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Red Flag Warnings

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

Due to a dreadful combination of dry conditions and crazy wind, several areas across the country are currently under a Red Flag Warning, which is also known as a Fire Weather Warning. A forecast alert issued by the United States National Weather Service, a Red Flag Warning is meant to inform firefighting and land management agencies that conditions are ideal for wild land fire ignition and rapid propagation. After drought conditions, particularly when humidity is low, and especially when high or erratic winds are a factor (with or without lightning), the warning helps firefighting and emergency management professionals prepare for potential weather-related flare ups. To the public, a Red Flag Warning means that there is a higher than normal probability of fire-related danger.

A Red Flag Warning is the highest alert level. During these times, extreme caution is urged because a simple spark can cause a major wildfire. One level below a warning, a Fire Weather Watch means the danger of fire remains high but is not as severe as a Red Flag Warning. During heightened fire danger, firefighting agencies typically beef up staff and make sure equipment is ready to go 24 hours a day. One of the areas currently under warning is San Bernardino County, California, where a structure fire erupted behind a radiator shop this weekend in Fontana.

“A lot of these fires, whether it’s this refuse fire or vegetation or structure fire, will grow exponentially with the wind and the speed of the wind—so the more man power, the more people on duty, the better, and the more equipment that can converge on the actual incident, the better,” said San Bernardino Fire Department Captain Shawn Millerick.

These weather patterns lead to a watch or warning:

  • Low relative humidity
  • Strong winds
  • Dry fuels
  • The possibility of dry lightning strikes
  • Any combination of the above

Since a single spark can ignite and level an entire forest, do your part to prevent wildfires by following these tips for prevention:

1. Equipment Use Safety

  • Don’t mow or trim dry grass on Red Flag Warning days. Instead, mow before 10 a.m. when it is not hot and windy.
  • Never use lawn mowers in dry vegetation.
  • If you are in a wild land area, make sure you have a spark arrester, which is required for portable gasoline powered equipment.

2. Campfire Safety

  • Before starting a campfire, obtain a campfire permit.
  • Never leave a fire unattended.
  • Carefully extinguish the fire when you are finished. Douse with plenty of water and stir to make sure everything is cold to the touch. Dunk charcoal in water until it is cold. Do not throw live charcoal on the ground.

3. Outside

  • Keep 100 feet of defensible space around structures.
  • Clear dead weeds and vegetation.
  • Remove leaves and needles from gutters.
  • Trim branches 6 feet from the ground.
  • If you are allowed to burn grass clippings, etc., in your area, all burn barrels must be covered with a weighted metal cover, with holes no larger than 3/4 of an inch.

4. Vehicles

  • Never pull over in dry grass.
  • Make sure trailer chains don’t drag on the ground.
  • Properly maintain your vehicle.
  • Monitor tire pressure to avoid driving on wheel rims, which can ignite.
  • Don’t let brake pads wear too thin.
  • Never throw cigarettes or matches out of a moving vehicle.

5. Other

  • Properly extinguish cigarette butts.
  • Don’t make the mistake of burning landscape debris like leaves or branches on No Burn Days, when it is windy, or if it is prohibited in your area.
  • Target shoot only in approved areas, use lead ammunition only, and never shoot at metal targets.
  • To prevent arson, report suspicious activities to authorities.

Subscribers to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services have access to lots of fire prevention information. What’s more, several of the training modules cover fire safety. When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your building(s). Choosing our service cuts property management training-related costs by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES.

How to Prevent Tree and Candle Fires This Holiday Season

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

Over the weekend, an Oklahoma family suffered a house fire which originated in their living room and was reportedly caused by a live Christmas tree. Thankfully, no one was hurt and the bulk of the damage was caused by smoke. However, not everyone is so lucky. The NFPA reports that, across the country, fire departments respond to an average of 230 home fires which start with Christmas trees. Over the past several weeks, we’ve blogged about a myriad of holiday safety issues. This week, we would like to turn our attention to two of the most flammable holiday decorations—Christmas trees and candles.

