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Summer Travel Safety Tips

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

Dynamite bomb in bag in airport. Terrorism concept.The recent attack in the Istanbul Airport was a grim reminder of the reasons the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was forced to adopt stringent security protocols in airports throughout the world. Unfortunately, the emphasis on security equates to excessively long lines at security checkpoints, thousands of missed flights, and mounting aggravation among travelers. In fact, according to a report done in May 2016, on American Airlines, alone, more than 70,000 passengers missed flights due to TSA-related delays.

Despite the frustration, most travelers are willing to endure security measures because they realize the importance of airline travel safety. But there are additional steps you can take to ensure your safety as you travel by air this summer:

Overseas Travel

Before heading overseas, check the U.S. Department of State website which advises U.S travelers about the safety or lack thereof relative to foreign destinations. The site provides travel alerts, which are short-term advisories tied to specific events; and travel warnings, which are recommendations about countries which should be avoided, altogether. Some areas currently included on the travel warnings’ list include Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Turkey, and Ukraine.Wooden blocks with the text, TERRORISM, on the background of world map

Even those destinations not currently included on an active warning list could prove problematic, as intelligence gathering is an inexact science. But don’t let that keep you from traveling. According to the National Safety Council, Americans are 353 times more likely to die from a slip-and-fall accident than from a terrorist attack. And data released by the CDC asserts that we are 110 times more likely to die from contaminated food than from an act of terror. So don’t  ignore the risks. Just don’t let fear keep you from enjoying a vacation or traveling for business.

Tips for safe and comfortable overseas travel

  • Be respectful of others’ cultures and institutions. If, for example, the recommended dress code for visiting a church/holy site/mosque requires you to cover your arms and legs, respect the request.
  • Learn basic native-language phrases. If you speak English and are traveling to a country with limited English speakers, take the time to learn and practice words to help you make basic requests.
  • Avoid large crowds or protests where there is an elevated risk of danger. For more about this, check out our recent post about safety during civil unrest.
  • Add the S. Embassy’s 24—Hour Hotline to your cellphone contacts.
  • Carry your hotel’s native language business card to show cab drivers and police, if necessary.
  • Take pictures of your passport photo, driver’s license and credit cards and email them to yourself. Keeping the photos on your phone instead of emailing them is inadvisable your phone could be lost or stolen.
  • Avoid confrontation whenever possible. Don’t attract attention by arguing with someone unnecessarily. Try to calmly settle disagreements, especially if you are in a crowded setting.

Airport Screening Security TrayAirport Security and Safety

Situational awareness is essential when navigating airports and all related security procedures. For example, if you see someone leave a bag on the ground for an extended period, alert airport police. Will this mean that you and other travelers might potentially miss your flight due to security protocols? Yes! But it’s important to follow the Department of Homeland Security’s request that “If You See Something, Say Something.”

  • Only allow official personnel to inspect or move your luggage. Always keep an eye on your belongings. This is especially important in curbside loading/unloading areas where people have not been screened. Someone could potentially tamper with your luggage before you check it in and you could unwittingly carry an incendiary device on board with you.
  • Keep your tickets and passports close to your person at all times, not dangling out of your purse or pocket or resting on top of your bags.
  • Watch your valuables go through x-ray machines and pick them up as quickly as possible. Loudly alert security staff if you see someone pick up your bag or loose articles such as your watch or wallet.
  • Don’t make jokes about “terrorists” or “bombs” or other loaded language. TSA agents and foreign airport officials are working to keep you safe. Making this kind of a joke could land you in serious trouble.

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

Final Thoughts about 9/11–Lessons we’ve learned

Sunday, September 11th, 2011
Twin Towers Memorial

Allied Universal, Inc will never forget the events of 9/11.

