Posted in BE SAFE, Disaster Preparedness, Tornadoes

Tornadoes–Severe Weather

vector illustration of kawaii tornadoes which is eating houseLast week, we launched a series about preparing for severe weather. This week, we will focus on one of the most chilling of all severe weather storms—tornadoes. Tornados can cause flash floods, lightning, and winds up to 140 miles per hour. What’s more, tornadoes can produce hail stones as big as grapefruit. I don’t care for grapefruit. So I would rather say hail can be as large as a pork roast. Tornadoes occasionally develop in areas where a severe thunderstorm watch or warning is in effect, and they may strike with little or no warning.

Tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms. Spawned from powerful thunderstorms, they can cause fatalities and devastate neighborhood in mere seconds. Initially, a tornado appears as a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground with whirling winds that can reach 300 miles per hour. According to Ready.Gov, damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long. That’s a whole lot of damage.

Did you know that every state in the union is at some risk from this hazard? Admittedly, some states are at greater risk than others. While many tornadoes are clearly visible, rain or nearby low-hanging clouds can obscure others. Occasionally, tornadoes develop so rapidly that little, if any, advance warning is possible. Before a tornado hits, the wind may die down and the air may become very still. A cloud of debris can mark the location of a tornado even if a funnel is not visible. Tornadoes generally occur near the trailing edge of a thunderstorm. It is not uncommon to see clear, sunlit skies behind a tornado.

If you see approaching storms or any of the danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately. Most injuries associated with high winds are from flying debris. So remember to protect your head! You might even want to consider wearing a helmet at all times. Then again, that might be a little drastic.

Before a Tornado:

  • Look for danger signs such as dark, greenish skies; large hail; a large, dark low-lying cloud (particularly if it is rotating); or a loud roar reminiscent of an approaching freight train. It would be difficult to sleep through that.
  • Listen to radio and television for updates.
  • Keep a map nearby to follow storm movement.
  • Secure a battery-powered National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) All Hazard Radio.
  • Stay away from windows. My doghouse doesn’t have any windows.
  • If an underground shelter is unavailable, move to an area that puts as many walls between you and the outdoors as possible.
  • Move to the lowest floor of the building.
  • Do not stay in a car or motor home.
  • Sit underneath a sturdy piece of furniture. Dogs do this all of the time.
  • Cover yourself with thick padding, such as a mattress or blanket, and use your arms to protect your head and neck from debris.

Description of tornado states of alert:

  • A “Tornado Watch” denotes that tornadoes are possible for your area. Remain alert.
  • A “Tornado Warning” means a tornado has been sighted, or its presence is indicated by weather radar. In the event of an alert, finding shelter is imperative. Sirens are activated in response to warnings.

During a Tornado:

Outside

  • Try to get inside and seek a small protected space devoid of windows.
  • Avoid large-span roof areas such as school gymnasiums, arenas, or shopping malls.
  • If you cannot get inside, crouch for protection beside a strong structure or lie flat in a ditch or low-lying area and cover your head and neck with your arms or a piece of clothing. Crouching is another thing that dogs do naturally.

In a Car

  • If you are caught outdoors, seek shelter in a basement, shelter or sturdy building. If you cannot quickly walk to a shelter.
  • Immediately get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter. I really should get a driver’s license. It seems like cars provide lots of protection.
  • If flying debris occurs while you are driving, pull over and park.
  • Stay in the car with the seat belt on. Put your head down below the windows, covering with your hands and a blanket if possible.
  • If you can safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway, exit your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands.

Inside

  • When a tornado warning has been issued, you may have very little time to prepare. How you respond now is critical. And how you react depends on where you are.
  • If you’re inside a house, make sure you have a portable, battery-operated or hand-crank radio on hand.
  • Seek shelter in the lowest level of your home (basement or storm cellar). If there is no basement, go to an inner hallway, a smaller inner room, or a closet. Keep away from all windows.
  • You can cushion yourself with a mattress, but never use one to cover yourself. Cover your head and eyes with a blanket or jacket to protect against flying debris and broken glass.
  • Keep your pet on a leash or in a carrier. We will appreciate the extra protection.
  • Multiple tornadoes can emerge from the same storm, so do not go out until the storm has passed.
  • Don’t leave a building in a vain attempt to escape a tornado.
  • If you are in a manufactured (mobile) home, leave immediately and take shelter elsewhere.

After a tornado

  • Injuries can occur in the aftermath of a tornado, during cleanup or rescue attempts, from exposed nails or broken glass. Wear sturdy shoes, gloves and long sleeves.
  • Be careful entering any structure that has been damaged by a tornado.
  • Don’t touch downed power lines or objects that are in contact with power lines.
  • Beware of open flames. Use battery-powered lanterns or flashlights to light homes without electricity.
  • If your home has been damaged, shut off electrical power to avoid natural gas and propane tanks from catching fire.
  • If you see damaged electrical wires, tell authorities. Make sure your canine companions don’t chew on loose cords.
  • Cooperate with public safety officials and respond to requests for assistance from emergency responders. However, do not go into damaged areas unless your assistance is requested.

