Posted in be prepared for emergencies, Building Evacuation, Earthquakes, High-Rise Buildings

Recent Earthquakes Highlight Need for Disaster Prep

The ring of fire hit hard by recent earthquakes is not the one Johnny Cash sang about.
The ring of fire hit hard by recent earthquakes is not the one Johnny Cash sang about.

The recent earthquakes in the Ring of Fire focus attention on the importance of earthquake preparedness throughout the western United States. I guess this Ring of Fire is a different one than Johnny Cash sung about? Important components for lowering the incidences of loss of life and property are to follow construction guidelines and retrofit structures while making sure tenants understand the need to follow safety procedures.

The recent earthquakes in Ecuador and Japan highlight the need for proper building codes and preparedness for individuals. These quakes unfortunately caused loss of life as well as property damage, but there are lessons to learn from each disaster, which could potentially limit damage associated with future earthquakes. And we are all about learning at the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services!Fotolia_76149984_XS (1)

Ecuador Earthquake

On April 16, 2016, a 7.8 magnitude quake hit Ecuador, causing extensive damage and leading to the deaths of at least 587 people. The deadliest disaster in the country since a quake that hit in 1949, it leveled several towns. Due to the upheaval, officials have raised alerts about the associated increased risk of spreading Zika virus and dengue fever among displaced residents. The earthquake destroyed more than 805 buildings and damaged 600 more. Building code enforcement in the country varies by region, and rural homes likely collapsed due to inferior construction materials.

Japan Earthquake

Fotolia_54095366_XSAfter the horrific quake and tsunami in 2011, Japanese residents are understandably concerned about earthquake safety and loss of life prevention. Earthquakes hit Japan on April 16 – five years, exactly, to the day as the Ecuador quakes. The main shock registered a 7.0 on the Richter scale. Whoever this Richter guy is, he was pretty smart to be able to invent an earthquake scale.

Despite the terrible losses from the 2011 earthquake, Japan’s strict building code improvements helped limit the damage this time around. The country made a concerted effort to improve codes after the 1995 Kobe earthquake and has emerged as a global leader in earthquake construction and retrofitting.

FEMA and Local Agency Involvement

In some areas of the United States, funds are available through individual states or federally, through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for several projects, including the completion of retrofitting. For example, an early 2016 California initiative through the California Residential Mitigation Program offered homeowners in select areas a $3,000 credit for proper crawlspace bolting and bracing of older homes. FEMA also offers programs and educational documents for commercial buildings. In Los Angeles, property owners are pushing for residential tenants to shoulder much of the costs of the county-mandated retrofitting due for completion within coming years. There are several viable options available to property managers and owners relative to mandatory retrofits. That’s a relief!

Building Codes Save Lives

In most earthquakes, the loss of life occurs from building collapse (and tsunamis) instead of shaking associated with the trembler. This underscores the need for countries in the Ring of Fire earthquake zone to follow recommended earthquake building codes for new construction and to properly retrofit older structures, when possible.Property market. Stamp sale of real estate. 3D.

Retrofitting buildings for earthquake safety involves several procedures for commercial and residential buildings. Commercial buildings might need external bracing of parking garages to prevent floors from “pancaking” due to stress, as well as supplementary dampers that convert motion into heat. I love pancakes, but not when they are made up of smashed buildings.

Prepare Building Occupants for Earthquakes

While the integrity of residential and commercial buildings is vitally important, the onus for earthquake survival and safety is shared by building occupants. Here are tips to observe for optimal earthquake preparedness:

  • Secure pictures on walls with approved adhesives, and anchor tall furniture to the wall.
  • Understand and follow the evacuation plan. Know when the situation (or building-wide alerts) call for evacuation versus sheltering in place.
  • Know how to turn off gas lines to the stove and hot water heater as well as proper fire extinguisher operation. This seems like important info even for people who don’t live in earthquake-prone zones.
  • Recognize the importance of listening to floor wardens and follow their directions.

