Are You Prepared?

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California. Always unique in many ways and last week was no exception.  As the headlines will tell you, we celebrated the fourth of July with a 6.4 Earthquake Rocks Los Angeles Area on Fourth of July and of course, that was upstaged by No deaths reported after 7.1 earthquake rocks Ridgecrest and California soon after.  When the ground shook near Ridgecrest in San Bernardino County it created an expected reaction from the media and the public of reminding everyone that we live in earthquake country and that means we need to be prepared for the big one which WILL happen at any time, any day any night, either a Monday or a Sunday or even during a World Series game.  So let this be yet another awake up call for those of you who just keep putting off getting that “To-Go” bag and/or survival kit assembled.

This is why I’m concerned, not enough of us are prepared and ready for that coming catastrophe.  Now would be the best time to put together that kit while it’s fresh on your mind and with the kids home from school on vacation you can make it a family project and include items that’ll keep everyone happy.  If you don’t have the time to put a kit together then sit down right now, go online and purchase a “ToGo” bag now!MintyOptimisticAsiaticmouflon-max-1mb

Some believe the aftermath will only be a slight inconvenience and that calling 911 will take care of it all your issues, that’s why we pay taxes right?  Sorry to tell you that a lot of cities, of all sizes, struggle daily with their budgets and juggling the cost of firefighters, police, infrastructure repair & maintenance, parks, and recreation, public transit, administrative staffing, courts, pensions, and lawsuits.  The level of city services is not what they once were while some large cities like NYC have fabulous central commands staffed with well-trained people directing other well trained, dedicated folks, ready and able to respond to any emergency, smaller cities do not have that luxury and even with the heroic efforts of first responders, emergency services can be quickly overwhelmed.  Immediately after a large-sized earthquake, they would be immediately tied up responding to the hundreds of calls they would receive in the first few hours.  During Hurricane Harvey in the Houston area alone, they had over 75,000 emergency calls in the first four days. 

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In my town with a population of 122,105 living within 49.5 sq. miles, on any given shift there are only 21 firefighters on duty.  That’s 21 to safely handle house fires including multi-level homes, car crashes and related injuries, medical emergencies, grass fires, hazardous material spills, and other assorted emergencies.  Throw in an earthquake and now you have 21 firefighters resorting to triage to handle the hundreds of calls that will pour into 911 making severe trauma and heavy bleeding priority and those with minor injuries will have to wait or treat themselves.  What’s worse is they can’t count on backup from the other shifts reporting in due to the possible poor conditions of the roads, bridges, and fires as many firefighters live out of town.  Mutual aid will not arrive as they’ll be too busy with their own town’s emergencies.

That’s why you need to put an emergency kit together.  Until the utilities get back online and first responders can get to you, you are on your own.  This is not just for the home but your place of work should also have an emergency kit that everyone in the facility knows about. Earthquakes have no clock.  Stock it well and keep an eye on expiration dates. FEMA’s (Federal Emergency Management Agency) website says you should have enough food and water for each person for at least 3 days, but one to two weeks is advised.  So please,  don’t just nod your head in agreement.  DO IT!  If you have questions please don’t hesitate to ask, or reach out to other experts or to the FEMA website.  Oh, and by the way, as a side note, when was the last time you changed the batteries in your smoke/carbon detector?

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My Survival Chest – This is what I used and put together for our home of two adults and one dog.  I was able to purchase just about everything on Amazon.com.  Use your imagination when it comes to the container and what you want to stash for an emergency.  The Rubbermaid 50 gallon capacity container, waterproof and made of sturdy plastic, it’s durable and on wheels, in case you have to move. Yellow so it can easily be seen.  Now, what items and how much of each do you need to put into your survival chest? Base the amounts to store on a worst-case scenario for your location and take into consideration how isolated your location is.  Are you within city limits or an unincorporated area and are there bridges or tunnels to cross?  I have items for 7 days.  Next, how many people and pets are you planning for?  ie: Two adults and one dog?  

WATER – Plan on 2 gallons per person per day. One gallon for drinking and one gallon for hygiene, sanitation and other.  Multiply 2 gallons with the number of people in the home and don’t forget to include water for your pets.  I have a mixture of bottled water and packaged sterilized water.  I would also add one or two of the straw water filter tools just in case things take longer to get back to normal and you begin to run low on bottled water.   Water can be boiled to sterilize it and if a fire isn’t possible to accomplish this, keep a small bottle of bleach in your kit.  It can be used for purifying water for drinking, 8 drops for a gallon of water, shake and wait thirty minutes.

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FOOD – Any combination of prepared camping meals that you enjoy, freeze-dried fruits and canned goods (make sure to include a can opener) as well as some of your favorite snacks, power bars and chocolate which will come in handy to help with the stress.  Don’t forget to store food for your pets as well and some of their favorite snacks.

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RADIO/CHARGER/BATTERIES – There are several radio choices but my favorite are the ones that have multiple ways to recharge the battery either with a hand crank and solar-powered.  You can leave it in the sun all day to charge or use the hand crank and it also can be used to charge your phone.  The radio is both AM and FM as well as shortwave so you can listen to the latest updates.

Flashlights/batteries/Candles and matches/fire starter – With no electricity, you’ll have to rely on flashlights, candles, and lanterns to illuminate the area.  This is very important for everyone’s safety especially if there is debris on the ground.  Don’t use candles until you know the area is free of gas or other combustibles and never leave candles unattended.  Check your equipment now for the battery size requirements of all your items and store extra batteries in your kit.

 

First aid kit/nonlatex gloves – A first aid kit is a must and can help you greatly for treating minor injuries of family members or neighbors.  If you are trained in first aid then you know gloves are for your protection when treating others.

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Latrine/Outhouse – Chances are you may not have running water after an earthquake and not just due to water main breaks but the pump station may have lost power or been damaged and they will also take time to check infrastructure before turning the water back on.  One item that can help is the Backpack John which I recently added to my emergency kit.  It takes up little space and is easy to use to all ages and sizes.  

