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Celebrating National Preparedness Month

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

Preparedness Month_grey_houseWhy is September National Preparedness Month? The month was chosen, in part, to honor the victims of the September 11 attacks and, also, because it falls at the height of hurricane season. Sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), National Preparedness Month is intended to promote individual and business safety preparedness to help people effectively manage man-made threats such as terrorism as well as natural disasters. While safety should be of utmost concern every month, it’s useful for companies to designate an entire month to review and adjust safety plans and procedures.

Here are some initiatives that property managers can take during National Preparedness Month:

Use Available Resources

Billboard promoting knowing where to find your family in an emergency and visiting

Would you know how to find your family members in an emergency?

The website has a wealth of free safety resources:

  • Information about becoming a safety leader, with classes offered through FEMA, Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) and other organizations.
  • Disaster-specific information and appropriate responses are offered for power outages, chemical hazards, severe weather, floods and dozens of other scenarios.
  • Information about disaster kits, including wise food choices and management of water resources is crucial for surviving a major emergency.

Revisit Disaster Plans

National Preparedness Month is an ideal time to take a critical look at your facility’s disaster plan. Learn about best practices for disaster management and make sure that your plan matches up to the latest standards. Perhaps your building has changed since the creation of the last plan, with a new addition or additional parking structure, or an influx of new tenants? Walk through every part of the plan to be sure it still makes logical sense for current conditions. You should also talk to building occupants to ensure they have copies of the plan and to address questions and concerns. Work with tenants to nominate floor wardens and other volunteers who can assist others.

The disaster plan should not only cover ways to safely evacuate or handle dangerous situations, but should also provide a road-map for resuming business after the crisis is over. Building occupants will want to return to work and/or their residences as soon as possible following a disaster. So you may want to retain the services of construction/plumbing/ electrical contractors that might be needed for repairs or inspections following a disaster.

Focus on Communication

The official motto of the 2015 National Preparedness Month is “Don’t wait. Communicate.” The theme promotes proactivity among individuals to create and talk about disaster plans. For building managers and owners, communication is crucial to disaster planning:

  • Alert tenants and other parties about how to access disaster plans.
  • Keep building occupants updated about any changes to the plan.
  • Use social media and other channels, such as mobile apps, to send crucial information about upcoming threats and/or to distribute updates after an emergency occurs.

By simply communicating what is being done, property management shows that they care about the well being of occupants and understand the importance of transparent communication.

Review the Details

In addition to reviewing your disaster plan, take time this month to check other areas of your readiness. One of the keys to being prepared is to be proactive, which means checking to make sure you and your team have the tools, supplies and information they need to best handle an emergency.

Here are some areas to evaluate during National Preparedness Month:

  • Check fire extinguishers for expiration dates.
  • Perform routine maintenance and inspection of sprinkler systems.
  • Review insurance coverage.
  • Restock emergency kits with flashlight batteries.
  • Evaluate food and water expiration dates.
  • Review evacuation plans.
  • Make sure designated “safe spot” meeting areas remain ideal.
  • Monitor property management staff members’ knowledge about emergency procedures, including how to shut off water or gas lines, if necessary.

Remember that safety is a daily priority, so be sure to continually consider disaster planning–not just during September. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about our system, or to subscribe, click here.

What to do before, during and after an earthquake

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

Catastrofe stradaleWithin the past week, several significant earthquakes remind us that quakes strike without notice:

  • 4.4 earthquake near Westwood in LA
  • 6.9 shaker that struck just off the coast in northern California
  • 6.7-magnitude quake which shook Chile’s northern Pacific shore
  • 6.1 magnitude earthquake struck in the sea, about 100 miles southwest of Hiroshima

In the event a noteworthy earthquake hits and emergency personnel are unable to immediately respond to you and your colleagues, employees, family and/or friends. In fact, where earthquakes are concerned in prone geographical locations, “it’s not if, but when.”

And since they happen without warning, well in advance, you have to identify the hazards around you. In other words, prepare!

Before a Quake: Evaluate your work and home environment and diligently strive to eliminate all potential hazards.

