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Smartphone Apps for Disaster Preparation and Recovery

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

Worldwide, disasters affect an average 450 million people at a cost of $17.6 billion. If we’ve learned nothing else from recent disasters such as the Colorado floods, Hurricane Sandy, and active shooter incidents at Sandy Hook and the Naval Shipyard, we’ve discovered that one of the most important tools for preparing for and recovering from disasters is two-way communication.

So, while social media platforms such as blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest were originally conceived as ways for people to interact socially, they have emerged as integral tools for emergency management and disaster response. The newest social media tools and arguably, the most cost effective for managing disasters and emergencies are Smartphone apps.

According to social media guru Zoe Fox of Mashable:

  • One in five Americans has used an emergency app.
  • 76% of Americans affected by natural disasters have used social media to contact friends and family
  • 44% have asked their online communities to contact responders
  • 37% have used social media to help find shelter and supplies
  • 24% used social media to let loved ones know they’re safe
  • 25% have downloaded disaster apps

Here is just a small sampling of the thousands of disaster preparedness and emergency management Smartphone apps available to download for a maximum price of $5.99:

  • Are You Ready? Helps prepare users to pass the FEMA IS-22 exam so they can receive an official FEMA certificate of completion.
  • BioAgent Facts from the Center for Biosecurity of the University Pittsburgh Medical Center provides facts about pathogens that could cause serious disease resulting from a natural epidemic or use as a biological weapon.
  • Centers for Disease Control (CDC) app and web page provides health and safety information related to emergencies and disasters.
  • Clinicians’ Biosecurity Resource from the Center for Biosecurity of the University Pittsburgh Medical Center provides clinicians with detailed information and recommended treatments for the most dangerous potential bio weapons.
  • Disaster Alert developed by Pacific Disaster Center provides access to information in both a list and on an interactive map about active hazards occurring around the globe.
  • Disaster Prep features an Emergency Preparedness Checklist and Guide. The app provides users a means to collect necessary information.
  • Disaster Preparedness for the Family is an eGuide which has an all-hazards overview of disaster information to help families prepare so they can provide for their family’s most basic needs during a disaster.
  • Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) mobile enhanced web page identifies nearby industrial facilities and toxic chemical releases as reported through the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) Program.
  • ERS: Emergency Response and Salvage from the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training outlines critical stages of disaster response for damage to collections and significant records.
  • FEMA app and mobile enhanced web page provide government disaster response information.
  • First Aid from the American Red Cross provides free lifesaving first aid instruction and disaster preparedness information including videos, interactive quizzes and simple step-by-step advice.
  • FluView developed by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracks influenza-like illness activity levels across the U.S.
  • Hands-Only™ CPR from the American Heart Association provides quick instructions for CPR without mouth-to-mouth breaths.
  • JusticeMobile gives officers direct access to criminal information. The app was tested by 600 San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) officers and will soon be available across the state, including 3,600 Los Angeles Police Department officers.
  • Know Your Plan features property protection guidance from the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety which contains disaster preparedness checklists for hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes, earthquakes, severe winter weather and evacuations. It also gives the option of setting up reminders to complete a task, tracking progress and customizing and sharing checklists with social networks.
  • LactMed from the National Library of Medicine app provides access information about maternal and infant drug levels and possible effects of vaccines and radiologic agents on lactation and on breastfed infants.
  • LibraryFloods from the National Library of Medicine covers basic steps for recovering collections after a water emergency in your library.
  • MedlinePlus mobile enhanced web page from the National Library of Medicine provides access to consumer-oriented health information on disaster topics in English and Spanish.
  • Mobile Medical Unit Field Operations Guide was developed for the Northern New England Metropolitan Response System but is applicable to other response teams such as MRC, CERT, DMAT and others. The app contains access to packing lists, deployment guidelines, treatment reference, and more.
  • National Weather Service mobile enhanced web page provides weather, hydrologic, and climate forecasts and warnings for the United States.
  • NFPA 1600 developed by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), provides a foundation for disaster and emergency management planning. The entire text is fully searchable and contains active links and phone numbers for NFPA and other agencies involved with emergency management programs, risk mitigation and response.
  • OutbreaksNearMe provides real-time, searchable disease outbreak information for your neighborhood on interactive maps.
  • Pocket First Aid & CPR from the American Heart Association provides quick, concise and clear first aid and CPR instructions from a user’s Smartphone.
  • PubMed Mobile from the National Library of Medicine provides access to more than 21 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books.
  • REMM (Radiation Emergency Medical Management) from the National Library of Medicine provides guidance about clinical diagnosis and treatment of radiation injuries during radiological and nuclear emergencies.
  • Shelter Finder displays open Red Cross shelters and their current population on an easy to use map interface.
  • SOS app from the American Red Cross provides step-by-step video narration and follow demonstrations allowing people to quickly and confidently respond to common emergency situations with the goal of saving lives.
  • UbAlert — Disaster Alert Network is a global social network that operates to save lives by sharing the knowledge of the world’s citizens with those in danger.
  • WISER (Wireless Information System for Emergency Responders) from the National Library of Medicine assists first responders in Hazmat incidents, with features including substance identification support, containment and suppression advice, and medical treatment information.

