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Posts Tagged ‘Hurricane Sandy’

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.

Case Study: Hurricane Sandy

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

Ciudad sumergida en el marHow to prepare for and respond to flooding when you are in a high-rise commercial building

The most common natural disaster in the United States is a flood. In the U.S., floods kill more people each year than tornadoes, hurricanes or lightning. This week, we will focus attention on this severe weather-related disaster, because El Nino could potentially produce the types of conditions that often result in floods.

Since flooding generally occurs at or below ground level, you may be surprised to learn that there are specific flood-related dangers and steps to take to deal with floods if you work or live in a high-rise building. As a service to our subscribers and friends, this post focuses on preparations to take before, during and after flooding if you are in a high-rise commercial building.

Photo Courtesy of Brookfield Property Partners

Photo Courtesy of Brookfield Property Partners

In the third edition of his High-Rise Security and Fire/Life Safety, Vice President of Universal Protection Service, Geoff Craighead, writes this about flood safety as it relates to high-rise buildings:

“Torrential rain, melting snow, a tsunami or a hurricane may produce too much water for land, rivers and flood control panels to handle and therefore results in serious flooding that will impact an entire area, including high-rise buildings. Floods also can occur as a result of a public water main pipe break or a reservoir failing.

Subterranean parking garages located beneath high-rise buildings can become flooded with water. This can result in damage to vehicles and substantial damage to elevator systems because of water cascading into elevator shafts. Building operations can be paralyzed for days as a result of cleanup of impacted areas and repair of damaged equipment. Also, a severe landslide could result in the collapse of a building.”

Photo courtesy of Brookfield Property Partners

Photo courtesy of Brookfield Property Partners

Our friend and client, Chris Rodriguez, is the Director of Security for Brookfield Property Partners at One New York Plaza. He was onsite at that location in 2012 during Hurricane Sandy. Chris stayed on the scene for days, and was kind enough to provide us with the steps he and his team took before, during and after the hurricane. We chose to include excerpts from his notes despite their length, because we believe it provides great insight into a real-world scenario relative to managing and recovering from flooding in a high-rise commercial building.

Pre-Sandy

  • Secured the building perimeter and all entrances to the building, 12 hours prior to the expected landfall of the storm.
  • Protected all street-level entrances with sandbags.
  • Advised tenants to remove their personal vehicles from the subterranean parking garage.
  • Monitored perimeter surveillance as well as live television broadcasts.
  • Brought in an evening security platoon prior to the shutdown of public transportation systems.
  • Advised personnel to be prepared for an extended stay.
  • Reviewed the Emergency Action Plan.
  • Double-checked the security cache of radios, flashlights and backup batteries.
  • Instructed critical operation staff personnel to don high-visibility clothing that identified them as “security, engineers, or life safety personnel.”
  • Made sure that engineers checked and tested critical building emergency utility systems, days prior to impact.
Photo courtesy of Brookfield Property Partners

Photo courtesy of Brookfield Property Partners

During Sandy

  • Equipped building personnel on duty with walkie–talkies.
  • Maintained perimeter surveillance from the elevated plaza level.
  • Continued to monitor local TV news and weather.
  • Upon notification that the sandbag “levee” had been breached by the incoming tidal surge, instituted the Emergency Action Plan.
  • Gave evacuation orders over the public address system for all areas below the lobby level.
  • When water started entering the loading dock and other areas of the building from the street level, parked elevators on upper floors.
  • As the three sub – surface levels of the building continued to flood, one final check was conducted.
  • When emergency power and lighting was lost throughout the building and downtown area, made sure all personnel were accounted for.
  • Ordered everyone in the building to assemble at a refuge point.
  • Continued to monitor the rising flood waters.
  • After the tidal surge appeared to have peaked, personnel “hunkered down” for the night.
  • The engineers on duty threw all the breakers connecting the service from the sub-cellar to the upper floors, which proved to be a vital maneuver contributing to the rapid recovery of power to the upper floors.
Photo courtesy of Brookfield Property Partners