Measuring damage on the EF-scale

  1. You’ve probably heard a tornado described as “an F3″ or “barely an F0.”
  2. The “F” comes from the Fujita scale, developed by T. Theodore Fujita in 1971.
  3. The 2004 update of the system came with a new name: the Enhanced F-scale or EF-scale, which measures estimated tornado wind speeds based on the damage they cause.
  4. To determine where a tornado falls on the EF-scale, surveyors look at the damage in its wake. Investigators examine 28 types of free-standing structures to see how much damage they sustained.
  5. Based on all the damage, the National Weather Service can estimate the wind speed of the tornado itself and put it on the EF-scale.

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, Floods, Hurricanes

Spring Storms: How to Prepare

April showers bring May flowers...and spring storms

With warm weather comes the fresh breath of spring. To me, spring means extra long walks! But, for millions of two-legged Americans, spring means something else entirely—storm season! This year, devastating tornadoes and storms in the South have already left thousands of families in need of food, shelter and other basic necessities. I hope they didn’t run out of bacon. Other spring storm-related disasters have included flooding, tornadoes and wildfires, all of which have resulted in numerous deaths and hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of property damage.

So, what steps can you take to make sure that this spring, you will BE SAFE? One way to prepare is to follow the Red Cross Be Ready Checklist. Find out if you’re ready by taking this brief quiz: (You are ready as long as you can answer each question with a heart “yes.” Or a “ruff” would do.)

  1. Do you know what emergencies or disasters are most likely to occur in your community?
  1. Do you have a family disaster plan and practice it?
    • FEMA provides free resources to help you create a family plan.
    • RJWestmore trainees have access to the following resources to aid in family planning:
  • Home Fire Escape Plan
  • Home Safety Basics for People with Special Needs
  • Blackouts at Home
  • Children and Disasters
  • Family Communication After a Disaster
  • Home Earthquake Plan
  • Pets & Disaster Planning
  • Planning for Those with Disabilities
  • Red Cross Ready Make a Plan
  1. Do you have an Emergency Preparedness Kit?
  • Tailor your plans and supplies to your specific daily living needs and responsibilities. Most individuals have both specific personal needs as well as resources to assist others.
  • For specific ideas about what to pack in a “go bag,” check out RJWestmore blog posts. You can also find great ideas for preparing an emergency bag at the Ready.gov website.
  • I suggest including pork chops and chew toys in any bag you take to go.
  1. Is at least one member of your household trained in first aid and CPR/AED?

CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) and AED (Automated External Defibrillator) training meets the needs of workplace responders, school staffs, professional responders and healthcare providers, as well as the general public. The American Red Cross offers certified and non-certified training options. Check out the Red Cross website to access course descriptions and materials.

  1. Have you taken action to help your community prepare?

You might consider joining a Community Emergency Response Team. Also known as CERT, this program educates people about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area and also trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations.

Utilizing classroom training as well as exercises, CERT members learn to assist others in their neighborhood or workplace following an event when professional responders are not immediately available to help. CERT members also are encouraged to support emergency response agencies by taking a more active role in emergency preparedness projects in their community. And that’s always a good thing.

When a disaster of any kind 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 2.5 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. What’s more, the NEW RJWestmore Property Messaging System is included FREE for all RJWestmore Online Training System users. Visit www.RJWestmore.com for more information.

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, Building Evacuation, Disaster Preparedness, Earthquakes, Emergency Evacuations, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Fires, Going Green, Health & Welfare, High-Rise Buildings, Hurricanes, Identity Theft, Influenza, Swine Flu, Travel, Tsunamis, Uncategorized, Version 2.0, Winter Weather Hazards

11 Safety Tips for 2011: How to BE SAFE in the Coming Year

 

