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Managing Fire Risk in Residential Buildings

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

building on fire / big fires /newsProper fire emergency planning and prevention for residential high-rise buildings require special tactics. To that end, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has assembled a “High-Rise Building Safety Advisory Committee” to spot the unique needs and issues relative to safety in high-rise buildings. Since the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services has recently launched several residential training modules, we wanted to take the opportunity to highlight some of the NFPA strategies, with the goal of helping our subscribers and friends to #BeSafe.

Prepare Your Building and Residents

Fire in the buildingMany fires are preventable if proper protocols are put into place and building occupants acquaint themselves with recommended safety procedures. Here are several tips for high-rise building property owners and managers help prevent the occurrence and reduce the impact of fires:

  • Create a formal plan. A written fire emergency plan is essential for optimal safety of residents as well as property. Map evacuation routes, meeting zone locations, sprinkler plans, and fire extinguisher locations.
  • Keep halls and stairways free of impediments. A minute delay can be the difference between occupants’ safe escape and catastrophe. Keeping walkways clear will provide first responders with easy access.
  • Test backup and safety systems including emergency lighting and building communication systems. fire break glass
  • Produce a floorplan of the entire building with floor-by-floor layouts, including the location of floor drains, water valves, utility shut-offs, and standpipe locations. Make the evacuation information easily accessible to building occupants.
  • Conduct drills. Residential occupants of a high-rise might be tempted to brush off fire drills as “false alarms.” Inform occupants that they should never assume alarms are part of a drill. Instruct them about the need to evacuate or quickly take other directives in the event of any and all alarms.

Install and Maintain Sprinkler Systems

Sprinkler systems installed in high-rise buildings reduce both the loss of life and property damage. In addition, they are essential for high-rise buildings, since fire truck ladders only reach six or seven floors. And since sprinkler systems are designed to go off only in the immediate area of the fire, you need not worry about unnecessary water damage.

According to NFPA data between 1996 and 2001, the costs incurred in buildings with functioning sprinkler systems was less than $400,000, while buildings without such systems saw losses averaging $2.2 million.

Maintenance tips and best practices for sprinkler systems:

  • Check water supply and pressure levels. High-rises require greater water pressure to push water against gravity.
  • Ensure water valves are open and fire pumps are in good working order.
  • Properly brace water sprinkler pipes for buildings that are in high-risk earthquake zones.
  • Inspect pipes for corrosion or leaks and check sprinkler heads blocked by dust.
  • Test the main drain lines to see how far the water pressure drops with open valves when water is flowing. If the test shows, for example, a bigger drop in pressure difference every six months, then there is likely a valve problem somewhere in the system that should be addressed.

In case of fire do not use elevatorEvacuation Guidelines for High-Rise Occupants

In a typical single-story residence, with sufficient warning from smoke detectors, occupants will likely escape unhurt. In a high-rise, however, people have to navigate stairwells and hallways to exit the building. What’s more, evacuation routes could be blocked due to fire and smoke. Evacuating people from a high-rise is difficult, and requires the formation of a sound evacuation plan and following best practices for residents including:

  • Memorize the plan. Residents must know what they will do in a fire emergency.
  • Practice the plan. Encourage residents to conduct their own mock drills (in addition to your formal drills) in order to make the evacuation route familiar.
  • Do not use elevators. Create contingency plans for residents who might have trouble walking or difficulty navigating stairs.
  • Stay low to stay safe. Smoke rises, so residents should proceed under the smoke whenever possible.
  • Remain in the residence. If occupants cannot enter hallways because of impassable smoke or fire, they should stay in their residences and mark their location on exterior windows. Also, place towels at the bottom of the door to block smoke.

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 or work in a high-rise facility. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore 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.

FEMA Adds New Features to Natural Disaster App

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

Mobile App Development, Experienced Team. Flat 3d isometricPush notifications remind users to take simple steps to prepare for disasters, and provide easy access to information about safety relative to fires, severe weather and more.