  • Know your specific emergency plan and your role in it.
  • Familiarize yourself with a primary and secondary escape routes.
  • Make every effort to ensure your workplace is safe.
  • Study what to do before, during and after an earthquake.
  • Acquaint yourself with safe areas and stairwell exits
  • Identify and practice moving to your closest safe, drop, cover and hold locations.
  • Lower Heavy Objects
  • Install Safety Latches on Cabinets
  • Secure Tall Furniture
  • Consider what you would do if an earthquake led to power outages, fires and water leaks.
  • Maintain at least a three-day emergency supply kit at work, home and in your car.
    • Water
    • High-calorie, long-shelf life snack bars
    • First Aid Kit, including prescriptions and glasses (and don’t forget medications for your pets)
    • Solar blankets
    • Hat
    • Gloves
    • Sturdy tennis shoes
    • Whistle
    • Emergency out-of-state contact information (since family and friends in your location may also have experienced the quake and so could be unavailable)
    • Hand-crank flashlight and radio (so you aren’t dependent on batteries)
    • For a complete list of emergency supplies, check out subscriber information on the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services or Ready.Gov.

If a Quake Hits


  • Stay calm and remember that life safety is always the first priority.
  • Act quickly to protect yourself.
  • If you’re in an elevator, sit on the floor, against the wall, and wait for the shaking to stop. In the event of an earthquake, the elevator should temporarily stop and then move to the nearest floor, where the doors will open.
  • If you are inside a building, move away from windows, pictures, and glass partitions to keep yourself out of reach of flying glass.
  • Drop to the ground and duck under a safe, sturdy desk, table or other sturdy object so you are safe from falling debris.
  • Lean forward and cover the back of your head and neck.
  • Hold on and be prepared to move along with the furniture, which could be jostled during the shaking.
  • If you can’t find anything to quickly duck under, sit with your back against an interior wall.
  • Stay put until you are certain the shaking has stopped.
  • Since most people are killed and injured in earthquakes because they are hit with falling objects outside, DO NOT RUN OUTSIDE!
  • If you are in a high-rise building, floor wardens will be surveying damage, setting up a triage area and collecting resources, listening to emergency radio reports for instructions and dealing with associated debris that could interfere with safe evacuation.
  • Be aware that fires can break out as a result of an earthquake.
  • Keep your eyes open for post-earthquake fires, water leaks and electrical shorts.
  • Anticipate possible power outages.


  • If you are outside when the quake hits, find a clear area away from anything that could potentially fall.
  • If you’re outside, on a sidewalk—near buildings, duck into a doorway.
  • If you’re driving, pull over and stop.
  • When the shaking stops, be prepared for aftershocks, which are likely.

After the Earthquake

  • Stay calm.
  • If you are trapped in debris, tap on metal or anything that will attract search parties.
  • Use a flashlight to signal rescuers. Shout only as a last resort.
  • Quickly survey the area to make sure you are far away from major hazards.
  • Listen to your emergency radio for relevant information.
  • Use your cell phone for emergencies only.
  • Be prepared to function in the dark, in the event power is lost.
  • Avoid unnecessary movements, which could stir up dust and make breathing difficult.
  • DO NOT USE AN OPEN FLAME (In other words—don’t smoke!)
  • DO NOT turn on electrical switches, which could produce sparks and lead to a fire. This is particularly important if you smell gas.
  • Do not move seriously injured people or provide medical care beyond your level of training, unless their location puts them in immediate danger. If possible, wait for emergency personnel to arrive on scene.
  • Do not evacuate until the shaking stops and it is safe to do so.
  • Widespread damage may make traveling more hazardous than sheltering in place.
  • If you are unsure whether you should stay or go, wait to evacuate until you have been instructed to do so by emergency personnel.
  • Once you are sure it is safe to evacuate or you have been told to do so by officials, remain calm; avoid elevators; and use handrails to guide you down stairwells.
  • Before opening any doors, use the back of your hand to check for signs of fire-such as heat emanating from doors.
  • Proceed to your designated safe area and check in.
  • DO NOT attempt to reenter the building until officials tell you it is safe to do so by facility personnel or emergency responders.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The best way to prepare for severe weather is to be aware. 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.

