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Posts Tagged ‘disaster planning’

Prepare Your College-Bound Students to Deal with a Disaster

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

As September draws close, families throughout the country are preparing to send their teenagers to college— many of whom will be away from home for the first time. As students settle into their college routines, the transition may be easier if they know they are prepared to handle themselves in emergencies.

Whether it’s as simple as a power outage or as challenging as a super storm like Sandy, being prepared can help your child remain safe so he or she can calmly handle the situation and even potentially help other classmates do the same. So, as you plan for your son or daughter’s practical needs during their months away, such as clothing, dorm supplies, medications and toiletries, don’t forget to also provide items to help them in emergencies. Teach your student that weathering a disaster can be similar to passing a challenging course. All it takes is doing their homework and staying prepared!

Here are things to purchase and/or assemble for your college-bound student:

  • Put together a Disaster Readiness Kit, which should include a flashlight, small radio, extra batteries, a solar-powered or hand-cranked cell phone charger, energy bars, water, and first aid supplies. Ready-made disaster kits designed for students can be ordered from the American Red Cross. Information about compiling your own disaster readiness kit is available at Fema.gov. For more information about building a basic disaster kit and developing a family communications plan, go to Ready.gov.
  • Make sure your child knows their college’s Disaster Management Plan. Schools today outline procedures for safely handling natural and manmade disasters and include them in manuals. If your child isn’t automatically issued a copy of the plan, secure one. Check the website to see if its plans are posted or call an admissions officer to request a copy and to confirm that your student is registered with its emergency notification system.
  • Suggest your son or daughter update their cell phone contact list and adds a contact called “In Case of Emergency.” Remind them that cell phone service may be unreliable in the aftermath of a disaster. When cell phone calls can’t be placed, texting or communicating via social media may be possible.
  • Create a Family Communications Plan so your student knows where to contact you and your family at any given time. Also let them know where they can leave a message if communications between home and school are disrupted.
  • Prepare an emergency information sheet listing the names, locations and phone numbers for family members, physicians, medical insurance, and other important resources.
  • Check your homeowners’ or rental insurance policy to make sure covers your student’s belongings at school.
    You might need to purchase an additional policy to cover items in your student’s dorm room.
  • Advise your student to keep their emergency kit under their bed or on the top shelf of a closet so it will be easily accessible in an emergency.

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.

Disaster Recovery for Electronic Data

Monday, October 17th, 2011

Have you included your computer files in disaster planning?

To recover from any type of disaster, the best prescription is often done on the front end—with proper planning. But when it comes to disasters such as major earthquakes or hurricanes, there is only so much you can do to prevent damage. On the other hand, when it comes to your electronic data, there are many concrete steps you can take to safeguard your data. Unfortunately, many businesses do not take these steps in order to back up their data.

Before you begin to plan, you need to establish what types of data you possess and where it is:

  • Talk to IT and other departments to sort through all of the data that you possess. For some businesses, the data can be strewn all over the place. Sales contact information might be kept on a manager’s thumb drive while product specs are simply on an engineer’s local hard drive. Work out what you have and then give each subset of data a priority number.
  • Once the data is identified, appoint some staff members to be in charge of monitoring and caring for the data.
  • A next step is to review your current capabilities. Do you have any type of backup system for files, intellectual property or email?

Creating a sound disaster recovery plan is the next crucial step:

  • Think about the various likely types of disaster in your area and how they relate to your technical infrastructure. If you have an on-premises data center, make sure it has backup power and other safeguards.
  • Your data recovery plan should be flexible to account for changes in your business as well as new technologies. If you merge with another company or open a new division, would your IT staff be able to quickly integrate new data?
  • Replacement of hardware is an important part of your plan. Talk with your IT staff about the likely usable life of servers and computers and put them on a schedule for replacement in order to prevent failures.
  • Practice makes perfect!  Find ways to simulate the loss of data to properly test both your IT staff and any third-party vendors.

Over the course of business, it’s very likely you have heard about companies and services moving their disaster recovery needs “to the cloud:”

  • Cloud computing simply means that data and services are stored and powered by off-site servers, so companies don’t need on-premises equipment. It can cut down on costs and is able to provide storage on the fly.
  • Backing up your data to a cloud platform allows it to be securely accessed even if your company’s physical location is destroyed.
  • Do some research and pick a cloud provider that has its own backup data center. If they only have one, and it goes down, then your protection is limited!
  • Another option is to hire a company to pickup backup tapes on a regular basis and transport them offsite. But this method is outdated. Companies need information immediately following disasters. Unfortunately, retrieving data from backup tapes can take days.

With disaster recovery planning, it’s important to consider your data. As more and more companies become internet-based, their data and intellectual property is often many times more valuable than their physical assets.

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 RJ Westmore, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

What’s The “Holistic Approach” to Disaster Recovery and Planning?

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011
Four people bringing pieces of a puzzle together

A holistic approach brings comprehensive disaster planning information to the table.

What do we mean by a “holistic” approach to disaster recovery and planning? In broad terms, it simply means the properties of a system cannot be described by its separate parts—the system as a whole influences the parts.

