Posted in be prepared for emergencies, BE SAFE, Floods, safety plans and procedures, Uncategorized

Landslides and Mudslides

Landslide & Mudslide SafetyPart 3 in a 3-Part Series about Severe Weather

 Weather-related disasters lead to devastating loss of life and cost billions of dollars each year. The first post in our three-part series about severe weather disasters focused on extreme heat. The second entry discussed floods. This last post will tackle landslides and mudslides, since they so often accompany other severe-weather events. My son, JR, likes slides at the park but these slides don’t sound like fun. Continue reading “Landslides and Mudslides”

Posted in be prepared for emergencies, BE SAFE, Children in Crisis, dehydration, Disaster Preparedness, Health & Welfare, How to stay healthy, Uncategorized

Extreme Heat: Severe Weather Disasters

Extreme Weather Disasters

Part 1 in a Series

Extreme weather causes some of the most devastating natural disasters known to man and beast. Already this year, the United States has faced six weather and climate-related major disaster events, which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports have resulted in 36 deaths and economic losses exceeding one billion dollars. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) breaks these disasters into eight major categories: extreme heat, floods, hurricanes, landslides and mudslides, lightning, tornadoes, tsunamis, and winter weather. I’m not sure why cats aren’t included on the list, since they’re the number one cause of disasters in my world. This week, we will discuss extreme heat. Check back for future posts, which will conclude our series about extreme weather-related disasters. Continue reading “Extreme Heat: Severe Weather Disasters”

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

How to #BESAFE in Lightning & Thunderstorms

Lightning Firedog 8-04-14Out of respect for the family and friends of Nick Fagnano, we will dispense with my usual light-hearted “firedogisms” in this post. We wish the best for everyone who was affected by the recent thunder and lightning storm on Venice Beach.

The odds of being struck by lightning are roughly 300,000-600,000 to one. Unfortunately, that is little consolation to the family of a USC student who fell victim to a rare lightning storm that hit Venice Beach on Monday, July 28. When a large bolt struck the water, it injured 13 and killed 20-year-old Nick Fagnano, who was said to have been finished swimming for the day and merely rinsing off in the ocean. Fagnano’s tragic death is a good reminder to prepare for thunder and lightning, in order to #BESAFE.

Here are 10 little-known facts about thunderstorms and lightning:

  1. All thunderstorms are dangerous because every thunderstorm produces lightning, although the lightning produced is not always easily detectable.
  2. Dry thunderstorms that do not produce rain that reaches the ground are most prevalent in the western United States. In this type of thunderstorm, although falling raindrops evaporate; lightning can still reach the ground and could start wildfires.
  3. About 10 percent of thunderstorms are classified as severe (producing hail at least an inch or larger in diameter, with winds of 58 miles per hour or higher or which produce a tornado).
  4. On average in the U.S., lightning kills 51 people and injures hundreds more.
  5. While lightning fatalities have decreased over the past 30 years, lightning continues to be one of the top three storm-related killers in the U.S.
  6. Thunderstorms and lightning may occur singly or in clusters.
  7. Although most lightning victims survive, people struck by lightning often report a variety of associated long-term, debilitating symptoms.
  8. Thunderstorms typically produce heavy rain for a brief period (anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour).
  9. Warm, humid conditions are highly favorable for thunderstorm development.
  10. Most lightning deaths and injuries occur when people are caught outdoors in the summer months during the afternoon and evening.

lightning firedog 8-04-14b

So how can you prepare for thunderstorms and lighting? First, learn the terminology so you will be able to act when warnings are issued:

Severe Thunderstorm Watch – Alerts you as to when and where severe thunderstorms are likely to occur. Watch the sky and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio or television for information.

Severe Thunderstorm Warning – Issued when severe weather has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar. Warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property to those in the path of the storm.

To prepare for an emergency of any kind, assemble an emergency kit and make a family communications plan. In the event of an impending thunderstorm, take these safety steps:

In Advance of the Storm:

  • Remove dead or rotting trees and branches that could fall and cause injury or damage during a severe thunderstorm.
  • Shutter windows and close outside doors. If shutters are not available, close window blinds, shades or curtains.
  • Secure outdoor objects that could blow away or cause damage.
  • Unplug electronic equipment.
  • Postpone outdoor activities.

