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National Severe Weather Preparedness Week

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

Tornado and lightningWelcome to National Severe Weather Preparedness Week, which runs from March 2nd to the 8th, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Calling on individuals across the country to prepare for severe weather and to encourage others to do the same, the national campaign slogan is: Be a Force of Nature.

No matter which part of the country you call home, your geographic location poses inherent weather risks—tornado, hurricane, typhoon, thunderstorms, floods, blizzards, snowstorms, water spouts, tropical cyclones, ice storms and dust storms…to name a few. To minimize your risk of severe weather-damage, familiarize yourself with your region’s particular weather-risks so you can prepare accordingly. For example, NOAA National Weather Service Director, Dr. Louis Uccellini, warns residents of tornado-prone areas:

“With the devastation of last year’s tornadoes fresh in our minds and springtime almost here, I urge individuals to become weather-ready now. Make sure you have multiple ways to access forecasts and warnings from NOAA’s National Weather Service before severe weather strikes.”

FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate agrees, “Being ready today can make a big difference for you when disaster strikes. It only takes a few minutes. Talk with your family and agree to a family plan. Learn easy steps on how to prepare at Ready.gov and find out how your community can take action in America’s PrepareAthon through drills, group discussions and community exercises.”

In the coming weeks, we will focus on preparation and response for various forms of severe weather emergencies. In the meantime, for every type of severe weather emergency, the national severe weather safety message is a simple, three-pronged approach: know your risk, take action, be an example.

Know Your Risk: The first step to becoming weather-ready is to understand the type of hazardous weather that can affect where you live and work, and how the weather could impact you and your family. Sign up for weather alerts and check the weather forecast regularly.

Take Action: Be prepared for severe weather.

  1. Your family may not be together when a storm strikes.
  2. Plan how you will contact one another by developing your family communication plan.
  3. Put together an emergency kit.
  4. Store important papers and valuables in a safe place.
  5. Visit Ready.gov/severe-weather to learn more about how to be better prepared and how you can protect your family when severe weather strikes.
  6. Subscribe to the Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, where you will find loads of great, easy-to-understand instructions for disaster preparation.

Be an Example: Once you have taken action, tell family, friends, and co-workers to do the same.

  1. Share the resources and alert systems you discovered through your social media network.
  2. Technology today makes it easier than ever to be a good example and share the steps you took to become weather-ready.
  3. You can download apps, sign up for email or text notifications, watch informational videos on YouTube and even subscribe to the new NOAA and FEMA’s Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs) project, a new text-like message system, which is part of a national effort to increase emergency preparedness and build a Weather-Ready Nation. Last year, millions of individuals across the country received WEAs with life-saving weather warnings via their cell phone. These geographically-targeted emergency alerts alert people to weather warnings they would not have otherwise received. And, as a result, many people took life-saving action. To sign up, visit www.Ready.gov/Alerts.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The best way to prepare for the flu is to keep from catching it by having a vaccine. 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.

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.

How to Prepare for Spring Storms

Monday, April 9th, 2012

With warm weather comes the fresh breath of spring. But, along with it, for millions of Americans, spring means something else entirely—storm season! This year, devastating tornadoes and storms in the South have already left thousands of families in need of food, shelter and other basic necessities. Other spring storm-related disasters have included flooding, tornadoes and wildfires, all of which have resulted in numerous deaths and hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of property damage.

So, what steps can you take to make sure that this spring, you will BE SAFE? One way to prepare is to follow the Red Cross Be Ready Checklist. Find out if you’re ready by taking this brief quiz: (You are ready as long as you can answer each question with a heart “yes.”)

  1. Do you know what emergencies or disasters are most likely to occur in your community?
  1. Do you have a family disaster plan and practice it?
    • FEMA provides free resources to help you create a family plan.
    • Allied Universal trainees have access to the following resources to aid in family planning:
  • Home Fire Escape Plan
  • Home Safety Basics for People with Special Needs
  • Blackouts at Home
  • Children and Disasters
  • Family Communication After a Disaster
  • Home Earthquake Plan
  • Pets & Disaster Planning
  • Planning for Those with Disabilities
  • Red Cross Ready Make a Plan
  1. Do you have an Emergency Preparedness Kit?

Tailor your plans and supplies to your specific daily living needs and responsibilities. Most individuals have both specific personal needs as well as resources to assist others. For specific ideas about what to pack in a “go bag,” check out Allied Universal blog posts. You can also find great ideas for preparing an emergency bag at the Ready.gov website.

