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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.

As Hurricane Season Begins, Preparedness is Paramount

Monday, June 4th, 2012

FEMA Announces Wireless Emergency Alerts

Hurricane Season began on June 1, 2012. So, to mark the occasion, FEMA is providing new tools for federal, state, local, tribal and territorial officials to alert and warn the public about severe weather. Using the Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS), officials will be able to deliver Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) to participating wireless carriers for distribution to the public.

The alerts will be broadcast by cell towers much like AM/FM radio stations. So cell phones within range will immediately pick up the emergency signal. Availability of WEA alerts will be dependent on network status of the wireless carriers and handset availability, since not all cell phones are capable of receiving WEAs. To see if WEA alerts are available in your area and for your device, check with your wireless carrier.

“The wireless emergency alert capability provides an additional opportunity for the public to receive life-saving information needed to get out of harm’s way when a threat exists,” said Timothy Manning, FEMA deputy administrator for protection and national preparedness. “The public also has a critical role in their personal preparedness. There are a few simple steps that everyone can take to be prepared, like knowing which risks exist in your area and making a family emergency plan.”

WEAs will look like a text message, and will automatically appear on the mobile device screen showing the type and time of alert along with any action that should be taken. The message will be no more than 90 characters, and will have a unique tone and vibration. If an alert is received, FEMA says citizens should follow instructions and seek additional information from radio, television, NOAA Weather Radio and other official sources for emergency information. Remember that you should only call 911 in a life threatening situation.

With the start of hurricanes season, it is particularly important that you understand your risk, take action and be an example. While hurricanes are often proceeded by warnings that a threat is approaching, severe weather (such as high winds, inland flooding, severe storms and tornadoes) can occur at any time and in any place.

Individuals and business owners should take action to prepare in advance to make sure that family, friends, tenants and colleagues are ready for an emergency of any kind. Preparation can include filling out a family communications plan, assembling an emergency kit, running safety drills and storing important papers and valuables in a safe place.

“Be a force of nature by letting other people know that they, too, should get ready for hurricanes at the start of the season instead of waiting until after a hurricane warning is announced,” urges FEMA Director Craig Fugate.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ncssxFjEoAo

The Allied Universal Training System has been providing safety and security solutions to Commercial Real Estate companies for over 20 years. Our mission is to save lives through training with the motto: “Be Safe!” Don’t wait for a hurricane or severe weather-warning to stock up on supplies or come up with an evacuation plan. If you head to the store to stock up on water and supplies after a hurricane or severe weather announcement is made, you will just end up standing in line at a time when demand is high and supply is low. The time to prepare is now…before disaster strikes!

The Allied Universal Training System helps commercial buildings with compliance to fire life safety codes. Our interactive, building-specific e-learning training system motivates and rewards tenants instantly! It’s a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your building(s).

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 Allied Universal, 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 Allied Universal Property Messaging System is included FREE for all Allied Universal Online Training System users. Visit rjwestmore.com for more information.

Allied Universal Announces New Upgrade to Fire Life Safety Training System

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

The Allied Universal Training System Version 3.0

Allied Universal Training System Version 3.0

Allied Universal Inc. is proud to announce the release of Version 3.0 of our comprehensive e-based safety training program. The new system boasts features that property managers and building owners, employers and occupants have come to depend on for building specific safety training, such as the integration and automation that brings together facility managers, fire safety directors and local fire departments. The system upgrade showcases our continued commitment to offer the most user-friendly and complete training system on the market. Here is a snapshot of some of the new functionality that Allied Universal trainees will enjoy with Version 3.0:

New “Basics for individuals who need Special Assistance”

Basic Special Assistance Guidelines are now automatically sent when individual users add themselves to the Allied Universal Special Assistance List. Users will find copies of this in “Your Resources,” under the “Forms, Lists and Guidelines bullet point.

Version 3.0 offers lots of great features.

New “Management Report”

All user-training base information (relative to the past and current year) is contained in one easy-to-use Excel report.

New “Occupants” Page

The “Occupants” Tab in all users’ database management system now displays:

  • Floor and suite information for every person
  • Color-coded “Previous” and “Current Year” certification dates
  • Past due training alert icon (over12 months)

New “System Notifications” Page

  • How users choose how to view messages
  • New Messages
  • Read Messages
  • Archived Messages—users can choose which messages to archive

New Social Media Links

  • This enables users to share news of their life-saving training with friends.

  • If you own or manage a building, or know someone who does, do them a favor. Let them know about the Allied Universal Training System. Choosing our service cuts property management training related workloads by 90% and saves users over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES! BE SAFE.

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 Allied Universal, 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 Allied Universal Property Messaging System is included FREE for all Allied Universal Online Training System users. Visit rjwestmore.com for more information.

Mass Notification Systems (MNS) in Disaster Planning

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

Emergency managers are experiencing a “sense of urgency” about the importance of including mass notification systems in professional disaster plans.