It would be virtually impossible to compile a list of each and every available disaster preparation or emergency management app, as new applications are in development each and every day. But the point is that apps aren’t going away. If you have a Smartphone, you have access to a virtually unlimited number of resources to help you before, during and after a manmade or natural disaster.

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.

When it comes to emergency preparation and recovery, always prepare for the worst

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

Apply Murphy's Law to your disaster preparedness plans.

According to Murphy’s Law, “Everything that can go wrong will.” And though many view this kind of pessimism as extreme, when it comes to disaster preparedness, it’s a healthy posture to assume.

Emergency Management lessons from Hurricane Katrina bear this out. In fact, Pat Santos, deputy director of Louisiana’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, recently told emergency managers that (people) should remember that it’s not ‘if’ a disaster strikes but ‘when.’”

FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate concurs: “By establishing relationships now and planning for high-impact events, communities and the nation will be better prepared.”

So, as a building owner or property manager, what 10 steps can you take which assume that, as it concerns your building, the worst is bound to happen?

  1. A Disaster Will Strike. As a whole, people are more inclined to believe that disasters can hit home since the Y2K scare and 9/11. However, most continue to think that catastrophes happen to “other people.” Resist the urge to defer making emergency preparations. Disasters happen every day to everyday people worldwide.
  2. The power will go out if an emergency strikes. If the power fails, your furnace will most likely go out, as well. Your best bet is to invest in good, high-quality cold weather gear, such as coats, gloves and sleeping bags and blankets, for yourself, employees and family members. Fires can result from the use alternative indoor heat sources such as space heaters and propane lamps and require power for operation. So use extreme caution. 
  3. Food will be in short supply. There could be a run on supermarkets if a major disaster hits. Stockpiling food for emergencies needn’t be expensive. Store inexpensive, nonperishable items such as rice beans, noodles and peanut butter. Canned food has a long shelf life. Another option is Meals Ready to Eat (MREs). These are ideal since they can be even eaten without cooking. This is important since you should never use a BBQ grill inside. If you must use a grill or campfire to heat meals in emergencies, do so outside.
  4. Water sources will be contaminated and bottled water will run low. When East coast residents were preparing for Hurricane Irene, stores sold out on basic necessities including water. Don’t wait for an emergency to buy extra water. Pick up extra gallons each time you visit the grocery store. You could also invest in commercial water barrels and fill them with tap water, as long as you disinfect the barrels with a diluted bleach mixture to purify water. In a pinch, you can survive by drinking the water in the toilet reservoir tank.
  5. The Lights will go out. Stock up on candles and battery-operated or crank-operated flashlights.
  6. Communications will be knocked out. Purchase transistor radios and plenty of spare batteries. Hand-crank radios are available. Certain brands of FRS radios also have AM/FM capability. These can be used in addition to a larger, battery powered “boom box” type radio.
  1. Medical Care will be in high demand. During emergencies, hospitals are overrun and medical professionals are in short supply. Invest in First Aid training as well as a basic kit so you will be prepared to administer basic medical assistance to those in need.
  2. Transportation will be congested, maybe even at a standstill. If a major emergency strikes and the power goes out, traffic could get ugly. Subway systems, buses and trains might also be affected. Your best course of action in this case is to pack a “go” bag in the back of your car that includes a good pair of walking shoes.
  3. You may have to flee from dangerous situations. So fitness is important. Regular exercise and good nutrition are important for quality of life as well as in cases of emergencies.
  4. You will run out of toilet paper. It might be easy to forget the little things that make life tolerable. But running out of TP can be a drag. So stock up now before disaster strikes.

