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Reflections on 9/11: What we’ve learned about the cost of terrorism

Sunday, August 21st, 2011
September 11 with patriotic twin towers and "never forget"

We are continuing our series of reflections on 9/11

Second in a series about 9/11

With the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 just around the corner, we are devoting five weeks to discuss the 10 lessons the world has learned from that fateful day and recommend emergency precautions that you should take now to give you and your family, friends, employees and colleagues the best chance of surviving another terrorist attack.

Two of the 10 things we’ve learned from 9/11:

2. We can’t afford to take our safety for granted. The aftermath of 911 will likely be with us in perpetuity. The plus side to this is that many people now realize they should take steps to protect themselves and prepare for potential future attacks.

Prior to the events of September 11, 2001, many of us took our safety for granted. Doing so was easy. After all, planes generally took off and landed as scheduled. Going to work was relatively uneventful. Multi-million dollar buildings stood tall.

All of that changed when pilots hijacked planes and, in a coordinated suicide effort led by al-Qaeda, crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. A third plane which was likely headed for either the Capital or the White House was overtaken by passengers and crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. Thousands of workers and civilians died in what has since become known as the greatest terrorist attack on American soil in history.

The good news is that, as a nation, we have learned. We have learned to recognize threats and to take action in order to ward off potential assaults against our country. Security is tighter now than it has ever been. And, as a result, we are safer. In fact, the likelihood of broad attacks involving multiple agents has actually decreased since 2001.

What’s more, because we are no longer naïve about potential threats to our personal and national safety, we are more willing to participate in drills and develop emergency preparedness plans. For those of us in the safety training business, this is good news because we have long understood the importance of preparation. In fact, at Allied Universal, Inc. has been providing safety and security solutions to commercial real estate companies for more than 20 years. Our mission is to save lives through training with the motto “BE SAFE!”

You can take an active part in your own safety by observing National Preparedness Month (NPM) in September. Sponsored by FEMA, the month-long campaign encourages citizens to get a kit, make a plan and be informed. Leading by example, Allied Universal, Inc. is a member of the NPM Coalition.

2. Terrorism can cause thousands of casualties and/or extensive damage to buildings as well as infrastructure. According to the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 cost nearly $2 trillion.

Small Business—Cyber security firm Symantec reports that, despite the plethora of information about terrorism attacks, most small business owners remain unprepared. Don’t wait until it’s too late. The cost of training your employees to act and assemble simple disaster kits is far less than what you will lose if and when you and your colleagues face another terrorist attack. Potential threats include cyber security. So make sure your information systems are secure.

Property Owners & ManagersEmerald Research reports that terrorist attacks on buildings are becoming an increasing threat. So it is essential that property managers prepare for potential attacks. Building owners and managers should understand the types of devices used by terrorists and assess the threat, determine how buildings can be physically protected and the ways that property managers should respond to perceived threats, both proactively and reactively.

As our series continues, we’ll examine the remaining eight lessons we’ve learned from 9/11 so you and your loved ones and colleagues will BE SAFE. Once you have determined the possible events and their potential affects to your community, you’ll want to discuss them with your family, friends and coworkers.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives.  For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit rjwestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

Managing Indoor Air Quality

Monday, June 20th, 2011
Sacramento skyline in smog

Clean air is a safety concern.

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

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

What are some of the main contributors to air pollution?

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

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

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

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

Cleaning and maintenance tips for air quality:

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

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

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives.  For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit rjwestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

Greenscaping Office Buildings

Sunday, March 21st, 2010
There are lots of ways to improve your building by going green.

There are lots of ways to improve your building by going green.

It’s time to get “green!” This is the first in a series of blogs about how building owners and tenants can embrace green policies in a variety of areas.

This week we will examine trends including green roofs and “living walls,” which are becoming popular for aesthetic and economic reasons.

Green roofs for commercial buildings have substantial vegetation and a growing medium planted over some type of waterproof membrane. For the purposes of today’s blog, we will only talk about green roofs or living walls that have vegetation, not those with other  “green” feature such as solar panels. Green roofs are low maintenance as well as attractive, whether the green space covers the entire roof or just a portion of a rooftop garden area. Through proper planning, a green roof can become a place for tenants to enjoy the natural environment in a private atmosphere. Some green walls also feature edible plants, which give tenants a free source of snacks and great conversation starters.

