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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.

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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Spring Flooding Danger

Monday, March 28th, 2011

"Road Closed Ahead--Flood" signs in front of flood zone

FEMA says that property damage resulting from floods is more costly than any other disaster.

As rivers swell from snow-pack runoff and rainstorms become more prevalent, many communities are in great danger of spring flooding. In fact, in western states affected by wildfires where vegetation has burned, heavy rainfall is more likely than usual to lead to floods.

 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently worked together to promote Flood Awareness Week, held March 14 through 18. According to FEMA, floods cause more monetary damage to property than any other natural disaster. To help, FEMA offers a great flood-cost calculator tool that details damaged areas.

How to prevent flood damage:

  • Low-lying homes and low-rise buildings can be raised to literally stand above flood waters. While this is certainly a costly fix, it is very effective.
  • Electrical panels and water heaters can be elevated, where feasible, to lessen potential fire and associated damage.
  • Landscaping and the overall slope of land should be considered. Owners should consider whether there is any way to divert water flow to prevent flash floods.
  • Flood alerts should be heeded.
  • Waterproofing compound can be used to seal basements in order to prevent seeping water.

Other smart tips for mitigating damage:

  • Store important documents on the highest floor or on raised bookshelves attached to the wall. Don’t put them in basement storage areas! Also, consider investing in waterproof containers which can withstand sustained soaking.
  • Fuel tanks can tip over or float during a flood. As if cleaning up water is not difficult enough, taking care of 100 gallons of fuel oil can be a nightmare. To prevent this situation, anchor fuel tanks properly. This will also lessen the risk of fires.
  • Check your sewer system for a back-flow valve that will prevent sewer waste from coming into your home or business.

What are the risks to structures?

  • With good reason, water is known as the “universal solvent.” Floods cause massive property damage by degrading foundations and crippling walls—making structures uninhabitable.
  • Long-term problems such as mold accumulation are very costly to fix. So take the time to adequately dry and inspect all areas of your building after floods to keep mold from growing. You might even find it necessary to bring on a specialist to check HVAC systems. Otherwise, damp areas can become fertile breeding ground for mold colonies.

Safety tips:

  • Don’t cross a flooded river or any area with fast-moving water. Cars and people can be carried away very quickly by rising floods.
  • Pay attention to flash flood warnings. A few minutes of preparation might save your life.
  • Be especially vigilant about using electricity during and after a flood. Turning off electricity is recommended once flooding has begun. When in doubt, consult the power company to investigate your home or office building to ensure safety after flooding resides.

Floods are especially damaging disasters as they present a host of both short and long-term risks to both personal property and individual safety. While large scale floods are not avoidable, smaller floods may be prevented if proactive steps are taken to decrease the damage and protect loved ones as well as valued possessions.

Proper planning and learning what ‘to do’ are the keys to managing any situation when disaster strikes.  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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How to Prepare for a Nuclear Disaster

Monday, March 14th, 2011
Radioactive Warning Sign

There are lots of resources for nuclear preparation.

All of us at Allied Universal, Inc. want to extend our sympathies to those who were affected by the 8.9 earthquake and resulting tsunamis that ravaged Japan last Friday. Sources report the death toll at a staggering 2,800. With thousands of people remaining missing, the total number of casualties is expected to exceed 10,000.

As if the earthquake and tsunami disaster were not enough, Japanese nuclear scientists are warning of a possible related reactor-explosion. Shortly after the earthquakes and tsunami, explosions are said to have occurred when zirconium alloy casings of reactor fuel rods were exposed to air, causing the rods to overheat and release hydrogen gas.

With a second hydrogen blast on Monday morning destroying the outer walls of one of the reactor units, Japanese nuclear specialists are struggling to cool three affected units at the Fukushima-1 Nuclear Power Plant. The events have the Far East bracing for a potential large-scale disaster.

Cooling systems are said to be malfunctioning, and, according to Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), the plant is in danger of a meltdown, though they guarantee that, “There is no possibility of a Chernobyl-style accident at the site.” The events have led Japan to appeal to the United States for help.