 

NFPA Facts about Home Holiday Fires

  • Christmas trees account for hundreds of fires annually.
  • One of every three home Christmas tree fires is caused by electrical problems.
  • Although Christmas tree fires are not common, when they do occur, they are more likely to be serious.
  • On average, one of every 40 reported home structure Christmas tree fires results in a death compared to an average of one death per 142 total reported home structure fires.
  • A heat source too close to the tree causes roughly one in every six of Christmas tree fires.
  • More than half (56%) of home candle fires occur when something that can catch on fire is too close to the candle.
  • December is the peak time of year for home candle fires. In December, 11% of home candle fires began with decorations compared to 4% the rest of the year.
  • Typically, shorts in electrical lights or open flames from candles, lighters or matches start tree fires.
  • Well-watered trees are not a problem. A dry and neglected tree can be.

Tree Fire Safety

  • Purchase only fresh trees. If needles are brittle or shed easily, choose a different tree.
  • When setting up the tree at home, place it at least three feet away from any heat source. In addition to the fireplace, stay away from radiators, heating vents and lighting. These can dry out a tree and increase its flammability.
  • Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.
  • Don’t leave the tree up for an extended period. Fire safety professionals recommend you do not leave it up for longer than two weeks.
  • When you dismantle the tree, discard it immediately. Do not leave it in a garage, on a porch or at the side of the house. A dried-out tree is highly flammable and can cause major damage even when it is just sitting outside. Check with your local community for a recycling program.

Candle Fire Safety

  • Candles cause home fires — and home fire deaths.
  • A candle is an open flame, which means that it can easily ignite anything that can burn.
  • Extinguish candles when you leave the room or go to bed.
  • Avoid the use of candles in the bedroom and other areas where people may fall asleep.
  • Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn.
  • Consider using flameless candles in your home.
  • If you decide to burn candles, make sure that you:
    • Use candle holders that are sturdy, and won’t tip over easily.
    • Put candle holders on a sturdy, uncluttered surface.
    • Light candles carefully.
    • Keep your hair and any loose clothing away from the flame.
    • Don’t burn a candle all the way down — put it out before it gets too close to the holder or container.
    • Don’t use a candle if oxygen is used in the home.
    • Have flashlights and battery-powered lighting ready to use during a power outage.

Religious Candle Safety

  • Whether you are using one candle, or more than one on a candelabra, kinara, or menorah, make sure you take a few moments to learn about using candles safely.
  • Candles should be placed in a sturdy candle holder.
  • Handheld candles should never be passed from one person to another.
  • When lighting candles at a candle lighting service, have the person with the unlit candle dip their candle into the flame of the lit candle.
  • Lit candles should not be placed in windows where a blind or curtain could catch fire.
  • Candles placed on, or near tables, altars, or shrines, must be watched by an adult.
  • Blow out candles when you leave the room or go to sleep.
  • If a candle must burn continuously, be sure it is enclosed in a glass container and placed in a sink, on a metal tray, or in a deep basin filled with water.

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

In Praise of Disaster Volunteers

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

When Typhoon Haiyan tore through the Philippines last week, it left thousands dead and 660,000 people displaced. Volunteers from across the globe are rushing to the devastated area to muck out homes, hang drywall, clean, deliver food, and offer financial assistance. The storm’s impact is all the more troubling considering the fact that many of those affected by the typhoon were already left homeless by an earthquake in mid-October.

Charitable organizations around the nation are assembling in and around the city of Tacloban to help residents in much the same way they did to help hard-hit New Jersey recover from Superstorm Sandy. But the volunteer pool is relatively thin because even as we approach the one-year anniversary of Sandy, many of the volunteers and sponsoring organizations who lent a hand in the critical first days after the disaster remain in New Jersey, still helping.

In fact, according to CNN, as of the end of September 2013:

  • 173,544 volunteers had invested more than 1 million volunteer hours in the Sandy recovery effort.
  • The value of their contributions now totals more than $30 million.

“In (times of) disaster, the efforts of volunteers are critical to the recovery,” said Gracia Szczech, federal coordinating officer for FEMA in New Jersey. “Volunteers have made a substantial contribution to helping (victims) respond and recover from the challenges they faced after Hurricane Sandy.”

Volunteerism plays a crucial role in disasters of all kinds. Due to the sheer breadth and depth of associated devastation, paid workers can’t possibly meet all of the needs. American Red Cross volunteers constitute about 94 percent of the American Red Cross workforce. Volunteers make it possible to respond to nearly 70,000 disasters every year—most of which were home and apartment fires.

Immediately following Hurricane Sandy, volunteers from more than 500 organizations showed up. These included internationally recognized agencies like the American Red Cross, to smaller groups which routinely travel whenever and wherever major disasters strike. Among these groups are the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, Habitat for Humanity, Feed the Children, Lutheran Disaster Response, United Jewish Communities, Catholic Charities, National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, Medical Teams International…to name a few.