Earlier this month, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) added a noteworthy new feature to its free smartphone app, which pushes notifications to users’ devices to remind them to take important steps to prepare their homes and families for disasters.

The app reminds users about:

  • Pre-scheduled safety and preparedness tips
  • Routine smoke alarm testing
  • Fire escape plan drills
  • Emergency kit updates
  • Smoke alarm battery replacement

Escape plan

“In just two minutes, a home fire can become life-threatening,” said U.S. Fire Administrator Ernest Mitchell Jr. “Remembering to take small steps to prepare, such as ensuring your smoke alarm is properly maintained and practicing your home fire escape plan, will reduce fire fatalities and ensure our communities are safer. We hope this new feature to FEMA’s app will help save lives by encouraging more families to be prepared.”

At the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, we are committed to pointing our subscribers to helpful disaster preparedness information from a variety of reputable sources, including FEMA. What’s more, we have recently tweaked our own offerings, so our subscribers can e-train at their convenience, on desktop computer, laptop  or iPad.

For their part, FEMA officials tout their new app reminder feature, saying it provides a customizable checklist of emergency supplies, maps of open shelters and open recovery centers, and offers tips for surviving natural and man-made disasters. The FEMA app also incorporates push notifications of weather alerts from the National Weather Service. Through the feature, users can stay on top of weather patterns for up to five national locations.

Other key features of the app:

  • weather word cloudWeather Alerts: Users can elect to receive alerts on severe weather happenings in specific areas, so users can follow potential weather-related threats to family and friends.
  • Safety Tips: Includes tips on how to stay safe before, during, and after more than 20 types of hazards, including floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes.
  • Disaster Reporter: Users can upload and share disaster-related photos.
  • Maps of Disaster Resources: Users can locate and receive driving directions for open shelters and disaster recovery centers.
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  • Apply for Assistance: The app provides easy access to federal disaster assistance applications.
  • Information in Spanish: The app defaults to Spanish-language content for smartphones set to Spanish as the default language.

The latest version of the FEMA app is available for free in the App Store for Apple devices and Google Play for Android devices. Users who already have the app downloaded on their device should download the latest update for the reminder alerts feature to take effect. The reminders are available in English and Spanish. To learn more, visit: The FEMA App: Helping Your Family Weather the Storm.

Remember that safety is a daily priority. So be sure to think about ways to #BeSafe all of the time. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore 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.

New Residential Fire Safety Training Module

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016

Chief residentialEvery 19 seconds, a fire department responds to a fire somewhere in the United States, which makes fire an ever-present danger at home, at work, and even while you are traveling. The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services has long provided commercial building occupants, owners and managers with affordable, entertaining training for disaster preparedness. So it was natural that we would want to expand that training from commercial to residential facilities. To that end, we are pleased to announce release of our very first residential training module, which focuses on fire safety. The training is perfect for people of all ages, in any residential building, apartment, condo, or student housing. And it is available in English and Spanish.

It’s not if, but when an emergency will happen. Knowing what to do in the first few minutes of an emergency can make the difference between life or death. Where fires are concerned, even small fires are extremely dangerous, wherever they begin. So, for fires that begin in commercial or residential buildings, the key to saving your own life and the lives of others will be your ability to remain calm and respond appropriately. The new module trains subscribers to recognize the important role they play in any fire event, such as what to do when. they smell smoke, how to safely evacuate (if possible), or what to do if they are unable to evacuate and need to shelter in place.  It also demonstrates ways to prevent a fire from starting in the first place as well as what to do if a fire alarm sounds.Fred 2 Residential (1)

The new online training module is:

Fast — It’s easy to complete in about 10 minutes.

Convenient — Training is available 24/7, with unlimited usage and accessibility by iPhone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer.

Rewarding — Instant personalized certificate of completion is emailed to participants for each topic. Also, management is able to access and print a report to show the status of each occupant’s training.

Informative — It’s loaded with emergency preparedness information, resources and links.

