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MERS Virus—What You Need to Know  

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

MERS corp 2
The Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) has reported and verified the first case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection in the United States. Based on this information, clinicians and health officials should consider MERS-CoV infection a possibility in people who have traveled from the Arabian Peninsula and neighboring countries. This information is particularly important to infectious disease specialists, intensive care physicians, primary care physicians, and infection specialists, as well as emergency departments and microbiology laboratories. Although there is only one confirmed case in the U.S. to date, the CDC has issued a Health Advisory.

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is a viral respiratory illness. MERS belongs to the coronavirus family that includes the common cold and SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, which caused more than 800 deaths globally in 2003. Most people with MERS-CoV developed severe acute respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

Mers corpUnfortunately, the morbidity rate is high–30% of the people who were infected died. Some people were reported as having a mild respiratory illness. MERS is caused by a coronavirus called “Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus” (MERS-CoV). Generally speaking, you are not in danger if you have not traveled to or from that region or have not been exposed to someone who has traveled to that region.

Although the origin of MERS is unknown, it likely came from an animal source. In addition to humans, camels in Qatar, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and a bat in Saudi Arabia have contracted the disease. Camels in a few other countries have also tested positive for antibodies to MERS-CoV, indicating they were previously infected with it or a closely related virus.

Here are some details about the virus:

  • People who have MERS will develop severe acute lower respiratory illness within 14 days after traveling from countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula.
  • Although similar, MERS-CoV is not the same coronavirus that caused severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003. However, like the SARS virus, MERS-CoV is most similar to coronaviruses found in bats. CDC is still learning about MERS.
  • The first known cases of MERS-CoV occurred in Jordan in April 2012.
  • The virus is associated with respiratory illness and high death rates, although mild and asymptomatic infections have been reported too.
  • All reported cases to date have been linked to six countries in the Arabian Peninsula: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Oman, and Kuwait. Cases in the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Greece, Tunisia, Egypt, and Malaysia have also been reported in persons who traveled from the Arabian Peninsula.
  • There have been a small number of cases in persons who were in close contact with infected travelers.
  • Since mid-March 2014, there has been an increase in cases reported from Saudi Arabia and UAE.
  • Public health investigations are ongoing to determine the reason for the increased cases.
  • No vaccine or specific treatment is currently available.
  • In some cases, the virus has spread from infected people to others through close contact. However, there is currently no evidence of sustained spread of MERS-CoV in community settings.

Countries where cases have been reported:

Countries in the Arabian Peninsula

  • Saudi Arabia
  • United Arab Emirates (UAE)
  • Qatar
  • Oman
  • Jordan
  • Kuwait

Countries with Travel-associated Cases

  • United Kingdom (UK)
  • France
  • Tunisia
  • Italy
  • Malaysia
  • United States of America (USA)

How to protect yourself:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact, such as kissing, sharing cups, or sharing eating utensils, with sick people.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs.

When to take action:

  1. If you have been in close contact with a symptomatic recent traveler from this area and you develop a fever and acute respiratory illness.
  2. Another way to contract the illness is if you are in close contact with anyone who has a confirmed case of the virus. Testing for MERS-CoV and other respiratory pathogens can be done simultaneously.
  3. If you have been exposed and develop a fever or 100 or higher.
  4. If you develop a fever above 100 degrees, or respiratory symptoms within 14 days following contact with an infected person.

When a disaster of any kind 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.

How to Prepare for a Chemical Weapons Attack

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

Although Syrian President Bashar al-Assad continues to deny that he ordered the use of chemical weapons against his own people, someone released Sarin gas in Damascus on August 21, killing more than 1,400 people…including women and children. A human-made chemical warfare agent classified as a nerve agent, Sarin is among the most toxic and rapidly acting of the known chemical warfare agents. Also known as GB, Sarin is a clear, colorless, and (in its purest form) is a tasteless liquid.

Sarin is just one of a large group of biological agents which could potentially be released into the environment anywhere in the world. So, regardless of whether the United States opts to launch a military strike against Syria in response to the Damascus attack, it is prudent to review the ways to prepare for and react to a chemical attack.

