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Posts Tagged ‘floods’

Are we at risk for spring flooding?

Monday, February 13th, 2012

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), floods kill more people in the United States than any other type of severe weather. Some floods develop slowly, while others, such as flash floods, can develop in just a few minutes and without visible signs of rain.  Whatever the cause of a flood, taking steps to prepare will not only help keep your family, tenants and employees safe, but can also help minimize potential property damage and reduce the costs of recovery. Most importantly…it can help save lives!

Although this year’s weather in the U.S. has been relatively odd, with far less snow and rainfall than what is typical, the risk of flooding remains high. In fact, severe winter weather could actually increase your risk of flooding no matter where you live in the United States.

FloodSmart.gov, which is the official website of the national flood insurance program, provides information to property owners designed to help protect assets in weather-related incidents. Take a few minutes to gather the facts so you will be able to prepare for these potentially problematic conditions:

  1. Heavy Rains—several areas of the country are currently at risk for flooding due to heavy rains. Excessive rainfall can happen throughout the year, putting your property at risk.
  2. Rain Following a Fire—after a wildfire, the charred ground where vegetation has burned away cannot easily absorb rainwater. This increases the risk of flooding and mudflow for a number of years. Any property which was directly affected by fires or is located downstream of burn areas are at risk.

To assess your building’s risk for floods, survey the area immediately around the property. Has brush burned? Is your structure located in a valley or in an area where water could pool? If you determine that your property is at risk for flooding, take steps to prepare well before the first raindrop falls.

  1. Ice Jams—these occur when extended cold spells freeze the surface of rivers. When a significant rise in the water level or a thaw breaks the ice into large chunks, these floating masses can jam up man-made or natural obstructions, resulting in severe flooding.
  2. La NinaUSA Today reports that extreme weather can be attributed mostly to a strong La Nina, which is associated with cooler than normal water temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific Ocean and an atmospheric flow that causes drier than normal conditions in the Southwest and wetter than normal in the Northwest. Extreme weather often leads to flooding.
  3. Snow Melt—while heavy rains overtly alert people to the possibility of flooding, melting snow is a subtler, but no less significant threat. Even if you don’t live in Portland or Seattle, you could encounter a flood.
  4. Spring Thaw—a midwinter or early spring thaw could produce large amounts of runoff in a short period of time. Because the ground is hard and frozen, water fails to penetrate and be reabsorbed. The water runs off the surface and flows into lakes, streams and rivers, causing excess water to spill over onto dry land.
  5. West Coast Rainy Season—heavy rains from late October through March mark the rainy season in the western United States, bringing the majority of annual rainfall to the region. Each year during the winter rainy season, residents on the West Coast face the risk of flooding and mudflows that can damage homes and businesses

The National Weather Service puts floods in three categories:

  1. Minor (little or no property damage)
  2. Moderate (some inundation of structures and roads near streams and some evacuations of people to higher ground)
  3. Major (extensive inundation and significant evacuations of people to higher elevations)

Regardless of the cause or severity of a flood, there are several ways you can prepare to handle and recover:

  • Hire a professional to install check-valves in plumbing to prevent flood waters from backing up into the drains of your building.
  • Store enough non-perishable food and potable water for three days.
  • Make sure a First-Aid kit and medications are at the ready.
  • Stay informed. Make sure your “go bag” includes a hand-crank or battery-operated radio. Use it to tune to NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards.
  • Develop a personal/business evacuation and safety plan. Also, familiarize yourself with your community’s preparedness plan.
  • Keep your automobile fueled. If the flood affects gas station power, you might not be able to get gas for days.
  • If you are driving, when you approach a flooded road, turn around, don’t drown.

These are a just a few ideas to get you thinking. For a comprehensive list of everything you can do to prepare for a flood, check out the free guide produced by NOAA: Floods—the Awesome Power.

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 www.RJWestmore.com  for more information.

2011 Marks Banner Year for U.S. Disasters

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

2011 Has Been a Banner Year for Natural Disasters in the U.S.

RJWestmore Shares 5 Tips for Dealing with Weather-Related Disasters

President Barack Obama recently named New Jersey a federal disaster area as a result of floods that came before Hurricane Irene. In so doing, he cemented 2011 as the United States’ most disaster-prone year ever.

As of the third week of September, Obama had issued 84 federal disaster declarations at the request of governors. That is more declarations than in any year since the score was first kept 60 years ago. And there are still three months left in 2011! Since many of the recent emergencies resulted from extreme weather, we want to use this week’s blog post to discuss the ways that you can prepare for weather-related disasters.

While weather has always been a contributing factor to damage to hearth, office and home, natural disaster-related damage affects more people than it used to because of urban sprawl. When tornados strike open, undeveloped areas, dollar amount damage is relatively low. Centered in a densely populated area, the same storm will wreak considerably more havoc.

