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BE SAFE Shopping This Holiday Season

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

By the dozens, to maximize holiday profits, retailers are opening on Thanksgiving Day–a full day earlier than usual–to lure shoppers who are searching for bargains. Whether you agree with this tactic or not, at some point this season, you will likely venture out to pick up a few things. So we would like to give you some tips to keep you safe.

Here are a few tips to help you stay safe while hunting for bargains:

Walking to and From Your Car or Public Transportation

  • Park in a well-lit area.
  • Keep your vehicle doors locked and your windows shut.
  • Before exiting your car, stash cell phones, tablets and other valuables out of sight.
  • Remember where you parked your car. Some shopping areas are spread out over large areas. If you are unable to locate your car, you can face undue confusion and stress which will make you an easy target for opportunistic criminals.
  • Once you purchase items, lock them securely in the trunk or, if possible, take them directly home.
  • Carry your purse close to your body or your wallet inside a coat or front trouser pocket.
  • Keep your keys in hand when approaching your vehicle.
  • Before getting into the car, check the back seat and around the car.

Shopping Online

  • Update security software. Your desktop, laptop and/or tablet computer should have virus protection, anti-spyware, and anti-spam software, as well as a dependable firewall.
  • Guard personal information. Never respond to requests to verify your password or credit card information unless you initiated the contact.
  • If a bargain seems too good to be true, it probably is!
  • Use only secure websites for purchases. Before entering credit card information, check the URL (address bar) of the website where you are shopping. Unless you see a padlock at or “https” (instead of http) in the URL, shop somewhere else that is secure.
  • Shop only with companies you know and trust.
  • Print and save confirmation information from all of your online purchases.
  • Make sure Smartphone apps are downloaded from a trusted source, such as the Android Market, Apple App Store or the Amazon App Store.
  • Do online shopping from the comfort of your own home. A secure network connection is ideal. Public Wi-Fi can be hacked by someone with the right tools, exposing your passwords, billing information and other sensitive data. 

Shopping in Stores

  • Shop during daylight hours whenever possible.
  • If possible, don’t carry a purse or wallet. Keep cash in your front pocket.
  • Don’t carry large amounts of cash.
  • If your credit card is lost or stolen, notify the credit card issuer immediately.
  • At all times, stay alert to your surroundings.
  • Don’t buy more packages than you can carry. Taking loads of sacks and wrapped gifts back to your car is an invitation for thieves to strike. Instead, plan ahead. Take a friend with you or ask someone to help you carry your packages to the car.
  • Wait until asked before taking out your credit card or checkbook.  Enterprising thieves could stand over your shoulder to steal your account information.
  •  If you see an unattended package or bag, immediately inform a security guard or store employee.
  • Dress casually and comfortably. Avoid wearing expensive jewelry.
  • Beware of strangers approaching you for any reason. At this time of year, con-artists may try various methods of distracting you with the intention of taking your money or belongings.

Shopping with Kids

  • If you are shopping with children, make a plan in case you become separated.
  • Select a central meeting place.
  • Teach them to know they can ask mall personnel or store security employees if they need help.
  • Don’t dress your kids in clothes with labels that have their name. Such clothing invites predators to convince kids they aren’t strangers.
  • If you see anything suspicious or if something just doesn’t feel right, leave immediately and contact security or the police.

For more useful shopping tips and personal safety information, check out resources from the National Crime Prevention Council, LAPDOnline, Stay Safe Online, Webroot, FEMA, DHS and our previous posts. 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.

National Cyber Security Awareness Month

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

In countless ways, technology improves our lives. Consider the expediency of mobile check deposits, security system monitoring and online shopping. Unfortunately, many of the features we’ve come to appreciate, and even depend on, undermine our safety. Since October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, we would like to remind our subscribers and friends to create a safe, secure and resilient cyber environment.

When the White House proclaimed October 2004 the first National Cyber Security Awareness Month, the Internet looked very different than it does today. Smartphones and social networks are just two of the electronic innovations of the last decade. Americans are communicating more frequently, with more people, and sharing more personal information than ever. As a result, cyber security threats and attacks are gaining momentum. With more than $525 million in losses due to online criminal activity reported in 2012, proper security measures are a critical component in keeping your identity and finances secure.