The (CDC) defines a chemical emergency as anytime a hazardous chemical has been released and has the potential for harming people’s health. Chemical releases can be unintentional, as in the case of an industrial accident, or intentional, as in the case of a terrorist attack. Scientists often categorize hazardous chemicals by the type of chemical or by the effects a chemical would have on people exposed to it. The categories/types used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are as follows:

  • Biotoxins—come from plants or animals
  • Blister Agents/Vesicants—on contact, severely blister the eyes, respiratory tract and skin
  • Blood Agents—affect the body by being absorbed into the blood
  • Caustics (Acids)— burn or corrode people’s skin, eyes, and mucus membranes on contact
  • Choking/Lung/Pulmonary Agents—cause severe irritation or swelling of the respiratory tract
  • Incapacitating Agents—render people unable to think clearly or cause an altered state of consciousness
  • Long-Acting Anticoagulants—prevent blood from clotting properly, which can lead to uncontrolled bleeding
  • Metals—consist of metallic poisons
  • Nerve Agents—highly poisonous chemicals that compromise the nervous system
  • Organic Solvents—damage living tissue by dissolving fats and oils
  • Riot Control Agents/Tear Gas—used by law enforcement for crowd control
  • Toxic Alcohols—damage the heart, kidneys and nervous system
  • Vomiting Agents—cause nausea and vomiting

Before an Attack

  • Build an Emergency Supply Kit. We often discuss the importance of putting together a kit so you’ll have items on hand when you need them. Be sure to include non-perishable food, water, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, extra flashlights and batteries. Also, include a roll of duct tape, scissors and plastic sheeting to use to cover doors, windows and vents if you need to shelter in place.
  • Make a Family Emergency Plan. In the likely event your family members are not together when disaster strikes, decide in advance how you will contact one another, how you will reassemble and what to do in case of an emergency. Check with your doctor to ensure you and your family’s immunizations are up to date. Children and older adults are particularly vulnerable to biological agents.
  • Consider installing a High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter in your furnace return duct.

During an Attack

The first evidence of an attack may be when you notice symptoms of the disease caused by exposure to an agent. During a biological threat, use common sense:

  • Cover Your Nose and Mouth
  • If you become aware of an unusual and suspicious substance, quickly get away and protect yourself.
  • Wear a face mask to reduce spreading germs if you are sick and/or to avoid contracting contagious germs. Practice good hygiene and cleanliness to avoid spreading germs.
  • Watch TV, listen to the radio, or check the Internet for official news. Follow instructions of doctors and other public health officials.
  • If necessary, seek medical assistance.
  • Remove and bag your clothes and personal items.
  • Wash yourself with soap and water.
  • Change your clothes.
  • Follow official instructions, if available, for disposal of contaminated items.
  • Do not assume that any illness is the direct result of an attack. Symptoms of common illnesses may overlap.

After an Attack

The most important thing to do following a chemical attack is to wait for instructions so you know whether you should evacuate or shelter in place. Also pertinent is the psychological responses which may follow a bio-terrorism event.  Associated feelings may include anger, fear and social isolation.

Following any attack, thousands of people who think they were infected may seek unnecessary treatment. Trying to distinguish those who have and haven’t been infected could complicate medical professionals’ ability to treat those who have been exposed and infected—especially when diagnoses are unclear. So make sure your symptoms are severe enough to warrant professional treatment. For details, stay tuned to emergency information on radio, television or online.

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 workloads by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES.

Hazardous Materials Incidents

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

As most people know, a train derailed in Spain last week, killing 79 passengers. A lesser known fact about the accident, as well as other transportation mishaps, is that hazardous materials were released into the air following the crash. Hazardous materials come in many shapes and sizes – explosives, flammable and combustible substances, poisons and radioactive materials.

What’s more, chemicals used in routine processes such as distilling drinking water, increasing crop production and simplifying household chores have the potential to release hazardous byproducts if released into the environment. Since hazardous materials are dangerous when released into the environment, take the following steps to protect yourself, your family and your property before, during and after any such incidents:

Before A Hazardous Materials’ Incident

  1. Build an Emergency Supply Kit. The kit should include items such as non-perishable food, water, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, flashlights and batteries. Also include plastic sheeting, duct tape and scissors. If possible, prepare a portable kit to store in your car in case you are asked to evacuate.
  2. Make a Family Emergency Plan. Unfortunately, all of your family members may not be in the same location when disaster strikes. So figure out in advance how you will contact each other as well as how you will reassemble. Consider having everyone check in with a relative who lives out of the area. This is especially important if communications and/or transportation are compromised.

During a Hazardous Materials Incident

  1. Listen to radio programs or TV news for detailed information and instructions. Follow the instructions carefully. Avoid the area to minimize the risk of contamination. Some toxic chemicals are odorless. So don’t assume you are safe if you can’t smell anything.
  2. If you are asked to evacuate: evacuate immediately!
  3. Stay tuned to a radio or television station or social media websites for information about evacuation routes, temporary shelters and recommended procedures.
  4. Follow the routes recommended by authorities. This is important, as shortcuts may not be safe.
  5. Minimize the risk of allowing contaminants to enter your house by closing windows, shutting vents, and turning off fans.
  6. If you are instructed to leave, make sure you remember to take pre-assembled disaster supplies with you.
  7. Help neighbors who may require special assistance (infants, the elderly and people with special needs).

