Posted in BE SAFE, Disaster Preparedness, Health & Welfare, Managing Summer Heat

Is it just me, or is it hot out here?

PrintYou might be surprised to learn that, according to NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration), the number one cause of weather-related deaths in the United States is extreme heat. In fact, illnesses that are caused or made worse by extreme heat — including heat exhaustion, heat stroke, cardiovascular disease, and kidney disease — currently lead to hundreds of injuries and deaths each year. When extreme heat is at its most deadly, it kills by forcing the human body beyond its capacity to cool itself down, slowing the processes by which normal body temperature is maintained. Too bad people can’t pant. I find that doing so provides me with a lot of relief from the heat.

Unfortunately, the number of heat-related deaths recorded annually is rising. For example, in 1995, 465 heat-related deaths occurred in Chicago. From 1999 to 2010, a total of 7,415 people died of heat-related deaths in the U.S., an average of about 618 deaths a year. And researchers say the number of deaths caused by hot weather in England and Wales could nearly triple by the middle of the century.

In addition to posing potentially life-threatening repercussions at home and abroad, extreme heat is dangerous for a myriad of reasons. In fact, extreme heat can:

  • Overtax the power grid, due to the high demand of electricity for air conditioning units. Due to record-breaking temperatures across much of the state of California, thousands of Southern California Edison customers were recently without power for days. I guess they had to make do with candle light.
  • Lead to an increased risk of wildfires. In fact, wildfire season is now much longer — more than two months longer — than it used to be. And experts attribute this to extreme heat. In California, some people consider fire season to be year round.
  • Cause serious sunburns, marked by skin redness and pain as well as swelling, blisters, fever and headaches. More than simply a dermatological issue, severe sunburn can actually reduce the body’s ability to release excess heat and can foster vulnerability to other heat-related illness.
  • Produce heat cramps, which are manifested as painful muscle spasms, usually in the leg and/or abdomen. They are caused by heavy exertion in the heat, which triggers heavy perspiration.
  • Result in heat exhaustion, which is a mild form of shock, marked by heavy sweating; weakness; cold, clammy skin; a weak pulse; fainting, and vomiting. This usually occurs when people have been exercising heavily or working in a warm, humid place.
  • Bring about heat stroke, marked by a very high body temperature (105 degrees or above) as well as hot, red, dry skin; rapid, weak pulse; and rapid, shallow breathing.

Extreme Heat Corp 2Hot Weather Coping Strategies:

  • Cut down on exercise and other taxing activities during the hottest parts of the day. But I think it’s always a good time to walk.
  • Drink plenty of water. The CDC recommends 2-4 glasses of cool, non-alcoholic liquid every hour. And don’t wait until you are thirsty to start drinking. I drink bowls and bowls of water each day. Helps cut down on water retention.
  • If you need to be outdoors, rest in shady areas. And dress in light clothing.
  • Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15.
  • If possible, stay indoors. My doghouse needs central air.
  • Stay cool but don’t break the bank. Keep your thermostat at 78 degrees during the hottest parts of the day, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Help conserve natural resources. Try not to use major appliances during peak hours — washing machines, dishwashers, vacuum cleaners and other heavy appliances.
  • Close the drapes, shades or blinds to keep the direct sunlight from heating your home.
  • Open windows and doors in the morning and evening to help cool your home. I also suggest opening windows in the car.
  • Turn off lights and other electrical appliances when not in use.
  • Unplug what the CDC calls “energy vampires,” such as DVD players, microwave ovens, cell phone chargers, computers or anything else that draws energy when not in use. Energy vampires seem scary.
  • Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s, fans will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath, or moving to an air-conditioned place is a much better way to cool off.
  • Get out of the house during the hottest times of the day. Visit a cool place such as a library, mall or movie theater. It isn’t fair that dogs aren’t allowed in movie theaters.
  • Don’t ever, under any circumstances, leave people or pets unattended in hot vehicles. Temperatures soar inside locked vehicles.

