Posted in BE SAFE, Building Evacuation, Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Evacuations, Health & Welfare, High-Rise Buildings, Terrorism, Uncategorized

Final Thoughts about How to Prepare for a Terrorist Attack

Never forget the events of 9/11
We at RJWestmore will never forget the fateful events of 9/11.

Part 4 of a 4-part series

In honor of the 10-year anniversary of 9/11, we have devoted three of our past four blog posts to discuss the 10 lessons the world has learned from that fateful day. We have tried to use our voice as experts in safety and disaster training to recommend emergency precautions that you should take now to give you and your family, friends, employees and colleagues the best chance of surviving another terrorist attack. In this, our fourth and final installment, we’ll cover the final lessons we’ve learned since that fateful day.

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

Remembering 9/11:

The September 11 attacks were a series of four coordinated suicide attacks by al-Qaeda upon the United States on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. On that morning, 19 al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four commercial passenger planes. The hijackers intentionally crashed two of the airliners into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, killing everyone on board and thousands of people working in the buildings.

Both towers collapsed within two hours, destroying nearby buildings and damaging others. A third airliner was crashed into the Pentagon. Hijackers redirected the fourth plane toward Washington, D.C., targeting either the Capitol Building or the White House, but were diverted when passengers tried to retake control. The airliner crashed in a field in rural Pennsylvania, leaving no survivors.

Nearly 3,000 victims and 19 hijackers died in the attacks. Among the 2,753 victims who died in the attacks on the World Trade Center, there were 343 firefighters, 60 police officers from New York City and the Port Authority, and 8 private EMTs and paramedics. Another 184 people were killed in the attack on the Pentagon. The overwhelming majority of casualties were civilians, including nationals of more than 70 countries.

Lessons about terrorism we’ve learned from 9/11:

  1. Clean-up could take many months and cost millions. Counting the value of lives lost as well as property damage and lost production of goods and services, losses associated with the events of September 11, 2001 exceed $100 billion. According to the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, “The loss in stock market wealth—the market’s own estimate arising from expectations of lower corporate profits and higher discount rates for economic volatility—the price tag approaches $2 trillion.” The best way to prepare for this type of hit is to try to prevent attacks. As a nation, over the past 10 years, we have improved security on many levels. As a building owner or property manager, make sure you take precautions to beef up security.
  2. Public fear, fed by extensive media coverage, may continue for a prolonged period of time. As a result, workplaces, government offices and schools might be closed. According to the Huffington Post, television stations broadcasted more than 3,000 hours of 9/11 coverage. And while much of that coverage was desirable and understandable, portions might have been unnecessary and contributed to anxiety…especially among children. If another large-scale terrorist attack occurs, monitor the amount of associated television programming you allow your children to view. Likewise, try not to watch every televised minute of disaster coverage, yourself. While you will benefit from information about things like restrictions on transportation, make sure you take breaks from the madness to eat and rest and talk to people in the real world.
  3. Terrorism has many faces. Racial profiling is not only unfair but insufficient because terrorists come in all shapes and sizes. Consider terrorists like the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, Timothy McVeigh, Clayton Lee Waagner, Irv Rubin or the two females who have been blamed for the Twin Metro Blasts in Moscow. Terrorists don’t always wear turbans and speak Arabic. So pay attention to anything out of the ordinary and report it to local authorities.
  4. The world was forever changed by the events of 9/11. Time Magazine writer Nancy Gibbs wrote that we, as Americans, now share: “a sharp resolve to just be better, bigger, to shed the nonsense, rise to the occasion.”

As you honor the innocent and brave folks who died on that fateful day in September 10 years ago, give note to portraits of courage, self-sacrifice and hope instead of focusing on images of the jets and the flames. Paying homage to the brave will encourage us all.

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

Posted in BE SAFE, Building Evacuation, Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Evacuations, Health & Welfare, Uncategorized, Version 2.0

Getting Back to Business After a Disaster

Business man holding briefcase, walking in the street
RJWestmore helps get you back to business following a disaster.

Your business has planned for any disaster. (maybe not squirrel infestation). Fire extinguishers are frequently checked and positioned in the right area. You have a well thought out evacuation route with primary and secondary meeting places. But does your business have a plan for getting back to work after a disaster?

According to the Insurance Information Institute, up to 40 percent of businesses adversely affected by natural or man-made disasters fail to reopen. (On a completed unrelated note, up to 40 percent of cats are not to be trusted. Thieves and liars!) To be a part of the other 60 percent requires prior planning and a sound disaster recovery and business continuity plan.

