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How Tech is Changing Disaster Management

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

It wasn’t long ago that disaster management professionals handled crises primarily through landlines and press conferences. Thankfully, over the past 10 years, technology has redefined global emergency management and disaster communications. One of the first national disasters to heavily rely on technology, according to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), was Hurricane Sandy, as users sent more than 20 million Sandy-related tweets.
Since people have embraced mobile technologies, it’s increasingly important for disaster management professionals to adopt a social media strategy as well as the ability to use multiple forms of technology to communicate and connect with an increasingly networked population. What’s more, building owners and managers as well as members of the public, should take advantage of the many ways technology can help them prepare for, survive, and recover after a disaster.


Technology and Disasters:

  • The American Red Cross offers free mobile apps that put lifesaving information at the user’s fingertips. The apps give people instant access to more than 35 customizable emergency weather alerts, as well as safety tips and preparedness information for 14 different types of emergencies and disasters. The Emergency App contains an “I’m Safe” feature, which helps people use social media to let loved ones know they are okay following an emergency. These apps have been downloaded over seven million times and have been credited with saving lives in Oklahoma, Texas and other states. Other Red Cross apps include Blood Donor, Earthquakes, First Aid, Flood, Hero Care, Hurricane, Pet First Aid, Radio Cruz Roja, Swim, Tornadoes, Transfusion Practice Guidelines and Wildfires.

  • Disaster Apps. While it would be virtually impossible to list every available disaster app, here are a few noteworthy options, available on Google Play as well as the Apple App Store: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), FEMA, My Hurricane Tracker, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), QuakeFeed, Storm Distance Tracker, and WeatherCaster.
  • Facebook offers a natural disaster page, which is set up so that people can check on loved ones, get updates about the developing situation, and look for information about how to help. Disaster Response on Facebook highlights tips, news, and information on how to prepare for, respond to and recover from natural disasters. Facebook users who like and follow the page can stay up to date and connected with affected communities around the world. They can also donate with the “Donate Now” call-to-action button, so nonprofits can connect with people who care about their causes and encourage them to contribute.

  • Twitter has emerged as a legitimate means of emergency communication for coordinating disaster relief. A 2015 study, What to Expect When the Unexpected Happens: Social Media Communications Across Crises, focused on 26 different crisis situations (such as earthquakes, floods, bombings, derailments and wildfires) for two years. The event which obtained the most Twitter attention at the time of the study was the Boston Marathon bombings, with 157,500 tweets. What’s more, Twitter Alerts provide trusted sources with a platform to disseminate accurate information to concerned parties in real time, and for those people to offer immediate feedback about the impact and hierarchy of needs relative to the associated disaster.

  • OneEvent is an algorithm developed by a small startup in Wisconsin. For a monthly subscription fee, OneEvent detects household disasters like fires and floods up to 20 minutes before they happen. The software-based approach uses sensors to monitor things like heat and humidity in key areas of the subscriber’s home. If things start to deviate from the norm due to a leaky pipe or a hot oven, the system will catch it, let the user know, and learnfrom the situation.
  • Online Fire Life Training systems, which provide subscribers with access to information about emergency and disaster prevention, management and recovery. A leader in the field is Allied Universal Fire Life Safety Training Systems. The fully-automated system allows property management companies to manage one site or an entire portfolio, with all users in the same system. Subscribers get access to training for building occupants, floor wardens, and fire safety directors. All user training and testing is recorded. Building-specific information is sent to first responders for immediate access during emergencies.

Remember that safety is important for everyone across continents. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the Allied Universal Fire Life Training System, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

The Amerian Red Cross Offers ReadyRating

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015
Courtesy of The American Red Cross. © 2015 The American National Red Cross. All rights reserved.

All photos in this post provided as a courtesy of The American Red Cross. © 2015 The American National Red Cross. All rights reserved.

We, at the Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, frequently work side-by-side, with an iconic disaster relief agency – the American Red Cross. Although the agency is always at the front lines of a disaster and is best known in that regard, its mission extends beyond immediate relief into disaster preparedness and education, much like our own.

