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Occupy Wall Street Movement—History and Risks to Property

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

Are you prepared for an occupy movement?

The recent Occupy Wall Street protests brought more than 100,000 protestors to New York City on October 15th and now have reached 70 major cities. While the movement does not have official leadership, its main goals are to bring awareness to income inequality in the country, especially in regards to the “1%” of individuals who earn and hold a disproportionate amount of wealth, up to 40 percent in some studies. The popularity of the protests has even made them a NYC tourist attraction.

While many of the protesters are undoubtedly pacifists, there is the potential for violence, as recent clashes with law enforcement have demonstrated. The risks are inherent to property whenever large groups of people gather to vociferously demand something that is difficult to tangibly achieve. As time goes on, entrenched protestors might turn to mischief simply out of boredom or frustration. Building owners who encounter these types of protests should prepare to take steps to make sure their property remains protected at all times.

The first priority of property ownership is to ensure the safety of tenants, residents and/or employees. The second objective is to protect the integrity of the building. Here are some ideas for steps you could take as a property owner or manager to ensure both:

  • Post signage on your property stating that trespassing and/or camping is not permitted. Numerous signs will help you delineate your property. This type of signage could also help deter people from using your space in other objectionable ways.
  • Coordinate with local law enforcement. They should have a plan for where protestors would be allowed to congregate and which areas would be considered off limits.
  • Use barriers to deny access to important areas. If you have a sensitive part of your business that will be closed to short-term protests, then consider closing it down or blocking if entirely to avoid any issues.
  • Use window film to block the view into lower-level offices. You wouldn’t want tenants to feel harassed or nervous about the potential for violence if a group gathers outside.
  • Install video cameras with signs that clearly state the fact that your area is under constant surveillance. While video won’t likely stop organized protests, it can deter violent or vandalistic acts.
  • During the actual protests, consider hiring uniformed security officers to guard the perimeter of your building to discourage criminal behavior.

Hopefully, any protests in your area will remain peaceful expressions of free speech and will not turn to violence or unrest. By taking some proactive measures, you can better protect your building and tenants from potential harm

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.

Shanghai Fire – Lessons from Catastrophe

Monday, December 6th, 2010
high-rise buildings on fire

Lessons learned from the Shanghai Fire

An unfortunate fire in a 28-story Shanghai apartment building claimed the lives of 58 people, with dozens injured and some missing persons unaccounted for. By using the fire as a case study, we can point out ways to avoid this kind of catastrophe in your high-rise property.

The Shanghai apartment building was undergoing renovations for a planned energy-saving project. The scaffolding used for the construction project was made of flammable bamboo and nylon netting. Preliminary investigations uncovered several issues and pointed blame towards several parties:

  • Careless work by unlicensed subcontractor workers ignited the nylon netting which surrounded the building. The fire quickly spread to the bamboo scaffolding frame as well as the building itself.
  • The structure did not feature an indoor fire prevention sprinkler system, as these are not commonly used in high-rise buildings in that area.
  • In addition to the flammable scaffolding, the building was also insulated with polyurethane foam which does not contain flame retardant additives.

Chinese authorities took swift action to hold individuals accountable, and have arrested 13 individuals, including the CEO of one of the companies which was responsible for part of the construction and the former head of an interior design firm. Eight unlicensed welders were also arrested.

Many residents and newscasters are critical of the local fire department’s role in handling the blaze:

  • At 28 stories, the building is one of the smaller structures compared to its surroundings. Residents reported observing firefighting-equipment that could reach only to the 20th floor of the building. This raised doubts about the local fire department’s ability to properly fight high-rise fires.
  • The fire took four hours to bring under control, despite the presence of 1,300 firefighting personnel and 120 firefighting engines. Many residents and critics view this length of time to be excessive and an example of a combination of improper training of firefighters and substandard equipment.

While the fire was unfortunate, tragic accidents provide opportunities to learn from and avoid similar mistakes. What can you implement as a building owner to prevent catastrophe?

  • If conducting repairs, make sure you and your general contractor take into account all activities performed by subcontractors. In the Shanghai fire, proper protocols for the welding crew were not followed.
  • Resist the urge to cut corners by using unlicensed workers. Such workers may be experienced and offer lower prices. But the use of un-papered workers poses a major safety violation that places you at risk of liability and everyone in danger.
  • Ensure residents or occupants are well versed in proper fire life safety procedures. The RJWestmore Fire Life Safety Training System is the perfect way to prepare tenants for every kind of emergency.
  • Conduct annual evacuation drills with designated meeting places and alternate routes in case primary exit routes are obstructed.