Before you begin a disaster recovery plan, you need to take these steps:

  • Form an internal team comprised of individuals from several departments who possess deep knowledge about the business. (Include employees from several levels. You wouldn’t want only upper management involved.)
  • Build a list of critical processes and services that must be up and running after a disaster. Plans that have specific and tested tasks are critical. For example: “Product ordering available within 24 hours of the disaster.” For my owners, the key item on the plan should be “where do we stash the emergency kibble?”
  • Review your rental agreement for specific terms regarding the landlord’s responsibilities. If your building burns down because of the actions of another tenant, what is your recourse?
  • Consider hiring an auditor to review your procedures. These professionals can determine if your plan is unrealistically optimistic or if it includes any logistical holes. I generally stay away from auditors. Let’s just say I shouldn’t have tried to deduct the re-shingling of the doghouse back in ’08.

Key disaster recovery plan components to get your business back to work:

  • Establish procedures to let all employees know that a disaster has occurred. Ensure personal email addresses and cell phone numbers are available and frequently updated for key disaster implementation personnel.
  • Review the disaster to determine if the delay in business functions will be temporary or could last weeks. (The detailed disaster plan should have specific tasks based on the duration of the disaster.)
  • Store insurance documents and other critical documents both as scanned images on an off-site server and in hard copies stowed in a safety-deposit box. I have a box at the bank down the street. Contents: blanket from when I was a puppy, old ham bone from 1987, and $2.5 million in bearer bonds.
  • Select alternative warehouse or inventory locations in case primary locations are damaged in a disaster.
  • Find alternative locations for business operations. Determine, in the planning stages, which employees need to be congregated together and which ones can work remotely.
  • Consider options for manufacturing products if your facility is damaged. Can you lease space from another facility that is under-capacity? (I’m talking to you Mr. Pig Ear factory owner! I can’t handle another shortage!)
  •  If your company produces non-perishable items that aren’t custom built, then you should calculate how many days or weeks you can fulfill orders using current inventory. If the disaster will put you out of commission for a month but you can only fulfill 10 days of orders, then you have a problem!

For many businesses, essential business functions can go on even if the organization’s facilities are determined to be unsafe. With cloud computing storing virtual data, real-time chat and other tools, many employees will be able to work from home or gathered together in small groups at remote locations.

Tips for protecting your company data and enabling seamless work productivity after a disaster:

  • Task the IT department with finding the best solution for off-site data backup. New advancements in cloud computing allow redundant systems to be set up quickly and inexpensively. Older tape-backup systems can be cumbersome to retrieve or lost in transport–putting your company’s data at risk. It’s 2011! Time to think futuristic!
  • Consider backing up entire applications and processes, not just data. Nearly every professional function can now be performed virtually.
  • Give employees the option to check email from home. Even if “working from home” is not currently part of corporate culture, providing access in advance may help your company in the long run, as employees with ready access to key documents and applications will be well prepared to work immediately following any natural or manmade disaster. I’ve been working from home for years. You miss the water cooler interaction, but the flexibility is great.
  • Protect your intellectual property. If you run a manufacturing company, you might use a proprietary process to make your product. Make sure this information is stored offsite and is not simply located in on-site computers or assembly machines.

For businesses, failure to plan concrete steps necessary for recovering after disasters can result in complete business failure. Creating a disaster recovery and business continuity plan is a worthwhile exercise to encourage your company to consider and manage worst-case scenarios.

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

Posted in BE SAFE, Biological Warfare, Building Evacuation, Children in Crisis, Disaster Preparedness, Earthquakes, Emergency Evacuations, Fire Safety, Fires, Floods, Health & Welfare, Hurricanes, Terrorism, Tsunamis, Uncategorized, Version 2.0

How to Help Children Cope Following a Disaster

Cartoon teacher reading to five children
At home or at school, use these strategies to help children cope after disasters.

Whether children personally experience trauma, watch events unfold on television or overhear adult discussions, natural and manmade disasters can leave them feeling frightened, confused and insecure. To help kids or pups cope, parents, teachers and friends should take steps so they understand how to easily identify and reduce disaster-related stress.

