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How to Mark National Preparedness Month

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

National Prep Month 2014 corp

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

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

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

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

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

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

This year’s National Preparedness Month focuses on establishing family connections in any emergency preparedness plan. For information about preparedness events, check out FEMA’s Ready.Gov website. When a disaster of any kind strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. Our system offers a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your building(s). Choosing our service cuts property management training-related costs by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, it saves lives.

Top 10 Disasters of 2012: Manmade Disasters

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

Part 2 of a 2-Part Series

In 2012, we saw many disasters strike on a global level—killing thousands and inflicting billions of dollars in property damage. In last week’s blog, we focused on the top 10 natural disasters of 2012. This week, we’ll discuss those disasters which originated from man…from intentional attacks such as those relative to active shooting incidents to gross negligence, millions of dollars in damage and thousands of lives were lost to manmade events in 2012.

We hope to highlight those that manmade disasters in 2012 which generated the most media attention, in an effort to encourage due diligence and preparation for the manmade disasters that will inevitably occur in 2013.

  1. Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Disaster. An independent parliamentary investigation assigns blame to “man-made” failures before and after last year’s earthquake leading to the 2012 meltdown at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in Tokyo. Breakdowns are said to have involved regulators working with the plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co., which failed to implement important preventative safety measures. Implementing important preventative safety measures is something we value highly at Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services.
  2. Deadly Philippine Floods. In 2012, deadly floods swamped nearly all of the Philippine capital. Although flooding directly resulted from natural storms, the extent of the damage is said to have caused more as a result of poor planning, lax enforcement and political self-interest than from the storm itself. Damaged watersheds, massive squatter colonies living in danger zones and the neglect of drainage systems are some of the factors that experts report have made the chaotic city of 15 million people vulnerable to extensive damage following severe floods.
  3. Acts of Terror.While individual terrorist attacks could claim all 10 spots on this list of manmade disasters in 2012, we will allow room for just one entry. It is widely believed that terrorism is the most significant national security threat for many countries in the world, despite the capture and killing of key Al Qaeda leaders in 2011 including Al Qaeda founder Osama Bin Laden and Anwar Al-Awlaki of the Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). As written by The Guardianreporter Glenn Greenwald, “The ‘war on terror’ – by design – can never end.”
  4. Aurora Movie Theater Massacre. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) defines an active shooter as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area.” On July 20, 2012, a 24-year-old neuroscience grad student allegedly shot 12 people and wounded dozens more at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.
  5. Sandy Hook Elementary Shooting. On December 14, 2012, a 20-year-old man fatally shot 20 children and 6 adult staff members and wounded two at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. After killing students and staff members, the attacker committed suicide by shooting himself in the head as first responders arrived. The massacre was the second-deadliest school shooting in United States history, after the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre. It also was the second-deadliest mass murderat an American elementary school, after the 1927 Bath School bombings in Michigan. 
  6. Atlanta Hospital Shooting. An Alabama man opened fire in a hospital, wounding an officer and two employees before he was fatally shot by police on December 15, 2012. Birmingham Police Sgt. Johnny Williams says the officer and employees suffered injuries that are not considered life-threatening.
  1. Clackamas County Mall Shooting. On December 12, 2012, a 22-year-old man, who was wearing a camouflage outfit and a white mask, shot an initial burst of fire and then more rounds at Clackamas Town Center, killing two. The gunman who opened fire on shoppers at the mall had no connection to those he fatally shot and is said to have wanted to kill as many people as possible during his rampage.
  2. Fort Hood Shooting. Differences of opinion exist between whether the 2009 shooting at Fort Hood which left 13 people dead, was workplace violence or a full-fledged terrorist attack. Three years later, on December 15, 2012, another assailant shot at police from his parked vehicle before police shot and killed the suspect. Officials say the officers tried life-saving measures before emergency medical personnel arrived, but the soldier died. Investigators later determined that the 30-year-old man had been assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division.
  3. Spinal Meningitis Outbreak. As reported by the New York Times, “one of the many troubling aspects of the national meningitis outbreak caused by a tainted steroid drug is that so many people are at risk: 14,000 are thought to have been exposed, mostly through injections near the spine for back or neck problems. The drug was contaminated with a fungus that causes a severe form of meningitis that can result in stroke.” Since the outbreak can be attributed to poor medical training, the 23 deaths and sickness of 294 others was unnecessary and avoidable.
  4. Unintentional Triggers. The National Geographic Channel recently ran a special about increased incidences of natural phenomenon such as earthquakes, tornadoes and volcanoes which — though on the surface natural — can actually be unwittingly activated by humans. The NGC special examined how efforts to harness natural resources can have the opposite effect…triggering the very disasters they had intended to eliminate. For example, a Chinese dam weighing as much as 3,000 Empire State Buildings caused tremors that claimed the lives of 90,000 people. According to National Geographic reporters, another dam could trigger mudslides that would bury millions. What’s more, growing urban areas can cause tornadoes and mining and drilling have already activated deadly mud volcanoes.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, check out the Allied Universal Training System by Universal/Fire Life Safety Services. Our new Version 3.0 system offers the best emergency training system on the market.

