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Reflections on 9/11: What we’ve learned about the cost of terrorism

Sunday, August 21st, 2011
September 11 with patriotic twin towers and "never forget"

We are continuing our series of reflections on 9/11

Second in a series about 9/11

With the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 just around the corner, we are devoting five weeks to discuss the 10 lessons the world has learned from that fateful day and recommend emergency precautions that you should take now to give you and your family, friends, employees and colleagues the best chance of surviving another terrorist attack.

Two of the 10 things we’ve learned from 9/11:

2. We can’t afford to take our safety for granted. The aftermath of 911 will likely be with us in perpetuity. The plus side to this is that many people now realize they should take steps to protect themselves and prepare for potential future attacks.

Prior to the events of September 11, 2001, many of us took our safety for granted. Doing so was easy. After all, planes generally took off and landed as scheduled. Going to work was relatively uneventful. Multi-million dollar buildings stood tall.

All of that changed when pilots hijacked planes and, in a coordinated suicide effort led by al-Qaeda, crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. A third plane which was likely headed for either the Capital or the White House was overtaken by passengers and crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. Thousands of workers and civilians died in what has since become known as the greatest terrorist attack on American soil in history.

The good news is that, as a nation, we have learned. We have learned to recognize threats and to take action in order to ward off potential assaults against our country. Security is tighter now than it has ever been. And, as a result, we are safer. In fact, the likelihood of broad attacks involving multiple agents has actually decreased since 2001.

What’s more, because we are no longer naïve about potential threats to our personal and national safety, we are more willing to participate in drills and develop emergency preparedness plans. For those of us in the safety training business, this is good news because we have long understood the importance of preparation. In fact, at Allied Universal, Inc. has been providing safety and security solutions to commercial real estate companies for more than 20 years. Our mission is to save lives through training with the motto “BE SAFE!”

You can take an active part in your own safety by observing National Preparedness Month (NPM) in September. Sponsored by FEMA, the month-long campaign encourages citizens to get a kit, make a plan and be informed. Leading by example, Allied Universal, Inc. is a member of the NPM Coalition.

2. Terrorism can cause thousands of casualties and/or extensive damage to buildings as well as infrastructure. According to the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 cost nearly $2 trillion.

Small Business—Cyber security firm Symantec reports that, despite the plethora of information about terrorism attacks, most small business owners remain unprepared. Don’t wait until it’s too late. The cost of training your employees to act and assemble simple disaster kits is far less than what you will lose if and when you and your colleagues face another terrorist attack. Potential threats include cyber security. So make sure your information systems are secure.

Property Owners & ManagersEmerald Research reports that terrorist attacks on buildings are becoming an increasing threat. So it is essential that property managers prepare for potential attacks. Building owners and managers should understand the types of devices used by terrorists and assess the threat, determine how buildings can be physically protected and the ways that property managers should respond to perceived threats, both proactively and reactively.

As our series continues, we’ll examine the remaining eight lessons we’ve learned from 9/11 so you and your loved ones and colleagues will BE SAFE. Once you have determined the possible events and their potential affects to your community, you’ll want to discuss them with your family, friends and coworkers.

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.

Managing Indoor Air Quality

Monday, June 20th, 2011
Sacramento skyline in smog

Clean air is a safety concern.

For building owners and managers, ensuring tenant and visitor welfare is always of paramount importance. And while there is only so much that can be done to control the quality of the air that enters into a building, it is still important to frequently filter and refresh the air for optimal tenant and visitor health.

Regulations such as the Clean Air Act have saved thousands of lives from diseases such as emphysema, asthma and heart disease. However, there is still much that can be done to control air pollutants to allow everyone to enjoy cleaner air.

What are some of the main contributors to air pollution?

  • Carbon monoxide is odorless and tasteless but very poisonous in large quantities. Facilities that operate furnaces and/or automobiles need to provide adequate ventilation and install carbon monoxide alarms to ensure safety.
  • Particulate matter is basically “stuff” in the air. This can be man-made or naturally caused, resulting from sources as diverse as burning fossil fuels and power plants to dust storms and wildfires. Particulates have wreaked havoc on the human body since ancient times.
  • Nitrogen oxides are the brown plumes of “haze” that can be seen downwind of major cities. The result of high-temperature combustion, such compounds produce smoggy reddish-brown skies.

