With so much to do during the holidays, it can be easy to forget that safety should remain a primary concern at home, at work and on the job. My wife and JR and I have got a lot going on all year long. The holidays are hardly the time to turn a blind eye to safety:
- One of every three home Christmas tree fires is caused by electrical problems.
- A heat source too close to trees causes one in every four of Christmas tree fires.
- December is the peak month for home candle fires.
- One out of three candle fires originate in the bedroom. This is why we never use candles in our dog house.
- Typical symptoms of foodborne illness are vomiting, diarrhea, and flu-like symptoms, which can start anywhere from hours to days after contaminated food or drinks are consumed.
- In the United States, motor vehicle crashes are in the top 10 causes of death for people aged 1-54, and more than 30,000 people are killed in crashes each year.
As a courtesy to our subscribers and friends, we have assembled some easy tips to help you and yours make this holiday season a safe and happy one.
- Don’t use lit candles near trees, boughs, curtains/drapes, or with any other potentially flammable item. In fact, why use the kind that burn when nice, safe electronic versions are available?
- When using artificial snow on windows or other surfaces, follow directions. These sprays can irritate lungs if they are inhaled.
- Many holiday plants are poisonous if ingested. These include: mistletoe, holly berries, Jerusalem cherry and amaryllis. Keep these plants out of children’s reach.
- When displaying a tree, cut off about two inches off the trunk and put the tree in a sturdy, water-holding stand. Keep the stand filled with water so the tree does not dry out quickly. This is especially important if you have a dog in the house; we like tree water.
- Position trees away from fireplaces, radiators and other heat sources. Make sure the tree does not impede foot traffic.
- Avoid placing breakable ornaments where small children or pets can reach them.
- If you opt for an artificial tree, choose one that is tested and labeled as fire resistant. Artificial trees with built-in electrical systems should have the “Underwriters Laboratory” (UL) label.
- Use indoor lights indoors and outdoor lights only outdoors. Look for the UL label. Check lights for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, and loose connections. Replace or repair any damaged light sets.
- Use no more than three light sets on any one extension cord. Extension cords should be placed against the wall to avoid tripping hazards.
- Inspect all lights, decorations and extension cords for damage before using.
- Don’t ever run cords under rugs, around furniture legs or across doorways.
- Turn off tree lights and decorations when you go to bed or leave the house. Unplug extension cords when not in use.
- When displaying outdoor lights, fasten them firmly to a secure support with insulated staples or hooks to avoid wind damage.
- Never nail, tack or stress wiring when hanging lights and keep plugs off the ground away from puddles and snow.
- Don’t leave candles unattended. Whenever possible, opt for electronic versions, which provide a warm glow without the associated risk of fire.
- Never eat dough or uncooked batter. This one is hard for me. I like dough more than the baked version of most treats.
- When preparing a holiday meal for friends and family, be sure to wash your hands, utensils, sink, and anything else that touches raw poultry.
- Don’t defrost food at room temperature. Instead, thaw it in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave.
- Keep your knives sharp. Most knife injuries occur due to dull blades.
- Use a clean food thermometer to cook foods to a safe internal temperature before serving.
- Avoid cleaning kitchen surfaces with wet dishcloths or sponges, which harbor bacteria. Use paper towels, instead.
- Keep cold foods cold and hot food hot. If you’re concerned that your coworker’s casserole has been sitting out too long, move along. Better to be food-safe than sorry.
- Refrigerate or freeze leftovers in covered shallow containers within two hours of cooking. Or, better yet, give them to your pooch. We love leftovers.
- When reheating leftovers, bring to at least 165°F to eliminate bacterial growth.
- Check items such as the brakes, spark plugs, battery, and tires. Check your owner’s manual and follow recommendations for tune-up and oil change intervals.
- Before heading out on winter roads, evaluate the condition of your tires. When in doubt, take your vehicle to a mechanic to make sure tread is sufficient.
- Be prepared for emergency situations on the road by keeping a winter “survival kit” in your trunk. Include items such as a working flashlight, extra batteries, reflective triangles, compass, first aid kit, exterior windshield cleaner, ice scraper, snow brush, wooden stick matches in a waterproof container, and non-perishable, high energy foods like unsalted canned nuts, dried fruits and hard candy.
