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 Disaster Preparedness, safety plans and procedures, Tornadoes, Winter Weather Hazards

El Niño & the Risks of Unpredictable Weather 

Tornado icon.The early January storms in Southern California brought not only rain and wind, but also a rare tornado warning for Los Angeles and San Diego (which would have likely rained fish tacos!). While the warnings didn’t pan out, meteorologists agree that 2016 will bring an increased chance of storms of many types across the entire country.

Thanks to El Niño, emergency management professionals across the country are gearing up for what may be a banner year for weather. In fact, citing a worrying El Niño storm pattern this winter that could rival flooding in 1997 and 1998, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has prepared a 66-page Severe El Niño Disaster Response Plan targeted to milder climates such as California and other western states. I would read the whole thing, but it’s hard for me to turn the pages since I don’t have opposable thumbs.

What exactly is El Niño? As the official mascot for RJWestmore, leaders in disaster preparedness training, I need to know such things!  Technically, it is the warm phase of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (commonly called ENSO). In simple terms, bands of warmer ocean water develop near the equator. This abnormally warm ocean water then alters the atmospheric conditions to produce unpredictable weather events. Here are some tips for handling several potential facets of El Niño weather and tips for preparing your building for severe weather. I also have some “Carolina style” BBQ tips if that is relevant? They always seem relevant to me.

Perform Storm Water Inspections of Your Properties

Conduct a property walk-through to spot water drainage problems that could be aggravated by El Niño storms. While on the walk-through:

  • Check drainpipes and other piping used to channel rainwater. Be sure these are free of debris to potentially handle large quantities of water. I once backed up a drain at the firehouse. I’ll admit it was probably too much bacon grease. Review storm patterns and associated damage from previous years to identify potential problem areas.
  • If your building has water pumps, ensure they remain in good working condition. Remove debris from strainers.
  • If storm drains are severely backed up, you may need to hire a professional who has tools such as cameras to quickly identify and solve the problem.
  • We’ve got some serious surveillance equipment in our doghouse—the “Cat Detectormatic 9000” and the “Ultrasonic Porkchop Finder 2.5.” They were great investments.
  • Test the drainage system for leaks. This is especially important in areas that house electrical equipment.
  • Does your building have ground-level storage or parking areas? Check the grading to identify areas which may be susceptible to flooding. Sandbags and other measures can help channel water flow away from high traffic areas. Whiskers and Tabby tried to help once by pouring cat litter into shopping bags; it didn’t work out.

Managing Snowfall

The Weather Channel’s Winter Storm Central details the typical effects of El Niño and La Nina relative to snow patterns. The hope is that the subtropical or southern-branch jet stream, typically turbo-charged during strong El Niño, will deliver long-awaited relief for at least some in the West. However, no one can equivocally guarantee that the drought will end even if El Niño performs as expected. The good news is that, so far this year, California is already experiencing heavier snowfall than normal, with several feet reported.

Winter City
How to Handle Snow:

  • Use chains. Necessary even if you have a four-wheel drive vehicle, snow chains provide the traction necessary to escape snow-packed surfaces, though they remain relatively useless for traversing slick ice. Thankfully, as Dalmatian, I have all-time, four-wheel drive and amazing stability. Practice putting chains on your car in the comfort of your driveway instead of opening the package for the first time while you are stranded at the side of the road during a blizzard.
  • Keep exhaust pipes clear. If the pipe is blocked while the car is running, shovel an area around it for the gases to escape, instead of allowing them to filter back into the car.
  • Work with other motorists. If you are stranded during a snowstorm, make contact with other people so you can pool resources such as food, water, charged devices, and other items from your emergency supply kit. Dogs do this at the dog park, usually by sniffing each other.
  • Stay with the vehicle. Unless you have veered off the road, stay with the car as it will provide a certain degree of shelter.