Before embarking on new policies and procedures for improving a building’s air quality, it’s important to record a baseline. Testing for radon, carbon monoxide and particulate levels can help guide you about unsafe conditions and provide guidance on the priority order for steps to clean the air.

What kind of policies can a company institute to improve air quality?

  • If your company is relocating or expanding, avoid purchasing office space that is in close proximity to industrial areas which might produce toxins. Of course, if your property is already located in this type of area, you can take steps to safeguard the air in the interior of the building.
  • Don’t allow smoking either in or around your building. Cigarette smoke contains an alarming number of toxins which can remain suspended in the air for long periods of time.
  • Review furniture choices in tenant offices. Pieces made of out cheap particle board may contain formaldehyde, which is a known carcinogen.

Cleaning and maintenance tips for air quality:

  • Proper cleaning of carpets is essential. Carpets act as a filter or trap for dust mites and other allergens. Without frequent vacuuming with appropriate filters, carpets can outgas airborne toxins.
  • Follow suggested maintenance and cleaning guidelines for HVAC systems. Ductwork should be cleaned to remove mold or other contaminants. Filters should be the highest-quality to effectively remove particles down to the smallest micron.
  • Janitorial staff should be allowed to open windows or other ventilation, whenever feasible. Fumes from high-grade cleaning products are a serious irritant.
  • For residences and businesses in high-humidity areas, consider utilizing dehumidifiers to inhibit the growth of mold.

Unlike other disasters that can be seen or heard, air quality is (by its very nature) a typically invisible problem. As such, it can pose detrimental health effects over long periods of time, making it a silent but deadly killer. Taking steps to clean the air will have a direct effect on tenant happiness and productivity.

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.

Practice Makes Safety

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010
Do Drills

Do Drills

When you hear the sirens and see flashing lights, you may think you are you at a concert. But these telltale signs might indicate a fire drill. Fire drills might bring back memories of school, where they were a welcome break from classes that gave you an opportunity to laugh with friends. Or tenants might view these periodic run-throughs as an unavoidable hassle that interrupt the normal business routine. But fire drills are vital preparation for emergencies. In fact, in an office setting, properly executed fire drills can save lives.

Why do you need fire drills in your building?

  • Tenants usually enter and exit buildings through the same locations every day. Fire drills often involve moving people through seldom used routes such as back stairwells. Workers are creatures of habit who benefit from frequent drills, which will make them more likely to remember proper evacuation routes.
  • Several building codes mandate fire drill participation such as the NFPA’s Life Safety Code, which has a grid detailing the recommended frequency for and the types of businesses that should conduct drills. Building owners can always choose to run more than the code-mandated number of drills, to ensure that new tenants understand evacuation procedures.
  • Drills provide a great opportunity to discover safety issues that need to be corrected such as locked stairwell doors or the necessity of developing alternate routes for specific tenants.

A fire at an office building in 1989 in Atlanta caused the deaths of five workers. Through investigation, the U.S. Fire Administration determined that Federal employees who worked in the building were required to participate in fire drills, while most private sector employees were not. The fatalities and most of the injured were unfortunately among the private sector tenants. What’s more, the report indicated a high level of chaos among the private sector employees. Fire drills were identified as a contributing factor for saving the lives of many.

Tips for performing fire drills:

  • Ensure that the sound of alarm systems can reach all sections of the building including storage areas, maintenance rooms, restrooms, and within elevators. Instruct Floor Wardens and other designated safety volunteers to keep watch for any problems observed during the drill, such as employees who don’t exit the building immediately or who take non-approved exit routes.
  • Remind tenants to exit the building briskly and to leave behind unnecessary personal items, computers or any office paperwork that might hinder evacuation.
  • Before drills begin, ensure that all exit signs are clearly visible and meet all code standards.
  • Involve local fire departments to coordinate mock drills, so you can work together to speed up evacuation times.