Sleeping bags/tents – It is possible that your home may not be safe for occupancy after a large earthquake.  If you have a large yard in the front or back you may want to set up a tent for protection from the elements.  Our tent can sleep 8.  Even if you can stay in your home, it would help get the kids through this by setting the tent up inside and pretend you’re on a family camping trip.  Sleeping bags to keep warm and comfy.  A tarp in your kit can help protect from rain or use to keep you off the ground or help move someone who can’t get around on their own.

Blankets/warm clothes – Natural disasters don’t care what time of year it is so be prepared and keep some extra sweatshirts, jackets in the kit along with blankets for those chilly nights.  Other items to include, nylon rope, duct tape, plastic garbage bags.

Make sure to keep an inventory of what’s in your emergency kit along with the expiration dates of those items so you can replace them when needed.   Designate a meet area so you know everyone who was in the house or apartment is out.   Phone traffic will be crazy as people call 911 for assistance, family members calling to tell others they’re fine and family members calling to find out if loved ones are fine along with the possibility of downed cell towers.  I suggest you designate a family member who lives in another state as the contact person you can call to say you are fine and then let them contact everyone else about your status.

You can get more information about how to prepare for a natural disaster or other emergencies by going to the FEMA web site at fema.gov and get stuff like an Earthquake Safety Checklist and other great information.  Check it out but don’t wait too long as it’ll be hard to research and prepare when you’re in the middle of a disaster.  Really, do it now!

benfrankfailtoprepare

 

 

The Company Hostage

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The company had a very old ASRS, Automated Storage and Retrieval System to store the majority of it’s finished product inventory.  We were in transition as the company had gone into receivership and was run by an investment corporation that was trying to keep overall costs as low as possible while they prayed and searched for a buyer.  The system was so old that in the era of CD drives it still used floppy disc to operate the system that was, to say the least, fragile.  It could freeze up due to trouble reading a dirty license plate or from a loud sneeze or other inexplicable reason and have to be rebooted.

The cost to upgrade was enough that our benevolent keepers felt hiding their heads in the sand and ignoring the problem would magically make it stop hurting the bottom line but it was every time the ASRS was down.  It interfered with production in that when you can’t put the product into storage you can’t keep packaging it and when you can’t retrieve product to ship you can’t invoice.  In addition, a lot of overtime was spent on having workers move and stack product anywhere they could in the facility so the packaging of the product could continue but that also led to inventory issues of lost and misplaced product which became a nightmare for our production scheduler. 

Our keepers also didn’t see how over time the leadership on-site had surrendered its authority and through attrition and neglect, there was only a handful of employees left who not only knew how to operate the ASRS but how to keep it going and no one in management noticed the pending issue or thought to make plans for rectifying the situation because they were too busy putting out fires or pointing fingers at one another. 

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Things had actually been moving along pretty well during the last few weeks with only a few minor hiccups of the ASRS and word the company may have found a new owner but on this particular warm sunny afternoon, a few employees were caught smoking a joint in the back of the shipping building.  Marijuana was not yet legal in any form in any state and in accordance with the company zero tolerance policy, they were terminated on the spot. The problem was of the five caught smoking, three were ASRS operators which was more than half the staff as well half the only people who could operate the system.  

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The “IT” really hit the fan, of course, during the graveyard shift after they had forced swing shift for four hours, allowable by contract no one else showed up to operate the ASRS.  Management hadn’t realized that there was no one else available that had been trained to operate the system.  They had screwed-up royally and were behind the eight ball.  No communication or verification nothing but an all night long battle of survival as pallets of product were stacked five high down corridors, hallways any open space was fair game as production had to pack out the product already produced within a specific time frame.  The company in a word had been taken, hostage.

The ASRS operators still available were refusing over time even the forced four hours and the union was standing up for them pointing out the safety issues of working all the extra hours and demanding the return of the fired workers while not allowing the training of any additional ASRS personnel keeping the company hostage.  After a few days of keeping on their game face, and saying everything was all right the company quietly began to negotiate an end to the hostage situation along with dealing with the backlog of the finished product all over the facility.  The deal eventually worked out after hours of negotiating brought back all the terminated employees, they all had to attend drug and alcohol rehabilitation, were on a one-year probation for drug use, had to train additional employees and management as well as document procedures on the ASRS while the company promised and began the painful process of upgrading the system to twenty-first century technology.

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This is a lesson that was not cheap.  The overtime alone to count inventory and to get all the finished product into the ASRS system was ridiculous and it took weeks to get shipping and invoicing back to normal.  A binder was created with all the information needed so that even a caveman could operate the ASRS and the cost of the upgrade was hovering at $One Million.  This all could have been avoided and not an issue if upper management kept their eye on the big picture and allowed their supervisors and managers to do their job of training and documenting training but they had no experience in manufacturing and were lost in all the complexities of an aging system and ancient techniques while trying to meet the demands of today.

As I’ve said many times you reap what you sow.  You don’t have to be a boss hogs taskmaster but you must hold people accountable for their actions after a thorough explanation of the rules, expectations, and consequences.  You are in charge of your realm of the kingdom that makes up the company so RUN IT!  Be proactive, do a yearly hazard inspection, check emergency gear, create a safety committee, do your walk and be on the floor 80% of the time so you know what’s going on and what your workers are dealing with.  For more tips and ideas on leadership or if you have questions please don’t hesitate to contact me.

benfrankfailtoprepare

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Complete Guide To Warehouse Safety-Volume 4 – Training

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After a good nights rest our three travelers were back on the Green Brick Road of Safety  and headed toward Emerald City in hopes that the Head Inspector will help each one with their safety related issues.  The road turned into a dense forrest that blocked most of the sunshine.  It was dark and eerie but the three felt pretty strong walking together.  Dorothy turned to Scarecrow and Tinman and said, this reminds me of a scene from the Wizard of Oz. “What!” both Scarecrow and Tinman rang out in chorus.  Dorothy looked at them puzzled, you never heard, oh never mind.  Lions, tigers and bears, oh my.  “Cute”, said Scarecrow and he thought and sang, “How about.  Falls, trips and amputations, oh my.”  They all chuckled.  Tinman joined in, ” Hazards, PPE and Housekeeping, oh my.”  They all laughed again.  They were bonding into a strong team, each with their own individual skill and working together as a team.  They continued, “Hazards, PPE and Housek….” their fun suddenly stopped when the road abruptly ended and a funiculaire stood before them as the only way to the top of the mountain to continue their journey.