  • In the workplace, along with air conditioning, preventive measures could include more sustainable options such as shading and changes in building insulation and construction materials.

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

Posted in Disaster Preparedness, Floods, Uncategorized

Would you be able to survive a flash flood?

flash flood firedogWith the advent of hand-held video technology, virtually anyone can capture amazing impromptu videos of weather-related events, including flash floods. Scenes of cars, people and animals being carried away by forceful currents serve as grim reminders that flash flooding is more common than you might be aware. Videos like that always make me wonder why the camera man is filming instead of trying to help!

NOAA defines a flash flood as: A flood caused by heavy or excessive rainfall in a short period of time, generally less than six hours. Flash floods are usually characterized by raging torrents after heavy rains that rip through river beds, urban streets, or mountain canyons sweeping everything before them. They can occur within minutes or a few hours of excessive rainfall. They can also occur even if no rain has fallen, for instance after a levee or dam has failed, or after a sudden release of water by a debris or ice jam.

Flash floods can be produced when slow moving or multiple thunderstorms occur over the same area. When storms move faster, flash flooding is less likely since the rain is distributed over a broader area.

flash flood firedog2Here are 10 little-known facts about flash floods:

  1. The national 30-year average for flood deaths is 127.
  2. Almost half of all flash flood fatalities occur in vehicles. So I guess I am reducing my risk of being killed in a flash flood by staying on all four paws!
  3. Rapidly rising water can reach heights of 30 feet or more.
  4. Two feet of water on a bridge or highway could float most vehicles.
  5. Flash flood damage and most fatalities tend to occur in areas immediately adjacent to a stream or arroyo.
  6. Highly populated areas have a high risk for flash floods.
  7. During a flash flood, low spots, such as underpasses, underground parking garages and basements can quickly become death traps. So move to higher ground, people!
  8. Embankments, known as levees, are built along the sides of river banks to prevent high water from flooding bordering land. In 1993, many levees failed along the Mississippi River, resulting in devastating flash floods.
  9. In the United States, there are some 76,000 dams, 80 percent of which are made of earthfill construction.
  10. The majority of flash-flood victims are males.

Turn Around. Don’t Drown.

One of the first steps to take toward flash flood safety, is to evaluate your risk for being caught in a flash flood. Since many flash floods occur along small streams, you can determine your risk by assessing your proximity to streams. Be aware that flooding can be caused by rain that falls several miles upstream and then moves rapidly downstream. Here are 10 more suggestions to keep you safe in the event of a flash flood:

  1. Since many leisure activities occur in and around streams and rivers, be aware of potential risks.
  2. Don’t play in flood waters. This is especially applicable to children and pets. Does that mean adults can play safely in flood waters? No!
  3. Whenever thunderstorms are occurring in the area, pay attention to rapidly changing conditions.
  4. If you notice a stream start to rise and become muddy, or hear a roaring sound upstream, a flood wave could be rushing toward you. Head to higher ground immediately.
  5. Never drive into a flooded roadway or through flowing water. Turn around. Don’t drown.
  6. Don’t walk through moving water. Six or more inches of moving water could cause you to fall and could carry you away.
  7. Monitor NOAA Weather Radio, or your favorite news source for vital weather-related information.
  8. Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood dangers.
  9. If caught in a flood, abandon your car. If flood waters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground if you can do so safely. You and the vehicle can be quickly swept away. Here again, I notice it’s safer to stay on your feet and out of a car.
  10. If you are at home when a flash flood hits, if you have time, secure your home and turn off utilities at the main switches or valves if instructed to do so. Disconnect electrical appliances. Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.

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

 

Posted in BE SAFE, Disaster Preparedness, Floods, High-Rise Buildings, Version 2.5

Would you be prepared for a Spring Flood?

