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How Tech is Changing Disaster Management

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

It wasn’t long ago that disaster management professionals handled crises primarily through landlines and press conferences. Thankfully, over the past 10 years, technology has redefined global emergency management and disaster communications. One of the first national disasters to heavily rely on technology, according to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), was Hurricane Sandy, as users sent more than 20 million Sandy-related tweets.
Since people have embraced mobile technologies, it’s increasingly important for disaster management professionals to adopt a social media strategy as well as the ability to use multiple forms of technology to communicate and connect with an increasingly networked population. What’s more, building owners and managers as well as members of the public, should take advantage of the many ways technology can help them prepare for, survive, and recover after a disaster.


Technology and Disasters:

  • The American Red Cross offers free mobile apps that put lifesaving information at the user’s fingertips. The apps give people instant access to more than 35 customizable emergency weather alerts, as well as safety tips and preparedness information for 14 different types of emergencies and disasters. The Emergency App contains an “I’m Safe” feature, which helps people use social media to let loved ones know they are okay following an emergency. These apps have been downloaded over seven million times and have been credited with saving lives in Oklahoma, Texas and other states. Other Red Cross apps include Blood Donor, Earthquakes, First Aid, Flood, Hero Care, Hurricane, Pet First Aid, Radio Cruz Roja, Swim, Tornadoes, Transfusion Practice Guidelines and Wildfires.

  • Disaster Apps. While it would be virtually impossible to list every available disaster app, here are a few noteworthy options, available on Google Play as well as the Apple App Store: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), FEMA, My Hurricane Tracker, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), QuakeFeed, Storm Distance Tracker, and WeatherCaster.
  • Facebook offers a natural disaster page, which is set up so that people can check on loved ones, get updates about the developing situation, and look for information about how to help. Disaster Response on Facebook highlights tips, news, and information on how to prepare for, respond to and recover from natural disasters. Facebook users who like and follow the page can stay up to date and connected with affected communities around the world. They can also donate with the “Donate Now” call-to-action button, so nonprofits can connect with people who care about their causes and encourage them to contribute.

  • Twitter has emerged as a legitimate means of emergency communication for coordinating disaster relief. A 2015 study, What to Expect When the Unexpected Happens: Social Media Communications Across Crises, focused on 26 different crisis situations (such as earthquakes, floods, bombings, derailments and wildfires) for two years. The event which obtained the most Twitter attention at the time of the study was the Boston Marathon bombings, with 157,500 tweets. What’s more, Twitter Alerts provide trusted sources with a platform to disseminate accurate information to concerned parties in real time, and for those people to offer immediate feedback about the impact and hierarchy of needs relative to the associated disaster.

  • OneEvent is an algorithm developed by a small startup in Wisconsin. For a monthly subscription fee, OneEvent detects household disasters like fires and floods up to 20 minutes before they happen. The software-based approach uses sensors to monitor things like heat and humidity in key areas of the subscriber’s home. If things start to deviate from the norm due to a leaky pipe or a hot oven, the system will catch it, let the user know, and learnfrom the situation.
  • Online Fire Life Training systems, which provide subscribers with access to information about emergency and disaster prevention, management and recovery. A leader in the field is Allied Universal Fire Life Safety Training Systems. The fully-automated system allows property management companies to manage one site or an entire portfolio, with all users in the same system. Subscribers get access to training for building occupants, floor wardens, and fire safety directors. All user training and testing is recorded. Building-specific information is sent to first responders for immediate access during emergencies.

Remember that safety is important for everyone across continents. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the Allied Universal Fire Life Training System, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

Earthquake Preparedness

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016
quakeshack

Allied Universal Fire/Life Safety Services’ client, Brookfield, recently used the Quake Cottage in their earthquake tenant training.

Worldwide, millions of people practiced how to Drop, Cover, and Hold On at 10:20 a.m. on October 20, 2016 during The Great California ShakeOut. Participating in the annual event is a great way to make sure you are prepared to survive and recover quickly from substantial earthquakes – whether you are at home, at work or traveling.

To call attention to earthquake preparedness, we want to take this opportunity to educate our subscribers and friends about earthquake preparedness in high-rise buildings. We would like to extend our thanks to Safe-T-Proof, which provided their “Quake Cottage” for a Pre-Great California Shakeout event. They offer superior earthquake fasteners and straps for offices as well as survival kits and additional earthquake-safety supplies.

The latest and greatest in earthquake-resilient design is currently being implemented to build the Wilshire Grand Center in Los Angeles, which, at 1,100 feet, will make it the tallest building on the Pacific coast. The building’s massive foundation is so robust that its construction is noted in the Guinness Book of World Records for the “longest continuous concrete pour.” Exploding city

Despite how odd it feels to stand in a tall building that sways during an earthquake, modern California high-rises provide safer refuge during earthquakes than most shorter facilities. This is because architectural plans and construction for high-rise California structures built after the Sylmar quake in 1971 are required to follow stringent seismic codes. You can further improve your high-rise earthquake survival odds by taking preparedness steps.