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The three of them stood there, looking around trying to figure out their next move.  There was no one around they could ask, no signs, no schedules, nothing.  The cable car was in station with the doors  open, waiting to go.  Scarecrow turned and said, “Well, I guess it’s self service. Let’s check it out.”  They walked inside the car and looked at the controls.  “How hard can this be?”, Scarecrow asked as he surveyed the control panel.  Dorothy suggested he hit the flashing green button.  Tinman felt it was the right decision and Scarecrow concurred with both of them so he hit the button.  A whirling noise started from under the cable car, lights began to flash and Scarecrow turned to Dorothy and Tinman with a proud smirk on his face.

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Their victory was short lived as the next sound they heard was a loud roar.  HEEEEEY!  A large lion came running from the buildings towards our travelers, yelling, screaming with flailing arms and looking very menacing.  WHAAAAAT ARE YOU GUYS DOING?  ARRRR YOU CRAZY?  They backed away from the lion, they were pretty scared.  The lion ran right up to Dorothy and got in her face, WHO SAID YOU COULD TOUCH ANYTHING?  YOU DON’T KNO….(Dorothy was the first female mechanic at her plant and she has been through it all, the practical jokes, the nasty comments and put downs, the hand gestures, gyrating hips, bullying and the deafening silence but she never quit, she never let them see her cry,  always waiting until she got home for that luxury and over time it made her a much stronger person.  When the lion got into her face it all the past memories rushed once again through her mind and) SMACK!  She stopped the lion mid word, and yelled, back off mister!  If you have something to say to me, say it in a constructive manner and talk to me but don’t you EVER yell at me about my performance again!  The stunned lion began to cry.  

Now, Dorothy also began to cry and as Scarecrow and Tinman started to console Dorothy they both began to cry as well.  “It’s not your fault Dorothy, said Scarecrow while Tinman added, “Yes, he deserved that.”  The lion kept bawling away.  “I shouldn’t have yelled.  It’s , it’s the stress of this job, it’s killing me.  I’m the only one here who can operate the funiculaire and by time I get someone else trained, the Emerald city sends them somewhere else.  There are no training materials of any kind to help me train so 24/7 I’m the guy.”  Dorothy gave the Lion her tissue so he could wipe his eyes.  We didn’t know and only reacted to your shouting.  Scarecrow motioned Dorothy over to him and Tinman and they whispered amongst themselves.  After a short discussion Scarecrow turned to the Lion and said, “Why don’t you join us?  We’re headed to Emerald City to see the Head Inspector.  I’m going to get PPE, and Tinman going for housekeeping.  I bet he has loads of training material you can use, probably even color videos!  Lion loved the idea, they piled into the cable car and off they went to continue their journey.

(The originally title for volume 4 was – Emergency Ready but while reviewing and updating the order of things I’ve decided it should be – Training.  Training is critical to a successful safety program and key to emergency response and preparedness as well as successful sustainable organization due to increased employee retention.  Between classroom lectures and hands-on experience reinforced with tailgates/toolboxes make for a engaged educated safety conscience employee.)

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So here we are folks, more than half way along the Green Brick Road of Safety and the Emerald City is in sight.  It’s been an enlightening trip for me as well and I want to thank you all for the positive responses and fabulous comments on this series.  As I’m sure you remember, we began our journey with Hazard Analysis, to find potential hazards if any, so we can determine the appropriate PPE.  We also discovered the importance of Housekeeping in preventing accidents.  All three large critical segments of workplace safety.  So, after this, are there still more ways to protect your employees?   Yes there is and it is Training. 

Training is the most important part of safety.  Let me say it again, Training is the most important part of safety and works best when it’s delivered concisely, consistently, a little entertaining and with employee engagement and participation.  This goes for all types of training from new employee orientation to forklift certification to operation of machinery to safety meetings to emergency evacuation procedures.  Training is not a one time deal but should be a continuous process of learning, education, recertification, development and growth for building a well trained and confident team, able to react to any situation as one, in a moments notice.  The results of a training program speak for themselves with increased productivity, reduction in accidents and sick days as well as increasing employee retention which is critical to maintain a consistent operation especially in these days of the “skills gap”.  No different then Doctors and lawyers who have continuous education throughout their career as they learn of the latest techniques and tools available for diagnosis and cures.  If you treat training as a joke, that’s how it’ll be perceived and what you’ll get back in return so this is your opportunity to set the tone and demonstrate to your staff or company that you take it seriously. 

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After you assess what training your company offers you can begin to develop a training program to tailor your needs.  By putting a training program together now you’ll be ahead of the game if you find yourself with several new hires or seasonal temporary employees.  You know what daily tasks need to be accomplished by your team for success and you want to develop your training based on what the job entails.  Some companies already have written job descriptions handy that you can use as a template to help but I have found more often than not that many have very old out of date or incomplete job descriptions on file and you’ll probably find training material the same way.  That’s not bad, it gives you the opportunity to make it all yours. 

I would also gather company written standard operational procedures, policies and any other information that you think an employee needs to know for loading trucks or picking orders safely and efficiently.  If you work in a food processing plant or food distribution warehouse you should also include HACCP procedures.  Once you get all the information together and set up in your computer/laptop you’ll see how extremely easy it is to edit and update this information as things change.  Then a great habit to develop would be to review job descriptions, procedures and training at least once a year to keep your workers safe, practices current and regulatory obligations filled. 