Part 4 of a 4-part series

In honor of the 10-year anniversary of 9/11, we have devoted three of our past four blog posts to discuss the 10 lessons the world has learned from that fateful day. We have tried to use our voice as experts in safety and disaster training to recommend emergency precautions that you should take now to give you and your family, friends, employees and colleagues the best chance of surviving another terrorist attack. In this, our fourth and final installment, we’ll cover the final lessons we’ve learned since that fateful day.

Remembering 9/11:

The September 11 attacks were a series of four coordinated suicide attacks by al-Qaeda upon the United States on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. On that morning, 19 al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four commercial passenger planes. The hijackers intentionally crashed two of the airliners into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, killing everyone on board and thousands of people working in the buildings.

Both towers collapsed within two hours, destroying nearby buildings and damaging others. A third airliner was crashed into the Pentagon. Hijackers redirected the fourth plane toward Washington, D.C., targeting either the Capitol Building or the White House, but were diverted when passengers tried to retake control. The airliner crashed in a field in rural Pennsylvania, leaving no survivors.

Nearly 3,000 victims and 19 hijackers died in the attacks. Among the 2,753 victims who died in the attacks on the World Trade Center, there were 343 firefighters, 60 police officers from New York City and the Port Authority, and 8 private EMTs and paramedics. Another 184 people were killed in the attack on the Pentagon. The overwhelming majority of casualties were civilians, including nationals of more than 70 countries.

Lessons about terrorism we’ve learned from 9/11:

  1. Clean-up could take many months and cost millions. Counting the value of lives lost as well as property damage and lost production of goods and services, losses associated with the events of September 11, 2001 exceed $100 billion. According to the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, “The loss in stock market wealth—the market’s own estimate arising from expectations of lower corporate profits and higher discount rates for economic volatility—the price tag approaches $2 trillion.” The best way to prepare for this type of hit is to try to prevent attacks. As a nation, over the past 10 years, we have improved security on many levels. As a building owner or property manager, make sure you take precautions to beef up security.
  2. Public fear, fed by extensive media coverage, may continue for a prolonged period of time. As a result, workplaces, government offices and schools might be closed. According to the Huffington Post, television stations broadcasted more than 3,000 hours of 9/11 coverage. And while much of that coverage was desirable and understandable, portions might have been unnecessary and contributed to anxiety…especially among children. If another large-scale terrorist attack occurs, monitor the amount of associated television programming you allow your children to view. Likewise, try not to watch every televised minute of disaster coverage, yourself. While you will benefit from information about things like restrictions on transportation, make sure you take breaks from the madness to eat and rest and talk to people in the real world.
  3. Terrorism has many faces. Racial profiling is not only unfair but insufficient because terrorists come in all shapes and sizes. Consider terrorists like the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, Timothy McVeigh, Clayton Lee Waagner, Irv Rubin or the two females who have been blamed for the Twin Metro Blasts in Moscow. Terrorists don’t always wear turbans and speak Arabic. So pay attention to anything out of the ordinary and report it to local authorities.
  4. The world was forever changed by the events of 9/11. Time Magazine writer Nancy Gibbs wrote that we, as Americans, now share: “a sharp resolve to just be better, bigger, to shed the nonsense, rise to the occasion.”

As you honor the innocent and brave folks who died on that fateful day in September 10 years ago, give note to portraits of courage, self-sacrifice and hope instead of focusing on images of the jets and the flames. Paying homage to the brave will encourage us all.

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.

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.

Terrorism Surveillance: Keep Your Eyes Open

Monday, May 31st, 2010
Report suspicious activity

Report suspicious activity

Part 2 in a Series

A recent report by the Department of Homeland Security stated that attempted attacks on U.S. soil are at an all-time high. As a result, participation of private industry in surveillance has never been more important. The Obama Administration recently released its latest national security doctrine, which emphasizes the need for monitoring potential threats to United States-based targets.

The installation of CCTV Security Systems is becoming more widespread throughout urban and suburban areas, creating a “net” of coverage to aid in both terrorism prevention and speedy apprehension of suspects. As a property owner, you might consider installing a security system and establishing relationships with neighboring property managers as well as law enforcement.