Proper fire safety is a comprehensive initiative that requires building owners and managers to carefully consider many interrelated issues. Learning from mistakes that caused past disasters is a strong reminder to follow safety, code and building procedures.

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 RJWestmore, 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.

On the Road…..Again?

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010
Jet preparing to land.

Take steps to ensure safe travel during holidays.

It’s that time already. Hitch up your wagons and travel on the open road or by air to the holiday destination of your choice. While traveling during this time might fill you with dread, we have some tips about safe holiday travel, which we hope will smooth your trip.

Air travel has become increasingly frustrating for passengers and airline staff, alike. More fees and less service are not traditional hallmarks of good business. But airlines have a corner on the market. So they play by a different set of rules. Nevertheless, these hints will help your travel the friendly skies.

Watch your connections. Imagine you have to fly in late December from San Diego to Orlando and have a choice of a three-hour layover in Dallas or a one-hour stop in Chicago. While you might not relish three hours in the airport, consider what happens weather-wise in Chicago in winter. Snow. Lots of it. That means airport delays, potentially dangerous landings and fun “de-icing” experiences.

Expected the unexpected. Delays happen. Computers do crash.

So try not to sweat the small stuff.

Give yourself plenty of time. While you probably do not need to arrive two hours early for a mid-week flight to Des Moines in October, your family holiday trip in December will require extra time at baggage-check-in, security, and at the gate. Also consider the drive to and from the airport. Stress can be dangerous to your health as well as to others around you. So plan ahead to avoid the necessity of driving too fast to the airport.

What about those TSA pat-downs and scans? Early reports state that air travel is not too backed up and “opt-out” protests have not caught on. Despite the growing hysteria, scientific review of body scan machines shows that they are safe. According to data, people receive more radiation in two minutes of 30,000 foot flight than they do from scanners. Try to remember that security scans mean safer travel for everyone.

  • If you are packing up the family wagon and driving to your destination, consider the fact that you won’t be alone on the road. According to AAA, in 2009 there were 87.7 million Americans that traveled 50 miles or more during the year-end holidays. Follow some common sense tips to help you get through a potentially stressful drive.
  • Even if your travels do not take you to a remote town in Montana, it’s important you take steps to make sure you are prepared for the open road. Pack an emergency kit as well as other helpful supplies:
  • Bring several gallons of bottled water. These are useful for both drinking and emergency radiator usage.
  • Everyone needs to eat. If you get stuck in a blizzard, you will want some non-perishable food with some protein to keep you alert.
  • Traveling in snow? Check with local authorities to see if you need snow chains and bring along an extra bottle of antifreeze and a snow scraper.
  • Road flares and a triangle warning sign are vital in case of a breakdown.
  • Even modern car batteries can lose their charge. Bring jumper cables for your car and in case you are called upon to serve as a Good Samaritan for another motorist.
  • Once your emergency kit is set, you can concentrate on your actual journey:
  • Put your phone down! Statistics show thousands of people die every year from accidents caused by distracted drivers. What’s more, in many states, using the phone or texting while driving is illegal.
  • Inspect your car before you go. Inflate and check your tires. Confirm you have antifreeze and that your oil has recently been changed.
  • Don’t drink and drive. While this tip should go without saying, it’s important to watch alcohol consumption during holiday parties.

Follow our tips and use common sense to get through traveling during the holidays. And remember that politeness and patience can go a long way during what is supposed to be a joyous time.

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 RJWestmore, 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.

Shake, Rattle, and….Prepare?

Monday, October 11th, 2010

Get ready to shake, rattle and roll.

The theme of many of our blogs is: “Are you prepared?” The reason for our keen focus on preparation is because history has shown us that the unpredictable will happen, and it probably won’t come with much advance warning. All we can do is prepare and plan. And history has taught us that proper planning before an earthquake can result in dramatic prevention of loss of life or property.

The Great California ShakeOut is an annual event that promotes earthquake preparedness for Californians. This year’s event is scheduled for October 21st, at 10:21 a.m. However, business and homeowners are encouraged to schedule activities of their own to mark the occasion, if timing of the official event is inconvenient.

