Although you can’t control when a hurricane or other emergency may happen, it’s imperative that you take personal responsibility to make sure you are ready. This week, in our final post in a series about preparing and recovering from tropical storms and hurricanes, we’ll examine where to turn to stay on top of forecasts and local emergency plans.

Since the best way to deal with a hurricane is to prepare for one, you should acquaint yourself with websites and notification centers as well as the terminology used to distinguish between different storm warnings. This is crucial for all those who live and/or work in a high-risk area. And that probably means you either live, work or vacation on one of the coasts. Monitor weather patterns and warnings so you will know when to take evasive action. Here are a few helpful resources, offering easily-accessible weather-related information in real time:

AccuWeather.com

American Red Cross

The Disaster Center

FEMA Storm Watch

FindLocalWeather

Intellicast.com

Local Weather Forecast Center

National Hurricane Center

National Weather Service

NOAA

NOLA

Weather Bug

The Weather Channel

WeatherForYou.com

Many of the above sites offer RSS feeds and desktop notifications and email alerts. Dogs don’t usually subscribe to email accounts, so we have some notification systems of our own. You haven’t lived until you’ve experienced the Twilight Bark. Another (less frenetic) free weather notification system is available via the Emergency Email and Wireless Network, which provides breaking weather alerts and an information-packed National Weather Situation Page.

Once you are set up to receive weather updates, the next step in hurricane preparedness is to be able to distinguish between the terminologies used to describe various storm systems. Where hurricanes and tropical storms are concerned, the following definitions are critical.

WATCH vs. WARNING: THE DIFFERENCE

(This distinction is also important in dog world, where we are routinely placed on watch so we can give plenty of advanced warning.)

TROPICAL STORM WATCH

Tropical storm conditions (defined by sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) are possible within a specified coastal area within 48 hours.

TROPICAL STORM WARNING

Tropical storm conditions (defined by sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) are expected somewhere within a specified coastal area within 36 hours.

HURRICANE WATCH

Hurricane conditions (defined by sustained winds of 74 mph or higher) are possible within a specified coastal area. Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, the hurricane watch is issued 48 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds.

HURRICANE WARNING

An announcement that hurricane conditions (defined by sustained winds of 74 mph or higher) are expected somewhere within a specified coastal area. Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, the hurricane warning is issued 36 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds.

Once you determine that a hurricane or tropical storm watch or warning is in effect, take the following steps:

  • Listen to a battery-operated radio or television for hurricane progress reports.
  • Check emergency supplies.
  • Fuel car.
  • Bring in outdoor objects such as lawn furniture, toys, and garden tools and anchor objects that cannot be brought inside.
  • Secure buildings by closing and boarding up windows. Remove outside antennas.
  • Turn refrigerator and freezer to coldest settings. Open only when absolutely necessary and close quickly.
  • Store drinking water in clean bathtubs, jugs, bottles, and cooking utensils.
  • Review your evacuation plan.
  • Find out where your dog is. Direct him or her to the family car.

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. Check back next week, when we will continue our series about hurricane safety and preparation. In the meantime, BE SAFE.

Posted in BE SAFE, Building Evacuation, Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Evacuations, Health & Welfare, Hurricanes, Uncategorized

Hurricane Communications

Communication is critical in any emergency.

Second in a Series about Hurricane Preparedness and Recovery

Hurricanes are unique emergencies in that they are predictable. So there is no excuse for failing to prepare to respond with decisive action. Although you can’t control when a hurricane or other emergency may happen, it’s imperative that you take personal responsibility to make sure you are ready.  This week, in our continuing series about hurricanes, we’ll look at one of the best ways to prepare for and recover after tropical storms and hurricanes—developing a comprehensive Communications Plan.

Although there is no easy answer—or “silver bullet”—to solve every problem that can hamper the efforts of law enforcement, firefighting, rescue and emergency medical personnel before, during and after natural disasters, the surest way to reduce confusion and quickly restore order is to establish a Communications Plan before you need one. In the dog world, we already have a pretty well-established method for communication. But, admittedly, barking as loudly as possible probably wouldn’t work well in the human world.

But what exactly is a Communications Plan?

An Emergency Communications’ Plan outlines formal decision-making structures and clearly defined leadership roles necessary for coordinating emergency communications’ capabilities. In other words, make sure you plan in advance to manage any and every emergency situation. Assess the situation and use common sense and available resources to take care of yourself and your co-workers or family members and to manage the recovery of your family or organization.

To help you with the process, FEMA has put together free resources including a Family Emergency Plan as well as a Business Continuity and Disaster Preparedness Plan, which is posted online for easy-access to clients of the RJWestmore, Inc. Training System. The business plan is designed to encourage you to gather emergency information and formalize plans for staying in business following a disaster, and includes information critical for coordinating with neighboring businesses, cooperating with emergency personnel and considering critical operations, staff and procedures. For what it’s worth, my personal recommendation is for you to include the family dog or company mascot in your emergency plan.

Other organizations also provide free emergency resources. For example, The American Red Cross has a Safe and Well Website to help families keep in touch after a disaster. If you have been affected by a disaster, this website provides a way for you to register yourself as “safe and well.” From a list of standard messages, you can select those that you want to communicate to your family members, letting them know of your well-being. Other communication services available on the Safe and Well website:

  • USPS, which provides continuing mail service for those displaced by disasters through change of address forms.
  • National Next of Kin Registry, an organization where the public can archive emergency point of contact information. Emergency agencies access the system when there is a need to locate next of kin in urgent situations. I would love to see this kind of website posted for pooches so we can locate missing litter mates.
  • Community Voice Mail, which offers free personalized phone numbers with voicemail to people in crisis and transition for job search, housing, healthcare and family contact.
  • Contact Loved Ones, which is a free voice message service, accessible from any phone, to reestablish contact between those affected by a disaster and their loved ones and friends. One more time; why is it that humans shy away from barking?

Also, at the state and local level, you should be able to access additional information specific to your geographical location. One such resource is put out by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). And weather advisories are put out by the National Hurricane Center.

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. Check back next week, when we will continue our series about hurricane safety and preparation. In the meantime, BE SAFE.