Natural Disasters 2012: Top 10

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

Part 1 of a 2-Part Series (Next week, we’ll focus on manmade disasters in 2012.)

In 2012, we saw many natural disasters strike on a global level—killing thousands and inflicting billions of dollars in property damage. From hurricanes and earthquakes to droughts, heat waves and wildfires, events were widespread and severe.

One of the most prominent disasters of the year in the U.S. was Hurricane Sandy, which killed at least 125 people in the USA and 71 in the Caribbean, and inflicted an estimated $62 billion in damage. Much of the U.S. also encountered prolonged severe weather; including summer heat waves and drought which many pundits believe may prove even more costly than Sandy. With careful reflection, emergency management professionals agree the most important lesson learned is that people survive and recover when they take time to prepare.

  1. Heat Waves. The summer heat wave in North America led to more than 82 heat-related deaths across the United States and Canada. The intense three-week wave began around in June, when a high pressure system centered over Baja California moved into the plains, driving temperatures beyond 110 degrees. The heat spread east from the Rocky Mountains, causing high temperatures in the central states reminiscent of temps not felt for some 80 years.
  2. Drought. A historic lack of snow last winter in the United States, combined with several years of below-normal rainfall, produced a devastating drought through much of North America. Meteorologists say this drought was similar to the large-scale droughts of the 1930s and 1950s. Due to crop failure and livestock deaths, this prolonged, multi-year disaster could emerge as the single most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history.
  3. Wildfires. Starting in early August, a series of Oklahoma wildfires burned 52,000 acres, destroying at least 121 homes and businesses. In Colorado, at least 200,000 acres of Colorado were swept by wildfire in June and July, said to have been sparked by both lightning and human activities. More than 600 homes were destroyed and five lives were lost during this month of fires.

All told, in the American West, wildfires in 2012 burned 30 percent more land mass than during average year by September. Computer renderings and satellite projections suggest the area burned by wildfires in the U.S. will likely double by the year 2050.

  1. Floods. In addition to the storm-related floodingassociated with Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast, the southeastern U.S. experienced flooding in July, long before Sandy hit. Timely flood warnings prepared residents in New Orleans. But, while no deaths were reported, many people were rescued from flooded cars and water-covered structures. Power outages were widespread and many homes and businesses suffered damage.Folks in Georgia were also impacted, with flooded streets in Atlanta leading to massive traffic jams. Several drivers reported that they felt they could drive through the high water, only to find that their cars stalled and left them trapped in chest-deep water.

On the other side of the world, 37 people were killed by flood waters in and around the city of Beijing, China. In the rural and suburban areas outside Beijing, many more people died in as a result of flooding, which was said to be the region’s worst in 60 years. Elsewhere, floods occurred in southwest Russia in early July, near the coast of the Black Sea. Five months’ worth of rain fell overnight in southern parts of the country, leaving 144 people dead and damaging the homes of nearly 13,000 residents.

  1. Earthquakes. Iran and Afghanistan were struck with two of the most deadly earthquakes of 2012. In August, 306 people died from the 6.4 magnitude quake that struck East Azerbaijan Province, Iran. This earthquake was in the rural and mountainous areas to the northeast of Tabriz, and was felt as far away as Armenia.
  2. Hurricanes. 2012 was an extremely active and destructive hurricane season, producing 19 tropical cyclones, ten hurricanes, and one major hurricane. The season’s most intense hurricane, Sandy, was rated a powerful Category 2 hurricane that brought significant damage to portions of the Greater Antilles and East Coast of the United States, causing damages upwards of 65 billion dollars.
  3. Avalanche. In March, several avalanches hit northeastern Afghanistan, destroying a small village of about 200 people. Most buildings and homes were completely buried in the avalanche. Seven people were found alive in the village, but three later died from their injuries and a lack of medical care. Three days later, 50 people had been confirmed dead.