In the midst of this news, it is timely that we take the opportunity to advise our clients and friends about steps to take in order to prepare for and react to potential disasters of this magnitude.

All Allied Universal Training System subscribers have proprietary access to life-saving information about effectively dealing with, among other things, both tsunami and radiation-related incidents.

Allied Universal Training System Charts for Emergency Preparedness

Allied Universal Training System subscribers have access to lots of great resources.

Another valuable resource is offered by FEMA—An In-depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness (IS-22), called: Are You Ready? FEMA’s most comprehensive source on individual, family, and community preparedness, the PDF provides current and up-to-date disaster preparedness information to reference if there is, among other things, an imminent terrorist or strategic nuclear attack threat. The downloadable booklet includes the following sections relative to earthquakes, tsunamis and nuclear accidents:

Why Prepare

Basic Preparedness

Getting Informed

Emergency Planning and Checklists

Assemble Disaster Supplies Kit

Shelter

Hazard Specific Preparedness

Practicing and Maintaining Your Plan

Natural Hazards

Earthquakes

Landslide and Debris Flow (Mudslide)

Tsunamis

Technological Hazards

Hazardous Materials Incidents

Nuclear Power Plants

Terrorism

General Information about Terrorism

Explosions

Biological Threats

Chemical Threats

Nuclear Blast

Radiological Dispersion Device (RDD)

Recovering from Disaster

Another great resource is available from the CDC. So be sure to check it out.

Familiarize yourself with the FEMA and CDC information and, if you are a safety training subscriber, the Allied Universal materials. When faced by a potential nuclear incident, take these preliminary safety steps:

1.     Decide to Stay or Go.

First, you must decide first if you need to prepare where you are or attempt evacuation. The nature of the threat, your prior preparations, and your confidence in your sources of information should inform your decision. If you know that you do not plan to stay at your own home or place of business or in the general vicinity, see step #2:

2.     Evacuate?

If you are considering evacuation, make sure that leaving your current location is worth the associated risk. You won’t want to get stuck between your current location and destination, as returning will not be easy. If you fail reach your destination, you may be exposed to nuclear fallout without shelter.

3.     Delegate!

Because time is of the essence, quickly delegate and assign tasks to various adult family members and/or colleagues. Your first priorities should be handling any medical emergencies and arranging for food, shelter, water and emergency provisions.

When a disaster of any scale 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.

BE SAFE: How Social Media Saves Lives

Monday, February 14th, 2011
Globe Cloaked in Social Media Protective Banner

Social Media is not just for social interaction anymore.

While some might think that websites like Twitter are only good for tracking celebrity exploits, they are proving incredibly useful for disaster preparation and emergency management.
For example, FEMA is adopting social media websites to share information about disasters and coordination efforts. Created in response to the successful use social media following the Haiti earthquake in 2010, the FEMA initiatives aim to harness the power of social media to spread life-saving, instantaneous information.

Social Media in Action

During the recent floods in Australia, social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook were instrumental for organizing-efforts. The emergency services in Queensland relied on social media sites for real-time updates on conditions in different areas. This data was used to allocate limited resources and aided in overall disaster planning.

The Australia floods highlighted the particular strengths of Facebook and Twitter, the two most popular social sites. Twitter proved most valuable as a way to spread information very rapidly and widely. During the floods, there were an estimated 1,200 flood-related status updates to Twitter “Tweets” per hour. The short (140) character lengths and ability to quickly “follow” those who were posting pertinent information allowed many residents to stay safe.

Facebook was utilized for providing more detail and acting as a way to manage relief activities. One of example of this occurred when an area animal shelter was at risk of flooding. Facebook was used to find homes for all of the displaced animals.

In all instances of the use of social media in disasters, the public becomes a valuable resource for helping the efforts of emergency management professionals. Acting as “first responders,” the general public can provide immediate information which can be used to affect the routing of emergency supplies and other emergency management efforts.