With all types of safety exercises, it’s important to receive training from a qualified source. This short video shows you what happens when you mix fire safety training with an unqualified “trainer.”

Visit us again next week for the second blog post in our series about fire safety and prevention. Next up—we will be discussing flammable materials and how building owners can mitigate fire risks by making sound choices in building materials and furnishings.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives.  For the latest emergency management training for property owners and 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.

Hazardous Materials in the Workplace

Monday, March 15th, 2010
Help Hazmat Crews Help You

Help Hazmat Crews Help You

Virtually every workplace and tenant has chemicals or other potentially hazardous materials. These include simple, everyday cleaners that might be stored under the kitchenette sink as well as heavy-duty chemicals stored in manufacturing facilities. Remember that effective planning for any emergency requires education and preparation. Detailed information about what chemicals your tenants use will give you a head start in any disaster. For example, Hazmat crews need ready information about potential threats so they can contain and clean the area. If you do your homework beforehand, you’ll be able to help emergency personnel when they arrive on the scene.

Those who work with chemicals run an increased risk of chemical fires. Work with your tenants to be sure all protocols are in place and flammable and explosive materials are properly stored. The fire department needs to know exactly which chemicals are present, such as whether any agents are present that could potentially explode if they come in contact with water.

Dealing with Hazardous Materials:

  • In the kitchen, bathroom or storage areas:
    • Take an inventory of tenants’ cleaning products and where they are stored. Too many chemicals in a cramped area can lead to danger.
    • Instruct tenants and cleaning crews not to mix chemicals. For example, bleach products should never be mixed with ammonia.
    • Make sure janitorial personnel alert your facility team to all major spills.
  • Chemical Labeling and Identification:
    • Proper labeling of materials is a first step in safety. For example, NFPA 704 is a group of standards on hazards denoting different degrees of potential harm.
      • The system uses a diamond shape that denotes red for “Flammability”, blue for “Health,” yellow for “Instability,” and white for “Special” hazards, such as chemicals that react violently with water. Allied Universal Training System users have access to information about “How to Read a Fire Diamond.”
      • Numbers from 0 to 4 rate the severity of the hazard.
      • Remind tenants of new code changes regarding labeling practices to help them stay in compliance.
  • Emergency Management:
    • Knowing which types of chemicals are being used or produced by tenants will help with proper emergency response.
    • Inform tenants about the different types of fire extinguishers needed for a variety of fire types, such as those caused by certain chemicals. Make sure you and tenants know what to expect and how to be prepared.
  • Teach your tenants to remember S.I.N.
    • Safety – Assume the materials are dangerous and keep a good distance.
    • Isolation – Close off the room or affected area of your building.
    • Notification – Make sure tenants notify 911 and building management.

If you take time to glance at the dozens of OSHA regulations for chemicals, from Nitrous Oxide to pool cleaning supplies, it will become apparent that attention and detail are required to ensure safety. If your tenant is producing complicated products using a variety of materials, it is your shared responsibility to follow all code requirements to protect your building.

Allied Universal Training System users have unrestricted access to lots of helpful links that will help identify and prepare hazardous materials-related emergencies. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal. Our e-based system offers the best emergency training available, with automated and integrated features. Visit rjwestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

Fire Hazards in Office Buildings

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Only You Can Prevent Office Fires

Only You Can Prevent Office Fires

According to data from the National Fire Protection Agency, there were 112,000 non-residential structure fires in 2008 which resulted in 120 deaths and $3.8 billion in property damages.  High-rise buildings are especially at risk as fires can spread rapidly and higher floors are often out of reach of most firefighting aerial equipment.

Building owners should work closely with tenants and discuss potential fire hazards to prevent loss of property or life. Tenants should understand the potential losses of sensitive data or documents that can be destroyed so they should be more apt to listen.

Reducing the incidence of fire in buildings can be accomplished by identifying contributing factors and minimizing risks. Come to think of it, that’s the way to handle any type of risk!