Prepping your Building

Rain, tornadoes, and snow from El Niño could lead to a wide range of disaster threats this year. Here are some tips to help you (and building occupants) survive and resume normal operations as quickly as possible:

  • Use backup generators to provide a source of electricity to run sump pumps and to provide essential services to stranded occupants. You also need electricity to check your favorite Twitter accounts. My handle is @RJtheFiredog. I’m well on my way to reaching 2,000 followers! Feel free to tweet and follow me too for some sage advice.
  • If applicable, paint your building (especially wood trim) with treated paint, which will repel water.
  • Conduct flood-proofing of your building, including the use of sandbags, attention to gutters, altering rooflines, and other fixes. FEMA has an extension section devoted to flood-proofing. I know I talk about bacon a lot, but just consider the use of congealed bacon fat as an amazing waterproofing sealant. You can use that fancy “caulk” stuff, but I’ll take bacon fat any day!

The effect of El Niño are global, with NASA predicting “weather chaos.” A theme of El Niño weather events is their unpredictability, with unusually-timed floods, blizzards, and the potential for tornadoes in unexpected places. Planning for the unexpected is a requirement for building and safety managers, so follow best practices to protect lives and property in 2016.

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 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 BE SAFE, Disaster Preparedness, Tornadoes

Tornadoes–Severe Weather

vector illustration of kawaii tornadoes which is eating houseLast week, we launched a series about preparing for severe weather. This week, we will focus on one of the most chilling of all severe weather storms—tornadoes. Tornados can cause flash floods, lightning, and winds up to 140 miles per hour. What’s more, tornadoes can produce hail stones as big as grapefruit. I don’t care for grapefruit. So I would rather say hail can be as large as a pork roast. Tornadoes occasionally develop in areas where a severe thunderstorm watch or warning is in effect, and they may strike with little or no warning.

Tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms. Spawned from powerful thunderstorms, they can cause fatalities and devastate neighborhood in mere seconds. Initially, a tornado appears as a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground with whirling winds that can reach 300 miles per hour. According to Ready.Gov, damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long. That’s a whole lot of damage.

Did you know that every state in the union is at some risk from this hazard? Admittedly, some states are at greater risk than others. While many tornadoes are clearly visible, rain or nearby low-hanging clouds can obscure others. Occasionally, tornadoes develop so rapidly that little, if any, advance warning is possible. Before a tornado hits, the wind may die down and the air may become very still. A cloud of debris can mark the location of a tornado even if a funnel is not visible. Tornadoes generally occur near the trailing edge of a thunderstorm. It is not uncommon to see clear, sunlit skies behind a tornado.

If you see approaching storms or any of the danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately. Most injuries associated with high winds are from flying debris. So remember to protect your head! You might even want to consider wearing a helmet at all times. Then again, that might be a little drastic.

Before a Tornado:

  • Look for danger signs such as dark, greenish skies; large hail; a large, dark low-lying cloud (particularly if it is rotating); or a loud roar reminiscent of an approaching freight train. It would be difficult to sleep through that.
  • Listen to radio and television for updates.
  • Keep a map nearby to follow storm movement.
  • Secure a battery-powered National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) All Hazard Radio.
  • Stay away from windows. My doghouse doesn’t have any windows.
  • If an underground shelter is unavailable, move to an area that puts as many walls between you and the outdoors as possible.
  • Move to the lowest floor of the building.
  • Do not stay in a car or motor home.
  • Sit underneath a sturdy piece of furniture. Dogs do this all of the time.
  • Cover yourself with thick padding, such as a mattress or blanket, and use your arms to protect your head and neck from debris.

Description of tornado states of alert:

  • A “Tornado Watch” denotes that tornadoes are possible for your area. Remain alert.
  • A “Tornado Warning” means a tornado has been sighted, or its presence is indicated by weather radar. In the event of an alert, finding shelter is imperative. Sirens are activated in response to warnings.