If you are outside during a Hazardous Materials Incident

Stay upstream, uphill, and upwind! In general, try to go at put some distance between yourself and the chemicals. If you can walk one-half mile (usually 8-10 city blocks) from the danger area, you will be in better shape than if you hang around after a hazardous spill. Move quickly from the accident scene and help others vacate the area.

If you are told to stay indoors

Bring your pets inside. Close and lock exterior doors and windows as well as vents, fireplace dampers, interior doors and turn off a/c and ventilation systems.

After a Hazardous Materials Incident

  1. Go to a designated public shelter if you have been told to evacuate or you feel it is unsafe to remain in your home. Text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area (example: shelter 12345).
  2. If you have come in contact with or have been exposed to hazardous chemicals, act quickly. Follow decontamination instructions from authorities. You may be advised to take a shower or you could be told to stay away from water and follow another decontamination procedure.
  3. ASAP, seek medical treatment for unusual symptoms.
  4. Place exposed clothing and shoes in tightly sealed containers. Call local authorities to find out methods for proper disposal.
  5. Advise everyone who comes in to contact with you that you may have been exposed to a toxic substance.
  6. Listen to the news or follow social media for emergency information.
  7. Return home only when you are told that doing so is safe.
  8. Open windows and vents and turn on fans to provide ventilation.
  9. Ask local authorities how to sufficiently clean your land and property.
  10. Report lingering vapors or other hazards to your local emergency services office.

For more details about how to prepare and react to hazardous materials incidents, check out the free materials available on Ready.gov. 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 workloads by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES.

11th Anniversary of 9/11

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

As we observe the ominous 11th anniversary of 9/11, we at Allied Universal Inc. would like to once again thank all of the emergency personnel and civilians who provided much needed assistance in the hours, days, weeks, months and years immediately following what is considered the deadliest domestic terrorism attack in United States History. In the years since the attacks, we, as a nation have grown accustomed to the idea that America may not be as safe and secure as we once believed. And this is actually a good thing—because it has made us realize that we need to prepare.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. So, to mark the occasion of the 11th anniversary, we want to share some tips to help you plan for a terrorist attack. We hope you will never have to use the ideas. But, in the event you do, we want you to BE SAFE.

Over the years, terrorists have used several different methods to attack at home and abroad. Here are some examples:

  • Armed attacks and Assassinations— these include raids and ambushes.
  • Arsons and Fire bombings—incendiary devices are cheap and easy to hide. So arson and fire bombings are easily conducted by those groups that may not be as well-organized, equipped, or trained as well-funded terrorist organization.
  • Bioterrorism—refers to the intentional release of toxic biological or chemical agents
  • Cyber Terrorism—using information technology to attack
  • Ecoterrorism— a recently coined term describing violence in the interests of environmentalism. In general, environmental extremists sabotage property to inflict economic damage.
  • Hijackings and Skyjackings—the seizure by force of a surface vehicle, its passengers, and/or its cargo. Skyjacking is the taking of an entire aircraft, which creates a mobile, hostage-barricade situation.
  • Kidnappings and Hostage-Takings—terrorists establish a bargaining position in an attempt to elicit publicity.
  • Narcoterrorism—has had several meanings since 1983. It once denoted violence used by drug traffickers to influence governments which were trying to stop the drug trade. In the last several years, narcoterrorism has been used to indicate situations in which terrorist groups use drug trafficking to fund their operations.
  • Nuclear Terrorism— refers to a number of ways nuclear materials might be exploited as a terrorist tactic. These include attacking nuclear facilities, purchasing or building nuclear weapons or finding ways to disperse radioactive materials.
  • And, finally… Bombings— which are the most common type of terrorist act.

Overall, the best way to prepare for a terrorist attack is to be observant and vigilant. Familiarize yourself with your work, school and community disaster plans. If you are not aware of such plans, contact your supervisor, school administrators, or local fire department for information. And, on an ongoing basis, keep your eyes open for unusual activity in your immediate area, as members of terrorist cells often live and work in suburban neighborhoods even as they prepare to attack. If your neighbor receives lots of packages marked “ammo” or “firearms,” call the police department. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Since bombs are the most typical terrorist attack, here are a few hints about handling bomb threats. Now, admittedly, most members of al-Qaeda won’t call to warn about a bomb threat. But domestic terrorists usually do. And the most common way they warn is via telephone. Subscribers to the Allied Universal Training System watch colorful educational videos that walk you through the steps to take if someone calls with a bomb threat:

  1. Take a deep breath. Most bomb threats are false. And even if the threat is real, calls are made by those who want to minimize damage.
  2. Bomb threats are usually made by telephone. So keep emergency numbers by your telephone.
  3. Be polite, calm and patient and ask questions:
    1. Where is the device?
    2. When is it set to go off?
    3. What does it look like?
    4. Why are you doing this?
  4. Pay careful attention to background noises. Does the caller have an accent? Does he/she speak with a lisp or stutter? Write everything down so you will be able to give authorities a clear description of the caller.
  5. A bomb search should only be done by people who are familiar with the area and have been trained to investigate.
  6. Do not use two-way radios or cell phones, as these can remotely detonate a device.
  7. Call 911
  8. Notify building management immediately after hanging up.
  9. Open the doors and windows.
  10. Prepare to evacuate the building following pre-established safety guidelines.
  11. Do not reenter the building until you have gotten the “all clear” from emergency personnel.

