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El Niño Weather Risks for 2016

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016

El nino conceptThe early January storms in Southern California brought not only rain and wind, but also a rare tornado warning for Los Angeles and San Diego. While the warnings didn’t pan out, meteorologists agree that 2016 will bring an increased chance of storms of many types across the entire country. Thanks to El Niño, emergency management professionals across the country are gearing up for what may be a banner year for weather. In fact, citing a worrying El Niño storm pattern this winter that could rival flooding in 1997 and 1998, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has prepared a 66-page Severe El Niño Disaster Response Plan targeted to milder climates such as California and other western states.

What exactly is El Niño? Technically, it is the warm phase of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (commonly called ENSO). In simple terms, bands of warmer ocean water develop near the equator. This abnormally warm ocean water then alters the atmospheric conditions to produce unpredictable weather events. Here are some tips for handling several potential facets of El Niño weather and tips for preparing your building for severe weather.

Perform Storm Water Inspections of Your Properties

Water flow from drainpipeConduct a property walk-through to spot water drainage problems that could be aggravated by El Niño storms. While on the walkthrough:

  • Check drainpipes and other piping used to channel rainwater. Be sure these are free of debris to potentially handle large quantities of water. Review storm patterns and associated damage from previous years to identify potential problem areas.
  • If your building has water pumps, ensure they remain in good working condition. Remove debris from strainers.
  • If storm drains are severely backed up, you may need to hire a professional who has tools such as cameras to quickly identify and solve the problem.
  • Test the drainage system for leaks. This is especially important in areas that house electrical equipment.
  • Does your building have ground-level storage or parking areas? Check the grading to identify areas which may be susceptible to flooding. Sandbags and other measures can help channel water flow away from high traffic areas.

Managing Snowfall

Natural Disaster Warning Signs, Family Running, Caution, Danger, Hazard Symbol SetThe Weather Channel’s Winter Storm Central details the typical effects of El Niño and La Nina relative to snow patterns. The hope is that the subtropical or southern-branch jet stream, typically turbo-charged during strong El Niño, will deliver long-awaited relief for at least some in the West. However, no one can equivocally guarantee that the drought will end even if El Niño performs as expected. The good news is that, so far this year, California is already experiencing heavier snowfall than normal, with several feet reported.

How to Handle Snow:

  • Use chains. Necessary even if you have a four-wheel drive vehicle, snow chains provide the traction necessary to escape snow-packed surfaces, though they remain relatively useless for traversing slick ice. Practice putting chains on your car in the comfort of your driveway instead of opening the package for the first time while you are stranded at the side of the road during a blizzard.
  • Keep exhaust pipes clear. If the pipe is blocked while the car is running, shovel an area around it for the gases to escape, instead of allowing them to filter back into the car.
  • Work with other motorists. If you are stranded during a snowstorm, make contact with other people so you can pool resources such as food, water, charged devices, and other items from your emergency supply kit.
  • Stay with the vehicle. Unless you have veered off the road, stay with the car as it will provide a certain degree of shelter.

Prepping your Building

Rain, tornadoes, and snow from El Niño could lead to a wide range of disaster threats this year. Here are some tips to help you (and building occupants) survive and resume normal operations as quickly as possible:

  • Use backup generators to provide a source of electricity to run sump pumps and to provide essential services to stranded occupants.
  • If applicable, paint your building (especially wood trim) with treated paint, which will repel water.
  • Conduct flood-proofing of your building, including the use of sandbags, attention to gutters, altering rooflines, and other fixes. FEMA has an extension section devoted to flood-proofing.

The effect of El Niño are global, with NASA predicting “weather chaos.” A theme of El Niño weather events is their unpredictability, with unusually-timed floods, blizzards, and the potential for tornadoes in unexpected places. Planning for the unexpected is a requirement for building and safety managers, so follow best practices to protect lives and property in 2016.

Remember that safety is a daily priority, so be sure to think safety all of the time. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

Update on the Threat of Terrorist Attacks: How to Safeguard Your Residential or Commercial Property

Monday, January 10th, 2011
police line do not cross

Protect your property from terrorist attacks.

