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Practicing Consumer Safety for a Happier Holiday Season

Tuesday, December 12th, 2017

As Andy Williams sang, the holidays are “the most wonderful time of the year.” However, with porch piracy, pick-pocketing, burglary and cyber theft on the rise, unless you are careful, December can turn into the most troublesome season of all. Don’t let holiday cheer lull you into giving thieves a chance to dampen your spirit. At the Allied Universal Fire Life Safety Training System, we are committed to your safety. So, we wanted to take this opportunity to share tips to help keep you safe this season. (more…)

BE SAFE Shopping This Holiday Season

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

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

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

Walking to and From Your Car or Public Transportation

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

Shopping Online

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

Shopping in Stores

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

Shopping with Kids

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

For more useful shopping tips and personal safety information, check out resources from the National Crime Prevention Council, LAPDOnline, Stay Safe Online, Webroot, FEMA, DHS and our previous posts. When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your building(s). Choosing our service cuts property management training-related costs by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES.

Evaluating the Aftermath of the Raid in Pakistan

Sunday, May 8th, 2011
Outline of three soldiers against sunset

Has the threat of terrorism increased since the raid on Osama Bin Laden's compound?

After the raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan and his subsequent death, some law enforcement officials and property owners are concerned about the threat of new terrorist attacks. But are we any more at risk than we were prior to Bin Laden’s death?

Many residents of the United Kingdom consider a new attack to be likely. In fact, the U.K. Metropolitan Police Commissioner warned that: “Vigilance should be our watchword.”

In the United States, the presence of security personnel has been beefed up in numerous locations. Still, despite the perceived risk of potential terrorist repercussions, the official terror threat level in the United States was not elevated following the announcement of Bin Laden’s death. (The new alert system differs from the former multi-color-coded system in that it only offers two-threat levels— “elevated” and “imminent.”)

Potential risks might result:

  • A branch of al-Qaida in Yemen or some other disconnected country might be the source of the next attack.
  • The next threat might come from a lone individual who sympathizes with al-Qaida, such as occurred with the Fort Hood shooter, who some contend was linked to terrorist groups.
  • Terrorist cells in North Africa have either loose or no affiliation with al-Qaida and have many connections to ethnic groups in the United States.
  • A broader risk is a decreased emphasis on funding for anti-terrorism training due to the perception of the “War on Terror” coming to an end.
  • As the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 approaches, many experts caution of an interest in terror groups to commemorate the sad day with new attacks.
    • U.S. officials have confirmed that documents retrieved from bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan show that al Qaeda was in the early planning stages for an attack on U.S. railroads to mark the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
    • According to Homeland Security, the FBI has advised local officials to be on the lookout for clips or spike missing from train tracks, packages left near the tracks, and/or any other indications that a train could be at risk.

But the truth is that regardless of recent developments, it is always advisable to prepare for the threat of terrorism. Domestic terrorism is possible. This is not a time for complacency. Property owners, tenants/employers and everyone should continue to follow best practices.

How can you remain vigilant to the threat of terrorism?

  • Set protocols for monitoring any incoming delivery packages and personnel.
  • Establish rules for suspicious items that are left at or near your facility.
  • Pay attention to the Department of Homeland Security’s threat monitoring.
  • For high-traffic and value buildings, consider installing metal detectors at each entrance.
  • Develop a check-system to verify visitors with tenants.
  • Double check current evacuation procedures make sense if a terrorist attack occurs.
  • Install security cameras, which can capture individuals who could be “casing” your building.
  • Read information about altering your HVAC systems to protect from possible chemical, biological, or radiological attacks.
  • Terrorists increasing usage of online media for propaganda also increase the risks of cyber terrorism attacks that could strike at key facilities. If you operate a secure facility that handles sensitive materials, be sure to catalog and report any suspicious hacking attempts.
  • Flag individuals who ask for detailed information about your building or the surrounding areas. Scrutinize any requests for blueprints or other schematics.

The best way to manage the risks of terrorism is similar to planning for natural disasters. It demands practicing common sense and planning ahead to make a facility a less desirable target. While the death of al-Qaida’s leader will hopefully destroy the terror network, threats remain that require attention.

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.

Guarding Against Anthrax

Monday, January 24th, 2011
Biohazard Label

The fatality rate for those exposed to Anthrax is over 99%, if left untreated.

Soon after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, letters laced with Anthrax began appearing in the U.S. mail. Five Americans were killed and 17 were sickened in what became the worst biological attacks in United States history.

Although an attack on the United States using weaponized Anthrax is considered a very low probability now, it is still important to prepare for such an event. After all, the fatality rate for those exposed to Anthrax is over 99%, if left untreated. Terrorists consider it a preferred biological warfare agent because it is easy to disperse, travels quickly and is lethal.

Anthrax can be used for biological warfare, because this infectious disease has spore-forming bacteria that can be spread easily using missiles, artillery, aerial bombs and other methods. Depending on the wind, a disease such as Anthrax could spread hundreds of miles in a few short hours.