For emergency management officials, it’s important to keep an eye on the information flowing from the social media universe. Any grossly erroneous information should be quickly rebutted from official sources since one downside to the speed of social media is that misinformation can proliferate. So it’s important to monitor the social conversation. According to a Red Cross survey, 69 percent of respondents fully expect emergency management agencies to actively monitor and respond to emergency requests via social media sites.

Another recent use of social media was during the January blizzard that affected the Midwest. In Chicago, road clearing management personnel posted real-time progress of plowing efforts using phones or tablet devices. The National Weather service was also involved, through its efforts in spreading alerts through Twitter and Facebook.

Social media use during the floods and other disasters also act as aggregators of public sentiment and concern. Officials can use social media data to prepare official videos or flyers that address particular needs.

Usage of social media is a great medium for members of the general public and official emergency agencies to work together for the common good. By responsibly using the platform, the public can quickly learn what is happening and where they can go to help, while emergency officials can discover where to send rescue teams and allocate resources.

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.

Three to Get Ready…and Four to Go!

Monday, December 13th, 2010
FEMA Resolve to Be Ready Logo

For 2011, resolve to be ready!

At Allied Universal, Inc., we stress the importance of being proactive about preventing disasters. Preparation is critical because, while it won’t necessarily stop every potential disaster from happening, it will aid your efforts to mitigate the damage and, we hope above all else, save lives.

As 2010 comes to an end, families and property managers and owners have a chance to consider some New Year’s safety resolutions. For some ideas, you can look to FEMA’s recently announced “Resolve to be Ready in 2011” campaign. This is great because, while we want you to be thinking about safety every day; New Year’s is the perfect time to commit to implementing change.

Whether you choose to use this post to help formulate a New Year’s resolution or to inspire ideas for safety-related holiday gift ideas, remember that safety equipment pays for itself 100-fold the minute it is needed.

For families, the Resolve- to-be-Ready Program promotes readiness in three simple steps. So schedule firm deadlines for each to ensure your family is covered:

1. Create a Family Emergency Plan.

  • Discuss plans with all members of the family, being careful to include younger children, who often think quickly in emergencies.
  • Establish a meeting place and ways to contact each other. Remember cell phones might not be operational. So plan for contingencies.
  • Involve neighbors, especially noting who children should contact during emergencies if parents are not present.

2. Create an Emergency Kit. (Here is a comprehensive list of kit-suggestions.)

  • Include documents such as emergency contact numbers, insurance information, and bank records.
  • Also, don’t forget flashlights and first aid supplies.
  • Don’t neglect your pets. They will need food.
  • For little children and infants, you should include diapers and related items. Be sure to check the kit contents on a regular basis, since 18-month-old children won’t fit into newborn diapers.

3. Be Disaster-Specific.

  • If you live in Southern California, you should create unique plans for wildfires, earthquakes, and maybe even mudslides.
  • Atlantic coastal residents should purchase NOAA radios for better hurricane awareness to help plan evacuation or shelter plans.
  • Make sure you plan for the natural disasters specific to your region of the world.

Need gift ideas for family members, employees or coworkers? You might get some funny looks. But safety preparedness gifts show that you truly care! Consider these suggestions, which are more creative and helpful than a tie or Chia Pet:

  • An Emergency Generator
  • New carbon monoxide and smoke detectors are now available even for the hearing impaired
  • Fire extinguishers are perfect for family members who spend long hours in the garage woodworking or tinkering with cars
  • A gift certificate for First Aid or CPR classes. If you an organization that offers these, create one of your own.

What can property owners and managers do to promote readiness?

  • Giving fruit cakes at the holiday party? Consider a safety-related item such as an earthquake kit or roadside emergency kit.
  • If a major disaster prevents your employees or tenants from going home, do you have sufficient supplies for an overnight stay? Resolve to build an adequate stockpile of ready-to-eat meals, blankets, and bottled water.
  • Encourage your employees to meet resolutions by developing fun incentives. Resolve to be Ready recommends employees sign safety related pledges and display them at their desks.