The deadliest avalanche of the year occurred at a Pakistani military base. It was the most severe avalanche the Pakistani military had experienced in the area, trapping both soldiers and civilian contractors under deep snow. Pakistani officials report that 129 soldiers and 11 civilians were killed by the avalanche.

  1. Thunderstorms. El Derecho was one of the most damaging thunderstorms in recent history. The surprise storm produced wind speeds over 90 mph and hail stones up to 2.75 inches in diameter. The storm traveled from Indiana, across the Midwest, and into the Mid-Atlantic states, causing 22 deaths and widespread damage across an 800-mile swath and left millions without power during a heat wave.
  2. Typhoons. 2012 delivered 34 different weather systems from early summer through late fall. The total damage of those 34 systems is estimated at $4.42 billion. In all, 506 lives were lost in the Pacific storms due to flooding and buildings collapsing in high winds. From the Philippines to Japan and Russia, some of this year’s storms generated winds in excess of 125 mph and produced widespread flooding.
  3. Tornadoes. Although the world’s high-risk tornado corridors are in the United States, Bangladesh, and Eastern India, tornadoes can and do pop up almost anywhere, under the right conditions. In February, a strong tornado struck South Sulawesi province in Indonesia, killing five people and damaging 98 structures. In April, a tornado struck a construction site in Turkey, killing at six and injuring seven others. Several homes were destroyed along the tornado’s seven-mile-long track. In July 14, a group of tornadoes hit Poland, killing a 60-year old man and injuring at least 10 others. In the U.S., 1,039 tornadoes were reported in 2012, resulting in 68 fatalities.

Check back next week, when we’ll cover the top 10 manmade disasters of 2012, in an effort to encourage building owners and managers to prepare tenants in advance for emergencies of all kinds in 2013 and beyond. When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, check out the Allied Universal Training System by Universal/Fire Life Safety Services. Our new Version 3.0 system offers the best emergency training system on the market.

FEMA Hurricane Sandy Recap and Small Business Recovery Plans

Monday, November 19th, 2012

A significant number of Allied Universal Training System subscribers are located on the east coast. Our hearts go out to each of them. If you would like to donate to relief efforts, consider giving through a reputable charitable organization such as the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Samaritan’s Purse, the United Way, World Vision or Operation USA. We are currently devoting Allied Universal blog space to lessons we have learned about disaster preparedness and recovery from Superstorm Sandy. This week will be our final blog post in our Hurricane Sandy series, focusing on statistics provided through FEMA about recovery efforts, to date, as well as ideas to help business owners recover following a disaster.

According to a press release distributed by FEMA, the totals so far relative to how the federal government is responding and assisting post-Hurricane Sandy recovery operations in New York City is $449M, given to date for individual assistance (IA). Still early in the game, this figure does not include other hard hit states in the surrounding area. Experts predict that IA for Sandy will total well over $1B. When it comes to Public Assistance (PA), the total will require billions and billions of additional funding.

These are the FEMA figures regarding disaster recovery effort to date:

  • More than 204,000 New Yorkers have contacted FEMA for information or registered for assistance with FEMA. More than $449 million has been approved.
  • 31 Disaster Recovery Centers (DRC) are open in affected areas. These include mobile sites as well as fixed sites. And, to date more than 27,000 survivors have been assisted at DRCs in New York.
  • 1,249 inspectors in the field have completed 71,992 home inspections.
  • 1,085 Community Relations (CR) specialists are strategically positioned throughout affected communities, going door to door to explain the types of disaster assistance available and providing registration instructions.
  • 20 Points of Distribution (PODs) are open and providing supplies to affected residents.
  • 9 Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMATs), 1 Rapid Deployment Force (RDF) and 1 National Veterinary Response Team (NVRT) from the Department of Health and Human Services are deployed in New York.
  • There are 13 New York counties designated for individual and public assistance, including: Bronx, Kings, Nassau, New York, Orange, Putnam, Queens, Richmond, Rockland, Suffolk, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester.
  • U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) staff members at 15 Business Recovery Centers in the New York area are providing one-on-one help to business owners seeking disaster assistance. $1.9 million has been approved thus far in disaster loans.
  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is employing 220 long-haul trucks, three tugs and 19 barges to transfer material from temporary storage sites in Staten Island and Queens to the Seneca Meadows landfill in Waterloo, N.Y.
  • Individuals can register online at www.disasterassistance.govor via smart phone at m.fema.gov.  Applicants may also call 1-800-621-3362 or (TTY) 1-800-462-7585. Those who use 711-Relay or Video Relay Services (VRS) should call 1-800-621-3362. The toll-free telephone numbers operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week until further notice.