road sign with with "2010" red-lined and "2011" with an arrow
BE SAFE in 2011
  1. Be prepared…for everything and anything! At home and at work, the most important step you can take to ensure your own safety as well as the safety of coworkers, employees, family and friends, is to prepare. For ideas, look to FEMA’s recently announced “Resolve to be Ready in 2011” campaign, which features several suggestions for disaster preparedness. What’s more, our own blog posts provide food for fodder. And, as everyone knows, I love food of any kind…fodder or otherwise.
  2. Drill. A timely example of how preparation is critical for saving lives occurred at a San Antonio CPS office building which caught fire on December 20.  According to news’ reports, all 400 of the building’s occupants were forced to evacuate the building before 9 a.m., at which point the company’s emergency evacuation plans were put into effect. No doubt benefiting from the safety plan and associated regular fire drills, preparation paid off as every employee escaped without injury. I’m a big fan of drills, myself. But the guys at the firehouse didn’t appreciate the Chinese Fire Drill I started when we were on a recent call.
  3. Protect yourself from cyber-terrorism. As we rely more and more on all things electronic, we must be diligent to guard ourselves against identity theft. Four out of five victims of Identity Theft encounter serious issues as a result of the crime, such as lowered credit scores, bankruptcy, foreclosure, or even prison time. So protect your Internet passwords by creating them randomly and changing them frequently. This isn’t a huge risk for me, personally, since I don’t have opposable thumbs.
  4. Guard against health risks. Although the flood of sensational news’ stories about Cholera, the Swine Flu and SARS have ebbed, you still run the risk of contracting viruses and bacteria if you fail to take precautions to remain healthy. One of the easiest ways to do this is to regularly and thoroughly wash your hands (or paws, whatever the case.) Also, take advantage of vaccinations designed to protect you against illnesses such as Influenza or Respiratory Syncytial Virus.
  5. Consider your location. Since different types of disasters occur depending on your location, pay attention to geography and history when you prepare for natural or man-made disasters. If you live on the coast, for example, plan for tsunamis. If you get snow, make winterizing a priority. If you live near a fault line, make sure you are ready for earthquakes. No matter where you live, you should probably stock up on kibble and rawhide chews.
  6. Heed storm warnings. While some natural disasters, such as earthquakes, come without warning, many others are relatively easy to predict. So, if you live in an area where hurricanes or tornadoes are common, follow forecasts. And when an event is anticipated, take necessary steps to ensure your own safety as well as that of emergency workers, who might be put in harm’s way if they have to brave the elements in order to rescue you. In other words, don’t sit on your roof in a flood. This is especially true if you live in a doghouse.
  7. Do the right thing. Don’t cut corners. Take a cue from the recent Shanghai Fire, which some believe resulted from contractors who cut corners. Applicable to all areas of life, doing what’s right will help keep everyone safe in 2011 and beyond.
  8. Go green. You don’t have to be a hippie to understand the importance of protecting our planet. Today, millions of electronics are shipped to developing countries where they are dissembled, often in a crude manner, which exposes workers and the environment to contaminants such as mercury, sulfur, and lead. This practice puts us all at risk. So do your part this year to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. You can start by sharing your leftovers instead of throwing them away. Every little bit helps! So I’ll do my part to reduce the refuse.
  9. Travel safely. Try to be patient if you fly. While it might be inconvenient to take off your belt, shoes and jewelry at the security gate, and possibly undergoing a TSA pat-down, these safety measures are in place to keep us safe.
  10. Fight fire with fire prevention. The surest way to fight fire is to prevent it. The National Fire Protection Association has sponsored Fire Prevention Week each year since the Great Chicago Fire roared through Chicago in 1871. This year’s push is to install smoke alarms. So if you haven’t installed them in your commercial property building or at home, do so today!
  11. Keep learning. Our corporate mission is to save lives through training with the motto “Be Safe!” The RJWestmore Training System 2.0 is a fully integrated system which allows property management companies to manage one site or an entire portfolio, with all users in the same system.

If you own or manage commercial property, by enrolling in the system, please consider our system, which trains occupants, floor wardens, and fire safety directors. What’s more; all user training and testing is recorded. Get quick access to building-specific Emergency Responder information and other resources. We hope you’ll allow us to do our part to help keep you safe in 2011 and beyond.

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 Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Evacuations, Health & Welfare, Uncategorized

Terrible Twisters

Prepare so tornadoes don't take you unaware.

Few events put the power of nature on display like tornadoes. With the recent destructive tornadoes in the Midwest and South, it’s timely for all property owners to review tornado safety.

Unlike hurricanes, tornadoes appear quickly and do not follow any forecast-ed paths. Panic and confusion among tenants can set in unless prior planning and procedures have been established. Tornadoes are unlike other emergencies such as fires because tenants need to stay in the building during the emergency, and actually use the building for protection. My friend Scruffy says that his steel-reinforced doghouse is a good tornado shelter. I told him unless he plans to reenact The Wizard of Oz; he should probably go somewhere else…

Preparations Before a Storm Occurs

“Warning” or “Watch:” The first alert regarding tornadoes is a “tornado watch,” which simply means the conditions are right for tornadoes to form. A “tornado warning” means that a twister has either touched down or been spotted on meteorological radar. I’m waiting for a “bacon storm” to show up on radar one day, although that might just be an urban legend.

Warning System

  • Consider installing a warning system that works in conjunction with fire alarms. Make sure that tenants can easily identify the two types of warnings, so they can plan properly. Remember that outside sirens are not intended to be heard indoors. We pooches can hear them, but we don’t know how to tell you people to take cover!
  • Establish tracking and warning procedures so tenants have enough time to properly prepare for storms.

