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

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

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

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

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

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

Challenges to implementation of evacuation elevators:

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

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

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

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

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives.  For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit rjwestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

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.

Emergency Preparedness Gifts for the Holidays

Monday, December 21st, 2009
Give the gift of emergency preparedness.

Give the gift of emergency preparedness.

With the holiday season, some people experience anxiety about finding that one “perfect” gift for everyone on their list. Have you considered giving a gift that is both practical and potentially life-saving? An emergency preparedness gift will fill the bill.

If you give the gift of emergency preparedness, you will be encouraging the recipient to carefully consider whether he or she is prepared for emergencies. Maybe your gift will encourage them to develop a comprehensive emergency plan with exit routes, meeting locations, and an inventory of supplies and equipment. If the recipient owns a business and/or a building, your gift might encourage them to consider tenant’s safety equipment and procedures. You never know. Your generosity at Christmastime might just save a life.

“Disasters can happen anytime, anywhere. And the holiday season provides a great opportunity to ensure that you and your loved ones are taking simple steps to be prepared,” said FEMA administrator, Craig Fugate.” Our friends at FEMA have put together a list of great gifts for the holidays, and, in this blog, we took a closer look at a few of them.

For all of these gifts, consider buying a high-quality item that will last a long time. No one wants a defective piece of equipment during an actual emergency. So be sure your gifts are made by reputable companies.

Flashlights and lamps:

  • Essential for all emergencies, battery-powered flashlights and lamps allow you navigate nighttime emergencies, safely
  • Great for signaling rescuers and navigating buildings that have stairwells

Disaster kit:

  • Every complete disaster kit requires a first aid kit that comes with an injury manual that shows you how to use the supplies
  • Other important items include thermal blankets and specially-packaged water and food

Fire extinguishers:

  • A quality fire extinguisher can save lives and homes
  • Even if your gift recipients have extinguishers, they might be very old or expired (Extinguishers won’t do you any good if they don’t work when you need them!)
  • Read about the different types of extinguishers before purchasing, especially if you’re purchasing them for building occupants that store toxic chemicals or other substances.

Other gifts mentioned on FEMA’s list include NOAA weather radios, foldable ladders, enrollment in a CPR class, smoke detectors, and car emergency kits.

If you are a building owner or manager who is thinking about your building’s safety procedures, contact us to discuss our safety training services. BE SAFE.