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

Is it just me, or is it hot out here?

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

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

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

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

Extreme Heat Corp 2Hot Weather Coping Strategies:

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

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

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

Posted in Disaster Preparedness, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Fires, Uncategorized

Be Wildfire Safe this Summer

Insurance designThe National Weather Service issues Red Flag Warnings & Fire Weather Watches to alert fire departments of the onset, or possible onset, of critical weather and dry conditions that could lead to rapid or dramatic increases in wildfire activity. According to news reports, this season promises to be one of the worst potential wild fire seasons of record. And even though we all know that weather forecasters aren’t exactly 100% accurate, it is true that the combination of dry weather and high winds lead to increased danger.

Here are 11 facts about wildfires:

  1. The number one cause of wildfires in the U.S. is mankind. Man-made combustions from arson, human carelessness, or lack of fire safety cause wildfire disasters every year. I take pride in the fact that canines aren’t even mentioned in this statistic. We hardly ever start fires.
  2. More than 80 percent of all wildfires are started by humans. See-more proof that dogs aren’t pyromaniacs.
  3. Wildfires (AKA forest or peat fires) are uncontrolled fires which often occur in wild, unpopulated areas. However, they can occur anywhere-destroying homes, other buildings, agriculture, humans, and animals in their path.
  4. Firefighters refer to wildfires as surface fires, dependent crown fires, running crown fires, spot fires, and ground fires. Firefighters refer to wildfires as surface fires, dependent crown fires, “running crown fires,” spot fires, and ground fires. A ‘running crown fire’ is a forest fire that advances with great speed jumping from crown to crown ahead of the ground fire. Whatever they are called-all of us hate fires and work hard to prevent them.
  5. “Running crown fires” are a firefighter’s worst nightmare because they burn extremely hot, travel rapidly, and can change direction quickly.
  6. The most dangerous aspect of “running crown fires” are the convection currents which produce massive fire storms and tornadoes. These subsequent storms can send embers well ahead of the main fire front, causing spot fires that in turn can start new fires in other directions.
  7. Weather conditions can directly contribute to the occurrence of wildfires through lightning strikes or indirectly by an extended dry spell or drought.
  8. Wildfires can be started by an accumulation of dead matter (leaves, twigs, and trees) that can create enough heat in some instances to spontaneously combust and ignite the surrounding area.
  9. Lightning strikes the earth over 100,000 times a day. Ten to 20 percent of these lightning strikes can cause fire.
  10. An average of 1.2 million acres of U.S. woodland burn every year.
  11. A large wildfire-or conflagration-is capable of modifying the local weather conditions (AKA producing its own weather). That is pretty spooky. Huh?

Firedog 7-10-14A Red Flag Warning is issued for weather events which may result in extreme fire behavior that will occur within 24 hours. A Fire Weather Watch is issued when weather conditions could exist in the next 12-72 hours. A Red Flag Warning is the highest alert. During these times extreme caution is urged by all residents, because a simple spark can cause a major wildfire. And a tiny cat can cause a huge mess. Just sayin’. A Fire Weather Watch is one level below a warning, but fire danger is still high.

The type of weather patterns that can cause a watch or warning include low relative humidity, strong winds, dry fuels, the possibility of dry lightning strikes, or any combination of the above. During heightened fire danger, additional firefighters are generally added to active duty, more engines are on standby and more equipment is at the ready 24 hours a day, to be able to respond to new fires. It is important that everyone takes steps to prevent wildfires. One less spark could mean one less wildfire.

Here are tips for preventing wildfires:

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

 

Posted in Disaster Preparedness, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Fires

All About Wildfire Safety

The Waldo Canyon Fire has been declared the worst in Colorado state history. With flames raging out of control, at the time of this writing, the fire has destroyed 346 homes in Colorado Springs, killed at least one person and burned an estimated 18,500 acres of land. Meanwhile, the High Park Fire in Fort Collins has charred countless pine forests. Nevertheless, (as hard to believe as this is,) these blazes are small compared to the storied history of U.S. fires which have scorched millions of acres in the 19thand 20th Centuries:

  • In 1825, when the Great Miramichi Fire broke out, it burned 3 million acres in Maine and New Brunswick and killed at least 160 people.
  • Two decades later, Oregon’s Great Fire of 1845 blazed for weeks and downed 1.5 million acres of timber.
  • The Great Fire of 1910 occurred in Idaho and Montana, as a result of severe winds, small fires and dry forests combining to unleash fiery havoc over a two-day period. The wildfire destroyed some 3 million acres (1.2 million hectares) and took the lives of 86 people. So great was its destruction—in loss of land and human life—that it prompted Congress to begin setting aside money to help the National Forest Service suppress fires.
  • The recent California Wildfires in 2003 and 2007 claimed 1,500 lives and 1.3 million acres. Nine people died as a direct result of the fires and 85 others were injured, including at least 61 firefighters. The fires were so pervasive, they were visible from space.

Wildfires break out for a myriad of reasons…arson, overgrown brush, careless campers, welders’ and machinery sparks, fireworks, tossed lit cigarettes, spilled chemicals, improper trash burning, to name a few. Unfortunately, wildfires are incredibly easy to start and extremely difficult to stop.

While we at RJWestmore, Inc. usually concentrate both of our blogs to preparing for disasters and managing emergencies in urban settings and high rise buildings, where most of our clients do business, we consider it worthwhile to advise our members and friends about fire safety away from home and office. After all; our mission is to “Save Lives through Training.” And our motto is: “BE SAFE.” We want you to be safe at home, work or play!