“Computers, Smartphones and other electronics have become a prevalent part of our daily lives,” said FEMA Region V Administrator Andrew Velasquez III. “Everyone needs to understand how frequently cybercrimes occur and arm themselves with the latest information and tools necessary to protect their families against potential fraud.”

Cybercriminals don’t discriminate. So don’t be a target! Protect your privacy and guard against fraud by practicing safe online habits. The good news is that 96% of Americans feel a personal responsibility to be safer and more secure online. Here are a few tips to safeguard yourself and your computer:

  • Set strong passwords. Effective passwords have nothing to do with the users or family members’ names, birthdays, wedding anniversaries or addresses. This information is readily available. Try to come up with something that includes upper and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters in random order.
  • Change passwords regularly. To BE SAFE, come up with a new password for all of your logins once every 72 days. And don’t use the same password for every account!
  • Don’t share your passwords with anyone.
  • Keep a clean machine. This includes making sure your operating system, browser, and security software are up to date. Don’t ignore the message to install updates. Oftentimes, these include critical virus protection.
  • Protect your personal information. Use privacy settings. This applies to your computer as well as your mobile phone. Although it is admittedly inconvenient to have to enter a password every time you want to access your cellphone, don’t sacrifice your security on the altar of convenience.
  • Connect with care.
  1. Links in email, tweets, posts, and online advertising are often the way cybercriminals compromise your computer. If it looks suspicious, delete or mark as junk email.
  2. Get savvy about Wi-Fi hotspots. Limit the type of business you conduct and adjust the security settings on your device to limit who can access your machine.
  3. Protect your financial information. When banking and shopping, check to be sure the sites is security enabled. Look for web addresses with “https://” or “shttp://” (which means the site takes extra measures to help secure your information. “http://” is not secure.
  • Be cautious about online offers. This is particularly important as the holiday season approaches. If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Report cybercrime to the Internet Crime Complaint Center and to your local law enforcement or the state attorney general, as appropriate.
  • Maintain an open dialogue with friends, family, colleagues and community about Internet safety.

With the slogan, “Heads up. Stop. Think. Click,” FEMA encourages Internet users to think before they click. Their campaign also includes helpful hints for preventing malware, instructing kids about Internet safety, installing safe Smartphone apps, safely shopping online, preventing identity theft, protecting laptops, sharing public wi-fi networks. Detailed information and short videos can be found at OnGuardOnline.gov.

On October 24, 2013 at 3 p.m. ET, join a Twitter chat about protecting your colleagues and family from cybercrime. This will be a great opportunity to ask questions and hear from experts at the Federal Trade Commission, Department of Homeland Security, Stop.Think.Connect.org, and others. Follow @FTC and use the hashtag #ChatSTC to join the conversation. Connect with the Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services @rjthefiredog.

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.

More Smartphone Security Tips

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

Part 2 of a 2-Part Series

This week, we continue our coverage about Smartphone security by focusing on the final five steps you should take to safeguard your cellphone. For the first five tips, check out our previous post. Most people guard their computers more carefully than their mobile phones. So a good rule of thumb is to treat your Smartphone as a very powerful mini-computer that makes phone calls.

Most Smartphone owners store lots of sensitive data. And chaos ensues if a thief gets his or her hands on the data. If you take steps to protect your phone, losing it will be a minor annoyance instead of a major catastrophe.

Here are the final 5 steps you should take to safeguard your Smartphone (the first five tips appear in last week’s post):

6. Close Bluetooth connections.

When a hacker exploits an open Bluetooth connection, it’s called Bluejacking, Bluesnarfing or Bluebugging. This type of hack requires intruders to be in close proximity to the phone they are hacking (within 30 feet of the device). But be aware that your Smartphone could be hacked via the active Bluetooth connection whenever you’re in a busy airport, hotel lobby, restaurant, or hotel…to name a few hacker hotspots.

7. Make sure the free apps you download are actually free.

Some Apps that are labeled “free,” but are actually thinly-disguised data theft devices. Downloading one of these applications gives the app complete access to your phone. Thieves can use the app to steal data such as credit card and bank account info. What’s more, these apps can turn your phone into a launch pad which scammers use to attack other peoples’ data relative to SMS text messages and Smishing scams. Be smart and discreet about what you download. Read reviews first. And make sure the apps you download come from reliable sources.