Remember that safety is a daily priority. So be sure to think about ways to #BeSafe all of the time, whether or not you live in an earthquake-prone region. 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 be prepared for emergencies, BE SAFE, Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Evacuations, High-Rise Buildings, Tornadoes, Workplace Safety

RJWestmore Training System Tornado Module Part 2

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Tornadoes present a significant weather-related risk across much of the country. Last week, we began a two-part series about how to prepare for and recover from tornadoes, which is particularly important in 2016, thanks to El Niño. I sure hope El Niño won’t affect bacon production. That’s at the top of my emergency supply list.

As noted in last week’s post, the RJWestmore Training System has recently added a tornado module to further enhance our comprehensive training program. Last week, our post covered what to do to prepare for a tornado. The following post will wrap up our two-week series, focusing on what to do during and after a tornado.

During a Tornado

Vintage old fashioned radioMany cities use an undulating, wailing warning system that sounds for three to four minutes to alert the public about tornadoes. I know a lot of dogs who use a similar system to warn their masters of impending doom. If you hear this signal or are otherwise notified that a tornado is imminent:

  • Remain calm.
  • At home or work, go to the pre-determined safe zone or basement as quickly as possible.
  • If you are in a high-rise building, don’t stay in a large, open area that has windows. Instead, seek out a closet or interior hallway to take cover.
  • Do not leave the building.
  • If you cannot get to a safe zone or basement, seek shelter under a large, sturdy piece of furniture. I find that desks and chairs provide comfort as well as protection.
  • Steer clear of windows and avoid being hit by flying objects.
  • Listen to NOAA weather conditions.
  • If you are away from home, find a small, interior room or hallway and protect your head and neck with your arms and a coat or blanket. And if you’re a canine, tuck in your tail.
  • If you are in a vehicle, do not attempt to outdrive the tornado. But do not stay in the car, as tornadoes can significantly damage automobiles. Park the car as quickly as possible, well away from traffic. If possible, find shelter in a sturdy building or underground. If you are not near a building, seek shelter in a spot that is at the lowest level possible. It is a myth that an overpass would provide shelter from a tornado. It is far safer to literally lie low and cover your head and neck with your arms and a coat or blanket. But make sure you are far from trees and vehicles.

After a Tornado

Emergency Survival Preparedness KitStudies have shown that a great deal of tornado-related injuries occur after a tornado when people are walking among the debris and enter damaged buildings. Injuries can also occur during rescue attempts, cleanup and other post-tornado activities. So be careful and follow these tips:

  • Unless you are facing a life-threatening situation, do not leave the safe zone until the warning has officially been lifted.
  • Listen for emergency information and instructions as well as weather updates and the “all clear” signal.
  • Do a quick survey of the damage to determine major hazards, looking for fires, leaks and electrical shorts.
  • Anticipate power outages and use the flashlight in your emergency kit to light the way as you check interior spaces and during evacuation.
  • Take time to have a snack. (Okay…I added that suggestion. But I think that snacks are always a good idea.)
  • Do not use an open flame or turn on electrical switches, especially if you smell gas.
  • Establish a safe location to use for triage. Do not move seriously injured people unless they are in immediate danger of further injury.
  • When it is safe to do so, use telephones for emergency calls, only.
  • Avoid unnecessary movement, which could stir up debris and affect breathing.
  • If you are trapped, tap on metal or another loud surface or, better yet, use a whistle to alert emergency responders. Shout only as a last resort. Bark, if applicable.
  • When evacuation routes are determined to be safe and you are instructed to do so:
    • Evacuate
    • Remain calm
    • Do not use elevators
    • Proceed to the safest exit, using the most continuous handrail
    • Before opening any doors, feel the door with the back of your hand (or paw), to check for heat.
    • Proceed to your designated safe refuge area and check in.
    • Do not reenter the building until you are told it is safe to do so by building management and emergency responders.

Remember that safety is a daily priority, so be sure to think safety 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 Uncategorized

Shakin’ it in October

Shakeout 2015c

Each October marks another Great California Shakeout, a month-long event designed to educate people about earthquake preparedness. As an aside, the month also brings the worst holiday of the year. Imagine the horror of hearing the doorbell dozens of times in one night! Halloween is dreadful to pooches. Don’t you know we’re allergic to chocolate? What’s the point?