Some companies are very good about giving you the talking points for the monthly safety meetings along with colorful handouts which is helpful but that may come across as just spoon-feeding safety to your employees!  Like a scene from Island of Dr. Moreau.  What is the law?  Do not put your hands into moving parts.  This would be great if you were training parrots to repeat back to you.  You want to discuss the topic with you staff.  Get their involvement by asking for feedback on what happens on the floor when they deal with a situation.  At one company during a discussion on Lock Out Tag Out I found out that the workers couldn’t LOTO one machine since the electrical box was so old (I think Edison made it himself) there was no way to put a lock on it.  The company told me it wasn’t in the budget to change it out at this time so to protect my staff and the company I made it procedure to call one of the staff electricians to remove the fuses so we could then lock the housing so no one could start the machine.  I was very surprised how soon that electrical panel replacement got moved up, approved and installed.  

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So when you get that company material don’t be afraid to make a few adjustments to encourage employee engagement.  Are there additional handouts you can use, videos, power-points or other media to aid your presentation in getting the point across.  When discussing PPE don’t forget to utilize staff in demonstrating how to properly wear and adjust, get a conversation going.  I know some companies want training rushed through and done quick but that only trivialize the whole process.  You want people to buy in to the program and if they don’t find the training interesting, they won’t listen.  When they’re part of the training, everyone listens and learns.   

If the need arises for training material to cover a new procedure or piece of equipment, you want to get it to the staff before you go live, well if you want success anyway.  We were transitioning to a new WMS.  We had one of their consultants on hand to help us with the process.  One of our jobs was to fill 2000 lb. bags with product and then produce a barcoded label that was scanned as it moved to a location in the warehouse.  There was no training material and workers on all shifts were making daily errors.  I asked the all mighty consultant when we could expect written instruction for the workers and stop the bleeding.  It’s coming.  It’s coming.  I couldn’t wait any longer, too many things were at stake, time wasted correcting inventory, loss of confidence in the staff, the stupidity of it all so I put together a two sheet instruction manual along with barcode placards and we brought the errors to ZERO.  I asked and watched my staff about the process and what would help them.  They got exactly that and the issue disappeared.

What ever the training you are going to give always prepare beforehand and get your materials printed, assembled and then rehearse your presentation.  Make sure you are prepared to discuss and know what you are talking about.  There is nothing worse than giving out bad information or being contradicted by an employee.  Depending on your geographical location it would be a big help if you have the training material translated into Spanish.  Some workers may understand english much easier than they can read it and this is information you want to make sure you get across.

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General Orientation – Usually given by HR to all new company employees but you can tailor a general orientation training for your department or section of the company  and highlight areas other employees may not have to observe like safety glasses, lunch breaks an sanitation.  After orientation buddy the new employee with a worker to be mentored and help get the lay of the land.

Forklift Certification – You can do it in-house or pay an trainer to come in and handle it.  Either way works but if you have your own trainer you can do the certification any time you need to and they know the facility better and can speak about the layout and hidden dangers.  Under no circumstances should you allow any worker to operate a forklift without obtaining proper training.

Seasonal/Temporary Employee – Using the same materials for regular new employees and  having materials ready will make their training a lot easier.  Even though they are temporary workers they are still human beings and should be treated with the same respect as everyone else.  Even if their first language isn’t english that doesn’t mean they are any less intelligent and you never know who’ll surprise you with a great idea to save time and money for the operation

Safety Training – Can be in the form of a monthly meeting which is most common.  Usually only one topic is covered like avoiding arc flash or LOTO.  When you give training and you are not sure about something, it is perfectly o.k. to tell an employee you don’t know the answer but that you’ll find out and then make sure you get back to them in a timely manner.  Drop the ball once and no one will come to you for anything ever again.

Tailgate/toolbox – meetings are an excellent way to communicate to your staff  as well as  build your own confidence when it comes to public speaking as these gatherings are more informal to a smaller group of people that are held weekly onsite and last no more then 15 minutes.  You can utilize these meetings to discuss a safety issue that just came up or demonstrate a new feature on a piece of equipment or teach a new technique, all to keep safety on their minds and them focused.    They are also suited for a busy work environment since you can break your staff up into smaller groups and keep everyone else working until it’s their turn.  

Huddles – Before the shift begins gather your troops and give a quick run down of the day, how we’re going to tackle it and any specific dangers to be aware of.  If it’s going to be very hot, remind employees to stay hydrated, if it’s raining, remind them about slick floors.  No more then 10 minutes to get everyone on board and going.

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WHAT SHOULD YOU TALK ABOUT?  The best topic are those most related to recent events in your facility that causes you to pull your hair out.  Was there a recent near miss reported in the warehouse or did you observe an employee lifting incorrectly.  Another topic could be to discuss an accident that occurred in a sister plant or in the local area and how can we avoid a similar one.  Keep a reminder list for yourself about seasonal topics you’d like to cover through out the year as well like staying hydrated on extremely hot days, emergency evacuation.  Need more inspiration, just google “Tailgate meeting topics”, you’ll wind up with many great suggestions or sign up to follow this blog.

HOW DO YOU GET EMPLOYEES TO LISTEN?  Well food always seems to be a way to attract people and offering donuts once in awhile is nice but the best way to get them to listen is to get employees involved by having them demonstrate and share their experience.  When I would cover LOTO, (Lock Out Tag Out) instead of me droning on about the associated hazards I would pick a piece of equipment, begin the tailgate there and have one of the top operators actually perform the lock out tag out on the unit.  The whole nine yards.   When they did an outstanding job and they always did, they were given a coupon for a free lunch at the local deli I had previously setup.  You also want to create an atmosphere where people are comfortable to learn and ask questions so they need to know up front there is no such thing as a stupid question about safety, EVER!