Fortunately, there is good news. There is an oral medication that has been proven effective in treating Anthrax, if administered within 48 hours of exposure. Also, in December 2009, President Barack Obama signed an executive order stating, essentially, that in the event of an Anthrax outbreak, the postal service had the capacity to deliver said antidote, along with instructions for administering it. One hundred and eighty days after the order was signed, the Postal Plan was enacted, a program which uses the nation’s letter carriers to deliver medical countermeasures.

However, there are several things that small businesses and individuals can do to prepare for such an attack.

1. Understand Exposure:

  • Bacillus Anthracis (Anthrax) can occur in three forms: cutaneous (skin), inhalation, and gastrointestinal.
  • Anthrax can lay in soil for years, and spread by handling animal products and then failing to immediately wash hands
  • Communicability is not a concern; Anthrax does not spread easily from person to person

2. Recognize the symptoms:

  • Over 95% of Anthrax cases are from Bacillus Anthracis that has entered the skin. The first sign of a cutaneous Anthrax infection is a small bump, resembling an insect bite, which grows over the course of a few days, developing a black center.
  • Those infected by inhaling Anthrax initially have symptoms that may resemble a common cold. After several days, the symptoms may progress to severe breathing problems and shock. Inhalation Anthrax is often fatal.
  • The intestinal disease form of Anthrax may follow the consumption of contaminated meat and is characterized by an acute inflammation of the intestinal tract. Initial signs of nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, and fever are followed by abdominal pain, vomiting of blood, and severe diarrhea. Intestinal Anthrax results in death in 25 percent to 60 percent of cases.

3. Know how to prevent possible contact with Anthrax:

4. Use common sense. If you receive a package in the mail with a written threat, or a visible powdery substance in or outside of it:

  • Wash hands immediately after handling
  • Do NOT open it
  • Call 911
  • Leave the package where it is
  • Move everyone away from the package, but keep those who may have come in contact with it in a separate location, until authorities arrive.

John Koerner, chief of the U.S. Health and Human Service’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives Branch, said the first piece in preparing for such an emergency is to ensure that planning is evidence-based by using existing experience and expertise to inform plans and processes.

Recognizing the symptoms

Knowing the different ways Anthrax can be introduced into your system, as well as the symptoms and treatments for each particular type of infection, is a good way to prepare against this disease. Being able to identify the symptoms early on can make the difference between life and death.

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.

Suspicious Packages – Protocols and Procedures

Monday, January 17th, 2011
cartoon truck with package inside

Be vigilant to screen packages.

For several companies and buildings, security procedures surrounding such packages are either lax or nonexistent. To reduce security risks, many owners and managers wisely route deliveries through a security or screening area before packages are delivered directly to tenants.

Unfortunately, this preventive measure is necessary since the potential threat from packages and letters being used to harm individuals is very real. Given the massive volume that flows through the U.S. Postal Service and companies such as UPS and FedEx, potential terrorists or other disgruntled individuals have considerable anonymity sending packages.

One of the most famous mail bombers is Ted Kaczynski, also known as the Unabomber. A disgruntled former professor and ecological terrorist, Kaczynski mailed and delivered packages containing explosives for nearly 20 years. Using different tactics to hide the origination address of his various packages, he was able to avoid detection even given an enormous law enforcement manhunt.s

Building managers should institute procedures to help identify and stop potentially harmful packages.

Delivery procedures:

  • All packages should be received in a central location that is staffed by individuals trained in identifying suspicious packaging.
  • Hand delivered packages warrant extra scrutiny and should be properly examined before opening.
  • Front desk personnel and security should keep track of the typical schedules for postal and delivery staff, to help determine if something is out of place.

Train your mailroom or front desk staff on ways to spot an odd or suspicious package. Here are some red flags:

  • Inaccuracies including misspellings of someone’s name
  • Packages sent to an employee who has not been at the company for some time
  • Boxes which are not addressed to a specific person
  • Excessive markings such as “confidential,” “do not x-ray,” or other odd warnings
  • Any odor or stains. As the publicity around the “Anthrax Letters” grew in 2001, mailrooms around the country increased their vigilance to properly screen incoming mail.
  • Excessive weight, protruding wires, or any ticking or mechanical sounds are very clear warning signs to evacuate the building.

Mailroom and delivery receipt personnel should be properly trained to handle suspicious packages.

  • The first rule – don’t open it!
  • Handle the package with care. Avoid shaking or bumping the package.
  • Encourage employees to be critical.
  • Do not create an environment where workers are hesitant to raise suspicions.
  • For larger mailrooms, considering reserving an area for suspect packages, preferably a small room with a door.
  • Isolate the package from other workers.

Establishing clear protocols and a chain of command are critical for any potentially dangerous situation, where training and structure can save lives. Have a written plan in place so the mail clerk can notify a supervisor and building management.

Management should work with security to inform the local authorities. Set rules for when evacuating the building is warranted, and make sure the threat from suspicious packages is part of your comprehensive evacuation plan. An overabundance of caution is needed for optimal safety, so make sure your building management and tenants work together to properly screen and identify packages.

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.