Held annually in California, and many other states, The Great Shakeout offers expert resources and an earthquake drill that happens at exactly the same time all across the state. This year’s Shakeout will take place on October 15 at 10:15 a.m. PST.  With more than nine million individual participants, the Shakeout will drill people from businesses, schools, museums and more.

Drop, Cover, and Hold On are the instructions for anyone participating in an earthquake drill. Lucky for us, our four legs provide us with a stable base. The exercise reinforces several actions to take during and immediately following earthquakes:

  • Cover your head with your arms and take shelter under a desk or table. Ignore the old advice about finding a doorway to stand under. Instead, move towards a desk or table (if they are close by). The next alternative is to move to the corner of a room and place your hands over your head.
  • Don’t try to go outside. It’s safer to be inside a structure, especially with the associated risk of falling glass and other debris that might shake loose during the quake. The ground during an earthquake is unstable, so you could potentially injure yourself if you move around too much. Keep your pets close by after the quake as they’ll likely be freaked out!
  • Move slowly away from large hanging pictures and heavy bookcases. I have several “dogs playing poker” paintings in the doghouse. Good thing they’re secured with epoxy-strength glue!
  • Once the shaking stops, take a minute to remember proper evacuation procedures. Leave the building in a quick and orderly fashion.
  • If you are on a sidewalk near a building, try to enter via the lobby, to avoid falling glass. If you are on a sidewalk during a regular day, then maybe keep your hands off the fire hydrants. We pooches occasionally like to “greet” the hydrants.
  • Stay alert for aftershocks which can approach the same intensity as the main quake.

Shakeout 2015b

The Great Shakeout website offers resources for groups preparing for earthquakes. These include drill manuals for business owners, with tips for creating and conducting preparedness drills. Here are a few great tips from the manual:

  • Simulate actual earthquake conditions by asking employees to stay in the crouched safe position for a minute or longer. I paid a guy five bucks to give our doghouse a good shaking. I’m glad I installed the rebar and steel beams.
  • Conduct meetings after the drill to discuss possible ways to improve procedures and communications. Adjust your business disaster plan based on this feedback.
  • Designate staff members to be in charge of certain activities after a quake. For example, the Shakeout is a great time to make sure your high-rise building’s Floor Wardens understand their job relative to emergency preparedness and disaster management.

Fotolia_76149984_XSWhile much of the focus on earthquakes centers on California and other western states, the need for earthquake preparedness is great throughout the country. For instance, Ohio and other Midwestern states experience occasional strong quakes. In fact, a massive quake in 1812 reportedly caused parts of the Mississippi River to flow backwards. A 7.3 quake struck South Carolina in 1896, and remains the strongest East Coast quake in recorded history. Dangerous earthquakes can happen in any part of the U.S., so building managers and owners should be certain quake preparedness is part of any disaster plan.

Remember that safety is a daily priority, so be sure to think about disaster planning all of the time–not just during October. 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 our system, or to subscribe, click here.

Posted in CERT, Disaster Preparedness, FEMA

Have you considered taking CERT Training?

CERT 6Following major disasters, it is entirely possible that first responders, who are first on scene to provide fire and medical services, will not be able to immediately meet the demand for services. Factors contributing to a potential backup of emergency workers and the public’s inability to successfully reach 911 could include: the number of victims, communication failures, and road blockages. A reason dogs might not be able to reach 911 operators is because we don’t have opposable thumbs. For all these reasons, it is likely that in virtually any major emergency, people will need to rely on each other to meet immediate life-saving and life-sustaining needs.

In emergencies of all kinds, family members, friends, fellow employees, neighbors, and tenants spontaneously help each other. Dogs are also quite eager to be of assistance, whether or not we’ve been formally trained. Thankfully, history has shown that people and pets usually rise to the occasion when major disasters strike. Such was the case recently, in the Mexico City earthquake, where untrained volunteers heroically stepped up to save 800 people. As the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) notes, unfortunately, 100 of those people lost their lives in so doing. The good news is that many accidental deaths and injuries are preventable, through proper emergency training.

