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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.

Getting Back to Business After a Disaster

Monday, June 13th, 2011
Corp people at a desk looking over blueprints

You can get back to work following any disaster.

Your business has planned for any disaster. Fire extinguishers are frequently checked and positioned in the right area. You have a well thought out evacuation route with primary and secondary meeting places. But does your business have a plan for getting back to work after a disaster?

According to the Insurance Information Institute, up to 40 percent of businesses adversely affected by natural or man-made disasters fail to reopen. To be a part of the other 60 percent requires prior planning and a sound disaster recovery and business continuity plan.

Before you begin a disaster recovery plan, you need to take these steps:

  • Form an internal team comprised of individuals from several departments who possess deep knowledge about the business. (Include employees from several levels. You wouldn’t want only upper management involved.)
  • Build a list of critical processes and services that must be up and running after a disaster. Plans that have specific and tested tasks are critical. For example: “Product ordering available within 24 hours of the disaster.”
  • Review your rental agreement for specific terms regarding the landlord’s responsibilities. If your building burns down because of the actions of another tenant, what is your recourse?
  • Consider hiring an auditor to review your procedures. These professionals can determine if your plan is unrealistically optimistic or if it includes any logistical holes.

Key disaster recovery plan components to get your business back to work:

  • Establish procedures to let all employees know that a disaster has occurred. Ensure personal email addresses and cell phone numbers are available and frequently updated for key disaster implementation personnel.
  • Review the disaster to determine if the delay in business functions will be temporary or could last weeks. (The detailed disaster plan should have specific tasks based on the duration of the disaster.)
  • Store insurance documents and other critical documents both as scanned images on an off-site server and in hard copies stowed in a safety-deposit box.
  • Select alternative warehouse or inventory locations in case primary locations are damaged in a disaster.
  • Find alternative locations for business operations. Determine, in the planning stages, which employees need to be congregated together and which ones can work remotely.
  • Consider options for manufacturing products if your facility is damaged. Can you lease space from another facility that is under-capacity?
  • If your company produces non-perishable items that aren’t custom built, then you should calculate how many days or weeks you can fulfill orders using current inventory. If the disaster will put you out of commission for a month but you can only fulfill 10 days of orders, then you have a problem!

For many businesses, essential business functions can go on even if the organization’s facilities are determined to be unsafe. With cloud computing storing virtual data, real-time chat and other tools, many employees will be able to work from home or gathered together in small groups at remote locations.

Tips for protecting your company data and enabling seamless work productivity after a disaster:

  • Task the IT department with finding the best solution for off-site data backup. New advancements in cloud computing allow redundant systems to be set up quickly and inexpensively. Older tape-backup systems can be cumbersome to retrieve or lost in transport–putting your company’s data at risk.
  • Consider backing up entire applications and processes, not just data. Nearly every professional function can now be performed virtually.
  • Give employees the option to check email from home. Even if “working from home” is not currently part of corporate culture, providing access in advance may help your company in the long run, as employees with ready access to key documents and applications will be well prepared to work immediately following any natural or manmade disaster.
  • Protect your intellectual property. If you run a manufacturing company, you might use a proprietary process to make your product. Make sure this information is stored offsite and is not simply located in on-site computers or assembly machines.

For businesses, failure to plan concrete steps necessary for recovering after disasters can result in complete business failure. Creating a disaster recovery and business continuity plan is a worthwhile exercise to encourage your company to consider and manage worst-case scenarios.

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.

Hacking Away at Business Security

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011
Masked bandit hacking a laptop

All passwords for the Allied Universal Training System are fully-encrypted.

With the recent hack of various Gmail accounts by cyber criminals, companies are again casting an eye at ways to ensure data security and circumvent the risks associated with cyber crime. Cyber attacks are particularly difficult for law enforcement because they occur anonymously over great distances and are often conducted by highly intelligent individuals who are skilled at covering their digital tracks.

The disruption caused by cyber attack presents businesses with more than just a minor annoyance. High profile breaches, such as the recent attack on Sony’s PlayStation Network, caused significant losses, as thousands of insecure customers bugged out. As a result, Sony claimed to have lost more than $170 million as a result of the breach.