Photo courtesy of Brookfield Property Partners

Post-Sandy Actions

  • By daybreak, the tidal surge had receded. The streets were dry but the damage was done. All three sub-levels of the building were under water.
  • The building was officially closed to all tenants.
  • All civilians remaining in the building were evacuated to allow for a damage assessment and to address safety concerns.
  • Perimeter patrols were resumed to ward off inquisitive sightseers and maintain the integrity of the building. Manual sign-in was mandatory and enforced.
  • The building Life Fire Safety system was non-functioning. So a fire guard patrol was established for all 50 floors.
  • Everyone was required to have a flashlight and walkie-talkie at all times.
  • Personal cellphones were the sole means of contact with the outside world.
  • Emergency generators were brought in to supply limited power to critical areas of the building.
  • Security Supervisors contacted all off-duty personnel to inquire about their personal wellbeing and potential availability to relieve peers. (The personnel onsite from the evening of the storm remained on-site for four days before relief was available from off-duty personnel).
  • Food vendors in the area of the city with power delivered three hot meals, per person, each day.
  • Security measures were addressed as the first sub-level street entrances were compromised and exposed by the receding water.
  • New security posts were established to maintain a secure environment.
  • The building remained closed to tenants for one business week, which is when sufficient emergency generators were in place to light stairways and restore the Life Fire Safety system.
  • On week two, the building was partially opened only to Critical Information Personnel for certain high-profile tenants’ data centers.
  • Security teams supplied supplemental officers to assist the newly established posts deemed necessary to protect tenants’ assets during their absence.

Lessons Learned

Chris had this to say about his experience: “No matter how much you prepare, you will likely never be ‘totally prepared’ for an event of historical magnitude. A storm the likes of Hurricane Sandy strikes only about once every 100 years. So the road to recovery is much longer than the avenue of destruction. Patience is indeed a virtue.”

Here are a few of the other lessons Chris says he learned:

  • A three-foot levee of sandbags does not stand up to a 12- foot storm surge.
  • You probably will not have sufficient resources to handle a large-scale emergency and safely equip all personnel.
  • An easily assessable cache of equipment and resources must be maintained off-site, like radios, food, water, extra uniforms, toiletries, flashlights, etc.
  • Certain critical building resources should be relocated to upper floors, where feasible.
  • A team of supervisors trained and experienced in handling emergency situations begets a staff of efficient, disciplined and task-oriented personnel.
  • Personnel including supervisors must be able to accept and adapt to modified working conditions and hours.
  • Supervisors must be able to execute and display confidence in new and revised policies.
  • It will take some time to get back to “business as usual.”

FEMA has prepared a free, comprehensive 12-page PDF booklet that goes into great detail about flood preparation and recovery. We hope the FEMA resources and this blog post will motivate you to do whatever it takes to #BeSafe in floods as well as every other type of emergency…particularly if you live or work in a high-rise building! 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.

In Praise of Disaster Volunteers

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

When Typhoon Haiyan tore through the Philippines last week, it left thousands dead and 660,000 people displaced. Volunteers from across the globe are rushing to the devastated area to muck out homes, hang drywall, clean, deliver food, and offer financial assistance. The storm’s impact is all the more troubling considering the fact that many of those affected by the typhoon were already left homeless by an earthquake in mid-October.

Charitable organizations around the nation are assembling in and around the city of Tacloban to help residents in much the same way they did to help hard-hit New Jersey recover from Superstorm Sandy. But the volunteer pool is relatively thin because even as we approach the one-year anniversary of Sandy, many of the volunteers and sponsoring organizations who lent a hand in the critical first days after the disaster remain in New Jersey, still helping.

In fact, according to CNN, as of the end of September 2013:

  • 173,544 volunteers had invested more than 1 million volunteer hours in the Sandy recovery effort.
  • The value of their contributions now totals more than $30 million.

“In (times of) disaster, the efforts of volunteers are critical to the recovery,” said Gracia Szczech, federal coordinating officer for FEMA in New Jersey. “Volunteers have made a substantial contribution to helping (victims) respond and recover from the challenges they faced after Hurricane Sandy.”

Volunteerism plays a crucial role in disasters of all kinds. Due to the sheer breadth and depth of associated devastation, paid workers can’t possibly meet all of the needs. American Red Cross volunteers constitute about 94 percent of the American Red Cross workforce. Volunteers make it possible to respond to nearly 70,000 disasters every year—most of which were home and apartment fires.

Immediately following Hurricane Sandy, volunteers from more than 500 organizations showed up. These included internationally recognized agencies like the American Red Cross, to smaller groups which routinely travel whenever and wherever major disasters strike. Among these groups are the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, Habitat for Humanity, Feed the Children, Lutheran Disaster Response, United Jewish Communities, Catholic Charities, National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, Medical Teams International…to name a few.