Cert 4For the above reasons, in 1985, the L.A. County City Fire Department developed and implemented a formal program for emergency citizen training they called the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). I guess this is different than the breath mint with a similar name…Certs? The Whittier Narrows earthquake in 1987 underscored the area-wide potential for a major disaster in California. It further confirmed the need to train civilians to meet immediate emergency-associated needs.certs-spearmints

Later adopted by public agencies across the country, CERT training benefit those citizens who take it, as it prepares them to respond to and cope with the aftermath of disasters. Since 1993, CERT training has been made available nationally by FEMA, and is now offered in communities in 28 states and Puerto Rico. Many communities tap graduates of the program to form teams of individuals who can be recruited and further trained as volunteer auxiliary responders. I love being part of a team…especially one that’s designed to help save lives!

CERT members receive 17 ½ hours (one day a week for seven weeks) of initial training. The seven-week course is followed by full-day biannual refresher drills, and an opportunity to assist the LAFD at local incidents. In Los Angeles, CERT is provided free of charge to anyone 18 or over. Sounds like a great deal!

CERT Training is divided into the following seven sessions:

  • Session 1: Disaster Preparedness
  • Session 2: Disaster Fire Suppression
  • Session 3: Disaster Medical Operations Part 1
  • Session 4: Disaster Medical Operations Part 2
  • Session 5: Light Search & Rescue Operations
  • Session 6: Disaster Psychology and Team Organization
  • Session 7: Course Review and Disaster Simulation

Cert 2After completing the program, CERT graduates will be able to safely:

  • Search for and rescue victims.
  • Provide basic medical aid, by treating the three main threats to life: opening airways, controlling bleeding, and treating for shock.
  • Manage utilities and put out small fires.
  • Organize themselves and spontaneous volunteers to be effective.
  • Collect disaster intelligence to support first responder efforts.
  • Assist professional responders with prioritization and allocation of resources following a disaster.
  • Find lots of bacon. Okay—I’ll admit they don’t train for this in a CERT program. But I suggest they start offering it as part of the curriculum.

To find a team and/or begin CERT training in your area:

  1. Complete a CERT program, take advantage of an interactive web-based class or search the FEMA website by zip code for classes taught on location.
  2. Complete a CERT Train-the-Trainer (TTT) course conducted by a State Training Office for Emergency Management or the Emergency Management Institute, in order to learn the training techniques used by the LAFD.
  3. Identify the program goals that CERT would meet and the resources necessary to conduct the program in your area.
  4. Seek approval from appointed and elected officials to use CERT as a means to prepare citizens to care for themselves during a disaster, when services may not be adequate.
  5. Identify and recruit potential participants. Naturals for CERT are community groups, business and industry workers and local government workers.
  6. Train CERT instructors.
  7. Conduct CERT sessions.
  8. Conduct refresher training and exercises with CERTs.

In recognition for training completion, CERT members should receive ID cards, vests and helmets. Graduates should also regularly practice their skills. To this end, trainers should offer periodic refresher sessions to reinforce basic training. CERT teams can also sponsor events such as drills, picnics, neighborhood clean-ups, and disaster education fairs.

We hope that this blog post will help you take steps to prepare yourself for potential disasters, and that you might consider starting or joining a CERT in your area. To find a team or pursue CERT training, enter your zip code in the Citizen Corps section of the FEMA website. Another convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for emergencies 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.

Posted in Building Evacuation, Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Evacuations, Uncategorized

Evacuation Elevators Aid in Rescue Efforts

Elevators can be used for safe emergency escape.

They go up. They go down. They go up. They go down. We aren’t talking about yo-yos or those pesky squirrels. Today’s topic is elevators. A vital part of your building that is often taken for granted; elevators have amazing durability and safety records. Folks have even created lighthearted lists of “elevator etiquette.” Unfortunately one of these etiquette rules is likely entitled, “Don’t bring Fido onboard.” A new type of elevator for high-rise buildings transforms them from people- and equipment-movers to potentially life-saving machines.