Your facility management team should work closely with the green-roofing installation team to ensure that the building—

  • Plantings receive adequate yearly sunlight
  • Roof system has enough structural integrity to handle the increased weight of plants, soil, and patio or structural garden elements. The company you select to install the plants should also account for the dramatic weight differences between wet and dry soil.
  • Provides the best for the climate zone and amount of sunlight for the varieties you want to plant.

Benefits abound if you choose to plant vegetation on roofs and walls:

  • Increased air quality of the surrounding area. Some living wall structures can be integrated into a building’s air circulation system, effectively “scrubbing” the air.
  • Provides a natural habitat for birds and other animal life
  • Selling point for tenants who appreciate ecologically-friendly buildings
  • Storm water control, including a reduction in contaminants in rainwater runoff
  • “Greywater” can be used in some building-designs to water plants
  • Energy savings provide a buffer between the ambient temperature and the roof’s insulation. Living walls can also provide shade.
  • Life of the roof materials benefit from ultraviolet protection, allowing vegetative roof membranes to last longer than conventional materials
  • Wellness and aesthetic appeal – tenants will benefit from exposure to more natural surroundings

Admittedly, potential disadvantages to green roofs and living walls should be considered prior to installation

  • Maintenance issues, such as pruning of vegetation and ensuring HVAC systems still function properly. Living walls require frequent attention to support structures and plant life.
  • Increased short-term costs, compared to traditional roofs
  • Nature might intrude too much. Vegetation could attract birds or harmful insects to the area.

Green roofs and living walls can provide tangible benefits for building owners and tenants. In this tight leasing market, offering green features could be what sets your building apart from property owners and managers who offer more traditional office space.

Visit us next week for part 2 in our series about green property strategies.

For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal. Our e-based system offers the best emergency training available, with automated and integrated features. Allied Universal, Inc. is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, a non-profit trade organization that promotes sustainability in how buildings are designed, built and operated. Visit rjwestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

Fire Hazards in Office Buildings

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Only You Can Prevent Office Fires

Only You Can Prevent Office Fires

According to data from the National Fire Protection Agency, there were 112,000 non-residential structure fires in 2008 which resulted in 120 deaths and $3.8 billion in property damages.  High-rise buildings are especially at risk as fires can spread rapidly and higher floors are often out of reach of most firefighting aerial equipment.

Building owners should work closely with tenants and discuss potential fire hazards to prevent loss of property or life. Tenants should understand the potential losses of sensitive data or documents that can be destroyed so they should be more apt to listen.

Reducing the incidence of fire in buildings can be accomplished by identifying contributing factors and minimizing risks. Come to think of it, that’s the way to handle any type of risk!

Space heaters:

  • Often kept in enclosed spaces near papers, space heaters can lead to fast-moving fires
  • Space heaters use a high amount of electricity and multiple users can increase utility bills
  • Older space heaters don’t have auto shutoff safety can start fires if tipped over

Office Equipment and Appliances:

  • Coffee makers, copiers and computers all need space around them for air circulation
  • Papers should not be stacked on or around equipment
  • Restrict use of hotplates and other portable heating items

Wiring and Power:

  • Older wiring that is mixed with newer wiring can lead to sparking which can turn into fire
  • Buildings that do not keep current with electrical code standards are at risk
  • Overuse of extension cords and power strips has greatly expanded as offices have more and more electronic devices. Overloaded circuits or power cords routed under combustible carpets can both be fire risks

Combustible materials:

  • Modern offices typically have many combustible materials such as file folders, wooden partitions, upholstered furniture, carpeted floors, and wooden doors
  • Combustibles can be decreased by choosing metal furniture, installing fire-rated doors, and moving towards paperless record keeping

Smoking:

Don’t forget about cigarettes and cigars! A leading cause of fires is recreational smoking. Even when buildings restrict smoking inside buildings, some tenants may fail to comply. The best way to combat this is to enforce strict no-smoking policies and provide safe alternative outdoor smoking areas. Outside ash containers should be heavy so they don’t tip over. And care should be taken to ensure safe disposal of ash and cigarette butts.

Fire risks can be greatly decreased by establishing and enforcing set policies for all of your tenants. The Allied Universal Training System can help you mitigate these and other safety risks. Visit www.rjwestmore.com and ask us about the recently released Version 2.0 of our award-winning training program. Choosing our service cuts property management training related workloads by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training!

Most importantly, IT SAVES LIVES!