Safety Tips for High-Rise Earthquakes

  • Stay put. Sitting down under a desk or doorway is the safest way to “ride out” a quake while it’s happening. Most earthquakes are relatively short. So it is safer to patiently wait a quake out instead of trying to exit the building as it moves.
  • Stay alert. After exiting a building, tenants should move under cover in order to avoid falling debris such as panes of glass. Also, pay attention to warnings of fires or tsunamis which can follow any quake.
  • Stay informed. Tenants in high rises should be familiar with evacuation protocols for their building. A speedy yet orderly evacuation is crucial for ensuring building occupant safety. The National Fire Protection Association offers an evacuation plan video that encourages individuals to take ownership of their safety while following safety procedures.

Allied Universal offers these earthquake safety tips for anyone who may not be in a high-rise to follow:

Duck, cover and hold on.

Duck, cover and hold on.

Indoors

  • Drop to the ground. Take cover by getting under a sturdy table and hold on. Stay inside until the shaking stops.
  • Stay away from glass or anything that can fall, like light fixtures and furniture.
  • Stay in bed if you are there when the earthquake strikes.

In a Fire…R-A-C-E to Safety!

  • Rescue—Remove any employees or visitors from immediate danger.
  • Alarm—Pull the nearest Fire Alarm and call the proper emergency phone number.
  • Contain—Contain all smoke and toxic fumes by closing all doors and windows.
  • Extinguish and Evacuate—Follow all posted and verbal procedures.

Outdoors

  • Stay where you are if you are not near any buildings, streetlights or utility wires.
  • Do not move from the area you are in until the shaking stops. Remember that aftershocks can be just as bad as the earthquake itself.

In a Moving VehicleEarthquake scene at the town

  • Stop as quickly as possible, but stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses and utility wires.
  • Proceed cautiously once the shaking has stopped. Avoid roads, bridges, or ramps that have been damaged.

Built to Withstand Quakes

Modern high rises, such as the Wilshire Grand Center, undergo considerable earthquake modeling and testing before they are complete. Taller buildings must withstand massive amounts of force from earthquakes and wind, so engineers make sure construction will withstand the “worst case scenario.”

High-Rise Earthquake Safety Features

  • Tuned mass dampers. These are massive weights that are mounted within a building and designed to move opposite to the oscillations of the structure. For example, the massive Taipei 101 skyscraper damper weighs 660 tons.
  • Simple roller bearing. This is a type of “base isolation” where the movement of the building is mitigated by bearings, which absorb some of the energy, thereby minimizing the building’s lateral movement. This is a common technique that essentially removes the structure from the ground, so it “floats” freely.
  • Sway. Engineers build the structure to withstand a certain amount of sway, knowing that there is a direct relationship between the height of the building and seconds of associated, safe side-to-side movement.

Building AbstractBuilding design is always dynamic, with new materials and procedures explored that can make buildings safer and more aesthetically pleasing. For instance, the growing use of cross-laminated timber (CLT) is pushing architects to consider high-rise wood buildings in Seattle and other areas.

Remember that safety is a daily priority for everyone, not only those working or living in high-rise buildings. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the Allied Universal Training System by Allied Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

Elevator Recalls and Safety Tips

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016
Do not use the elevator during a high-rise fire.

During an emergency which requires building evacuation, do not take the elevator.

The advancing age of many elevators and decreased preventative maintenance have recently given rise to the number of elevator failures, such as stalled cars. Nevertheless, elevators remain an exceedingly safe mode of transportation, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Consumer Product Safety Commission reporting an average associated fatality rate of just 0.00000015% per trip, which represents a total of 27 deaths per year resulting from 18 billion rides. This statistic positions elevator rides as safer than vehicles, airplanes or even stairs

Elevator manufacturers stake their reputation on safety, investing considerable resources into redundant systems to help protect elevator occupants. Nevertheless, elevators occasionally malfunction and even break down. Safety malfunctions can involve doors, buttons, cables, and additional components.

Here are a few facts about elevator safety:

Core safety features of modern elevators:in case of fire use stairway for exit sign. vector symbol

  • Electromagnetic brakes are used to keep the car in place, and will automatically snap shut if the elevator system loses electrical power. Modern elevators also feature braking systems located at the top and bottom of the elevator shaft, which can detect excessive elevator movement and apply brakes, when necessary.
  • Despite the common Hollywood movie scene of an elevator cable snapping and elevator car plummeting, this scenario is unrealistic. Elevator cables are comprised of sturdy steel strands, which have been designed to single-handedly support the entire weight of the car and occupants. Each elevator contains between four and eight cables for each car, which provides multiple levels of redundancy.