During a Tornado:

Outside

  • Try to get inside and seek a small protected space devoid of windows.
  • Avoid large-span roof areas such as school gymnasiums, arenas, or shopping malls.
  • If you cannot get inside, crouch for protection beside a strong structure or lie flat in a ditch or low-lying area and cover your head and neck with your arms or a piece of clothing. Crouching is another thing that dogs do naturally.

In a Car

  • If you are caught outdoors, seek shelter in a basement, shelter or sturdy building. If you cannot quickly walk to a shelter.
  • Immediately get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter. I really should get a driver’s license. It seems like cars provide lots of protection.
  • If flying debris occurs while you are driving, pull over and park.
  • Stay in the car with the seat belt on. Put your head down below the windows, covering with your hands and a blanket if possible.
  • If you can safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway, exit your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands.

Inside

  • When a tornado warning has been issued, you may have very little time to prepare. How you respond now is critical. And how you react depends on where you are.
  • If you’re inside a house, make sure you have a portable, battery-operated or hand-crank radio on hand.
  • Seek shelter in the lowest level of your home (basement or storm cellar). If there is no basement, go to an inner hallway, a smaller inner room, or a closet. Keep away from all windows.
  • You can cushion yourself with a mattress, but never use one to cover yourself. Cover your head and eyes with a blanket or jacket to protect against flying debris and broken glass.
  • Keep your pet on a leash or in a carrier. We will appreciate the extra protection.
  • Multiple tornadoes can emerge from the same storm, so do not go out until the storm has passed.
  • Don’t leave a building in a vain attempt to escape a tornado.
  • If you are in a manufactured (mobile) home, leave immediately and take shelter elsewhere.

After a tornado

  • Injuries can occur in the aftermath of a tornado, during cleanup or rescue attempts, from exposed nails or broken glass. Wear sturdy shoes, gloves and long sleeves.
  • Be careful entering any structure that has been damaged by a tornado.
  • Don’t touch downed power lines or objects that are in contact with power lines.
  • Beware of open flames. Use battery-powered lanterns or flashlights to light homes without electricity.
  • If your home has been damaged, shut off electrical power to avoid natural gas and propane tanks from catching fire.
  • If you see damaged electrical wires, tell authorities. Make sure your canine companions don’t chew on loose cords.
  • Cooperate with public safety officials and respond to requests for assistance from emergency responders. However, do not go into damaged areas unless your assistance is requested.

Measuring damage on the EF-scale

  1. You’ve probably heard a tornado described as “an F3″ or “barely an F0.”
  2. The “F” comes from the Fujita scale, developed by T. Theodore Fujita in 1971.
  3. The 2004 update of the system came with a new name: the Enhanced F-scale or EF-scale, which measures estimated tornado wind speeds based on the damage they cause.
  4. To determine where a tornado falls on the EF-scale, surveyors look at the damage in its wake. Investigators examine 28 types of free-standing structures to see how much damage they sustained.
  5. Based on all the damage, the National Weather Service can estimate the wind speed of the tornado itself and put it on the EF-scale.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The best way to prepare for severe weather is to be aware. 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 Burns, Disaster Preparedness, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Fires, Workplace Safety

Part 2 of Summer Safety & Fire Prevention Tips

It's BBQ Grilling Time!As we head into the heavy summer fire-season, we agree with FEMA’s assertion that the best fire prevention is fire education. To that end, this blog post is the second in a two-part series that focuses on summer safety tips. Last week, we covered fire safety before, during and after the 4th of July. This week, we will cover additional fire safety tips.

