Recognize October as Fire Prevention Month

October has long been fire prevention month to me. The reason I like to use October to raise the awareness of fire prevention primarily in the home. If awareness is raised at the same time each year people learn the habit of preventing fires. I emphasize fire prevention because fires kill people. The Federal Emergency Management Association reports that 1592 civilian home fire fatalities reported by U.S. news media between January 1, 2017, and October 10, 2017 (Home, 2017). The actual cause of these fires can be found by entering information at https://apps.usfa.fema.gov/civilian-fatalities/incident/reportMap. I also like to use the local Fire Department to help provide information for the employees of the organization I am working for. Furthermore, I use the U.S. Fire Administration site at https://www.usfa.fema.gov/prevention/.

The primary tool to prevent deaths from fire is for every home to have smoke detectors installed. I always push for installing smoke detectors in homes that don’t have them. Put it simply working smoke detectors save lives in the event of a fire.  Three out of five home fire deaths resulted from fires in properties with no or no working smoke alarms (Ahrens, 2017). The National Fire Protection Association has a program titled Planning & Implementing a Successful Smoke Alarm Installation Program that you can download from              file:///C:/Users/frede/Downloads/Smoke%20Alarm%20Installation%20Guide.pdf. I encourage you to download this program and try to get a program working in your community.

When smoke detectors are installed they won’t help if they don’t work. I emphasize installing new batteries and testing in October. This again gets people in the habit of installing new batteries. There is normally a button on the detector that tests its operation. If the detector with charged batteries doesn’t sound an alarm when this button is pushed the detector must be replaced.

Another element I like to emphasize during October is developing and practicing an escape plan from the home. The National Fire Protection Association provides information to help with this task that can be accessed at http://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/By-topic/Safety-in-the-home/Escape-planning/Basic-fire-escape-planning. It essential for everyone living in a home to understand how to get out of the home and where to meet nearby to ensure everyone is safe. This can be more difficult for families living in multi-family buildings. It is however just as important. Once a fire escape plan is developed it must be tested to ensure it works. Afterwards, families should practice there escape plan twice a year.

The loss of life is always terrible, but it can be worse in a situation where that loss of life could have been prevented. The loss of life in many fires can be prevented by installing and maintaining smoke detectors as well as developing and practicing a fire escape. Each October take the time to emphasize fire safety knowing that lives can be saved by the effort.

Bibliography

Home Fire Fatalities in the News retrieved on October 19, 2017, from  https://apps.usfa.fema.gov/civilian-fatalities/incident/reportMap.

Ahrens, Mary, Smoke Alarms in U.S. Home Fires September 2015 retrieved on October 10, 2017, from http://www.mysmokealarmla.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/ossmokealarms.pdf

 

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Prepare to Evacuate Nursing Homes

A rehabilitation and nursing home were forced to evacuate over 100 patients because of a gas leak. Then there were those pictures on the news of elderly people waist-deep water from Hurricane Harvey as water flooded into their nursing home. Finally, there were the 35 patients that died from flooding in their nursing home from Hurricane Katrina

These stories are real and remind us all that elderly people living in facilities need to have emergency plans to remove them from the danger. Most if not all these people cannot rescue themselves and depend on the caregivers of the facility to help them. Too many times these caregivers fail. When that happens, people face severe danger, and some even die.

What can be done? The owners of these type of facilities need to develop viable Continuity of Operations (COOP) capabilities to ensure these residents or patients are safe. COOP planning must is done in advance of the emergency. Contract for

  • Space and facilities to relocate patients and residents too.
  • Travel and transportation services to get patients and residents to an alternate
  • Employees to stay and provide their services in the event of an emergency even at a different location.
  • Meals and medical services at an alternate location.
  • Travel and transportation services to get patients and residents back to the original site after resolving the emergency.

This plan should allow staff to move patients or residents to an alternate location before or just as the emergency strikes. It will provide for any treatment as well as meals and care while at an alternate site. Lastly, it will bring everyone back to the original facility. It is also important to notify the relatives or guardians of the patients or residents that they have relocated. Here are some things that I think are helpful:

  • Delegate full authority for the person in charge of the facility to act.
  • Train employees about their roles in the event of an emergency.
  • Maintain vital records and databases in electronic format an alternate site.