- Keep anything of value in the trunk or covered storage area.
- But that doesn’t apply to your canines.
Remember that safety is a priority for everyone all year long. 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 Allied 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.
Visit www.AUS.com/tips for more ways to stay safe during the holidays.
President Obama officially proclaimed September National Preparedness Month, establishing September 30, 2016 as a “national day of action,” aka “America’s PrepareAthon.” Managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the campaign is designed to spark awareness and preparedness among the general public. In my book, preparedness is always a good thing!
The emphasis on awareness and active participation in safety-related exercises is especially timely in light of the recent terrorist attacks in New York and New Jersey. Also, in a separate and apparently unrelated incident in Minnesota, a terrorist attack was thwarted by a trained firearms expert, whose quick thinking and ready action saved the lives of innocent people.
In each of these incidents, well-prepared Americans, first-responders and members of the general public worked together to lessen the severity of incidents relative to attacks and/or helped the injured while simultaneously staying alert to additional threats. Way to go, people!
America’s PrepareAthon encourages alertness in several types of incidents:
- FEMA provides free materials such as badges and posters to promote preparedness for floods, earthquakes, winter storms, etc.
- A compelling video showcases the way bystanders helped victims.
- Disaster preparedness-related news is announced through the #PrepareAthon Twitter feed.
- Concerned members of the public can conduct drills, test communication plans, safeguard documents, and make plans with neighbors for post-disaster actions.
- Common steps to follow after a disaster such as tornadoes, hurricanes, active shooter incidents, winter storms, wildfires, and earthquakes alert the public.
America’s PrepareAthon could potentially save lives:
Active Shooter Scenarios
America’s PrepareAthon offers useful advice for active shooter incidents. Here is what you can learn:
- Find active shooter training classes, which are held at various locations throughout the country.
- Discern the importance of quickly running, hiding, or fighting (if necessary).
- Take first aid classes which instruct students in emergency procedures, such as how to tie a tourniquet.
- Determine when to report suspicious activity to law enforcement.
Severe winter storms bring ice, freezing rain, and potentially crippling quantities of snow, posing risks to first responders as well as the general public.
How to properly manage a major winter storm:
- Prepare by stocking up on valuable supplies, such as food and water. I also suggest stockpiling cans of food for pets.
- Create a backup heat source in case electrical or gas power are compromised.
- Understand the potential dangers of fallen power lines, which can be pulled down by ice accumulating on trees.
- Prepare your car by keeping the tank full to prevent the gas line from freezing. Also, pack extra blankets and water in your car as well as chains.
- Set outside faucets to trickle to keep the pipes from freezing.
- Create a travel bag containing several layers of clothing, a first aid kid, and signaling devices.
- Prepare a “Go Bag.”
- Grow fur. It works for me!
Remember that safety is a daily priority, not just on September 30th during America’s PrepareAthon. Take advantage of the resources offered through FEMA and other agencies, which can provide you and building occupants with lifesaving tips. 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.
On the heels of celebrating National Building Safety Month in May, we feel it equally essential to note that June marks a more general but no less important annual observance – National Safety Month. Organized by the National Safety Council (NSC) and observed by thousands of organizations across the country, the campaign is designed to raise awareness about what it takes to stay #SafeForLife. National Safety Month focuses on reducing leading causes of injury and death at work, on the roads, as well as in private homes and communities. Each week in June, the NSC will provide free downloadable resources highlighting a specific safety topic. Many of the items are available in English and Spanish.
Week 1 (Through June 12)
Stand Ready to Respond
When seconds count, preparation is key. This is true in both natural and man-made disasters. To prepare, keep a fully stocked emergency preparedness kit in your home and vehicle. Be sure to include supplies such as food, water, necessary medications, a battery-powered radio, a flashlight and a first aid kit. And, just as you participate in emergency drills at work, run regular drills with your family. Also, when collecting items for your emergency kit, don’t forget about Fido. Disasters affect us, too.
Resources available through the NSC
- Poster: When Seconds Matter, Will You Be Ready?
