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Posts Tagged ‘emergency management professionals’

The Growing Role of Women in Emergency Management

Monday, October 31st, 2011

A growing number of women are filling emergency management positions.

Emergency management positions are traditionally male-dominated. Many war veterans and first responders such as firefighters traditionally filled many emergency management roles. So, since the majority of individuals in these positions were male, emergency management became a male-centered profession—one that is only recently adapting to new hiring practices.

Traditional barriers for women entering emergency management fields:

  • Many agencies felt that on-the-ground first responders experience as police officers, firefighters, or EMTs was necessary for effective emergency services management.
  • A “boy’s club” mentality existed, where the path to promotion and appointment to leadership-positions was largely directed by men who tended to hire other men.

Some relevant statistics on the changing landscape of security management:

  • A 2006 survey from the Emergency Management Professional Organization for Women’s Enrichment (EMPOWER) showed only 10 percent of respondents possessed more than ten years of experience.
  • Annual employee survey data from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) shows gradual increases in the number of women working for the department, with percentages up to 37.5 in 2010, compared to 32 percent in 2007.
  • EMPOWER also notes an increase in women’s involvement in the field following 9/11, which inspired many to join the ranks of emergency management after witnessing and respecting the heroic actions of first responders relative to the attacks. The events surrounding 9/11 prompted the creation of the DHS and raised awareness of the need for coordinated relief efforts and emergency management as rewarding and patriotic career paths.

Another factor that has contributed to the growth of women in emergency management is the fact that numerous professional organizations allow women across the country to share about best practices, and as mentors for others who are hoping to enter the field. Organizations such as the International Association of Women in Fire & Emergency Services offer networking, policy guidelines for fire departments and also a voice for women on policy-making initiatives. These types of organizations promote the capabilities of women in emergency management and are helping to further open professional doors that were previously closed. EMPOWER is another group that pushes mentoring and educational opportunities as ways for women to join the field.

Below are some expert tips for women who are looking to join emergency management:

  • Volunteering early in your career is an ideal way to gain experience. You can learn how the organization operates, and the efforts involved in directing and motivating volunteer staff.
  • Be open to new opportunities that might indirectly lead to positions in the field. Nobody will get an upper-level emergency management job right out of college. Consider working for a police department or taking a temporary disaster relief job to get your foot in the door.
  • Focus on an area of special interest. For example, your medical background would translate well to public health emergency agencies. Or your work in public relations might parlay to emergency management communication positions. So keep your eyes open for opportunities.

Diversity in hiring is always a good thing. The particular community covered by an emergency management agency is best served by the most qualified leader—regardless of gender.

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.

Lessons Learned in the 10 Years since 9/11

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011
Crumbling 9/11

We've learned lots of safety lessons from September 11, 2001

Part 3 in our continuing series

Since August is U.S. Army Anti-Terrorism Awareness Month, and 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. In our third installment this week, here are two more lessons we’ve learned:

  1. Security-related incidents will likely impact transportation and travel.

The 9/11 attacks affected public transit, commuter rail, commercial vehicles and ferries, and resulted in the need for significant road repairs. What’s more, the way people travel has shifted since the now infamous act of terrorism on our country. According to the U.S. Travel Association:

  • Business travel was hit particularly hard by 9/11. Between 2011 and 2010, total volume declined, as businessmen and women exercised the option of replacing short business trips with conference calls.
  • The good news is that American leisure travel, on the other hand, has been resilient. Despite long lines and other symptoms of policies implemented by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the leisure segment has seen a 17% increase in travel since 2001.
  • International leisure travel to the U.S. basically lost an entire decade following the attacks. While global long-haul travel increased by 40%. During the same period, overseas travel to the United States rose by less than 2%.

While the travel industry reels, emergency management professionals strategize about ways to ensure safety for anyone traveling to or within the United States. Carefully monitoring and protecting travelers has become a critical part of safeguarding our nation. If you’ve flown since 2001, you’ve undoubtedly experienced the effects of heightened security at our nation’s airports. Among the changes:

  • Restricted Items—box cutters and other sharp objects as well as large quantities of liquids and gels are no longer allowed on airplanes.
  • Heightened security on aircraft—cockpit doors are bulletproof to prevent unauthorized access. Pilots also have the option to carry a gun. And more air marshals have been placed on flights. Curtains that used to divide first class and coach cabins have been removed.
  • Improved security screening—many passengers are patted down, everyone has to remove jackets, shoes and belts before passing through security checkpoints. Even casual comments made in passing (relative to terrorism or hijacking) are taken seriously.
  • Tighter Identification checks—all passengers must carry valid IDs.