8. Don’t store sensitive data.

Do you store passwords, pins, Social Security numbers, credit card or bank account information on your Smartphone? If so, delete it all today. Whether you have created a document expressly for this purpose, or sent yourself an email from your home computer, you should never store important information on your phone. Criminals are adept at detecting hidden information such as credit card numbers hidden inside Contact notes or entered as phone numbers.  Believe it or not, even if you try to disguise sensitive data, adept thieves will be able to crack the code. So make sure you delete all documents and emails containing sensitive information.

9. Clear browser histories.

Not clearing the browser history on your phone can be just as dangerous as staying logged into the website of your bank or your favorite online store. Phone thieves could use your browsing history to hijack accounts, steal your money and wreak havoc on your financial future. Here are links that walk you through deleting your history on an iPhone or an Android.

10. When in doubt, purge it out.

You might be surprised by how many people fail to remove sensitive personal data from their Smartphones before exchanging, donating or selling it. The only way to entirely eliminate the data on your phone would be to physically shred the device. If this sounds a little severe to you, you may prefer securely deleting the data, which is relatively easy to do.

Your identity is your most important asset. So take precautionary steps to vigorously defend and protect it. 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 helps commercial buildings with compliance to fire life safety codes. Our interactive, building-specific e-learning training system motivates and rewards tenants instantly! It’s 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!

Are You Smart About Your Smartphone?

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

Part 1 of a 2-Part Series

If you’re among the 46 percent of people in the world who own a Smartphone, you’ve likely experienced the panic that sets in when you think you’ve lost it. Whether the phone ultimately proved to be temporarily misplaced or if it permanently vanished, you had legitimate cause for alarm. After all, the amount of sensitive data most users store on their phones is astounding—direct access to savings and checking accounts storage of personal passwords for social media and email accounts, contact information for friends and colleagues. What’s more, even if you guard your phone with your life, the information contained on it could potentially be hacked or compromised by a virus when you are using a public wi-fi connection.

According to data released by Find My Smartphone by Lookout, which allows Smartphone users to track missing phones, the top 10 cities most at risk for lost or stolen phones include:

  1. Philadelphia, PA
  2. Seattle, WA
  3. Oakland, CA
  4. Long Beach, CA
  5. Newark, NJ
  6. Detroit, MI
  7. Cleveland, OH
  8. Baltimore, MD
  9. New York, NY
  10. Boston, MA

Regardless of where you live, your phone could be in danger, as 113 Smartphones are stolen or lost every minute in the U.S. So, if you fail to protect your phone with a password, back up your data and install a program that can wipe the phone’s memory remotely, losing your phone could start you on the path to an identity-theft nightmare.

To help keep you safe while surfing the web using your Smartphone, we would like to share the top 10 steps you can take to make sure your Smartphone is safe. This week, we’ll cover 5:

  1. Create a Password. Admittedly, it’s a hassle to unlock your phone every time you want to use it. But consider this: if you could put a lock on your wallet, wouldn’t you do it, despite the inconvenience? A phone password is by no means foolproof. However, it might just provide a deterrent for potential thieves who will move on to an easier target.
  2. Log out of Security-enabled Apps. Would you keep a major credit card on your desk at work? Setting up your Smartphone to automatically log into sensitive accounts is like carrying credit card passwords in your wallet right alongside the cards. Of course no one thinks they will be victims of theft. As we so often caution at Allied Universal, the best thing to do to be safe during an emergency is to be prepared. So treat your Smartphone as though you plan on losing it. Don’t value convenience over security.
  3. Adjust settings so your Smartphone won’t automatically connect to available WiFi networks. To BE SAFE, disable the feature on your phone which allows it to immediately connect to available networks. You can usually find this feature under your phone’s settings. When you opt to use a public wi-fi, consider the fact you could be sharing your screen with a hacker. Then, proceed with caution.
  4. If you shop online, download shopping apps instead of browsers. You usually have a choice when using your Smartphone to order items on sites like Amazon, eBay, Overstock or major retailers like Target and Best Buy. Dedicated shopping appsare preferable to browsers which return full-site results, because applications are specifically designed to ward off phishing and other scams. But be careful before downloading that the app is legitimate. Oftentimes, while you are browsing using your Smartphone, sites will ask if you want to download the application. Opt in, as this is for your safety.
  5. Download remote wiping software. Dozens of apps and services enable you to locate your phone and wipe data clean. Even though certain tech-savvy hackers may be able to disengage these applications, adding the feature will provide you with extra protection in your phone protection plan. Here’s a sampling of where to go to procure the appropriate app if you have an iPhone, Android, Blackberry or Windows-based phone.