Don’t ever hesitate to run your operation the way you see fit but make sure to be up front with workers and explain the rules clearly including the consequences if the rules are not followed but make sure they’re reasonable, consistent and not unattainable. .Make sure to document all training (safety and equipment) by using a sign-in sheets and make sure all employees attending sign to acknowledge their attendance, attach copies of the training material used for that meeting and keep for your records. If you are delivering training and meetings on a consistent basis you will find that a well trained team does impact your bottom line for the better with a sustainable knowledgeable workforce.  

The Green Brick Road of Safety is not an imaginary magical place.  You don’t need to locate any secret hidden portals or drink any potions, it has always been there, before you all along.  It’s the road that leads to a safe and productive work place.  Become a safety advocate, it costs nothing to join.  Keep your fellow employees safe and always keep the dialogue on safety moving forward.  The life you save may be your own.  Be sure to stay tuned for our next leg on this journey and don’t miss an issue.  

benfrankfailtoprepare

 

 

 

 

 

Companies Behaving Badly-Training

 

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Welcome back and thanks for stopping by.  Hope your April Fools Day wasn’t too brutal.

There is no doubt in my mind that TRAINING is the most important aspect of any safety program.  Having employees who know what to do and how to do it without losing fingers, limbs or their lives makes for a fabulously productive shift.  However training is not a one time deal but a continuous process, assembling the many layers over time such as first-day safety orientation, monthly safety meetings, weekly tailgate/toolbox meetings, daily huddles, emergency drills, PPE, LOTO, operating different or new machinery, forklift certification, and refreshers.  The more opportunities to have an open discussion on safety along with input from everyone involved makes it all the better.

To be successful at training means you got the point you wanted to make across to the group while being focused and with a little entertaining in your message that is geared to your audience.  When you tell your fable of safety to the group and end with the moral of the story you want to sound real, you want to sound credible so use situations that have occurred on other shifts or as sister plants or in trade magazines.  When speaking to a group of young new workers you don’t want to sound like a lecturing dad, they’ll just tune you out and they’ll never hear the message.  It helps to get them involved in the training.  What’s their experience with this piece of machinery.  What are their concerns and how would they handle an emergency shut off or LOTO on the packaging machine you’re featuring in this weeks tailgate/toolbox meeting.  Also, use handouts, videos, and demonstrations to help your presentation.

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It does take work to ensure all the training.  When I had 64 employees working at 10 different stations on a shift, to get the weekly toolbox/tailgate completed you need to stagger the meeting.  Went to the first station and spoke with the 5 workers there about the topic and got feedback, then continued down the hall to the next station and spoke with the 7 workers there and continued throughout the shift until I had made contact with all.  If there were no fires to put out that shift I might get to all 64 but sometimes it takes two days to get it done.  To accomplish a monthly safety meeting I’d split the shift in half to keep production going, limited but at least not stopped and do one group early in the shift and the second half after first breaks.  There are always ways to get it done, don’t be afraid to be creative.  Even though these meetings are critical you can’t help but take some time away from production and that’s where some companies go crazy.

Thirty minutes for a safety meeting!? Did you guys have a party last night?  Those are just a few of the comments I would get but didn’t care since wasn’t about to discourage people from asking questions or interrupting them while they discuss a serious safety concern.  But this too is solvable by making friends with the head production scheduler.  We sat down and had coffee and learned about each other’s goals and for those days he could give us light nights I would get safety meetings done and still make our daily production goals.  Win, win.

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However, there are still those companies that believe spending money on training is a waste.  As our friends at, Dollar Tree stores cited again and fined maximum for putting workers at risk This has become an annual event finding the same safety violations occurring again and again and now the state of Washington is fining them $306,000 for willful violations.  Willful means the company knew they were putting workers in danger but didn’t bother to do anything about it.  It’s kind of hard not to block emergency exits or electrical panels when you’re not trained on safety hazards.  It’s hard to work safely with chemicals when your employer doesn’t train you how to properly use chemicals and how to safely and properly clean up a spill.  The problem is not just putting employees in danger but any customer entering the store to do business.  I would think twice if it were me.  Corporate could easily fix this, but then that would require thought, carrying out a plan and spending money which are all things I don’t think this company’s executives are capable of doing.

It’s nice to enjoy your job, that’s fabulous but if you get stoned on the job, what if an emergency arises?  Too Many Cannabis Industry Employees Impaired At Work.  This is a serious problem and a big liability to the owners.  Bartenders are not allowed to drink on the job and I know a lot of Cannabis clubs forbid smoking by employees on the premises since in the case of an emergency someone needs to be in charge and alert!  Needless to say, I’m sure their training covered this and it’s up to the club to enforce the rules or they lose their credibility.  It’s a shame that it’s always a few the ruin it for the rest of us due to their ignorance. 

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The Welsh government understands the importance of refresher safety training and are offering workshops to local farmers so they can avoid being part of the rise in farm-related accidents.  Farmers urged to kick-start health and safety training.  Nice to see they are not looking for reasons to fine them but working with them so they can continue to be productive and in one piece.  As it should be.

This professor says the workplace is the fifth leading cause of #death in the U.S.  Did you hear that?  5th leading cause.  This professor says the workplace is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S..  You can spend less time dead.  Know where emergency exits are located, listen for alarms, avoid working with distractions and most of all use all PPE that is available and use common sense.

Mark your calendars it’s Stand Down 2018–Preventing Falls in Construction : Fifth Annual Stand-Down Set for May 7-11  BE PART OF THE SOLUTION

That’s it for this episode.  If you begin a new job and there is no safety training or use of PPE then it may be time to find another job.  Never keep quiet about safety, for the life you save, maybe your own.

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Companies Behaving Badly-Don’t Do That

zohandon'tdothis

Welcome back and thank you for stopping by.