Kitchen ResidentialHere are just a few of the lifesaving tips you will learn when you take the training:

  • When to report fire to emergency services.
  • Which information to tell 911 operators.
  • Why you should avoid using elevators during a fire.
  • When to familiarize yourself with evacuation procedures.
  • The only reason to fight a fire yourself.
  • The method for safely using a fire extinguisher.
  • What to do if someone catches fire.
  • Ways to minimize the risk of smoke inhalation.
  • When to evacuate the building or shelter in place.
  • How to know it is safe to reenter the building.
  • Much more!

After watching a 10-minute animated video, subscribers are able to print building-specific information and take a short quiz, which covers key points covered in the online training. Once each question has been answered correctly, certification is immediately issued and emailed to the participant. And more importantly, students who have completed the training will be prepared when the unexpected becomes a reality.Elevator Residential

Remember that safety is a daily priority, not just where residential fire life safety is concerned. So be sure to think about ways to #BeSafe all of the time. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore 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.

Fire Sprinklers Save Lives

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016

Huge cheering crowd at concertLast weekend, a band at a Phoenix, Ariz., nightclub used a flammable liquid at the front of the stage, causing a fire. Because the fire sprinkler closest to the fire activated and extinguished the flames, no one was injured in the event. Thirteen years ago, a similar fire (caused by band pyrotechnics) in West Warwick, R.I., took the lives of 100 people and injured 230 others. The sole difference between the two events? The Rebel Lounge in Arizona has a fire sprinkler system; the Station nightclub in Rhode Island did not.

NFSA LogoThe National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA) commends not only those involved in extinguishing the Arizona fire, but also the local officials who had the foresight to adopt fire sprinkler requirements. Fire safety professionals and victims agree that sprinkler systems save lives.

John Barylick, author of “Killer Show, The Station Nightclub Fire, America’s Deadliest Rock Concert,” said, “Unfortunately, humans can be very slow learners when it comes to playing with fire in places of public assembly – witness this week’s near-tragedy at the Rebel Lounge. Fortunately, local officials there had enacted common-sense sprinkler requirements, and disaster was averted.”

Some Rebel Lounge customers complained that sprinklers stopped the show. In response, one Rhode Island survivor, Rob Feeney, who lost his fiancée and received second and third-degree burns, offered his own insights:

“As a survivor of the Station Nightclub fire, I want to tell everyone who is upset because the fire sprinkler activation stopped the show, (to) be thankful for that. Fire is fast, and while you think you can escape, I’m here to tell you it’s too fast. We must unite in support of fire sprinklers.”

Sprinklers were invented by an American named Henry S. Parmalee in 1874, to protect his piano factory. Until the 1940s and 1950s, sprinkler systems were installed almost exclusively for the protection of buildings, especially warehouses and factories. Insurance savings, which could offset the cost of the system in a few years’ time, were major incentives.

SprinklerAutomatic fire sprinklers are individually heat-activated, and tied into a network of piping with water under pressure. When the heat of a fire raises the sprinkler temperature to its operating point (usually 165ºF), a solder link will melt or a liquid-filled glass bulb will shatter to open that single sprinkler, releasing water directly over the source of the heat.

NFPAAccording to a recent study by the NFPA, when sprinklers operated, they were effective 96 percent of the time, resulting in a combined performance of operating effectively in 87 percent of all reported fires. Sprinklers are effective because they do not rely upon human factors such as familiarity with escape routes or emergency assistance to operate automatically in the area of fire origin. They go to work immediately, preventing a fire from growing undetected to a dangerous size, while simultaneously sounding an alarm. In most cases, this prevents the danger of intense heat associated with fast-growing infernos, which are capable of trapping and killing dozens of building occupants.