- Tip Sheet: Preparing today can make a difference tomorrow – Englishand Spanish
- Bonus Fact Sheet: Protect Children Around Water – All the Time (I am a big advocate of the doggie paddle.)
- Related articles: Common Items for first aid kits, AEDs in the workplace
Week 2 (June 13 – 19)
Each day, decisions we make directly impact our health. So do your best to make smart food choices and exercise regularly. When an injury occurs, strive to work with your doctor to safeguard your health by making informed decisions about what types of medications to take. Keep young children safe around medications by properly storing medicines out of a child’s reach.
Resources available through the NSC
- Poster: Safeguard Your Health
- Tip Sheet: Reach for safer medicines – Englishand Spanish
- Related articles: Diabetes and worker safety, Exploring shift worker health
Week 3 (June 20-26)
Watch Out for Dangers
Although, in a recent RJWestmore Training System blog post, we covered the importance of situational awareness, the topic is important enough to bear repeating. Even in familiar surroundings, constantly survey your surroundings for potential danger. My canine companions and I are pretty good at doing this. Noses in the air at all times. Keeping an eye out for hazards can help you identify and avoid them before an injury or attack might occur. Looking at the world through this safety lens can help protect you and loved ones.
Resources available through the NSC
- Poster: Watch Out for Dangers
- Tip Sheet: Being safe means being alert – all the time – English and Spanish
- Related articles: 11 tips for effective workplace housekeeping, Stop-work authority
Week 4 (June 27-30)
Share Roads Safely
Vehicles traveling or disabled along our nation’s roadways are constantly at risk. Since it’s impossible to control the choices everyone makes while on the road, practice defensive driving. Getting behind the wheel is a time for patience and focus, qualities that can help you avoid a collision even if someone else makes a bad decision. And, let’s face it; there are a lot of horrible drivers on the road. I have noticed this and I don’t even have a driver’s license.
Resources available through the NSC
- Poster: Make Good Choices While Driving
- Tip Sheet: The roads belong to us all. Let’s make safe choices –English and Spanish
- Related articles: Patience pays off in work zones, Drowsy driving and worker safety
Be sure to think about ways to use situational awareness to #BeSafe all of the time, not just during the month of June. 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.
The U.S. Coast Guard defines situational awareness as follows: “the ability to identify, process, and comprehend the critical elements of information about what is happening to the team with regards to the mission.” More simply, it’s knowing what is going on around you. As a dog, I am usually exceedingly aware of whatever is happening around me…especially if it involves food.
The concept of situational awareness is helpful not just for members of the Coast Guard but for anyone who values personal safety. In fact, many life-threatening emergencies, such as muggings, kidnappings, assaults, and car-jacking’s, can be averted if the intended victim takes steps to be prepared and pays careful attention to his or her environment. Seems like a good reason to me!
The ability to scan the environment and sense danger, challenges and opportunities, while conducting normal activities is easier said than done. But the trait can be acquired. The trick is to pay attention to surroundings without succumbing to distraction. I will admit that bacon can distract me from most things.
Three Obstacles to Situational Awareness
- Failing to monitor the baseline. On an everyday basis, remember to pay attention to normal patterns and behaviors. If you fail to do this, you won’t recognize when something happens outside the norm.
- Normalcy Bias. If you grew up in a relatively safe area, you may have to repeatedly remind yourself to pay attention to people around you. Most people tend to have a bias towards the status quo. They erroneously assume that since nothing of note has ever happened during their regular routines, nothing major is likely to happen. To overcome this bias, make a conscious decision to be on alert whenever you leave the home or office. The guys and I are always on alert at the firehouse. You never know when the siren will sound.
- Focus Lock. This is a form of distraction that causes us to focus all of our awareness on one thing to the detriment of everything else in our environment. For example, this is what happens when someone digs for keys in her purse and is surprised when thieves attack. It is also the reason some people walk into water fountains while texting.
Here are some tips to help improve your situational awareness:
- Open your eyes. This might seem like a no-brainer. But the first step towards personal safety is to pay attention to your surroundings at all times. No matter where you are, be on your guard. Or why not bring your trusty canine with you? We love to keep our masters safe.