Why is disaster planning so important for business owners? According to FEMA, 40% of small businesses will not reopen following a disaster, a sobering statistic, which illustrates both the challenge in managing a small business and the severe impact disasters can have on otherwise potentially successful companies.

The American Red Cross Rating Program

Courtesy of The American Red Cross. © 2015 The American National Red Cross. All rights reserved.

ReadyRating is designed to help schools, companies, and other organizations prepare for disasters. This free service provides members with access to information about how to both evaluate and improve their disaster planning procedures and save lives… something that we strive to do through our own training modules.

The ReadyRating is promoted by agencies such as the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD), an agency with which we are proud to partner. We are pleased to join agencies such as LAFD to encourage businesses to participate in the Red Cross program, in order to gauge and improve their disaster readiness. Free membership into ReadyRating provides users with a dashboard that helps them evaluate their level of preparedness. Customized feedback is based on assessment scores, as well as the ability to create an “Organization Manager” with linked member-accounts. The steps and recommendations found within ReadyRating are adopted from scientific research and expert opinions from noted industry professionals.

Courtesy of The American Red Cross. © 2015 The American National Red Cross. All rights reserved.

ReadyRating features a three-step process for participating members:

  1. Conduct an Assessment

Organizations can choose either a “ReadyGo” assessment or a “ReadyAdvance” assessment to determine preparedness. The ReadyGo 25-question version is basic, designed to help companies see the most critical steps they should undertake to best manage disasters. The ReadyAdvance plan is more in-depth, with 60 questions. More comprehensive in nature, ReadyAdvance results effectively measure the merits of an organization’s existing preparedness plan, and provides users with roadmaps for improving their existing plans.

The assessment contains five sections that score the preparedness level of the company, including level of current emergency planning, commitment to preparedness, knowledge of hazards, implementation of the plan, and resiliency of the community.

  1. Create a Well-Informed Emergency Plan

ReadyRating features a template generator that utilizes the company’s assessment information to create an Emergency Action Plan (EAP), specific to the company. The plans are OSHA-compliant, which is a primary concern for businesses required to meet OSHA regulations.

  1. Leverage Expert Resources

Courtesy of The American Red Cross. © 2015 The American National Red Cross. All rights reserved.

The final component of the plan is to encourage businesses to utilize Red Cross resources such as emergency preparedness guides, checklists, and other tools. For example, the resource center on the Red Cross website includes disaster drill forms, emergency contact card templates, and a step-by-step guide for organizing a blood drive. The resources, including videos and guides, are designed to be actionable – offering clear advice to companies that want to strengthen their disaster planning.

Remember that safety is a daily priority, so be sure to think about disaster planning all of the time. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the Allied Universal 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.

How to Prepare for Hurricane Season

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

Hurricanes 5-282In light of the fact that Hurricane Amanda is gaining strength off the Pacific coast, and in honor of hurricane preparedness week, we wanted to take the opportunity to encourage our readers and subscribers to prepare for hurricane season. A hurricane is a type of tropical cyclone or severe tropical storm that forms in the southern Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and in the eastern Pacific Ocean. A typical cyclone is accompanied by thunderstorms, and in the Northern Hemisphere, a counterclockwise circulation of winds near the earth’s surface.

Here are a few facts about hurricanes:

  • All Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastal areas are subject to hurricanes.
  • Parts of the Southwest United States and the Pacific Coast also experience heavy rains and floods each year from hurricanes spawned off Mexico.
  • The Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June to November, with the peak season from mid-August to late October.
  • The Eastern Pacific hurricane season begins May 15 and ends November 30.
  • Hurricanes can cause catastrophic damage to coastlines and several hundred miles inland.
  • Hurricane can produce winds exceeding 155 miles per hour as well as tornadoes and micro-bursts.
  • Hurricanes can create storm surges along the coast and cause extensive damage from heavy rainfall.
  • Floods and flying debris from the excessive winds are often the deadly and destructive results of these weather events.
  • Slow moving hurricanes traveling into mountainous regions tend to produce especially heavy rain.
  • Excessive rain can trigger landslides or mud slides.
  • Flash flooding can occur due to intense rainfall.