  1. Is at least one member of your household trained in first aid and CPR/AED?

CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) and AED (Automated External Defibrillator) training meets the needs of workplace responders, school staffs, professional responders and healthcare providers, as well as the general public. The American Red Cross offers certified and non-certified training options. Check out the Red Cross website to access course descriptions and materials.

  1. Have you taken action to help your community prepare?

You might consider joining a Community Emergency Response Team Program. Also known as CERT, this program educates people about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area and also trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations.

Utilizing classroom training as well as exercises, CERT members learn to assist others in their neighborhood or workplace following an event when professional responders are not immediately available to help. CERT members also are encouraged to support emergency response agencies by taking a more active role in emergency preparedness projects in their community.

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 2.5 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 www.rjwestmore.com for more information.

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.

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.

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.

Using New Technology to Gauge Threats

Monday, April 18th, 2011
Seal of the US Dept of Homeland Security and Twitter

The Dept of homeland Security is using social media to alert the public about disasters.

Very shortly, news network viewers will no longer find out about updates via color-coded threat levels from the Department of Homeland Security. The current threat-level chart will be replaced by a two-level threat system known as the National Terrorism Advisory System. The first threat level will be coined “elevated,” and would warn about a credible threat, but not list possible targets.

A distinct difference to the previous system is that the two-level system will provide a start and end date for the threat. The second level will be “imminent” when law enforcement officers working with DHS determine a credible threat will very likely be attempted against certain targets. This level of alert would continue for not more than seven days, but could be extended. DHS will also incorporate social media alerts into the two-level system, recognizing the reach and the importance of such networks in the fast sharing of information.

First put into use in March 2002, the current system (officially known as the Homeland Security Advisory System), was established in response to the devastating 9/11 terrorist attacks. The system initially came under frequent criticisms, with many individuals claiming the threat level was often raised for political motives to incite citizen unrest. Others claimed the threat level did not move sufficiently to recognize actual threats, and was often held at an elevated status level.

According to DHS, the risk of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil remains, and citizens are encouraged to remain vigilant and report suspicious behavior. Law enforcement is continually training for possible attacks, even participating in testing exercises to measure readiness.

This type of readiness was evident in the thwarted New York’s Time Square bombing attempt in 2009, where a quick-thinking street vendor alerted authorities to a smoking van. The terror alert system reminds citizens about the threat of terrorism and encourages common sense as well as a broader sense of civic responsibility.

Government officials announced that terror alerts and information about threats will be distributed via two primary social networks when deemed appropriate, Twitter and Facebook. The department’s Twitter alerts page is @ntasalerts. The Department of Homeland Security’s Facebook page can be found at Facebook.com/HomelandSecurity. In some cases, distribution of specifics regarding an alert could jeopardize ongoing investigations. In such cases, information about terror threats might not reach the public until after the alleged terrorists are captured and the threat has been mitigated.

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.

 

How to Help Children Cope Following a Disaster

Monday, April 11th, 2011
Child holding toy NYPD car

Take steps to help children cope following disasters.

Whether children personally experience trauma, watch events unfold on television or overhear adult discussions, natural and manmade disasters can leave them feeling frightened, confused and insecure. To help kids cope, parents, teachers and friends should take steps so they understand how to easily identify and reduce disaster-related stress.

Identifying Risk Factors

While individual reactions to natural and manmade disasters vary, there are some common denominators in young folks who experience stress brought on by emergency situations such as fires, earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, hurricanes, terrorism and the like. To help you identify risk factors, consider these common childhood reactions to disaster:

  • Fear, especially at night
  • Sadness
  • Bedwetting
  • Sleep disturbances and nightmares
  • Separation anxiety, clinging, dependant behavior
  • Anger
  • Acting out with whining or tantrums
  • Physical aggression
  • Problems in school
  • Unexplained aches and pains

Although it is normal for both children and adults to react for a time to disasters near and far, for some, response to abnormal events can lead to more substantial, enduring psychological distress. Particularly at risk for this more serious, sustained negative behavior are children who have been directly exposed to physical disasters—such as those who were evacuated from their homes, have come in close contact with accident victims, witnessed deaths, suffered personal injuries or feared for their life and safety.

Also significant are secondary effects of disasters such as temporary changes in living arrangements, interruption in communication with friends and social networks, loss of personal property, parental unemployment and costs incurred during recovery to return the family to pre-disaster life and living conditions.