If you are still on the fence about incorporating a fire sprinkler system into your facility, consider these five fire sprinkler facts, adapted from the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA):

  1. Smoke does not set off fire sprinklers. Sprinklers are activated by heat. In fact, the heat necessary to set off the average sprinkler is anywhere from 150 to 165° F, achievable only by fire.
  2. The only sprinkler heads that will activate in the event of a fire are the ones located closest to a fire. In 81 percent of structure fires, only one or two sprinkler heads are activated.
  3. CHIANG MAI, THAILAND MAY 17: Fire in Warehouses - catch fire inFire sprinklers produce far less water damage than fire hoses. The average sprinkler discharges just 10-26 gallons of water per minute, while a fire hose produces150-250 gallons. In most cases, structures without fire sprinklers are heavily or completely destroyed by the mix of fire and water damage caused by fire hoses.
  4. Nationally, fire sprinklers cost $1.61 per square foot of coverage. Overall, the cost of installing fire sprinklers is comparable to installing carpeting or cabinets. Most insurance companies provide discounts to businesses and homeowners that have fire sprinklers, which, compounded over time, can pay back the costs.
  5. Fire sprinklers are not unsightly. Modern advances in fire sprinkler technology have enabled architects, contractors and designers to install fire sprinklers into residential properties and businesses in ways that are aesthetically pleasing and concealing. In fact, most people do not even notice fire sprinklers.

Over the past two decades, building codes have increasingly called for sprinklers throughout buildings for life safety, especially buildings in which rapid evacuation of occupants is difficult or the hazard posed by contents is high. And, according to the NFSA, “Aside from firefighting and explosion fatalities, there has never been a multiple loss of life in a ‘fully-sprinklered’ building due to fire or smoke.”

Save livesFire sprinklers buy time. Time buys life. Remember that safety is a daily priority, not just where fire safety is concerned. So be sure to think about ways to #BeSafe all of the time. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore 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.

Click here for information from the National Fire Protection Association
NFPA Free Access Widget

Holiday Cooking Safety Tips

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015

Woman preparing for Christmas dinnerCooking a big meal for the holidays is a joyous event, as you can pour your love and expertise into every bite. But to keep loved ones safe, make sure you are careful in the kitchen. Our first tip? Slow down. Despite the frenetic pace modeled on cooking competition shows, it’s always best to pace yourself while cooking. Professional chefs work quickly, but they also watch out for one another and take steps to follow basic safety protocols.

Avoid Food-Borne Illnesses

As disheartening as it is, in terms of bacteria, home kitchens are typically more bacteria-ridden than public restrooms.  But the good news is that if steps are taken to follow sanitary practices, you can guard against hosting a house full of sick holiday guests.Dirty utensil on the kitchen

  • Wash utensils thoroughly. The dishwasher is the best method for washing, as it utilizes too-hot-to-handle water and vigorous rinsing. If you must hand wash items that have come into contact with raw meat or eggs, use gloves, so you can handle hot water without burning yourself. Apply lots of soap and thoroughly wash everything to dispense with soap residue.
  • Prevent cross contamination by using separate cutting boards for meat, veggies and fruit. Several manufacturers offer color-coded cutting boards for just this reason.
  • User paper towels to remove juice from meat and raw eggs. Avoid using cloth towels, which can harbor bacteria.
  • Defrost and marinate foods in the refrigerator instead of on top of the kitchen counter or in the sink.

messyPrevent Kitchen Fires

  • Focus on the task at hand. Do not leave items on the stove and then leave to fold laundry or watch TV. Instead, remain in the kitchen so you can quickly control any flare-ups.
  • Remove clutter. If you are cooking an elaborate meal, clean up as you go to keep your workspace clutter free. Towels or wooden utensils are highly flammable, so keep a “clear zone” around the range top and oven.
  • Thoroughly clean cooking surfaces to prevent high-fat food residue buildup, which can be flammable.
  • Be careful if you are frying foods. Remember that water and hot oil are incompatible. So don’t put frozen foods into hot oil.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen to put out fires before they get out of control. Make sure you are using the right type of extinguisher for the fire you are battling. If you need to use it, remember the acronym PASS – pull, aim, squeeze and sweep.