A good rule of thumb is to be mindful of the Color Code of Awareness, as coined by the late USMC Commander Jeff Cooper. This code differs from the color code which corresponds to the amount of danger our nation faces at any given time. Cooper’s Colors refers to a person’s current state of mind and willingness to take action regardless of real or imagined threats:
Condition White: Lack of Threat
Condition Yellow: Relaxed Alertness
Condition Orange: Focused Alertness
Condition Red: Ready to Act
Condition Black: Blind Panic/Psychological Shutdown
Although most people operate in “white mode,” yellow should be the rule of thumb. Criminals are more likely to attack someone who is blissfully unaware and distracted than someone who is alert and prepared for action.
- Avoid unsafe situations. For example, when parking at night, choose a spot that is well lit. Don’t jog at night by yourself. Never park with your car door directly next to a large van. Don’t hitchhike or pick up hitchhikers. Don’t pet a stray dog.
- Be prepared. As far as situational awareness goes, we are not suggesting you draft a formal evacuation plan every time you leave the house. However, it pays to take steps to be safe. For example, take a few minutes to find your keys before standing next to your locked car. Carry a flashlight with you at night.
Be sure to think about ways to use situational awareness to #BeSafe 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.
Why is September National Preparedness Month? The month was chosen, in part, to honor the victims of the September 11 attacks and, also, because it is the start of hurricane season. Sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), National Preparedness Month is intended to promote individual and business safety preparedness to effectively manage man-made threats such as terrorism as well as natural disasters. If I had my way, it would be “Devouring Pork Chops Best Practices Month,” but I suppose safety readiness is more important. While safety should be of utmost concern every month, it’s useful for companies to designate a month for review and adjustment of safety plans and procedures.
Here are some initiatives that property managers can take during National Preparedness Month:
Use Available Resources
The Ready.gov website has a wealth of free safety resources:
- Information about becoming a safety leader, with classes offered through FEMA, Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) and other organizations.
- Disaster-specific information and appropriate responses are offered for power outages, chemical hazards, severe weather, floods, and dozens of other scenarios.
- Information about disaster kits, including wise food choices (pork chops, sausage, baby carrots are my suggestions) and management of water resources is crucial for waiting out a major emergency.
Revisit Disaster Plans
National Preparedness Month is an ideal time to take a critical look at your building’s disaster plan. Learn about best practices for disaster management and make sure that your plan matches up to the latest advice. Perhaps your building has changed since the creation of the last plan, with a new addition or additional parking structure, or an influx of new tenants? I added a wing to the doghouse, and it’s easy to get lost in the place. You thought the Palace of Versailles was imposing…
Walk through every part of the plan to be sure it still makes logical sense for current conditions. You should also talk to tenants to ensure they have copies of the plan and to address questions and concerns. Work with the tenants to nominate floor wardens and other volunteers who can aid others. Offices that allow pets are more common, so there should be notes in the plan about helping four-legged visitors.
The disaster plan should not only cover ways to safely evacuate or handle dangerous situations, but should also provide a roadmap for getting back to normal operations. Tenants will want to return to work as soon as possible following a disaster, so retain the services of various construction/plumbing/ electrical contractors that might be needed for repairs or inspections following a disaster.
Focus on Communication
The official motto of the 2015 National Preparedness Month is “Don’t wait. Communicate.” My motto when it comes to table scraps: food on the floor, and new shoes is “Don’t wait. Obliterate.” The focus of the theme is to encourage proactivity among individuals to create and talk about disaster plans. For building managers and owners, communication is crucial to disaster planning:
- Alert tenants and other parties about how to access disaster plans and keep them updated about any changes.
- Use social media and other channels, such as mobile apps, to send crucial information about upcoming disaster threats or distribute communications after an emergency occurs.
- My communication technique is simpler. I bark at the mail carrier and whine when I don’t get ground chuck freshly prepared for dinner.
By simply communicating what is being done, property management shows they care about the wellbeing of tenants and understand the importance of transparency of communication.
Review the Details
In addition to reviewing your disaster plan, take time in September to check other areas of your preparedness. One of the keys to being prepared is to be proactive, which means checking to make sure you and your tenants have the tools, supplies, and information they need to best handle an emergency.
