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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.

Floor Warden Facts

Monday, June 21st, 2010
A Floor Warden helps with emergency evacuations.

A Floor Warden helps with emergency evacuations.

All of our training emphasizes how tenants and building management need to work together as a unit to ensure safety. In the event of fire or other emergencies, a fast and orderly building evacuation can save lives.

Tenants with 10 or more employees are required by OSHA to have an emergency action plan to help ensure tenant safety during disasters. The selection and training of Floor Wardens is an important part of any action plan.

Typical duties of Floor Wardens:

  • Wardens and alternative Wardens need to be familiar with all tenants and their workspace locations to ensure that no one is left behind in cases of emergency.
  • A clear understanding of the proper evacuation route and gathering place are essential for preventing panic. Your tenant’s Floor Wardens should practice walking the primary and backup emergency routes to avoid any mistakes that could result from stress.
  • Floor Wardens will work with the building’s fire safety director to check off names of present employees and to note any that are missing after an evacuation.
  • Your tenant’s reception employees should keep logs of any absent employees or office visitors that are present, and share this information with the proper Floor Warden.

Floor Warden training:

  • Cross training of several tenant employees is important to account for Floor Wardens who may be absent during any given emergency or leave their position with the company.
  • Special training or equipment should be given to Wardens who have tenant employees with disabilities that will require additional evacuation assistance.
  • Instructions should be given to Wardens on the location and usage of equipment such as flashlights, radios or whistles.
  • Some tenants in large buildings might want to designate additional employees as stairwell and/or elevator monitors who will supervise safe and orderly evacuations. Floor Wardens should work closely with these monitors to keep track of employees and ensure they take the proper exit routes.

Benefits of the Allied Universal Training System:

  • Our system offers real-time updates to Floor Warden lists, which can be viewed by building management
  • We send automatic annual reminders to each Warden for training renewal
  • Our system is fully integrated with the fire department to ensure Wardens, Fire Safety Directors and the local departments have the same occupancy data for every building
  • We record user training and testing for future reference

Fire or other disasters strike quickly and often without warning. Through repetition of training and certification with our system, Floor Wardens will play an integral part in tenant safety by making sure no one is left behind in times of danger.

For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal, Inc. Our e-based system offers the best emergency training available, with automated and integrated features. Allied Universal, Inc. is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, a non-profit trade organization that promotes sustainability in how buildings are designed, built and operated. Visit rjwestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

Greenscaping Office Buildings

Sunday, March 21st, 2010
There are lots of ways to improve your building by going green.

There are lots of ways to improve your building by going green.

It’s time to get “green!” This is the first in a series of blogs about how building owners and tenants can embrace green policies in a variety of areas.

This week we will examine trends including green roofs and “living walls,” which are becoming popular for aesthetic and economic reasons.

Green roofs for commercial buildings have substantial vegetation and a growing medium planted over some type of waterproof membrane. For the purposes of today’s blog, we will only talk about green roofs or living walls that have vegetation, not those with other  “green” feature such as solar panels. Green roofs are low maintenance as well as attractive, whether the green space covers the entire roof or just a portion of a rooftop garden area. Through proper planning, a green roof can become a place for tenants to enjoy the natural environment in a private atmosphere. Some green walls also feature edible plants, which give tenants a free source of snacks and great conversation starters.

Your facility management team should work closely with the green-roofing installation team to ensure that the building—

  • Plantings receive adequate yearly sunlight
  • Roof system has enough structural integrity to handle the increased weight of plants, soil, and patio or structural garden elements. The company you select to install the plants should also account for the dramatic weight differences between wet and dry soil.
  • Provides the best for the climate zone and amount of sunlight for the varieties you want to plant.

Benefits abound if you choose to plant vegetation on roofs and walls:

  • Increased air quality of the surrounding area. Some living wall structures can be integrated into a building’s air circulation system, effectively “scrubbing” the air.
  • Provides a natural habitat for birds and other animal life
  • Selling point for tenants who appreciate ecologically-friendly buildings
  • Storm water control, including a reduction in contaminants in rainwater runoff
  • “Greywater” can be used in some building-designs to water plants
  • Energy savings provide a buffer between the ambient temperature and the roof’s insulation. Living walls can also provide shade.
  • Life of the roof materials benefit from ultraviolet protection, allowing vegetative roof membranes to last longer than conventional materials
  • Wellness and aesthetic appeal – tenants will benefit from exposure to more natural surroundings

Admittedly, potential disadvantages to green roofs and living walls should be considered prior to installation

  • Maintenance issues, such as pruning of vegetation and ensuring HVAC systems still function properly. Living walls require frequent attention to support structures and plant life.
  • Increased short-term costs, compared to traditional roofs
  • Nature might intrude too much. Vegetation could attract birds or harmful insects to the area.

Green roofs and living walls can provide tangible benefits for building owners and tenants. In this tight leasing market, offering green features could be what sets your building apart from property owners and managers who offer more traditional office space.

Visit us next week for part 2 in our series about green property strategies.

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. Allied Universal, Inc. is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, a non-profit trade organization that promotes sustainability in how buildings are designed, built and operated. 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.