 

hurricane 5-28

So how are you supposed to prepare for a hurricane?

  • Build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
  • Know your surroundings.
  • Learn the elevation level of your property and whether the land is flood-prone.
  • Identify levees and dams in your area and determine whether they pose a hazard to you.
  • Learn community hurricane evacuation routes and how to find higher ground. Determine where you would go and how you would get there if you needed to evacuate.
  • Make plans to secure your property.hur
  • Cover the windows in your home.
  • To reduce roof damage, install straps or additional clips to securely fasten your roof to the frame structure.
  • Make sure trees and shrubs around your home are well trimmed so they are more wind resistant.
  • Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts.
  • Reinforce your garage doors; if wind enters a garage it can cause dangerous and expensive structural damage.
  • Plan to bring in all outdoor furniture, decorations, garbage cans and anything else that is not tied down.
  • Determine how and where to secure your boat.
  • Install a generator for emergencies.
  • If in a high-rise building, when high winds are present, be prepared to take shelter on a lower floor because wind conditions increase with height.
  • Consider building a safe room.

Your hurricane preparations should include the following:

  1. Make a family plan.
  2. Check your disaster kit.
  3. Know your evacuation route (especially if you are new to an area.)

If a hurricane is likely in your area, you should:

  • Listen to the radio or TV for information.
  • Secure your home, close storm shutters and secure outdoor objects or bring them indoors.
  • Turn off utilities if instructed to do so. Otherwise, turn the refrigerator thermostat to its coldest setting and keep its doors closed.
  • Turn off propane tanks
  • Avoid using the phone, except for serious emergencies.
  • Moor your boat if time permits.
  • Ensure a supply of water for sanitary purpose such as cleaning and flushing toilets. Fill the bathtub and other larger containers with water.
  • Find out how to keep food safe during and after and emergency.

After a Hurricane:

  • Continue listening to a NOAA Weather Radio or the local news for the latest updates.
  • Stay alert for extended rainfall and subsequent flooding even after the hurricane or tropical storm has ended.
  • If you have become separated from your family, use your family communications plan.
  • If you evacuated, return home only when officials say it is safe.
  • If you cannot return home and have immediate housing needs. Text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area (example: shelter 12345).
  • For those who have longer-term housing needs, FEMA offers several types of assistance, including services and grants to help people repair their homes and find replacement housing. Apply for assistance or search for information about housing rental resources
  • Drive only if necessary and avoid flooded roads and washed out bridges. Stay off the streets. If you must go out watch for fallen objects; downed electrical wires; and weakened walls, bridges, roads, and sidewalks.
  • Keep away from loose or dangling power lines and report them immediately to the power company.
  • Walk carefully around the outside your home and check for loose power lines, gas leaks and structural damage before entering.
  • Stay out of any building if you smell gas, floodwaters remain around the building or your home was damaged by fire and the authorities have not declared it safe.
  • Inspect your home for damage. Take pictures of damage, both of the building and its contents, for insurance purposes. If you have any doubts about safety, have your residence inspected by a qualified building inspector or structural engineer before entering.
  • Use battery-powered flashlights in the dark. Do NOT use candles. Note: The flashlight should be turned on outside before entering – the battery may produce a spark that could ignite leaking gas, if present.
  • Watch your pets closely and keep them under your direct control. Watch out for wild animals, especially poisonous snakes. Use a stick to poke through debris.
  • Avoid drinking or preparing food with tap water until you are sure it’s not contaminated.
  • Check refrigerated food for spoilage. If in doubt, throw it out.
  • Wear protective clothing and be cautious when cleaning up to avoid injury.
  • Use the telephone only for emergency calls.
  • NEVER use a generator inside homes, garages, crawlspaces, sheds, or similar areas, even when using fans or opening doors and windows for ventilation. Deadly levels of carbon monoxide can quickly build up in these areas and can linger for hours, even after the generator has shut off.

When a disaster of any kind strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The Allied Universal 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.

National Severe Weather Preparedness Week

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

Tornado and lightningWelcome to National Severe Weather Preparedness Week, which runs from March 2nd to the 8th, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Calling on individuals across the country to prepare for severe weather and to encourage others to do the same, the national campaign slogan is: Be a Force of Nature.