Here are some areas to check during National Preparedness Month:
- Check fire extinguishers for expiration dates.
- Perform routine maintenance and inspection of sprinkler systems.
- Review insurance coverages.
- Restock emergency kits with flashlight batteries.
- Review food and water expiration dates.
- Review evacuation plans with staff members.
- Mandate that “bring your pet to work day” becomes an entire month…and that it coincides with the food truck visits.
- Make sure designated “safe spot” meeting areas remain ideal.
- Monitor property management staff members’ knowledge about emergency procedures, including how to shut off water or gas lines, if necessary.
Remember that safety is a daily priority, so be sure to think about disaster planning all of the time–not just during September. 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.
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, two million broken bones occur every year in the U.S. due to osteoporosis. What’s more, most people proceed with fracture repair without ever realizing they have osteoporosis or low bone mass. Join us in celebrating National Osteoporosis Month this May by taking action to Break Free from Osteoporosis. The Break Free from Osteoporosis campaign encourages everyone to get to know their risk factors for osteoporosis and make the lifestyle changes needed to build strong bones for life.
At the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, our first priority is the safety of our employees, clients and the general public. As a company, it is our goal to make every attempt to eliminate the potential for accidents. Slips, trips and falls represent a serious hazard to workers in the security industry and are responsible for well over half of the nonfatal injuries that result in days away from work. In honor of National Osteoporosis Month, we have devoted this week’s blog post to an important part of bone health—preventing slips, trips and falls.
First and foremost, stay focused and alert for hazards that may cause a slip, trip or fall. Good housekeeping, quality of walking surfaces (flooring), proper footwear and preparing facilities are all critical for preventing accidents that could result from wet surfaces, occasional spills, loose mats or other hazards. I trip myself up regularly, probably because I have twice as many legs as humans.
By partnering with clients, security teams can help prevent slips, trips and falls to reduce serious injuries that could lead to customer civil liability lawsuits and expensive worker compensation claims.
Here are some tips to follow and recommendations that you could make:
Reduce the risk of slipping on wet flooring by:
- Encouraging the use of slip-resistant footwear.
- Taking your time, paying attention and making wide turns at corners while walking.
- Protecting entrances to employee areas with matting designed to absorb water.
- Placing paper towel holders, trash cans and umbrella bags near entrances to reduce wet floors.
- Providing slip-resistant stair treads on permanent stairs.
- Recommending installation of grab bars or railing in doorways and stairwells. Although I can’t use railings myself, they seem like a very good idea.
Report or correct the following housekeeping conditions:
- Debris, spills or wet areas on floors, stairs or walkways
- Mats, rugs and carpets that may become obstacles themselves
- File cabinet or storage drawers left open, especially on top levels
- Exposed cables or bulky power cords that are not properly secured or protected
- Burned out lights in work areas, parking structures or walkways
- Bacon on the floor (not really a hazard, but important information, nonetheless!)
- Mark hazardous areas whenever necessary. Use temporary signs, cones, barricades or floor stand signs to warn people passing by.
- Block off areas during floor cleaning. Remove all signs once the floor is clean and dry so they do not become commonplace and ignored.
For more information about National Osteoporosis Month, check out the National Osteoporosis Foundation website. We hope that this blog post will motivate you to begin or maintain a regular physical fitness routine for optimal health and aspire to prevent accidents. 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. Visit RJWestmore.com to read about the many ways proper planning can make a difference in numerous aspects of your professional and personal life.
Each October, our nation observes Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Based on data prepared by BreastCancer.org, within the next 12 months, some 230,000 women and 2,000 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer in America. During National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we recognize all those who have experienced the anguish associated with breast cancer and amplify ongoing efforts to improve care and bring attention to this disease. I’ve read that dogs don’t get breast cancer but we can contract tumors in our mammary glands.
According to the American Cancer Society, “Cancer starts when cells in a part of the body start to grow out of control. Cancer cell growth is different from normal cell growth. Instead of dying, cancer cells continue to grow and form new, abnormal cells. Cancer cells can also invade (grow into) other tissues, something that normal cells can’t do. Growing out of control and invading other tissues are what makes a cell a cancer cell.”