Stuck in a Tin Canimage002

As alarming as it can be, getting stuck in an elevator is rarely a life-threatening situation. Elevators occasionally get stuck. But even when this occurs, core safety systems remain intact.

Elevator safety tips:

  • In any emergency such as an earthquake, fire or anything that may require building evacuation, do not take the elevator. Take the stairs!
  • Do not attempt to rush into an elevator while the doors are closing. Simply wait for the next car. Also, keep young children and leashed pets very close to you, for their safety as well as the safety of everyone in the car.
  • Try not to panic about oxygen. While the car is an admittedly confined space, you should have plenty of available air to breath. Elevator cars are not airtight.
  • Never, ever try to exit a stalled elevator car through the roof hatch or by prying the doors apart. This is the most important tip, as several deaths have tragically occurred when people try to escape stalled cars. In many cases, the elevator will stop between floors, leaving occupants with the mistaken impression that they would be able to crawl out to safety. However, if the elevator moves as someone is trying to escape, they could be trapped and tragically, crushed. So stay put and be patient.
  • If the elevator car stalls, use the elevator phone and/or your cell phone to alert authorities. Remain calm.

 

woman hands try to stop doors of the closed elevatorAdditional Elevator Safety Tips, courtesy of Allied Universal

While elevators have proven to be a very safe way of transporting both people and merchandise, occasionally malfunctions do occur. Common problems can include elevators that do not correctly align with the floor, doors that do not open or close properly, stopping between floors or stopping altogether and entrapping occupants.

Universal Services of America offers the following tips to help ensure your safety and knowledge regarding proper elevator use.

When you approach the elevator

  • Stand aside for exiting passengers.
  • Wait for the next car if the elevator is already full.
  • Do not attempt to stop a closing door.
  • Use the stairs, not an elevator, if there is a fire in the building.

When you enter and exit the elevator

  • Watch your step, as the elevator floor may not be level with the landing.
  • Stand clear of the doors, and keep your clothing and any carry-on items away from the opening.

When riding on the elevator

  • Stand back from the doors and hold the handrail, if available.
  • Pay attention to the floor indications, so you may exit when you arrive at your floor.
  • Discern between the “open door” button and the “close door” button to avoid confusing them, if needed.

If you find yourself in an elevator that has become stuck

  • Push the “door open” button. If that does not work, ring the elevator alarm.
  • Use the emergency phone, alarm or help button, if available, to summon emergency personnel. Or use your cell phone to call 9-1-1.
  • Do not attempt to force the doors open.
  • Never try to leave the elevator car on your own, as doing so could result in serious injury.
  • Remain calm. Elevators contain sufficient oxygen levels to last until help arrives.

For more info on elevator safety or to learn about escalator safety, visit the National Elevator Industry website at www.neii.org. Remember that safety is a daily priority, whether or not you use elevators. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

Emergency Response & Disaster Management: Drones

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

UAV drone flying outdoor.Originally novelty items, drones are poised to become a multi-million dollar industry. These small remote-controlled devices are perfectly suited for industrial, emergency response, and building management purposes. This is due to their comparatively low cost compared to traditionally manned aircraft and because they can easily access remote target areas without putting operators at risk.

Improving Emergency ResponseMale figure in a forest setting waving to a UAV drone. Fictitious UAV is a unique design. Depicting the use of drones in search and rescue operations; lens flare, depth-of-field, motion blur.

Locating hurt or missing persons after a disaster is crucial for reducing loss of life. Drones work well for search and rescue because they are uniquely capable of enabling disaster response teams to quickly traverse dangerous locations resulting from floodwaters, wildfires, collapsed buildings, and the like.

Consider, for example, a large earthquake that causes buildings to crumble. Dangerous rubble could pose a serious risk to would-be rescuers, whereas drone operators could quickly scan the area to survey the integrity of remaining walls and structures while simultaneously searching for survivors. Using drones in this fashion reduces some of the risks to first responders by reducing their time spent in dangerous situations.

Building Inspections

Building operators use drones to investigate the exterior of structures for cracks or maintenance issues. Equipped with a camera, a drone can provide engineers and maintenance teams with detailed views of a facility’s exterior. Using drones in this manner can reduce the need for human inspectors, which is a cost-efficient way to detect small but potentially catastrophic problems. It also enables inspection of dangerous building components without associated risks. For example, drone operators can check radiation levels near reactors and closely view chemical factory processes from a safe distance.

Utility giant Con EdisonDrone deliveries box through the city is testing the use of drones to inspect steam boilers that power some of New York City’s iconic buildings. Whereas traditional inspection methods involve building scaffolding and teams of workers traversing tight space, drones armed with traditional and thermal imaging cameras can review deforested areas and correlate the links between primates, mosquitoes and humans.