Thousands of business owners, homeowners, and tenants along the East Coast are returning to find physical damage to their buildings and property post-Hurricane Sandy. Even those whose buildings were not directly involved are dealing with the economic blow caused by power outages, damaged inventory, and lost profits from forced closure.

Whether you own a small business in the area affected by Superstorm Sandy, or your company is located well away from the east coast, you may be interested in the tips and suggestions provided by the Small Business Administration (SBA) for recovery from a natural or manmade disaster. Avail yourself to the myriad of resources now, before disaster strikes, so you will be prepared to react and recover quickly if an emergency strikes you and/or your business:

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal, Inc. Our new Version 3.0 system offers the best emergency training system.

Get Ready to SmokeOut

Friday, October 26th, 2012

As we wind down October, it’s time to consider safety tips relative to November. Did you know that November is officially the month to “be aware” of each of the following health and safety related concerns?

Also among this month’s distinctions is the annual Great American Smokeout, to be observed on November 15, this year, which began in 1977 as a social engineering experiment to encourage 45.8 million Americans who smoke to stop. Sponsored by the American Cancer Society, the event challenges people to cease smoking cigarettes for 24 hours, with the hope that the break will lead to permanent cigarette cessation.

The reason the event is particularly significant to those of us at Allied Universal, Inc. is because smoking not only causes serious disease, it also often leads to fires. In fact, FEMA reports that, each year, approximately 1,000 smokers and non-smokers are killed in fires caused by cigarettes and other smoking-related materials.

The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) is working to help prevent fire deaths and injuries in residential and commercial buildings caused by smoking materials. Fires of this kind affect not only the smoker, but non-smokers as well. Did you know that one in four people killed in home fires is not the smoker whose cigarette caused the fire? According to the USFA, 34 percent of fire victims are children of the smokers and 25 percent were neighbors or friends of the smokers.

The most common start of cigarette-related fires occurs when individuals fall asleep while holding a lit cigarette. However, that is not the only way that cigarettes start a blaze. Here are additional ways cigarettes, cigars and pipes can lead to fires:

  1. Tossing a cigarette from a moving vehicle. Although some people toss lit cigarettes from their car windows, most try to make sure that the butt has been extinguished. If a cigarette is hot when it is tossed into brush or even dirt, a flame can ignite.
  2. Missing the target. Although many states now prohibit smoking inside commercial buildings, to accommodate smokers, some building managers arrange for a designated area just outside of their facility. This is dangerous, as a discarded cigarette could miss the ashtray and ignite the property.
  3. Accidental disposal. Distracted smokers can unwittingly toss lit cigarettes into cushions, on rugs or in flammable areas.

The good news is that fires caused by cigarettes and other smoking materials are preventable. You can make a difference! The USFA created The Smoking & Home Fires Campaign to educate people about how to prevent fire deaths and injuries caused by smoking materials. Their key message is: “If you smoke, put it out. All the way. Every time.” Through the use of brochures, community presentations, video and radio public service announcements, posters and more, the campaign encourages smokers to “Butt out.”

Smoking Fire Action Steps

  • If you smoke, smoke outside.
  • Wherever you smoke, use deep, sturdy ashtrays.
  • Make sure cigarettes and ashes are out.
  • Be alert!
  • Check for cigarette butts.
  • Never smoke in a home or office where oxygen is used.
  • Post “no smoking” signs on the interior and exterior of your commercial property.
  • If you smoke, fire-safe cigarettes are better.

Admittedly, anyone who is at least 18 in the United States has the legal right to smoke. So, if you choose to exercise the right, consider using fire safe cigarettes. Abbreviated “FSC,” these are also known as Lower Ignition Propensity [LIP], Reduced Fire Risk [RFR], self-extinguishing, fire-safe or Reduced Ignition Propensity [RIP] cigarettes, all of which are designed to extinguish more quickly than standard cigarettes when left unattended. To make sure you are buying a fire safe cigarette in the United States, make sure you see the designation of “FSC” above the barcode.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal, Inc. Our new Version 3.0 system offers the best emergency training system. To learn more about smoking and fire safety, visit the Smoking & Home Fires Campaign page.