Emergency Preparedness: Outdoor Survival

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

How to survive in the elements

While we typically discuss disasters as they relate to office buildings and other structures, our lessons about emergency preparedness also apply to survival outside.

Today we will tackle some basic winter survival skills to help you prepare for unexpected winter weather whether you are trapped in your car or if you get lost while you’re hiking. Recent severe snowstorms on the East Coast tested both emergency responders and numerous individuals who were affected by the stormy conditions.

Motorists in New Jersey were stranded for some 30 hours—stuck in their cars, surviving on snack food like beef jerky and crackers. Some of the storm victims used common sense, which is vital when trapped in the elements. They conserved fuel resources when running the car’s heater and, above all, they didn’t panic.

Here are safety tips to remember if you are stuck in your vehicle in the elements:

  • Before any emergency, take steps so you are prepared. Make sure your car is packed with reflective blankets, extra hats and gloves, a small shovel, food and water and flares or other signaling device.
  • Keep your gas tank full in the winter. You will need gas to run the heater. Experts recommend running the heat for 10 minutes every hour.
  • Stay in your car! Unless you can clearly see rescuers or a better alternative for shelter, staying in the security of your car is the best option. This is particularly important if you are stranded on a busy roadway or have limited visibility. While your first impulse might be to abandon your vehicle and search for shelter, you risk being hit by other cars on a highway or freezing to death if you walk, unprotected, in the elements. So stay with your vehicle.
  • Don’t drink alcohol to warm up. Ignore those who recommend taking a sip of brandy to knock off the chill. Blood rises to the surface of the skin when you drink, which causes rapid heat loss. Also, in an emergency situation, you won’t want to risk impairing your judgment.
  • Watch out for carbon monoxide poisoning. In big snow drifts, it’s likely your car’s tailpipe may be covered by snow. Crack the window when running the heat and use a shovel or other tool to clear some space for exhaust to escape.

If you are out in the elements when a storm breaks, you might get stuck in the snow. If so, take these basic steps to ensure your survival:

  • If you are going for a hike or cross country skiing, tell people where you are going and when you will be back. No search team will come looking if they don’t know you are lost.
  • Make sure you know how to start a fire. Simply carrying a box of matches on your hike won’t help if you are stuck in the rain. Even waterproof matches can fail. Bring alternative fire-making sources such as magnesium fire starters to ensure you create sparks.
  • Staying dry and warm are essentials, regardless of weather. Wear more layers than you think is necessary. This way, you will be able to remove unnecessary layers. Use the three-layer system to stay warm and toasty.
  • Shelter in place. Build a debris hut. Pick a pole or log about one and a half times your own height. Prop it about three to four feet up with a boulder or stump. Then, take smaller branches and lay them diagonally on the main beam. Place leaves, grass or any other debris in between the branches and put at least one foot of similar material inside the hut. It won’t win any design awards. But it will keep you relatively warm and dry.

Unlike disasters such as earthquakes or hurricanes, getting caught out in winter weather is largely avoidable. If there is a blizzard outside, you probably don’t have any urgent need to be in the car. If you are skiing or backcountry-hiking, use a portable radio to stay informed. Consider joining an outdoor survival school to learn the latest techniques for safety.  As always, staying safe comes down to advanced preparation and cool-headed thinking during an 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 for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst: September is National Preparedness Month

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

On this seventh anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, preparedness in the event of a disaster has even greater importance to Americans.

As a society, we must be ready to handle – at a moment’s notice – emergencies in our homes, businesses and communities.

But it’s not just the ongoing threat of attack for which we should prepare. Natural disasters – such as devastating hurricanes, floods and earthquakes – and the outbreak of epidemic diseases all demand a plan.

“Those with the capacity and wherewithal to help themselves must do so in advance, so that in the event of an emergency, responders can first assist those who are unable to tend to themselves,” said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, in a statement.

Throughout September, the Department of Homeland Security’s Ready Campaign – part of National Preparedness Month – highlights preparedness steps, including having an emergency supply kit, making a family emergency plan, and becoming informed about different types of emergencies.