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), floods kill more people in the United States than any other type of severe weather. Some floods develop slowly, while others, such as flash floods, can develop in just a few minutes and without visible signs of rain. Whatever the cause of a flood, taking steps to prepare will not only help keep your family, tenants, employees and pets safe, but can also help minimize potential property damage and reduce the costs of recovery. Most importantly…it can help save lives!

Although this year’s weather in the U.S. has been relatively odd, with far less snow and rainfall than what is typical, the risk of flooding remains high. In fact, severe winter weather could actually increase your risk of flooding no matter where you live in the United States. My wife and I have battled a few floods in our doghouse. But most of them were caused by overflowing water bowls.

FloodSmart.gov, which is the official website of the national flood insurance program, provides information to property owners designed to help protect assets in weather-related incidents. Take a few minutes to gather the facts so you will be able to prepare for these potentially problematic conditions:

  1. Heavy Rains—several areas of the country are currently at risk for flooding due to heavy rains. Excessive rainfall can happen throughout the year, putting your property at risk. Rain is sometimes refreshing. I like to walk in it even though it gives me muddy paws.
  2. Rain Following a Fire—after a wildfire, the charred ground where vegetation has burned away cannot easily absorb rainwater. This increases the risk of flooding and mudflow for a number of years. Any property which was directly affected by fires or is located downstream of burn areas are at risk.

To assess your building’s risk for floods, survey the area immediately around the property. Has brush burned? Is your structure located in a valley or in an area where water could pool? If you determine that your property is at risk for flooding, take steps to prepare well before the first raindrop falls. One of the things I recommend is to stock up on bacon at the first sign of severe weather.

  1. Ice Jams—these occur when extended cold spells freeze the surface of rivers. When a significant rise in the water level or a thaw breaks the ice into large chunks, these floating masses can jam up man-made or natural obstructions, resulting in severe flooding.
  2. La NinaUSA Today reports that extreme weather can be attributed mostly to a strong La Nina, which is associated with cooler than normal water temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific Ocean and an atmospheric flow that causes drier than normal conditions in the Southwest and wetter than normal in the Northwest. Extreme weather often leads to flooding. And here I thought La Nina was finished with her fury…
  3. Snow Melt—while heavy rains overtly alert people to the possibility of flooding, melting snow is a subtler, but no less significant threat. Even if you don’t live in Portland or Seattle, you could encounter a flood.
  4. Spring Thaw—a midwinter or early spring thaw could produce large amounts of runoff in a short period of time. Because the ground is hard and frozen, water fails to penetrate and be reabsorbed. The water runs off the surface and flows into lakes, streams and rivers, causing excess water to spill over onto dry land. Again, overflowing water bowls can have the same affect.
  5. West Coast Rainy Season—heavy rains from late October through March mark the rainy season in the western United States, bringing the majority of annual rainfall to the region. Each year during the winter rainy season, residents on the West Coast face the risk of flooding and mudflows that can damage homes and businesses.

The National Weather Service puts floods in three categories:

  1. Minor (little or no property damage)
  2. Moderate (some inundation of structures and roads near streams and some evacuations of people to higher ground)
  3. Major (extensive inundation and significant evacuations of people to higher elevations)

Regardless of the cause or severity of a flood, there are several ways you can prepare to handle and recover:

  • Hire a professional to install check-valves in plumbing to prevent flood waters from backing up into the drains of your building.
  • Store enough non-perishable food and potable water for three days. Although pork chops and bacon are perishable, I would be willing to take the risk.
  • Make sure a First-Aid kit and medications are at the ready.
  • Stay informed. Make sure your “go bag” includes a hand-crank or battery-operated radio. Use it to tune to NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards.
  • Develop a personal/business evacuation and safety plan. Also, familiarize yourself with your community’s preparedness plan.
  • Keep your automobile fueled. If the flood affects gas station power, you might not be able to get gas for days. But you can always do what I do…walk!
  • If you are driving, when you approach a flooded road, turn around, don’t drown.

These are a just a few ideas to get you thinking. For a comprehensive list of everything you can do to prepare for a flood, check out the free guide produced by NOAA: Floods—the Awesome Power.