No matter which part of the country you call home, your geographic location poses inherent weather risks—tornado, hurricane, typhoon, thunderstorms, floods, blizzards, snowstorms, water spouts, tropical cyclones, ice storms and dust storms…to name a few. To minimize your risk of severe weather-damage, familiarize yourself with your region’s particular weather-risks so you can prepare accordingly. For example, NOAA National Weather Service Director, Dr. Louis Uccellini, warns residents of tornado-prone areas:

“With the devastation of last year’s tornadoes fresh in our minds and springtime almost here, I urge individuals to become weather-ready now. Make sure you have multiple ways to access forecasts and warnings from NOAA’s National Weather Service before severe weather strikes.”

FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate agrees, “Being ready today can make a big difference for you when disaster strikes. It only takes a few minutes. Talk with your family and agree to a family plan. Learn easy steps on how to prepare at Ready.gov and find out how your community can take action in America’s PrepareAthon through drills, group discussions and community exercises.”

In the coming weeks, we will focus on preparation and response for various forms of severe weather emergencies. In the meantime, for every type of severe weather emergency, the national severe weather safety message is a simple, three-pronged approach: know your risk, take action, be an example.

Know Your Risk: The first step to becoming weather-ready is to understand the type of hazardous weather that can affect where you live and work, and how the weather could impact you and your family. Sign up for weather alerts and check the weather forecast regularly.

Take Action: Be prepared for severe weather.

  1. Your family may not be together when a storm strikes.
  2. Plan how you will contact one another by developing your family communication plan.
  3. Put together an emergency kit.
  4. Store important papers and valuables in a safe place.
  5. Visit Ready.gov/severe-weather to learn more about how to be better prepared and how you can protect your family when severe weather strikes.
  6. Subscribe to the Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, where you will find loads of great, easy-to-understand instructions for disaster preparation.

Be an Example: Once you have taken action, tell family, friends, and co-workers to do the same.

  1. Share the resources and alert systems you discovered through your social media network.
  2. Technology today makes it easier than ever to be a good example and share the steps you took to become weather-ready.
  3. You can download apps, sign up for email or text notifications, watch informational videos on YouTube and even subscribe to the new NOAA and FEMA’s Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs) project, a new text-like message system, which is part of a national effort to increase emergency preparedness and build a Weather-Ready Nation. Last year, millions of individuals across the country received WEAs with life-saving weather warnings via their cell phone. These geographically-targeted emergency alerts alert people to weather warnings they would not have otherwise received. And, as a result, many people took life-saving action. To sign up, visit www.Ready.gov/Alerts.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The best way to prepare for the flu is to keep from catching it by having a vaccine. The Allied Universal 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.

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

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be Prepared for a Kitchen Fire:

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

If A Cooking Fire Starts:

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

The Allied Universal 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!

Government Cutbacks in Emergency Preparedness Put Onus on the Private Sector

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

A story by CBS reporter Brian Montopoli highlighted how massive spending cuts are negatively impacting emergency preparation programs across the country, noting that, “Organizations such as FEMA have made significant cuts to disaster preparedness funding as they have grappled with budget shortfalls and growing debt. With… further budget cuts looming and (more) belt-tightening expected in the future, disaster preparedness experts warn that decreases in funding are leaving the nation at risk.”

Government budgets are increasingly set up as reactive instead of proactive because it’s generally easier to drum up support for aid following disasters than to approve funding in order to prepare for them. What’s more, recovery from massive disasters such as Hurricane Sandy, which is already at $50 billion, require the lion’s share of disaster funding—so less monies are available on the side of disaster preparation.

According to Congressman David Price, who chaired the House Appropriations homeland security subcommittee, that trend will continue, “Congress appropriated $3.05 billion to FEMA for preparedness grants designed to (help) prevent, protect, respond to, and recover from terrorist attacks, major disasters and other emergencies. In fiscal year 2012, that appropriation was less than half that figure—$1.35 billion. (The same) can also be seen in FEMA pre-disaster mitigation grants, which fell from $100 million in 2010 to $35.5 million two years later.”

