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Archive for the ‘Disaster Communications’ Category

National Security Officer Appreciation Week

Tuesday, September 11th, 2018

Security GuardThis week, as we remember our emergency first responders who lost their lives in the 9/11 tragedy, we ramp up to honor some additional unsung heroes—security professionals.

Security officers, who strive to help maintain safe and secure workplaces, schools, shopping malls and communities, deserve heartfelt appreciation. Hard-working, highly trained men and women, security officers are counted among our country’s first responders. These individuals deter crime, lead evacuations, provide information, work closely with local law enforcement and are constantly vigilant in their efforts to keep us safe.  (more…)

Smartphones in Disasters

Tuesday, April 10th, 2018

Smartphones in DisastersThe first cellphone was developed in 1973 by Motorola Researcher Martin Cooper. Heavy and clunky, that first device was a far cry from the sleek, versatile mobile phones of today. Since Cooper’s invention, companies have competed to produce more portable technology and offer better connectivity. And they have largely succeeded. In fact, as a result, worldwide today, 2.53 billion people own smartphones. According to a Pew Research study, 95 percent of Americans own a cellphone of some kind, with 77 percent of the devices qualifying as “smart.” With smartphone use at an all-time high, it’s time to examine the myriad ways the device can aid disaster preparation, survival and recovery.   (more…)

CERC Training

Tuesday, March 13th, 2018

CERC TrainingOne of the most important tools for effective disaster management is communication. With lives at risk, the need to quickly, effectively and accurately communicate is crucial. To train stakeholders and entire communities to make the best possible decisions for their well-being during a crisis or emergency, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) developed Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication (CERC) in 2002. CERC draws from lessons learned by public health officials, psychologists and emergency risk managers. The CDC’s CERC program provides training sessions, tools and resources to help health communicators, emergency responders and leaders of organizations communicate effectively during emergencies.  (more…)

April is National Autism Awareness Month

Tuesday, April 12th, 2016

autism  written on book with tablets. Medicine concept.Nearly 20 years ago, the Autism Society launched a nationwide effort to promote autism awareness, to guarantee that each person with autism is given ample opportunity to achieve the highest possible quality of life. The ongoing effort to promote autism awareness, including National Autism Awareness Month, held each April, is made to encourage not only acceptance but appreciation for anyone who is diagnosed along the autism spectrum.

Autism is characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. It affects individuals from every racial, ethnic and socioeconomic background. Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs), includes autistic disorder, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder—not otherwise specified—and Asperger syndrome. ASD can be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention and physical health issues such as sleep and gastrointestinal disturbances. Some persons with ASD excel in visual skills, music, math and art. The cause is currently unknown and, unfortunately, there is no cure.Autism awareness month design

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in their most recent report, the rate of diagnosed autism cases among 8-year-olds in the United States was one out of 68 children, which is nearly twice the rate of the diagnoses the last time prevalence was officially measured, in 2004…when only one in 125 children were diagnosed. The reason for the increase in documented cases is unknown.

Signs that may signal autism:

  • Lack of or delay in spoken language
  • Repetitive use of language and/or motor mannerisms (e.g., hand-flapping, twirling objects)
  • Little or no eye contact
  • Lack of interest in peer relationships
  • Lack of spontaneous or make-believe play
  • Persistent fixation on parts of objects

Doll children background design with autism wordAs emergency and disaster management professionals, we believe that autism awareness is crucial for anyone who might encounter someone who has autism during an emergency drill or actual disaster. During an emergency, for example, individuals who have autism may have difficulty distinguishing emergency responders from strangers. As a result, they may shut down or even become combative.

The Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services provides tailor-made instructions designed to aid family members, neighbors and friends in assisting anyone on the spectrum before, during and after emergency situations. We also provide our subscribers with Autism Emergency Contact Forms, to be completed by family members or caretakers, which quickly educate first-responders about anyone who has autism in our subscriber’s high-rise buildings.

