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Posts Tagged ‘natural disasters’

Evaluating the Aftermath of the Raid in Pakistan

Sunday, May 8th, 2011
Outline of three soldiers against sunset

Has the threat of terrorism increased since the raid on Osama Bin Laden's compound?

After the raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan and his subsequent death, some law enforcement officials and property owners are concerned about the threat of new terrorist attacks. But are we any more at risk than we were prior to Bin Laden’s death?

Many residents of the United Kingdom consider a new attack to be likely. In fact, the U.K. Metropolitan Police Commissioner warned that: “Vigilance should be our watchword.”

In the United States, the presence of security personnel has been beefed up in numerous locations. Still, despite the perceived risk of potential terrorist repercussions, the official terror threat level in the United States was not elevated following the announcement of Bin Laden’s death. (The new alert system differs from the former multi-color-coded system in that it only offers two-threat levels— “elevated” and “imminent.”)

Potential risks might result:

  • A branch of al-Qaida in Yemen or some other disconnected country might be the source of the next attack.
  • The next threat might come from a lone individual who sympathizes with al-Qaida, such as occurred with the Fort Hood shooter, who some contend was linked to terrorist groups.
  • Terrorist cells in North Africa have either loose or no affiliation with al-Qaida and have many connections to ethnic groups in the United States.
  • A broader risk is a decreased emphasis on funding for anti-terrorism training due to the perception of the “War on Terror” coming to an end.
  • As the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 approaches, many experts caution of an interest in terror groups to commemorate the sad day with new attacks.
    • U.S. officials have confirmed that documents retrieved from bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan show that al Qaeda was in the early planning stages for an attack on U.S. railroads to mark the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
    • According to Homeland Security, the FBI has advised local officials to be on the lookout for clips or spike missing from train tracks, packages left near the tracks, and/or any other indications that a train could be at risk.

But the truth is that regardless of recent developments, it is always advisable to prepare for the threat of terrorism. Domestic terrorism is possible. This is not a time for complacency. Property owners, tenants/employers and everyone should continue to follow best practices.

How can you remain vigilant to the threat of terrorism?

  • Set protocols for monitoring any incoming delivery packages and personnel.
  • Establish rules for suspicious items that are left at or near your facility.
  • Pay attention to the Department of Homeland Security’s threat monitoring.
  • For high-traffic and value buildings, consider installing metal detectors at each entrance.
  • Develop a check-system to verify visitors with tenants.
  • Double check current evacuation procedures make sense if a terrorist attack occurs.
  • Install security cameras, which can capture individuals who could be “casing” your building.
  • Read information about altering your HVAC systems to protect from possible chemical, biological, or radiological attacks.
  • Terrorists increasing usage of online media for propaganda also increase the risks of cyber terrorism attacks that could strike at key facilities. If you operate a secure facility that handles sensitive materials, be sure to catalog and report any suspicious hacking attempts.
  • Flag individuals who ask for detailed information about your building or the surrounding areas. Scrutinize any requests for blueprints or other schematics.

The best way to manage the risks of terrorism is similar to planning for natural disasters. It demands practicing common sense and planning ahead to make a facility a less desirable target. While the death of al-Qaida’s leader will hopefully destroy the terror network, threats remain that require attention.

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.

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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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.

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.

Evacuation Planning Vital to Tenant Safety

Monday, February 15th, 2010
Make sure you know how to exit your building in case of emergency

Make sure you know how to exit your building in case of emergency.

It’s human nature to panic when disaster strikes. The result can be confusion, indecision and failure to react quickly. If, on the other hand, written procedures are followed, groups understand safety procedures and individuals are properly trained to take charge of the situation, evacuation can be swift, smooth and safe.

Let’s take a look at the necessary steps to ensure quick and thorough building evacuations:

  • The first step is to consider the type of emergency situation.
    • In cases of fire, the primary objective is to clear the entire building as quickly as possible.
    • For tornadoes, a safer option might be to instruct people to congregate in a large room located on the first floor instead of meeting outside. As always, proper preparation and written procedures are essential.

Employees and tenants need to be willing to take direction from the people who are in charge and feel confident that building management has control of any and every situation. Ensure there is a clear chain of command. Employees and tenants need to be willing to take direction from the people who are in charge and feel confident that building management has control of any and every situation.

Floor Wardens need to take charge and understand their responsibilities:

  • Know the proper evacuation routes and internal and external safe refuge areas.
  • Note any building occupants who need special assistance and assign someone to assist them.
  • Familiarize residents and employees with the location of alarm pull stations and (if they are properly trained to use them), fire extinguishers.
  • Instruct employees not to use elevators during emergencies unless instructed to do so by emergency personnel.
  • Evacuate any pets that are in the building.
  • Designate which tenants or employees should shut off gas lines or other equipment. Advise them to fulfill these duties only if absolutely necessary.
  • Building occupants should be given up-to-date evacuation maps and safety handbooks.
  • Stairwells and hallways should be kept free of boxes and other impediments. Routinely investigate these areas and work with building occupants to determine if additional storage space is necessary so hallways are clear of clutter, to ensure easy emergency exit.
  • Pay special attention to signage. Do a walkthrough of the evacuation route with your entire safety team. Is the escape route clear? If the power is out, will back-up lights and clearly marked egress signs be visible?
  • Establish a secondary meeting area in case the designated space is not usable. In major disasters, the primary exterior safe refuge area (located at least 300 feet away from the building) area(s) may be compromised. So plans should be made for secondary external safe refuge areas.

When disaster strikes, pre-planning, training and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest, most effective, building-specific e-based emergency management training for your building, contact Allied Universal. Our new Version 2.0 training system offers the best in emergency training, free color aerial photograph safe refuge evacuation maps and full automated and integrated features that make training 100% of your occupants or employees both realistic and cost effective. Visit rjwestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

Preparing for the ‘Big One’

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

Last week, Allied Universal participated in the largest earthquake drill in U.S. history, The Great Southern California ShakeOut, where we trained a group of commercial property managers on earthquake preparedness.

That day, millions of people in homes, schools, businesses, government offices and public areas all over southern California participated in the event to prepare themselves for the inevitable – a magnitude 7.8 or higher earthquake along the San Andreas Fault that scientists expect will happen.

As part of Allied Universal’s mission to “Save Lives Through Training,” we’re including links to earthquake preparedness resources on our blog this week, including information on the ShakeOut; the Drop, Cover, and Hold On! procedure; the Golden Guardian 2008 Exercise Series, from Governor Schwarzenegger and his Office of Homeland Security; and a great educational video from Preparedness Now, which is available below.

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Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst: September is National Preparedness Month

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

On this seventh anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, preparedness in the event of a disaster has even greater importance to Americans.

As a society, we must be ready to handle – at a moment’s notice – emergencies in our homes, businesses and communities.

But it’s not just the ongoing threat of attack for which we should prepare. Natural disasters – such as devastating hurricanes, floods and earthquakes – and the outbreak of epidemic diseases all demand a plan.

“Those with the capacity and wherewithal to help themselves must do so in advance, so that in the event of an emergency, responders can first assist those who are unable to tend to themselves,” said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, in a statement.

Throughout September, the Department of Homeland Security’s Ready Campaign – part of National Preparedness Month – highlights preparedness steps, including having an emergency supply kit, making a family emergency plan, and becoming informed about different types of emergencies.

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