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Best Practices for Workplace Safety

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018

Workplace DisastersDespite the migration of millions of American employees to home offices, 78 percent of the U.S. workforce still report for duty at a company facility, at least part-time. So, safety in the workplace remains of paramount importance. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports there were approximately 2.9 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses reported by private industry employers in 2016, which occurred at a rate of 2.9 cases per 100 full-time workers.

Workplace Injuries

Potential causes of workplace injuries and death range from fatigue (due to inadequate ergonomics or overexertion); substance abuse; slips, trips and falls; to natural and manmade disasters, including workplace violence. If a major emergency occurs or you get hurt on the job, everyone pays the price—in down time, lost productivity, low morale and economic impacts. But when we work together to create a safer place to work, we’re all more productive and satisfied with our jobs and business operations are better prepared to recover. For the purposes of this post, we will focus on workplace safety before, during and after disasters. Workplace Disasters

Workplace Disasters

The U.S. Department of Labor estimates two million people fall victim to workplace violence each year. Employees in retail and healthcare are particularly vulnerable, but it can happen anywhere. Working with your local police department can help you control risk and plan for incidents that might occur. Whatever the cause of the workplace emergency, your attitudes and actions can impact your ability to survive the situation. Whether manmade (terrorist attack or coworker’s violent aggression) or natural (severe weather or earthquake), workplace disasters require specific preparation and reactions.

Safety Training at WorkOfficial Safety Training

One way to make sure you are ready is to complete Community Emergency Response Team training (CERT). The CERT program supports local response capability by training volunteers to spontaneously organize themselves at the disaster site, to provide immediate assistance to victims, and to collect disaster intelligence to support responders’ efforts when they arrive. But CERT is not the only way to prepare yourself for a workplace emergency. Wherever you work, you play a critical role in creating a safe and healthy workplace for everyone by following pre-established emergency procedures and measures.
Workplace Disaster Prep
To help, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has produced a free booklet about citizen preparedness, which may help you if disaster strikes when you are at work. Entitled “Are You Ready?”—the in-depth guide walks readers through steps to take to keep them safe in any hazardous situation. FEMA’s awareness campaign is called: “Disasters Don’t Plan Ahead. You Can.”That’s wise advice for employers as well as individuals.Emergency response planning can save lives, reduce the number of injuries, and prevent loss of property.

Slip-and-fall accidentsTo be safe at work, before disaster strikes:

  • Identify potential workplace hazards and safety roles and responsibilities. Know that workplace disasters can strike at any time, with little or no warning.
  • Conduct a job safety analysis to establish proper work procedures to help prevent workplace injuries and illnesses.
  • Executives and safety officers must keep communication open to make sure workers are comfortable with learning and offer feedback.
  • Maximize personal safety at your regular workspace. Keep area free from clutter.
  • Participate in safety training drills.
  • Report hazards, incidents, and near-misses.
  • Take steps to control flammable and combustible materials in your department and make sure they do not pose a fire or explosion hazard. (For example, large accumulations of waste paper or other combustible materials can pose fire risk.)
  • Ask for help, when needed, to maintain your safety.
  • Assemble a disaster supplies kit.
  • Obey “No Smoking” rules. Careless disposal of cigarettes and matches can lead to fires and explosions.
  • Store and handle hazardous materials properly, according to the instructions on the label and on the safety data sheet.
  • Use and maintain equipment properly.

Workplace DangersDuring & After an Emergency:

  • Stay alert. Just as you drive defensively on the road, use the same caution at work.
  • Know the risks and danger signs.
  • Don’t get into situations you are not trained to handle.
  • Identify at least two ways out of any potentially hazardous situation.
  • Volunteer to help others.
  • Listen to officials for information about evacuation or sheltering in place.
  • Repair damaged property.
  • Take steps to prevent or reduce future loss.

About the Allied Universal Fire Life Safety Services System

Online safety trainingNo matter the type of emergency you may face while at work, take steps to make sure you are safe. Our interactive, building-specific e-learning program helps commercial, residential, educational, institutional, government, retail and industrial buildings with compliance to fire life safety codes and rewards building occupants instantly! It’s a convenient and affordable solution to the training needs of your facility. Click here for more information or to subscribe.

High-Rise Safety

Tuesday, May 8th, 2018

People who live or work in high-rise residential or commercial buildings face very specific disaster-preparedness challenges. Emergencies such as fires, bomb scares, weather-related incidents and earthquakes present special dangers for high-occupancy buildings, such as dormitories, apartment homes, condominiums and office complexes. The best defense is a coordinated emergency-response plan that identifies potential risks and outlines the best response.With limited access to egress, if you’re in a high-rise when disaster strikes, you might need to stay in the building until the emergency passes. Or, if evacuation is necessary, you would need to quickly find the exit.

The good news is that high-rise building requirements include more working sprinklers and fire alarm equipment than non-high-rise facilities. And if your building owner or manager subscribes to the Allied Universal Fire Life Safety Training System, first responders will have access to building-specific instructions, which will help in emergency situations. To help make sure you are prepared, we have assembled some tips to keep you safe.High-Rise Evacuation

High-Rise Disaster Safety Tips

In all situations—

  • Take responsibility for your own safety. This is important because, in some situations, first response may be delayed in reaching you.
  • Familiarize yourself with the safety features of your facility (fire alarms, sprinklers, voice communication procedures, evacuation plans and alarm response).
  • Make sure exit and stairwell doors are clearly marked, remain unlocked and are free from debris and clutter which could obstruct the walkway.
  • If an official makes an announcement, listen carefully and follow directions.
  • If you are told to evacuate, go outside and gather at the pre-arranged meeting place.
  • Stay put until an official instructs you it is safe to return to the building.

high-rise fire safetyFor Fire—

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)reports there are approximately 16,000 to 20,000 fires in high-rise buildings each year. This represents 2 to 4 percent of all building fires. If you are in a high-rise when fire breaks out:

  • Well in advance of an emergency, find the locations of all available exit stairs from your floor in case the nearest one is blocked by fire or smoke.
  • Don’t automatically run for the stairs. Stay put and wait for instructions.
  • If it is clear you should evacuate, pull the alarm on your way out, to notify the fire department and your neighbors. Don’t assume someone else will handle this.
  • If the fire alarm sounds, feel the door before opening and close all doors behind you as you leave. If the door is hot, find another way out. If it is cool, leave by the nearest exit.
  • Instead of taking the elevator, use the stairs in a fire, unless the fire department instructs otherwise. Some buildings come equipped with elevators, which are intended for emergency use. Such elevators should be clearly marked.elevator high-rise evacuation
  • If someone is trapped in the building, notify the fire department.
  • If you are unable to evacuate your apartment or high-rise workplace in a fire due to flames, smoke or a disability, stuff wet towels or sheets around the door and vents to keep smoke out. Call the fire department to alert officials to your location.
  • Slightly open a window and wave a bright-colored cloth to signal your location. However, be prepared to close the window if smoke conditions worsen.

To Shelter in Place—

high-rise flood safetyIn some emergency scenarios, you may need to stay put instead of evacuating.

High-Rise Safety Resources:Earthquake high-rise safety

FEMA Building Code Resources

National Fire Protection NFPA High-Rise Building Safety

Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) Evacuation & Sheltering-in-Place

About the Allied Universal Fire Life Safety Services System

No matter the type of emergency you may face while in a high-rise building, take steps to make sure you are safe. Our interactive, building-specific e-learning program helps commercial, residential, educational, institutional, government, retail and industrial buildings with compliance to fire life safety codes and rewards building occupants instantly! It’s a convenient and affordable solution to the training needs of your facility. Click here for more information or to subscribe.

Campus Security After Parkland & Great Mills Shootings

Tuesday, March 20th, 2018

Active Shooter SafetyUnfortunately, a pattern has recently unfolded across the country. An active shooter opens fire on students during school, such as what occurred last month in Parkland, Fl., where 17 innocent victims lost their lives and –even more recently – in Maryland, where a 17-year-old student shot two others. This type of event spurs widespread panic and concern about campus safety. Students, parents and political pundits demand gun law reform, teacher armament and mental health awareness. Then, almost as immediately as the frenzy begins, conversations about the court of public opinion abound. But the issue remains. How can we keep American elementary, middle-school, high school and college students safe? (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…)

IT Disaster Recovery

Thursday, February 1st, 2018

IT Disaster RecoveryIn a recent blog post, we discussed the millions of Americans who are currently struggling to recover after earthquakes, hurricanes, blizzards, fires, floods, mudslides and myriad other natural disasters that devastated residential and commercial properties across the country. Another category of disaster affecting millions, which also requires careful pre-planning and purposeful recovery, pertains to Information Technology (IT). (more…)

How to Recover from Disasters

Saturday, January 13th, 2018

Disaster RecoveryMillions of Americans struggle to recover after earthquakes, hurricanes, blizzards, fires, mudslides and myriad other natural disasters that devastated residential and commercial properties across the country. Disasters are currently so widespread, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is spending $200 million per day to aid recovery efforts. Although each type of disaster brings unique challenges, no matter which situation you face, recovery is the first order of business as soon as the dust settles. One such disaster is the Montecito Mudslides, which thousands of volunteers and disaster response teams are currently managing. (more…)

Great ShakeOut 2017

Wednesday, October 11th, 2017

Our hearts go out to earthquake victims, their family, friends and colleagues.

Earthquakes in the News

With two powerful earthquakes striking Mexico last month, now is a good time to reinforce the notion of earthquake safety. The 46th annual International ShakeOut Day will be held October 19, prompting millions of people worldwide to practice how to drop, cover, and hold on. In California, where Allied Universal’s Corporate West Headquarters is located, Great Shakeout Drills will occur on the 19th, at precisely 10:19 a.m. (more…)

Hurricane Preparation & Survival

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

Hurricanes are massive storm systems that form over the water and move toward land. Threats from hurricanes include high winds, heavy rainfall, storm surge, coastal and inland cooling, rip currents, and tornadoes. Called typhoons in the North Pacific Ocean and cyclones in other parts of the world, these massive storms affect regions across the globe – Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastal areas, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Hawaii, parts of the Southwest, the Pacific Coast, and the U.S. territories in the Pacific.

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30, with the peak occurring between mid-August and late October. The Eastern Pacific hurricane season begins in May and ends November 30.

Hurricanes can cause loss of life and catastrophic damage to property along coastlines and can extend several hundred miles inland. The extent of damage varies according to the size and intensity of the storm, amount and duration of rainfall, path of the storm, and other factors such as the number and type of buildings in the area, terrain and soil conditions.

The additional toll hurricanes can take include:

This damage was a result of Hurricane Sandy.

  • Damage or destruction of buildings and other structures
  • Disruption of transportation, gas, power, communications, and other services
  • Coastal and inland flooding from heavy rains and storm surge.

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale divides hurricanes into five categories based on wind speed, central pressure and potential damage to homes, structures, power lines and trees, and the ability to block roads and bring areas to a standstill, or even render them uninhabitable.

Category 1: Sustains winds of 74 to 95 mph.

Category 2: Maintains winds of 96 to 110 mph.

Category 3 (Major): Whips up winds of 111 mph to 129 mph.

Category 4 (Major): Produces winds of 130 to 156 mph.

Category 5 (Major): Drums up 157 mph or higher winds.

Business owners boarded windows to prepare for Hurricane Matthew.

Here’s how to prepare for a hurricane (adapted from Ready.Gov):

  • Know where to go. If ordered to evacuate, know the local hurricane evacuation route(s) and have a plan in place for where you will check in with family and take shelter.
  • Assemble a disaster supply kit, including flashlight, batteries, cash, first aid supplies, and copies of critical information in case you need to evacuate.
  • If you are outside the evacuation area and decide to stay in your home, put together adequate supplies in case you lose power and water for several days, as you could be stranded, due to flooding or blocked roads.
  • Make a family emergency communication plan.
  • Utilize text or email alerting systems for emergency notifications, if data service is available in your area. To find out which alerts apply to you, search the Internet using your town, city, or county name plus the word “alerts.”

What to do after a hurricane:

  • Listen to local officials for updates and instructions.
  • Check-in with family and friends via text (if cell service is available) or social media (if WIFI is operational). The Allied Universal Fire Life Safety Training System includes notes about what to do in a power failure.

    Hurricanes can cause power failures.

  • Return home only when authorities indicate it is safe to do so.
  • Watch for debris and downed power lines.
  • Avoid walking or driving through flood waters. Just six inches of moving water can knock a person down, and fast-moving water can sweep away a vehicle. What’s more, it could be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines or contain dangerous debris.
  • Photograph the damage to your property to assist with insurance claims.

Remember that safety is important for everyone, before, during and after hurricanes. 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 Fire Life Training System, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

This video from FEMA provides additional Hurricane Safety tips:

Tornado Safety

Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

At least 13 people died and dozens more were injured as recent, severe storms brought flooding and tornadoes to Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi and Texas. Just one snapshot of the havoc that tornadoes cause, this event demonstrates why tornadoes are considered nature’s most violent storms – able to level entire neighborhoods and city streets in mere seconds. Equally disturbing, in many areas of the country, the question about tornadoes is not “if,” but “when?”

Your community could face the wrath of the phenomenon described as a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground with whirling winds of up to 300 miles per hour. Subscribers to the Allied Universal Fire Life Safety Training System have access to a comprehensive tornado training module, which explains how to be safe before, during and after a tornado hits. In our ongoing effort to help educate and keep our friends and subscribers safe, we have also assembled some valuable tornado trivia and tips:

Tornado Trivia:

  • Damage paths can exceed one mile wide and 50 miles long.
  • The average forward speed of a tornado is 30 mph, but may vary from stationary to 70 mph.
  • Although the average tornado moves Southwest to Northeast, tornadoes can move in any direction.
  • Every state is at some risk of tornadoes, although certain states are more tornado-prone. For example, in the Midwest, tornadoes are frequently reported east of the Rocky Mountains during spring and summer months.
  • Peak tornado season in southern states is March through May; in the northern states, it is late spring through early summer.
  • Tornadoes are most likely to occur between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m., but can occur at any time.
  • Some tornadoes are clearly visible, while others are obscured by rain or nearby low-hanging clouds.
  • Certain tornadoes develop so rapidly that little advanced warning is possible.
  • Before a tornado hits, winds may die down and air may become still. In fact, some attribute the idiom, “calm before the storm,” to this phenomenon.
  • Tornadoes generally occur near the trailing edge of a thunderstorm.
  • A cloud of debris may mark the location of a tornado even when a funnel is not visible.
  • They may appear nearly transparent until dust and debris are picked up or a cloud forms in the funnel.
  • It is not uncommon to see clear, sunlit skies behind a tornado.
  • A Tornado Watch means tornadoes are possible. Remain alert for approaching storms.
  • A Tornado Warning indicates a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Immediately take shelter.

Before a Tornado

  • Build an emergency kit.
  • Make a family communications plan.
  • Consider building a “safe room.” For more about this, see Gov.
  • Listen to National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio or to commercial radio or television newscasts for the latest information.
  • Notice changing weather conditions. Look for approaching storms.
  • Be aware of the following danger signs: dark, greenish sky; large hail; a large, dark, low-flying cloud, and/or a loud roar (like a freight train).
  • If you see approaching storms or any of the danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately.

During a Tornado

If you are in a structure when a tornado hits:

  • Go to a pre-designated area such as a safe room, basement, storm cellar, or the center of a small interior room on the lowest building level. In a high-rise building, go to a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible.
  • Put on sturdy shoes.
  • Keep windows closed.

If you are in a manufactured home or office when a tornado hits:

Immediately exit and head to a pre-identified location such as the lowest floor of a sturdy, nearby building or a storm shelter.

If you are outside without shelter when a tornado happens:

If you are not in a sturdy building, there is no single research-based recommendation for the last-resort action to take because many factors can affect your decision. Possible actions include:

  • Immediately get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter. If your vehicle is hit by flying debris while you are driving, pull over and park.
  • Take cover in a stationary vehicle. Put the seat belt on and cover your head with your arms and a blanket, coat or other cushion if possible.
  • Lie in an area noticeably lower than the level of the roadway and cover your head with your arms and a blanket, coat or other cushion.

    The Allied Universal Fire Life Safety Training program features a tornado module, to help you stay safe before, during and after tornadoes.

In every situation:

  • Never seek cover under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.
  • Don’t try to outrun a tornado in urban or congested areas, while in a car or truck. Instead, leave the vehicle immediately for safe shelter.
  • Watch out for flying debris. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most fatalities and injuries.

After a Tornado

  • Listen to local weather reports and officials for updates and instructions.
  • Check-in with family and friends by texting or using social media.
  • Watch out for debris and downed power lines.
  • If you are trapped, do not move about or kick up dust. Tap on a pipe or wall or use a whistle, if you have one, to alert rescuers about your location.
  • Stay out of damaged buildings and homes.
  • Photograph the damage to your property to assist in filing insurance claims.
  • Do what you can to prevent further damage to your property, (e.g., putting a tarp on a damaged roof), as insurance may not cover additional damage that occurs after the storm.
  • If your home is without power, use flashlights or battery-powered lanterns rather than candles to prevent accidental fires.

Remember that safety is important for everyone across continents. 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 Fire Life Training System, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

Sinkhole Safety

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

Record-breaking cold temperatures across the country have wreaked havoc on streets from coast to coast. The severe weather has led to an alarming number of weather-related car accidents, flash flooding, mudslides, and downed trees and power lines across the United States. Another unfortunate yet common side effect of the storms is water-logged land that has given way to hundreds of large sinkholes.

A few examples of the serious sinkholes reported in the U. S. within the past 12 months:

What exactly is a sink hole?

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, “A sinkhole can be defined as: an area of ground that has no natural external surface drainage. When it rains, water stays inside the sinkhole and typically drains into the subsurface. Sinkholes can vary from a few feet to hundreds of acres and from less than one foot to more than 100 feet deep. Some are shaped like shallow bowls or saucers, whereas others have vertical walls. Some hold water, forming natural ponds.”

The three types of sinkholes include dissolution, cover-subsidence, and cover-collapse. Whatever the type, most occur so slowly that changes to the landscape are not immediately evident. This is also true of ground structure that has been compromised by buried bones. So, while it looks like they appear out of thin air, most require time to deteriorate into a full-blown collapse. Collapses most significantly impact structures and people when they happen in urban settings. In our ongoing effort to save lives through training, we wanted to devote this blog post to providing subscribers and friends with tips for spotting and safely reacting to sinkholes.

Conditions that foster sinkholes:

  • Active wells
  • Abandoned drywells, cesspools and septic tanks
  • Buried swimming pools
  • Old dumps that were later built-over
  • Buried, abandoned building foundations
  • Cracks, gaps, ravines opened by earthquakes
  • Steep-sloped or otherwise unstable areas
  • Moisture-soaked earth
  • Streets and structures not retrofitted for safety

It is highly unlikely that a sinkhole would swallow a modern high-rise building. Whew. However, you could potentially encounter such an event while you are driving to or from work or school or while traveling to an area with relaxed building inspection protocols. If this happens, remain calm. Try to quickly drive or walk around the hazardous area. Finally, call 911 for help.

Remember that safety on the road is a priority for everyone across the country, all year long. 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 Fire Life Training System, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.