2012 Great California ShakeOut

Monday, October 15th, 2012

Although hundreds of earthquakes strike the world at any given moment, we are all aware that, one day, the “Big One” may hit. If it did, would you be ready? Registration has reached nine million participants for this year’s Great California ShakeOut, to be held across the state of California on Oct. 18 at 10:18 a.m. This will be the fifth annual earthquake drill, which is designed to inspire people to “DROP, COVER & HOLD ON in case of an earthquake. There is still time to register if you have not yet done so.

Kids and adults from schools, businesses, professional organizations, government agencies, neighborhoods and households all across California will take part in what is the largest earthquake drill in the world, designed to train people how to safely react and recover quickly in case a major earthquake strikes California.

ShakeOut founder Mark Benthien is Director of Communication, Education, and Outreach for the Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC) at the University of Southern California, and Executive Director of the Earthquake Country Alliance (ECA). The ECA coordinates the California ShakeOut and SCEC coordinates with ShakeOut regions across the U.S. and around the world.

ShakeOut press conferences and activities will take place on October 18th at various venues throughout the entire state of California:

  • Los Angeles at Union Station will host the Traveling Red Table, which was created by the California Earthquake Authority (CEA) and American Red Cross (Red Cross) will highlight the Seven Steps to Earthquake Safety, with emphasis on ShakeOut registration to run-through’s of the fifth step – how to “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” when the ground shakes. Union Station will also be the primary media venue on the Great California ShakeOut day.
  • The CSUN ShakeOut Festival including a Preparedness Fair, will be held from 9 am – 1 pm, at the NE corner of Sierra Quad in Los Angeles County.
  • Orange Tree Lane in San Bernardino County — From 9 a.m. until noon, there will be a Preparedness Fair at 2024. The epicenter of ShakeOut-related activities will be held at the San Bernardino County Museum in Redlands and will feature emergency equipment, emergency responders and earthquake preparedness educational activities.
  • Earthquake preparedness fair held from 9 am to 1 pm on CSUN’s Sierra Quad complete with informative booths, demonstrations, handouts, and prizes.
  • San Diego’s Santa Fe Station, which will focus on what to do if you are on public transportation when a major earthquake strikes.
  • In San Francisco, a Union Square ShakeOut press event will feature a choreographed ShakeOut flash dance, culminating in a mass Drop, Cover and Hold On demonstration.
  • Throughout the state, ShakeOut drills educate people at schools, work and home about how to prepare for, survive, and recover from the next damaging earthquake
  • Preparation messages remind Californians to secure their space, create disaster and communications plans, collect and organize disaster supplies, and take steps to safeguard their finances by strengthening their property and considering earthquake insurance.
  • Survival messages provide correct techniques for immediate Drop, Cover and Hold On responses when the earth starts shaking – and what to do when the shaking stops to improve safety by helping the injured, preventing further damage, and evacuating from tsunami zones.
  • Recovery strategies include how to restore daily live by reconnecting with others, repairing damage and rebuilding our communities.

ShakeOut participation is free and takes only a few minutes. Information about how to register and participate is found at www.shakeout.org/california. “Don’t be left out of the ShakeOut!”

ShakeOut began as a Southern California drill, quickly spread statewide, throughout the West, and then to the Central and Southeast U.S., as well as to several U.S. Territories, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, and Italy. Additional people and organizations in many other states and countries are also registering independent drills.

“It’s amazing to see how quickly this has become a worldwide movement,” said Benthien. “ShakeOut is a fun and easy way for people, organizations and communities in many regions to get prepared now, together, before major earthquakes.”

According to ShakeOut organizers, 4.5 million people across the U.S. have participated in Great ShakeOut events already this year—in the Central U.S., Utah, and even in New Zealand. In total, more than 15 million people will practice earthquake safety in 2012 as part of the various ShakeOut drills. For more details about events or to register to participate in any of the drills visit www.shakeout.org.

ShakeOut is organized by the Earthquake Country Alliance, a partnership of the Southern California Earthquake Center, California Emergency Management Agency, USGS, California Earthquake Authority, the American Red Cross, and many others. Extensive information is available for the public and media at www.ShakeOut.org/California. Event details are available at www.shakeout.org/california/news.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal, Inc. Our new Version 3.0 system offers the best emergency training system.

Resurgence of Spinal Meningitis in the U.S.