Local churches, charities and nonprofits also work around the clock to provide the help their neighbors needed to survive, recover and rebuild. There are lots of opportunities for volunteers. If you would like to be part of a team to help with the recent disaster in the Philippines, or continuing relief efforts in New Jersey, flood relief efforts in Colorado, or whenever and wherever the next natural disaster strikes, follow these 10 suggestions to maximize your efforts:

  1. Instead of traveling to the disaster site, consider donating funds to a well-established charity, as financial contributions are often requested in lieu of items such as food and clothing—which may be difficult to transport and distribute. Donate $10 now by texting redcross to 90999.
  2. You could sponsor a fundraiser to multiply your efforts. Use your enthusiasm for disaster assistance to encourage others to donate.
  3. If you’d like to work on scene, align yourself with a reputable organization. Consider groups such as the American Red Cross (800) HELP-NOW, Save the Children (800) 728-3843 and UNICEF (800) 4UNICEF.
  4. Show up to all applicable training sessions and read organization materials so you are well prepared for what awaits you.
  5. Give blood. The American Red Cross makes it easy to be a blood donor. Contact them to find out where to give.
  6. Show up. If you say you will be there, follow through.
  7. Be flexible. Humanitarian aid isn’t easily categorized. You might not know what you’ll be doing until you show up on scene.
  8. Take care of yourself. Make sure you eat and get enough rest so you will be a valuable member of a relief team.
  9. Donate Goods. Confirm what is needed before you start gathering items.
  1. Be safe. Wait until it is safe to travel to volunteer sites. Once you’ve been assigned a position, make sure you wearing proper safety gear for the task.

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

All About Halloween Safety

Friday, October 25th, 2013

Each year, on October 31, millions of American children will dress up in costumes and go door-to-door begging for candy. Admittedly a rather strange tradition on close examination, Trick-or-Treating is a cultural celebration which can be fun but can also pose risks. This year, practice these safety tips so you and your family will enjoy a happy and safe Halloween:

Costume Precautions

  • If you buy your costume, ask an adult to check to see if it has a label that says “Flame Resistant.” Flame Resistant means that your costume will be hard to catch on fire and if it does, the fire will go out fast.
  • If you make your costume, try not to make one that is big and baggy so that the material doesn’t touch candles or other flames.
  • Plan costumes that are bright and reflective. Make sure that shoes fit well and that costumes are short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement or contact with flame.
  • Consider adding reflective tape or striping to costumes and trick-or-treat bags for greater visibility.
  • Because masks can limit or block eyesight, consider non-toxic makeup and decorative hats as safer alternatives. Hats should fit properly to prevent them from sliding over eyes.
  • When shopping for costumes, wigs and accessories look for and purchase those with a label clearly indicating they are flame resistant.
  • If a sword, cane, or stick is a part of your child’s costume, make sure it is blunt, short and flexible.
  • Only use decorative contact lenses after an eye examination and prescription from an eye care professional. Decorative contact lenses are dangerous and illegal. Poor quality lenses can cause pain, inflammation and serious eye disorders or infections, which could cause permanent vision loss.
  • Test makeup in a small area before applying en masse. Also, remove it before bedtime to prevent possible skin and eye irritation.
  • Choose masks, costumes and shoes fit well.

Fire Safety

  • Avoid candles and Jack-o’-lanterns on steps or porches. Many costumes are highly flammable.
  • Don’t allow children to carry candles while trick-or-treating. (Use a flashlight or glow stick instead.)
  • Remind family members to keep a safe distance between candles and Jack-o’-lanterns and curtains.
  • If your kids see anyone playing with matches or lighters, make sure they know they should tell an adult right away!
  • Make sure fabrics for costumes and decorative materials are flame-resistant.
  • Tell children to stay away from open flames. Be sure they know how to stop, drop and roll if their clothing catches fire. (Have them practice stopping immediately, dropping to the ground, covering their face with hands, and rolling over and over to put the flames out.)
  • Keep your pets far away from open flames. Their tails can swat at candles and cause a fire hazard.