With less government funding available now and even fewer dollars expected in the future, the onus for disaster preparation falls squarely on the shoulders of the private sector. Cognizant of this, FEMA has started actively engaging representatives of the community in disaster preparation, noting, “The private sector is a vital part of the emergency management team. We see the nation’s vast network of business, industry, academia, trade associations, and other non-governmental organizations as equal – and equally responsible – partners in every phase from preparedness to response and recovery to mitigation.”

FEMA’s private sector initiatives include: “investing and building bridges to businesses and other non-governmental organizations to develop meaningful public private partnerships and facilitate private sector innovation and networking across FEMA. In doing so, we’ve been expanding our portfolio of initiatives and activities with the private sector to increase our return on investment and whole community approach to disaster readiness, response, and recovery.”

FEMA’s Private Sector Initiative is a 90-day rotational private sector seat in the National Response Coordination Center (NRCC) to support Emergency Support Function. Taking part in the program helps business owners and private citizens understand the importance of taking ownership of their own disaster preparation instead of relying on the government for aid before, during and after any given emergency.

Another way to support FEMA’s efforts is to privately invest in disaster training for employees and tenants of residential and commercial properties. To do this, subscribe to The Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services. The system helps commercial buildings with compliance to fire life safety codes using an interactive, building-specific e-learning training system, which motivates and rewards tenants instantly. It is a convenient and affordable solution to the training needs of your building(s). Choosing this service cuts property management training related workloads by 90% and saves users more than 50% compared to conventional training! Most importantly, IT SAVES LIVES!

How to Prepare for Spring Storms

Monday, April 9th, 2012

With warm weather comes the fresh breath of spring. But, along with it, for millions of Americans, spring means something else entirely—storm season! This year, devastating tornadoes and storms in the South have already left thousands of families in need of food, shelter and other basic necessities. Other spring storm-related disasters have included flooding, tornadoes and wildfires, all of which have resulted in numerous deaths and hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of property damage.

So, what steps can you take to make sure that this spring, you will BE SAFE? One way to prepare is to follow the Red Cross Be Ready Checklist. Find out if you’re ready by taking this brief quiz: (You are ready as long as you can answer each question with a heart “yes.”)

  1. Do you know what emergencies or disasters are most likely to occur in your community?
  1. Do you have a family disaster plan and practice it?
    • FEMA provides free resources to help you create a family plan.
    • Allied Universal trainees have access to the following resources to aid in family planning:
  • Home Fire Escape Plan
  • Home Safety Basics for People with Special Needs
  • Blackouts at Home
  • Children and Disasters
  • Family Communication After a Disaster
  • Home Earthquake Plan
  • Pets & Disaster Planning
  • Planning for Those with Disabilities
  • Red Cross Ready Make a Plan
  1. Do you have an Emergency Preparedness Kit?

Tailor your plans and supplies to your specific daily living needs and responsibilities. Most individuals have both specific personal needs as well as resources to assist others. For specific ideas about what to pack in a “go bag,” check out Allied Universal blog posts. You can also find great ideas for preparing an emergency bag at the Ready.gov website.

  1. Is at least one member of your household trained in first aid and CPR/AED?

CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) and AED (Automated External Defibrillator) training meets the needs of workplace responders, school staffs, professional responders and healthcare providers, as well as the general public. The American Red Cross offers certified and non-certified training options. Check out the Red Cross website to access course descriptions and materials.

  1. Have you taken action to help your community prepare?

You might consider joining a Community Emergency Response Team Program. Also known as CERT, this program educates people about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area and also trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations.

Utilizing classroom training as well as exercises, CERT members learn to assist others in their neighborhood or workplace following an event when professional responders are not immediately available to help. CERT members also are encouraged to support emergency response agencies by taking a more active role in emergency preparedness projects in their community.

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 2.5 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. What’s more, the NEW Allied Universal Property Messaging System is included FREE for all Allied Universal Online Training System users. Visit www.rjwestmore.com for more information.