During the Storm:

  • Use a battery-operated NOAA Weather Radio for updates from local officials.
  • Avoid contact with plumbing. Do not wash your hands, do not take a shower, do not wash dishes, and do not do laundry. Plumbing and bathroom fixtures can conduct electricity.
  • Avoid contact with corded phones and devices including those plugged into electricity for recharging.  Cordless and wireless phones not connected to wall outlets are OK to use.
  • Avoid contact with electrical equipment or cords. Unplug appliances and other electrical items such as computers and turn off air conditioners.
  • Shelter inside a home, building, or hard top automobile (not a convertible). Although you may be injured if lightning strikes your car, you are safer inside a vehicle than outside because the steel frame of a hard-topped vehicle provides increased protection (provided you are not touching metal).
  • Stay away from windows and doors, and off of porches.
  • Do not lie on concrete floors.
  • Don’t lean against concrete walls.
  • Stay away from natural lightning rods such as tall, isolated trees in open areas.
  • Steer clear of hilltops, open fields, the beach and boats on the water.
  • Avoid contact with metal of any kind—tractors, farm equipment, motorcycles, golf carts, golf clubs and bicycles.

While following the above safety suggestions won’t guarantee your safety, careful preparation and planning will put you in a much safer position if thunder or lightning threaten you and your loved ones. 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, Hurricanes, Winter Weather Hazards

More about Severe Weather: Hurricanes

hurricane fiiredogThree weeks ago, we began a series about severe weather. We interrupted that series to discuss earthquake safety. This week, we will resume our severe weather series, focusing on a type of tropical cyclone or severe tropical storm that forms in the southern Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, or in the eastern Pacific Ocean. And we aren’t talking about disasters of the feline variety-I’m talking hurricanes. Hurricane hazards come in many forms, including storm surge, heavy rainfall, inland flooding, high winds, tornadoes, and rip currents.

All Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastal areas are subject to hurricanes. Unfortunately, cat disasters occur all over the globe. Each year, parts of the Southwest U.S. and the Pacific Coast also experience heavy rains and floods from hurricanes spawned off Mexico.

Vital Stats about Hurricanes, which can:

  • Cause catastrophic damage to coastlines and several hundred miles inland.
  • Produce winds exceeding 155 miles per hour as well as tornadoes and microbursts.
  • Create storm surges along the coast and cause extensive damage from heavy rainfall.
  • Cause floods and flying debris which are often the deadly and destructive.
  • Slow moving hurricanes traveling into mountainous regions tend to produce especially heavy rain.
  • Excessive rain can trigger landslides or mud slides.
  • Flash flooding can occur due to intense rainfall.

History teaches that a lack of hurricane awareness and preparation are common threads among all major hurricane disasters. The National Weather Service is responsible for protecting life and property through issuance of timely watches and warnings, but it is essential that you and your family and business associates be ready before a storm approaches. Getting to know your vulnerability and what actions you should take, you can reduce the effects of a hurricane disaster.

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Ten Steps to Prepare for a Hurricane:

  1. Get to know your surroundings at home and at work. You never know when and where an emergency will strike.
  2. Build three emergency kits—for work, at home and in the trunk of your vehicle.
  3. Make family and corporate communications plans.
  4. In high-rise buildings, be prepared to take shelter on or below the 10th floor.
  5. Consider installing an emergency generator.
  6. Cover windows. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection.
  7. Install straps or additional clips to securely fasten the roof to the frame.
  8. Trim leaves and branches to make sure trees and shrubs are wind resistant.
  9. Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts.
  10. Bring outdoor furniture, decorations and garbage cans inside.

Ten Ways to Cope During a Hurricane:

  1. Listen to the radio or TV for information.
  2. Only evacuate if you are directed by local authorities to do so.
  3. Do not use the phone, except for serious emergencies.
  4. Close all interior doors and windows – secure and brace external doors.
  5. Turn off propane tanks.
  6. If instructed to do so, turn off utilities. Otherwise, turn the refrigerator thermostat to the coldest setting and keep the doors closed.
  7. Fill the bathtub and other larger containers with water to ensure a sufficient supply of for sanitary uses such as cleaning and flushing toilets.
  8. Stay and away from windows and glass doors.
  9. Take refuge in a small interior room, closet or hallway on the lowest level.
  10. Lie on the floor under a table or sturdy, secure object.