Our post today explores best practices for terrorism surveillance, including how to scan for and identify suspicious activity and what to do with the information you gather.

Security System Installation

  • Select a professional CCTV installation company, which can advise you on the number and location of security cameras.
  • New camera systems offer DVR, which affords clients improved image storage and faster law enforcement review.

But the best camera system in the world is useless unless someone “knows what to look for.” Once your surveillance systems are in place, it’s important to educate your staff about how to identify potential threats.

Suspicious Activity could constitute “casing” of the building. Look for:

  • Individuals walking by the building repeatedly with no apparent purpose
  • Vehicles parked in unauthorized areas including loading zones or garage entrances
  • People trying to access restricted areas of the building

IT and information-related issues can be signs that your building is being targeted:

  • Terrorists who are scouting your location may do research. Be wary of:
    • Phone calls to your building asking for detailed tenant information or maps of the property
    • Website visitors from foreign internet connections repeatedly viewing your building’s website

Activities that could indicate an attack is imminent. Watch for:

  • Vehicles that come very close to the building past security barriers and then quickly depart
  • Individuals checking watches/cell phones frequently, and maintaining contact with other people who are located in various areas of the property

Cooperation with law enforcement and neighboring businesses:

  • Once security systems are in place, contact your local FBI office and police department to inform them of the system coverage and your willingness to help identify potential threats by reporting suspicious activity and sharing your surveillance footage.
  • Work with other business owners to discuss their surveillance tactics and share information about individuals or vehicles that have been behaving suspiciously.

With any complex problem designed to identify and prevent terrorism, cooperation is key. In the Times Square attempted bombing, a major lead about the bomber’s identity was obtained not from Times Square cameras but from shopping mall surveillance video that showed someone test-driving a suspicious vehicle. With a surveillance system in place, you can help foil terrorist attempts and play an important role in maintaining safety in your community.

Visit us next week for another post in our series about terrorism surveillance. 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.

Approaching the Eight Year Anniversary of 9/11

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

Blog Twin Towers Pic

Thousands of lives and both of the Twin Towers were lost on the now infamous day of September 11, 2001. The disaster gave Americans an uninvited lesson about the necessity of developing a comprehensive high-rise evacuation plan. It also shed light on the fact that, to be effective, disaster preparedness plans have to be taught to the people most likely to need them…all of the occupants in a building.

Fire Life Safety

One of the unavoidable risks of working or living in a high-rise building is fire. According to NFPA, the National Fire Protection Association, the following factors are unique to training for fire safety in high-rise buildings.

High-rise

  • The multiple floors of a high-rise building create the cumulative effect of requiring great numbers of persons to travel great vertical distances on stairs in order to evacuate the building.
  • The physical demands of evacuation made on occupants often exceed the capabilities of many.
  • The process of evacuating some of the largest high-rise buildings in the world may take upwards of two hours.
  • The fire and life safety systems installed in high-rise buildings today, including automatic fire sprinkler protection, are designed to control a fire and therefore lessen the need to totally evacuate all occupants.
  • Typically, the fire floor and the floors immediately above and below the fire will be evacuated. (Depending on the city where you live, there could be as many as five to seven floors within the building.)

Also according to NFPA, the key elements of emergency preparedness include:

  • Early warning (typically through an alarm or voice communication system)
  • Adequate means of egress (exit routes)
  • Occupant familiarity with the plan through knowledge and practice.

The Allied Universal Training System provides unlimited access to building-specific, web-based emergency preparedness education to the folks who need it most. Using an educational, entertaining and user-friendly format, the system has been approved by all of the major fired departments across the United States. It was most recently recognized and approved by the Los Angeles Fire Department as one of the first approved online training systems to comply with the newly implemented LAMC 57.33.19 high-rise fire code. Simply stated, the system saves lives.

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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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