Identifying Risk Factors

While individual reactions to natural and manmade disasters vary, there are some common denominators in young folks who experience stress brought on by emergency situations such as fires, earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, hurricanes, terrorism and the like. To help you identify risk factors, consider these common childhood reactions to disaster:

  • Fear, especially at night
  • Sadness
  • Bedwetting or (in JR’s case), missing the puppy pad
  • Sleep disturbances and nightmares
  • Separation anxiety, clinging, dependant behavior
  • Anger
  • Acting out with whining, tantrums or (in my family’s case), excessive barking
  • Physical aggression (or, with my breed, bearing of teeth)
  • Problems in elementary or obedience school
  • Unexplained aches and pains

Although it is normal for both children and adults to react for a time to disasters near and far, for some, response to abnormal events can lead to more substantial, enduring psychological distress. Particularly at risk for this more serious, sustained negative behavior are children who have been directly exposed to physical disasters—such as those who were evacuated from their homes, have come in close contact with accident victims, witnessed deaths, suffered personal injuries or feared for their life and safety.

Also significant are secondary effects of disasters such as temporary changes in living arrangements, interruption in communication with friends and social networks, loss of personal property, parental unemployment and costs incurred during recovery to return the family to pre-disaster life and living conditions. A secondary effect for canines might be recovery from kennel cough.

In most cases, primary and secondary symptoms will diminish over time. But for those who were directly exposed to disasters, reminders may occasionally pop up such as high winds, smoke, cloudy skies, sirens, aftershocks or howling.

No matter the emergency, the ability of children to cope with disasters or emergencies is often tied to the way their parents cope. Kids and most animals are bright; so they can detect adult fears and sadness. So the best way to reduce trauma for kids is to take steps to effectively manage your own feelings as parents are almost always the best source of support for children in disasters.

Prior to disasters, FEMA advises the best way to establish a sense of control and to build confidence in children is to engage and involve them in preparing a family disaster plan. After a disaster, children can contribute to a family recovery plan.

After the Disaster/How to Help

  • Encourage children and adolescents to share their thoughts and feelings.
  • Clarify misunderstandings about risk and danger by listening to children’s concerns.
  • Maintain a sense of calm by validating children’s concerns and perceptions.
  • Listen to what the child is saying or the dog is barking.
  • If a young child asks questions about the event, answer them.
  • If a child has difficulty expressing feelings, allow the child to draw a picture or tell a story of what happened. Since it is always difficult for puppies to explain themselves, I suggest providing plenty of treats.

Suggestions to Help Reassure Children

  • Hug your kids. Physical affection can restore feelings of security.
  • Share just enough details about the event to assuage fears without contributing to insecurity.
  • Quickly reestablish a daily routine. (For what it’s worth, I suggest the more mealtimes, the better.)
  • Involve kids in your efforts to return to normal.
  • Praise responsible behavior.
  • Monitor media exposure.
  • Take advantage of available support networks.

If, despite your efforts, your child continues to exhibit stress, and particularly if the reactions worsen over time or interfere with daily behavior at school, home, or with other relationships, it might be time to call in a professional. Seek assistance from a primary care physician, mental health professional, member of the clergy or veterinarian.

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

Posted in BE SAFE, Biological Warfare, Disaster Preparedness, Earthquakes, Health & Welfare, Terrorism, Tsunamis, Uncategorized, Version 2.0

How to Prepare for a Nuclear Disaster

Person in Haz Mat Suit Holding a Glowing Ball
There are lots of resources available for preparing for radioactive events.

All of us at RJWestmore, Inc. want to extend our sympathies to those who were affected by the 8.9 earthquake and resulting tsunamis that ravaged Japan last Friday. Sources report the death toll at a staggering 2,800. With thousands of people remaining missing, the total number of casualties is expected to exceed 10,000.

As if the earthquake and tsunami disaster were not enough, Japanese nuclear scientists are warning of a possible related reactor-explosion. Shortly after the earthquakes and tsunami, explosions are said to have occurred when zirconium alloy casings of reactor fuel rods were exposed to air, causing the rods to overheat and release hydrogen gas. I’m not sure what a reactor fuel rod is. But it sounds like something you wouldn’t want to expose to air.

With a second hydrogen blast on Monday morning destroying the outer walls of one of the reactor units, Japanese nuclear specialists are struggling to cool three affected units at the Fukushima-1 Nuclear Power Plant. The events have the Far East bracing for a potential large-scale disaster.

Cooling systems are said to be malfunctioning, and, according to Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), the plant is in danger of a meltdown, though they guarantee that, “There is no possibility of a Chernobyl-style accident at the site.” The events have led Japan to appeal to the United States for help.