I’ve gotten a lot of advise on “what not to do” over the course of my life.  Beginning with my first ever safety training, don’t touch the stove when the burners are lit.  Then it was don’t play with matches and don’t play with dad’s lighter fluid, (my sister’s doll house was made of tin which made it resilient enough to hold up to the multiple times it was set on fire with the aid of dad’s lighter fluid).  As I got older the “don’t play with” advice became more indirect, but still telling me what not to do.  “Do you know the old woman in apartment 15?  No?  Good.  Don’t go there.  She’s crazy and eats children”.  “Do you know those guys on the corner?  No?  Good, don’t hang with them.  They’re bad dudes.”  “Do you chew tobacco?  No? Good. Don’t get started, it’s a nasty habit i wish I could kick.”  “Do you smoke? No? Good. Don’t get started, it’s a nasty habit I wish I could kick.”  You want a beer? Don’t drink? Good, don’t get started it’s a nasty habit I wish I could kick.”  I had a dear friend at the time, who offered me a paper bag with airplane modeling glue inside.  I declined, “You don’t?  That’s good and don’t start, it’s a nasty habit I wish I could kick.” He did eventually kick it, but not before the damage was done. 

A lot of people concerned about what I may get started doing but not why I shouldn’t get started except that it’s a nasty habit.that’s hard to kick and of course many of these well intentioned folks were role models that affected me for life.  “Hey. You a safe worker?  No? Good, it’s a nasty habit I wish I could kick.”  I could see Stubby, one of my dad’s buddies who owned a garage/gas station saying that.  He earned his nickname while working on a car when the spinning fan blade separated him from three of his fingers.  “You don’t want to get started on this.”  He would have been right, had he said that.

.peterpushbuttonIt’s not enough just to tell people not to do something, especially since some folks will do it anyway and don’t have to wait for a dare!  It also sounds very hypocritical with “Do as I say, not as I do” if not properly explained.  You want people to learn and understand WHY they shouldn’t do it by explaining what the consequences can be, how the hazard can be mitigated, does exposure need to be limited?  So I really don’t need to lose fingers in the process of getting the job completed?  The more you teach and educate a worker, the don’t do this morphs into “what you should do” to safely complete tasks while also building their confidence and giving you a better prepared and safer worker.  

When a near miss or accident occurs you do an investigation and determine if your training needs improving, the employee needs improvement or more safeguards are needed to be put into place but don’t let those events distract you from missing the little things that indicate change is needed.  When leadership is on the shop floor, listening, observing and walking in workers steps you’ll see if there’s an area where workers keep bumping their heads on a overhead pipe or the glue machine that heats up to the point it can burn your hand.  Will bump caps or padding the pipe help best?  Should I invest in gloves or talk to the glue machine company rep about the machine?  Open and honest communication between people, making a better and safer workplace.  Wow!  What a concept.

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Sugarloaf Owners Cited by OSHA Following Employee Death  Hazards lurk everywhere and sometimes the company leadership just doesn’t see the big picture from behind their desk, blinded by the glare from their computer screen.  Don’t overlook or fail to report little safety incidents like head bumping, cut fingers, burns to management and see if PPE is required to help mitigate these issues.  At one time, baseball players didn’t wear batting helmets and  hockey players didn’t wear helmets.  Now it’s pretty much mandatory for a safe work environment.  This is also where having safety committees can help as they can review these incidents and help bring in the best solution through open discussion and employee input.

When companies go through growing pains, unfortunately sometimes so do the workers.  Amazon has had a few bumps in the road,  Two Worker Deaths in September at Different Amazon Warehouses Spawn Concern from Worker Advocates.  Amazon’s success has made them everyones favorite target but two deaths in one month does raise concerns.  Then Amazon faces $28,000 fine after Indiana warehouse worker crushed by a forklift.  They found that Amazon didn’t provide adequate training and safety procedures weren’t followed.  These are symptoms of a fast paced, fast growing company where training is rushed and can be confusing.  It also sends a bad message when you say Worker Safety is important to Amazon and then pull a double standard mixed message of when it’s convenient.  I understand jobs are tough to come by and working for Amazon can be like hitting the jackpot and finding where they keep the soylent green, but if you’re not sure about something, ASK!  If your supervisor seems bothered or put out by your question then this may not be the place you want to work.  It’s your life.  You choose.

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Then Tesla, another successful company driven by one man, to make life better for all of us, well, maybe, except for their own workers.  Tesla’s Biggest Problems.  Running behind on production goals, increased injuries and accidents on the job what’s a CEO to do?  Fire as many as you can to send a message to workers that Safety First is just a slogan and has no real meaning if we don’t get cars on the road.  CalOSHA may have to set up a field office at the plant in Milpitas.  I have a problem with companies that blame their problems on the workers.  If you don’t properly train workers, if you don’t make safety a real priority and just say how important safety is, people do eventually see through the BS.  Then when you push the poorly trained poorly disciplined workforce they get exhausted working 16 hour days and accidents as well as sick calls greatly increase and the worst thing to do in a situation like that is come down hard.  Terminating people for your faults only tell me you don’t care about anyone but yourself.  Workers respond much better when they’re part of the discussion on safety and conditions.    

Being prepared means not just having the equipment and supplies to deal with an emergency but also checking and monitoring them to make sure they’ll be action ready when needed.  Make sure fire extinguishers, emergency lights and battery backup, eye wash stations, respirators and other emergency response equipment are on a regular inspection program.  The manufacturer is a good place to find out how often.  Don’t make excuses to put it off, this is critical to safety.  Otherwise you may find yourself making excuses in front of a jury.

Thanks for stopping by and checking this episode out.  We appreciate you all.  As some of you head out to points unknown for Thanksgiving and others prepare to entertain friends and family, please be safe in your travels.  Don’t let an asshole ruin your holiday, be patient and be prepared.  If you are feeling alone, depressed or hopeless please remember you are NOT alone and you can speak to someone who doesn’t judge.  1-800-273-TALK (8255)  There is no shame asking for help.