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 2.5 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information.

Obscure Disasters Can Pose Major Risks

Monday, May 23rd, 2011
six pictures of different disasters

Disasters come in all shapes and sizes. Make sure you're prepared!

With the Japan earthquake, frequent hurricanes, and massive tornadoes, many are wondering if we should expect more and bigger disasters. Major disasters by their very nature are unpredictable, which further enforces the need to imagine worst-case scenarios when implementing or rehearsing disaster response efforts.

The effect of some disasters, such as floods and hurricanes, can be minimized by advanced planning. For instance, governments can build levees and coastal swamp areas can be left undeveloped to provide natural flood protection. If the origins of a disaster come from beyond our planet or miles under the surface, then prevention is impossible, and preparation and planning are the only possible means of recourse.

Solar Flares are a known sun phenomena that affect communications on earth. In the past, such interruptions were temporary and were limited to certain types of devices and services. However, scientists who study solar storm patterns now contend that the severity of storms is cyclical and we are now entering an intense phase.

  • NASA officials have equated a large solar storm to a “bolt of lightning” that could damage electronics and communications’ equipment around the globe.
  • Solar flares dramatically change the earth’s magnetic field, which could cause serious consequences for satellites, computers, handheld devices and myriad other items.
  • If international power grids fail, potential losses are estimated to be in the trillions.
  • Solar storms are monitored by the appropriately named Space Weather Prediction Center, which is run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

 

Disasters come in all shapes and sizes. Make sure you’re prepared for each type. On the west coast, scientists are concerned about what they refer to as an ARKstorm, a massive storm that dumps rain on California, Oregon, Washington, and Nevada for up to two weeks straight. The storms pull so much heat and moisture, that they develop “atmospheric rivers.” Such rainfall amounts would produce massive flooding in the California central valley and in major metropolitan areas. It would simply be a case of too much water with nowhere to go.

  • Such a storm is based upon historical precedent, with winter rains in 1861 and 1862 leaving some parts of central California completely impassable. In San Francisco, nearly 30 inches of rain was reported.
  • The USGS offers a video titled “This is ARKstorm” that some might consider to be a little over the top. But it does clearly describe the possible effects.
  • Projected damage estimates are pegged at several hundred billion dollars.

Yellowstone Caldera” might sound like the latest trendy micro-brew. But it actually refers to a potential “super volcano” that could erupt in Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone sits on a “hotspot,” which is an area where molten mantle rock moves towards the surface over time. As it moves closer, it can become trapped, and needs release of pressure to prevent catastrophic explosions.

  • The latest eruption occurred only 640,000 years ago, which is a very long time compared to a human lifetime, but a relatively recent event geologically speaking.
  • Half of the United States could be covered in ash.
  • Global cooling would result from atmospheric sun-blocking particles, restricting agriculture and leading to food shortages.

The existence of such mega-disasters underscores the broader point of knowing there are various risks and that it is necessary to do your best to plan ahead and prepare for unforeseen contingencies. While you certainly shouldn’t live your life in a potential state of abject fear, it is important to take time to consider the unknown.

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.