Additional tips for holiday kitchen safety:

  • Monitor the kids. Keep children out of the kitchen during meal preparation. While you might be able to supervise kids in less hectic times, crowded kitchens and lots of activity can lead to accidents. So save culinary lessons for after the holidays. Also, keeping children away from meal preparation will prevent curious little hands from pulling on pot handles.Overwhelmed and frustrated Mom in the kitchen
  • Clean up spills. A slippery floor is a major hazard in the kitchen, since people often carry sharp knives and boiling water. So immediately wipe spills until surfaces are completely dry.
  • Use knives properly. There is a proper way to chop different types of foods, which can prevent the loss of a fingertip and a trip to the emergency room on Christmas Day. In addition, remember that, as counter intuitive as it sounds, it is safer to use a razor sharp knife than a dull blade.
  • Steam burns. Some foods, such as instant rice and veggies, now come in convenient plastic microwaveable packets. If you decide to use these, make sure to open away from your face.

The holidays are a busy time. Adding several relatives and planning big elaborate meals challenge even the most organized host. So follow these kitchen safety practices to ensure everyone has a happy and safe holiday season.

Remember that safety is a daily priority, so be sure to think safety all of the time. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore 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.

Holiday Safety Tips

Tuesday, December 15th, 2015

Guest Blogger, Angela Burrell, of Universal Services of America.

This post was written by Angela Burrell, Public Relations’ Manager of our corporate company, Universal Services of America. It first appeared on December 14, 2015. Many thanks to Angela, for sharing her blog about holiday safety.


Our wish for you is that you will keep the following safety and security tips in mind as you celebrate the holiday season. Share them with family, friends, colleagues, co-workers and building occupants to let them know you care. #BeSafe and Happy Holidays!

Be Safe as you Shop this Holiday Season

Nine Smart Shopping Tips 

  1. Park close to your destination, in a well-lit area and lock packages in the trunk, out of sight.
  2. Carry your purse close to your body and stow your wallet inside a zippered pocket.
  3. Report any suspicious activity or unattended packages to store/mall security or law enforcement.
  4. Stay vigilant this holiday season. Be aware of your surroundings: “If You See Something, Say Something.”
  5. Pay by credit card, rather than check/debit card, to reduce the risk of funds being taken from your bank account. Keep all receipts and compare them to your monthly statements.
  6. Avoid being overcharged; review your receipt if you pay by debit, to ensure that the transaction is correct.
  7. Keep your car key handy and lock your doors as soon as you get inside your vehicle.
  8. Shop online at home with known businesses. Avoid shopping online through pop-up ads as they may be phishing scams or contain malware.
  9. Conduct transactions on a secure server only; look for the padlock device on the browser’s status bar. The URL should change from http to shttp or https when asked for payment information, which indicates that the purchase is encrypted or otherwise secure. 

Person is ordering online via credit card

Eight Workplace Alerts 

  1. Report all solicitors or suspicious persons to security immediately.
  2. Be suspicious of unfamiliar people claiming to be repair persons, as thieves are apt to disguise themselves.
  3. Make sure your receptionist and/or security team clears any workers or contractors before allowing them into your office.
  4. Question visitors who wander throughout your offices. Legitimate guests will appreciate your offers of assistance, while potential solicitors or thieves will be deterred.
  5. Lock all personal items in a desk or file cabinet. Employees should never leave purses or wallets exposed where they can easily be stolen.
  6. Draw blinds after hours so that computers and other valuables are not visible from the outside.
  7. Close doors when the office is empty, and secure all valuables in a desk or closet when unattended.
  8. Request a security or buddy escort to your car if you are working late and feel vulnerable. 