Resolve to be Ready – The Government Wants You to Make New Year’s Resolutions

Monday, December 19th, 2011

With wildfires, droughts, historic flooding and several other disasters, 2011 proved to be quite a year for emergency managers. To help with what is expected to be a turbulent 2012, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recently announced the Resolve to be Ready in 2012 campaign. The purpose is to promote individual and business preparedness in the face of disasters.

FEMA is encouraging the private sector to be more self-sufficient in its management of disasters. After such a busy year as 2011, the reserves of FEMA and other organizations are sparse. The private sector can help itself by limiting losses incurred following disasters or by preventing damage altogether through proper planning and safeguards.

Many training materials and tips for improving readiness can be found through the site Ready.gov:

  • Multi-language communication materials are available in several languages including Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, French, and Hindi, among others.
  • Voluntary Private Sector Preparedness Accreditation and Certification Programs are intended to help organizations to follow proven standards for optimal safety. Followed standards come from three sources— the American Society for Industrial Security, the British Standards Institution, and the National Fire Protection Association.
  • Voluntary certifications through Ready.gov are the result of a partnership between the Department of Homeland Security and the private sector and are designed to promote self-sufficiency and a decreased reliance on government aid.
  • Disaster kit contents are detailed on the site, including the importance of following the rule of storing one gallon of water per person per day.
  • Pledges can be taken at www.ready.gov/resolve, which certifies an individual or business entity is taking necessary steps to be ready to act during a disaster.
  • Free materials including the publication Ready Business are available through the site.
  • Business continuity plans that will allow companies to resume business operations quickly are fully explained on Ready.gov. Companies are encouraged to consider work-at-home arrangements, backup data storage, and other safeguards that will prevent delays in business.
  • Disaster planning exercise training materials can be downloaded from the site and used to run real-world drills.

Business owners and facility managers are encouraged to offer readiness tips, including:

  • Incorporate readiness information and products into any holiday parties. Perhaps you can provide a NOAA radio as a party gift.
  • Need a theme for your party? While “disaster preparedness” might not sound too exciting, you could build a fun volcano or rent a fake snow machine to bring some lightness to the party while raising awareness.
  • Perform fire drills during the holiday season to ensure tenants don’t forget about safety.
  • Hang up various print and electronic banners available for free from Ready.Gov.

Resolving to be ready does not mean you have to live a constant state of paranoia or fear of disaster. It simply means implementing the right practices, products, or facilities that limit your building’s exposure to harm. Your tenants and their employees will have confidence in your safety features, which can prove invaluable in an emergency situation.

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 2.5 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.

Celebrate National Preparedness Month by Making Sure You’re Ready!

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011
natural disasters

We can learn from things that are handled right in natural disasters.

Recent events, such as Hurricane Irene, the east coast earthquake and this year’s tornadoes in Tuscaloosa and Joplin are critical reminders about the importance of preparedness. So we’d like to take a one-week break from our ongoing series about lessons learned from 9/11 to discuss ways that you and your community can prepare for natural disasters. It seems particularly fitting we do so now, since September is National Preparedness Month.

FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate kicked off National Preparedness Month last week with a visit to New York. He posed one important question: “Are you ready?”

As active members National Preparedness Month Coalition, we at Allied Universal Inc. would like to echo Fugate’s implied call to action. We believe the more people are aware of available online and real world tools, the more prepared they will be to cope and bounce back when disasters strike.

A great way to learn how to prepare is to learn from past mistakes. This method is effective because people are always quick to point fingers and paws and complain. But let’s take a different tact this week, by learning from what went right in the recent events on the east coast as well as Missouri and Alabama.

Hurricane Irene: For Washington, D.C., Hurricane Irene was not only the most dangerous weather system to rip through Washington in some time, but it was also a test of whether the beleaguered power company, Pepco, could claw its way out of the basement of public opinion by keeping the lights on and restoring them when they blinked out.

Pepco’s response was to make automated phone calls alerting citizens before the hurricane hit and then to restore power within 24 hours to 140,000 of the 220,000 affected customers. Fewer homes served by Pepco in the District and Maryland suburbs lost power than did those served by neighboring power companies. Pepco bounced back from bad PR by keeping lines of communication open with their customer base. Whatever line of business you are in, make communication an integral part of your emergency management plans.