For information about what to do during and after a terrorist bombing, check out the free information available on the CDC website. 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 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system.

Disaster Preparation Lessons from the Olympics

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

As we look forward to the 2012 Olympic Games to be held this summer in London, officials are doing their due diligence to prepare for potential natural and man-made disasters. After all, planning and preparation is critical for an event that brings together millions of people from all over the world. For security reasons, the International Olympic Committee will not disclose specific steps they are taking to ensure safety for the games. Nevertheless, some disaster management experts agree about the type of disasters that are most likely to strike after the torch is lit during the opening ceremonies in Olympic Stadium in Stratford on July 27.

Disaster preparation has played a crucial role in every game since the so-called Munich Massacre of 1972 when members of the Israeli Olympic team were taken hostage and eventually killed by Palestinian terrorists. What’s more, the events of 9/11 made preparation all the more critical, tipping the scales in focused planning from natural to man-made disasters.

Two disaster planning and preparedness recently released a novel which explores a likely threat to the 2012 games. Entitled Prion, the work explores the potential of an attack on the London 2012 Olympics using biological agents. Although the thriller is fiction, it sheds light on one of the most likely types of threats to the 2012 games…bioterrorism. Authors, Dr. Italo Subbarao and Dr. Ed Hsu, U.S.-based experts in disaster planning preparedness and emergency medicine, point out the potential dangers of man-made biological agents slipping into the wrong hands.

The authors say their work was inspired, in part, by a 2011 report by the Bipartisan WMD Terrorism Research Center in the United States, which highlighted numerous areas for improvement and concluded that: “The nation does not yet have adequate bio-response capability to meet fundamental expectations during a large-scale biological event.”

“If the U.S. is so unprepared, can the UK—or any other country—honestly claim to be in any better position?” asks Dr. Subbarao.

Rest assured the WMD Report Card was written in 2011. Since that time, extensive time and attention has been devoted to beefing up security protocols in both the U.S. and the U.K. So, even as officials ready the nations, how should average United States’ citizens prepare for a bioterrorist attack? We say this often at Allied Universal Inc, where our goal is to SAVE LIVES THROUGH TRAINING: With bioterrorism as well as any other disaster, to BE SAFE, your best bet is to prepare:

  1. Assemble a kit. Your standard Emergency Supply Kit should include items like non-perishable food, water, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, extra flashlights and batteries.
  2. Stay informed. The first evidence of an attack may be when you notice symptoms of the disease caused by exposure to an agent. Follow these guidelines during a biological threat:
  1. Make a plan.
    • Check with your doctor to ensure all required or suggested immunizations are up to date. (Children and older adults are particularly vulnerable to biological agents.)
    • Consider installing a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters in your furnace-return ducts. These filters remove particles in the 0.3 to 10 micron range and will filter out most of the biological agents that might enter your home or office building. If you do not have a central heating or cooling system, a stand-alone portable HEPA filter can be used.
    • Although you might consider investing in gas or surgical face masks, be aware that masks are only effective when worn at the exact time that the agent is released.
    • Familiarize yourself with your community’s warning systems and disaster plans.
    • Public health officials may not immediately be able to provide information on what you should do. Watch TV, listen to the radio or check the Internet for official news and information including signs and symptoms of the disease, areas in danger, if medications or vaccinations are being distributed and where to seek medical attention if you become ill.
  1. BE SAFE. If you become aware of an unusual and suspicious substance:
    • Quickly get away.
    • Protect yourself. Cover your mouth and nose with layers of fabric that can filter the air but still allow breathing.
    • If you have been exposed to a biological agent, remove and bag your clothes and personal items. Follow official instructions for disposal of contaminated items.
    • Wash yourself with soap and water and put on clean clothes.
    • Use common sense, practice good hygiene and cleanliness to avoid spreading germs.
    • If you believe you have been exposed to a toxic agent, contact authorities and seek medical assistance. You may be advised to stay away from others or even quarantined.
    • In a declared biological emergency or developing epidemic, there may be reason to stay away from crowds where others may be infected.
    • Wait for instructions from doctors and other public health officials.
    • For more information about bioterrism, refer to cdc.gov.

When a disaster of any kind 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 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. What’s more, the NEW Allied Universal Property Messaging System is included FREE for all Allied Universal Online Training System users. Visit rjwestmore.com for more information.