Five Tips for Helping Autistic Individuals in an Emergency:

  1. Be prepared. Some individuals with autism do not have a normal range of sensations and may not feel cold, heat, or pain in a typical manner. They may show unusual pain responses, which could include laughter, humming, singing and/or removing of clothing.
  2. Be aware. Individuals with autism often have tactile sensory issues. So the use of Band-Aids or other adhesive products could increase their anxiety and aggression.
  3. Move slowly. Explain what you plan to do in advance and as you do it. Explain where you are going and what they may see and who they may encounter. This could potentially lessen unnecessary anxiety and/or outbursts and aggression. If possible, handle this exchange in a quiet spot.
  4. Expect the unexpected. Children with autism might ingest something hazardous. And people with ASD at any age may fail to acknowledge pain, despite the presence of significant pathology. So carefully inspect for injuries.
  1. Give a reward and stay calm. Stickers and stuffed animals can be used to calm young children as well as older patients.Autism text against barbwire

Remember that safety is a daily priority. So be sure to think about ways to #BeSafe all of the time, whether or not Autism Spectrum Disorders affect your daily life. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

The Amerian Red Cross Offers ReadyRating

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015
Courtesy of The American Red Cross. © 2015 The American National Red Cross. All rights reserved.

All photos in this post provided as a courtesy of The American Red Cross. © 2015 The American National Red Cross. All rights reserved.

We, at the Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, frequently work side-by-side, with an iconic disaster relief agency – the American Red Cross. Although the agency is always at the front lines of a disaster and is best known in that regard, its mission extends beyond immediate relief into disaster preparedness and education, much like our own.

Why is disaster planning so important for business owners? According to FEMA, 40% of small businesses will not reopen following a disaster, a sobering statistic, which illustrates both the challenge in managing a small business and the severe impact disasters can have on otherwise potentially successful companies.

The American Red Cross Rating Program

Courtesy of The American Red Cross. © 2015 The American National Red Cross. All rights reserved.

ReadyRating is designed to help schools, companies, and other organizations prepare for disasters. This free service provides members with access to information about how to both evaluate and improve their disaster planning procedures and save lives… something that we strive to do through our own training modules.

The ReadyRating is promoted by agencies such as the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD), an agency with which we are proud to partner. We are pleased to join agencies such as LAFD to encourage businesses to participate in the Red Cross program, in order to gauge and improve their disaster readiness. Free membership into ReadyRating provides users with a dashboard that helps them evaluate their level of preparedness. Customized feedback is based on assessment scores, as well as the ability to create an “Organization Manager” with linked member-accounts. The steps and recommendations found within ReadyRating are adopted from scientific research and expert opinions from noted industry professionals.

Courtesy of The American Red Cross. © 2015 The American National Red Cross. All rights reserved.

ReadyRating features a three-step process for participating members:

  1. Conduct an Assessment

Organizations can choose either a “ReadyGo” assessment or a “ReadyAdvance” assessment to determine preparedness. The ReadyGo 25-question version is basic, designed to help companies see the most critical steps they should undertake to best manage disasters. The ReadyAdvance plan is more in-depth, with 60 questions. More comprehensive in nature, ReadyAdvance results effectively measure the merits of an organization’s existing preparedness plan, and provides users with roadmaps for improving their existing plans.

The assessment contains five sections that score the preparedness level of the company, including level of current emergency planning, commitment to preparedness, knowledge of hazards, implementation of the plan, and resiliency of the community.

  1. Create a Well-Informed Emergency Plan

ReadyRating features a template generator that utilizes the company’s assessment information to create an Emergency Action Plan (EAP), specific to the company. The plans are OSHA-compliant, which is a primary concern for businesses required to meet OSHA regulations.

  1. Leverage Expert Resources

Courtesy of The American Red Cross. © 2015 The American National Red Cross. All rights reserved.

The final component of the plan is to encourage businesses to utilize Red Cross resources such as emergency preparedness guides, checklists, and other tools. For example, the resource center on the Red Cross website includes disaster drill forms, emergency contact card templates, and a step-by-step guide for organizing a blood drive. The resources, including videos and guides, are designed to be actionable – offering clear advice to companies that want to strengthen their disaster planning.

