On the Homefront

April 30, 2003
A Proactive Approach to Homeland Security Emergency Preparedness
The aftermath of Sept. 11 has dramatically changed the way the facilities management community views the built environment. Building owners and facilities managers, in addition to managing traditional fire and emergency evacuation programs, now have to also consider Homeland Security issues. In 1999, Jersey City, NJ, began an extensive safety program via its mandatory Fire Marshal Certification & Training for Facility Managers and Operating Engineers. Jersey City is a crucial area because of its many high-rise commercial facilities, proximity to Manhattan, and high concentration of financial institutions and chemical plants. “After 9/11, operating engineers recognized their lead position as first responders in every emergency because they are running the facility,” says Dominick Aricchi, curriculum coordinator, Local 68 of the International Union of Operating Engineers (www.iuoe-68.org), West Caldwell, NJ, which offers approximately 5,500 in-house and customized on-site training.The first series of Homeland Security Training workshops was held in January, followed by a second in March. Speakers included Lt. Michael Louf of the Jersey City Police Department and leader of the New Jersey Disaster Preparedness Teams; General Charles Boyd (Ret.), chief executive officer of Business Executive for National Security; and New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevy.Featuring facilities professionals’ important role as frontline personnel with regard to site security and their crucial interaction with police and fire departments, workshops also covered biological, chemical, and radiological attacks and hazards, first aid, and respiratory protection and personal protective equipment.Providing end-users with personal tools during emergency evacuations is a mission of Humanscale Safety Products™, New York City. The company has developed a series of personal safety kits incorporating a smoke hood, sterile water packet for eye cleansing, a 16-hour high-pitched personal locator alarm, flashlight, and 12-hour glow stick. Each element of the Personal SafetyKits is expressly designed to support vision, breathing, and the ability to be heard during an evacuation. This easy-to-carry line features an innovative dated, integrity-sealed packaging and mounting system. Adds Steven Schwartz, managing director, Humanscale Safety Products (www.humanscale.com), “It ensures that the products you are providing the workforce for evacuation will be guaranteed to work and guaranteed to be where you expect them to be.” “Cotton swabs, hair gel, energy bars: There are many ways to provide kits for people, but … we have separated the emergency evacuation phase from anything else,” adds Schwartz. The products are designed for office, hotel, dormitory, and industrial facility use. Schwartz stresses that the most important thing during an emergency is for the occupants to leave and get to the designated safe zone. With safety kits, he encourages facilities managers to subscribe to a system of accessibility, having the kits in a clearly marked public access area; management, clearly displaying the expiration dates of the components; information, listing emergency contacts and phone numbers and customized floor maps; and integrity, making sure all the components are present and intact inside the kit. “I was in the City Hall of a landmark city recently and its human resources person showed me their kit, and the flashlight in the kit had no batteries and no one knew it,” says Schwartz. “The integrity was shot. God forbid there would be an emergency today.” The company recommends that all kits, regardless of the manufacturer, subscribe to this system to ensure integrity. Regina Raiford Babcock ([email protected]) is senior editor at Buildings magazine.

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