A comprehensive study conducted on evacuation methods after the September 11 attacks showed that thousands of lives were spared by tenants’ usage of elevators as methods of evacuation. This conclusion, which flies in the face of conventional wisdom, has prompted the International Code Council to recommend code changes that will require evacuation elevators for buildings that are 420 feet and higher.

Benefits of Evacuation Elevators:

  • Tenants can simply exit the building more quickly by using a combination of elevators and stairwells, which greatly reduces the risk of personal injury.
  • Tenants with limited mobility do not need to be carried down flights of stairs, which speeds evacuation traffic flow for everyone. Moreover, anyone with a seeing-eye dog will be able to get out fast!
  • Firefighters can use elevators to quickly access higher-floor fires, allowing them time to prevent fires from spreading.

Issues for Building Management to Consider:

  • Evacuation elevators should be clearly delineated from normal transport or freight elevators by clear signage and through evacuation training.
  • Elevators are only designed to be used before what is known as “Phase 1,” which is the point when smoke or other danger has been detected and elevators are called back to either the ground or other landing floor.
  • The NFPA Life Safety Code has been changed to reflect evacuation elevator usage, and includes guidelines on elevator location, lobby size and restricting sprinklers from elevator machine rooms.
  • A key design feature of evacuation elevators is their ability to keep out smoke and water. Smoke is only good when used as a flavor for rawhide bones, not in an elevator! Building owners should carefully review all applicable codes before beginning construction.
  • Owners and facility managers will have to work hard to convince tenants that using the elevators is safe, in spite of a lifetime of warnings to “only use the stairs.”

For building owners with high-rise properties, the addition of evacuation elevators could add yet another layer to tenant safety and building protection strategies. The installation and usage of these elevators should follow strict fire and engineering codes and be thoroughly tested by the appropriate agencies before being put into service. I tried to fashion a pulley elevator in my two-story doghouse. Let’s just say it was not a success.

Check out our blog next week, which will be the first in a series about fire safety and prevention – which are, of course, my favorite topics!

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. 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 Building Evacuation, Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Evacuations, Fire Safety, Uncategorized

New High-Rise Codes

High-Rise Safety Codes Can Save Your Life

Let’s face it. Code talk is dry. Even though I’m in the business of fire safety and disaster prevention, reading through codes and the like puts me to sleep. But sometimes we need to talk code because knowing safety-related stuff like this will help protect you whether you own, live or work in a building. And, besides those of us who live in doghouses, this covers us all.

So here are the new codes, in brief:

  • All of the guidelines are meant for high-rise buildings, which have floors located more than 75 feet above the lowest level of fire department vehicle access.
  • Impact-resistant walls in elevators should protect from potential fire-related blasts or projectiles.
  • New requirements focus on extra redundancies to sprinkler risers. (If there’s anything I hate, it is redundant redundancies.)
  • A minimum of two water mains must be connected to the fire pump water supply.
  • New Smoke removal requirements are set for buildings in the cleanup phase after a fire.
  • Electrically-powered fire pumps must be under an emergency power load.
  • To decrease the risk of injuries, new requirements aid the movement of occupants out of buildings. Knowing how to safety exit a building in case of emergency makes sense to me.
  • New rules regarding the required distance between exit stairway enclosures have been established.
  • During emergencies, official personnel need to use stairways. So new guidelines allow for additional exits.
  • Luminous egress path markings will ensure that building occupants know exactly where to go. Lighting the way should cut down on confusion in cases of emergency.
  • New requirements for a fire service access elevator will give firefighters a safe and fast way to reach staging areas. This should help cut down on the time it takes to fight fires.
  • Occupant elevators can be used for evacuation, if the new, specific requirements are met.
  • Also good news, completion of the requirements may allow exemption from the additional stairway requirement mentioned earlier.

Be sure to review the detailed requirements before implementing changes. Visit the International Code Council website for more information or check out the complete list of new requirements at RJ Westmore Inc. RJ Westmore is a credible source for property managers and owners to learn about building-related issues. Refer your colleagues to our blog so they can also stay informed about the latest industry trends. And, no matter how dry the code may be, make sure you do what it takes to BE SAFE.