Safety on the Trick-or-Treat Trail

  • Provide kids and escorts with flashlights and fresh batteries.
  • Teach children how to call 9-1-1 (or their local emergency number) if they have an emergency or become lost.
  • If your older children are going alone, plan and review the route that is acceptable to you. Agree on a specific time when they should return home.
  • Allow kids to go to only approach homes that have a lit porch light
  • Make sure your trick-or-treaters know they should never enter a home or car for a treat.
  • Make sure kids only eat factory-wrapped treats. Avoid homemade treats if they have been made by strangers.
  • Use reflective tape for costumes and candy bags.
  • Make sure someone in each group has access to a cellphone for quick communication.
  • Tell kids not to eat treats until they have been checked by an adult for potential choking hazards or tampering.
  • Tell kids to remain on well-lit streets to stay on the sidewalk.
  • If sidewalks are unavailable, tell kids to walk at the far edge of the roadway facing traffic and never to cut across yards or use alleys.
  • Make sure children know they shouldn’t cross between parked cars or out driveways.
  • Since motorists may have trouble seeing Trick-or-Treaters, yield to oncoming traffic.
  • Notify law enforcement authorities immediately if you notice anything suspicious.

Safe Home Décor

  • Don’t let small children carve pumpkins. Instead, let them draw faces with markers. Leave carving to the adults.
  • Consider using a flashlight or glow stick instead of a candle to light your pumpkin. If you must use a candle, choose a votive, which is the safest option.
  • Candlelit pumpkins should be placed on a sturdy table, away from curtains and other flammable objects.
  • To keep homes safe for visiting trick-or-treaters, remove everything from the porch and front yard that could trip up a child. Consider items such as hoses, toys, bikes and lawn decor.
  • Check outdoor lights and replace burned-out bulbs.
  • If your yard contains wet leaves or snow, sweep or shovel sidewalks and steps.
  • Restrain pets so they won’t inadvertently jump on or bite trick-or-treaters.

For More Tips about Halloween Safety

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

Summer Safety and Fire Prevention Tips Part 2

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

As we head into the heavy summer fire-season, we agree with FEMA’s assertion that the best fire prevention is fire education. To that end, this blog post is the second in a two-part series that focuses on summer safety tips. Last week, we covered fire safety before, during and after the 4th of July. This week, we will cover additional fire safety tips.

Barbeque Safety

  • Before using a grill, check the connection between the propane tank and the fuel line. Make sure the tubes where the air and gas mix are not blocked.
  • Do not overfill the propane tank.
  • Do not wear loose clothing while cooking at a barbecue.
  • Be careful when using lighter fluid. Do not add fluid to an already lit fire because the flame could flashback up into the container and explode.
  • Keep all matches and lighters away from children. Teach your children to report any loose matches or lighters to an adult immediately. Supervise children around outdoor grills.
  • Dispose of hot coals properly – douse them with plenty of water, and stir them to ensure that the fire is out. Never place them in plastic, paper or wooden containers.
  • Never grill/barbecue in enclosed areas – carbon monoxide could be produced.
  • Make sure everyone knows to Stop, Drop and Roll in case a piece of clothing does catch fire. Call 911 or your local emergency number if a burn warrants serious medical attention.

Campfire Safety

  • Build campfires where they will not spread, away from dry grass and leaves.
  • Keep campfires small, and don’t let them get out of hand.
  • Keep plenty of water and a shovel around to douse the fire when you’re done. Stir it and douse it again with water.
  • Never leave campfires unattended.

Home Smoking Fire Prevention

Of course, the surest way to avoid a cigarette, pipe or cigar-related fire is to stop smoking immediately and discourage smoking in your home or office. However, if you have contact with folks who insist on smoking, encourage the following BE SAFE tips:

  • The safest place to smoke is outside. Encourage smokers to head outdoors before lighting up.
  • Use deep sturdy ashtrays to contain potentially dangerous ash.
  • Before disposing of cigarette butts and ashes, make sure they are completely cool. The best way to do this is to distinguish them in a pail of cool water.
  • Keep all smoking materials out of the reach of children.

For More Information

The USFA has created a comprehensive Smoking & Home Fires Campaign Toolkit that contains free, copyright-free materials that can be printed and distributed. The toolkit is a comprehensive resource that contains materials for fire service personnel and others to use within their community.

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

Yarnell Hill Fire Loss of Life Brings Fire Safety to Mind

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

Nineteen members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, based in Prescott, Ariz., were killed Sunday when a windblown wildfire overcame them north of Phoenix. It was the deadliest single day for U.S. firefighters since Sept. 11. Fourteen of the victims were in their 20s.