Disaster Management and Support

Retrieving samples, such as blood or saliva cultures, is crucial when managing a biological threat. Organizations in New Jersey recently conducted drone test flights carrying simulated blood packets and other items on a ship-to-shore mission. Drones are ideal for this type of transport because they vibrate less than traditional automobile journeys, which can damage samples. Drones can also be outfitted to deliver vital supplies, such as telecommunications equipment, to provide instant communication links between disaster victims and first responders.

High-rise Disasters

Drones give operators a bird's eye view.

Drones give operators a bird’s eye view.

Drones are ideal for high-rise fire rescue assistance, as they can monitor the intensity of a fire through sensors, and provide associated real-time updates to firefighters relative to the exact location and number of people involved, as well as additional relevant intel. Large commercial drones of three to four feet widths (and multi-thousands dollar price points) can even carry and disperse fire retardant agents, which could provide firefighting teams with precious time needed to save lives.

Other Uses:

  • Organizations around the world utilize drones for planning purposes before disasters strike.
  • Communities in flood plains can use drones to assess risks and spot particularly vulnerable areas.
  • Drones used in Malaysia are providing data about the links between rates of deforestation and malaria outbreaks, allowing response teams to better prepare for and prevent outbreaks.

    #BeSafe

    #BeSafe

Remember that safety is a daily priority. And with the advances in drone technology, safety is receiving a boost from an affordable tool that could prevent or provide relief from disasters. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

Recent Earthquakes Hit Ring of Fire: Would You Be Prepared?

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

Seismic activity graphThe recent earthquakes in the Ring of Fire focus attention on the importance of earthquake preparedness throughout the western United States. Important components for lowering the incidences of loss of life and property are to follow construction guidelines and retrofit structures while making sure tenants understand the need to follow safety procedures.

The recent earthquakes in Ecuador and Japan highlight the need for proper building codes and preparedness for individuals. These quakes unfortunately caused loss of life as well as property damage, but there are lessons to learn from each disaster, which could potentially limit damage associated with future earthquakes.

Ecuador Earthquake

Waving flag of ecuador. 3D illustrationOn April 16, 2016, a 7.8 magnitude quake hit Ecuador, causing extensive damage and leading to the deaths of at least 587 people. The deadliest disaster in the country since a quake that hit in 1949, it leveled several towns. Due to the upheaval, officials have raised alerts about the associated increased risk of spreading Zika virus and dengue fever among displaced residents. The earthquake destroyed more than 805 buildings and damaged 600 more. Building code enforcement in the country varies by region, and rural homes likely collapsed due to inferior construction materials.

Japan Earthquake

Kobe, Japan Earthquake Memorial

Kobe, Japan Earthquake Memorial

After the horrific quake and tsunami in 2011, Japanese residents are understandably concerned about earthquake safety and loss of life prevention. Earthquakes hit Japan on April 16 – five years, exactly, to the day as the Ecuador quakes. The main shock registered a 7.0 on the Richter scale.

Despite the terrible losses from the 2011 earthquake, Japan’s strict building code improvements helped limit the damage this time around. The country made a concerted effort to improve codes after the 1995 Kobe earthquake and has emerged as a global leader in earthquake construction and retrofitting.

FEMA and Local Agency Involvement

In some areas of the United States, funds are available through individual states or federally, through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for several projects, including the completion of retrofitting. For example, an early 2016 California initiative through the California Residential Mitigation Program offered homeowners in select areas a $3,000 credit for proper crawlspace bolting and bracing of older homes. FEMA also offers programs and educational documents for commercial buildings. In Los Angeles, property owners are pushing for residential tenants to shoulder much of the costs of the county-mandated retrofitting due for completion within coming years. There are several viable options available to property managers and owners relative to mandatory retrofits.

Building Codes Save LivesHigh-rise Building Construction

In most earthquakes, the loss of life occurs from building collapse (and tsunamis) instead of shaking associated with the trembler. This underscores the need for countries in the Ring of Fire earthquake zone to follow recommended earthquake building codes for new construction and to properly retrofit older structures, when possible.

Retrofitting buildings for earthquake safety involves several procedures for commercial and residential buildings. Commercial buildings might need external bracing of parking garages to prevent floors from “pancaking” due to stress, as well as supplementary dampers that convert motion into heat.

Prepare Building Occupants for Earthquakes

While the integrity of residential and commercial buildings is vitally important, the onus for earthquake survival and safety is shared by building occupants. Here are tips to observe for optimal earthquake preparedness:

  • Secure pictures on walls with approved adhesives, and anchor tall furniture to the wall.
  • Understand and follow the evacuation plan. Know when the situation (or building-wide alerts) call for evacuation versus sheltering in place.
  • Know how to turn off gas lines to the stove and hot water heater as well as proper fire extinguisher operation.
  • Recognize the importance of listening to floor wardens and follow their directions.