In the midst of this news, it is timely that we take the opportunity to advise our clients and friends about steps to take in order to prepare for and react to potential disasters of this magnitude.

All RJWestmore Training System subscribers have proprietary access to life-saving information about effectively dealing with, among other things, both tsunami and radiation-related incidents.

Four Charts Available to RJWestmore Safety Training Subscribers
We've got lots of resources for subscribers of the RJWestmore Training System.

Like jerky treats and dog chow, info of this kind is invaluable.

Another valuable resource is offered by FEMA—An In-depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness (IS-22), called: Are You Ready? FEMA’s most comprehensive source on individual, family, and community preparedness, the PDF provides current and up-to-date disaster preparedness information to reference if there is, among other things, an imminent terrorist or strategic nuclear attack threat. The downloadable booklet includes the following sections relative to earthquakes, tsunamis and nuclear accidents:

Why Prepare

Basic Preparedness

Getting Informed

Emergency Planning and Checklists

Assemble Disaster Supplies Kit

Shelter

Hazard Specific Preparedness

Practicing and Maintaining Your Plan

Natural Hazards

Earthquakes

Landslide and Debris Flow (Mudslide)

Tsunamis

Technological Hazards

Hazardous Materials Incidents

Nuclear Power Plants

Terrorism

General Information about Terrorism

Explosions

Biological Threats

Chemical Threats

Nuclear Blast

Radiological Dispersion Device (RDD)

Recovering from Disaster

Another great resource is available from the CDC. So be sure to check it out.

Familiarize yourself with the FEMA and CDC information and, if you are a safety training subscriber, the RJWestmore materials. When faced by a potential nuclear incident, take these preliminary safety steps:

1.     Decide to Stay or Go.

First, you must decide first if you need to prepare where you are or attempt evacuation. The nature of the threat, your prior preparations, and your confidence in your sources of information should inform your decision. I think I would try to stay with my wife and JR in our doghouse if at all possible. But I guess I won’t know for sure until we are faced with the real-life scenario. If you know that you do not plan to stay at your own home or place of business or in the general vicinity, see step #2:

2.     Evacuate?

If you are considering evacuation, make sure that leaving your current location is worth the associated risk. You won’t want to get stuck between your current location and destination, as returning will not be easy. If you fail reach your destination, you may be exposed to nuclear fallout without shelter.

3.     Delegate!

Because time is of the essence, quickly delegate and assign tasks to various adult family members and/or colleagues. Your first priorities should be handling any medical emergencies and arranging for food, shelter, water and emergency provisions. And dog treats!

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

Posted in Disaster Preparedness

Avoid Fertilizer-based bombs. Yuck.

Bombs are bad.

This is our final blog in a series about terrorism-related issues.

Our first post provided an overview of the threats of terrorism, including suggestions for to work with law enforcement to stop terrorist plots. Our second post explored the basics of counter-terrorism surveillance including CCTV systems and tips for spotting suspicious behavior.

Today’s post wraps up our series with thoughts about avoiding terrorist attacks by paying attention to the threat level for current terrorism risks, making your building a difficult target for attack, and suggestions for properly reporting suspicious activities. Perhaps our next blog series will focus on “canine satisfaction,” with topics such as “proper tummy rubbing,” or “optimal pig-ear chewing times.” A Dalmatian can hope…

Pay attention to the current “threat level

  • The Homeland Security Advisory System was established in 2002 following the 9/11 attacks. The threats range from “Low” to “Severe” and are intended to alert the public about the current estimated terrorist risks. Specific government actions are required for any given threat level to go into effect. I consider a “severe” threat to be when Whiskers decides to walk across my front lawn. When he does…the chase is on!
  • When the threat level is raised to the orange/high or red/severe levels, you should expand your surveillance efforts and take other security precautions. Threats might pertain to your particular building or one of your specific tenant’s business operations.

Make your building a less attractive target for terrorism

  • In July 2006, a plot by suicide bombers in the NYC commuter rail was revealed by law enforcement personnel, who stated that the perpetrators had already obtained detailed blueprints of the rail tunnels prior to the attack. Secure building blueprints which can be used to establish weak points for entering and destroying the structure. Limit blueprint availability online and train your property managers to follow proper procedures for releasing building information. Now if I can just find my schematics for the 2,000 sq. foot doghouse…
  • Pay special attention to tenants who work with or produce materials that could be used to make explosive devices and those that work in aviation-related fields or construction-related companies. For example, Canadian officials recently investigated an individual who purchased a large quantity of manure that is sometimes used to make fertilizer-based bombs. Work with tenants to ensure they follow safety and securing procedures, for both their intellectual and physical properties.