Space heaters:

  • Often kept in enclosed spaces near papers, space heaters can lead to fast-moving fires
  • Space heaters use a high amount of electricity and multiple users can increase utility bills
  • Older space heaters don’t have auto shutoff safety can start fires if tipped over

Office Equipment and Appliances:

  • Coffee makers, copiers and computers all need space around them for air circulation
  • Papers should not be stacked on or around equipment
  • Restrict use of hotplates and other portable heating items

Wiring and Power:

  • Older wiring that is mixed with newer wiring can lead to sparking which can turn into fire
  • Buildings that do not keep current with electrical code standards are at risk
  • Overuse of extension cords and power strips has greatly expanded as offices have more and more electronic devices. Overloaded circuits or power cords routed under combustible carpets can both be fire risks

Combustible materials:

  • Modern offices typically have many combustible materials such as file folders, wooden partitions, upholstered furniture, carpeted floors, and wooden doors
  • Combustibles can be decreased by choosing metal furniture, installing fire-rated doors, and moving towards paperless record keeping

Smoking:

Don’t forget about cigarettes and cigars! A leading cause of fires is recreational smoking. Even when buildings restrict smoking inside buildings, some tenants may fail to comply. The best way to combat this is to enforce strict no-smoking policies and provide safe alternative outdoor smoking areas. Outside ash containers should be heavy so they don’t tip over. And care should be taken to ensure safe disposal of ash and cigarette butts.

Fire risks can be greatly decreased by establishing and enforcing set policies for all of your tenants. The Allied Universal Training System can help you mitigate these and other safety risks. Visit www.rjwestmore.com and ask us about the recently released Version 2.0 of our award-winning training program. Choosing our service cuts property management training related workloads by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training!

Most importantly, IT SAVES LIVES!

Announcing Version 2.0 of the Allied Universal Training System

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

Version 2.0 is available to all Allied Universal clients at no additional charge.

Version 2.0 is available to all Allied Universal clients at no additional charge.

Allied Universal is proud to announce the release of Version 2.0 of our comprehensive e-based safety building-specific training program. The new system has even more integration and automation that brings together property/facility managers, fire safety directors, floor wardens, occupants and local fire departments. All of the new features showcase our commitment to offer the most user-friendly and complete training system on the market and further our mission to “SAVE LIVES THROUGH TRAINING.”

  • Real-time reporting with just one click—
    • Identify tenants that need special assistance to evacuate in the case of emergency
    • Have instant access to a list of primary and alternate floor wardens that is shared with building management and the fire department
      • Automatic email notification to property management and the fire safety directors each time either the special assistance or floor warden list is updated by users.
  • Improved fire department access—
    • One home screen allows department access to all Allied Universal Online Training System companies in the city
    • Departments can monitor individual building testing and training of floor wardens, fire safety directors and all the occupants in the building.
    • Fire Department approved across the United States and compliant with FDNY LL26, LAFD 57.33.19, as well as Federal OSHA and individual State fire codes.
  • Automated features—
    • Automatic certificates are sent to each user
    • Employee compliance reports are prepared for each tenant
    • Annual reminders are sent to each user
  • Improved confidentiality and system control—
    • Multiple tiers of system access help control the distribution of information
    • Confidential Information Access is granted for resources such as maps and emergency plans

The Allied Universal Training System, Version 2.0 gives building owners a complete picture of their emergency preparedness. We map out an exterior refuge map with a satellite picture of each building.  A map of the lobby is also created, showing the best exit routes. Elevator banks and stairwells are graphed, to show a comprehensive picture of accessibility and egress.

More info about the Version 2.0 rollout:

  • 30-day implementation with a simple monthly fee
  • All updates, training, and other resources are provided for no additional fee
  • Property managers can easily print and export building training information
  • Training and procedures are available for any kind of disaster, be it manmade or natural

If you own or manage a building, or know someone who does, do them a favor. Let them know about the Allied Universal Training System. Choosing our service provides a value-added tenant service that limits property management and individual tenant liability.  Furthermore, it cuts property management training related workloads by 90% and saves users over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, it saves lives.

BE SAFE.