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 2.5 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit www.RJWestmore.com  for more information.

Posted in BE SAFE, Building Evacuation, dehydration, Disaster Preparedness, Earthquakes, Emergency Evacuations, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Fires, Floods, Health & Welfare, High-Rise Buildings, Hurricanes, Insurance, Tornadoes, Tsunamis, Uncategorized, Version 2.5

2011 Marks Banner Year for U.S. Disasters: 5 Tips for Dealing with Weather-Related Disasters

RJW Shares 5 Tips for Dealing with Natural Disasters

President Barack Obama recently named New Jersey a federal disaster area as a result of floods that came before Hurricane Irene. In so doing, he cemented 2011 as the United States’ most disaster-prone year ever. The U.S. is not alone in boasting a banner year. At the Firedog household, JR ate more pig ears than any other puppy on the planet.

As of the third week of September, Obama had issued 84 federal disaster declarations at the request of governors. That is more declarations than in any year since the score was first kept 60 years ago. And there are still three months left in 2011! Since many of the recent emergencies resulted from extreme weather, we want to use this week’s blog post to discuss the ways that you can prepare for weather-related disasters. By the way, these tips might also apply to canine territory-marking accidents, as well.

While weather has always been a contributing factor to damage to hearth, office and home, natural disaster-related damage affects more people than it used to because of urban sprawl. When tornados strike open, undeveloped areas, dollar amount damage is relatively low. Centered in a densely populated area, the same storm will wreak considerably more havoc. I know a few dogs of a different breed who can wreak quite a bit of havoc no matter their location.

So how should urban residents and professionals who work in major metropolitan locations prepare for natural disasters? Here are some tips, prepared for you by the fire life safety training professionals at RJWestmore, Inc:

  1. Take cover. This is important regardless of temperature. If you’re outside in the heat, make sure you have a hat, sunglasses and lip balm as well as sunscreen in case you get caught in any situation that leaves you stranded for an extended period of time.

Likewise, in snow, rain or hail, you should make sure you have plenty of protection against the elements. Invest in protective, waterproof outerwear and make sure your emergency supply kit includes plenty of blankets and waterproof matches.

Also, one of the best ways to protect from loss is to purchase insurance to cover repairs to infrastructure. We are not experts in insurance. But it is likely that a standard policy will not cover flood damage. The only way to protect against flood losses is to purchase flood insurance directly from the National Flood Insurance Program. Policies must be in place for 30 days before coverage takes effect. For information, contact your insurance professional.

  1. Drink Up. One of the risks of any type of disaster is dehydration. Consider miners who are stranded for hours underground or motorists whose cars get stuck on snowy roadways in blizzard conditions. Dehydration is not relegated to desert environments.  A good rule of thumb is to make sure you include plenty of water in each of your emergency preparedness kits. You should have one in your car, one at work and a third at home, all in easily-accessible locations. This is one of my favorite tips. My wife and I make sure all of the bowls in our doghouse are full 24/7.
  2. Tune In. Another suggestion for your disaster preparedness kit is to include a portable, hand-crank radio to make sure you can stay connected even in power outage. Storms of any kind can knock out phone lines, electricity, gas, water and even wireless cell phones. So don’t make the mistake of relying on high-tech forms of communication to stay abreast of news in emergencies. Tuning in will alert you to the threat level relative to the storm, be it Winter Storm Watch, Winter Storm Warning or Winter Weather Advisory. There is also always the Twilight Bark, which works in any emergency.
  3. Stay Put. In many cases, you will be safer if you shelter in place than if you venture out in hazardous conditions. Of course, you must use common sense when deciding whether you should stay or go. For example, in the event of a tornado, seek shelter in a steel-framed or concrete building. However, in case of a flood, you might be putting yourself in danger by staying in an area that will likely be consumed by fast-flowing water. For detailed instructions about what to do in every possible weather scenario, visit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Weather Service website. All RJWestmore Safety Trainees have immediate access to NOAA information from inside our fully-integrated training system.
  4. Remain Calm. Whatever the disaster, you will make better choices if you avoid the temptation to panic. How can you remain cool, calm and collected when surrounded by turmoil? One surefire way is to prepare well in advance of emergency. Another is a shock collar. But I prefer the former.