Since there will likely be medical records on site, it is important to ensure that information is available at the alternate site. Do this with information technology equipment and transmissions.

It is essential that a risk assessment is conducted for the alternate site to identify risks. Act on those risks and reduce as many as possible.

This blog post touched on a grave weakness with nursing and rehabilitation facilities not fully prepared for emergencies such as hurricanes. Without this planning, it will be very difficult if not impossible to respond. Moreover, if the response is weak patients or residents can die.

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What Is Measured Gets Done

Things that are measured and tracked by management are the things that usually get done in an organization. I have found that including safety in performance appraisals gets hazards fixed, poor behavior corrected, and accidents prevented. Does your organization use performance appraisals to enhance the safe performance of employees? If not, I recommend they begin using them this way the very next performance cycle and in this blog post I will explain how.

Performance cycle usually last 12 months, which gives the employee ample time to demonstrate performance. To be effective supervisors must develop performance standards prior to the rating period. These standards are satisfied by the employee in the performance of the most important duties. Here are some actual examples of safety performance standards:

  • Report unsafe acts and working conditions within one-hour of occurrence to a supervisor.
  • Report accidents within one hour of occurrence to a supervisor.
  • Complete accident reports within seven days of the accident.
  • Perform before operational checks of equipment.
  • Wear safety clothing and equipment for tasks identified as requiring them.
  • Provide lockout and tagout procedures prior to equipment maintenance.

For each of the safety performance standards, you should describe five levels of performance (Wolfe, 2015). The levels will form to a bell curve and show the middle range of fully successful. This means that a 5 is the best score while 1 is the worst score. Barry Wolfe (2015) describes the five levels as 5 = Outstanding, 4=Exceeds Expectations, 3=Fully Successful, 2- Does Not Meet Expectations, and finally 1-Immediate Improvement Required.

Let’s look at one example: “Perform before operational checks of equipment.” The five levels would look something like:

  • Level 1-Does not perform before operational checks of equipment daily.
  • Level 2-Performs before operational checks of equipment three of five days.
  • Level 3-Performs before operational checks of equipment every day.
  • Level 4-Performs before operational checks of equipment every day and makes minor repairs to
  • Level 5-Performs before operational checks of equipment every day and trains other equipment operators to perform daily before operational equipment checks.

The five levels must be described for each safety performance standard. With safety performance standards like these in place, the safety performance can now be measured. In contrast to the measures listed earlier, there is one that is not efficient or effective but is often used. Do not use “Reduce accidents by X%” as a performance standard. The primary reason is that most employees have little control over the actual accident. What they have controlled over are following procedures, reporting and correcting unsafe conditions, and behavior. The performance standards must be written down and agreed to by supervisor and employee. Minor changes may have to be made to get both the supervisor and employee to agree.

To be effective employees must be counseled on their performance periodically during the rating period. The results of employee counseling are collated and become the end of year review. This is a meeting with the employee to go over their performance during the entire one-year rating period. It is too late for improvements now. The rating is assigned based on the actual performance of the employee. The end of year appraisal is discussed with the employee and both the supervisor and employee must sign. If the employee refuses to sign a note signed by a third party indicated that the meeting took place and the employee refused to sign. I think ratings work best when they are tied to pay increases or performance bonuses.

It is also important to mention in the annual performance report any safety milestones the employee might have reached. An example could be “During this rating period Henry reached the 1 million miles driving milestone and received an award and salary increase.” This keeps the ratings on the up and up. I also find it helpful to mention in the annual performance report when employees did something exceptional. An example would be that “During the rating period Peter found a broken gear in the machine during his pre-operational checks. This replacement saved the machine from severe damage saving the factory time and money.”

If your organization uses performance appraisals, it is important for those performance standards to enhance the safe performance of employees. In this blog post, I explained how to use safety performance standards. If your organization begins to use safety performance standards I believe they will find accident rates and the associated costs going down.

Bibliography

Klinger, Donald and John Nalbandian (2003).  Public Personnel Management: Contexts and Strategies, 5th ed., New Jersey, Prentice Hall.

Wolfe, Barry (2015). Performance Appraisals: To Appraise or Not to Appraise, Pittsburg, The Express Press.