Christmas outdoor Christmas decorations - Snowman and nutcracker lights up house in Brooklyn, New YorkSeven Home Safety Guides 

  1. Refresh your holiday lights; consider buying energy-efficient LED types that are cooler than conventional incandescent lights and heed indoor or outdoor use labels.
  2. Point any decorative outdoor laser light devices at your home and not towards the sky.
  3. Turn off lights or decorations before bedtime, or set automatic timers for six or eight-hour increments to conserve energy.
  4. Monitor candles and fireplace fires, and extinguish them before leaving the house or bedtime.
  5. Consider installing motion or lighting sensors that turn off automatically when no one is around.
  6. Let strangers who knock know you are home without opening your door. Do not feel compelled to donate to solicitors.
  7. Ask a neighbor to collect your mail or have the post office hold it, if you plan to travel for an extended period.

Six Basic Fire Rules 

  1. Fires peak, particularly in kitchens, during the holidays, so remain alert when preparing meals and keep potholders and food wrappers at least three feet away from heat sources.
  2. Test your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, ensuring that they work at optimal level year-round. Replace batteries, as needed.
  3. Know where your exits are located and hold regular fire drills that include practicing at least two evacuation routes from every area or building to your safe refuge area.
  4. Notify the property manager about exit lights that are broken or vandalized.
  5. Never prop open self-closing doors, as they are designed to keep flames and smoke from spreading.
  6. Keep exits and stairways free from obstructions at all times. Don’t store things on or under stairways, or on landings.

 Five More Tips and Resources 

  1. The National Fire Protection Association summarizes Christmas tree and holiday lights safety.
  2. Electrical Safety Foundation International’s Holiday Decorating Safety guide lists many resources.
  3. The National Safety Council recommends several Holiday Safety Tips.
  4. Be prepared for more thorough airport security checks by TSA and register for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program before traveling outside of the U.S., per recent travel alerts and warnings issued.
  5. Consult the Consumer Product Safety Commission website for recalls and alerts on toys and other products before making purchases.

We hope you enjoy a safe and secure holiday. Please view CDC’s 12 Ways to Health Holiday Song, and #BeSafe! Remember that safety is a daily priority, so be sure to think safety all of the time. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore 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.

National Safe Toys and Gifts Month

Wednesday, December 9th, 2015

Plastic building blocksDecember is National Safe Toys and Gifts Month, so designated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), to raise awareness about potentially hazardous toys. Since toy purchases are at an all-time high during the holidays, we thought it a good idea to highlight the campaign with this week’s blog post.

Part of the CPSC initiatives include third-party testing laboratories which check toys for lead and phthalate limits, so they can identify dangerous toys before they reach consumer shelves. The commission also produces safety alerts. For example, one highlights the choking hazards of plastic film coverings that are on many toys.

girl on scooterTypes of toys to avoid this holiday season:

  • Scooters and similar riding toys. Since the popular Razor Scooter’s launch in 2000, there has been a sharp increase in ER visits due to falls associated with the toys. Avoid giving these types of toys as gifts, since they lead to numerous serious accidents every year—especially when operated without a helmet. If you do buy a scooter, be sure to include a properly-fitted helmet, as well.
  • Toys with small parts. Pay attention to the warning labels on toy boxes, because they provide guidelines relative to choking hazards as well as age-appropriateness. Lego sets and other similar toys are fun, but they don’t work for toddlers, since the kits come with lots of small choking hazards. A good rule of thumb is to place or imagine the toy-part-in-question fitting inside a toilet paper roll. If it fits, then it’s too small.
  • Toys that could cause eye injuries. Toy guns that shoot pellets or Nerf darts are fun, but are a leading cause of injury, with studies showing a significant increase in the eye injuries resulting from toy parts over the past few years. For example, the “Airsoft” brand of guns led to a significant number of injuries and should only be used with eye protection.

Portrait.Keep little ones safe during the holidays:

The holiday season is a hectic time, which means adult attention spans can be stretched to the limit. Keeping track of babies and toddlers can be especially difficult during family gatherings and other festive events. Here are some tips for protecting your youngest family members at large functions:

  • Dispose of wrapping paper and plastic packaging. Toy packaging contains various types of plastic covers, twist ties, and other bits and pieces. All of these are potential chewing and choking hazard for babies and toddlers. Whenever possible, collect and recycle materials as presents are opened.
  • Keep an eye on the fireplace. Hanukkah nights or Christmas morning are both great times for a cozy fire. But flammable materials should be handled responsibly. Keep them far from flames. And, because kids are curious, be sure your fireplace screen is sturdy. This is also a great time to talk to children about the serious dangers posed by fire.Christmas Fireplace Hearth with Wreath and Stockings
  • Watch your plants. Mistletoe and holly are poisonous if ingested, so keep toxic plants out of the reach of young children.