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

Meningitis is making an unwelcome comeback in the United States as several recent cases linked to steroid spinal injections have killed 14 people and sickened at least 170 others in 10 states to date. Officials with the CDC say that the infections were passed through steroid drug injections containing a fungus known as Aspergillus. So the infection is not believed to be transferred from person-to-person. The incubation period ranges from a few days to four weeks after injection.

The contaminated drug is said to have been shipped to 75 hospitals and clinics in 23 states, with cases reported so far in Tennessee (which, with 26, has the most cases), Michigan, North Carolina, Florida, Virginia and Maryland. Infected patients had each received a treatment for back pain called a lumbar epidural steroid injection. An infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University, Dr. William Schaffner, had this to say about expectations about the infections this year: “I’m afraid we’re going to see many more cases spread across the country.”

Labeled Methylprednisolone Acetate, the solution was produced by the New England Compounding Center in Massachusetts. The lot numbers of the potentially contaminated drug include: 05212012@68,06292012@26, and 08102012@51.

Doctors urge anyone who has undergone spinal epidural injection treatment during the past few months to seek immediate medical attention if they suspect they are suffering any symptoms. Caused by a fungus normally found in leaf mold, Fungal Meningitis can cause mild stroke-like symptoms, including slurred speech and difficulty walking and urinating. Other symptoms include worsening and severe headache, nausea, dizziness and fever.

Treatment includes high-dose antifungal medications, usually administered intravenously in a hospital, with success tied closely to the speed of diagnosis and treatment. The outbreak has raised concerns about the safety of a method used by millions to offset severe back pain. Sterile drugs and equipment are essential for the procedure because epidural injections involve inserting a needle directly into a part of the body that is an avenue for efficient germ delivery directly to the brain.

The New York Times and Time Magazine and USA Today report:

  • One clinic in Tennessee, where most of that state’s patients in the outbreak so far were infected, had received 2,000 vials of the drug.
  • Also in Tennessee, some hospitalized patients are recovering and walking the halls, while others are severely ill and in intensive care units,
  • In reaction to one verified infection, the North Carolina Board of Pharmacy suspended one company’s business permits.
  • Although the New England Center has not yet responded to the story, information about the steroids previously available on their website no longer appears.
  • Fungal infections are notoriously stubborn and hard to treat, requiring powerful drugs that can produce harsh side effects.
  • Most patients will need six months to a year of treatment to eliminate the infection.

“Given the severity of illness,” said director of the FDA office of compliance, we believe precautionary measures are warranted to protect public health.”

Unless you have recently undergone spinal injection therapy for chronic acute back pain, you will likely easily avoid this particular outbreak of Fungal Meningitis. However, according to the Meningitis Foundation of America, there are essentially two distinct types of Meningitis: aseptic and bacterial. And, unfortunately, meningitis cases are not delivered exclusively by contaminated epidural injections. To avoid contracting meningitis of any kind, observe these safety precautions:

1. Practice good hygiene!

  • Don’t share food, glasses, water bottles, or eating utensils.
  • Don’t share tissues, handkerchiefs or towels.
  • Don’t share lip balm, lip gloss or lipstick.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and hot water

2. Beef up your immune system.

  • Eat a well-balanced diet rich in lean proteins, complex carbohydrates and fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Exercise on a regular basis.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Don’t smoke, drink or use drugs.

3. Seek medical advice about whether your children ages 11-12 are good candidates for vaccine. (Generally, vaccines are only necessary and effective if a teenager is exposed to meningitis during an outbreak, is traveling or living where a meningococcal disease is common, if the child is a military recruit, or if your son or daughter has an immune disorder or a damaged or missing spleen.)

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal, Inc. Our new Version 3.0 system offers the best emergency training system.

How to Avoid Spear Phishing Cyber Attacks

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

Is your computer information secure?

According to Fox News, White House sources “partly confirmed” an alarming report that U.S. government computers—reportedly including systems used by the military for nuclear commands—were breached by Chinese hackers earlier this month.

“This was a spear phishing attack against an unclassified network,” a White House official assured FoxNews.com. “These types of attacks are not infrequent and we have mitigation measures in place.”

Although a law enforcement official who works with members of the White House Military Office confirmed the Chinese attack to FoxNews.com, as of the writing of this blog post, it remains unclear what information, if any, was taken or left behind in the attack, which occurred through an opened email.

TechTarget.com defines a “spear phishing attack” as “an e-mail spoofing fraud attempt that targets a specific organization, seeking unauthorized access to confidential data. Spear phishing attempts are not typically initiated by “random hackers” but are more likely to be conducted by perpetrators out for financial gain, trade secrets or military information.”

