Posted in BE SAFE, Building Evacuation, CDC, Disaster Preparedness, Earthquakes, Emergency Evacuations, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Floods, Health & Welfare, Uncategorized, Version 2.0

What is the “Holistic Approach” to Disaster Recovery and Planning?

Group gathered around a table, everyone holding a puzzle piece
The Holistic Approach to Disaster Planning & Recovery Brings everyone to the table.

What do we mean by a “holistic” approach to disaster recovery and planning? I’ve heard of holistic dog food, but even that isn’t good enough for me. I demand ground rib roast!! In broad terms, a holistic approach simply means the properties of a system cannot be described by its separate parts—the system as a whole influences the parts. Just consider me. A brilliant white smile and thunderous bark don’t define me. You have to look at the whole package.

With disaster recovery and planning, considering a disaster as a whole system promotes broader planning and better cooperation among different groups. For example, with flood planning, engineers could have procedures in place to divert water toward a historical or shopping district area instead of a  parking lot or open area capable of more safely handling overflow. If the building flood planners fail to converse with other members of the city utilities, emergency responders, neighboring properties, etc, they might make plans that would cause more damage to surrounding assets and possibly their own property. A holistic approach brings more information to the table, allowing better planned prevention as well as recovery. I like “bringing things to the table” as well. Pork chops. Chicken gravy. A squirrel.

An example of the need for a broader approach can be seen in the aftermath of the recent Japan earthquakes. As the production capacity of many Japanese plants is rebuilt and comes back online, segments of the Japanese economy were captured by other countries following the disaster. A holistic approach would have demanded better integration between emergency management teams and economic development individuals, who could have worked together to focus efforts on top economic priorities. This would have kept needed resources in the area following the disaster. I like to have integration with several groups, including the local butcher shop, a tennis ball manufacturer, and my favorite salon. That’s synergy!

For some areas of the world that don’t frequently experience disasters, complacency can prevent the formation of a holistic approach. For me, complacency is vitally important. Somebody has to occupy that grassy spot in the sun! Paradoxically, a major disaster can also slow down the development of holistic methods, as individual stakeholders often feel repeated disaster occurrences are less likely, despite the fact that this is not necessarily true.

Key benefits of the holistic approach:

  • Better communication is encouraged when different agencies or groups confront disasters together. Resources or labor can be pooled together avoiding costly duplications of efforts. If disaster recovery is too fragmented, then many cases of “left hand not talking to the right” can occur. Do people’s hands literally talk to each other? Does this occur during sleep? Why can’t humans have four legs like a normal animal!?
  • Major disasters don’t discriminate. They affect large swaths of individuals and businesses. A holistic approach encourages a true community response, where actions are taken by the community for the community, with less emphasis on special interest groups or people with hidden agendas. An example of this is the rebuilding efforts in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina, where groups worked together to clean debris and save houses as part of a broader longer-term affordable housing plan.
  • Holistic approaches mean a country, state, or city is more resilient to the effects of disaster and able to quickly regain former capacities. After my doghouse was ruined, I rebuilt. Now it can withstand a Category 5 hurricane!
  • The holistic approach covers mental and emotional states instead of just the physical safety of disaster victims. Such focus allows individuals to quickly return to society, providing an economic benefit to their immediate area.

For disaster recovery and prevention, a holistic method means more than just cooperation. It’s also a way to get more out of the efforts of every group and individual, which is a stark example of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.

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

The Second Line of Response

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

 

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

 

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

Second responders face multiple challenges:

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

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

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

Proper planning and learning the “Do’s” are the keys to managing the situation when disasters strike.  For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJ Westmore, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in BE SAFE, Earthquakes, Health & Welfare, Tsunamis, Uncategorized, Version 2.0

Japan Disaster: How You Can Help

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Technology in Action

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

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

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

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

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

For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJ Westmore, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.