Barbeque Safety

  • Before using a grill, check the connection between the propane tank and the fuel line. Make sure the tubes where the air and gas mix are not blocked.
  • Also, before using a grill, make sure you have plenty of steak to cook. (My personal favorite.)
  • Do not overfill the propane tank.
  • Do not wear loose clothing while cooking at a barbecue.
  • Be careful when using lighter fluid. Do not add fluid to an already lit fire because the flame could flashback up into the container and explode.
  • Keep all matches and lighters away from children. Teach your children to report any loose matches or lighters to an adult immediately. Supervise children around outdoor grills.
  • Dispose of hot coals properly – douse them with plenty of water, and stir them to ensure that the fire is out. Never place them in plastic, paper or wooden containers.
  • Never grill/barbecue in enclosed areas – carbon monoxide could be produced.
  • Make sure everyone knows to Stop, Drop and Roll in case a piece of clothing does catch fire. Call 911 or your local emergency number if a burn warrants serious medical attention.

Campfire Safety

  • Build campfires where they will not spread, away from dry grass and leaves.
  • Keep campfires small, and don’t let them get out of hand.
  • Keep plenty of water and a shovel around to douse the fire when you’re done. Stir it and douse it again with water.
  • Never leave campfires unattended.
  • Never leave steaks on the grill unattended unless you want them to disappear.

Home Smoking Fire Prevention

Of course, the surest way to avoid a cigarette, pipe or cigar-related fire is to stop smoking immediately and discourage smoking in your home or office. Personally, I’m glad I don’t have opposable thumbs, because I think smoking is an unsafe habit. However, if you have contact with folks who insist on smoking, encourage the following BE SAFE tips:

  • The safest place to smoke is outside. Encourage smokers to head outdoors before lighting up. But please point them away from the doghouse.
  • Use deep sturdy ashtrays to contain potentially dangerous ash.
  • Before disposing of cigarette butts and ashes, make sure they are completely cool. The best way to do this is to distinguish them in a pail of cool water.
  • Keep all smoking materials out of the reach of children and puppies.

For More Information

The USFA has created a comprehensive Smoking & Home Fires Campaign Toolkit that contains free, copyright-free materials that can be printed and distributed. The toolkit is a comprehensive resource that contains materials for fire service personnel and others to use within their community.

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 workloads by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES.

 

Posted in Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Evacuations, Health & Welfare, Tornadoes

Lessons from the Oklahoma Tornado

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Our hearts go out to everyone who was affected by the recent tornadoes in the Midwest. Out of respect for the victims, we will not include my usual fire dog-isms in this post.

Since a category EF5 tornado ripped through several Midwestern states this May, leaving devastated communities (most severely in Moore, Oklahoma) in its wake, reporters en masse have questioned the higher than average natural disaster rate in Oklahoma. ABC7 News, in fact, went so far as to call Oklahoma “Disaster Central.” A writer with the StarTribune called the state “the Bull’s Eye for awful tornadoes.” And FEMA ranks Oklahoma No. 1 in tornados, No. 3 in floods.

According to a story in The Denver Post, the long-time Director of Emergency Management in Oklahoma, Albert Ashwood, has overseen 36 major disasters during his 25-year tenure with the state. The tornado was the 74th presidential disaster declared in the Sooner State in the past 60 years. Also noteworthy:

  •  Only much-larger and more-populous California and Texas have had more.
  • According to FEMA records, when disaster declarations are measured on a per-person basis, Oklahoma gets nearly three times the national average.
  • When disaster figures are computed based on how much land is in a state, OK gets twice the national average.

The reason for Oklahoma’s tendency toward disaster is owed mainly to atmospheric conditions, which position it right in the middle of Tornado Alley…the cluster of states in the nation’s midsection which are particularly prone to twisters. Another explanation for Oklahoma’s role as Disaster Central is urban sprawl, which puts more people in the path of disasters. Moore has 56,000 people. As more such suburbs pop up, the chances of homes being hit increases.

Since Oklahoma has been especially hard-hit in recent years, experts in emergency management say Emergency Manager Albert Ashwood’s experience and innovative thinking have helped ease recovery efforts in Oklahoma.

“(Ashwood’s know-how) makes all the difference,’ said Trina Sheets, executive director of the National Emergency Management Association. “Disaster victims can be assured he understands everything that needs to be done for recovery.’” As a result of Ashwood’s experience, search-and-rescue teams were quickly deployed, demonstrating that Oklahoma was well prepared.