So how should urban residents and professionals who work in major metropolitan locations prepare for natural disasters? Here are some tips, prepared for you by the fire life safety training professionals at RJWestmore, Inc:

  1. Take cover. This is important regardless of temperature. If you’re outside in the heat, make sure you have a hat, sunglasses and lip balm as well as sunscreen in case you get caught in any situation that leaves you stranded for an extended period of time.

Likewise, in snow, rain or hail, you should make sure you have plenty of protection against the elements. Invest in protective, waterproof outerwear and make sure your emergency supply kit includes plenty of blankets and waterproof matches.

Also, one of the best ways to protect from loss is to purchase insurance to cover repairs to infrastructure. We are not experts in insurance. But it is likely that a standard policy will not cover flood damage. The only way to protect against flood losses is to purchase flood insurance directly from the National Flood Insurance Program. Policies must be in place for 30 days before coverage takes effect. For information, contact your insurance professional.

  1. Drink Up. One of the risks of any type of disaster is dehydration. Consider miners who are stranded for hours underground or motorists whose cars get stuck on snowy roadways in blizzard conditions. Dehydration is not relegated to desert environments.  A good rule of thumb is to make sure you include plenty of water in each of your emergency preparedness kits. You should have one in your car, one at work and a third at home, all in easily-accessible locations.
  2. Tune In. Another suggestion for your disaster preparedness kit is to include a portable, hand-crank radio to make sure you can stay connected even in power outage. Storms of any kind can knock out phone lines, electricity, gas, water and even wireless cell phones. So don’t make the mistake of relying on high-tech forms of communication to stay abreast of news in emergencies. Tuning in will alert you to the threat level relative to the storm, be it Winter Storm Watch, Winter Storm Warning or Winter Weather Advisory.
  3. Stay Put. In many cases, you will be safer if you shelter in place than if you venture out in hazardous conditions. Of course, you must use common sense when deciding whether you should stay or go. For example, in the event of a tornado, seek shelter in a steel-framed or concrete building. However, in case of a flood, you might be putting yourself in danger by staying in an area that will likely be consumed by fast-flowing water. For detailed instructions about what to do in every possible weather scenario, visit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Weather Service website. All RJWestmore Safety Trainees have immediate access to NOAA information from inside our fully-integrated training system.
  4. Remain Calm. Whatever the disaster, you will make better choices if you avoid the temptation to panic. How can you remain cool, calm and collected when surrounded by turmoil? One surefire way is to prepare well in advance of emergency.

If you own or manage a building, or know someone who does, do them a favor. Let them know about the RJWestmore Training System. Choosing our service cuts property management training related workloads by 90% and saves users over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES! 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.

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.

Emergency Family Plan

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009
Will you and your family be ready if disaster strikes?

Will you and your family be ready if disaster strikes?

Planning for an emergency is a project for the entire family. Get your children involved in preparedness to help them understand how important it is to be prepared and encourage them to remain calm under duress. Emergencies could, potentially, happen when you are away and the kids are home. So be sure the babysitter knows the emergency plans, as well.

Earthquakes. Floods. Fire. If one of these strikes, will your family be prepared?

The first step is to identify and focus on the types of events that might occur. Fire happens no matter where you live. Earthquakes are more regional, but remember; some places you wouldn’t think about have had earthquakes. Floods are more common in some areas than others. So, if your home is located in a floodplain, be sure you establish emergency plans to share with your relatives and neighbors.

So how exactly can you get your kids involved?

  • Do a home hazard scavenger hunt to identify dangerous objects. Check every chest of drawers and other large furniture to make sure everything is well-secured to a wall. What about paintings and other loose items? Imagine an earthquake. What could, potentially happen to your possessions?
  • Make an emergency kit! FEMA has a great online matching game that allows children to visualize the key components of an emergency kit. Don’t forget the flashlights and canned goods!
  • After you have squared away your kit, it is time to make a plan! Again, we recommend that you get your children involved. The plan should be written out. But you can also include some simple graphic designs, clip art or photos into the plan to make it easy for younger kids to understand. Here are some key points to cover.
  • Identifying information about each family member
  • Phone contact information. Provide multiple numbers including the addresses of relatives who live far away in case the emergency has knocked out local communications. Put copies of photos in the plan so they can be easily distributed if someone is missing.
  • Make sure everyone understands escape routes from the home and the group meeting area.
  • Large families can enlist older kids as “watchers” over the younger ones
  • Ready.gov has a good emergency plan template

After a disaster, you will need to make sure all of your family members are accounted for and healthy. Then, it’s time to contact agencies such as your local Red Cross and to keep watch on alerts from FEMA.

With proper planning, you can help ensure your family’s safety in case of real emergency. Involvement of all family members is crucial. So RJ Westmore, Inc. recommends that you make your plan today. 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.

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