Remember that safety is a daily priority. So be sure to think about ways to #BeSafe all of the time, whether or not you live in an earthquake-prone region. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

7 Safety Resolutions for 2016

Tuesday, January 5th, 2016
Resolve to Be Ready in 2016

Resolve to Be Ready in 2016

According to StatisticBrain.com, 45 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, but only eight percent actually succeed in achieving them. So maybe the first resolution you should make this year is to keep the resolutions you make! Our idea for ensuring success? Buck the trend of focusing your goals on popular resolutions involving weight, money and relationships in favor of resolving to be safe.

Seven safety resolutions for 2016:

  1. Review recent history. Where safety is concerned, consider the steps you took to be safe in 2015 as well as the emergencies that arose, so you can identify emergency strengths and weaknesses. For example, did anyone slip or fall at one of your properties in 2015? If so, how was the incident handled? What steps can be taken to prevent future accidents? The National Safety Council offers several ideas for reducing the risk of slips and falls.Emergency fire exit door  sign icon
  1. Plan for earthquakes. Review your earthquake preparedness plan, making sure that evacuation routes are clear and furniture, boilers and water heaters are secure. If your building is located in an earthquake-prone area such as Southern California, use this interactive map to see if your building is located on an active fault line. Understanding the severity of the risk can aid in earthquake planning.
  1. Remove clutter throughout the building. Hallways that are littered with boxes impede safe passage. So make sure stairwells remain accessible and that exits are clearly marked. For suggestions about preparing exit routes and creating a fire prevention plan, check out the emergency evacuation fact sheet on the OSHA website.
  1. Reduce fire risks. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), cooking equipment is the leading cause of fires that start at home. As for nonresidential buildings, the most recent available data from FEMA (for 2013) suggests the leading reported causes of fires are cooking, followed by arson, carelessness and heating equipment. Prominently display safety guidelines for heating food, reporting suspicious behavior and carefully dealing with electricity and open flames.
  1. Assemble a “Go-kit.” After any emergency, building occupants might need to shelter in place or move to a safe location on your property, potentially for days. The important components of a go-kit are one gallon of water per person, for three days, non-perishable food, flashlights, medications, first-aid kit, whistle, hand-crank or battery-operated radio (and extra batteries) and emergency blankets. Learn more about assembling an effective go-kit from the Red Cross.
  1. Emphasize cybersecurity. IT security experts predict 2016 will bring an increase in cybersecurity threats such as ransoming, cloud infiltration, identity theft, and advanced phishing. The damages from a hacking attempt and possible leak of electronic data can be enormous. Learn best practices to prevent cybersecurity breaches, such as using strong passwords, limiting access to key employees, and regularly installing software updates and patches that can plug security holes.Be Prepared
  1. Subscribe to the Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services. The system helps commercial, residential, educational, institutional, government, retail and industrial buildings with compliance to fire/life safety codes. Our interactive, building-specific e-learning training system motivates and rewards building occupants instantly! It’s a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your facility, cuts property management training related workloads by 90% and saves building owners and managers over 50% compared to conventional training! Most importantly, IT SAVES LIVES! For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

The Great Shakeout 2015

Thursday, October 8th, 2015

Shakeout 2015Each October marks another Great California Shakeout, a month-long event designed to educate people about earthquake preparedness. Held annually in California, and many other states, The Great Shakeout offers expert resources and an earthquake drill that happens at exactly the same time all across the state. This year’s Shakeout will take place on October 15 at 10:15 a.m. PST.  With more than nine million individual participants, the Shakeout will drill people from businesses, schools, museums and more.

Drop, Cover, and Hold On are the instructions for anyone participating in an earthquake drill. The exercise reinforces several actions to take during and immediately following earthquakes:Shakeout 2015e

  • Cover your head with your arms and take shelter under a desk or table. Ignore the old advice about finding a doorway to stand under. Instead, move towards a desk or table (if they are close by). The next alternative is to move to the corner of a room and place your hands over your head.
  • Don’t try to go outside. It’s safer to be inside a structure, especially with the associated risk of falling glass and other debris that might shake loose during the quake. The ground during an earthquake is unstable, so you could potentially injure yourself if you move around too much.
  • Move slowly away from large hanging pictures and heavy bookcases.
  • Once the shaking stops, take a minute to remember proper evacuation procedures. Leave the building in a quick and orderly fashion.
  • If you are on a sidewalk near a building, try to enter via the lobby, to avoid falling glass.
  • Stay alert for aftershocks which can approach the same intensity as the main quake.