Unlike trying to lose weight or hitting the gym six times per week, safety and preparation resolutions are relatively simple and realistic to meet. Whether you are buying waterproof flashlights for Uncle Fred or offering free CPR classes at your office building, you can help others by encouraging them to focus on 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.

Hurricane Communications

Monday, August 23rd, 2010
Communication is Key in Any Emergency

Communication is Key in Any Emergency

Second in a Series about Hurricane Preparedness and Recovery

Hurricanes are unique emergencies in that they are predictable. So there is no excuse for failing to prepare to respond with decisive action. Although you can’t control when a hurricane or other emergency may happen, it’s imperative that you take personal responsibility to make sure you are ready.  This week, in our continuing series about hurricanes, we’ll look at one of the best ways to prepare for and recover after tropical storms and hurricanes—developing a comprehensive Communications Plan.

Although there is no easy answer—or “silver bullet”—to solve every problem that can hamper the efforts of law enforcement, firefighting, rescue and emergency medical personnel before, during and after natural disasters, the surest way to reduce confusion and quickly restore order is to establish a Communications Plan before you need one.

But what exactly is a Communications Plan?

An Emergency Communications’ Plan outlines formal decision-making structures and clearly defined leadership roles necessary for coordinating emergency communications’ capabilities. In other words, make sure you plan in advance to manage any and every emergency situation. Assess the situation and use common sense and available resources to take care of yourself and your co-workers or family members and to manage the recovery of your family or organization.

To help you with the process, FEMA has put together free resources including a Family Emergency Plan as well as a Business Continuity and Disaster Preparedness Plan, which is posted online for easy-access to clients of the Allied Universal, Inc. Training System. The business plan is designed to encourage you to gather emergency information and formalize plans for staying in business following a disaster, and includes information critical for coordinating with neighboring businesses, cooperating with emergency personnel and considering critical operations, staff and procedures.

Other organizations also provide free emergency resources. For example, The American Red Cross has a Safe and Well Website to help families keep in touch after a disaster. If you have been affected by a disaster, this website provides a way for you to register yourself as “safe and well.” From a list of standard messages, you can select those that you want to communicate to your family members, letting them know of your well-being. Other communication services available on the Safe and Well website:

  • USPS, which provides continuing mail service for those displaced by disasters through change of address forms.
  • National Next of Kin Registry, an organization where the public can archive emergency point of contact information. Emergency agencies access the system when there is a need to locate next of kin in urgent situations.
  • Community Voice Mail, which offers free personalized phone numbers with voicemail to people in crisis and transition for job search, housing, healthcare and family contact.
  • Contact Loved Ones, which is a free voice message service, accessible from any phone, to reestablish contact between those affected by a disaster and their loved ones and friends.

Also, at the state and local level, you should be able to access additional information specific to your geographical location. One such resource is put out by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). And weather advisories are put out by the National Hurricane Center.

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. Check back next week, when we will continue our series about hurricane safety and preparation. In the meantime, BE SAFE.

ACTIVE HURRICANE SEASON PREDICTED

Monday, August 16th, 2010
Hurricanes can be devastating. Be sure to prepare!

First in a Series about Hurricane Preparedness and Recovery

In their latest forecast, the National Weather Service reaffirmed their May forecast of a heavy Atlantic hurricane season. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) encouraged Americans living in coastal states to take steps to ensure their families are prepared for hurricanes. And the lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at the Climate Prediction Center recently announced that all the factors are coming together for a stormy season.

What does all of this mean? If you live on the coast, get ready for a rough ride.

Since before hurricane season started, FEMA personnel have been actively engaged with state and local officials in coastal states to ensure they have the support and resources necessary to prepare for and respond to a tropical storm or hurricane. This season has been particularly taxing for emergency management professionals who have to weigh the potential effects of the BP oil spill on response capabilities and recovery scenarios.