Check our blog post next week, when we’ll share the final five steps to take to protect your Smartphone. 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 helps commercial buildings with compliance to fire life safety codes. Our interactive, building-specific e-learning training system motivates and rewards tenants instantly! It’s 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!

How to Avoid Spear Phishing Cyber Attacks

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

Is your computer information secure?

According to Fox News, White House sources “partly confirmed” an alarming report that U.S. government computers—reportedly including systems used by the military for nuclear commands—were breached by Chinese hackers earlier this month.

“This was a spear phishing attack against an unclassified network,” a White House official assured FoxNews.com. “These types of attacks are not infrequent and we have mitigation measures in place.”

Although a law enforcement official who works with members of the White House Military Office confirmed the Chinese attack to FoxNews.com, as of the writing of this blog post, it remains unclear what information, if any, was taken or left behind in the attack, which occurred through an opened email.

TechTarget.com defines a “spear phishing attack” as “an e-mail spoofing fraud attempt that targets a specific organization, seeking unauthorized access to confidential data. Spear phishing attempts are not typically initiated by “random hackers” but are more likely to be conducted by perpetrators out for financial gain, trade secrets or military information.”

While we have devoted previous Allied Universal blog space to discuss cyber security as it relates to password encryption and security software, we have yet to share information to help our clients and friends take precautions with technological protection as it pertains to email. So, today, in an effort to continue providing helpful information for disaster preparation, let us take a few minutes to offer a few helpful hints which, if observed, should keep your computer running smoothly and safeguard proprietary information.

First, it is worthwhile to note that routine email phishing schemes differ from spear-phishing attacks in that spear phishing messages appear to come from a trusted source such as a large and well-respected company or website with a broad membership base, such as eBay or PayPal. On the other hand, with spear phishing, the source of the email is constructed to look as though it came from within the recipient’s own company…usually a person of authority within the organization.

The Computer Crime Research Center reports that a West Point teacher and National Security Agency expert named Aaron Ferguson emailed a message to 500 cadets asking them to click a link to verify their grades. Ferguson’s message appeared to come from a West Point colonel. More than 80% of recipients who received the message clicked through, receiving a notification that they had been duped and their failure to exercise caution before clicking could have resulted in downloads to the West Point computer system of spyware, Trojan horse and/or other malware.

Although most people have learned enough about computer use to proceed with caution when opening emails from unknown sources and in responding to unexpected requests for confidential information. We’ve all heard horror stories about Nigerian emails asking for large cash deposits to “help rescue loved ones from African prisons.” We’ve also learned, by and large, to avoid divulging personal data inside email messages—which can be hacked or clicking on links in messages unless we are positive about their source.

However, the average person is ill-equipped to recognize forged emails that seemingly come from people we trust because spear phishing is sophisticated. That’s how employees of Sony managed to unwittingly give away private information regarding their PlayStation Network, Epsilon data was recently breached, and several credit card companies and financial institutions have had to mail apologetic notices to their customer base.

The success of any spear phishing scam generally depends on three things:

  1. The apparent source must appear to be known and trusted.
  2. The information within the message supports its validity.
  3. The request makes sense.

So what can you do to avoid being caught unaware?

  • The FBI recommends that you keep in mind that most companies, banks, agencies, etc., don’t request personal information via e-mail. If in doubt, give them a call instead of clicking through the email link. (But don’t use the phone number contained in the e-mail which is usually phony.)
  • Do not provide personal information, such as a password, a credit card number or any data that can be used to unlock an application or network, in reply to an email.
  • Use a phishing filter. Many of the latest web browsers have built-in security software or offer the utility as a plug-in.
  • Learn to recognize what your security software warning messages look like. If you get something that looks similar but appears to be a bit “off,” delete the email and block the sender.
  • Never follow a link to a secure site from an email. Instead, enter the URL manually into the address bar of your web browser.
  • Report suspicious emails to your tech department on a regular basis. Tell employees to call security about anything suspicious and train them not to forward bogus emails.
  • Do not open suspicious attachments. When it doubt, block it out.
  • If your firm is ever victim to a successful spear phishing attack, assess the damage and recover. Eradicating the malicious software won’t be easy. You will have to backtrack to a clean starting point of your system before it was corrupted.