The American Cancer Society defines breast cancer as, “a malignant tumor that starts in the cells of the breast. A malignant tumor is a group of cancer cells that can grow into (invade) surrounding tissues or spread (metastasize) to distant areas of the body. The disease occurs almost entirely in women, but men can get it, too.”
- Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, exceeded only by lung cancer.
- One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during her lifetime.
- The chance that breast cancer will be responsible for a woman’s death is about 1 in 36 (about 3%).
- About 62,570 new cases of carcinoma in situ (CIS) will be diagnosed (CIS is non-invasive and is the earliest form of breast cancer).
- Boys and girls are born with breast cells and tissue which have the potential of developing into cancer.
- Of those diagnosed, about 40,000 women will die from breast cancer.
- The incidence of breast cancer is increasing in the developing world, possibly due to increased life expectancy, increased urbanization and adoption of western lifestyles.
Fortunately, there is good news. (Whew. I was beginning to wonder!) There are currently more than 2.8 million breast cancer survivors in the United States, including women currently being treated as well as those who have completed treatment. When breast cancer is caught early, treatments are highly successful and survival rates increase. That IS good news. In fact, death rates from breast cancer have been declining since 1989, with the most significant statistical decreases in women who are younger than 50. These decreases are believed to be the result of early detection through screening, increased awareness, and improved treatment.
10 Steps to take to reduce your risk of breast cancer
- Maintain a healthy weight. Seems like a good idea even aside from cancer risk.
- Stay physically active. I can always get behind this!
- Limit how much alcohol you drink. Water is always a healthy choice. I like mine in a bowl.
- Follow a healthy diet. I think healthy diets can include lots of bacon.
- Seek alternative methods for hormone replacement therapy.
- If you smoke, quit. If you don’t smoke, don’t start.
- Breastfeed your baby.
- Consider taking part in clinical trials.
- Find out if you have genetic risk factors. (The most common cause of hereditary breast cancer is an inherited mutation in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.) If you have inherited a mutated copy of either gene from a parent, you have an increased risk of developing breast cancer during your lifetime. Discuss possible genetic testing, which can identify mutations, with your physician.
- Schedule regular mammograms. Ask your doctor about recommended frequency
Whether you or someone you know has breast cancer, or if you would just like to support the effort to increase awareness about the disease, we hope you will find a way to “go pink on purpose for breast cancer” this month. To support the cause, we have “gone pink on purpose” on the RJW social media networks.
The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a convenient and affordable solution to helping improve and save lives. Visit our website for ways proper planning can make a difference in numerous aspects of your professional and personal life.
Major media outlets across the country, such as ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News and VetStreet.com, are reporting that this year’s nationwide cases of influenza have made it a full-blown epidemic. The threshold set by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials for any outbreak to be ranked as an epidemic is when the associated death toll reaches above 7.2 percent.
“While we can’t say for certain how severe this season will be, we can say that a lot of people are getting sick with influenza and we are getting reports of severe illness and hospitalizations,” says Dr. Joseph Bresee, Chief of the Epidemiology and Prevention Branch in the CDC Influenza Division.
As of last week, deaths attributed to the flu and pneumonia hit 7.3 percent, with nine of the 10 United States’ regions experiencing elevated flu activity. These figures confirm that seasonal flu has spread across the country—reaching high levels five weeks earlier than normal. The remaining two U.S. regions (comprised of the Southwest and California) report “normal” flu activity. From what I’ve read, “normal flu activity” seems pretty rough. I’d hate to contract the abnormal version of it.
To date, higher than average flu outbreaks have been reported in at least 47 states, including the deaths of 20 children and two adults. Particularly alarming about this outbreak is that flu season generally begins more toward the end of January or beginning of February. So this year’s predominant strain of H3N2 (Influenza A) not only hit earlier but is much stronger than usual. And while vaccine shortages have been reported across the country, Influenza A is among the strains covered by this year’s vaccine.
To reduce your risk of illness and help prevent the spread of the flu in your home and place of work, follow these precautions:
- Check out the prevalence of flu in our area, using the free government website Flu Near You.