Local churches, charities and nonprofits also work around the clock to provide the help their neighbors needed to survive, recover and rebuild. There are lots of opportunities for volunteers. If you would like to be part of a team to help with the recent disaster in the Philippines, or continuing relief efforts in New Jersey, flood relief efforts in Colorado, or whenever and wherever the next natural disaster strikes, follow these 10 suggestions to maximize your efforts:

  1. Instead of traveling to the disaster site, consider donating funds to a well-established charity, as financial contributions are often requested in lieu of items such as food and clothing—which may be difficult to transport and distribute. Donate $10 now by texting redcross to 90999.
  2. You could sponsor a fundraiser to multiply your efforts. Use your enthusiasm for disaster assistance to encourage others to donate.
  3. If you’d like to work on scene, align yourself with a reputable organization. Consider groups such as the American Red Cross (800) HELP-NOW, Save the Children (800) 728-3843 and UNICEF (800) 4UNICEF.
  4. Show up to all applicable training sessions and read organization materials so you are well prepared for what awaits you.
  5. Give blood. The American Red Cross makes it easy to be a blood donor. Contact them to find out where to give.
  6. Show up. If you say you will be there, follow through.
  7. Be flexible. Humanitarian aid isn’t easily categorized. You might not know what you’ll be doing until you show up on scene.
  8. Take care of yourself. Make sure you eat and get enough rest so you will be a valuable member of a relief team.
  9. Donate Goods. Confirm what is needed before you start gathering items.
  1. Be safe. Wait until it is safe to travel to volunteer sites. Once you’ve been assigned a position, make sure you wearing proper safety gear for the task.

When a disaster 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.

Disaster Preparedness—Lessons Learned from Hurricane Sandy about Medical Center Preparedness

Friday, November 9th, 2012

A significant number of Allied Universal Training System subscribers are located on the east coast. Our hearts go out to each of them. If you would like to donate to relief efforts, consider giving through a reputable charitable organization such as the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Samaritan’s Purse, the United Way, World Vision or Operation USA. In the weeks ahead, we will devote Allied Universal blog space to lessons we have learned about disaster preparedness and recovery from Superstorm Sandy. This week, we will focus on the ways that hospitals, in particular, were impacted by the storm.

Hurricane Katrina literally devastated the medical care community of New Orleans, with scores of hospital patients dying in flooded medical centers which were cut off from power. Unbelievably, the same thing has happened in hospitals across the east coast, as a result of Hurricane Sandy.

When Superstorm Sandy submerged large parts of New York City last week, according to a report by Yahoo News, 215 patients were evacuated from New York University’s Langone Medical Center after the basement flooded and cut electricity. One east coast patient, Kim Bondy, was indignant because hospital staff knew well in advance of Sandy’s projected approach, arrival and strength.

“There was no electricity and all the IV machines were going haywire. Didn’t you pay attention to what we learned from Katrina?” she asked.

According to a report by Time, emergency personnel including firefighters and medical staff hurried to transfer patients into ambulances for evacuation, often climbing several flights of stairs. CNN reported the hospital’s basement, lower levels and elevator shafts flooded with 10 to 12 feet of water.

The senior vice president and vice dean for clinical affairs and strategy at the NYU hospital, Dr. Andrew Brotman, explained the situation, “Things went downhill very, very rapidly and very unexpectedly. The flooding was just unprecedented.”

Equipment failures at east coast facilities brought to the fore what emergency experts have warned for years. Despite bitter lessons from the recent past, U.S. hospitals are far from ready to protect patients when disaster strikes their own facilities.

“I’ve been asking hospitals to look at their own survivability after a natural or manmade disaster, and I just can’t get it on their radar screens,” said one expert in emergency healthcare preparedness. “If you asked me the one city in America that has its act together, I would have said New York. So that tells you the kind of trouble we are in for in cities like Dayton, Detroit and Sacramento.”

For most hospitals, “emergency preparedness” means being ready to treat a surge of patients which emerge as a result of disasters outside their doors. Even the federal program that coordinates hospital preparedness at the Department of Health and Human Services has a mindset of focusing on planning for mass fatalities and quickly reporting the number of available beds, but not for reacting to internal redundant electrical system outages.

For hospital administrators trying to keep their institutions in the black, disaster-resistant infrastructure is expensive and lacks the sex appeal of robotic surgery suites and proton-beam cancer therapy to attract patients. After all, most people don’t select a hospital based on which generator it owns. However, modern medicine depends on electricity, from the ventilators that keep seriously ill patients breathing to the monitors that detect life-threatening changes in vital signs. So generators are the lifeblood of any hospital disaster preparedness plan.

The good news with regard to Sandy is that things could have been worse. The staff used flashlights to carry out evacuees. Police officers fanned through the building and on stair landings to help staff members carry patients to safety. Some of the transplanted patients were critically ill infants. FEMA had organized ambulances days ahead of the storm.