We at the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services join all Americans in sending our thoughts and prayers to the families of the brave firefighters whose lives have been lost or altered dramatically by these wildfires.

Prescott Fire Department spokesman Wade Ward said they have been getting a tremendous outpouring of help from other fire departments locally and nationally. Mayor Marlin Kuykendall said merchants from the community have been donating food and supplies to the families of the fallen firefighters. Also of note, on June 30, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) approved a Fire Management Assistance Grant, which makes FEMA funding available to reimburse 75 percent of the eligible firefighting costs under an approved grant for managing, mitigating and controlling the fire.

“I would like to express my deepest condolences to all the family, colleagues and friends of the professional Arizona firefighters who lost their lives to protect lives and property,” said Nancy Ward FEMA IX Regional Administrator. “It is a truly heartbreaking loss.”

At the time federal assistance was requested, the fire threatened 578 homes in and around the community of Yarnell, Peeple’s Valley, and Model Creek/Double A Bar Ranch with a combined population of over 1,220. The State of Arizona further reported that the fire at one point burned in excess of 800 and 1000 acres of state, and private land, and also threatened a rail line 3 miles west of the fire and State Highway 89.

While the cause of the blaze remains under investigation, the Yarnell Fire Department reports that the cause was “likely lightning.” In honor of the fallen firefighters, we would like to devote the next two weeks’ blog posts to summer safety, to encourage our subscribers and readers to BE FIRESAFE this holiday week as well as the rest of the summer. This week, we will focus on safety before, during and after the 4th of July. Next week, we will cover additional outdoor fire safety tips.

How to Prevent Outdoor Fires

4th of July

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports:

  • More fires are reported on the Fourth of July than on any other day.
  • Fireworks are the cause of half of those fires.
  • In 2011, fireworks caused an estimated 17,800 reported fires, including 1,200 structures, 400 vehicles, and 16,300 outside and other fires.
  • In total, these fires resulted in an estimated $32 million in direct property damage.
  • Each July 4th, thousands of people, most often kids & teens, are injured while using consumer fireworks.
  • On Independence Day in a typical year, far more U.S. fires are reported than on any other day, and fireworks account for two out of five of those fires, more than any other cause of fires.
  • The risk of fireworks injury was highest for children ages 5-19 and adults 25-44, with one-quarter (26 percent) of the victims of fireworks injuries in 2011 under age 15.
  • Despite the dangers of fireworks, few people understand the associated risks - devastating burns, other injuries, fires, and even death.
  • According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there are about 200 fireworks injuries a day during the month surrounding the Fourth of July holiday. More than half of these injuries were the result of unexpected ignition of the device or consumers not using fireworks as intended.

To BE SAFE on the 4th of July:

  1. Leave fireworks to the professionals! Do not use consumer fireworks! The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to attend a public display conducted by trained professionals.
  2. After a fireworks display, children should never pick up fireworks that may be left over, they may still be active.
  3. Don’t give sparklers to children. Sparklers burn at 1200 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to cause third-degree burns.
  4. If a public fireworks’ display is not available in your area, find other ways to safely celebrate Independence Day.
  5. If you insist on buying and lighting your own fireworks, the Consumer Product Safety Commission offers some extremely important tips. Please spend some time reviewing their fireworks’ safety suggestions.

Check back next week, when we will cover some additional summer safety and fire prevention tips. When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your building(s). Choosing our service cuts property management training related workloads by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES

Four Brave Houston Firefighters Lose their Lives—Cause Remains Under Investigation

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is thankful to count several buildings in the Houston area among our subscribers. Our hearts go out to the victims and families from the Houston Fire Department.

On Tuesday, June 4, 2013, a horrific fire broke out at an inn and vegetarian restaurant in Houston, Texas, killing four firefighters and injuring 14 more, making it the single deadliest day in the history of the Houston Fire Department and the third largest in the nation. The incident is just one of several across the country which have recently claimed far too many human lives – from the Boston Marathon bombing to the fertilizer plant explosion in Central Texas to the devastating tornadoes in Oklahoma.

According to Houston authorities, only once before has the city lost multiple firefighters in a single day…in 1929 in a freak accident, when a fire engine was hit by a train, resulting in the death of three firefighters. This month’s fire is believed to have sparked at a restaurant adjacent to the Southwest Inn just after noon, eventually morphing into a monstrous inferno.