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Post Storm Safety

Now that two hurricanes have passed the clean up is under way. There are some real hazards when cleaning up from a storm like a hurricane that if not followed can lead to injury and illness.

I always like to use risk management. Even after a storm, you can identify the potential hazards and ways to control them through a risk management process. There are a lot of different risk management processes out there and I recommend using the one you are most familiar with. The important thing is to use it.

The first thing you will want to do is obtain the protective clothing and equipment. If you will be working in water a good pair of hip or leg waders are necessary. Solid well fitting working gloves are also essential. If you are moving sharp items you will want to make sure your gloves will prevent cuts and scrapes. Protective eyewear and hard hats may also be needed. If you are not wearing a hard hat you should wear a hat to keep the sun off of your face, neck,  and ears.

In addition to the protective clothing and equipment you should apply sunscreen to prevent sunburn and at times a bug repellent. It is important for you to keep yourself hydrated so a handy bottle of cool water is essential. I say cool because most of us don’t like to drink warm water and if you don’t like to drink it you probably won’t. This will put you at a higher risk for heat injuries.

You will need to make sure the area you are about to work in is safe. This includes checking for electrical shock hazards or leaking gas. It is also important to look for wildlife such as snakes and in some areas alligators and crocodiles. There may even be mammals with rabies. Skunks and racoons are commonly infected. They usually act aggressively when infected.

You will also want a first-aid kit and a way to contact emergency medical care for yourself or a colleague. Cuts, punctures, and scrapes may require a tetanus shot to prevent infection. After applying a band aid or bandage seek medical attention due to the unclean condition following a storm.

It is always best to work in teams so there is always someone to get help for an injured person. There are also other hurricanes in the Gulf and you will want to stay on top of their locations and hazards as well.

 

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Know the Dangers of Flash Flooding

The flooding in Texas, Mississippi, and New Orleans has displaced many people and placed others in grave danger. One danger we see now occurring is flash flooding. This type of flood occurs suddenly, with little or no warning, and can be disastrous. Areas can be safe one minute and flooded by a raging current of water the next. Flash flood waters move incredibly fast and with a tremendous amount of force. They can push boulders, tear down trees, and destroy buildings, roads, and bridges. Walls of water can reach 10 to 20 feet high very quickly and without warning.  To avoid becoming injured or even killed by a flash flood it is essential that you know and following precautions:

  • Prevent children from playing in high water or storm drains.
  • Stay out of low areas.
  • Be familiar with the land features where you live, work, and play.
  • Know where high ground is and how to get there quickly.
  • Don’t try to drive through water.

There are signs you can watch for tell if flash flooding is possible:

  • Unusually hard rain over several hours.
  • Steady substantial rain over several days.
  • A tropical system affecting your area.
  • A weather report of severe weather or a flash flood watch.
  • Water rising rapidly in streams and rivers.
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Conduct Continuity of Operations Planning Now

What is happening in Texas now is a good reminder that your company needs a comprehensive and effective program to ensure continuity of operations under any circumstances. You should prepare for the full range of potential emergencies and put in place a viable Continuity of Operations (COOP) capability which ensures the performance of company operations during any emergency or situation that may disrupt them. There are several objectives to any COOP plan, which include:

  • Communicating effectively from an alternate site.
  • Validating support systems for 24-hour operations.
  • Testing an alert, notification, and activation system.
  • Performing selected operations from an alternate site.
  • Receiving, process and analyze, and disseminate information.
  • Be able to access vital files and databases from an alternate site.

Continuity of Operations planning must be done in advance to respond to a natural or man-made emergency. This means if your company needs to relocate to an alternate site coordination should be done before hand. Some tasks that your company may have to provide include:

  • Acquiring space and facilities
  • Providing for the safety of employees
  • Coordinating facility repair and operations
  • Providing travel and transportation services
  • Providing mail and courier delivery services
  • Identifying all affected real and personal property
  • Providing administrative and facilities management and support services

This plan should allow your company to continue its work with little or no disruption in service; however, it takes a lot of work to do well.  For example at the national level continuity planning also requires coordination with state and local governments. This planning must also include information technology.