Since Ashwood is arguably the most experienced emergency managers in U.S. history, we can learn a few things about disaster preparation and recovery from him:

  1. A good emergency manager is more of a coordinator than a first responder.
  2. Readiness will result in the quick deployment of search-and-rescue teams.
  3. A well-prepared emergency manager won’t run around like a chicken with his head cut off. Ashwood is well respected among emergency management professionals. 
  4. A well-prepared community will rebound. Oklahoma is the leading state when it comes to safe rooms, which probably saved lives in Moore, according to FEMA.
  5. When federal aid comes quickly, so does recovery. ABC reports that several disaster experts say Oklahoma is particularly adept at working the bureaucracy to obtain federal aid.
  6. Total recovery requires help from private sector investment in disaster risk management. For our part, the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is committed to equipping people to prepare for disaster. We’ve learned that prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. So we have created an interactive, building-specific e-learning training system which motivates and rewards tenants instantly!

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 workloads by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES!

Posted in Disaster Preparedness, Health & Welfare, Hurricanes

Hurricane Sandy Recap as FEMA & SBA Help Recovery

A significant number of RJW Training System subscribers are located on the east coast. Our hearts go out to each of them. If you would like to donate to relief efforts, consider giving through a reputable charitable organization such as the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Samaritan’s Purse, the United Way, World Vision or Operation USA. We are currently devoting RJWestmore blog space to lessons we have learned about disaster preparedness and recovery from Superstorm Sandy. This week will be our final blog post in our Hurricane Sandy series, focusing on statistics provided through FEMA about recovery efforts, to date, as well as ideas to help business owners recover following a disaster.

(We excluded my usual “firedogisms” in this post, out of respect for those who are still suffering from this storm’s devastating effects.)

According to a press release distributed by FEMA, the totals so far relative to how the federal government is responding and assisting post-Hurricane Sandy recovery operations in New York City is $449M, given to date for individual assistance (IA). Still early in the game, this figure does not include other hard hit states in the surrounding area. Experts predict that IA for Sandy will total well over $1B. When it comes to Public Assistance (PA), the total will require billions and billions of additional funding.

These are the FEMA figures regarding disaster recovery effort to date:

  • More than 204,000 New Yorkers have contacted FEMA for information or registered for assistance with FEMA. More than $449 million has been approved.
  • 31 Disaster Recovery Centers (DRC) are open in affected areas. These include mobile sites as well as fixed sites. And, to date more than 27,000 survivors have been assisted at DRCs in New York.
  • 1,249 inspectors in the field have completed 71,992 home inspections.
  • 1,085 Community Relations (CR) specialists are strategically positioned throughout affected communities, going door to door to explain the types of disaster assistance available and providing registration instructions.
  • 20 Points of Distribution (PODs) are open and providing supplies to affected residents.
  • 9 Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMATs), 1 Rapid Deployment Force (RDF) and 1 National Veterinary Response Team (NVRT) from the Department of Health and Human Services are deployed in New York.
  • There are 13 New York counties designated for individual and public assistance, including: Bronx, Kings, Nassau, New York, Orange, Putnam, Queens, Richmond, Rockland, Suffolk, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester.
  • U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) staff members at 15 Business Recovery Centers in the New York area are providing one-on-one help to business owners seeking disaster assistance. $1.9 million has been approved thus far in disaster loans.
  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is employing 220 long-haul trucks, three tugs and 19 barges to transfer material from temporary storage sites in Staten Island and Queens to the Seneca Meadows landfill in Waterloo, N.Y.
  • Individuals can register online at www.disasterassistance.govor via smart phone at m.fema.gov.  Applicants may also call 1-800-621-3362 or (TTY) 1-800-462-7585. Those who use 711-Relay or Video Relay Services (VRS) should call 1-800-621-3362. The toll-free telephone numbers operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week until further notice.