Remember that safety is a daily priority, so be sure to think about disaster planning all of the time. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about our system, or to subscribe, click here.

Celebrating National Preparedness Month

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

Preparedness Month_grey_houseWhy is September National Preparedness Month? The month was chosen, in part, to honor the victims of the September 11 attacks and, also, because it falls at the height of hurricane season. Sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), National Preparedness Month is intended to promote individual and business safety preparedness to help people effectively manage man-made threats such as terrorism as well as natural disasters. While safety should be of utmost concern every month, it’s useful for companies to designate an entire month to review and adjust safety plans and procedures.

Here are some initiatives that property managers can take during National Preparedness Month:

Use Available Resources

Billboard promoting knowing where to find your family in an emergency and visiting Ready.gov.

Would you know how to find your family members in an emergency?

The Ready.gov website has a wealth of free safety resources:

  • Information about becoming a safety leader, with classes offered through FEMA, Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) and other organizations.
  • Disaster-specific information and appropriate responses are offered for power outages, chemical hazards, severe weather, floods and dozens of other scenarios.
  • Information about disaster kits, including wise food choices and management of water resources is crucial for surviving a major emergency.

Revisit Disaster Plans

National Preparedness Month is an ideal time to take a critical look at your facility’s disaster plan. Learn about best practices for disaster management and make sure that your plan matches up to the latest standards. Perhaps your building has changed since the creation of the last plan, with a new addition or additional parking structure, or an influx of new tenants? Walk through every part of the plan to be sure it still makes logical sense for current conditions. You should also talk to building occupants to ensure they have copies of the plan and to address questions and concerns. Work with tenants to nominate floor wardens and other volunteers who can assist others.

The disaster plan should not only cover ways to safely evacuate or handle dangerous situations, but should also provide a road-map for resuming business after the crisis is over. Building occupants will want to return to work and/or their residences as soon as possible following a disaster. So you may want to retain the services of construction/plumbing/ electrical contractors that might be needed for repairs or inspections following a disaster.

Focus on Communication

The official motto of the 2015 National Preparedness Month is “Don’t wait. Communicate.” The theme promotes proactivity among individuals to create and talk about disaster plans. For building managers and owners, communication is crucial to disaster planning:

  • Alert tenants and other parties about how to access disaster plans.
  • Keep building occupants updated about any changes to the plan.
  • Use social media and other channels, such as mobile apps, to send crucial information about upcoming threats and/or to distribute updates after an emergency occurs.

By simply communicating what is being done, property management shows that they care about the well being of occupants and understand the importance of transparent communication.

Review the Details

In addition to reviewing your disaster plan, take time this month to check other areas of your readiness. One of the keys to being prepared is to be proactive, which means checking to make sure you and your team have the tools, supplies and information they need to best handle an emergency.

Here are some areas to evaluate during National Preparedness Month:

  • Check fire extinguishers for expiration dates.
  • Perform routine maintenance and inspection of sprinkler systems.
  • Review insurance coverage.
  • Restock emergency kits with flashlight batteries.
  • Evaluate food and water expiration dates.
  • Review evacuation plans.
  • Make sure designated “safe spot” meeting areas remain ideal.
  • Monitor property management staff members’ knowledge about emergency procedures, including how to shut off water or gas lines, if necessary.

Remember that safety is a daily priority, so be sure to continually consider disaster planning–not just during September. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about our system, or to subscribe, click here.

Case Study: Hurricane Sandy

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

Ciudad sumergida en el marHow to prepare for and respond to flooding when you are in a high-rise commercial building

The most common natural disaster in the United States is a flood. In the U.S., floods kill more people each year than tornadoes, hurricanes or lightning. This week, we will focus attention on this severe weather-related disaster, because El Nino could potentially produce the types of conditions that often result in floods.

Since flooding generally occurs at or below ground level, you may be surprised to learn that there are specific flood-related dangers and steps to take to deal with floods if you work or live in a high-rise building. As a service to our subscribers and friends, this post focuses on preparations to take before, during and after flooding if you are in a high-rise commercial building.