Physical Improvements

  • Shatter resistant glass, made of Plexiglass or acrylic substances, can greatly reduce the risk of flying debris including broken glass. This is especially important when tornadoes strike unexpectedly and tenants do not have time to move to the interior of the building.
  • Designate a building area as a tornado shelter. Make sure the area is large enough to accommodate all tenants including any pets. FEMA has guidelines on how to select the area in a building that is best suited for a shelter. If possible, investigate ways to reinforce the area through structural improvements, making sure to minimize the amount of materials/projectiles that are in the area.

During the Storm

Personal Safety and Evacuation:

  • Tenants should move away from windows and proceed to the interior of the building, moving to the lowest floors possible.
  • Instruct tenants to use stairs, as power to the elevators will very likely be out.
  • Tenants should be advised to cover their heads at all times in order to prevent injury from falling objects. I can’t really do this while trotting. Maybe someone could get me a hardhat?
  • Establishing safety procedures for employees who are physically disabled will save valuable time.

Lightning:

  • Tornadoes form around severe thunderstorms, which lead to lightning! If time permits, tenants should unplug sensitive computer and television equipment to prevent the risk of fire.

After the Storm

  • Listen to a NOAA weather radio or check websites to be sure there are no longer tornadoes or severe thunderstorms in the area. Remember you may be safer in a slightly damaged building than risking exposure to lightning!
  • Tenants should evacuate the building according to the designated evacuation plan.
  • Once outside, everyone should pay special attention to downed power lines and other dangerous debris.

For tornadoes and other emergencies, I always say that preparation is the first step toward ensuring tenant safety. Even though I try to lighten up my blog with jokes, I’m always serious about the need for planning for emergencies. Remember that proper respect for the power of nature can save lives.

For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact the smart people over at RJ Westmore, Inc. Their 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 Building Evacuation, Disaster Preparedness, Earthquakes, Emergency Evacuations, Uncategorized, Version 2.0

Evacuation Planning Vital to Tenant Safety

Do you know where emergency exits are located in your building?

We talk a lot about emergency planning and disasters. Today, we’re discussing the importance of keeping people safe by making sure they can get out of buildings quickly in case of emergencies.

It’s human nature to panic when disaster strikes. The result can be confusion, indecision and failure to react quickly. If, on the other hand, written procedures are followed, groups understand safety procedures and individuals are properly trained to take charge of the situation, evacuation can be swift, smooth and safe.

Let’s take a look at the necessary steps to ensure quick and thorough building evacuations:

  • The first step is to consider the type of emergency situation. For me, a big emergency would be to run low on pig ears. But that doesn’t warrant an evacuation.
    • In cases of fire, the primary objective is to clear the entire building as quickly as possible.
    • For tornadoes, a safer option might be to instruct people to congregate in a large room located on the first floor instead of meeting outside. As always, proper preparation and written procedures are essential.
    • Buying plenty of pig ears is always important.
    • Ensure there is a clear chain of command. At the dog park, we do this well. For non-canine emergencies, employees and tenants need to be willing to take direction from the people who are in charge and feel confident that building management has control of any and every situation.
    • Floor Wardens need to take charge and understand their responsibilities:
      • Know the proper evacuation routes and internal and external refuge areas.
      • Note any building occupants who need special assistance and assign someone to assist them.
      • Familiarize residents and employees with the location of alarm pull stations and (if they are properly trained how to use them), fire extinguishers.
      • Instruct employees not to use elevators during emergencies unless instructed to do so by emergency personnel.
      • Evacuate any pets that are in the building. Believe me. We don’t want to be left behind.
      • Designate which tenants or employees should shut off gas lines or other equipment. Advise them to fulfill these duties only if absolutely necessary.
      • Building occupants should be given up-to-date evacuation maps, along with safety handbooks.
      • Stairwells and hallways should be kept free of boxes and other impediments, including rawhide bones. Routinely investigate these areas and work with building occupants to determine if additional storage space is necessary so hallways are clear of clutter, to ensure easy emergency exit.
      • Pay special attention to signage. Do a walkthrough of the evacuation route with your entire safety team. Is the escape route clear? If the power is out, will back-up lights and clearly marked egress signs be visible?
      • Establish a secondary meeting area in case the designated space is not usable. In major disasters, the primary exterior safe refuge area (located at least 300 feet from the building) area(s) may be compromised. So plans should be made for a secondary external safe refuge area.

When disaster strikes, pre-planning, training and clear decisive action can help save human and K9 lives. For the latest, most effective, building-specific e-based emergency management training for your building, contact RJ Westmore. Our new Version 2.0 training system offers the best in emergency training, free color aerial photograph safe refuge evacuation maps and full automated and integrated features that make training 100% of your occupants or employees both realistic and cost effective.  Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.