Shakeout 2015bThe Great Shakeout website offers resources for groups preparing for earthquakes. These include drill manuals for business owners, which offer tips for creating and conducting preparedness drills. Here are a few great tips from the manual:

  • Simulate actual earthquake conditions by asking employees to stay in the crouched safe position for a minute or longer.
  • Conduct meetings after the drill to discuss possible ways to improve procedures and communications. Adjust your business disaster plan based on this feedback.
  • Designate staff members to be in charge of certain activities after a quake. For example, the Shakeout is a great time to make sure your high-rise building’s Floor Wardens understand their job relative to emergency preparedness and disaster management.
Frightened employee hiding under the desk - studio shoot

Drop, Cover & Hold On

While much of the focus on earthquakes centers on California and other western states, the need for earthquake preparedness is great throughout the country. For instance, Ohio and other Midwestern states experience occasional strong quakes. In fact, a massive quake in 1812 reportedly caused parts of the Mississippi River to flow backwards. A 7.3 quake struck South Carolina in 1896, and remains the strongest East Coast quake in recorded history. Then, there was the 2011 quake, which rocked the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C.  Dangerous earthquakes can happen in any part of the U.S., so building managers and owners should be certain quake preparedness is part of any disaster plan.

Remember that safety is a daily priority, so be sure to think about disaster planning all of the time–not just during October. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about our system, or to subscribe, click here.

CERT Training

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

CERTFollowing major disasters, it is entirely possible that first responders, who are first on scene to provide fire and medical services, will not be able to immediately meet the demand for services. Factors contributing to a potential backup of emergency workers and the public’s inability to successfully reach 911 could include: the number of victims, communication failures, and road blockages. For these reasons, it is likely that in virtually any major emergency, people will need to rely on each other to meet immediate life-saving and life-sustaining needs.

In emergencies of all kinds, family members, friends, fellow employees, neighbors, and tenants spontaneously help each other. Thankfully, history has shown that people usually rise to the occasion when major disasters strike. Such was the case recently in the Mexico City earthquake, where untrained volunteers heroically stepped up to save 800 people. As the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) notes, unfortunately, 100 of those people lost their lives in so doing. The good news is that many accidental deaths and injuries are preventable, through proper emergency training.

Cert 2For the above reasons, in 1985, the L.A. County City Fire Department (LAFD) developed and implemented a formal program for emergency citizen training they called the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). Shortly thereafter, the Whittier Narrows earthquake in 1987 underscored the area-wide potential for a major disaster in California. It further confirmed the need to train civilians to meet immediate emergency-associated needs.

Later adopted by public agencies across the country, CERT training benefits those citizens who take it, as it prepares them to respond to and cope with the aftermath of disasters. Since 1993, CERT training has been made available nationally by FEMA, and is now offered in communities in 28 states and Puerto Rico. Many communities  tap graduates of the program to form teams of individuals who can be recruited and further trained as volunteer auxiliary responders.

CERT members receive 17 ½ hours (one day a week for seven weeks) of initial training. The seven-week course is followed by full-day biannual refresher drills, and an opportunity to assist the LAFD at local incidents. In Los Angeles, CERT is provided free of charge to anyone 18 or over.

Cert 5CERT Training is divided into the following seven sessions:

  • Session 1: Disaster Preparedness
  • Session 2: Disaster Fire Suppression
  • Session 3: Disaster Medical Operations Part 1
  • Session 4: Disaster Medical Operations Part 2
  • Session 5: Light Search & Rescue Operations
  • Session 6: Disaster Psychology and Team Organization
  • Session 7: Course Review and Disaster Simulation

After completing the program, will be able to safely:

  • Search for and rescue victims.
  • Provide basic medical aid, by treating the three main threats to life– medical killers: opening airways, controlling bleeding, and treating for shock.
  • Manage utilities and put out small fires.
  • Organize themselves and spontaneous volunteers to be effective.
  • Collect disaster intelligence to support first responder efforts.
  • Assist professional responders with prioritization and allocation of resources following a disaster.

Cert 3To find and/or begin a CERT program in your area:

  1. Complete a CERT program, take advantage of an interactive web-based class or search the FEMA website by zip code for classes taught on location.
  2. Complete a CERT Train-the-Trainer (TTT) course conducted by a State Training Office for Emergency Management or the Emergency Management Institute, in order to learn the training techniques used by the LAFD.
  3. Identify the program goals that CERT would meet and the resources necessary to conduct the program in your area.
  4. Seek approval from appointed and elected officials to use CERT as a means to prepare citizens to care for themselves during a disaster, when services may not be adequate.
  5. Identify and recruit potential participants. Naturals for CERT are community groups, business and industry workers, and local government workers.
  6. Train CERT instructors.
  7. Conduct CERT sessions.
  8. Conduct refresher training and exercises with CERTs.