While we have devoted previous Allied Universal blog space to discuss cyber security as it relates to password encryption and security software, we have yet to share information to help our clients and friends take precautions with technological protection as it pertains to email. So, today, in an effort to continue providing helpful information for disaster preparation, let us take a few minutes to offer a few helpful hints which, if observed, should keep your computer running smoothly and safeguard proprietary information.

First, it is worthwhile to note that routine email phishing schemes differ from spear-phishing attacks in that spear phishing messages appear to come from a trusted source such as a large and well-respected company or website with a broad membership base, such as eBay or PayPal. On the other hand, with spear phishing, the source of the email is constructed to look as though it came from within the recipient’s own company…usually a person of authority within the organization.

The Computer Crime Research Center reports that a West Point teacher and National Security Agency expert named Aaron Ferguson emailed a message to 500 cadets asking them to click a link to verify their grades. Ferguson’s message appeared to come from a West Point colonel. More than 80% of recipients who received the message clicked through, receiving a notification that they had been duped and their failure to exercise caution before clicking could have resulted in downloads to the West Point computer system of spyware, Trojan horse and/or other malware.

Although most people have learned enough about computer use to proceed with caution when opening emails from unknown sources and in responding to unexpected requests for confidential information. We’ve all heard horror stories about Nigerian emails asking for large cash deposits to “help rescue loved ones from African prisons.” We’ve also learned, by and large, to avoid divulging personal data inside email messages—which can be hacked or clicking on links in messages unless we are positive about their source.

However, the average person is ill-equipped to recognize forged emails that seemingly come from people we trust because spear phishing is sophisticated. That’s how employees of Sony managed to unwittingly give away private information regarding their PlayStation Network, Epsilon data was recently breached, and several credit card companies and financial institutions have had to mail apologetic notices to their customer base.

The success of any spear phishing scam generally depends on three things:

  1. The apparent source must appear to be known and trusted.
  2. The information within the message supports its validity.
  3. The request makes sense.

So what can you do to avoid being caught unaware?

  • The FBI recommends that you keep in mind that most companies, banks, agencies, etc., don’t request personal information via e-mail. If in doubt, give them a call instead of clicking through the email link. (But don’t use the phone number contained in the e-mail which is usually phony.)
  • Do not provide personal information, such as a password, a credit card number or any data that can be used to unlock an application or network, in reply to an email.
  • Use a phishing filter. Many of the latest web browsers have built-in security software or offer the utility as a plug-in.
  • Learn to recognize what your security software warning messages look like. If you get something that looks similar but appears to be a bit “off,” delete the email and block the sender.
  • Never follow a link to a secure site from an email. Instead, enter the URL manually into the address bar of your web browser.
  • Report suspicious emails to your tech department on a regular basis. Tell employees to call security about anything suspicious and train them not to forward bogus emails.
  • Do not open suspicious attachments. When it doubt, block it out.
  • If your firm is ever victim to a successful spear phishing attack, assess the damage and recover. Eradicating the malicious software won’t be easy. You will have to backtrack to a clean starting point of your system before it was corrupted.

When a disaster of any kind strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal, Inc. Our new Version 3.0 system offers the best emergency training system.

Human Cases of West Nile Virus on the Rise

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), state health departments have reported 3,142 cases of West Nile Virus in the United States so far this year (134 of which were fatal). Particularly alarming is the fact that the number of severe cases so far in 2012 is the highest reported since 2003. West Nile virus infections in people, birds, or mosquitoes have been reported by 48 states. The CDC also reports that two thirds of the cases have come from seven states (Texas, Mississippi, Michigan, South Dakota, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and California) with almost 40 percent of all cases reported from Texas.

“This year’s outbreak is the largest to date and certainly the most serious,” said Dr. Lyle Petersen, director of the CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases.

Although experts disagree about the exact reasons for the severity of this year’s outbreak, they all agree that unusually high temperatures are likely a contributing factor. Although the total case numbers continue to increase, CDC officials remain unconcerned, believing that this year’s outbreak may have already peaked in mid- to late-August. If this holds true, we can expect outbreaks to taper off during or after October.

