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Top 10 Disasters of 2012: Manmade Disasters

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

Part 2 of a 2-Part Series

In 2012, we saw many disasters strike on a global level—killing thousands and inflicting billions of dollars in property damage. In last week’s blog, we focused on the top 10 natural disasters of 2012. This week, we’ll discuss those disasters which originated from man…from intentional attacks such as those relative to active shooting incidents to gross negligence, millions of dollars in damage and thousands of lives were lost to manmade events in 2012.

We hope to highlight those that manmade disasters in 2012 which generated the most media attention, in an effort to encourage due diligence and preparation for the manmade disasters that will inevitably occur in 2013.

  1. Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Disaster. An independent parliamentary investigation assigns blame to “man-made” failures before and after last year’s earthquake leading to the 2012 meltdown at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in Tokyo. Breakdowns are said to have involved regulators working with the plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co., which failed to implement important preventative safety measures. Implementing important preventative safety measures is something we value highly at Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services.
  2. Deadly Philippine Floods. In 2012, deadly floods swamped nearly all of the Philippine capital. Although flooding directly resulted from natural storms, the extent of the damage is said to have caused more as a result of poor planning, lax enforcement and political self-interest than from the storm itself. Damaged watersheds, massive squatter colonies living in danger zones and the neglect of drainage systems are some of the factors that experts report have made the chaotic city of 15 million people vulnerable to extensive damage following severe floods.
  3. Acts of Terror.While individual terrorist attacks could claim all 10 spots on this list of manmade disasters in 2012, we will allow room for just one entry. It is widely believed that terrorism is the most significant national security threat for many countries in the world, despite the capture and killing of key Al Qaeda leaders in 2011 including Al Qaeda founder Osama Bin Laden and Anwar Al-Awlaki of the Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). As written by The Guardianreporter Glenn Greenwald, “The ‘war on terror’ – by design – can never end.”
  4. Aurora Movie Theater Massacre. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) defines an active shooter as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area.” On July 20, 2012, a 24-year-old neuroscience grad student allegedly shot 12 people and wounded dozens more at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.
  5. Sandy Hook Elementary Shooting. On December 14, 2012, a 20-year-old man fatally shot 20 children and 6 adult staff members and wounded two at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. After killing students and staff members, the attacker committed suicide by shooting himself in the head as first responders arrived. The massacre was the second-deadliest school shooting in United States history, after the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre. It also was the second-deadliest mass murderat an American elementary school, after the 1927 Bath School bombings in Michigan. 
  6. Atlanta Hospital Shooting. An Alabama man opened fire in a hospital, wounding an officer and two employees before he was fatally shot by police on December 15, 2012. Birmingham Police Sgt. Johnny Williams says the officer and employees suffered injuries that are not considered life-threatening.
  1. Clackamas County Mall Shooting. On December 12, 2012, a 22-year-old man, who was wearing a camouflage outfit and a white mask, shot an initial burst of fire and then more rounds at Clackamas Town Center, killing two. The gunman who opened fire on shoppers at the mall had no connection to those he fatally shot and is said to have wanted to kill as many people as possible during his rampage.
  2. Fort Hood Shooting. Differences of opinion exist between whether the 2009 shooting at Fort Hood which left 13 people dead, was workplace violence or a full-fledged terrorist attack. Three years later, on December 15, 2012, another assailant shot at police from his parked vehicle before police shot and killed the suspect. Officials say the officers tried life-saving measures before emergency medical personnel arrived, but the soldier died. Investigators later determined that the 30-year-old man had been assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division.
  3. Spinal Meningitis Outbreak. As reported by the New York Times, “one of the many troubling aspects of the national meningitis outbreak caused by a tainted steroid drug is that so many people are at risk: 14,000 are thought to have been exposed, mostly through injections near the spine for back or neck problems. The drug was contaminated with a fungus that causes a severe form of meningitis that can result in stroke.” Since the outbreak can be attributed to poor medical training, the 23 deaths and sickness of 294 others was unnecessary and avoidable.
  4. Unintentional Triggers. The National Geographic Channel recently ran a special about increased incidences of natural phenomenon such as earthquakes, tornadoes and volcanoes which — though on the surface natural — can actually be unwittingly activated by humans. The NGC special examined how efforts to harness natural resources can have the opposite effect…triggering the very disasters they had intended to eliminate. For example, a Chinese dam weighing as much as 3,000 Empire State Buildings caused tremors that claimed the lives of 90,000 people. According to National Geographic reporters, another dam could trigger mudslides that would bury millions. What’s more, growing urban areas can cause tornadoes and mining and drilling have already activated deadly mud volcanoes.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, check out the Allied Universal Training System by Universal/Fire Life Safety Services. Our new Version 3.0 system offers the best emergency training system on the market.

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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The United States of Emergency

Monday, March 8th, 2010
How is a State of Emergency Declared?

How is a State of Emergency Declared?

You’ve certainly heard about how the government declares “States of Emergency.” But have you ever wondered how exactly they go about making such declarations? Disasters of this scale involve substantial allocations of resources in terms of equipment, personnel and, of course, money.