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 system offers the best emergency training system.

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 Recovery for Electronic Data

Monday, October 17th, 2011

Have you included your computer files in disaster planning?

To recover from any type of disaster, the best prescription is often done on the front end—with proper planning. But when it comes to disasters such as major earthquakes or hurricanes, there is only so much you can do to prevent damage. On the other hand, when it comes to your electronic data, there are many concrete steps you can take to safeguard your data. Unfortunately, many businesses do not take these steps in order to back up their data.

Before you begin to plan, you need to establish what types of data you possess and where it is:

  • Talk to IT and other departments to sort through all of the data that you possess. For some businesses, the data can be strewn all over the place. Sales contact information might be kept on a manager’s thumb drive while product specs are simply on an engineer’s local hard drive. Work out what you have and then give each subset of data a priority number.
  • Once the data is identified, appoint some staff members to be in charge of monitoring and caring for the data.
  • A next step is to review your current capabilities. Do you have any type of backup system for files, intellectual property or email?

Creating a sound disaster recovery plan is the next crucial step:

  • Think about the various likely types of disaster in your area and how they relate to your technical infrastructure. If you have an on-premises data center, make sure it has backup power and other safeguards.
  • Your data recovery plan should be flexible to account for changes in your business as well as new technologies. If you merge with another company or open a new division, would your IT staff be able to quickly integrate new data?
  • Replacement of hardware is an important part of your plan. Talk with your IT staff about the likely usable life of servers and computers and put them on a schedule for replacement in order to prevent failures.
  • Practice makes perfect!  Find ways to simulate the loss of data to properly test both your IT staff and any third-party vendors.

Over the course of business, it’s very likely you have heard about companies and services moving their disaster recovery needs “to the cloud:”

  • Cloud computing simply means that data and services are stored and powered by off-site servers, so companies don’t need on-premises equipment. It can cut down on costs and is able to provide storage on the fly.
  • Backing up your data to a cloud platform allows it to be securely accessed even if your company’s physical location is destroyed.
  • Do some research and pick a cloud provider that has its own backup data center. If they only have one, and it goes down, then your protection is limited!
  • Another option is to hire a company to pickup backup tapes on a regular basis and transport them offsite. But this method is outdated. Companies need information immediately following disasters. Unfortunately, retrieving data from backup tapes can take days.

With disaster recovery planning, it’s important to consider your data. As more and more companies become internet-based, their data and intellectual property is often many times more valuable than their physical assets.

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.

Lessons Learned in the 10 Years since 9/11

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011
Crumbling 9/11

We've learned lots of safety lessons from September 11, 2001

Part 3 in our continuing series

Since August is U.S. Army Anti-Terrorism Awareness Month, and 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. In our third installment this week, here are two more lessons we’ve learned:

  1. Security-related incidents will likely impact transportation and travel.

The 9/11 attacks affected public transit, commuter rail, commercial vehicles and ferries, and resulted in the need for significant road repairs. What’s more, the way people travel has shifted since the now infamous act of terrorism on our country. According to the U.S. Travel Association:

  • Business travel was hit particularly hard by 9/11. Between 2011 and 2010, total volume declined, as businessmen and women exercised the option of replacing short business trips with conference calls.
  • The good news is that American leisure travel, on the other hand, has been resilient. Despite long lines and other symptoms of policies implemented by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the leisure segment has seen a 17% increase in travel since 2001.
  • International leisure travel to the U.S. basically lost an entire decade following the attacks. While global long-haul travel increased by 40%. During the same period, overseas travel to the United States rose by less than 2%.