For some entities, such as utilities or defense contractors, cyber attacks cause disruptions which go far beyond the scope of financial loss. A recent survey of senior level IT professionals indicated that they hold cybercrime to be the most dangerous threat for their business, ranking above the fear of natural disasters.

Details of the Recent Gmail Account Hack:

  • Some of the hacked accounts included senior U.S. Government officials, Chinese political activists, and journalists, prompting many to suspect that the Chinese government had something to do with the attack.
  • The accounts were compromised through a phishing attack, which involves gaining access to an account by presenting the user with a legitimate-looking, fraudulent emails or texts. (Many bank customers have been caught by phishing schemes where the crook will say he represents the client’s bank and needs user account information)
  • The Gmail criminals used information from hacked email accounts to contact and infiltrate other user accounts, since people tend to trust messages sent from someone they know.

What Can Businesses Do to Better Safeguard Electronic Information?

  • Establish robust firewalls to prevent intrusions.
  • Conduct an internal employee survey to find out how many of your employees are using “1234” for their password. Prepare to be shocked by the results. Require employees to follow set procedures for password creation and changing of passwords at regular intervals.
  • A popular method for creating hack-resistant passwords is to think of a phrase such as “Cybercrime is a risk I want to manage.” Then, use the first letter of each word from the phrase to create a password: “CIARIWTM.” Then, to mix it up further, add two or three memorable numbers and a symbol to the mix: CI$AR&IW@TM. Also, use different cases instead of all caps or lowercase letters: Ci$aR&iW@Tm. Breaking a password this complicated will keep hackers at bay, since easily-cracked “1234” passwords are easier targets of opportunity. (This is for the same reason thieves prefer to break into cars that have open windows and keys in the ignition than vehicles that are locked and armed with alarms.)
  • Password reset software can be used following a breach to bring passwords back.
  • Review outside vendors who have access to your data. Even if your company has state of the art protection, it is worthless if one of your vendors operates in an open environment which can easily be hacked.
  • Carefully guard client email lists and account numbers. The recent loss of email data by Epsilon cost the company millions of dollars, as customers canceled their credit cards after they discovered their data had been compromised.
  • Run routine security updates on your computer system. But be careful not to click on screen messages from anyone other than the system you subscribe to. Make sure that your employees know they should do a hard reset (manual shut-down) if anything out of the ordinary appears on their computer screens.

A breach not only costs time and money in the short term, but it can be detrimental to customer perception and trust. This is especially true of companies that hold customer data such as social security numbers or financial information. Virtual disasters should demand the same foresight and planning as natural large-scale events such as floods, fires and earthquakes.

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.

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.

Managing the Threat During Wildfire Season

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011
wildfire in front of a mountain range

Managing the Threat During Wildfire Season

With average temperatures rising nearly every year, the risk of spring and summer wildfires continues to grow. Already this year, Texas is approaching an annual record for acres burned, with more fires likely to spark. Controlling and stopping wildfires is expensive. A finance officer with the Texas Forest Service reports associated costs of $1 million per day,

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, 71,908 wild land fires in 2010 damaged 3,423,136 acres—an area about six times the size of Rhode Island. Fires wreak havoc not only via flames, but also through harmful particulates in smoke, which are dangerous to people as well as property.

If your commercial or residential property is located near woodlands, you should know that there are steps you can take now that could minimize structural and smoke damage, and maybe even safe a life, should a wildfire break out near your facility:

Clear brush and plant fire-resistant foliage adjacent to your building:

  • A fire that breaks out near your building could potentially spread unless you maintain defensible space.
  • The recommended distance of defensible space varies by the type of wild land vegetation growing near the structure and the steepness of the terrain. But, firefighters suggest a minimum of 30 feet of cleared space around any given structure, since sparks from wildfires can jump a considerable distance.
  • According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, proper clearance to 100 feet dramatically increases the chance of your structure surviving a wildfire. This defensible space also assures safety for firefighters who battle the blaze.