With 59 FEMA major disaster declarations in 2009 and 12 already declared in 2010 (three, related to wild winter storms, have already been made in March), it is timely to look at how individual states declare emergencies and the role FEMA plays in reviewing and/or approving the allocation of federal funds.

Overall, how state and federal governments deal with emergencies is similar to how you, as a building owner or property manager, would handle any emergency. First, you assess the situation, ensuring that individual safety is the primary concern. Then, you look at the amount of damage that has been suffered and evaluate the anticipated costs for rebuilding and replacing, relative to money and labor.

Governors who are faced with large disasters go through several steps before requesting federal disaster assistance. The first step that FEMA takes is called a Preliminary Damage Assessment.

  • Personnel from FEMA and the affected state’s emergency management agency work together with local officials to survey the overall disaster and write an assessment.
  • This assessment helps the governor support a declaration request, as it gives an overall look at response effort costs including labor and related overtime. It also gives a thorough review of the state of emergency services’ capacity and the damage to citizen resources so the governor can show that the damage exceeds allocated state and local resources.
  • After the formal request is submitted to the regional FEMA office, FEMA considers the following when looking at any significant natural or manmade disaster to see if federal assistance is warranted:

For example, how many structures have been damaged? 10 homes or 1,000?  What about business? Was a large office park or manufacturing site affected which would reduce incomes of a large portion of the general population?

Can the public still use roadways or other transportation? Are basic services such as water and electricity working or are they likely to be quickly restored?

Are public health considerations necessary? Are local hospitals or other care centers affected?

  • What are the potential impacts to essential government services and functions?
    • Can the federal government better handle the work?
    • Does the overall scale of the disaster require assistance on a large scale?
    • How concentrated or disperse is the emergency? FEMA officials will work with State agencies to assess if there are enough state personnel available to manage the disaster.
  • What are the implications of insurance coverage for homeowners and public facilities?
    • If the area is one that lacks proper insurance coverage, then losses will be more severe and rebuilding effort timeframes will be lengthy.
    • State and local resource commitments from other prior disasters might stretch resources.
    • FEMA submits findings to the Office of the President.
    • The President decides if a Presidential Disaster Declaration should be made. If such a declaration is made, FEMA’s share of disaster expenses will be at least 75% of the total cost.

There are lessons about collaboration and preparation to be learned in the methodical approach that FEMA officials take to reviewing a disaster. We encourage building owners to engage tenants as valuable partners in safety and disaster planning.

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. Visit rjwestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

Time to Review Your Property Insurance Coverage

Monday, February 22nd, 2010
Make sure your insurance is sufficient to cover your commercial property.

Make sure your insurance is sufficient to cover your commercial property.

With the recent earthquake in Haiti and hurricane in New Orleans, people are keenly aware that disasters can and will happen. And when they hit, they can wreak havoc on residential and commercial property. But never fear. The best way to deal with an emergency is to prepare for it in advance.

So, in light of the Haitian earthquake and Hurricane Katrina, take time to review your disaster-related evacuation planning and tenant safety issues. And then, review and evaluate your insurance policy to make sure you have adequate coverage. Although people often groan about paying high insurance premiums, covering them beats the alternative of facing an uninsured disaster that could literally ruin your business as well as your reputation.

The primary type of insurance for commercial property owners is commercial property insurance which covers the physical structure from various types of natural or manmade disasters.  Here are some tips for choosing or renewing property insurance coverage:

  • Make sure your building is current with regard to all safety codes before you apply for new coverage or try to renew an existing policy. If the insurance agent who reviews your property finds evidence of safety violations, he or she might fail to recommend the property to underwriters.
  • Remember that insurance companies are not code enforcers. Their concern is for the building and the potential loss of value. Ensuring the safety of tenants is a shared responsibility between the building owner/manager, the tenant/employers and every individual person in the building. There is a proven correlation between individual training and preparedness and life safety.
  • Find out if the policy provides reimbursement for alternative work accommodations. If your building is severely damaged, would you be able to offer temporary facilities for displaced workers?  Remember that securing building permits for repairs can take weeks or months. So make sure that your insurance is sufficient to cover construction and code-approval time.
  • Carefully review whether the policy allows for “actual cash value” or “replacement value?” Actual cash value factors in depreciation of the insured object, while replacement value reimburses policy-holders for the current cost of replacing the lost or damaged item.
  • Watch out for “Exclusions,” which are big in the world of insurance. Check the policy carefully for anything that might not be covered. Are you in a flood plain? If so, make sure flood-related disasters are covered. Vandalism coverage should also be considered since manmade damage can lead to costly repairs. Some policies cover every type of disaster. In other cases, you might find it necessary to add a la carte coverage.
  • Look at what the policy covers beyond the building. Are furniture, equipment and electronics included? All of these items can be costly to replace.
  • Make sure you take time to read the “fine print” in your property insurance coverage. Proper coverage today can save your business tomorrow.
  • Consider other types of insurance such worker’s compensation, liability, and vehicle coverage.  Insurance is such a comprehensive subject that we’ll cover more about it in future blog posts. So be sure to check back in the weeks ahead.

For the latest emergency management training for property owners and facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal, Inc. Our e-based system offers the best emergency training available, with automated and integrated features. Visit rjwestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.