According to Houston Fire Chief Terry Garrison, first-responders arrived at the scene at 12:11 p.m. to rescue the 45 motel guests. “At some point during the blaze’s ferocious tear through the motel, one of the building’s structural components collapsed and the firefighters who were risking their lives to save our community became trapped beneath the wreckage.”

Although the cause of the lethal blaze has yet to be determined, authorities believe the cause of the death for the four late first-responders was structural collapse. According to a press release, the victims were Capt. EMT Matthew Renaud, 35, of Station 51; Engineer-Operator EMT Robert Bebee, 41, of Station 51; Firefighter EMT Robert Garner, 29, of Station 68; and Probationary Firefighter Anne Sullivan, 24, of Station 68, who graduated from the Houston Fire Department Academy in April, 2013.

The Bhojan Restaurant, an Indian café neighboring the motel, reportedly received numerous citations by city inspectors, over the years…most recently in March, for allegedly failing to clean grease traps on restaurant grounds. However, authorities have not determined if Friday’s deadly inferno was initially triggered by a grease fire. The HFD Arson Bureau, Houston police homicide division, Texas Rangers, the ATF and the state Fire Marshal’s Office are collaborating in the investigation.

“We had an early and quick catastrophic failure of the roof,” Chief Garrison said. “There’s no way that I would have anticipated that we would lose four firefighters. I want to tell the residents of Houston their firefighters acted absolutely courageously today, that there were probably a dozen acts of heroism on that scene.”

Garrison also said firefighters could not be as cautious (this time) as they can with some structure fires because of the fear that employees or hotel guests might have been trapped inside. During a press conference, he vowed that the lost firefighters’ deaths will not be in vain, “We will improve. We will get better. We will learn from this, and we will keep on keepin’ on.”

Richard Mann, executive assistant chief of emergency operations, said his fellow firefighters had been lost because they took an aggressive approach. “It’s what (firefighters) are trained to do when there is a possibility of people trapped inside a burning building. They were serving the citizens of Houston. They took a calculated risk to save lives. In the end, they lost theirs.”

Although the cause of the blaze remains under investigation, we wanted to devote some blog space to remind our readers about kitchen-fire safety. Authorities suspect the Houston fire originated in a kitchen…perhaps involving grease. To BE SAFE, remember these fire-safe tips:

According to FEMA, the majority of kitchen fires are caused by cooking, followed by other heat or flame and appliance fires. Factors most responsible for ignition include:

  • Unattended equipment, such as people leaving food in the oven or on the stove and forgetting about it.
  • Misuse of material or product
  • Additional factors leading to ignition included combustibles being too close to a heat source, discarded flammable materials, or appliances accidentally turned on or not turned off after use.

Be Prepared for a Kitchen Fire:

  • Fire Extinguisher: An ABC Dry Chemical fire extinguisher is the best option since it won’t accelerate grease fires. Read the instructions, and know how to operate it.
  • Type B Fire Extinguisher on hand, which is for use on fires involving flammable liquids such as grease, gasoline, oil and oil-based plants.
  • Type C Fire Extinguisher in your kitchen, which is suitable for use on fires involving appliances, tools, or other equipment that is electrically energized or plugged in.
  • Every commercial kitchen should include a Class K Fire Extinguisher, which is intended for use on fires that involve vegetable oils, animal oils, or fats in cooking appliances. These extinguishers are generally found in commercial kitchens, such as those found in restaurants, cafeterias, and caterers. Thankfully, Class K extinguishers are now starting to find their way into the residential market for use in kitchens.
  • Smoke Detector: A smoke detector with a pause button is best in case of false alarms. Neighboring rooms to the kitchen should also have smoke detectors.
  • Oven Mitts: Protect hands with a thick, durable pair.

If A Cooking Fire Starts:

  • Water and grease don’t mix. In the event of a grease fire, NEVER POUR WATER ON IT or it will spread. Use a fire extinguisher, or when in doubt, get out and call for help.
  • Put a lid on it. If a pan catches fire, slide a lid over the pan and turn off the stove burner. Leave the lid on until it is completely cool.
  • Keep the oven or microwave door shut if fire starts. Turn off the heat. If the flames do not go out immediately, get out and call for help.
  • Stop, drop, and roll. If your clothes catch fire, smother them on the kitchen floor before getting out of the house.
  • Know when to stop fighting the fire yourself and call in a professional. For detailed instructions about this, check out the free FEMA Fire Prevention Booklet.