In recognition for training completion, CERT members should receive ID cards, vests and helmets. Graduates should also regularly practice their skills. To this end, trainers should offer periodic refresher sessions to reinforce basic training. CERT teams can also sponsor events such as drills, picnics, neighborhood clean-ups, and disaster education fairs.

We hope that this blog post will help you take steps to prepare yourself for potential disasters, and that you might consider starting or joining a CERT in your area. To find a team or pursue CERT training, enter your zip code in the Citizen Corps section of the FEMA website. Another convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for emergencies is to subscribe to the Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. Visit rjwestmore.com to read about the many ways proper planning can make a difference in numerous aspects of your professional and personal life.

 

How to Mark National Preparedness Month

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

National Prep Month 2014 corp

The recent newsworthy earthquakes in Napa, California, in Chile, and off the coast of northern Japan, earlier this month, are sobering reminders that it is always prudent to prepare for major shakers. Since September is National Preparedness Month, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is partnering with communities in Arizona, California, Nevada and Hawaii to encourage families, individuals and businesses to act now to increase preparedness for emergencies of every type throughout the U.S. We, at Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, join with FEMA to encourage preparedness throughout the month of September and beyond.

Nancy Ward, FEMA Region IX Administrator said, “Preparedness is a shared responsibility. It takes a whole community and this is why you see federal, state, and county government agencies partnering with local municipalities, non-profits, and private businesses to spread the message about the importance of being prepared for emergency situations.”

PrepareAthonNational Preparedness Month is a nationwide, month-long effort hosted annually by the Ready Campaign and Citizen Corps, which encourages households, businesses and communities to prepare and plan for emergencies. One of the key messages is to be prepared in the event of an emergency, which includes making plans to be self-reliant for three days without utilities and electricity, water service, access to a supermarket or local services. People are further encouraged to prepare for the possibility of the unavailability of immediate response from agencies such as police, fire or rescue. According to FEMA, preparing for such disaster realities starts with five important steps:

  1. Stay informed about emergencies that could happen in your community. This year’s campaign will focus on “Family Connection,” encouraging families to prepare.

Identify sources of information in your community that will be helpful before, during and after an emergency. If you are aware of the potential emergencies that could strike your region, you will be better prepared during and after such an event. In other words, if you live in an area where tornadoes strike, take steps to prepare for tornadoes. If you live near a fault line, make sure you understand how to prepare for an earthquake, etc. Also, ask officials about your community’s disaster plans.

  1. Ask Questions:
  • What hazards are most likely?
  • How will I get alerts and warnings?
  • What is the advice and plans for sheltering and evacuation for the hazards that may impact the community?
  • Are there emergency contact numbers I should have for different situations?
  • Are there opportunities for preparedness education and training?
  • Does my community have a plan? If so, can I obtain a copy?
  • What does the plan contain?
  • How often are plans updated?
  • What should I know about this plan?
  • What hazards does it cover?
  1. Make a plan for what to do in an emergency. Include the kids in your plan. For business, make sure you include your employees. If you own or manage a facility, don’t forget your tenants or building occupants.
  2. Build an Emergency Supply Kit. Your kit should include a collection of basic items your household members would need in the event of an emergency.
  • Try to assemble your kit well in advance of an emergency. Since you may have to evacuate at a moment’s notice, be prepared to take essentials with you since you probably won’t have time to search for and/or shop for the supplies you need.
  • Set aside 3-days-per-person supply of foodwater and other essentials. Local officials and relief workers will be on the scene after a disaster but they cannot reach everyone immediately. Help could arrive in hours or it could take days for relief workers to get to you.
  • Additionally, basic services such as electricity, gas, water, sewage treatment and telephones may be cut off for days or even a week, or longer. Your supplies kit should contain items to help you manage during these outages.
  1. Get involved. A variety of activities and events are planned each year to commemorate National Preparedness Month. If you own a business, make sure you get everyone in your firm involved in the effort to prepare. An ideal way to do this is to subscribe to the Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services. Our system allows property management companies to manage one site or an entire portfolio, with all users in the same system. You can train occupants, floor wardens, and fire safety directors; all user training and testing is recorded. Get quick access to building specific Emergency Responder information and other resources.

This year’s National Preparedness Month focuses on establishing family connections in any emergency preparedness plan. For information about preparedness events, check out FEMA’s Ready.Gov website. When a disaster of any kind strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. Our system offers 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.