If you own or manage a building, or know someone who does, do them a favor. Let them know about the RJWestmore Training System. Choosing our service cuts property management training related workloads by 90% and saves users over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES! BE SAFE.

Posted in BE SAFE, Building Evacuation, Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Evacuations, Floods, Health & Welfare, High-Rise Buildings, Safety at Home, Uncategorized, Version 2.0

Spring Flooding is On the Rise

Cartoon cityscape and housing symbols in Flood situation
Pay heed to flash flood warnings.

As rivers swell from snow pack runoff and rainstorms become more prevalent, many communities are in great danger of spring flooding. In fact, in western states affected by wildfires where vegetation has burned, heavy rainfall is more likely than usual to lead to floods.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently worked together to promote Flood Awareness Week, held March 14 through 18. Personally, I’m waiting for the announcement for “Belly Rub Awareness Month.” According to FEMA, floods cause more monetary damage to property than any other natural disaster. They offer a great flood-cost calculator tool that details damaged areas.

How to prevent flood damage:

  • Low-lying homes and low-rise buildings can be raised to literally stand above flood waters. While this is certainly a costly fix, it is very effective. I put the doghouse up on six-foot stilts, which would be great, if only I could climb a ladder.
  • Electrical panels and water heaters can be elevated, where feasible, to lessen potential fire and associated damage.
  • Landscaping and the overall slope of land should be considered. Owners should consider whether there is any way to divert water flow from flash floods. By the way, if you need assistance digging, I’m your guy.
  • Flood alerts should be heeded.
  • Waterproofing compound can be used to seal basements in order to prevent seeping water.

Other smart tips for mitigating damage:

  • Store important documents on the highest floor or on raised bookshelves attached to the wall. Don’t put them in basement storage areas! Also consider investing in waterproof containers which can withstand sustained soaking.
  • Fuel tanks can tip over or float during a flood. Cleaning up water is difficult enough, let alone taking care of 100 gallons of fuel oil. To prevent this kind of a nightmare, anchor fuel tanks properly. This will also lessen the risk of fires.
  • Check your sewer system for a backflow valve that will prevent sewer waste from coming into your home or business. Honestly, I would make this the number one priority. Yuck!

What are the risks to structures?

  • With good reason, water is known as the “universal solvent.” And, bacon is of course known as the “universal pain reliever.” Floods cause massive property damage by degrading foundations and crippling walls, making structures uninhabitable.
  • Long-term problems such as mold accumulation are very costly to fix. So take the time to adequately dry and inspect all areas of your building after floods to keep mold from growing. You might find it necessary to hire a specialist to check HVAC systems. Otherwise, damp areas can become fertile breeding ground for mold colonies.

Safety tips:

  • Don’t cross a flooded river or any area with fast-moving water. Cars and people can be carried away very quickly by rising floods. Don’t forget about your pets, either! Dogs and cats don’t weigh very much and need to be held close while traversing rising water.
  • Pay attention to flash flood warnings. A few minutes of preparation might save your life.
  • Be especially vigilant about using electricity during and after a flood. When in doubt, turn off electricity if flooding begins. If necessary, consult the power company to investigate your home or office building to ensure safety after flooding resides. So don’t run into your home and start flipping switches! You can maybe run in to get the beef jerky off of the counter. But that’s it!

Floods are especially damaging disasters as they present a host of both short and long-term risks to both personal property and individual safety. While large scale floods are not avoidable, smaller floods may be prevented if proactive steps are taken to minimize damage in order to protect loved ones and valued possessions.