Until next month, Happy Thanksgiving.  Never keep quiet about safety for the life you save may be your own.

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Companies Behaving Badly-Stupid Tax

stopbeingstupid

Welcome back.

Well, it’s official people, it’s fall season, oh and it’s the beginning of autumn as well.  As the Governments fiscal year ends, OSHA has published its listing of the top 10 safety violations and yet again, falls are number one.  I don’t get it.  With all the focus on fall prevention and all the fines handed out, there are still those that believe they can defy the law of gravity for the sake of saving a few minutes if not seconds and put their life at risk.  The problem is once you begin a fall and there is nothing attached to you to prevent this, depending on the height of your fall you will have time to watch at least part of your life flash before your eyes before it is suddenly jarred by the hard ground you hit.

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Even though you were told at the morning huddle to wear your safety vest while working on the roof and late at the site reminded to anchor your lines to the building you still unhooked yourself cause the line was holding you back from reaching and freeing the air hose that got caught up.  Now, without the tether line you can reach and begin to untangle the hose. Unfortunately, your over confidence minimizes the danger and you step wrong, slip and off you go.  This is not another scary  story but has actually happened to workers who are now just a memory of family and friends.  If you die, well I think you just paid the ultimate price for your actions but if you survive, shouldn’t you be charged a stupid tax?

Yes, the company is responsible for providing you with a safe work environment as well as the PPE and tools needed to accomplish that, so then, don’t you owe it to the company to give them a stupid free employee?  In the above scenario, your stupidity will cause the company to be fined by OSHA and go through an intense examination of practices, policies, procedures and all the documentation to back that up.  The site supervisor will be interrogated and maybe sued or face criminal charges, the companies worker comp premium will increase, your fellow workers who watched your death will get counseling and your widow and children will fight it out in a court of law with your employer as lawyers from both sides go back and forth deciding the monetary value of your life.

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But no matter what I say here, or your bosses tell you, or the videos show you, one of you is still going to believe they are immortal and work at a dizzy height without any protection or forethought, cause it’ll only take a second.  You survive the ordeal and laugh about all the hype and then laugh at people like me who go on about workplace safety.  However if that one time comes up, your number is up and you slip or trip or get carried by a gust of wind at least you won’t hear me say, I told you so, because, you’ll be dead.

So with that all said, the falls continue.  OSHA investigating roofer’s fatal fall from building in Ashburn  He fell 35 feet.  Plenty of time to reflect on the way down and guess what?  There was no evidence of any fall protection equipment being used.  His employer, STA Enterprises Inc., as you expect had no comment.  It looks to me that no one at the site took the responsibility to make sure Mr. Hrdlicka wore and used fall protection gear.  Look, we’ve been around this block many, many times.  If you’re employer, boss, foreperson or supervisor tells you to repair a roof, you say, sure, no problem but where’s my gear

and continue.  Fatal fall from TV tower is deadliest such plunge investigated by feds in 5 years  Three men, 23 year old Brachton Barber, 31 year old Marcus Goffena and 35 year old Benito Rodriguez who were employed by Tower Kings II, were replacing a antenna for a local television station when their scaffolding went out from under them plugging all three to the ground.  Hopefully the investigation will determine what went wrong but it’s a good reminder that you should inspect everything before using it.  The tower, the scaffolding, the anchor points, everything.  Don’t assume that someone has done that a head of time for you.

and continue.  Danbury man in critical condition after impaling himself on metal rod  This guy was very lucky as he was on the roof checking an exhaust fan and well, it was only 10 feet off the ground (OSHA max height is 6 feet before use of fall protection), what could go wrong?  Well, the goods news is he was prevented from hitting the ground when he impaled himself on a pole, which I can tell you is not the approved method of fall protection.  The lesson here is even with what seems to be a easy task can become dangerous if the correct steps and proper attitude are not taken.

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and continue, but the following is a practice that should never be tolerated in any facility, EVER and in fact, there are only two times where I’ve terminated an employee on the spot and in both incidents it was for doing this. OSHA warns about forklift-elevated pallets  One time the excuse given to me was that they couldn’t find the cage to use to properly lift an employee, they actually didn’t look very hard and the other time a temporary employee was convinced that being raised on a pallet was a right of passage.  No matter who tells you to climb aboard a pallet to be raised, a supervisor or company owner the answer should always be a resounding NO!  You can’t be fired for refusing to do an unsafe act.

Lack of training by companies doesn’t help the situation any and a recent survey confirmed this.  17 Percent of Small Business Employees Never Get Workplace Safety Training  If you think you’re saving money by not taking the time to do training you are not only kidding yourself but also putting your workers and your customers in danger.   Training is the most critical aspect of safety.  If employees don’t know what to do in an emergency it can lead to even a larger catastrophe and more injuries and deaths.  Just like safety meetings, training is something you can arrange and make time for, if you want too, without creating over time or other issues.  You just need to be creative and yes, it’s a little more work, but then, aren’t your employees worth it?

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Which brings us to this.  12 Sickened Following Chemical Spill At Mushroom Plant  What kinds of chemicals are used in your facility?  Are there reactions you should be aware of if chemicals mix?  Does you staff know what to do if there is a chemical spill?  Those first few minutes of a spill are critical as you try to evacuate and determine what you are dealing with at the same time and without any training, well, you may be as good as dead.  In this case all 12 were able to go home after being checked out at the hospital but sometimes in these incidents people aren’t so lucky as deadly vapors are invisible and sometimes odorless.  Make sure chemicals are clearly labeled and used in a well ventilated area and that workers are using the proper respirators if needed.  Also make sure to check and verify safety equipment like respirators and ventilation is in top working condition and serviced regularly.