Photo Courtesy of Brookfield Property Partners

Photo Courtesy of Brookfield Property Partners

In the third edition of his High-Rise Security and Fire/Life Safety, Vice President of Universal Protection Service, Geoff Craighead, writes this about flood safety as it relates to high-rise buildings:

“Torrential rain, melting snow, a tsunami or a hurricane may produce too much water for land, rivers and flood control panels to handle and therefore results in serious flooding that will impact an entire area, including high-rise buildings. Floods also can occur as a result of a public water main pipe break or a reservoir failing.

Subterranean parking garages located beneath high-rise buildings can become flooded with water. This can result in damage to vehicles and substantial damage to elevator systems because of water cascading into elevator shafts. Building operations can be paralyzed for days as a result of cleanup of impacted areas and repair of damaged equipment. Also, a severe landslide could result in the collapse of a building.”

Photo courtesy of Brookfield Property Partners

Photo courtesy of Brookfield Property Partners

Our friend and client, Chris Rodriguez, is the Director of Security for Brookfield Property Partners at One New York Plaza. He was onsite at that location in 2012 during Hurricane Sandy. Chris stayed on the scene for days, and was kind enough to provide us with the steps he and his team took before, during and after the hurricane. We chose to include excerpts from his notes despite their length, because we believe it provides great insight into a real-world scenario relative to managing and recovering from flooding in a high-rise commercial building.

Pre-Sandy

  • Secured the building perimeter and all entrances to the building, 12 hours prior to the expected landfall of the storm.
  • Protected all street-level entrances with sandbags.
  • Advised tenants to remove their personal vehicles from the subterranean parking garage.
  • Monitored perimeter surveillance as well as live television broadcasts.
  • Brought in an evening security platoon prior to the shutdown of public transportation systems.
  • Advised personnel to be prepared for an extended stay.
  • Reviewed the Emergency Action Plan.
  • Double-checked the security cache of radios, flashlights and backup batteries.
  • Instructed critical operation staff personnel to don high-visibility clothing that identified them as “security, engineers, or life safety personnel.”
  • Made sure that engineers checked and tested critical building emergency utility systems, days prior to impact.
Photo courtesy of Brookfield Property Partners

Photo courtesy of Brookfield Property Partners

During Sandy

  • Equipped building personnel on duty with walkie–talkies.
  • Maintained perimeter surveillance from the elevated plaza level.
  • Continued to monitor local TV news and weather.
  • Upon notification that the sandbag “levee” had been breached by the incoming tidal surge, instituted the Emergency Action Plan.
  • Gave evacuation orders over the public address system for all areas below the lobby level.
  • When water started entering the loading dock and other areas of the building from the street level, parked elevators on upper floors.
  • As the three sub – surface levels of the building continued to flood, one final check was conducted.
  • When emergency power and lighting was lost throughout the building and downtown area, made sure all personnel were accounted for.
  • Ordered everyone in the building to assemble at a refuge point.
  • Continued to monitor the rising flood waters.
  • After the tidal surge appeared to have peaked, personnel “hunkered down” for the night.
  • The engineers on duty threw all the breakers connecting the service from the sub-cellar to the upper floors, which proved to be a vital maneuver contributing to the rapid recovery of power to the upper floors.
Photo courtesy of Brookfield Property Partners