Ten Steps to Take After a Hurricane:

  1. Listen to a NOAA Weather Radio or the local news and updates.
  2. If you have become separated from your family, use your family communications plan or contact the American Red Cross.
  3. Stay alert for extended rainfall and associated flooding, even after the hurricane or tropical storm has ended.
  4. If you were instructed to evacuate, return home only when officials say it is safe.
  5. If you cannot return home and have immediate housing needs. Text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area (example: shelter 12345).
  6. For those who have longer-term housing needs, FEMA offers several types of assistance, including services and grants to help people repair their homes and find replacement housing. Apply for assistance or search for information about housing rental resources
  7. Drive only if necessary and avoid flooded roads and washed out bridges.
  8. Steer clear of loose or dangling power lines and report them immediately to appropriate utility.
  9. Use battery-powered flashlights in the dark. Never use candles.
  10. Check refrigerated food for spoilage and make sure tap water has not been contaminated. When in doubt, throw it out.

Subscribers to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services can take advantage of applicable educational tutorials including instructions for power outages as well as medical emergencies. 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. Our system 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, Emergency Evacuations

Preparing for and Recovering from Mudslides

Mouvements de terrain - Effondrement souterrainWeeks of heavy rain in the Pacific Northwest have wreaked havoc on roads and structures. Particularly troubling are the massive mudslides which hit Washington State, leaving108 missing and at least eight dead and destroying 30 homes. According to the New York Daily News, “The rescue mission was halted as darkness set in on Sunday because conditions were deemed too dangerous.”

As search and rescue efforts continue, we would like to resume our severe weather series by focusing this week’s blog post on one of the associated risks of severe weather such as rain and snow—mudslides. Out of respect for the victims and the missing, I will eliminate my typical “firedog-isms.”

Facts about Mudslides

  • Occur when masses of rock, earth, or debris move down a slope.
  • Can accompany heavy rains or follow droughts, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions or fast snowmelts.
  • May result from rapidly accumulating water which saturates rock, earth and debris.
  • Usually start at the top of steep slopes.
  • Slopes which are particularly vulnerable include any area where wildfires or human modification of the land have destroyed vegetation, during and after heavy rains.
  • In the U.S., landslides and debris flows result in 25 to 50 deaths each year.
  • Associated hazards include broken electrical, water, gas, and sewage lines that can result in injury or illness; and disrupted roadways and railways that can endanger motorists and disrupt transport and access to health care.
  • The consistency of debris flow can range from thin or thick mud to rocky mud that can forcefully carry large items.
  • When flows reach flat ground, the debris typically spreads over a broad area, and can accumulate in thick deposits that can wreak havoc in developed areas.
  • Every year, landslides in the U.S. cause roughly $3.5 billion in damage.
  • Mudslides can travel several miles from their source, growing in size as they pick up trees, boulders, cars and other materials.

Mudslide-Prone Areas

  • Steep slopes and areas at the bottom of slopes or canyons;
  • Spots where landslides have occurred before.
  • Slopes that have been altered for construction of buildings and roads;
  • Channels along a stream or river; and
  • Areas where surface runoff is directed.

How to Prepare for a Mudslide

  • Recognize landslide warning signs before they happen so you know what to do when they happen.
  • Before the first raindrop falls, assume that steep slopes and areas burned by wildfires are vulnerable to landslides and debris flows.
  • Contact local authorities to help determine whether landslides or debris flow have occurred previously in your area.
  • Develop emergency and evacuation plans for your family and business.
  • Find out about local emergency and evacuation plans, so you’ll know where to go and what to do if you are caught in a mudslide.

What to do During a Mudslide:

  • Once the storm starts, look for tilted trees, telephone poles, fences, or walls, and for new holes or bare spots on hillsides.
  • Avoid river valleys and low-lying areas.
  • Stay awake and alert.
  • Watch TV or listen to the radio for warnings about intense rainfall and for information and instructions from officials.
  • Be aware of sudden increases or decrease in water level on a stream or creek that might indicate debris flow upstream. Remember; a trickle of flowing mud may precede a larger flow.
  • Listen for rumbling sounds that might indicate an approaching landslide or mudflow.
  • If you are out and about in a storm, be alert while you’re driving. Roads may become blocked or closed due to collapsed pavement or debris.
  • If landslide or debris flow danger is imminent, quickly move away from the path of the slide.
  • Evacuate! Get out of the path of a debris flow. Move to high ground, away from the path. If rocks and debris are approaching, run for shelter and take cover.
  • If you can’t escape, curl into a tight ball and protect your head.
  • Don’t forget about your neighbors. They may not be aware of potential hazards. Advising them about potential threats could save their life.