The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your building(s). Choosing our service cuts property management training related workloads by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES!

Disaster Safety & Mitigation – this week’s theme for Building Safety Month

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

In last week’s RJWestmore Training System blog, we discussed the public awareness campaign offered by the International Code Council (ICC) each year to help individuals, families and businesses understand what it takes to create and sustain safe and sustainable structures. Celebrated every May, Building Safety Month reinforces the need for industry professionals to adopt modern, model building codes, a strong and efficient system of code enforcement and a well-trained, professional workforce. Since this week’s theme is Disaster Safety and Mitigation, it’s worthwhile to continue the discussion.

No matter where you live and work, you and everyone in your family and circle of friends and professional colleagues are at risk from natural disasters. Thankfully, there is also some good news. Despite the devastation created by now infamous recent earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires give us pause; we are not powerless against these forces. When we learn from mistakes and take steps to prepare as well as help make sure other people learn how to prepare, respond and react, we can share in the miracle of human resilience. People can survive and communities can endure disasters. And they do so because of actions taken beforehand—with purpose, to make structures stronger and people safer.

To make sure your family, friends, colleagues and tenants are prepared for any natural disaster; follow these steps provided by FLASH (Federal Alliance for Safe Homes):

 

  • Develop a family disaster plan that includes a list of food and water supplies needed for each member of your family and supplies for your pets.

  • Make copies of important documents like insurance policies, the deed to your home, and other personal papers, important phone numbers and a home inventory.

  • Create a checklist of important things to do before, during and after a disaster.

  • Review your evacuation route and emergency shelter locations with your family. Options for evacuation should include either staying with friends and relatives, seeking commercial lodging, or staying in a mass care facility operated by disaster relief groups in conjunction with local authorities.

  • Taking shelter is critical in times of disaster. Sheltering in place is appropriate when conditions require that you seek protection in your home, place of employment, or wherever you are when disaster strikes.

For its part, the ICC has prepared a free downloadable PDF packet with 10 Tips to Remember for Disaster Safety & Mitigation. For details, click the link. Here is a summary:

 

  1. Develop a Family Action Plan.
  2. Create a Disaster Supply Kit.
  3. Stay tuned to Radio or TV news.
  4. Never attempt to cross a flowing stream.
  5. In high wind or hurricane-prone areas, make sure windows and shutters are code-compliant.
  6. Secure lawn furniture and any loose outdoor items.
  7. If you live in an affected area, build or retrofit a tornado-safe room.
  8. Use surge protectors in home and offices.
  9. In wildfire prone areas, clear debris within 30 feet of the exterior of any structure.
  10. Before winter, insulate exposed water pipes outside of buildings.

When it comes to protecting your place of business, particularly if it is located in a high rise, the most important step you can take is to make sure your tenants are prepared. The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services 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).

Building Safety Month: How will you celebrate?

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

Founded by the International Code Council (ICC), Building Safety Month (BSM) is celebrated during the month of May. So: Happy Building Safety Month from all of us at RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services!

A public awareness campaign offered each year to help individuals, families and businesses understand what it takes to create and sustain safe and sustainable structures, Building Safety Month was created to reinforce the important need for industry professionals to adopt modern, model building codes, a strong and efficient system of code enforcement and a well-trained, professional workforce.

Building codes are important safeguards designed to protect citizens from avoidable tragedies like fires, weather-related events and structural collapse. Model building codes are arguably the best way to protect homes, offices, and schools, manufacturing facilities, stores and entertainment venues.

Overseeing the introduction and implementation of such codes, the International Code Council is made up of a diverse group of professionals from industries including construction, design and safety. Corporations, government agencies, professional associations and nonprofit organizations support the annual May campaign in order to highlight the need for safe and sustainable structures where each of us live, work and play.

The ICC and its 50,000 worldwide members have made significant advances relative to the safe construction of building homes, apartment buildings, office structures and high rises—making sure that every new building is sustainable, affordable and resilient. This year’s theme is “Building Safety Month: Code Officials Keep You Safe.”

Throughout May, mini-themes will focus on particular areas of importance:

Week One / May 6-12, 2013
Fire Safety and Awareness

Week Two / May 13-19, 2013
Disaster Safety and Mitigation

Week Three / May 20-26, 2013
Backyard and Pool Safety

Week Four / May 27-31, 2013
Energy and Green Building

If you’d like to actively participate in BSM, there are a host of resources at your disposal; courtesy of the ICC. Resources include strategies on how to set up a Building Safety Month event, a fill-in-the-blank press release, a sample proclamation, kid’s activity pages, stickers, brochures, pencils and more. Some resources are available for free download and others may be purchased from the ICC Store.