Thousands of business owners, homeowners, and tenants along the East Coast are returning to find physical damage to their buildings and property post-Hurricane Sandy. Even those whose buildings were not directly involved are dealing with the economic blow caused by power outages, damaged inventory, and lost profits from forced closure.

Whether you own a small business in the area affected by Superstorm Sandy, or your company is located well away from the east coast, you may be interested in the tips and suggestions provided by the Small Business Administration (SBA) for recovery from a natural or manmade disaster. Avail yourself to the myriad of resources now, before disaster strikes, so you will be prepared to react and recover quickly if an emergency strikes you and/or your business:

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. Our new Version 3.0 system offers the best emergency training system.

Posted in BE SAFE, Disaster Preparedness, Resolve to Be Ready in 2012, Uncategorized, Version 2.5

RJ the Firedog Wants You to Resolve to be Ready in 2012

With wildfires, droughts, historic flooding and several other disasters, 2011 proved to be quite a year for emergency managers. It was also quite a year for me. I rolled in a pile of something and carried the odor around for days. To help with what is expected to be a turbulent 2012, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recently announced the Resolve to be Ready in 2012 campaign. The purpose is to promote individual and business preparedness in the face of disasters.

Before we go any further, I want to disclose my resolutions for 2012:

  1. Gain between 10 and 12 pounds.
  2. Exercise less and conserve strength by napping in the sun.
  3. Chase various animals more frequently (despite the fact this contradicts resolution #2).
  4. Ask the guys at the station to cook things that will make my coat nice and shiny.

The good folks at FEMA are encouraging the private sector to be more self-sufficient in its management of disasters. After such a busy year as 2011, the reserves of FEMA and other organizations are sparse. The private sector can help itself by limiting losses incurred following disasters or by preventing damage altogether through proper planning and safeguards. I’ve been planning ahead for months. Our doghouse is prepared for anything and everything.

Many training materials and tips for improving readiness can be found through the site Ready.gov:

  • Multi-language communication materials are available in several languages including Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, French, and Hindi, among others. Why can’t somebody invent a dog-bark translator?
  • Voluntary Private Sector Preparedness Accreditation and Certification Programs are intended to help organizations to follow proven standards for optimal safety. Followed standards come from three sources— the American Society for Industrial Security, the British Standards Institution, and the National Fire Protection Association.
  • Voluntary certifications through Ready.Gov are the result of a partnership between the Department of Homeland Security and the private sector and are designed to promote self-sufficiency and a decreased reliance on government aid.
  • Disaster kit contents are detailed on the site, including the importance of following the rule of storing one gallon of water per person per day. I’m on the 1.5-gallons-of-gravy per-day rule.
  • Pledges can be taken at www.Ready.Gov/Resolve, which certifies an individual or business entity is taking necessary steps to be ready to act during a disaster.
  • Free materials including the publication Ready Business are available through the site. I offer a stellar tome called How to Succeed at the Dog Park without Even Trying.
  • Business Continuity Plans that will allow companies to resume business operations quickly are fully explained on Ready.gov. Companies are encouraged to consider work-at-home arrangements, backup data storage, and other safeguards that will prevent delays in business.
  • Disaster Planning Exercise training materials can be downloaded from the site and used to run real-world drills. Personally, I don’t like drills. “Sit!” “Stay!” Those are no fun. I have some commands for you people. “Get the leash!” “Drop that salami!”

Business owners and facility managers are encouraged to offer readiness tips, including:

  • Incorporate readiness information and products into any holiday parties. Perhaps you can provide a NOAA radio as a party gift. Or maybe a gift card to the local pet store?
  • Need a theme for your party? While “disaster preparedness” might not sound too exciting, you could build a fun volcano or rent a fake snow machine to bring some lightness to the party while raising awareness.
  • Perform fire drills during the holiday season to ensure tenants don’t forget about safety.
  • Hang up various print and electronic banners available for free from Ready.gov. My wife had me hang a bunch of posters in our doghouse including some of Lassie and Rin Tin Tin.