How to Recover from a Landslide

  • Stay away from the mudslide site, since flooding and additional slides may occur after the initial landslide. Floods can follow landslides and debris flow because they may have occurred as a result of the same event.
  • If it is possible to do so without entering the path of the mudslide, check for injured or trapped people near the affected area.
  • Listen to the radio or TV for emergency information.
  • Report broken utility lines to authorities.
  • Check the building foundation, chimney, and surrounding land for damage. Damage to foundations, chimneys, or surrounding land may help you assess the safety of the area.
  • Replant damaged ground as soon as possible since erosion caused by loss of ground cover can lead to flash flooding and additional landslides in the near future.
  • Seek advice from a geotechnical expert for evaluating landslide hazards or designing corrective techniques to reduce landslide risk. A professional will be able to advise you of the best ways to prevent or reduce landslide risk, without creating further hazard.

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 Disaster Preparedness, Hurricanes, Tornadoes, Tsunamis

National Severe Weather Preparedness Week

?????????????????????????????????????????Welcome to National Severe Weather Preparedness Week, which runs from March 2nd to the 8th, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Calling on individuals across the country to prepare for severe weather and to encourage others to do the same, the national campaign slogan is: Be a Force of Nature. I consider myself a force of nature because I am a dog for all seasons.

No matter which part of the country you call home, your geographic location poses inherent weather risks—tornado, hurricane, typhoon, thunderstorms, floods, blizzards, snowstorms, water spouts, tropical cyclones, ice storms and dust storms…to name a few. To minimize your risk of severe weather-damage, familiarize yourself with your region’s particular weather-risks so you can prepare accordingly. For example, NOAA National Weather Service Director, Dr. Louis Uccellini, warns residents of tornado-prone areas:

“With the devastation of last year’s tornadoes fresh in our minds and springtime almost here, I urge individuals to become weather-ready now. Make sure you have multiple ways to access forecasts and warnings from NOAA’s National Weather Service before severe weather strikes.”

FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate agrees, “Being ready today can make a big difference for you when disaster strikes. It only takes a few minutes. Talk with your family and agree to a family plan. Learn easy steps on how to prepare at Ready.gov and find out how your community can take action in America’s PrepareAthon through drills, group discussions and community exercises.”

In the coming weeks, we will focus on preparation and response for various forms of severe weather emergencies. In the meantime, for every type of severe weather emergency, the national severe weather safety message is a simple, three-pronged approach: know your risk, take action, be an example.

Know Your Risk: The first step to becoming weather-ready is to understand the type of hazardous weather that can affect where you live and work, and how the weather could impact you and your family. Sign up for weather alerts and check the weather forecast regularly.

Take Action: Be prepared for severe weather.

  1. Your family may not be together when a storm strikes.
  2. Plan how you will contact one another by developing your family communication plan.
  3. Put together an emergency kit.
  4. Store important papers and valuables in a safe place.
  5. Visit Ready.gov/severe-weather to learn more about how to be better prepared and how you can protect your family when severe weather strikes.
  6. Subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, where you will find loads of great, easy-to-understand instructions for disaster preparation.
  7. Store lots of pork chops and bacon in your freezer—just in case you run out of food after a thunderstorm and need to feed the dog.

Be an Example: Once you have taken action, tell family, friends, and co-workers to do the same.

  1. Share the resources and alert systems you discovered through your social media network. For example, I use my blog, RJtheFireDog.com and Twitter account @RJtheFireDog to alert people to weather and other hazards.
  2. Technology today makes it easier than ever to be a good example and share the steps you took to become weather-ready.
  3. You can download apps, sign up for email or text notifications, watch informational videos on YouTube and even subscribe to the new NOAA and FEMA’s Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs) project, a new text-like message system, which is part of a national effort to increase emergency preparedness and build a Weather-Ready Nation. Last year, millions of individuals across the country received WEAs with life-saving weather warnings via their cell phone. These geographically-targeted emergency alerts alert people to weather warnings they would not have otherwise received. And, as a result, many people took life-saving action. To sign up, visit www.Ready.gov/Alerts.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The best way to prepare for the flu is to keep from catching it by having a vaccine. 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, 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, Emergency Evacuations, Health & Welfare, High-Rise Buildings

Hurricane Sandy Expected to Pack a Wallop

This week, a powerful mix of wacky weather is expected to hit the East Coast. A major Hurricane (Sandy) combined with Gale force winds, heavy rainfall, flash floods, snow, lightning and thunder will combine to create what the Associated Press is calling Frankenstorm. Experts predict the storm will be a long-lasting event, with two to three days of impact for a lot of people, including wind damage, widespread power outages, heavy rainfall and inland flooding. Scary stuff!