“FEMA continues to work across the administration and with our state and local partners to ensure they’re ready should a hurricane make landfall,” said FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate. “But we can only be as prepared as the public, so it’s important that families and businesses take steps now to be ready.”

Hurricanes are unique emergencies in that they are predictable. So there is no excuse for failing to prepare to respond with decisive action. Although you can’t control when a hurricane or other emergency may happen, it’s imperative that you take personal responsibility to make sure you are ready.  In the coming weeks, we’ll look at the various ways you can prepare for and recover after tropical storms and hurricanes, including:

But first, let’s examine the nature and history of hurricanes so we know what to prepare for. A hurricane is a type of tropical cyclone, which is a generic term for a low pressure system that generally forms in the tropics. According to the National Hurricane Center, the ingredients for a hurricane include:

  1. A pre-existing weather disturbance
  2. Warm tropical oceans
  3. Moisture
  4. Relatively light winds aloft

If the right conditions persist long enough, they can combine to produce the violent winds, incredible waves, torrential rains, and floods we associate with this phenomenon. Each year, approximately 11 tropical storms develop over the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico. Many of these remain over the ocean and never impact the U.S. coastline. An average six of these storms become hurricanes each year.

Hurricane Hit Parade (Hurricane Trivia)

The deadliest hurricane on record (prior to the practice of naming tropical storms in 1953) is reported to have slammed into Galveston, Texas in 1900, killing 8,000 people. A Category 4 hurricane, it struck the island with sustained winds of 140 miles per hour.

The costliest hurricane on record, as most of Florida will remember, was Hurricane Andrew, which struck in 1992 and cost an estimated $26.5 billion.

The most intense hurricane to strike the U.S. hit the Florida Keys on Labor Day weekend in 1935. The Labor Day Hurricane sustained winds are estimated to have reached almost 200 miles per hour. Although it hit a tiny, low-populated area, 390 died in the event.

The busiest month in the U.S. for major hurricane hits is September, with an average 36 of 64 annual such storms. August is the second busiest month, with an average of 15 out of 64 annual strikes.

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. Check back next week, when we will continue our series about hurricane safety and preparation. In the meantime, BE SAFE.

Fire Safety

Monday, July 12th, 2010
Steps to take to be fire-safe.

Steps to take to be fire-safe.

Part 2 in a Series

Since a fire department in the United States responds to a report of fire every 19 seconds, fire is an ever-present danger at work, home or even when you are traveling. Fire is also one of the most common emergencies following an earthquake, explosion, terrorist attack, power surge or other natural or manmade disaster.

Since you never know when fire will strike, you should be careful to prepare so you will immediately know what to do in case of emergency. In this series, we hope to educate you in an effort to help you and your tenants prepare for fire. Today’s post will discuss the ways that you, as a building owner or property manager, can mitigate the risk of fire by making sound choices for building materials and furnishings and by educating tenants about taking responsibility for their own safety.

Making sound choices for building materials

If your property is still under construction, install fire-safe materials wherever possible.

David Horne, a member of the Fire Safe Council (FSC), admits that it’s impossible to take the risk of a fire down to zero unless you live in a bunker.

But he says, “Builders can make their (projects) between 20 percent and 70 percent less likely to burn from the outside by choosing fire-resistant materials and veering from traditional designs.”

Here are some fire-safe installation ideas from the FSC:

  • Install stucco, fiber cement, and other noncombustible cladding materials
  • Build eaves and roof decks that are boxed in and never made from wood.
  • Omit windows from exterior walls that sit close together.
  • Add an extra layer of gypsum or another fire-resistant material beneath the siding on facing walls
  • Install double- or triple-pane windows to keep intense heat from breaking the windows
  • Choose noncombustible materials for fences

Making Sound Fire-Safe Choices for Furnishings

Even if your property has already been built, you can take steps to lessen the risk of home, apartment or office fire.

Upholstered furniture, wall coverings, flooring and mattresses burn quickly and produce large amounts of toxic smoke. Burning upholstered furnishings or mattresses contribute to nearly every home fire death. Understanding the hazards associated with these furnishings will help you choose fire-safe products.