Here are some vital statistics about West Nile Virus:

  • The virus is commonly found in Africa, West Asia and the Middle East.
  • Although experts do not know exactly how long West Nile has been in America, officials with the CDC believe the virus has been in the eastern United States since 1999.
  • Four out of five people infected with West Nile virus do not show any symptoms.
  • People over the age of 50 and those with weakened immune systems are at a higher risk of becoming ill if they become infected with the virus.
  • Up to 20 percent develop flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches (and occasionally) a skin rash on the trunk of the body along with swollen lymph glands. Symptoms of mild disease may last a few days.
  • Approximately one in 150 develops severe symptoms such as headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis. Symptoms of the severe disease may last several weeks, although neurological effects may be permanent. Rarely, death can occur.
  • The incubation period of West Nile virus in humans is three to 14 days.
  • Mosquitoes initially contract the virus by feeding on infected birds and then spread the disease to humans they bite.
  • The virus is not transmissible through casual human contact.
  • There are rare instances of West Nile virus spreading through blood transfusions, organ transplants and from mother-to-baby during pregnancy or through breast milk.

To reduce the risk of exposure to West Nile, take these simple steps:

  1. Maintain screens on windows and doors.
  2. Drain standing water where mosquitoes breed. Common breeding sites include old tires, flowerpots and clogged rain gutters.
  3. Use insect repellant containing DEET, Picaridin or Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus.
  4. When you are outside, wear long pants and long sleeves.
  5. Stay indoors at dusk and dawn when many mosquito species are most active.

For more information about West Nile Virus, check out free online resources available from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the CDC and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal, Inc. Our new Version 3.0 system offers the best emergency training system.

September is National Preparedness Month

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

Based on all of the natural and manmade disasters that have been taking place lately, it seems particularly fitting that September is National Preparedness Month. This year marks the ninth annual National Preparedness Month, sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Here is a sampling of significant world events over just the past seven days, in case you aren’t convinced that it is worth your time to prepare for disaster:

Bomb Threats:

USA North Dakota

USA Texas

 

Cyclones:

Antilles

Newfoundland

Philippines

 

Earthquakes:

Argentina

China

Costa Rica

Fiji

Greece

Indonesia

Japan

Kyrgyzstan

Papua New Guinea

Philippines

USA Alaska

USA Maine

Venezuela

 

Fires & Wildfires

Bulgaria

Canada

France

Italy

Siberia

USA California

USA Oklahoma

USA Oregon

USA Washington

USA West Virginia

USA Wyoming

 

Flash Flood & Landslides:

China

Costa Rica

Fiji

India

Pakistan

Philippines

Thailand

USA California

USA Louisiana

USA Utah

West Africa

 

Hazardous Materials:

USA New Mexico

 

Terrorist Attacks:

British Embassy in Sudan

German Embassy in Sudan

US Embassy in Egypt
US Embassy in Libya

US Embassy in Sudan

US Embassy in Tunis

US Embassy in Yemen
Tornadoes:

USA Florida

USA New York

USA Texas

 

Transportation Incident:

USA Nebraska

 

Volcanoes:

Guatemala

Indonesia

Japan

Obviously, the above list is far from comprehensive. Disasters of all kinds occur virtually everywhere, every second of every hour of every day. If you would like to check out up-to-the minute disasters, you can download apps for your phone or mobile device, or check out free online resources from the CDC, FEMA and Ready.Gov. To receive free monthly preparedness tips from FEMA, text PREPARE to 43362.  More important than learning about every single disaster is to prepare for any and every kind of disaster.

The Allied Universal Online Training System provides emergency preparedness to tenants of high rise commercial buildings across the country. Online modules such as fire, earthquakes and bomb threats equip building occupants so they know how to quickly and safely respond to virtually any disaster…be it manmade or natural. So, if you own or manage commercial property, you can take advantage of the Allied Universal system and enjoy peace of mind about emergency preparation and recovery for everyone who lives or works in your building.

To make sure you and your family are prepared for disasters; heed the advice of FEMA, whose new campaign is: “Today is the day before. Are you ready for tomorrow?” In other words, we don’t know what type disaster might occur tomorrow. But the best we can do is to prepare for it today. Would you be ready for a disaster? In short:

  1. Make sure you are informed about what to do before, during and after a disaster.
  2. Make a plan. Prepare, plan and stay informed for emergencies.
  3. Build a kit for disasters so you are prepared.
  4. Get involved—find opportunities to support community preparedness.
  5. Plan to protect your business.

Over the years, we have devoted 169 Allied Universal blog posts to the topic of disaster preparation and emergency management. To celebrate National Preparedness Month, why not read through a few to refresh your memory and motivate you to take action? When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal, Inc. Our new Version 3.0 system offers the best emergency training system.