Unfortunately, Langone was far from the only east coast hospital affected by the Superstorm. Some fared better and others, worse:

  • At nearby Bellevue, the neighborhood power grid failed as well as the hospital’s backup power. Staff members worked hard, hand-carrying fuel for hours. But, by Tuesday the situation became desperate. Eventually, Bellevue had to evacuate some 725 patients.
  • Montefiore built a 5-megawatt co-generation plant for heat and electricity in 1995, which doubled its capacity. The plants now supply 90 percent of the power at its main campus, allowing the hospital to run for days if the electrical grid fails.
  • Mount Sinai’s landlines and mobile phones failed throughout the city.
  • According to the Huffington Post, patients had to be transferred from Coney Island Hospital and four nursing homes in Brooklyn and the Rockaways. In several of these places, backup power systems were inadequate for prolonged use or nonfunctioning, and city power had not been restored. The long-term health effects on vulnerable patients like these might not be immediately calculable.

What hospitals must do to harden themselves against disaster is determined by a patchwork of federal, state and local regulations. The Joint Commission mandates a long list of preparedness steps, including running disaster drills. But, according to Dr. Dan Hanfling, who is special advisor on emergency preparedness at Inova Health Systems, “many hospitals just go through the motions. Until events of Sandy’s magnitude come along, emergency preparedness is just a box that has to be checked.”

“We are definitely making progress in preparedness, but many hospitals are still trying to figure this out,” said Hanfling. “They would fare about the same should another storm like Sandy roar ashore.”

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 3.0 system offers the best emergency training system.

East Coast Braces for Frankenstorm

Monday, October 29th, 2012

High Winds & Wacky Weather

This week, a powerful mix of wacky weather is expected to hit the East Coast. A major Hurricane (Sandy) combined with Gale force winds, heavy rainfall, flash floods, snow, lightning and thunder will combine to create what the Associated Press is calling Frankenstorm. Experts predict the storm will be a long-lasting event, with two to three days of impact for a lot of people, including wind damage, widespread power outages, heavy rainfall and inland flooding.

According to meteorologists, Hurricane Sandy is “looking like a very serious storm that could be historic,” said Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the forecasting service Weather Underground., “Mother Nature is not saying, ‘Trick or treat.’ It’s just going to give tricks.”

NOAA officials say the brunt of the weather mayhem will be concentrated where the hurricane comes ashore. Nevertheless, there will reportedly be hundreds of miles of steady, strong and damaging winds and rain for the entire Eastern region for several days. Officials across the region are taking steps to prepare for the devastation they believe will cost over a billion dollars:

  • New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city is striking “a tone of calm preparedness.”
  • The National Guard has been summoned.
  • Utility companies are lining up out-of-state work crews and canceling employees’ days off to deal with anticipated power outages.
  • Atlantic City casinos have made contingency plans in case they have to close, as they did for three days last year when Tropical Storm Irene approached. (Meteorologists agree Hurricane Sandy will be more severe than Irene.)
  • New York City has opened an emergency situation room and activated a coastal storm plan.
  • Virginia has declared a state of emergency.
  • From the Carolinas to Maine, municipal authorities kept a close watch on forecasts tracking the shifting path of the impending storm.

People react to weather warnings with varying degrees of alarm. Some batten down the hatches and rush to the store to stock up on necessities, while others take the news in stride and brace for whatever Mother Nature has in store. In fact, last year, Hurricane Irene inflicted major damage from North Carolina to New England, though largely spared New York, where Manhattan restaurants and bars hosted hurricane specials and parties.

 

Some battle-weary residents have allowed the repetition of weather warnings to thicken their skin, sometimes to their peril. But it’s imperative that, no matter how often you hear disaster alerts in your region, take steps to adequately prepare:

  • prescriptions
  • nonperishable food items
  • bottled water (one gallon per person per day, for at least three days)
  • Double check the location of your flashlights
  • Extra batteries
  • Cash
  • Sandbags
  • Hand-crank or battery-operated radio so you can stay informed.
  • Reach out to neighbors to find out if anyone will be in need of extra assistance.
  • Make sure you have adequate insurance.
  • Non-perishable food that will last at least three days, per person
  • Check supplies in your first-aid kit
  • Add a whistle to your supplies, so you will be able to signal for help.
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape to seal windows, doors and air vents and protect you from debris and contaminants in the air.
  • Moist towelettes.
  • Garbage bags and plastic ties
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • A manual can opener
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers or solar chargers
  • Prescription medicines to last at least a week and eyeglasses (if needed).
  • If you have children, make sure to include entertainment items to keep them occupied, like games, cards, crayons and coloring books.
  • Pet food, if necessary

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 3.0 system offers the best emergency training system. To learn more about smoking and fire safety, visit the Smoking & Home Fires Campaign page.