Whenever possible, select upholstered furniture that has been treated with fire retardant. Some professional organizations and the state of California have developed manufacturing standards to increase the fire resistance of certain types of furniture. For a complete list of these guidelines, check out the technical bulletins released by the California Department of Consumer Affairs/Bureau of Home Furnishing and Thermal Insulation.

Educating Tenants about Fire Safety

In a perfect world, everyone would know how to prepare for disaster and would take the necessary steps to mitigate risks. Sadly, we live in an imperfect world. So don’t assume that your tenants know how to proactively prevent fires or prepare for emergencies. Although you are not obligated to do so, it’s relatively easy and inexpensive to provide helpful, straight-forward guidelines for them to follow, so in the event of emergency, they are without excuse.

Print these helpful tips for distribution,  for information about fire safety at home, tips for basic home fire safety and fire safety at work.  The headline for each of these fact sheets notes that the responsibility for fire safety and disaster preparedness rests squarely on the shoulders of each individual. Additional reference materials are also available through FEMA and the National Fire Protection Association.  Whichever fire safety guidelines you prefer, post them in a central location.

Next week, we’ll look at the ways that you can mitigate the risk of fire by adopting best practices for storing flammable materials. When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives.  For the latest emergency management training for property owners and 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.

Terrible Twisters

Sunday, May 9th, 2010
Prepare for tornadoes.

Prepare for tornadoes.

Few events put the power of nature on display like tornadoes. With the recent destructive tornadoes in the Midwest and South, it’s timely for all property owners to review tornado safety procedures.

Unlike hurricanes, tornadoes appear quickly and do not follow any forecasted paths. Panic and confusion among tenants can set in unless prior planning and procedures have been established. Tornadoes are unlike other emergencies, such as fires, because tenants need to stay in the building during the emergency, and actually use the building for protection.

Preparations Before a Storm Occurs

“Warning” or “Watch:” The first alert regarding tornadoes is a “tornado watch,” which simply means the conditions are right for tornadoes to form. A “tornado warning” means that a twister has either touched down or been spotted on meteorological radar.

Warning System

  • Consider installing a warning system that works in conjunction with fire alarms. Make sure that tenants can easily identify the two types of warnings, so they can plan properly. Remember that outside sirens are not intended to be heard indoors.
  • Establish tracking and warning procedures so tenants have enough time to properly prepare for storms.

Physical Improvements

  • Shatter resistant glass, made of Plexi-glass or acrylic substances, can greatly reduce the risk of flying debris including broken glass. This is especially important when tornadoes strike unexpectedly and tenants do not have time to move to the interior of the building.
  • Designate a building area as a tornado shelter. Make sure the area is large enough to accommodate all tenants. FEMA has guidelines on how to select the area in a building that is best suited for a shelter. If possible, investigate ways to reinforce the area through structural improvements, making sure to minimize the amount of materials/projectiles that are in the area.

During the Storm

Personal Safety and Evacuation:

  • Tenants should move away from windows and proceed to the interior of the building, moving to the lowest floors possible.
  • Instruct tenants to use stairs, as power to the elevators will very likely be out.
  • Tenants should be advised to cover their heads at all times in order to prevent injury from falling objects.
  • Establishing safety procedures for employees who are physically disabled will save valuable time.

Lightning:

  • Tornadoes form around severe thunderstorms, which lead to lightning! If time permits, tenants should unplug sensitive computer and television equipment to prevent the risk of fire.

After the Storm

  • Listen to a NOAA weather radio or check websites to be sure the threat of tornadoes and severe thunderstorms have left the area. Remember you may be safer in a slightly damaged building than risking exposure to lightning!
  • Tenants should evacuate the building according to the designated evacuation plan.
  • Once outside, everyone should pay special attention to downed power lines and other dangerous debris.

For tornadoes and other emergencies, we always say that preparation is the first step toward ensuring tenant safety. Proper planning and respect for nature can help save lives.

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.