According to meteorologists, Hurricane Sandy is “looking like a very serious storm that could be historic,” said Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the forecasting service Weather Underground., “Mother Nature is not saying, ‘Trick or treat.’ It’s just going to give tricks.” While we’re on the topic, I like dog biscuits in my trick or treat bag.

NOAA officials say the brunt of the weather mayhem will be concentrated where the hurricane comes ashore. Nevertheless, there will reportedly be hundreds of miles of steady, strong and damaging winds and rain for the entire Eastern region for several days. Officials across the region are taking steps to prepare for the devastation they believe will cost over a billion dollars:

  • New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city is striking “a tone of calm preparedness.” Sounds like an oxymoron.
  • The National Guard has been summoned.
  • Utility companies are lining up out-of-state work crews and canceling employees’ days off to deal with anticipated power outages. I’m sure the employees are happy about that.
  • Atlantic City casinos have made contingency plans in case they have to close, as they did for three days last year when Tropical Storm Irene approached. (Meteorologists agree Hurricane Sandy will be more severe than Irene.)
  • New York City has opened an emergency situation room and activated a coastal storm plan.
  • Virginia has declared a state of emergency.
  • From the Carolinas to Maine, municipal authorities kept a close watch on forecasts tracking the shifting path of the impending storm.

People react to weather warnings with varying degrees of alarm. Some batten down the hatches and rush to the store to stock up on necessities, while others take the news in stride and brace for whatever Mother Nature has in store. In fact, last year, Hurricane Irene inflicted major damage from North Carolina to New England, though largely spared New York, where Manhattan restaurants and bars hosted hurricane specials and parties.

Some battle-weary residents have allowed the repetition of weather warnings to thicken their skin, sometimes to their peril. For my part, I take care of our doghouse at the first sign of a storm. But it’s imperative that, no matter how often you hear disaster alerts in your region, take steps to adequately prepare:

  • Prescriptions (Don’t forget about pet meds!)
  • nonperishable food items
  • bottled water (one gallon per person per day, for at least three days)
  • Double check the location of your flashlights
  • Extra batteries
  • Cash (assuming you can get a hold of some of it legally)
  • Sandbags
  • Hand-crank or battery-operated radio so you can stay informed (and listen to music to calm the savage soul.)
  • Reach out to neighbors to find out if anyone will be in need of extra assistance.
  • Make sure you have adequate insurance.
  • Non-perishable food that will last at least three days, per person
  • Check supplies in your first-aid kit
  • Add a whistle to your supplies, so you will be able to signal for help. But don’t use it unless you have to. Your pets will thank you.
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape to seal windows, doors and air vents and protect you from debris and contaminants in the air.
  • Moist towelettes.
  • Garbage bags and plastic ties
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • A manual can opener (important for opening cans of dog food)
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers or solar chargers
  • Prescription medicines to last at least a week and eyeglasses (if needed).
  • If you have children, make sure to include entertainment items to keep them occupied, like games, cards, crayons and coloring books.
  • Pet food, if necessary (And if it isn’t necessary, maybe you should get a pet!)

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. To learn more about smoking and fire safety, visit the Smoking & Home Fires Campaign page.

Posted in Disaster Preparedness, Health & Welfare, High-Rise Buildings, Uncategorized

Don’t Let Lightning Strike Once Let Alone Twice!

As a building owner or property manager, you might think you don’t have to worry about the risk of lightning striking your tenants while they are inside the safety of your high rise walls. But you do. Also, would your occupants and visitors know what to do if a lightning bolt strikes while they walk to or from your building, in the courtyard or on the roof? I did a little research and couldn’t find any evidence of dogs being struck. But I did discover that giraffes have been. And that actually makes sense!

According to the National Weather Service, so far this year, 24 people in 16 U.S. states have lost their lives to lightning. Ranging in age from 9 to 68, the victims had been participating in activities as varied as sailing, fishing, repairing utilities, playing soccer and picking berries. On average, lightning bolts strike 400 people and kill 54 each year. And although summer is the peak season for thunder and lightning, many of the heaviest hitting thunder bolts hit in early to late September.

Lightning is fascinating to watch but also extremely dangerous. In the U.S., there are about 25 million lightning flashes every year. Each of those 25 million flashes is a potential killer. And while lightning fatalities have decreased over the past 30 years, lightning continues to be one of the top three storm-related killers in the United States. My Internet research about cat-deaths was a bit disappointing. It turns out that cats naturally follow the lightning-safe rules. That figures.