There are lots of great free resources to help citizens and their pets prepare for wildfires. Among available materials is a downloadable PDF booklet produced by FEMA called “Wildfires: Are you prepared?” The booklet reminds us to take steps because, intentionally or accidentally, most wildfires are started by people, which is why Smokey the Bear’s mantra is: “Only YOU can prevent wildfires.” I’ve always been a fan of Smokey…even before he became a celebrity.

Here is an overview of how you can practice wildfire safety:

  • Contact local authorities to obtain information about fire laws in your region.
  • Make sure that fire vehicles can get to your home. Clearly mark driveway entrances with your street address.
  • Report hazardous conditions that could lead to wildfire.
  • Teach children about fire safety. Keep matches out of their reach.
  • Design and landscape your home with wildfire safety in mind. Select materials and plants that can help contain fire rather than fuel it. And while you’re at it, I’d suggest you install your own fire hydrant. Your dog will thank you for it.
  • Use fire-resistant or noncombustible materials on the roof and exterior structure of your dwelling, or treat wood or combustible material used in roofs, siding, decking, doghouses, or trim with fire-retardant chemicals.
  • Create a 30- to 100-foot safety zone around your structure. And you might want to let man’s best friend mark the territory. Just an idea.
  • Plan your water needs. For example, is there an outside water source such as a small pond, cistern, well, swimming pool, or hydrant? If not, make sure the garden hose is long enough to reach any area of the property. This is critical for dog bowls, too!
  • If you’re sure you have time, take steps to protect your home.
  • If advised to evacuate, DO SO IMMEDIATELY!
  • Post fire emergency telephone numbers.
  • Plan several escape routes away from your home—by car, by foot or by paw.
  • Run fire drills. (Fire drills are not just for schools.)
  • For comprehensive planning, take advantage of free information offered by Firewise.org, which is a service of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
  • Share fire safety information with your neighbors.
  • This is by no means a comprehensive list. For more about wildfire safety and preparation, check out resources provided by NFPA, FEMA, Ready.Gov, the American Red Cross, the CDC and the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IIBHS).

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 3.0 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 RJWestmore.com for more information.

Posted in Air Quality, BE SAFE, Disaster Preparedness, Fire Safety, Fires, Health & Welfare, Safety at Home, Uncategorized, Version 2.0

Managing Indoor Air Quality

clouds, sun and sky
Clean air is a safety concern.

For building owners and managers, ensuring tenant and visitor welfare is always of paramount importance. And while there is only so much that can be done to control the quality of the air that enters into a building, it is still important to frequently filter and refresh the air for optimal tenant and visitor health. I have a high-velocity air filtration system in our firedoghouse!

Regulations such as the Clean Air Act have saved thousands of lives from diseases such as emphysema, asthma and heart disease. However, there is still much that can be done to control air pollutants to allow everyone to enjoy cleaner air.

What are some of the main contributors to air pollution?

  • Carbon monoxide is odorless and tasteless but very poisonous in large quantities. Facilities that operate furnaces and/or automobiles need to provide adequate ventilation and install carbon monoxide alarms to ensure safety.
  • Let’s be honest. Cat dander is the biggest problem for poor air. Tabby and Whiskers need to be left outside at all times!
  • Particulate matter is basically “stuff” in the air. This can be man-made or naturally caused, resulting from sources as diverse as burning fossil fuels, power plants, dust storms and wildfires. Particulates have wreaked havoc on the human body since ancient times.
  • Nitrogen oxides are the brown plumes of “haze” that can be seen downwind of major cities. I love it when people call it “haze,” like it’s just simply trapped water vapor. It’s smog, people! The result of high-temperature combustion, such compounds produce smoggy reddish-brown skies.

Before embarking on new policies and procedures for improving a building’s air quality, it’s important to record a baseline. Testing for radon, carbon monoxide and particulate levels can help guide you about unsafe conditions and provide guidance on the priority order for steps to clean the air.

What kind of policies can a company institute to improve air quality?

  • If your company is relocating or expanding, avoid purchasing office space that is in close proximity to industrial areas which might produce toxins. Of course, if your property is already located in this type of area, you can take steps to safeguard the air in the interior of the building.
  • Don’t allow smoking either in or around your building. Cigarette smoke contains an alarming number of toxins which can remain suspended in the air for long periods of time. When I see people smoking, I’m really glad I don’t have opposable thumbs…
  • Review furniture choices in tenant offices. Pieces made of out cheap particle board may contain formaldehyde, which is a known carcinogen. I require only top-shelf mahogany for my doghouse…

Cleaning and maintenance tips for air quality:

  • Proper cleaning of carpets is essential. Carpets act as a filter or trap for dust mites and other allergens. Without frequent vacuuming with appropriate filters, carpets can outgas airborne toxins.  I tend get a little gassy after my fourth pig ear.
  • Follow suggested maintenance and cleaning guidelines for HVAC systems. Ductwork should be cleaned to remove mold or other contaminants. Filters should be the highest-quality to effectively remove particles down to the smallest micron.
  • Janitorial staff should be allowed to open windows or other ventilation, whenever feasible. Fumes from high-grade cleaning products are a serious irritant.
  • For residences and businesses in high-humidity areas, consider utilizing dehumidifiers to inhibit the growth of mold. I require a dehumidifier, electronic air cleaner, high-velocity fan, and a white noise machine. I’m a high-maintenance pooch.

Unlike other disasters that can be seen or heard, air quality is (by its very nature) a typically invisible problem. As such, it can pose detrimental health effects over long periods of time, making it a silent but deadly killer. Taking steps to clean the air will have a direct effect on tenant happiness and productivity.

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.