    Many Christmas plants are beautiful, but toxic.

    Many Christmas plants are beautiful, but toxic.

  • Be careful with alcoholic beverages. If you and guests are enjoying a few cocktails during a holiday party, take steps to keep drinks out of the hands of anyone under the age of 21. Children imitate parents. So make sure they can’t reach unattended beverages. Ask guests to remove empty and even partially-empty cups.
  • Carefully string Christmas tree lights. Toddlers and babies love the glow of lights. So keep strands high on the tree to make sure they are out of reach of tiny fingers. Glass ornaments are another potential hazard which should be replaced, moved to a higher location or boxed until children are old enough to ensure their safety.

Remember that safety is a daily priority, so be sure to think safety all of the time. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore 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.

All About Thanksgiving Safety

Thursday, November 19th, 2015
Dangerous situation in the kitchen. Child is trying to get a kitchen knife.

#BeSafe this Holiday Season

The holiday season brings food, fun and family as well as something you may not have considered…health and safety concerns. For example, stress, rich food and alcohol can lead to an elevated risk of heart attack. Since our primary concern is safety, we wanted to take this opportunity to offer our subscribers and friends some tips for Thanksgiving safety.

Cooking Safely on Turkey Day

Thanksgiving means elaborate home-cooked meals – turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and pumpkin pie…to name a few popular menu items. Cooking a big meal requires patience as well as careful attention to detail. Follow these safety tips to ensure your family and friends’ safety before, during and after Thanksgiving:

  • Keep a fire extinguisher on hand. Grease fires can start quickly and can be difficult to contain. A properly-rated and current fire extinguisher is essential.
  • Sharpen knives before cooking. While it sounds counterintuitive that sharp knives are safer than dull ones, the reason for this is that a clean slice is easier to repair than one created by jagged edges.
  • Watch hot liquids. From gravy boats to hot beverages, scalding risks abound during the holidays. So keep foot traffic in the kitchen to a minimum, especially by children. And if you decide to fry your turkey, use extreme caution. For more details about how to safely prepare and cook Thanksgiving meals, check out this post about Thanksgiving safety.
  • Keep little ones out of the kitchen. Kids carry germs. So they should be carefully supervised. Double-dipping isn’t just an annoying habit. It has the potential to quickly spread holiday germs.

Thanksgiving turkey flat icon with long shadows on thanksgiving stamp.

Safely Preparing the Bird

Since a turkey dinner is usually the centerpiece of any Thanksgiving meal, take into account these turkey-specific tips:

  • Use the oven! While cooking the bird in a deep fryer outside might sound fun, this process is prone to accidents or even injuries. Oil and water do not mix. So using a frozen turkey in a fryer is a recipe for disaster.
  • Regardless of your preparation method, make sure you properly thaw frozen turkeys to ward off germs. Most birds need to be refrigerated for several days, to ensure even cooking. Don’t thaw your turkey on the counter top, as this is a breeding ground for foodborne illnesses.
  • Heat the turkey thoroughly. The internal temperature of the gobbler must reach at least 165 degrees. So, to be safe, make sure you invest in a food thermometer.
  • Carefully clean surfaces. Poultry-borne bacteria is a leading cause of food poisoning. Be sure you wash everything in hot water including your hands, utensils, plates, cutting boards, and anything else that comes into contact with the turkey.
  • Cook stuffing outside of the bird! Stuffing cooks more uniformly and safely when placed in a casserole dish in the oven.