After the grand assault of 9/11, many security analysts worried terror cells were plotting similar or even larger scale attacks. Fortunately, however, due to law enforcement efforts and increased security, the likelihood of broad attacks involving multiple agents has actually decreased since 2001. This is due in part to decentralization of terrorist groups, which means more individuals might be operating without financial or operational backing. Unfortunately, it also means that the location of potential terror targets grows beyond high profile targets in major cities. City officials and police chiefs are responding by participating in terrorism-prevention training.

What should facility managers do in the face of the changing terrorism threat?

  • Installation of outside surveillance cameras can dissuade perpetrators from selecting your building for a “dry run” or actual attack.
  • Use Bollards to deter truck bombs. A Bollard is a large three to four foot post which can often be lowered and raised to allow or deny access into sensitive areas.
  • Ask city officials not to provide architectural plans of their facility to any outside person or organization.
  • Review procedures that allow non employees to enter the building. Set procedures to intercept packages and deliveries at a secure location. Require all visitors to be met and escorted by tenant personnel before being allowed into the building.
  • Go a block away from your building and then try to find a way back. Is the parking garage secure? Do side doors remain unlocked? If you do your homework, you will be able to uncover potential Security holes.

The importance of individual vigilance:

  • As potential terror perpetrators become less organized and individuals begin operating solo, law enforcement has less information to stop attacks.
  • Individual awareness of suspicious activities can thwart attacks in progress.
  • As with any goal, individual collaboration is the key to success. Encourage tenants to speak up if something seems out of place. Also, involvement of the custodial and parking staff can increase the potential for staff eyes and ears to spot potential issues.

In addition preventing potential attacks, facility managers should work with tenants to establish procedures in the event it becomes necessary to manage the aftermath of an attack:

  • Review and improve evacuation procedures for building occupants. Speedy and orderly exit during an emergency can save lives.
  • Establish protocols for reporting suspicious activity. Make sure there is a clear “chain of information,” with one facility point of contact for law enforcement.

In our free society, it is likely that terror threats will occur. However, individual attention combined with enhanced security measures can stop threats in action. With the recent Times Square bombing thwarted in part by a street vendor, ordinary citizens can make a real difference in terror prevention.

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.

Floor Warden Facts

Monday, June 21st, 2010
A Floor Warden helps with emergency evacuations.

A Floor Warden helps with emergency evacuations.

All of our training emphasizes how tenants and building management need to work together as a unit to ensure safety. In the event of fire or other emergencies, a fast and orderly building evacuation can save lives.

Tenants with 10 or more employees are required by OSHA to have an emergency action plan to help ensure tenant safety during disasters. The selection and training of Floor Wardens is an important part of any action plan.

Typical duties of Floor Wardens:

  • Wardens and alternative Wardens need to be familiar with all tenants and their workspace locations to ensure that no one is left behind in cases of emergency.
  • A clear understanding of the proper evacuation route and gathering place are essential for preventing panic. Your tenant’s Floor Wardens should practice walking the primary and backup emergency routes to avoid any mistakes that could result from stress.
  • Floor Wardens will work with the building’s fire safety director to check off names of present employees and to note any that are missing after an evacuation.
  • Your tenant’s reception employees should keep logs of any absent employees or office visitors that are present, and share this information with the proper Floor Warden.

Floor Warden training:

  • Cross training of several tenant employees is important to account for Floor Wardens who may be absent during any given emergency or leave their position with the company.
  • Special training or equipment should be given to Wardens who have tenant employees with disabilities that will require additional evacuation assistance.
  • Instructions should be given to Wardens on the location and usage of equipment such as flashlights, radios or whistles.
  • Some tenants in large buildings might want to designate additional employees as stairwell and/or elevator monitors who will supervise safe and orderly evacuations. Floor Wardens should work closely with these monitors to keep track of employees and ensure they take the proper exit routes.

Benefits of the Allied Universal Training System:

  • Our system offers real-time updates to Floor Warden lists, which can be viewed by building management
  • We send automatic annual reminders to each Warden for training renewal
  • Our system is fully integrated with the fire department to ensure Wardens, Fire Safety Directors and the local departments have the same occupancy data for every building
  • We record user training and testing for future reference

Fire or other disasters strike quickly and often without warning. Through repetition of training and certification with our system, Floor Wardens will play an integral part in tenant safety by making sure no one is left behind in times of danger.

For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal, Inc. 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.