While the travel industry reels, emergency management professionals strategize about ways to ensure safety for anyone traveling to or within the United States. Carefully monitoring and protecting travelers has become a critical part of safeguarding our nation. If you’ve flown since 2001, you’ve undoubtedly experienced the effects of heightened security at our nation’s airports. Among the changes:

  • Restricted Items—box cutters and other sharp objects as well as large quantities of liquids and gels are no longer allowed on airplanes.
  • Heightened security on aircraft—cockpit doors are bulletproof to prevent unauthorized access. Pilots also have the option to carry a gun. And more air marshals have been placed on flights. Curtains that used to divide first class and coach cabins have been removed.
  • Improved security screening—many passengers are patted down, everyone has to remove jackets, shoes and belts before passing through security checkpoints. Even casual comments made in passing (relative to terrorism or hijacking) are taken seriously.
  • Tighter Identification checks—all passengers must carry valid IDs.

Since restrictions could be placed on domestic and international travel in the event of another attack, systems have been put in place to alert citizens if it becomes necessary to ask residents to evacuate and/or avoid certain roads or areas for safety.

  1. Law enforcement involvement is necessary at local, state and federal levels due to the criminal nature of any and all terrorist attacks. Most counter-terrorism strategies involve an increase in standard police and local authorities. But did you know that you can play a part to aid officials in their efforts to protect the public?
  • Keep your eyes open and report suspicious activities to local agencies. The best way to do this is to become familiar with your surroundings so you will notice anything out of the ordinary.
  • The Army’s iWATCH Program encourages people to identify and report suspicious behavior that may be associated with terrorist activities.
  • The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) encourages people to help authorities by suggesting: If you see something, say something. If you notice suspicious activity, report it to your local police department. If you are experiencing an emergency, call 911.
  • Since attacks can come in the 3-D world or cyber space, the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team offers a US-Cert Incident Reporting System. Learn to identify potential threats to your cyber security along with your physical safety.

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.

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.

Preparing for Disaster: Golden Guardian Program

Sunday, July 31st, 2011
Golden Guardian exercise photo

The Golden Guardian program helps agencies prepare for disaster response and recovery.

The Golden Guardian is an annual event that tests the responsiveness and readiness of a particular area of California for specific disasters. First implemented in 2004, it is now an annual statewide exercise that tests state and local government agencies, volunteer organizations and other entities. The Golden Guardian is the largest disaster planning event of its kind.

The result of multiple agency cooperation, Golden Guardian plans are developed by FEMA Region IX and the California Emergency Management Agency (Cal EMA), among others.

Each year, the Golden Guardian event has a certain theme which reflects on the risks of a potentially devastating natural or man-made disaster. For 2011, the theme was flooding for the inland region of the state.  The event brought together several agencies including the Inland Region Emergency Operations Center, the State Operations Center, federal agencies and partners in the private sector. From May 17th through the 19th, these agencies worked together to forecast the impact of a major flood and examine where responsibilities would lie for cleanup and evacuation as well as health and food assistance efforts. The risk of a major flood is demonstrated by scientists who detailed the availability of an ARKstorm for inland California. This massive storm could potentially create a flooded area 300 miles long and up to 20 miles wide in the Central Valley of California.

The theme for 2012 is a major earthquake in Southern California. For 2013, the theme is a catastrophic earthquake in the Bay Area, for 2014, it is Northwest Coast earthquake and tsunami risks, and in 2015, the theme is civil disturbance. The 2012 event is intended to open discussion about the entire scope of disaster response—from evacuation routes to shelters for domestic animals. A comprehensive review of readiness, the 2012 event will cover such issues as:

  • Protocols for airlifting supplies, including the establishment of offshore Naval resupply ships if necessary.
  • A review of the “Hub and Spoke” concept of focusing assistance efforts on areas where affected individuals will congregate, such as stadiums, schools and open areas
  • Stabilization of public utilities in order to support infrastructure for critical care facilities
  • Management of public information announcements such as traffic guidelines or water safety alerts that will help citizens manage the disaster
  • Estimation about the number of fires resulting from earthquakes and also calculations about the water and personnel needed to combat the fires

Preparation and knowledge are always critical for handling emergencies with speed and sound decision making. Thorough planning helps to uncover unforeseen circumstances and close gaps in safety, logistics and recovery efforts. There are many lessons to be learned from the Golden Guardian campaign that can be applied to individuals as well as business. The first is the benefits of cooperation and the power of groups who work together to achieve goals.

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.