Proper planning and learning what ‘to do’ are the keys to managing any situation when disaster strikes.  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, Disaster Preparedness, Earthquakes, Emergency Evacuations, Health & Welfare, Hurricanes, Tsunamis, Uncategorized

The Tsunami Threat

Cartoon drawing of a tsunami with sun in background
Are you prepared for the threat of a tsunami?

Another serious topic! Don’t fret. I’ll still throw in my legendary wit and wisdom. Although rare, tsunamis pose extreme danger in coastal areas due to their sheer size and difficult predictability. In the United States, tsunamis are a threat that could one day cause a major disaster. According to the California Seismic Safety Commission, 80 tsunamis have been recorded over the past 150 years in California. In 1964, the Great Alaskan Earthquake produced numerous tsunamis, including some that killed twelve people in California and four in Oregon.

Although they are often referred to as “tidal waves,” tsunamis are not generated or affected by tidal forces. In fact, tsunamis can do considerable damage even if they occur during low tides.

How Tsunamis are formed:

  • They are categorically caused by giant furry Newfoundlands running into lakes and oceans, causing massive wave vibration things. Right?
  • Actually, tsunamis result from the displacement of a large volume of water, which is similar to what happens to my water bowl when a toddler walks into it. How does he feel when I try to eat his grilled cheese?
  • Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and landslides can lead to tsunamis.
  • When an earthquake occurs in the ocean, two plates are slipping, which causes a release of energy. (Speaking of plates slipping. I’ve been waiting for a whole plate of dry rubs ribs to slip or tilt when they’re en route to the grill. If they fall, they’re mine!) In the water, this movement of plates is transferred into wave- energy.
  • Although the waves generated at first have a very small height, they are very long (and are referred to as wavelengths). In the open ocean, tsunamis often pass by unnoticed by ships.
  • Reaching speeds of up to 500 mph, the waves slow and increase in height as they reach shore. I swear I reached 501 mph once when I was chasing Whiskers. I almost got him.
  • “Mega-Tsunamis,” with waves hundreds of feet high, can be caused by massive landslides.

Detection Systems:

After the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, the Bush Administration enacted more tsunami planning and early-warning systems for the United States. Part of this effort included an increase in the number of Deep-Ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunami (DART) program buoys. Each of these buoys is anchored to the sea floor and relays valuable information including pressure and temperature data which are used to calculate wave height. GPS-based information is relayed back to a satellite and picked up by the receiving station. Don’t ask me how it works. It just does!

very simple line drawing of a wave
Refer to NOAA for weather-related warnings.

Implications for Building Owners and Property Managers:

  • Review tsunami inundation zone maps that are offered by Federal agencies. These maps are similar to flood plain maps and provide a clear picture of potential threats. In California, the State Office of Emergency Services produces these maps, which are increasingly used by municipalities for evacuation planning.
  • Read California’s Seismic Safety Commission tips on earthquakes and the related tsunami threat.
  • Be aware of warnings issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In June of 2005, a watch was quickly issued for the Washington and California coasts.
  • Consider your building’s structure to determine if it can sustain tsunami forces, which differ greatly from that of earthquakes.

We all know that knowledge and preparedness saves lives. Although tsunamis that cause extreme damage are rare, they are potentially devastating and occur with minimal warning. For coastal properties, implementing tsunami-specific information into disaster planning helps building owners and facility managers cover all the bases and remain prepared for any threat. Don’t rely on “it hasn’t happened yet” thinking. Plan for the unexpected!

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 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, Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Evacuations, Health & Welfare, Hurricanes, Uncategorized

Hurricanes: Prepare by Keeping Watch

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

Final Post in Our Series about Hurricane Preparedness

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

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

AccuWeather.com

American Red Cross

The Disaster Center

FEMA Storm Watch

FindLocalWeather

Intellicast.com

Local Weather Forecast Center

National Hurricane Center

National Weather Service

NOAA

NOLA

Weather Bug

The Weather Channel

WeatherForYou.com

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

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

WATCH vs. WARNING: THE DIFFERENCE

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

TROPICAL STORM WATCH

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

TROPICAL STORM WARNING

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

HURRICANE WATCH

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

HURRICANE WARNING

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

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

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

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJWestmore, Inc. Check back next week, when we will continue our series about hurricane safety and preparation. In the meantime, BE SAFE.