Since restrictions could be placed on domestic and international travel in the event of another attack, systems have been put in place to alert citizens if it becomes necessary to ask residents to evacuate and/or avoid certain roads or areas for safety.

  1. Law enforcement involvement is necessary at local, state and federal levels due to the criminal nature of any and all terrorist attacks. Most counter-terrorism strategies involve an increase in standard police and local authorities. But did you know that you can play a part to aid officials in their efforts to protect the public?
  • Keep your eyes open and report suspicious activities to local agencies. The best way to do this is to become familiar with your surroundings so you will notice anything out of the ordinary.
  • The Army’s iWATCH Program encourages people to identify and report suspicious behavior that may be associated with terrorist activities.
  • The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) encourages people to help authorities by suggesting: If you see something, say something. If you notice suspicious activity, report it to your local police department. If you are experiencing an emergency, call 911.
  • Since attacks can come in the 3-D world or cyber space, the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team offers a US-Cert Incident Reporting System. Learn to identify potential threats to your cyber security along with your physical safety.

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.

Fire in a high-rise building: Is it safe to ride the elevator?

Monday, February 28th, 2011
People running toward an exit

Is it safe to use an elevator to exit in emergencies?

The 9/11 disasters prompted facility managers and emergency management professionals to discuss the use of elevators for egress in cases of fire-related emergencies. Among other things, the terrorist attacks shed light on the fact that, for optimum safety, certain emergencies require evacuation of all floors simultaneously instead of individually.

While not yet mainstream, research and discussion is beginning to challenge long-held beliefs. Some high-rise buildings, such as the 1,149-foot Stratosphere Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, utilize evacuation elevators due to the height of the building, which makes emergency stairway exits implausible.

So is change coming? Who will ultimately decide? Elevator use in buildings is largely managed by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, who review and suggest changes for elevator codes that dictate standards for buildings throughout the country.

Challenges to implementation of evacuation elevators:

  • Changing ingrained procedures will be a challenge. Building occupants have long been told to “take the stairs during a fire.” Adapting tenants to the safety and expediency of elevator evacuation might be difficult. Intensive in-person training will need to be executed and assurances given about the newfound benefits of using elevators for speedier emergency exits.
  • Handling water from sprinklers is an engineering hurdle. If occupants need to escape quickly during a fire, it’s very likely the sprinklers will be on during evacuation. So operations and communications equipment in evacuation elevators need to be protected from potential water damage.
  • Smoke inhalation is the biggest health danger during a fire. So Smoke Control Systems should be installed, maintained and regularly inspected in elevator areas.
  • Other potential hazards, such as earthquakes causing fires, mean evacuation elevators need to be structurally reinforced.

If tenants plan to use evacuation elevators but firefighters on the ground recall all elevators to the lobby, precious time could be wasted. Working with fire department staff prevents this type of mis-communication. One way the Allied Universal Training System improves emergency communication between local fire departments and our clients is via the building-specific, automatic notifications and updates we send to fire departments with real-time information relative to Special Assistance, Floor Wardens and Fire Safety Directors. Thanks to this service, emergency personnel are well-equipped to provide assistance and direction when they arrive on scene.

Installation of dedicated emergency egress elevators is not usually valuable unless the elevators themselves are protected from fire. New codes are emerging which have been designed to protect evacuation elevators with fireproof padding and other structural safeguards. Dedicated emergency power supplies are also needed to ensure elevator occupants are not left stranded between floors during emergencies.

Widespread requirements for evacuation elevators might be on the horizon. So it’s important to stay ahead of the learning curve. Used correctly, they offer the ultimate promise of a higher degree of safety for those who work and live in high-rise structures. As always, be sure you review the latest national and local codes as they relate to fire-related procedures. It’s important to have an integrated approach to fire safety which includes sprinklers, alarms and safe evacuation routes.

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.