Hundreds of victims survive lightning strikes each year but suffer severe, debilitating symptoms including memory loss, attention deficits, sleep disorders, chronic pain, numbness, dizziness, joint and muscle stiffness, irritability, fatigue, weakness, muscle spasms, depression and more.

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Association (NOAA) has launched a comprehensive public relations promotion to inform people and pets about what to do to prepare for thunder and lightning.

Entitled, “When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors,” the campaign seeks to educate the public about the importance of ceasing outdoor activities as soon as lightning and thunder encroach. The movement includes a cartoon lion named Leon, created and shared by the Lightning Safety Alliance, who uses videos and games to advise kids and their parents to seek shelter immediately in a substantial building or a hard-topped metal vehicle.

While your tenants and their visitors may not respond to a cartoon character’s admonitions to take lightning safety seriously, don’t neglect your responsibility as a building owner or property manager to educate folks about what to do when they hear thunder roll. What’s wrong with a cartoon mascot whose goal is to educate people about safety?

Outdoors

  • When you hear thunder roll, go indoors.
  • Don’t assume you are far from the location of the storm. Lightning can strike up to 10 miles away from rainfall and has been documented to strike up to 70 miles away from the thunderstorm which generated the lighting. The general rule of thumb is if you can hear thunder, the storm is close enough that it could strike your location at any moment.
  • There are no safe places outdoors during a lightning storm. You are not safe outside.
  • If you are outside camping or hiking, etc., far from any safe vehicle or building, distance yourself from open fields and hilltops. Get away from tall, isolated trees and other tall objects. Tents offers no protection whatsoever from lighting. If you are camping and your vehicle is nearby, run to it before the storm arrives.
  • Stay away from water and wet items such as ropes and metal objects, like fences and poles. Water and metal are excellent conductors of electricity. The current from a lightning flash will easily travel long distances.
  • Stay off of porches. My hound dog buddies might resist my advice here. But it’s important, guys!
  • Don’t lie on the ground. Although it was once believed that doing so protected people from lightning strikes the earth, it induces currents in the ground that can be fatal up to 100 feet away. These currents fan out from the strike center in a tendril pattern. So, in order to minimize your chance of being struck, you have to minimize both your height and your body’s direct contact with the earth’s surface. Lying on the ground is one of my favorite things to do. So I’ve got to make a note to self about this one.
  • Do not lean against concrete walls. Lightning can travel through concrete.
  • Remember your pets. Dog houses are not safe shelters. Also, dogs that are left chained to trees or wire runners can easily fall victim to lightning strikes. Bring pets inside.

Indoors

Lightning can enter homes and office spaces in three ways:

  1. A direct strike
  2. Through wires or pipes that extend outside the structure
  3. From the ground

BE SAFE:

  • Keep off the phone. Although it is safe to use cellular or cordless phones, corded phones are dangerous in lightning storms because the lightning can travel through electric wires. If a bolt strikes your house or a nearby power line, it could travel into your house through the plumbing or the electric wiring.
  • Avoid using electric appliances. If you are using any electrical appliances or plumbing fixtures (including telephones and computers) and a storm is overhead, you are putting yourself at risk! About 4-5% of people struck by lightning are hit while talking on corded telephones. To BE SAFE, unplug all electronics before the storm strikes. That’s why I prefer low tech.
  • Don’t touch electrical equipment or cords. Unplug equipment before the storm arrives.
  • Do not wash your hands, take a shower or wash dishes since lightning can travel through plumbing.
  • Stay away from windows and doors. Now, for a dog, this one is difficult.
  • If your building hosts electrically sensitive equipment, you might consider installing a lightning protection system. Although these do not prevent lightening, they help mitigate damage by giving the lightning a preferred pathway from the top of the building to the ground.

Thankfully, emergency management personnel are developing technologies to assist in the preparation and response to disasters which result from lightning and thunder storms across the country. In fact, as wildfires ravaged parts of Colorado earlier this summer, a web-based tracking tool helped responders quickly and more accurately find the blazes caused by lightning strikes. Called the Lightning Decision Support System, the Boulder Office of Emergency Management (BOEM) started using the technology a couple days prior to the Flagstaff Fire that started on June 26 and eventually burned 300 acres. Thanks to the new technology, as lightning pummeled the county, emergency workers were able to pinpoint the location of strikes in real time and more confidently send responders to the scene.

For more information about lightning safety, check out the myriad of free resources available on the NOAA website. 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 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system.