Photo courtesy of Brookfield Property Partners

Post-Sandy Actions

  • By daybreak, the tidal surge had receded. The streets were dry but the damage was done. All three sub-levels of the building were under water.
  • The building was officially closed to all tenants.
  • All civilians remaining in the building were evacuated to allow for a damage assessment and to address safety concerns.
  • Perimeter patrols were resumed to ward off inquisitive sightseers and maintain the integrity of the building. Manual sign-in was mandatory and enforced.
  • The building Life Fire Safety system was non-functioning. So a fire guard patrol was established for all 50 floors.
  • Everyone was required to have a flashlight and walkie-talkie at all times.
  • Personal cellphones were the sole means of contact with the outside world.
  • Emergency generators were brought in to supply limited power to critical areas of the building.
  • Security Supervisors contacted all off-duty personnel to inquire about their personal wellbeing and potential availability to relieve peers. (The personnel onsite from the evening of the storm remained on-site for four days before relief was available from off-duty personnel).
  • Food vendors in the area of the city with power delivered three hot meals, per person, each day.
  • Security measures were addressed as the first sub-level street entrances were compromised and exposed by the receding water.
  • New security posts were established to maintain a secure environment.
  • The building remained closed to tenants for one business week, which is when sufficient emergency generators were in place to light stairways and restore the Life Fire Safety system.
  • On week two, the building was partially opened only to Critical Information Personnel for certain high-profile tenants’ data centers.
  • Security teams supplied supplemental officers to assist the newly established posts deemed necessary to protect tenants’ assets during their absence.

Lessons Learned

Chris had this to say about his experience: “No matter how much you prepare, you will likely never be ‘totally prepared’ for an event of historical magnitude. A storm the likes of Hurricane Sandy strikes only about once every 100 years. So the road to recovery is much longer than the avenue of destruction. Patience is indeed a virtue.”

Here are a few of the other lessons Chris says he learned:

  • A three-foot levee of sandbags does not stand up to a 12- foot storm surge.
  • You probably will not have sufficient resources to handle a large-scale emergency and safely equip all personnel.
  • An easily assessable cache of equipment and resources must be maintained off-site, like radios, food, water, extra uniforms, toiletries, flashlights, etc.
  • Certain critical building resources should be relocated to upper floors, where feasible.
  • A team of supervisors trained and experienced in handling emergency situations begets a staff of efficient, disciplined and task-oriented personnel.
  • Personnel including supervisors must be able to accept and adapt to modified working conditions and hours.
  • Supervisors must be able to execute and display confidence in new and revised policies.
  • It will take some time to get back to “business as usual.”

FEMA has prepared a free, comprehensive 12-page PDF booklet that goes into great detail about flood preparation and recovery. We hope the FEMA resources and this blog post will motivate you to do whatever it takes to #BeSafe in floods as well as every other type of emergency…particularly if you live or work in a high-rise building! A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about our system, or to subscribe, click here.

Smartphone Apps for Disaster Preparation and Recovery

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

Worldwide, disasters affect an average 450 million people at a cost of $17.6 billion. If we’ve learned nothing else from recent disasters such as the Colorado floods, Hurricane Sandy, and active shooter incidents at Sandy Hook and the Naval Shipyard, we’ve discovered that one of the most important tools for preparing for and recovering from disasters is two-way communication.

So, while social media platforms such as blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest were originally conceived as ways for people to interact socially, they have emerged as integral tools for emergency management and disaster response. The newest social media tools and arguably, the most cost effective for managing disasters and emergencies are Smartphone apps.

According to social media guru Zoe Fox of Mashable:

  • One in five Americans has used an emergency app.
  • 76% of Americans affected by natural disasters have used social media to contact friends and family
  • 44% have asked their online communities to contact responders
  • 37% have used social media to help find shelter and supplies
  • 24% used social media to let loved ones know they’re safe
  • 25% have downloaded disaster apps

Here is just a small sampling of the thousands of disaster preparedness and emergency management Smartphone apps available to download for a maximum price of $5.99:

  • Are You Ready? Helps prepare users to pass the FEMA IS-22 exam so they can receive an official FEMA certificate of completion.
  • BioAgent Facts from the Center for Biosecurity of the University Pittsburgh Medical Center provides facts about pathogens that could cause serious disease resulting from a natural epidemic or use as a biological weapon.
  • Centers for Disease Control (CDC) app and web page provides health and safety information related to emergencies and disasters.
  • Clinicians’ Biosecurity Resource from the Center for Biosecurity of the University Pittsburgh Medical Center provides clinicians with detailed information and recommended treatments for the most dangerous potential bio weapons.
  • Disaster Alert developed by Pacific Disaster Center provides access to information in both a list and on an interactive map about active hazards occurring around the globe.
  • Disaster Prep features an Emergency Preparedness Checklist and Guide. The app provides users a means to collect necessary information.
  • Disaster Preparedness for the Family is an eGuide which has an all-hazards overview of disaster information to help families prepare so they can provide for their family’s most basic needs during a disaster.
  • Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) mobile enhanced web page identifies nearby industrial facilities and toxic chemical releases as reported through the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) Program.
  • ERS: Emergency Response and Salvage from the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training outlines critical stages of disaster response for damage to collections and significant records.
  • FEMA app and mobile enhanced web page provide government disaster response information.
  • First Aid from the American Red Cross provides free lifesaving first aid instruction and disaster preparedness information including videos, interactive quizzes and simple step-by-step advice.
  • FluView developed by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracks influenza-like illness activity levels across the U.S.
  • Hands-Only™ CPR from the American Heart Association provides quick instructions for CPR without mouth-to-mouth breaths.
  • JusticeMobile gives officers direct access to criminal information. The app was tested by 600 San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) officers and will soon be available across the state, including 3,600 Los Angeles Police Department officers.
  • Know Your Plan features property protection guidance from the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety which contains disaster preparedness checklists for hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes, earthquakes, severe winter weather and evacuations. It also gives the option of setting up reminders to complete a task, tracking progress and customizing and sharing checklists with social networks.
  • LactMed from the National Library of Medicine app provides access information about maternal and infant drug levels and possible effects of vaccines and radiologic agents on lactation and on breastfed infants.
  • LibraryFloods from the National Library of Medicine covers basic steps for recovering collections after a water emergency in your library.
  • MedlinePlus mobile enhanced web page from the National Library of Medicine provides access to consumer-oriented health information on disaster topics in English and Spanish.
  • Mobile Medical Unit Field Operations Guide was developed for the Northern New England Metropolitan Response System but is applicable to other response teams such as MRC, CERT, DMAT and others. The app contains access to packing lists, deployment guidelines, treatment reference, and more.
  • National Weather Service mobile enhanced web page provides weather, hydrologic, and climate forecasts and warnings for the United States.
  • NFPA 1600 developed by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), provides a foundation for disaster and emergency management planning. The entire text is fully searchable and contains active links and phone numbers for NFPA and other agencies involved with emergency management programs, risk mitigation and response.
  • OutbreaksNearMe provides real-time, searchable disease outbreak information for your neighborhood on interactive maps.
  • Pocket First Aid & CPR from the American Heart Association provides quick, concise and clear first aid and CPR instructions from a user’s Smartphone.
  • PubMed Mobile from the National Library of Medicine provides access to more than 21 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books.
  • REMM (Radiation Emergency Medical Management) from the National Library of Medicine provides guidance about clinical diagnosis and treatment of radiation injuries during radiological and nuclear emergencies.
  • Shelter Finder displays open Red Cross shelters and their current population on an easy to use map interface.
  • SOS app from the American Red Cross provides step-by-step video narration and follow demonstrations allowing people to quickly and confidently respond to common emergency situations with the goal of saving lives.
  • UbAlert — Disaster Alert Network is a global social network that operates to save lives by sharing the knowledge of the world’s citizens with those in danger.
  • WISER (Wireless Information System for Emergency Responders) from the National Library of Medicine assists first responders in Hazmat incidents, with features including substance identification support, containment and suppression advice, and medical treatment information.

It would be virtually impossible to compile a list of each and every available disaster preparation or emergency management app, as new applications are in development each and every day. But the point is that apps aren’t going away. If you have a Smartphone, you have access to a virtually unlimited number of resources to help you before, during and after a manmade or natural disaster.

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.

Meeting Special Needs in Disaster Preparation and Recovery

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

Since 56 million Americans are classified as having disabilities, this means that 20% of the United States’ population has special needs when it comes to disaster preparation and recovery. To strategize about ways and means to help this group, an advisory committee for the disabled met earlier this month at Fort Lee in New Jersey to discuss emergency preparedness for those members of the community with special needs.

On the heels of the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the meeting was held as an outreach campaign to solicit input and ideas on how to encourage community participation and involvement in preparedness for emergencies at the local level, and how first responders can effectively assist those with disabilities.

With representatives they referred to as “Prepresentatives,” the group was made up of officials from fire, law enforcement, the medical community, as well as facilities’ and emergency management. The goal for the gathering was to provide guidance, tools, methods and strategies to integrate and coordinate emergency management in order to adequately plan and provide for individuals with access and functional needs, and those with physical and cognitive disabilities.

Many people with disabilities are identified as such because they are registered with various agencies or receive specialized services. Of those, approximately 15,000 people with disabilities in Virginia, alone do not have access to a phone or television. In an emergency situation, it would be difficult to reach these people let alone know where they are located or how to go about safely and swiftly evacuating them or providing them with life support systems.

To address these concerns and more, the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) in New Jersey has created Register Ready, which is a voluntary web-based registry program that allows residents with special needs and their families, friends and associates an easily-accessible avenue for providing information for emergency responders.

Registering is the first step in preparing for an emergency situation. Unfortunately, the New Jersey OEM reports that, thus far, only 82 residents have registered for the program.  This is unfortunate, as first responders need to be prepared to assist in all situations—especially during a severe weather event, such as Sandy, where people had to be evacuated from their apartments and homes. If first responders have critical information prior to being called to the scene, they can best deal with the situation.

Fort Lee Fire Chief Mark Sulcov explained that it is important for people with disabilities and their caregivers to “forward think” and plan ahead to prepare for emergencies and disasters before they happen. “If there is advance warning that severe weather is coming, a plan should be in place whereby those with disabilities self-evacuate to a safe location with family or friends if they can.”

New Jersey administrators are far from alone. In fact, FEMA and the American Red Cross encourage everyone to be prepared for three days in case of an emergency.  But officials agree that, in emergency situations, a municipality’s resources will likely be stretched—with those needing assistance often exceeding available resources. Also, in some situations, it is dangerous for emergency personnel to be on the streets. For example, during the height of Sandy, emergency services throughout the county were ordered off the road because weather conditions were so dangerous. So planning for these contingencies is extremely important.

To do our part, the Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services features a special notification system so that disabled tenants in buildings serviced by our training system can privately register, so emergency personnel are alerted to their location and special needs before arriving on the scene. The notification system is just one of the many ways the Allied Universal Training System helps commercial buildings with compliance to fire life safety codes.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives.  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!

Natural Disasters 2012: Top 10

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

Part 1 of a 2-Part Series (Next week, we’ll focus on manmade disasters in 2012.)

In 2012, we saw many natural disasters strike on a global level—killing thousands and inflicting billions of dollars in property damage. From hurricanes and earthquakes to droughts, heat waves and wildfires, events were widespread and severe.

One of the most prominent disasters of the year in the U.S. was Hurricane Sandy, which killed at least 125 people in the USA and 71 in the Caribbean, and inflicted an estimated $62 billion in damage. Much of the U.S. also encountered prolonged severe weather; including summer heat waves and drought which many pundits believe may prove even more costly than Sandy. With careful reflection, emergency management professionals agree the most important lesson learned is that people survive and recover when they take time to prepare.

  1. Heat Waves. The summer heat wave in North America led to more than 82 heat-related deaths across the United States and Canada. The intense three-week wave began around in June, when a high pressure system centered over Baja California moved into the plains, driving temperatures beyond 110 degrees. The heat spread east from the Rocky Mountains, causing high temperatures in the central states reminiscent of temps not felt for some 80 years.
  2. Drought. A historic lack of snow last winter in the United States, combined with several years of below-normal rainfall, produced a devastating drought through much of North America. Meteorologists say this drought was similar to the large-scale droughts of the 1930s and 1950s. Due to crop failure and livestock deaths, this prolonged, multi-year disaster could emerge as the single most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history.
  3. Wildfires. Starting in early August, a series of Oklahoma wildfires burned 52,000 acres, destroying at least 121 homes and businesses. In Colorado, at least 200,000 acres of Colorado were swept by wildfire in June and July, said to have been sparked by both lightning and human activities. More than 600 homes were destroyed and five lives were lost during this month of fires.