There is a lot of guidance from the Federal Government that can be used in the planning process. Here are some that I think are helpful:

  • Delegate full authority in order of succession.
  • Identify alternate facility or facilities for critical personnel
  • Train employees as to their individual roles during a COOP activity
  • Demonstrate a general level of understanding of the plan among employees
  • Maintain vital records and databases in electronic form at a backup location to meet operational responsibilities following the activation of a COOP.

Teleworking (employees working from an alternate site or home using telephone and computer) is one element of planning that must be considered. Teleworking can allow employees to work from home or an alternate location when a facility is damaged, cannot be reached, or is in the path of an impending disaster. Standards and guidance must be in place prior to any emergency to ensure employees have the equipment necessary to perform their work. This means IT components critical for telework.

There are always security concerns involved with moving an organization to an alternate site when responding to an emergency. Specifically, managers experience a great deal of concern over the security of the information technology equipment and transmissions. In addition, security planners must also consider the physical security of any alternate site. It is essential that a risk assessment is conducted of possible alternate sites so that risks can be considered along with other criteria to determine the best fit. These risk assessment should identify the potential security weaknesses of a facility. Effort should then be expanded to reduce some of the risks for selected facilities.

This blog post touched on a variety of topics that all deal with putting in place a comprehensive and effective program to ensure continuity of operations under all circumstances. The topics of planning, telework, and security were each explored. To ensure that companies can respond in an emergency it is essential that all aspects of the response be planned for. Without this planning, it will be very difficult if not impossible for a company to respond and if the response is weak customers the voters can and should go to another company.

 

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What I learned from An Inconvenient Truth

I first learned about protecting the environment in sixth grade. At that time, the focus was on not polluting the planet. Near the end of that year, I earned first place in pollution prevention poster contest. For the rest of my life, I kept that interest in protecting the environment. My awareness was raised to a higher level when I lived in Germany where reducing exhaust from vehicles and recycling were a part of the culture. As an adult, I even managed environmental protection programs in a few of my jobs.

To keep myself abreast of the field I read books and watched documentaries when I got the chance. In 2006 Al Gore made a very slick documentary titled An Inconvenient Truth. This documentary that won the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Documentary, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Song, and the American Cinema Editors Guild Best Edited Documentary.  Furthermore, in 2007 Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change received the Nobel Prize. Al Gore won the award for his tireless campaign to put the climate crisis on the political agenda. I saw that, at least in part, as making the documentary. Many people I knew watched the documentary myself included.

I thought it was the best documentary I had ever seen. The documentary was a dramatic improvement over the old documentaries that were often dull and monotone. I was surprised at the way the director kept the emotions high using events from Gore’s life to raise emotions.

However, no documentary can stand on the quality of presentation and flashy camera work alone. There needs to be some truth there. To prepare for this blog post, I watched An Inconvenient Truth again. One chart at the beginning stood out to me. It was a quote from Mark Twain that I paraphrase here “What gets us into trouble is what we know that just ain’t’ so.”

This quote stood out because there are several things that Al Gore refers to that simply are not true or accepted as fact:

  • The most obvious to me is was that Gore speaks as if man made CO2 is the cause of warmer temperatures. I have done a lot of research, and there is considerable disagreement as to how much man-made CO2 affects the environment.
  • Another was the connection with the rise in temperature and CO2. There is conflicting agreement with some sources saying the increase in temperatures come first then the CO2 which is the opposite of Gore’s claims.
  • Gore spoke of an increase in hurricanes and their strength. That has not happened.
  • Gore inferred that global warming caused Hurricane Katrina. Experts disagree on any connection between the two.
  • There was also the note that there were no articles in peer reviewed journals that denied global warming. That in and of itself should have been a red flag. I am not aware of very many topics in science that have zero opposition. Information has come out that editors of peer reviewed journals do not accept for publication articles that question global warming.
  • Gore also said that small groups of people deny global warming. Those small groups add up to about half the scientific community.
  • Gore also raised the issue of scientists who were punished for supporting global warming. What I see are scientists punished for not supporting global warming.

Despite my disagreements with the documentary, I learned a valuable lesson. If you want people to accept and listen to safety, occupational health, and environmental protection messages you have to dress them up as Gore did. Many people watched this documentary. How many watched your last workplace video or even noticed your recent poster? First make sure your videos and posters are correct then make them slick or flashy and I think more will notice.

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