Posted in BE SAFE, Building Evacuation, Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Evacuations, Health & Welfare, High-Rise Buildings, Hurricanes, Tsunamis, Uncategorized, Version 2.0, Winter Weather Hazards

How to Winterize Your Business: Baby It’s Cold Outside!

Icicles
Prepare for winter weather hazards.

 

For businesses located in northern climes, the chill of winter brings snow, ice and sleet. What’s that? No, I don’t need booties or a doggie jacket! Is that a reindeer on this sweater? Get it off! I already have a fur coat, for goodness sake!

The winter storm season got off to an early start with an enormous Midwest blizzard. The popular video of the Metrodome collapsing in Minneapolis is a vivid reminder of the potential hazards of winter weather. I ask the guys at the firehouse to shovel snow off of my “dogdome” whenever necessary.

You likely know some tips about winterizing your home. Many of those same ideas apply to business. But commercial properties present some unique winterization challenges of their own.

Heating and ventilation winterizing tips

  • Schedule an annual cleaning of your HVAC system. Neglecting regular maintenance can wear out the equipment and lead to high fuel bills.
  • Check the caulking around your windows and doors, to make sure warm air is not escaping. Another key for staying warm in the winter is to take lots of naps in a sunny spot. A good 14 hours a day of sleep is optimal.
  • Use a door blower to judge whether or not your building is airtight. A blower door uses a calibrated fan with a pressure-sensitive device to measure air pressure and identify leaks.
  • Hire a HVAC professional to check for duct leakage, in the same fashion that a plumber checks pipes for water leaks. This is commonly done with a duct-blaster, a machine similar to a door blower that pressurizes the ductwork in an HVAC system. Some companies even use a fog machine to inject non-toxic fog into the system to visually note air leaks. I have a lot of fog-machine related memories myself, from back in the day when Rex and I were in a Cheap Trick cover band.

Avoid the winter “slip and slide”

  • Install a programmable thermostat. Keeping the temperature at 64 degrees at night instead of turning it completely off does not save energy. Still too cold? Consider growing a full coat of hair, it worked for me! Modern HVAC systems work quickly and can quickly bring room temperature to comfortable levels.
  • Make sure sidewalks and building entryways are free of ice. While salt is the most commonly used method for melting ice, there are new environmentally-friendly alternatives including sugar beet formulas. Remember that traction is the key. So be sure to use traction mats or even sand to cover slippery spots.
  • Is snow blocking the fire lane? Consider safety first. And clear snow to allow emergency access to hydrants (I heartily approve) and emergency exits.
  • Watch for falling icicles. Although it might look like a scene from a cartoon or movie, a 20-pound block of ice from 30 stories up can be dangerous. Consider heating the building’s exterior or using glycol-based de-icing agents.

Preventing “popsicle pipes”

  • Frozen pipes are best prevented by proper insulation of pipes and fittings.
  • In cases of extreme cold, consider letting faucets drip slightly since moving water takes longer to freeze than standing water.
  • Pay attention to wet pipe sprinkler systems for freezing. Review codes which often mandate dry pipe sprinkler systems (water is not in the pipes until system operation) for temperatures under 40F.
  • Do not use a blowtorch or other open flame on frozen pipes. This causes rapid expansion which can easily crack your pipes. (Not to mention that if you do this you just might burn the place down in the process!)

Stop the thermostat wars

  • Squabbles among office workers about the temperature can cause tensions and lead to decreased productivity. I quibble with my friends over more important issues, such as who gets to sniff a new dog first!
  • Consider setting a standard office temperature and name one person whose job it is to adjust the thermostat. Be sure to communicate this standard with your employees. To make your case, relay studies on temperature’s effect on worker efficiency!
  • Set policies on usage of space heaters. If they are allowed, make sure employees follow strict safety rules including proper storage of paper. (Don’t store near space heaters.) Make sure employees and tenants unplug space heaters before they leave their home or office.

In addition to protecting the physical systems in your building, take a look at your emergency supplies. Can your building accommodate every tenant overnight or for multiple days in case of a blizzard? Make sure you have plenty of warm blankets, portable heat sources and extra food in case you get snowed in. Hiring a St. Bernard with one of those barrel collar things is probably overkill.

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, 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.