- Get vaccinated. Take advantage of free websites like Health Map Vaccine Finder, which provides a map of places in your neighborhood which stock the vaccine.
- Wash your hands frequently throughout the day with soap and water for at least 20 seconds at a time.
- Use alcohol-based hand cleaners/sanitizers often to ward off germs.
- Avoid touching your mouth, eyes or nose.
- Always cough and sneeze into a tissue and then immediately throw the tissue away.
- Stay at least six feet away from people who are sick.
- If you’re sick, limit your contact with others.
- If you become ill, stay home for at least 24 fever-free hours after your symptoms have abated.
- Improve your immune system’s ability to fight off illness with daily exercise, adequate sleep and a balanced diet. For me, a balanced diet includes lots of bacon. But I’m not entirely sure that would help humans fight the flu.
- Use disinfectant swabs to wipe down items which harbor germs such as phone receivers, keypads, copy/fax machines and coffee pot handles.
- Business owners and/or managers should discuss additional cleaning methods which focus on daily sterilization.
- Don’t worry about giving your dog or cat the flu. Human strains don’t affect dogs. And, more good news—canine cases can’t be given to humans. (In case you were wondering.)
According to the CDC, flu symptoms include the following: fever, cough, sore throat, nasal congestion, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. If you contract the flu and have underlying medical problems, call your doctor immediately for possible prescription of an antiviral drug.
Antiviral treatment, started as early as possible after becoming ill, is recommended for any patients with confirmed or suspected influenza who are hospitalized, seriously ill, or ill and at high risk of serious influenza-related complications, including young children, people 65 and older, people with certain underlying medical conditions and pregnant women. Treatment should begin as soon as influenza is suspected, regardless of vaccination status or rapid test results and should not be delayed for confirmatory testing.
The CDC offers free print materials which feature flu recommendations, downloadable at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/freeresources/print.htm. When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, check out the RJWestmore Training System by Universal/Fire Life Safety Services. Our new Version 3.0 system offers the best emergency training system on the market.
Part 1 of a 2-Part Series (Next week, we’ll focus on manmade disasters in 2012.)
In 2012, we saw many natural disasters strike on a global level—killing thousands and inflicting billions of dollars in property damage. From hurricanes and earthquakes to droughts, heat waves and wildfires, events were widespread and severe.
One of the most prominent disasters of the year in the U.S. was Hurricane Sandy, which killed at least 125 people in the USA and 71 in the Caribbean, and inflicted an estimated $62 billion in damage. Much of the U.S. also encountered prolonged severe weather; including summer heat waves and drought which many pundits believe may prove even more costly than Sandy. With careful reflection, emergency management professionals agree the most important lesson learned is that people survive and recover when they take time to prepare. Another suggestion I have is that it always pays to store plenty of pork chops, beef jerky and steak just in case of a storm or if you want to reward your faithful canine.
- Heat Waves. The summer heat wave in North America led to more than 82 heat-related deaths across the United States and Canada. The intense three-week wave began around in June, when a high pressure system centered over Baja California moved into the plains, driving temperatures beyond 110 degrees. The heat spread east from the Rocky Mountains, causing high temperatures in the central states reminiscent of temps not felt for some 80 years. Sometimes it feels like our doghouse is 1,000 degrees. I’m going to have to check into central air conditioning, I guess.
- Drought. A historic lack of snow last winter in the United States, combined with several years of below-normal rainfall, produced a devastating drought through much of North America. Meteorologists say this drought was similar to the large-scale droughts of the 1930s and 1950s. Due to crop failure and livestock deaths, this prolonged, multi-year disaster could emerge as the single most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history. Make sure your dog bowl has plenty of water, too. You wouldn’t want your dog to feel like he or she is in a drought.
- Wildfires. Starting in early August, a series of Oklahoma wildfires burned 52,000 acres, destroying at least 121 homes and businesses. In Colorado, at least 200,000 acres of Colorado were swept by wildfire in June and July, said to have been sparked by both lightning and human activities. More than 600 homes were destroyed and five lives were lost during this month of fires.
All told, in the American West, wildfires in 2012 burned 30 percent more land mass than during average year by September. Computer renderings and satellite projections suggest the area burned by wildfires in the U.S. will likely double by the year 2050.