In most cases, primary and secondary symptoms will diminish over time. But for those who were directly exposed to disasters, reminders may occasionally pop up such as high winds, smoke, cloudy skies, sirens, or aftershocks.

No matter the emergency, the ability of children to cope with disasters or emergencies is often tied to the way their parents cope. Kids are bright; so they can detect adult fears and sadness. So the best way to reduce trauma for kids is to take steps to effectively manage your own feelings as parents are almost always the best source of support for children in disasters.

Prior to disasters, FEMA advises the best way to establish a sense of control and to build confidence in children is to engage and involve them in preparing a family disaster plan. After a disaster, children can contribute to a family recovery plan.

After the Disaster/How to Help

  • Encourage children and adolescents to share their thoughts and feelings.
  • Clarify misunderstandings about risk and danger by listening to children’s concerns.
  • Maintain a sense of calm by validating children’s concerns and perceptions.
  • Listen to what the child is saying.
  • If a young child asks questions about the event, answer them.
  • If a child has difficulty expressing feelings, allow the child to draw a picture or tell a story of what happened.

Suggestions to Help Reassure Children

  • Hug your kids. Physical affection can restore feelings of security.
  • Share just enough details about the event to assuage fears without contributing to insecurity.
  • Quickly reestablish a daily routine.
  • Involve kids in your efforts to return to normal.
  • Praise responsible behavior.
  • Monitor media exposure.
  • Take advantage of available support networks.

If, despite your efforts, your child continues to exhibit stress, and particularly if the reactions worsen over time or interfere with daily behavior at school, home, or with other relationships, it might be time to call in a professional. Seek assistance from a primary care physician, mental health professional or a member of the clergy.

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.

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Disaster in Japan: How You Can Help

Monday, March 21st, 2011
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There are lots of ways for you to help the people affected by the recent disaster in Japan.

The earthquake and ongoing nuclear disaster in Japan brought unimaginable destruction to all facets of the country. Calamities of this magnitude also show people’s ability to give and the global concern for those in trouble. For our part, we would like to provide information about how to make donations to help. We would like to encourage you to contribute to the Japanese relief efforts and also share some thoughts about the ways that technology and social media are changing communication and fundraising efforts following natural and manmade disasters.

While the donations have been pouring in, they still fall well below similar donation levels given for Haiti and Hurricane Katrina. A week after the devastating quake, donations reached $87 million for efforts in Japan, compared to $275 million in Haiti and $522 million for Hurricane Katrina. With millions of Japanese citizens are without power or ready-access to food, more donations are needed to provide just basic necessities.

Organizations such as Charity Navigator or GuideStar provide information about how individuals can give to the charity organizations that use donations most efficiently. These websites also detail those organizations that pool together donations to be used for disasters when needed. This is helpful since, in some past disasters, nonprofit groups end up with an overflow of funds that they are required to spend on specific relief efforts even if those monies might be better used elsewhere.

Easy ways to donate to reputable charitable organizations using the latest technology:

Be careful of scams! Unfortunately, some unscrupulous people try to exploit other’s suffering. So be very wary of replying to any incoming text messages that request credit card information or other financial information.

Technology in Action

In addition to enabling faster and easier donations, social media proved useful for rescue efforts and to quickly spread vital information.

  • While mobile phone lines were overloaded during and after the quake, sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Skype chat worked well and provided vital communication links.
  • A schoolteacher in England reported chatting with her young cousin in Japan after the quake via Facebook chat. The child couldn’t reach their parents a few miles away, but was able to communicate quickly with a relative on the other side of the world.
  • In the hours immediately following the tsunami and subsequent earthquakes, 50,000 people in Japan downloaded a Smartphone flashlight application, which they purportedly used to navigate through rubble.

Technology is opening new avenues for finding lost loved ones and learning more about the latest problems.

  • Google launched a Google Person Finder tool to locate people who are searching for loved ones. After the Red Cross’ Family Links site was overloaded, Google stepped in to help. Searchable in both English and Japanese, the site provides information for specific people including photographs and updates on their well being.
  • Twitter Hashtags (#) including #prayforjapan, #tsunami, #japan, and #textREDCROSS are providing a steady stream of information for victims and loved ones in real time.

As helpful as technology and mobile communication have become, it’s important to remember that these tools can be positive influences to help us quickly connect with people during a disaster as well as a potential tool for criminals to exploit. So be wary of posting too much information about your personal and professional activities online, or you risk alerting thieves when your home is vacant. This is just one example of how proper planning and careful attention to detail is crucial for safely managing situations 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.

 

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