With disaster recovery and planning, considering a disaster as a whole system promotes broader planning and better cooperation among different groups. For example, with flood planning, engineers could have procedures in place to divert water toward a historical or shopping district area instead of a parking lot or open area capable of more safely handling overflow. If the building flood planners fail to converse with other members of the city utilities, emergency responders, neighboring properties, etc, they might make plans that would cause more damage to surrounding assets and possibly their own property. A holistic approach brings more information to the table, allowing better planned prevention as well as recovery.

An example of the need for a broader approach can be seen in the aftermath of the recent Japan earthquakes. As the production capacity of many Japanese plants is rebuilt and comes back online, segments of the Japanese economy were captured by other countries following the disaster. A holistic approach would have demanded better integration between emergency management teams and economic development individuals, who could have worked together to focus efforts on top economic priorities. This would have kept needed resources in the area following the disaster.

For some areas of the world that don’t frequently experience disasters, complacency can prevent the formation of a holistic approach. Paradoxically, a major disaster can also slow down the development of holistic methods, as individual stakeholders often feel repeated disaster occurrences are less likely, despite the fact that this is not necessarily true.

Key benefits of the holistic approach:

  • Better communication is encouraged when different agencies or groups confront disasters together. Resources or labor can be pooled together avoiding costly duplications of efforts. If disaster recovery is too fragmented, then many cases of “left hand not talking to the right” can occur.
  • Major disasters don’t discriminate. They affect large swaths of individuals and businesses. A holistic approach encourages a true community response, where actions are taken by the community for the community, with less emphasis on special interest groups or people with hidden agendas. An example of this is the rebuilding efforts in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina, where groups worked together to clean debris and save houses as part of a broader longer-term affordable housing plan.
  • Holistic approaches mean a country, state, or city is more resilient to the effects of disaster and able to quickly regain former capacities.
  • The holistic approach covers mental and emotional states instead of just the physical safety of disaster victims. Such focus allows individuals to quickly return to society, providing an economic benefit to their immediate area.

For disaster recovery and prevention, a holistic method means more than just cooperation. It’s also a way to get more out of the efforts of every group and individual, which is a stark example of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.

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 RJ Westmore, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

The CDC, Emergency Kits, and …..Zombies?!

Monday, May 30th, 2011
cartoon image of zombie in shadows of trees

Make sure you are prepared for everything--even zombies!

When you think about preparing for an emergency, you likely worry about threats that occur in your area. Californians contend with fires, mudslides and the specter of big quakes. East Coasters have hurricanes, floods, and damaging thunderstorms. But one threat can affect everyone from San Francisco through Topeka and beyond to Jacksonville. Zombies. Yep, brain-eating zombies who are bent on destruction.

Few scary scenarios capture popular culture quite like zombies. In real life, some individuals such as this man profiled by National Geographic Television view zombies and a possible outbreak as real scenarios that deserve proper planning. There even exists a book called “The
Zombie Survival Guide
.”

Wait. Isn’t this blog about disaster planning? Well, the CDC has a current campaign that warns of the coming “Zombie Apocalypse.” Citizens are encouraged to plan for “zombies” by taking certain initiatives. While the premise is silly, the CDC is using thoughts of a zombie takeover to get people really thinking about how to plan and manage big disasters.

For businesses that want to promote the zombie campaign, the CDC offers various images such as this one that look like the poster art for the newest zombie scare fest.

To prepare for the coming hordes of zombies, the CDC recommends some planning tips:

Create a disaster plan:

  • Discussing a disaster plan in advance can allow cooler heads to prevail (and not be eaten…) during an emergency.
  • Set two emergency meeting places. A primary spot and a distant alternate to be used in case the first one is inaccessible.

Stock your disaster kit:

  • Include some of the basics, such as light, food, and water. You need multiple flashlights with extra batteries, some canned or dried meals, and up to one gallon of water per person per day.
  • Additional items such as duct tape, plastic tarps, radios, and a whistle allow you to be prepared or reenact an episode of MacGyver.
  • Important family documents such as passports, insurance papers, and other essentials.
  • The CDC wisely leaves off the list items such as mines or bats that would truly be useful in a real zombie pandemic!

It’s refreshing to see such a serious organization as the CDC employing some humor like “Zombie Apocalypse” to get its point across. The campaign was also perfectly timed, coming days before the “end of the world” that thankfully did not come to pass. The zombie blog was so popular that it crashed the campaign’s site (not the CDC’s main site).

So what exactly is the point of the “Zombie Apocalypse?” For any type of disaster, preparation is the key. If you over prepare for the worst case scenario (it doesn’t get worse than flesh-eating zombies), then you will be able to handle any emergency.

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 RJ Westmore, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

The Real Deal for Earthquake Preparedness

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

House about to fall into a crack of earth

Take steps to make sure you are prepared in case of an earthquake or other disaster.