- Floods. In addition to the storm-related flooding associated with Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast, the southeastern U.S. experienced flooding in July, long before Sandy hit. Timely flood warnings prepared residents in New Orleans. But, while no deaths were reported, many people were rescued from flooded cars and water-covered structures. Power outages were widespread and many homes and businesses suffered damage.Folks in Georgia were also impacted, with flooded streets in Atlanta leading to massive traffic jams. Several drivers reported that they felt they could drive through the high water, only to find that their cars stalled and left them trapped in chest-deep water.
On the other side of the world, 37 people were killed by flood waters in and around the city of Beijing, China. In the rural and suburban areas outside Beijing, many more people died in as a result of flooding, which was said to be the region’s worst in 60 years. Elsewhere, floods occurred in southwest Russia in early July, near the coast of the Black Sea. Five months’ worth of rain fell overnight in southern parts of the country, leaving 144 people dead and damaging the homes of nearly 13,000 residents.
- Earthquakes. Iran and Afghanistan were struck with two of the most deadly earthquakes of 2012. In August, 306 people died from the 6.4 magnitude quake that struck East Azerbaijan Province, Iran. This earthquake was in the rural and mountainous areas to the northeast of Tabriz, and was felt as far away as Armenia. Earthquakes can be scary stuff. But just remember to drop, cover and hold on.
- Hurricanes. 2012 was an extremely active and destructive hurricane season, producing 19 tropical cyclones, ten hurricanes, and one major hurricane. The season’s most intense hurricane, Sandy, was rated a powerful Category 2 hurricane that brought significant damage to portions of the Greater Antilles and East Coast of the United States, causing damages upwards of 65 billion dollars. This is a lot higher than our turkey jerky bill at the fire station. So I can’t figure out why the guys complain.
- Avalanche. In March, several avalanches hit northeastern Afghanistan, destroying a small village of about 200 people. Most buildings and homes were completely buried in the avalanche. Seven people were found alive in the village, but three later died from their injuries and a lack of medical care. Three days later, 50 people had been confirmed dead.
The deadliest avalanche of the year occurred at a Pakistani military base. It was the most severe avalanche the Pakistani military had experienced in the area, trapping both soldiers and civilian contractors under deep snow. Pakistani officials report that 129 soldiers and 11 civilians were killed by the avalanche.
I think St. Bernard’s might be responsible for these high avalanche numbers. Maybe they shouldn’t be allowed to carry alcohol in barrels mounted to their collars.
- Thunderstorms. El Derecho was one of the most damaging thunderstorms in recent history. The surprise storm produced wind speeds over 90 mph and hail stones up to 2.75 inches in diameter. The storm traveled from Indiana, across the Midwest, and into the Mid-Atlantic states, causing 22 deaths and widespread damage across an 800-mile swath and left millions without power during a heat wave.
- Typhoons. 2012 delivered 34 different weather systems from early summer through late fall. The total damage of those 34 systems is estimated at $4.42 billion. In all, 506 lives were lost in the Pacific storms due to flooding and buildings collapsing in high winds. From the Philippines to Japan and Russia, some of this year’s storms generated winds in excess of 125 mph and produced widespread flooding.
- Tornadoes. Although the world’s high-risk tornado corridors are in the United States, Bangladesh, and Eastern India, tornadoes can and do pop up almost anywhere, under the right conditions. In February, a strong tornado struck South Sulawesi province in Indonesia, killing five people and damaging 98 structures. In April, a tornado struck a construction site in Turkey, killing at six and injuring seven others. Several homes were destroyed along the tornado’s seven-mile-long track. In July 14, a group of tornadoes hit Poland, killing a 60-year old man and injuring at least 10 others. In the U.S., 1,039 tornadoes were reported in 2012, resulting in 68 fatalities.
Check back next week, when we’ll cover the top 10 manmade disasters of 2012, in an effort to encourage building owners and managers to prepare tenants in advance for emergencies of all kinds in 2013 and beyond. When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, check out the RJWestmore Training System by Universal/Fire Life Safety Services. Our new Version 3.0 system offers the best emergency training system on the market.