For a list of fire-resistant plants for your neck for the woods, contact the local forestry agency or do a little bit of research online. For example, San Diego County provides a detailed list of fire-resistant plants suitable for Southern California, a website about the Pacific Northwest explains the way to plant trees and bushes in order to Keep Oregon Green, while the Virginia Department of Forestry website lists regional fire-resistant trees and plants.

  • To prevent soil erosion, plants should be trimmed down instead of removed entirely.
  • Avoid planting trees near power lines as high winds might cause a line to break and start a fire.

Structural Challenges:

  • For buildings with cedar shake shingle roofs, consider renovating with asphalt shingles since the newer variety are treated with fire retardant.
  • Install external sprinkler systems which will hydrate nearby plants, making it difficult for flying embers to ignite near your building. If you install such a system, make sure it is properly maintained and frequently tested to be sure it is operational in case of emergency.
  • Ensure debris is moved away from the building. Shipping materials such as wooden pallets can pose a significant risk if exposed to fire.
  • Cover outside ventilation units with wire mesh to prevent floating embers from entering the property.
  • For buildings with patios, utilize only fire-resistant furniture and make sure that gas cooking grills can be stowed away during fire season.
  • Clear leaves and branches from rooftops and gutters.
  • Make sure you’re the fire extinguishers in your building have not expired.

The threat of wildfires exists in all 50 states, unlike other disasters which might occur only in coastal areas or in the Midwest. For this reason, businesses large and small should include wildfire mitigation in their disaster management plans to ensure the safety of both their building and tenants. If we work together, we might just be able to SAVE A LIFE.

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.

The Real Deal for Earthquake Preparedness

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

House about to fall into a crack of earth

Take steps to make sure you are prepared in case of an earthquake or other disaster.

It’s easy to talk about disaster preparedness. At Allied Universal, Inc., we like to walk the talk. One example of the way we practice what we preach is our participation in the 2010 Great California ShakeOut, which was recognized by Cal EMA and the Earthquake Country Alliance. We were in good company, as some 7.9 million people actively participated in the 2010 event.

The 2011 ShakeOut will be held on October 20th, 2011 at 10:20 in the morning! So, why are we talking about an event that is six months away? Because earthquakes can happen at any time and often without advance warning. So, to limit loss of life and property, planning ahead is paramount to safety. We would also like to give you plenty of notice so you can make plans to participate in the next ShakeOut.

Unfortunately, much of the latest information about best practices to deal with earthquakes comes from past incidents. Despite the tragedy in terms of lives lost, it is important to take a broader review of disasters (such as the recent Japan quake), to prepare for the inevitability of future earthquake-related disasters:

  • Information sharing is critical. Some Japanese agencies received criticism for the slow spread of information relative to the depth of damage to infrastructure, particularly concerning the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
  • Tsunami and earthquake damage are under review by teams from several countries. The sheer scale of the disaster makes it an obvious example of a worst-case scenario, where individuals on top of four-story buildings were not even afforded safety. Groups from the United States are examining the types of buildings that did or did not escape the tsunami unscathed. The research could lead to drastic changes in building codes and provide opportunities for better safety in the future.
  • Scientists use data from the Japan quake to examine similarities in other geographic regions. Researchers are closely reviewing the Pacific Northwest of the United States which is in a similar subduction zone to Japan. Further review will allow better future placement of tsunami offshore beacons and will likely lead to changes in building strategies as well as warning systems.
  • In California, greater emphasis is placed on events like the ShakeOut because the desire to mine earthquake preparedness tips is so dire. Major California cities have avoided a massive earthquake for more than a century. And renewed vigilance is important to recognize the threat posed by a quake.

In the disaster planning field, unfortunately, actual disasters are often the most useful for emergency training. For example, large-scale tragedies can lead to analyzing and revamping building codes and emergency procedures to greatly reduce future destruction. So, when educational opportunities such as the ShakeOut arise, make sure you avail yourself of safe opportunities to learn.

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.

 

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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.

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