A fundamental way to prevent terrorist attacks is to properly report suspicious activity to stop attacks in the planning stages. In the RJ Westmore, Inc. surveillance blog, we talked about identifying suspicious activities but did not explore how to gather and report that activity to law enforcement:

  • Note the familiar “who, what, where, when and why,” which are vitally important to establish timelines for law enforcement so attacks can be thwarted.
  • Train your surveillance team to pay attention to details such as license plate information, nationality and physical-build characteristics, and clothing. I would say to include “species,” but dogs aren’t well known for acts of terrorism. We’re more about displaying acts of heroism.
  • Additional information can be found in our training program, where we provide RJ Westmore Training System clients with a “Terrorism Awareness Checklist.”

Thanks for reading our series about terrorism-related issues and what you can do as building owners and property managers to mitigate risks and work with authorities to prevent attacks. Remember that safety should always be a top priority!

For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJ Westmore, Inc. Our e-based system offers the best emergency training available, with automated and integrated features. RJ Westmore, Inc. is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, a non-profit trade organization that promotes sustainability in how buildings are designed, built and operated. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

Posted in Disaster Preparedness, Uncategorized

If it quacks like a duck and looks like a duck…retrieve!

If something doesn't look right, it probably isn't right.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, more attempted terrorist attacks against the U.S. have occurred in the past nine months than in any previous one-year period.

In our first two posts about terrorism-related issues, we covered the basics about dealing with the risks of terrorism and setting up surveillance networks. Our post today explores how individual tenants, building management and staff, and maybe even your pet can work together to identify suspicious activity.

As we often stress in our posts, safety begins with the individual. It is, ultimately, a matter of personal responsibility. For instance, for my canine friends, it’s not cool to pull your owner down the sidewalk while you chase a squirrel. The RJ Westmore, Inc. Training System emphasizes that everyone plays key roles in not only their own safety but also in ensuring the safety of those around them.

With the recent attempted bombing in Times Square, it was a T-shirt vendor who first identified and reported someone quickly walking away from a suspicious vehicle. According to the Department of Homeland Security, with more potential terrorists being carried out by Western operatives who are either U.S. citizens or here on visas, it is difficult for law enforcement to identify terrorist planning or “chatter.” Law enforcement officials are not omnipotent They need community involvement to help recognize red flags and suspicious behavior patterns. In my book, any gathering of two or more tabbies is suspicious activity; you never know what they could be scheming about!

Here are some examples of efforts that major metropolitan areas are using to engage the community in terrorism prevention:

  • New York City’s Operation Nexus is a nationwide network of more than 25,000 businesses that agree to share information about suspicious activity. Individuals at participating businesses agree to report the purchasing of materials or use of training that might indicate terrorist activity.
  • The Los Angeles Police Department’s iWatchLA is a community awareness program that encourages residents to identify behaviors that might indicate terrorist plotting:
    • Worrisome chemical smells or fumes located around important structures
    • Individuals asking for sensitive information such as VIP travel plans or building blueprints
    • Attempts to purchase potentially explosive material components, absent of proper certification or licensure
    • It’s not on their official list, but us pooches can be great alarm systems. Listen to us when we are barking like crazy!

What can you do as a building owner or manager?

  • Utilize RJ Westmore’s online training including its “resources” and “links” which offer a wealth of information about terrorism and dozens of other topics.
  • Encourage your tenants to learn the basics of identifying suspicious behavior (using community watch and DHS resources). Make sure they don’t hesitate when something doesn’t “look right.”
  • Set up protocols for tracking and reporting tenant or visitor alerts.. Any incident should be recorded and promptly shared with law enforcement. Sharing information is crucial to preventing future attacks.
  • Consider installing comfortable cedar chip-filled beds in sunny spots with accessible fresh water and a rawhide bar. Wait….what was I talking about again?
  • Consider the benefits of Universal Services of America, an RJ Westmore, Inc. strategic partner, who helps some of our clients with services including on-site and remote security systems as well as guards.

Visit us next week for the final post in our series about terrorism prevention. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJ Westmore, Inc. Our e-based system offers the best emergency training available, with automated and integrated features. RJ Westmore, Inc. is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, a non-profit trade organization that promotes sustainability in how buildings are designed, built and operated. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.