Here are some more ideas for active participation in Building Safety Month:

  1. Promote Building Safety Month in your community.
  2. Promote BSM through your Chapter activities.
  3. Set up an information booth at your city hall or a place of business such as a local hardware store.
  4. Visit a school and give a presentation about building safety.
  5. Post local information on your website.
  6. Send a news release to newspapers, and radio and television stations.
  7. Encourage local media to cover Building Safety Month activities.
  8. Send public service announcements to local radio and television stations.
  9. Public information officers, city managers, or mayors could also arrange to appear on a talk/community information show through local television or radio stations.

If you’re about to embark on construction of a new building or home, try to remember that building codes are not arbitrarily established to make your life difficult. They are designed to keep you and everyone who visits your structure safe and sound.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is an interactive, building-specific e-learning training system which motivates and rewards tenants instantly! It’s a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your building(s). Choosing our service cuts property management training related workloads by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES!

Fire Kills 234 in Brazil–Demonstrates Tragic Pattern of Failing to Learn from History

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013


Last weekend, 234 died in a fire which broke out in a crowded nightclub in Brazil. The sixth such fire in a decade, the tragedy highlights the importance of business owners and fire safety professionals applying lessons learned from previous mistakes to avoid repeating similar disasters. Fires in China, Russia, Argentina, Thailand and the U.S. should have provided plenty of important fire-safety lessons for club owners in Brazil to apply. Had they studied those fires, they could have avoided the most recent nightclub fire-related tragedy.

Rhode Island: A popular rock band took the stage at a nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island in 2003. The show included dangerous pyrotechnics which set fire to flammable soundproofing foam that lined the walls and ceiling—killing 100 and injuring 200.

Argentina: A December 2004 fire killed 194 people at an overcrowded working-class nightclub in Buenos Aires, Argentina, after a flare ignited ceiling foam.

China: Fireworks shot off at a birthday party at a Latin-style bar and restaurant in China’s Fujian province sparked a fire which claimed 15 lives in January, 2009.

Russia, 2009: Fireworks triggered a blaze at a nightclub in Perm, Russia in December, 2009, killing 156 people. The fire began after an indoor fireworks display ignited a plastic ceiling decorated with branches.

Thailand: A fire swept through a popular nightclub on the Thai island of Phuket killing four people in early August, 2012.

One survivor of the Rhode Island fire, Todd King, reportedly woke up on Sunday morning by a storm of text messages from fellow survivors of the Rhode Island blaze, all asking, “Can you believe this is happening again?”

King is indignant—“I’m surprised nobody has learned.”

Another Rhode Island survivor, Victoria Eagan, observed that several fires since the 2003 tragedy have been caused by indoor pyrotechnics igniting materials in the building in recent years, “We seem doomed to repeat history. I wish (people) could learn.”

Thus far, investigators say the source of the blaze in Brazil was a band’s small pyrotechnics’ show. The fire and toxic smoke created by burning foam sound insulation material on the ceiling engulfed the Brazilian club within seconds.  Authorities said band members who were on the stage confirmed their use of pyrotechnics during the show.

The fact nightclub owners have failed to learn is especially disconcerting because, after the Rhode Island blaze, sweeping changes were made to that state’s fire code, with the intention of preventing similar occurrences in the future. Rhode Island fire stations shared a common goal and battle cry: “Never again!”

As a result of associated fire code changes:

  1. Sprinklers are now required in nightclubs and bars with occupancy limits of 100 or more.
  2. Nightclub workers must be trained in fire safety.
  3. Money was set aside for additional fire safety classes in schools.
  4. Pyrotechnics were banned in all but large public venues.
  5. Local fire marshals were empowered to order immediate repairs and write tickets for violations.

In an emailed statement, the Station Fire Memorial Foundation, which is building a memorial to those affected by the Rhode Island fire, compared the two tragedies, “One cannot help but notice the similarities between this tragedy and the Station nightclub fire that occurred nearly 10 years ago.”

Don’t be the victim of a fire which could have been prevented through education and/or preparation. The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services 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). Choosing our service cuts property management training related workloads by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES!