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Hazardous Materials Incidents

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

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

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

Before A Hazardous Materials’ Incident

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

During a Hazardous Materials Incident

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

If you are outside during a Hazardous Materials Incident

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

If you are told to stay indoors

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

After a Hazardous Materials Incident

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

For more details about how to prepare and react to hazardous materials incidents, check out the free materials available on Ready.gov. When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your building(s). Choosing our service cuts property management training related workloads by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES.

Disaster Preparation Lessons from the Olympics

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When a disaster of any kind strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal, Inc. Our new Version 3.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. What’s more, the NEW Allied Universal Property Messaging System is included FREE for all Allied Universal Online Training System users. Visit rjwestmore.com for more information.

The Persistent Bioterrorism Threat

Monday, November 7th, 2011

Security experts such as Graham Alison, who is the funding dean of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and an expert on nuclear proliferation, point to the comparative ease of acquiring bioterrorism materials as opposed to the technology required to actually make a nuclear device. This ease of accumulation makes it considerably more likely that nations will respond to bioterror-detonations or spread before a nuclear attack. And bioterror attacks have already occurred in this country, and continue to happen, with a recent Washington D.C. anthrax attack making the news.

A key tactic for preventing the widespread spread of bacterial weaponized agents is the production of vaccines. However, creating a new vaccine faces many hurdles. There are some successes and shortcomings for efforts to build and stockpile vaccines:

  • Enough smallpox vaccine exists to inoculate every U.S. citizen.
    There is enough anthrax vaccine to cover three major metropolitan areas.
  • The organization of Health and Human Services points to a severe lack of urgency with the United States Government’s efforts to stockpile vaccines and prepare for potential calamities.
  • According to the New York Times, the cost for the pharmaceutical industry to produce a new vaccine averages about $1 billion. Vaccines are not typically money-makers for these companies, which often focus on drugs that require habitual usage—such as cholesterol treatment medications.

Another key component of managing the risk of bioterror is to protect buildings and personnel:

  • HVAC systems pose a severe risk to their very function. They circulate and recycle air throughout buildings, making them the perfect vehicle for contamination.
  • Companies can improve HVAC filtration, protect outdoor air intakes, and secure building blueprints that would show HVAC details.
  • Buildings with tenants whose companies utilize industrial chemicals should ensure physical access to these chemicals is severely restricted.
  • Restricting access of unannounced visitors and couriers is vital to providing some separation between the public and tenants.
  • Establish a “safe haven” where employees can congregate after an attack is eminent.

How to prepare for the threat of bioterrorism

During the anthrax attacks of 2001, many postal and mailroom staff members were not able to recognize the risks of suspicious packages, even after opening the contents and discovering powders.

Handling suspicious packages requires several key steps:

  • Identify unopened packages that might deserve extra scrutiny. Look for signs such as handwritten or badly written address information, excessive postage, markings such as “Confidential,” mismatched postmark/return address, or misspellings.
  • A powdery substance, oily stains, or excessive packaging can be signs of potential bioterror substances in the package.
  • Don’t open questionable packages! This advice seems rudimentary. But you should instruct tenants and mailroom staff that no package is worth injury.
  • Handle the package gently, without shaking the contents.
  • Do not smell the package.
  • Keep the unopened package in a secure area that has adequate ventilation.
  • If you come in contact with a suspicious package or substance, immediately wash your hands and possibly discard clothing if possible.
  • Avoid touching your face when you are handling the package.
  • After calling law enforcement, record as many details as possible about the package. Did you notice a new delivery driver, or an unusual shipping carrier? Any details can give law enforcement time to develop evidence.

In the event your building or staff members are involved in an attack, you should take certain steps to limit damage. Designated employees should call the local FBI office to report the incident and coordinate investigation efforts. Affected individuals should be quickly quarantined while they wait for medical personnel. It is important to provide first responders with as many details as possible so they can arrange HAZMAT or other protections.

The threat for bioterrorism is real. Through proper planning, and open communication with agencies such as the CDC and FBI, you can do your part to identify and prevent attacks from occurring.

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.

2011 Marks Banner Year for U.S. Disasters

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

2011 Has Been a Banner Year for Natural Disasters in the U.S.

Allied Universal Shares 5 Tips for Dealing with Weather-Related Disasters

President Barack Obama recently named New Jersey a federal disaster area as a result of floods that came before Hurricane Irene. In so doing, he cemented 2011 as the United States’ most disaster-prone year ever.

As of the third week of September, Obama had issued 84 federal disaster declarations at the request of governors. That is more declarations than in any year since the score was first kept 60 years ago. And there are still three months left in 2011! Since many of the recent emergencies resulted from extreme weather, we want to use this week’s blog post to discuss the ways that you can prepare for weather-related disasters.

While weather has always been a contributing factor to damage to hearth, office and home, natural disaster-related damage affects more people than it used to because of urban sprawl. When tornados strike open, undeveloped areas, dollar amount damage is relatively low. Centered in a densely populated area, the same storm will wreak considerably more havoc.

So how should urban residents and professionals who work in major metropolitan locations prepare for natural disasters? Here are some tips, prepared for you by the fire life safety training professionals at Allied Universal, Inc:

  1. Take cover. This is important regardless of temperature. If you’re outside in the heat, make sure you have a hat, sunglasses and lip balm as well as sunscreen in case you get caught in any situation that leaves you stranded for an extended period of time.

Likewise, in snow, rain or hail, you should make sure you have plenty of protection against the elements. Invest in protective, waterproof outerwear and make sure your emergency supply kit includes plenty of blankets and waterproof matches.

Also, one of the best ways to protect from loss is to purchase insurance to cover repairs to infrastructure. We are not experts in insurance. But it is likely that a standard policy will not cover flood damage. The only way to protect against flood losses is to purchase flood insurance directly from the National Flood Insurance Program. Policies must be in place for 30 days before coverage takes effect. For information, contact your insurance professional.

  1. Drink Up. One of the risks of any type of disaster is dehydration. Consider miners who are stranded for hours underground or motorists whose cars get stuck on snowy roadways in blizzard conditions. Dehydration is not relegated to desert environments.  A good rule of thumb is to make sure you include plenty of water in each of your emergency preparedness kits. You should have one in your car, one at work and a third at home, all in easily-accessible locations.
  2. Tune In. Another suggestion for your disaster preparedness kit is to include a portable, hand-crank radio to make sure you can stay connected even in power outage. Storms of any kind can knock out phone lines, electricity, gas, water and even wireless cell phones. So don’t make the mistake of relying on high-tech forms of communication to stay abreast of news in emergencies. Tuning in will alert you to the threat level relative to the storm, be it Winter Storm Watch, Winter Storm Warning or Winter Weather Advisory.
  3. Stay Put. In many cases, you will be safer if you shelter in place than if you venture out in hazardous conditions. Of course, you must use common sense when deciding whether you should stay or go. For example, in the event of a tornado, seek shelter in a steel-framed or concrete building. However, in case of a flood, you might be putting yourself in danger by staying in an area that will likely be consumed by fast-flowing water. For detailed instructions about what to do in every possible weather scenario, visit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Weather Service website. All Allied Universal Safety Trainees have immediate access to NOAA information from inside our fully-integrated training system.
  4. Remain Calm. Whatever the disaster, you will make better choices if you avoid the temptation to panic. How can you remain cool, calm and collected when surrounded by turmoil? One surefire way is to prepare well in advance of emergency.

If you own or manage a building, or know someone who does, do them a favor. Let them know about the Allied Universal Training System. Choosing our service cuts property management training related workloads by 90% and saves users over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES! BE SAFE.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: What steps to take to BE SAFE

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011
Tail Pipe on a Red Sports Car

BE SAFE: Don't ever leave your car running in the garage, even if the door is open.

Hundreds of lives are lost each year through exposure to an invisible, odorless, colorless toxic gas called Carbon Monoxide (CO). CO also sends thousands of exposed victims to Emergency Rooms to seek treatment. Impossible to see, taste, or smell, CO can kill you before you are even aware of its presence in your home or office.

Although many of us have heard about the dangers of CO poisoning, few realize the many sources the gas can come from—gas-fired appliances to domestic heating systems, charcoal grills and wood-burning furnaces, blocked flues in fireplaces, inadequate ventilation in living areas or places of work and motor vehicles.

One reason CO is so dangerous is that low levels of exposure can mimic symptoms that might easily be mistaken for the flu. Headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea and fatigue send people to bed to catch up on rest. But if CO poisoning is the real culprit, affected individuals could drift off to sleep, never again to awake.

The effects of CO exposure can vary greatly from person to person depending on several factors:

  • Age
  • Overall Health
  • Concentration of Carbon Monoxide Poison
  • Length of Exposure

Health professionals believe that certain groups of people are more at risk if exposed to Carbon Monoxide:

  1. Unborn Babies
  2. Infants
  3. Children
  4. Senior Citizens
  5. People who suffer from heart or lung problems

Here’s how you can protect yourself, your employees and/or coworkers and your family:

  • Install at least one Carbon Monoxide alarm that features an audible warning signal near the areas where people sleep and just outside of every bedroom or office door. Make sure alarms have been approved by a nationally recognized laboratory.
  • Since Carbon Monoxide alarms are designed to measure levels of CO over time and sound only after levels reach a certain concentration, some healthy adults may not think the alarm is accurate since they might not experiencing noticeable symptoms when they hear the alarm. So don’t ignore your CO alarm. If it goes off, heed the warning.
  • Don’t ever use your stove or oven to heat your home.
  • Hire a qualified professional to check all fuel burning appliances, furnaces, vents and chimneys regularly.
  • Don’t use charcoal grills or hibachis in your home, office or garage.
  • Never keep a car running in a garage. Even if the garage doors are open, normal circulation will not provide enough fresh air to reliably prevent a dangerous buildup of gas.
  • When purchasing a new or existing home, make sure qualified technicians have evaluated the integrity of heating systems and cooking equipment, as well as sealed spaces between garages and homes. A Carbon Monoxide alarm could save your life.

If Carbon Monoxide Detector Sounds:

(Even if no one is feeling ill):

  1. Silence the alarm.
  2. Turn off appliances and all sources of combustion
  3. Open all doors and windows for ventilation
  4. Call qualified professionals to investigate the possible source of CO buildup

(If people feel the effects of CO poisoning):

  1. Evacuate occupants immediately.
  2. Determine which occupants are ill and assess their symptoms.
  3. Call 911. Relaying information to the dispatcher, include how many people feel ill.
  4. Do not re-enter the home without the approval of a fire department representative.
  5. Call qualified professionals for repairs

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.

Managing Indoor Air Quality

Monday, June 20th, 2011
Sacramento skyline in smog

Clean air is a safety concern.

For building owners and managers, ensuring tenant and visitor welfare is always of paramount importance. And while there is only so much that can be done to control the quality of the air that enters into a building, it is still important to frequently filter and refresh the air for optimal tenant and visitor health.

Regulations such as the Clean Air Act have saved thousands of lives from diseases such as emphysema, asthma and heart disease. However, there is still much that can be done to control air pollutants to allow everyone to enjoy cleaner air.

What are some of the main contributors to air pollution?

  • Carbon monoxide is odorless and tasteless but very poisonous in large quantities. Facilities that operate furnaces and/or automobiles need to provide adequate ventilation and install carbon monoxide alarms to ensure safety.
  • Particulate matter is basically “stuff” in the air. This can be man-made or naturally caused, resulting from sources as diverse as burning fossil fuels and power plants to dust storms and wildfires. Particulates have wreaked havoc on the human body since ancient times.
  • Nitrogen oxides are the brown plumes of “haze” that can be seen downwind of major cities. The result of high-temperature combustion, such compounds produce smoggy reddish-brown skies.

Before embarking on new policies and procedures for improving a building’s air quality, it’s important to record a baseline. Testing for radon, carbon monoxide and particulate levels can help guide you about unsafe conditions and provide guidance on the priority order for steps to clean the air.

What kind of policies can a company institute to improve air quality?

  • If your company is relocating or expanding, avoid purchasing office space that is in close proximity to industrial areas which might produce toxins. Of course, if your property is already located in this type of area, you can take steps to safeguard the air in the interior of the building.
  • Don’t allow smoking either in or around your building. Cigarette smoke contains an alarming number of toxins which can remain suspended in the air for long periods of time.
  • Review furniture choices in tenant offices. Pieces made of out cheap particle board may contain formaldehyde, which is a known carcinogen.

Cleaning and maintenance tips for air quality:

  • Proper cleaning of carpets is essential. Carpets act as a filter or trap for dust mites and other allergens. Without frequent vacuuming with appropriate filters, carpets can outgas airborne toxins.
  • Follow suggested maintenance and cleaning guidelines for HVAC systems. Ductwork should be cleaned to remove mold or other contaminants. Filters should be the highest-quality to effectively remove particles down to the smallest micron.
  • Janitorial staff should be allowed to open windows or other ventilation, whenever feasible. Fumes from high-grade cleaning products are a serious irritant.
  • For residences and businesses in high-humidity areas, consider utilizing dehumidifiers to inhibit the growth of mold.

Unlike other disasters that can be seen or heard, air quality is (by its very nature) a typically invisible problem. As such, it can pose detrimental health effects over long periods of time, making it a silent but deadly killer. Taking steps to clean the air will have a direct effect on tenant happiness and productivity.

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.

The CDC, Emergency Kits, and …..Zombies?!

Monday, May 30th, 2011
cartoon image of zombie in shadows of trees

Make sure you are prepared for everything--even zombies!

When you think about preparing for an emergency, you likely worry about threats that occur in your area. Californians contend with fires, mudslides and the specter of big quakes. East Coasters have hurricanes, floods, and damaging thunderstorms. But one threat can affect everyone from San Francisco through Topeka and beyond to Jacksonville. Zombies. Yep, brain-eating zombies who are bent on destruction.

Few scary scenarios capture popular culture quite like zombies. In real life, some individuals such as this man profiled by National Geographic Television view zombies and a possible outbreak as real scenarios that deserve proper planning. There even exists a book called “The
Zombie Survival Guide
.”

Wait. Isn’t this blog about disaster planning? Well, the CDC has a current campaign that warns of the coming “Zombie Apocalypse.” Citizens are encouraged to plan for “zombies” by taking certain initiatives. While the premise is silly, the CDC is using thoughts of a zombie takeover to get people really thinking about how to plan and manage big disasters.

For businesses that want to promote the zombie campaign, the CDC offers various images such as this one that look like the poster art for the newest zombie scare fest.

To prepare for the coming hordes of zombies, the CDC recommends some planning tips:

Create a disaster plan:

  • Discussing a disaster plan in advance can allow cooler heads to prevail (and not be eaten…) during an emergency.
  • Set two emergency meeting places. A primary spot and a distant alternate to be used in case the first one is inaccessible.

Stock your disaster kit:

  • Include some of the basics, such as light, food, and water. You need multiple flashlights with extra batteries, some canned or dried meals, and up to one gallon of water per person per day.
  • Additional items such as duct tape, plastic tarps, radios, and a whistle allow you to be prepared or reenact an episode of MacGyver.
  • Important family documents such as passports, insurance papers, and other essentials.
  • The CDC wisely leaves off the list items such as mines or bats that would truly be useful in a real zombie pandemic!

It’s refreshing to see such a serious organization as the CDC employing some humor like “Zombie Apocalypse” to get its point across. The campaign was also perfectly timed, coming days before the “end of the world” that thankfully did not come to pass. The zombie blog was so popular that it crashed the campaign’s site (not the CDC’s main site).

So what exactly is the point of the “Zombie Apocalypse?” For any type of disaster, preparation is the key. If you over prepare for the worst case scenario (it doesn’t get worse than flesh-eating zombies), then you will be able to handle any emergency.

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.

Obscure Disasters Can Pose Major Risks

Monday, May 23rd, 2011
six pictures of different disasters

Disasters come in all shapes and sizes. Make sure you're prepared!

With the Japan earthquake, frequent hurricanes, and massive tornadoes, many are wondering if we should expect more and bigger disasters. Major disasters by their very nature are unpredictable, which further enforces the need to imagine worst-case scenarios when implementing or rehearsing disaster response efforts.

The effect of some disasters, such as floods and hurricanes, can be minimized by advanced planning. For instance, governments can build levees and coastal swamp areas can be left undeveloped to provide natural flood protection. If the origins of a disaster come from beyond our planet or miles under the surface, then prevention is impossible, and preparation and planning are the only possible means of recourse.

Solar Flares are a known sun phenomena that affect communications on earth. In the past, such interruptions were temporary and were limited to certain types of devices and services. However, scientists who study solar storm patterns now contend that the severity of storms is cyclical and we are now entering an intense phase.

  • NASA officials have equated a large solar storm to a “bolt of lightning” that could damage electronics and communications’ equipment around the globe.
  • Solar flares dramatically change the earth’s magnetic field, which could cause serious consequences for satellites, computers, handheld devices and myriad other items.
  • If international power grids fail, potential losses are estimated to be in the trillions.
  • Solar storms are monitored by the appropriately named Space Weather Prediction Center, which is run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

 

Disasters come in all shapes and sizes. Make sure you’re prepared for each type. On the west coast, scientists are concerned about what they refer to as an ARKstorm, a massive storm that dumps rain on California, Oregon, Washington, and Nevada for up to two weeks straight. The storms pull so much heat and moisture, that they develop “atmospheric rivers.” Such rainfall amounts would produce massive flooding in the California central valley and in major metropolitan areas. It would simply be a case of too much water with nowhere to go.

  • Such a storm is based upon historical precedent, with winter rains in 1861 and 1862 leaving some parts of central California completely impassable. In San Francisco, nearly 30 inches of rain was reported.
  • The USGS offers a video titled “This is ARKstorm” that some might consider to be a little over the top. But it does clearly describe the possible effects.
  • Projected damage estimates are pegged at several hundred billion dollars.

Yellowstone Caldera” might sound like the latest trendy micro-brew. But it actually refers to a potential “super volcano” that could erupt in Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone sits on a “hotspot,” which is an area where molten mantle rock moves towards the surface over time. As it moves closer, it can become trapped, and needs release of pressure to prevent catastrophic explosions.

  • The latest eruption occurred only 640,000 years ago, which is a very long time compared to a human lifetime, but a relatively recent event geologically speaking.
  • Half of the United States could be covered in ash.
  • Global cooling would result from atmospheric sun-blocking particles, restricting agriculture and leading to food shortages.

The existence of such mega-disasters underscores the broader point of knowing there are various risks and that it is necessary to do your best to plan ahead and prepare for unforeseen contingencies. While you certainly shouldn’t live your life in a potential state of abject fear, it is important to take time to consider the unknown.

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.

Tornado Outbreak— Managing During and After the Storms

Monday, May 16th, 2011
Storm Warning Sign

Emergency communications were used to great effect during the tornados in the South.

The recent tornado outbreak in Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia was the deadliest in decades.

Damage in Georgia alone is estimated at $75 million. And many in Alabama are calling it the state’s most damaging natural disaster. The devastation dramatically demonstrates the need to always be prepared for disasters as well as the increasing role that social media is playing in communications before, during and after emergency events. In the South, rebuilding efforts were quickly launched, with $5 million in relief aid from federal agencies which are funding temporary clean-up jobs, allowing the rebuilding to be done quickly and concurrently offering a welcome short-term income boost to area residents.

Dramatic videos of the tornadoes captured the raw power of the storm which decimated entire towns. Coverage of the tornadoes was unique in the sheer number of individual tornadoes that were captured live on video. Some local stations used volunteers to spot approaching storms, even providing the amateur filmmakers with dashboard-mounted, internet-enabled cameras.

Notifications and Social Media:

  • During the storm, an attorney in Ringgold, Georgia used Facebook to post live updates about the storm as it moved through his town. His site became a busy source of information, as he provided updates about who was safe, injured, or trapped by the storm.  He also posted real-time information about the well being of individuals in a particular town, directly responding to Facebook inquiries as he toured the devastation.
  • Many first reports of tornado touch-downs in the South came from Twitter users (or Tweeps).
  • Tweeps have played an integral role in communicating about international emergencies, by tweeting about disasters such as the earthquakes in Japan.

Using Social Media after the Storms:

  • The simply titled “Pictures and Documents found after the April 21, 2011 Tornadoes” Facebook Page was the brainchild of a Mississippi resident who found scattered personal items left in the wake of the tornadoes. Her FB page allows individuals to post pictures of found items such as family photographs or even birth certificates, along with directions about item retrieval.
  • Several Atlanta residents created Facebook Fan pages asking for tuxedo and prom dress donations to help teenage storm-victims attend their senior prom. This page, titled “Prom Dresses for Tornado Victims” boasts more than 5,000 “Likes.”

While social media has proven useful to help spread information and alert others to danger, it is not yet widely used yet by first responders. But that is likely to change:

  • 911 call centers increasingly receive text messages even though their systems are not yet equipped to handle texts.
  • According to a Red Cross study, three out of four respondents would expect emergency personnel to arrive within an hour of posting a Facebook status update asking for help. Authorities do not currently monitor such posts. However, FEMA and other organizations are increasingly looking at ways to incorporate Twitter and Facebook in their planning efforts.

The disaster relief response to the tornadoes is a coordinated effort led by both federal and state agencies. Recently, FEMA has emphasized the need for state and local emergency responders to lead recovery efforts. The director of FEMA spoke about the importance of state-led response to disasters such as tornados. He also remarked that, post-Katrina, many people look to FEMA to be supremely powerful and able to solve any disaster—while the reality is that any large scale response requires a concerted effort between multiple groups.

Proper planning and learning the “Do’s” are the keys to managing the situation when disasters strike.  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.