A mass notification system is a means of delivering a message to a large set of recipients. The complexity of the system is often dependent on the type of message that must be sent. For example, a mass email might be sufficient to alert employees about a drill, whereas notifying individuals when a building is on fire would require real-time interaction, escalation, scheduling, rosters and fail-over scenarios. One such mass notification system is the Emergency Alert System (EAS).

Homeland Security describes the system like this: “The EAS is a national public warning system that requires broadcasters, cable television systems, wireless cable systems, satellite digital audio radio service (SDARS) providers, and direct broadcast satellite (DBS) providers to provide the communications capability to the President to address the American public during a national emergency. The system also may be used by state and local authorities to deliver important emergency information, such as AMBER alerts and weather information targeted to specific areas.”

At a recent international security system conference, emergency manager, Mike Madden, explained the sense of urgency about creating mass notification systems of all kinds: “I think we are beginning to see a trend towards MNS spreading to larger corporate campuses and large manufacturing facilities because of the very nature of these large complexes and violence in the workplace. People are looking at more options to protect their employees.”

Incidents like the bombing of the Khobar Towers in 1996 and the shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007 moved the concept and importance of mass notification to the forefront for government as well as secondary education. As a result, the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs are adopting mass notification systems for hospitals and clinics around the country. What’s more, large defense contractors like Boeing are starting to explore the need for bring mass notification for military bases.

Part of the reason for interest in the systems is a basic cost benefit analysis for business owners who realize that, in an emergency, a mass notification system can get everyone to rapidly assemble at the onset of a disaster and quickly return to work stations following emergencies. And time is money.

Peter Ebersold, director of marketing for Notifier/Honeywell Fire Group said that, post September 11, most people expect mass notification to be employed. And at airports, that’s probably true. However, such is not always the case. In fact, a host of public transportation stations and large commercial buildings have no such system in place.

Fortunately, the Allied Universal Training System features a fully-integrated messaging system, which allows all users to instantly communicate with tenant managers or occupants in any property, without the necessity of leaving the Allied Universal Training System. While logged in, users can easily send mass messages which are delivered to everyone located in one or multiple properties, simply by clicking “all,” or targeting particular groups. So subscribers of the Allied Universal Training System don’t have to invest in cost-prohibitive free-standing notification systems for their commercial properties.

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 Allied Universal, 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 Allied Universal Property Messaging System is included FREE for all Allied Universal Online Training System users. Visit www.rjwestmore.com for more information.

Emergency Alert System Test

Monday, November 21st, 2011

The Emergency Alert System still has a few bugs.

When it comes to emergency management and disaster preparation, communication is king. On November 9th, FEMA conducted a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS). In 1997, the EAS replaced the Emergency Broadcast System which had been in use since 1963. The current system uses the familiar signal-sound to alert viewers and listeners to impending emergency announcements and to enable localized hazardous weather alerts. But the EAS was developed in order to allow the President of the United States the ability to address the nation within minutes.

With about 15,000 radio and broadcast stations participating in the November 2011 national test, most reported a smooth testing procedure, but it was not without its hiccups. Improving the test is an ongoing goal of both the government and broadcast partners which requires the public and private sector working together for a worthwhile common goal of improved emergency communications.

Here are some of the glitches that occurred during the test:

  • One North Dakota county reported that only 33 percent of the area stations broadcasted the test.
  • Some DirectTV subscribers heard a different kind of piercing sound than everyone else—footage of Lady Gaga singing instead of the test alert.
  • Some Time Warner Cable subscribers saw home-shopping wares in place of the emergency alert.
  • Individuals using antennas for reception reported that they saw regular programming, or that the EAS image stayed on the screen long after the audible test was completed.

Despite these glitches, the federal agencies involved assured the public that they were conducting a working test, and that data would be gathered and evaluated in order to improve the system. They even sent out a release prior to the test to make it clear that they were not anticipating a 100-percent success rate. One of their reasons for anticipated glitches was because there are so many stations throughout the country, each one with specialized equipment necessary to successfully accept and transmit the test signal and associated emergency announcement.

A frequent criticism of the EAS is that it ignores new communication methods which most people rely on such as the Internet and mobile devices. The EAS was not sent via either of these channels. However, there is a new initiative called the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) which aims to integrate several alert methods and agencies in order to greatly enhance coverage.

Here are a few interesting facts about the new system:

  • Intended as an umbrella system that integrates EAS, the National Warning System (phone-based alerts), NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards and the Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS).
  • Created in response to criticisms about the government alerts for Hurricane Katrina and other similar disasters.
  • Works with the major cell providers to allow the government to send text alerts regarding emergencies. Scheduled to be online in the spring of 2012, the messages from CMAS will have a unique signal and vibration so they will stand out from standard text messages.

Business owners should take a cue from the national warning system, planning in advance of emergencies and developing coordinated methods for communicating urgent messages to their teams. Companies should use multiple technologies including text message, email and available building intercom systems to ensure that occupants and staff members are aware of building-specific emergencies. What’s more, internal systems should be tested once they are implemented.

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 Allied Universal, Inc. Our new Version 2.5 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.