So far, 6.5 million people and counting have registered to participate in this month’s ShakeOut. And there is still time to sign up. Encourage your team members and tenants to register and support this year’s ShakeOut, which is sharable via Facebook and Twitter, so you can encourage other business owners and managers to participate.

The scenarios and drills used in the ShakeOut are based on data from a hypothetical 7.8 magnitude quake on the San Andreas Fault. Results of the scenario are available in both a 24-page version and the full scientific 312-page version, courtesy of the USGS. You very likely won’t have time to read all 312 pages. But there is still much to glean from the main points of the exercise.

A free ShakeOut manual for business owners and managers provides suggestions for conducting drills to practice earthquake preparedness:

  • Drills cover, “Drop, Cover, and Hold On,” and other training that tenants can utilize in order to stay safe during a shaker.
  • The manual encourages actual interaction and discussion between tenants and drill organizers. Try to speak with people who actually work in the building. You might discover helpful suggestions and ideas for improving evacuation routes or supplementing a shortage of emergency kits.
  • Go viral! Owners can share photos and stories from this year’s drill at www.ShakeOut.org
  • Advanced drills are detailed, including a “Business Operations Simulation Drill,” which can test your company’s ability to manage a disaster. The drill includes simulations that simulate problems such as loss of electricity, lack of cell phone service, or blocked emergency exits. Advanced drills are intended to mirror real earthquake emergencies.

Another component to the ShakeOut is “Secure Your Space.” This initiative covers not only how unsecured filing cabinets and picture frames can turn into hazards, but also why it’s necessary to retrofit buildings and adhere to proper codes.

Similar to our last blog, which covered “Fire Prevention Week”, this post about the Great Shakeout is a good opportunity to raise immediate awareness about the subject. But real safety preparedness and planning involves more than information that can be covered in a single day. It’s great to promote awareness initiatives like the Shakeout to increase tenants’ exposure to safety issues, but be sure to have frequent refresher sessions and reminders about lessons learned. Knowledge about safety is useless it’s put into practice. So make sure proper procedures are followed.

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.

Hurricane Communications

Monday, August 23rd, 2010
Communication is Key in Any Emergency

Communication is Key in Any Emergency

Second in a Series about Hurricane Preparedness and Recovery

Hurricanes are unique emergencies in that they are predictable. So there is no excuse for failing to prepare to respond with decisive action. Although you can’t control when a hurricane or other emergency may happen, it’s imperative that you take personal responsibility to make sure you are ready.  This week, in our continuing series about hurricanes, we’ll look at one of the best ways to prepare for and recover after tropical storms and hurricanes—developing a comprehensive Communications Plan.

Although there is no easy answer—or “silver bullet”—to solve every problem that can hamper the efforts of law enforcement, firefighting, rescue and emergency medical personnel before, during and after natural disasters, the surest way to reduce confusion and quickly restore order is to establish a Communications Plan before you need one.

But what exactly is a Communications Plan?

An Emergency Communications’ Plan outlines formal decision-making structures and clearly defined leadership roles necessary for coordinating emergency communications’ capabilities. In other words, make sure you plan in advance to manage any and every emergency situation. Assess the situation and use common sense and available resources to take care of yourself and your co-workers or family members and to manage the recovery of your family or organization.

To help you with the process, FEMA has put together free resources including a Family Emergency Plan as well as a Business Continuity and Disaster Preparedness Plan, which is posted online for easy-access to clients of the RJWestmore, Inc. Training System. The business plan is designed to encourage you to gather emergency information and formalize plans for staying in business following a disaster, and includes information critical for coordinating with neighboring businesses, cooperating with emergency personnel and considering critical operations, staff and procedures.

Other organizations also provide free emergency resources. For example, The American Red Cross has a Safe and Well Website to help families keep in touch after a disaster. If you have been affected by a disaster, this website provides a way for you to register yourself as “safe and well.” From a list of standard messages, you can select those that you want to communicate to your family members, letting them know of your well-being. Other communication services available on the Safe and Well website:

  • USPS, which provides continuing mail service for those displaced by disasters through change of address forms.
  • National Next of Kin Registry, an organization where the public can archive emergency point of contact information. Emergency agencies access the system when there is a need to locate next of kin in urgent situations.
  • Community Voice Mail, which offers free personalized phone numbers with voicemail to people in crisis and transition for job search, housing, healthcare and family contact.
  • Contact Loved Ones, which is a free voice message service, accessible from any phone, to reestablish contact between those affected by a disaster and their loved ones and friends.