Posted in BE SAFE, Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Evacuations, Hurricanes, Version 2.0

Is Your Go-Bag Good to Go?

Is Your Go-Bag Good to Go?

Part 3 in a Series about Hurricanes

Although you can’t control when a hurricane or other emergency may happen, it’s imperative that you take personal responsibility to make sure you are ready.  This week, in our continuing series about hurricanes, we’ll look at one of the best ways to prepare for and recover after tropical storms and hurricanes, as well as other emergencies—putting together a Go-Bag. And by “Go,” I am not talking about the first thing I need to do every morning at the fire station.

A “Go Bag” is a bag you pack today and hope you will never need. You pack it in case there is a situation which necessitates an extremely hasty evacuation which makes it impossible to get to your complete emergency supply kit, or in circumstances that prevent you from carrying your emergency supply kit with you. There are a number of reasons why you would need to move in such a hurry including the one we’ll focus on today…preparing for a tropical storm or hurricane.

A component of your disaster kit, a Go-Bag should be prepared for each member of your family. Also, make sure each bag has an I.D. tag. You may not be at home when an emergency strikes. So keep additional supplies in the trunk of your car and at work. Or, bury them in the backyard, if you prefer.

1.)    Purchase a sturdy backpack or messenger bag.

2.)    Add the following (as your geographic, financial and physical situation allow):

  • First Aid Kit—a small but efficient kit, which should include a 2-week supply of prescription medications as well as pharmaceutical grade crazy (skin) glue.
  • Sewing Kit—non-waxed floss and u-shaped leather needle, which can be used to stitch up skin in an emergency
  • Feminine Napkins—since they absorb blood and can be used as a bandage in a pinch.
  • Cash—as much as you can spare. Remember that credit cards may not be useful for necessary supplies immediately following a natural or manmade disaster. Try to include small denominations and rolls of quarters which will be useful for phone calls. If you need somewhere to store that extra cash, give me a call. I’ll guard it for you.
  • Clothing—cotton is useless once it gets wet. So try to include thermal underwear and a warm hat. That is unless you prefer to go au natural, like my family and I.
  • Blankets—Mylar emergency blankets are lightweight and easy to stow. Fur is even easier to take with you.
  • Crank-style Flashlight and Snap Lights such as Glow-Sticks
  • Whistle—on a lanyard, so you can wear it around your neck. This is good for locating people in a crowd, at night, or in low visibility conditions.
  • Crank-style NOAA weather/AM-FM Radio. This is a good choice so you won’t have to search for batteries in an emergency situation.
  • Batteries—in case you have to power a battery-operated appliance such as a radio or flashlight.
  • Food—including protein bars and other non-perishable items such as K-rations, for three days per person. And don’t forget to include rations for your pet.  Please remember any food allergies and daily calorie/protein in the food you choose.
  • Drinking Water—most emergency agencies suggest storage of at least three days worth of water per person.  It’s also advisable to have a backpacking type water purifier, water purification tablets and know how to purify water with regular Clorox Bleach (8 drops of Regular Clorox Bleach per gallon of water).  Bringing water to a rolling boil for several minutes is also a reliable method of killing most microbes and parasites.  Here is a link that explains the process.
  • Goggles—protect your eyes! Buy heavy-duty “soft side” vinyl glasses with ventilation, fogless lenses and adjustable strap.
  • Lighter—don’t rely on matches, which can get wet. (Or, find waterproof matches, which are sold at camping stores.)
  • Other Fire-Starting Aids, such as a magnifying glass and magnesium “fire starters.”
  • Hand and feet warmers—if possible, purchase the type of warmers that are carbon-activated
  • Rope—has endless uses. Include various sizes.
  • Crow Bar—in case emergency pathways are blocked.
  • Big Trash Bags or Plastic Sheeting— use these to stow garbage, haul materials, fashion a poncho or cut open to build a makeshift tent.
  • Multi-Use Knife—such as a Leatherman, Gerber, Swiss Army knife, preferably with a saw blade.
  • Dust masks (2 per person)—with built-in respirator systems.  Use at least an N95-rated mask.
  • Duct tape—uses too numerous to list
  • Copies of your passport, driver’s license, insurance and any other important documents
  • A sticky pad, marker and a pen in case you need to leave a note for family or friends
  • A wallet-size photo of every member of your immediate family including children and pets. This is crucial in case you get separated and need to enlist others to help locate loved ones.
  • Antibacterial Hand Wash (non rinse), available at most pharmacies, supermarkets and convenience stores. These can be used to clean hands and sanitize wounds.
  • Comfortable, sturdy shoes and warm, thick socks.
  • Thick leather work gloves.
  • Local map
  • List of emergency contact numbers
  • List of known allergies including medications and food
  • Extra prescription glasses, hearing aids or other vital personal items
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste (or extra rawhide bones, which control tartar, too).
  • Extra keys to your home, vehicle and office
  • Special items required for children, seniors or people with disabilities
  • Your Go-Bag will be as individual as you are. Only you know the items you can’t live without. Whatever they are, make sure you include them so you are prepared for hurricanes, tropical storms and more.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJWestmore, Inc. Check back next week, when we will continue our series about hurricane safety and preparation. In the meantime, BE SAFE.