All told, in the American West, wildfires in 2012 burned 30 percent more land mass than during average year by September. Computer renderings and satellite projections suggest the area burned by wildfires in the U.S. will likely double by the year 2050.

  1. Floods. In addition to the storm-related floodingassociated with Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast, the southeastern U.S. experienced flooding in July, long before Sandy hit. Timely flood warnings prepared residents in New Orleans. But, while no deaths were reported, many people were rescued from flooded cars and water-covered structures. Power outages were widespread and many homes and businesses suffered damage.Folks in Georgia were also impacted, with flooded streets in Atlanta leading to massive traffic jams. Several drivers reported that they felt they could drive through the high water, only to find that their cars stalled and left them trapped in chest-deep water.

On the other side of the world, 37 people were killed by flood waters in and around the city of Beijing, China. In the rural and suburban areas outside Beijing, many more people died in as a result of flooding, which was said to be the region’s worst in 60 years. Elsewhere, floods occurred in southwest Russia in early July, near the coast of the Black Sea. Five months’ worth of rain fell overnight in southern parts of the country, leaving 144 people dead and damaging the homes of nearly 13,000 residents.

  1. Earthquakes. Iran and Afghanistan were struck with two of the most deadly earthquakes of 2012. In August, 306 people died from the 6.4 magnitude quake that struck East Azerbaijan Province, Iran. This earthquake was in the rural and mountainous areas to the northeast of Tabriz, and was felt as far away as Armenia.
  2. Hurricanes. 2012 was an extremely active and destructive hurricane season, producing 19 tropical cyclones, ten hurricanes, and one major hurricane. The season’s most intense hurricane, Sandy, was rated a powerful Category 2 hurricane that brought significant damage to portions of the Greater Antilles and East Coast of the United States, causing damages upwards of 65 billion dollars.
  3. Avalanche. In March, several avalanches hit northeastern Afghanistan, destroying a small village of about 200 people. Most buildings and homes were completely buried in the avalanche. Seven people were found alive in the village, but three later died from their injuries and a lack of medical care. Three days later, 50 people had been confirmed dead.

The deadliest avalanche of the year occurred at a Pakistani military base. It was the most severe avalanche the Pakistani military had experienced in the area, trapping both soldiers and civilian contractors under deep snow. Pakistani officials report that 129 soldiers and 11 civilians were killed by the avalanche.

  1. Thunderstorms. El Derecho was one of the most damaging thunderstorms in recent history. The surprise storm produced wind speeds over 90 mph and hail stones up to 2.75 inches in diameter. The storm traveled from Indiana, across the Midwest, and into the Mid-Atlantic states, causing 22 deaths and widespread damage across an 800-mile swath and left millions without power during a heat wave.
  2. Typhoons. 2012 delivered 34 different weather systems from early summer through late fall. The total damage of those 34 systems is estimated at $4.42 billion. In all, 506 lives were lost in the Pacific storms due to flooding and buildings collapsing in high winds. From the Philippines to Japan and Russia, some of this year’s storms generated winds in excess of 125 mph and produced widespread flooding.
  3. Tornadoes. Although the world’s high-risk tornado corridors are in the United States, Bangladesh, and Eastern India, tornadoes can and do pop up almost anywhere, under the right conditions. In February, a strong tornado struck South Sulawesi province in Indonesia, killing five people and damaging 98 structures. In April, a tornado struck a construction site in Turkey, killing at six and injuring seven others. Several homes were destroyed along the tornado’s seven-mile-long track. In July 14, a group of tornadoes hit Poland, killing a 60-year old man and injuring at least 10 others. In the U.S., 1,039 tornadoes were reported in 2012, resulting in 68 fatalities.

Check back next week, when we’ll cover the top 10 manmade disasters of 2012, in an effort to encourage building owners and managers to prepare tenants in advance for emergencies of all kinds in 2013 and beyond. When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, check out the Allied Universal Training System by Universal/Fire Life Safety Services. Our new Version 3.0 system offers the best emergency training system on the market.