Resolving to be ready does not mean you have to live a constant state of paranoia or fear of disaster. Stop following me you crazy squirrels! It simply means implementing the right practices, products, or facilities that limit your building’s exposure to harm. Your tenants and their employees will have confidence in your safety features, which can prove invaluable in an emergency situation.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJ Westmore, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

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

Celebrate National Preparedness Month by Making Sure You’re Ready!

storms brewing over East Coast
What East Coast Troubles Have Taught us about Disaster Response

Recent events, such as Hurricane Irene, the east coast earthquake and this year’s tornadoes in Tuscaloosa and Joplin are critical reminders about the importance of preparedness. So we’d like to take a one-week break from our ongoing series about lessons learned from 9/11 to discuss ways that you and your community can prepare for natural disasters. It seems particularly fitting we do so now, since September is National Preparedness Month.

FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate kicked off National Preparedness Month last week with a visit to New York. He posed one important question: “Are you ready?” I wish I had been able to attend the press conference so I could have barked my reply.

As active members National Preparedness Month Coalition, we at RJWestmore Inc. would like to echo Fugate’s implied call to action. We believe the more people are aware of available online and real world tools, the more prepared they will be to cope and bounce back when disasters strike.

A great way to learn how to prepare is to learn from past mistakes. After all, that’s how my wife and I paper-trained JR. This method is effective because people are always quick to point fingers and paws and complain. But let’s take a different tact this week, by learning from what went right in the recent events on the east coast as well as Missouri and Alabama:

Hurricane Irene: For Washington, D.C., Hurricane Irene was not only the most dangerous weather system to rip through Washington in some time, but it was also a test of whether the beleaguered power company, Pepco, could claw its way out of the basement of public opinion by keeping the lights on and restoring them when they blinked out.

Pepco’s response was to make automated phone calls alerting citizens before the hurricane hit and then to restore power within 24 hours to 140,000 of the 220,000 affected customers. Fewer homes served by Pepco in the District and Maryland suburbs lost power than did those served by neighboring power companies. Pepco bounced back from bad PR by keeping lines of communication open with their customer base. Whatever line of business you are in, make communication an integral part of your emergency management plans. The twilight bark is an important part of my emergency management plans.

East Coast Earthquake: Immediately after the 5.9 earthquake centered near Mineral, Virginia, the FAA ordered planes at airports around the country to stay on the ground rather than fly to airports in New York, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., and Virginia where traffic was temporarily halted. Among major airports in the region, only New York’s LaGuardia continued operations throughout the day. But by late afternoon, traffic at all the airports was returning to normal, although delays were expected into the evening. Controlling transportation is crucial to effective disaster management. That’s why I trust my transportation to my own four paws.

Tornadoes: According to an article in USA Today, the Alabama tornado killed 41 people, devastated vital parts of the city’s infrastructure, destroyed or damaged more than 7,000 buildings and affected 10% of local businesses. It was part of a system of twisters that killed 238 people in Alabama alone and another 100 or so in other states across the South.

Tuscaloosa is said to be further along the road to rebuilding than Joplin, Mo., which was struck by a tornado that killed at least 125, blasted 2,000 homes, took out one of the city’s two hospitals, ravaged big-box stores and smashed several hundred small businesses.

Thankfully, funds for survivors and reconstruction are coming in from many sources, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other federal agencies, state and local governments, private insurers, volunteer and faith-based organizations and other non-governmental sources.

Although the rebuilding efforts will likely take years and millions of dollars, thanks to coordinated efforts of state and federal agencies, these devastated communities are on their way to recovery. Handling any large scale disaster, whether manmade or natural, requires coordination and cooperation.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives.  For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJ Westmore, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

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

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

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

Second in a series about 9/11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives.  For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJ Westmore, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.