Also, at the state and local level, you should be able to access additional information specific to your geographical location. One such resource is put out by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). And weather advisories are put out by the National Hurricane Center.

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 RJWestmore, Inc. Check back next week, when we will continue our series about hurricane safety and preparation. In the meantime, BE SAFE.

ACTIVE HURRICANE SEASON PREDICTED

Monday, August 16th, 2010
Hurricanes can be devastating. Be sure to prepare!

First in a Series about Hurricane Preparedness and Recovery

In their latest forecast, the National Weather Service reaffirmed their May forecast of a heavy Atlantic hurricane season. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) encouraged Americans living in coastal states to take steps to ensure their families are prepared for hurricanes. And the lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at the Climate Prediction Center recently announced that all the factors are coming together for a stormy season.

What does all of this mean? If you live on the coast, get ready for a rough ride.

Since before hurricane season started, FEMA personnel have been actively engaged with state and local officials in coastal states to ensure they have the support and resources necessary to prepare for and respond to a tropical storm or hurricane. This season has been particularly taxing for emergency management professionals who have to weigh the potential effects of the BP oil spill on response capabilities and recovery scenarios.

“FEMA continues to work across the administration and with our state and local partners to ensure they’re ready should a hurricane make landfall,” said FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate. “But we can only be as prepared as the public, so it’s important that families and businesses take steps now to be ready.”

Hurricanes are unique emergencies in that they are predictable. So there is no excuse for failing to prepare to respond with decisive action. Although you can’t control when a hurricane or other emergency may happen, it’s imperative that you take personal responsibility to make sure you are ready.  In the coming weeks, we’ll look at the various ways you can prepare for and recover after tropical storms and hurricanes, including:

But first, let’s examine the nature and history of hurricanes so we know what to prepare for. A hurricane is a type of tropical cyclone, which is a generic term for a low pressure system that generally forms in the tropics. According to the National Hurricane Center, the ingredients for a hurricane include:

  1. A pre-existing weather disturbance
  2. Warm tropical oceans
  3. Moisture
  4. Relatively light winds aloft

If the right conditions persist long enough, they can combine to produce the violent winds, incredible waves, torrential rains, and floods we associate with this phenomenon. Each year, approximately 11 tropical storms develop over the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico. Many of these remain over the ocean and never impact the U.S. coastline. An average six of these storms become hurricanes each year.

Hurricane Hit Parade (Hurricane Trivia)

The deadliest hurricane on record (prior to the practice of naming tropical storms in 1953) is reported to have slammed into Galveston, Texas in 1900, killing 8,000 people. A Category 4 hurricane, it struck the island with sustained winds of 140 miles per hour.

The costliest hurricane on record, as most of Florida will remember, was Hurricane Andrew, which struck in 1992 and cost an estimated $26.5 billion.

The most intense hurricane to strike the U.S. hit the Florida Keys on Labor Day weekend in 1935. The Labor Day Hurricane sustained winds are estimated to have reached almost 200 miles per hour. Although it hit a tiny, low-populated area, 390 died in the event.

The busiest month in the U.S. for major hurricane hits is September, with an average 36 of 64 annual such storms. August is the second busiest month, with an average of 15 out of 64 annual strikes.

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 RJWestmore, Inc. Check back next week, when we will continue our series about hurricane safety and preparation. In the meantime, BE SAFE.

Proper Training Is the Difference Between Life and Death

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

We’re often asked if we really believe training can save lives. We do! And here’s why:

Training is one of the most important tools used to enhance employee performance. This is especially true in life-threatening situations like responding to a fire, earthquake, bomb threat, medical emergency or other natural or man-made disasters. Your ability to know what to do and react immediately with the correct response can save lives.

The key to successful training that has high rates of retention is to train staff broadly to understand goals and constraints of each emergency situation, rather than training narrowly to follow sets of procedures without thinking.

Bob Westmore is frequently quoted as saying, “Emergencies never read the plans written to address them.”  In other words, no two emergency situations are exactly alike. More intuitive training developed by RJWestmore and utilized on the RJWestmore Online Fire Life Safety Training System, increases retention rates by 60% to 200% while it teaches users to learn to recognize situations and adapt their responses as appropriate to achieve the safest outcome.

Proper response training is the only way to proactively prevent the loss of life in an emergency situation. We can help.

BE SAFE!