What to do before, during and after an earthquake

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

Catastrofe stradaleWithin the past week, several significant earthquakes remind us that quakes strike without notice:

  • 4.4 earthquake near Westwood in LA
  • 6.9 shaker that struck just off the coast in northern California
  • 6.7-magnitude quake which shook Chile’s northern Pacific shore
  • 6.1 magnitude earthquake struck in the sea, about 100 miles southwest of Hiroshima

In the event a noteworthy earthquake hits and emergency personnel are unable to immediately respond to you and your colleagues, employees, family and/or friends. In fact, where earthquakes are concerned in prone geographical locations, “it’s not if, but when.”

And since they happen without warning, well in advance, you have to identify the hazards around you. In other words, prepare!

Before a Quake: Evaluate your work and home environment and diligently strive to eliminate all potential hazards.

  • Know your specific emergency plan and your role in it.
  • Familiarize yourself with a primary and secondary escape routes.
  • Make every effort to ensure your workplace is safe.
  • Study what to do before, during and after an earthquake.
  • Acquaint yourself with safe areas and stairwell exits
  • Identify and practice moving to your closest safe, drop, cover and hold locations.
  • Lower Heavy Objects
  • Install Safety Latches on Cabinets
  • Secure Tall Furniture
  • Consider what you would do if an earthquake led to power outages, fires and water leaks.
  • Maintain at least a three-day emergency supply kit at work, home and in your car.
    • Water
    • High-calorie, long-shelf life snack bars
    • First Aid Kit, including prescriptions and glasses (and don’t forget medications for your pets)
    • Solar blankets
    • Hat
    • Gloves
    • Sturdy tennis shoes
    • Whistle
    • Emergency out-of-state contact information (since family and friends in your location may also have experienced the quake and so could be unavailable)
    • Hand-crank flashlight and radio (so you aren’t dependent on batteries)
    • For a complete list of emergency supplies, check out subscriber information on the Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services or Ready.Gov.

If a Quake Hits

Inside

  • Stay calm and remember that life safety is always the first priority.
  • Act quickly to protect yourself.
  • If you’re in an elevator, sit on the floor, against the wall, and wait for the shaking to stop. In the event of an earthquake, the elevator should temporarily stop and then move to the nearest floor, where the doors will open.
  • If you are inside a building, move away from windows, pictures, and glass partitions to keep yourself out of reach of flying glass.
  • Drop to the ground and duck under a safe, sturdy desk, table or other sturdy object so you are safe from falling debris.
  • Lean forward and cover the back of your head and neck.
  • Hold on and be prepared to move along with the furniture, which could be jostled during the shaking.
  • If you can’t find anything to quickly duck under, sit with your back against an interior wall.
  • Stay put until you are certain the shaking has stopped.
  • Since most people are killed and injured in earthquakes because they are hit with falling objects outside, DO NOT RUN OUTSIDE!
  • If you are in a high-rise building, floor wardens will be surveying damage, setting up a triage area and collecting resources, listening to emergency radio reports for instructions and dealing with associated debris that could interfere with safe evacuation.
  • Be aware that fires can break out as a result of an earthquake.
  • Keep your eyes open for post-earthquake fires, water leaks and electrical shorts.
  • Anticipate possible power outages.

Outside

  • If you are outside when the quake hits, find a clear area away from anything that could potentially fall.
  • If you’re outside, on a sidewalk—near buildings, duck into a doorway.
  • If you’re driving, pull over and stop.
  • When the shaking stops, be prepared for aftershocks, which are likely.

After the Earthquake

  • Stay calm.
  • If you are trapped in debris, tap on metal or anything that will attract search parties.
  • Use a flashlight to signal rescuers. Shout only as a last resort.
  • Quickly survey the area to make sure you are far away from major hazards.
  • Listen to your emergency radio for relevant information.
  • Use your cell phone for emergencies only.
  • Be prepared to function in the dark, in the event power is lost.
  • Avoid unnecessary movements, which could stir up dust and make breathing difficult.
  • DO NOT USE AN OPEN FLAME (In other words—don’t smoke!)
  • DO NOT turn on electrical switches, which could produce sparks and lead to a fire. This is particularly important if you smell gas.
  • Do not move seriously injured people or provide medical care beyond your level of training, unless their location puts them in immediate danger. If possible, wait for emergency personnel to arrive on scene.
  • Do not evacuate until the shaking stops and it is safe to do so.
  • Widespread damage may make traveling more hazardous than sheltering in place.
  • If you are unsure whether you should stay or go, wait to evacuate until you have been instructed to do so by emergency personnel.
  • Once you are sure it is safe to evacuate or you have been told to do so by officials, remain calm; avoid elevators; and use handrails to guide you down stairwells.
  • Before opening any doors, use the back of your hand to check for signs of fire-such as heat emanating from doors.
  • Proceed to your designated safe area and check in.
  • DO NOT attempt to reenter the building until officials tell you it is safe to do so by facility personnel or emergency responders.

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 Allied Universal 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.