East Coast Earthquake: Immediately after the 5.9 earthquake centered near Mineral, Virginia, the FAA ordered planes at airports around the country to stay on the ground rather than fly to airports in New York, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., and Virginia where traffic was temporarily halted. Among major airports in the region, only New York’s LaGuardia continued operations throughout the day. But by late afternoon, traffic at all the airports was returning to normal, although delays were expected into the evening. Controlling transportation is crucial to effective disaster management.

Tornadoes: According to an article in USA Today, the Alabama tornado killed 41 people, devastated vital parts of the city’s infrastructure, destroyed or damaged more than 7,000 buildings and affected 10% of local businesses. It was part of a system of twisters that killed 238 people in Alabama alone and another 100 or so in other states across the South.

Tuscaloosa is said to be further along the road to rebuilding than Joplin, Mo., which was struck by a tornado that killed at least 125, blasted 2,000 homes, took out one of the city’s two hospitals, ravaged big-box stores and smashed several hundred small businesses.

Thankfully, funds for survivors and reconstruction are coming in from many sources, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other federal agencies, state and local governments, private insurers, volunteer and faith-based organizations and other non-governmental sources.

Although the rebuilding efforts will likely take years and millions of dollars, thanks to coordinated efforts of state and federal agencies, these devastated communities are on their way to recovery. Handling any large scale disaster, whether manmade or natural, requires coordination and cooperation.

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 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.

Preparing for Disaster: Golden Guardian Program

Sunday, July 31st, 2011
Golden Guardian exercise photo

The Golden Guardian program helps agencies prepare for disaster response and recovery.

The Golden Guardian is an annual event that tests the responsiveness and readiness of a particular area of California for specific disasters. First implemented in 2004, it is now an annual statewide exercise that tests state and local government agencies, volunteer organizations and other entities. The Golden Guardian is the largest disaster planning event of its kind.

The result of multiple agency cooperation, Golden Guardian plans are developed by FEMA Region IX and the California Emergency Management Agency (Cal EMA), among others.

Each year, the Golden Guardian event has a certain theme which reflects on the risks of a potentially devastating natural or man-made disaster. For 2011, the theme was flooding for the inland region of the state.  The event brought together several agencies including the Inland Region Emergency Operations Center, the State Operations Center, federal agencies and partners in the private sector. From May 17th through the 19th, these agencies worked together to forecast the impact of a major flood and examine where responsibilities would lie for cleanup and evacuation as well as health and food assistance efforts. The risk of a major flood is demonstrated by scientists who detailed the availability of an ARKstorm for inland California. This massive storm could potentially create a flooded area 300 miles long and up to 20 miles wide in the Central Valley of California.

The theme for 2012 is a major earthquake in Southern California. For 2013, the theme is a catastrophic earthquake in the Bay Area, for 2014, it is Northwest Coast earthquake and tsunami risks, and in 2015, the theme is civil disturbance. The 2012 event is intended to open discussion about the entire scope of disaster response—from evacuation routes to shelters for domestic animals. A comprehensive review of readiness, the 2012 event will cover such issues as:

  • Protocols for airlifting supplies, including the establishment of offshore Naval resupply ships if necessary.
  • A review of the “Hub and Spoke” concept of focusing assistance efforts on areas where affected individuals will congregate, such as stadiums, schools and open areas
  • Stabilization of public utilities in order to support infrastructure for critical care facilities
  • Management of public information announcements such as traffic guidelines or water safety alerts that will help citizens manage the disaster
  • Estimation about the number of fires resulting from earthquakes and also calculations about the water and personnel needed to combat the fires

Preparation and knowledge are always critical for handling emergencies with speed and sound decision making. Thorough planning helps to uncover unforeseen circumstances and close gaps in safety, logistics and recovery efforts. There are many lessons to be learned from the Golden Guardian campaign that can be applied to individuals as well as business. The first is the benefits of cooperation and the power of groups who work together to achieve goals.

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 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.