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

Hurricane Communications

Communication is critical in any emergency.

Second in a Series about Hurricane Preparedness and Recovery

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

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

But what exactly is a Communications Plan?

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

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

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

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

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

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJWestmore, Inc. Check back next week, when we will continue our series about hurricane safety and preparation. In the meantime, BE SAFE.

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

Emergency Preparedness Gifts for the Holidays

Gift Ideas for Everyone on Your List

Searching for holiday’s gifts can be a chore. I’m easy. Give me a rawhide bone and maybe a new coat of paint on the doghouse and I’m happy. For other people, it’s hard to find gifts that are actually useful.

What about giving a gift that is both practical and potentially life-saving? I’m talking about emergency preparedness! The best result of giving such a gift is that it gets recipients to consider whether they are prepared for emergencies. Maybe your gift will encourage someone to write down a complete emergency plan with exit routes, meeting locations, and a written inventory of supplies and equipment.

“Disasters can happen anytime, anywhere and the holiday season provides a great opportunity to ensure that you and your loved ones are taking simple steps to be prepared,” said FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate.” Our friends at FEMA put together a list of great gifts for the holidays, and we took a closer look at a few of them.

For all of these gifts, consider buying a high-quality item that will last a long time. There’s nothing worse than finding a defective piece of equipment during a real emergency. So be sure your gifts come from reputable companies.

Flashlights and lamps:

  • Essential for all emergencies, battery-powered flashlights and lamps allow you navigate nighttime emergencies, safely
  • Great for signaling rescuers

Disaster kit:

  • Every complete disaster kit requires a First Aid Kit that comes with an injury manual that shows you how to use the supplies
  • Other important items include Thermal Blankets and specially-packaged water and food

Fire extinguishers:

  • A quality fire extinguisher can save lives and homes
  • Even if your gift recipient has extinguishers, they might be very old and expired (extinguishers are no good if they don’t work when you need them!)
  • Read about the different types of extinguishers before purchasing

Other gifts mentioned on FEMA’s list include NOAA weather radios, foldable ladders, enrollment into a CPR class, smoke detectors, and car emergency kits.

With all of these gifts, I’m sure all of your recipients will appreciate them because they show you really care! And that’s what the holidays are all about! BE SAFE.