Sheltering in Place

Here’s a nice video from the American Red Cross about how to shelter in place. Most of the content focuses on residential planning but these principles can be applied at the workplace. Also note that they use an incident in Baltimore, MD, as an example of when to shelter in place.

Active Shooter Procedures

Yesterday’s incident in the Perry-Castaneda Library at the University of Texas is a sad reminder that a violent incident can happen in your library. Remember Step 2 of the 10-steps: Protect yourself, your staff, and your patrons. Do you have procedures in place for an active shooter? If so, have you drilled your staff on those procedures lately? Click on this link, http://www.virginia.edu/emergency/plan.html#violent, to view procedures for active shooter/violent person from the University of Virginia’s Critical Incident Response Plan. Also check with your parent institution.

Trends

Every morning, I spend about 20 minutes looking over my RSS news feeds, all related to emergency preparedness.  Currently, most of the news is about the just-ended hurricane season, however, I’ve noticed a trend toward a greater concern about the threat of bioterrorism.  The two events that seem to have prompted this concern are the release of the  progress report by the  Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism coupled with the amount of time it has taken to distribute the H1N1 vaccine.  The Commission’s report warns that “The biological threat is greater than the nuclear; the acquisition of deadly pathogens, and their weaponization and dissemination in aerosol form, would entail fewer technical hurdles than the theft or production of weapons-grade uranium or plutonium and its assembly into an improvised nuclear device.” This warning along with the potential of an accidental incident dealing with harzardous materials should prompt us all to be looking at our shelter-in-place procedures.

Cyber terrorism is also getting a lot of attention, thanks in part by last month’s 60 Minutes report.  A potential target, experts warn, is the power grid, so you may want to keep your print core textbooks accessible and up-to-date.

Statistically, December is the month with the fewest tornadoes, so this is a good time to be looking over your tornado response procedures.  We’re also seeing a downward trend of H1N1 activity.  Hopefully, you all have a solid pandemic plan in place  in the event that the virus spikes again in the winter or spring.  (If not, check out our Pandemic Planning Resources page.) And if you have a pandemic plan, you are therefore ready for a severe winter storm, as many of the steps you would take in a pandemic (e.g. reduced staffing, work from home) you could also take with a severe winter storm.

Goodbye winter, hello spring!

As winter bids us farewell with a few inches of snow and sub-freezing temperatures (increasingly rare here in central Virginia), we note that the likelihood of tornadoes will be increasing as the weather turns warmer.  As they say, there is no real tornado “season,” because one can happen any time and in any place, but we see that internet searchers are looking for information on tornado preparedness more often now, so here is some information that we hope will be helpful in preparing for the tumultuous spring weather than can give birth to tornadoes and other severe storms.

As always, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention web site offers excellent information and advice on tornadoes as part of their Emergency Preparedness and Response information, specifically their Natural Disasters and Severe Weather page.   Click on the “Tornado” link for some great information on what you should know and what to do before a tornado, during and afterwards.  For instance, what do you think is the most dangerous aspect of a tornado?  Where is the most dangerous place to be in a tornado?  The answers may surprise you!

Many states will be running tornado preparedness drills in March.  Here’s the Virginia site that lists information about the state-wide drill on March 17, as well as how to run a tornado drill.  Check out the information on the page about how to find the safest place inside your building to shelter from a tornado. 

NOAA weather radios are wonderful to have in your building if you are in an area that is particularly vulnerable to servere storms, or you just want to keep in touch with weather events.  They are available with a range of features and at a price range from $25 and up, from a variety of sources.  (Amazon lists many models and prices.)  Ours has alerted us several times to thunderstorms in the summer, which helped us to be prepared for possible power disruptions and wind/water damage.  The NOAA radios receive information continuously from the National Weather Service, and you can set them to sound an alert to your specific area so that the alarm doesn’t sound more often than necessary.   Best wishes to everyone for a safe and happy spring season!

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Weather Alerts Today

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The weather is creating news today. A powerful low pressure front is pushing through towards the Northeast from the Mississippi Valley, hitting the warm temperatures we’ve had this week, and creating some fierce thunderstorms and spawning tornadoes in Tennessee and Kentucky this morning. We’ve sent a weather alert to our staff reminding everyone of what our procedures are for responding to a tornado warning or sighting in our area:

  • Tornado warning: announce the warning is in effect, ask staff and patrons to move away from windows and exterior doors
  • Tornado sighted in the area: announce we are initiating Shelter-In-Place, and that everyone should take shelter on our basement level in the hallway. (Best shelter from a tornado: as low in the building as possible, as close to the center of the building as possible)

In addition to monitoring the weather via computers, we have an All-Hazards radio that will issue an alarm in the event of an official alert. So far, we have not had to use it, but today it may come in handy.

We hope our colleagues to the west of us have fared well today. Stay in touch!