It’s easy to talk about disaster preparedness. At RJWestmore, Inc., we like to walk the talk. One example of the way we practice what we preach is our participation in the 2010 Great California ShakeOut, which was recognized by Cal EMA and the Earthquake Country Alliance. We were in good company, as some 7.9 million people actively participated in the 2010 event.

The 2011 ShakeOut will be held on October 20th, 2011 at 10:20 in the morning! So, why are we talking about an event that is six months away? Because earthquakes can happen at any time and often without advance warning. So, to limit loss of life and property, planning ahead is paramount to safety. We would also like to give you plenty of notice so you can make plans to participate in the next ShakeOut.

Unfortunately, much of the latest information about best practices to deal with earthquakes comes from past incidents. Despite the tragedy in terms of lives lost, it is important to take a broader review of disasters (such as the recent Japan quake), to prepare for the inevitability of future earthquake-related disasters:

  • Information sharing is critical. Some Japanese agencies received criticism for the slow spread of information relative to the depth of damage to infrastructure, particularly concerning the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
  • Tsunami and earthquake damage are under review by teams from several countries. The sheer scale of the disaster makes it an obvious example of a worst-case scenario, where individuals on top of four-story buildings were not even afforded safety. Groups from the United States are examining the types of buildings that did or did not escape the tsunami unscathed. The research could lead to drastic changes in building codes and provide opportunities for better safety in the future.
  • Scientists use data from the Japan quake to examine similarities in other geographic regions. Researchers are closely reviewing the Pacific Northwest of the United States which is in a similar subduction zone to Japan. Further review will allow better future placement of tsunami offshore beacons and will likely lead to changes in building strategies as well as warning systems.
  • In California, greater emphasis is placed on events like the ShakeOut because the desire to mine earthquake preparedness tips is so dire. Major California cities have avoided a massive earthquake for more than a century. And renewed vigilance is important to recognize the threat posed by a quake.

In the disaster planning field, unfortunately, actual disasters are often the most useful for emergency training. For example, large-scale tragedies can lead to analyzing and revamping building codes and emergency procedures to greatly reduce future destruction. So, when educational opportunities such as the ShakeOut arise, make sure you avail yourself of safe opportunities to learn.

Proper planning and learning the “Do’s” are the keys to managing the situation when disasters strike.  For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJ Westmore, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

 

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The United States of Emergency

Monday, March 8th, 2010
How is a State of Emergency Declared?

How is a State of Emergency Declared?

You’ve certainly heard about how the government declares “States of Emergency.” But have you ever wondered how exactly they go about making such declarations? Disasters of this scale involve substantial allocations of resources in terms of equipment, personnel and, of course, money.

With 59 FEMA major disaster declarations in 2009 and 12 already declared in 2010 (three, related to wild winter storms, have already been made in March), it is timely to look at how individual states declare emergencies and the role FEMA plays in reviewing and/or approving the allocation of federal funds.

Overall, how state and federal governments deal with emergencies is similar to how you, as a building owner or property manager, would handle any emergency. First, you assess the situation, ensuring that individual safety is the primary concern. Then, you look at the amount of damage that has been suffered and evaluate the anticipated costs for rebuilding and replacing, relative to money and labor.

Governors who are faced with large disasters go through several steps before requesting federal disaster assistance. The first step that FEMA takes is called a Preliminary Damage Assessment.

  • Personnel from FEMA and the affected state’s emergency management agency work together with local officials to survey the overall disaster and write an assessment.
  • This assessment helps the governor support a declaration request, as it gives an overall look at response effort costs including labor and related overtime. It also gives a thorough review of the state of emergency services’ capacity and the damage to citizen resources so the governor can show that the damage exceeds allocated state and local resources.
  • After the formal request is submitted to the regional FEMA office, FEMA considers the following when looking at any significant natural or manmade disaster to see if federal assistance is warranted:

For example, how many structures have been damaged? 10 homes or 1,000?  What about business? Was a large office park or manufacturing site affected which would reduce incomes of a large portion of the general population?

Can the public still use roadways or other transportation? Are basic services such as water and electricity working or are they likely to be quickly restored?

Are public health considerations necessary? Are local hospitals or other care centers affected?

  • What are the potential impacts to essential government services and functions?
    • Can the federal government better handle the work?
    • Does the overall scale of the disaster require assistance on a large scale?
    • How concentrated or disperse is the emergency? FEMA officials will work with State agencies to assess if there are enough state personnel available to manage the disaster.
  • What are the implications of insurance coverage for homeowners and public facilities?
    • If the area is one that lacks proper insurance coverage, then losses will be more severe and rebuilding effort timeframes will be lengthy.
    • State and local resource commitments from other prior disasters might stretch resources.
    • FEMA submits findings to the Office of the President.
    • The President decides if a Presidential Disaster Declaration should be made. If such a declaration is made, FEMA’s share of disaster expenses will be at least 75% of the total cost.

There are lessons about collaboration and preparation to be learned in the methodical approach that FEMA officials take to reviewing a disaster. We encourage building owners to engage tenants as valuable partners in safety and disaster planning.

For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJ Westmore. Our e-based system offers the best emergency training available, with automated and integrated features. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.