#BeSafe After the Meal

  • Pack leftovers quickly when Thanksgiving dinner is over. After the meal, you might want to stretch on the couch or watch football. But remember that food should not be left on the table for more than two hours. Freeze or refrigerate the leftovers so you can enjoy turkey sandwiches for days!
  • When in doubt, toss it out. If you aren’t able to pack up leftovers in a timely manner, toss them in the trash. Better to lose a few cents than to spend the rest of the holiday weekend in bed.
  • If you are feeling especially lethargic after the meal, organize a family walk around the neighborhood to rev up your metabolism. Be careful about strenuous activity immediately after your meal.

Remember that safety is a daily priority, so be sure to think about disaster planning all of the time. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore 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.

Workplace Safety in High Rises

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

Fotolia_85856075_XSThis week, we are covering several threats to workplace safety in high-rise buildings: earthquakes, fire, and accidents. High-rise buildings pose specific risks for occupants as well as property owners and managers, due to their large size and the sheer number of potential affected tenants, visitors and on-site staff. September is National Preparedness Month, which makes it the perfect time to review workplace safety procedures.

Earthquakes

Sitting in even a well-built, retrofitted high-rise during an earthquake can be a harrowing experience. The building can sway and moves ever so slightly (which is intentional). The result can cause light nausea and movement of light fixtures, blinds and ceiling panels. Building managers and owners can help their tenants manage the risk of earthquakes and feel relatively secure during them by:

  • Encouraging tenants to stay seated during an actual earthquake. Most quakes are quite short. In fact, most last less than one minute. So it is highly recommended that people not use elevators while the earth shakes. It’s better to simply sit down (away from built-in bookcases and artwork) and wait for the shaking to stop.

Fire

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that fires cost stores and businesses upwards of $708 million. This is a staggering sum of money, and can be reduced if building occupants closely follow fire prevention best practices. In high rises, the damages caused by fires can be severe, as fires can rise quickly to upper floors, and it can be logistically challenging to evacuate large numbers of people unless those people have been properly trained about emergency evacuation procedures.

Don't take the stairs if an earthquake hits.

Don’t take the stairs if an earthquake hits.

To prevent high-rise fires:

  • Remove combustible materials and eliminate walkway obstructions. Talk to tenants about the importance of maintaining clutter-free offices. Mounds of paper can fuel fire, and cluttered pathways could impede evacuation, and block the entrance to firefighting crews. Stairways should always be clear of debris.
  • Locate and check fire extinguishers. Consider creating and posting a video instructing building occupants about the proper use of fire extinguishers. Selecting and installing the right type of extinguisher for any given area is also important. High-rise buildings can contain thousands of extinguishers, so it’s important to monitor their locations and expiration dates.
  • Plan and practice evacuation plans. Property owners and building managers should work closely with tenants to explain and practice evacuation procedures in the event of fire. Moving a large number of people through the stairwells can pose a challenge, particularly for the disabled and elderly individuals. Fire drills can help identify evacuation roadblocks and educate residents about safe evacuation routes.

Accidents

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4,679 individuals were killed on the job in 2014, with tens of thousands of deaths attributable to occupational diseases. Although great strides have been made over the decades to improve worker safety, companies and property managers and their tenants will benefit when the safest possible workplace environment is provided.

Workplace Safety Best Practices:

  • Eliminate slippery floors. Falls are one of the most common causes of workplace accidents. Property managers can arrange to have floors cleaned at night, to allow surfaces to dry properly before workers arrive. In snowy climates, melting ice and snow could leave slick surfaces. Non-slip mats and salt can reduce this risk.
  • Uneven floors can cause falls. Look closely at cracked sidewalks and entryways, as well as the transitions between different types of flooring. For example, if tenants are allowed to make office or residence improvements and choose their own flooring, examine the area between hallways and tenant entrances to make sure the height of the surfaces match.

Remember that safety is an ever-present priority, at home and at work. So be sure to think about disaster planning all of the time–not just during September. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore 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 RJWestmore 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.