Until science can change this, Death is not temporary, it is forever and temporary workers are human beings trying to make a living just like everybody else and should not be treated like tissues.  The article below is some fabulous reporting as to what this person experienced, going undercover as a temporary employee.  In most cases we don’t treat them with the respect we should.  I went undercover in a Toronto factory where temp workers have died. Here’s what I found  People should always treat people with respect.  You’d be amazed as to what can be accomplished with a little encouragement.

Well folks, that brings this episode of Companies Behaving Badly to an end.  Thanks for stopping by and please plan on doing what you can to help eliminate falls at the workplace. This is an epidemic that has gone on for too long and we have the knowledge and technology to prevent it.  At least until they can come up with a vaccination to cure stupid.  Take care and remember, never keep quiet about safety for the life you save may be your own.

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A Surefire way to improve your chances of survival – Emergency Kit

 

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It’s a wake-up call.  One humungous wet, windy wake-up call.  When hurricane Harvey blasted into southwest Texas leaving extensive damage and flooding, the scale of which is all most beyond comprehension.  Then hurricane Irma took the spotlight unleashing her fury on the Caribbean and Florida.  This is very sad and horrible on so many levels of loss and human suffering and now people who decided to ride out the storm in the keys are stranded, cut off from the world without food, water or power.  I’m sure when most of you heard that, you said to yourself, “Really need to put that survival kit together.”  A fabulous thought that will unfortunately fade along with the coverage of the epic catastrophes until it becomes “Texas, Florida a year later” and then again you’ll say, “Really need to put that survival kit together.” and then one day, the dam breaks, the fires burn rampant, the earth shakes, rattles and rolls.  No kit!!  Now, did you have a plan B?

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Did you notice how fast conditions on the ground changed, from dry to chest high water and did you also notice how with a slight change in direction, Irma hit areas that thought there were originally safe?  That’s how natural disasters work.  No warning, no how do you do, no pleased to meet you, just HERE!  If you think I’m going to use these disasters to motivate you to prepare and give yourself the advantage to survive something like this, well, you would be correct!  You never know when an earthquake is going to hit, you don’t know how bad it’ll flood, you don’t know where the twister will touch down, you just don’t know.  That’s why we buy insurance, hoping to never need it, but very happy that it’s there and by preparing an emergency chest/barrel/kit will give you insurance to be able to survive the first week of an event, but hope you’ll never need it.

A lot of cities, of all sizes, struggle daily with their budgets and the cost of firefighters, police, infrastructure repair & maintenance, parks, and recreation, public transit, administrative staffing, courts, pensions, and lawsuits.  The level of city services are not what they once were and that includes the number of police and fire on duty at any given time and in the event of a natural disaster they would be immediately tied up responding to the hundreds of calls they would receive in the first few hours, (In Houston area alone they had over 75,000 emergency calls in the first four days).  They will triage the calls and handle the most serious including bleeding and severe trauma first, those with minor injuries will have to wait or treat themselves.  Depending on the conditions of the roads in and out of town, additional off duty first responders could be greatly delayed if at all able to report to work in the city or town they serve. 

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That’s why a survival kit comes in handy especially if you are able to stay in your home after the event.  After checking on those in the household the first thing you’ll do is a walk around your property and check to make sure it is still structurally safe to stay in and there is no smell of gas.  Now you can stay put and you have supplies to wait the few days until power and water come back online and life come back to normal.  Putting your survival kit together can be a fun family project and learning experience.  It’s also a great opportunity for a team building exercise for a company or safety committee.

My Survival Chest – This is what I used and put together for our home of two adults and one dog.  I was able to purchase just about everything on Amazon.com.  Use your imagination when it comes to the container and what you want to stash for an emergency. 

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A Rubbermaid 50 gallon capacity container, waterproof and made of sturdy plastic, it’s durable and on wheels, in case you have to move. Yellow so it can easily be seen.

 

 

 

Now, what items and how much of each do you need to put into your survival chest? Base the amounts to store on a worst-case scenario for your location and take into consideration how isolated is your location, are you within city limits and are there bridges and or tunnels to cross?  Next, how many people and pets are you planning for?  ie: Two adults and one dog?  Plan on 5 – 7 days of supplies since that’s about how long it may take before all utilities and services are restored. 

 

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WATER – Plan on 2 gallons per person per day. One gallon for drinking and one gallon for hygiene, sanitation and other.  Multiply 2 gallons with the number of people in the home and don’t forget to include water for your pets.  I have a mixture of bottled water and packaged sterilized water.  I would also add one or two of the straw water filter tools just in case things don’t get back to normal right away and you begin to run low on bottled water.  You can also boil water to sterilize it and if a fire isn’t possible, keep a small bottle of bleach in your kit.  It can be used for purifying water for drinking, 8 drops for a gallon of water, shake and wait thirty minutes.  

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FOOD – Any combination of what you enjoy of prepared camping meals, fruits and canned goods (make sure to include a can opener) as well as some of your favorite snacks, power bars and chocolate which will come in handy to help with the stress.  Don’t forget to store emergency food for your pets as well.

 

 

 

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RADIO/CHARGER/BATTERIES – There are several radio choices but the ones that come with a hand crank/battery/solar powered are fabulous.  You can leave it in the sun all day to charge or use the hand crank.  It also can be used to charge your phone.  The radio is both AM and FM as well as shortwave.

 

 

 

 

Flashlights/batteries/Candles and matches/fire starter – With no electricity, you’ll have to rely on flashlights, candles, and lanterns to illuminate the area.  This is very important for everyone’s safety especially if there is debris on the ground.  Never leave candles unattended.  Check the battery size requirements of all your items and store extra batteries in your kit.   

First aid kit/nonlatex gloves – A first aid kit can help you greatly for treating minor injuries.  If you need to treat a neighbor or stranger, the non-latex gloves will help protect you.

Sleeping bags/tents – If your home is not safe to stay in but you have a large yard in the front or back you may want to set up tents for protection from the elements.  Even if you can stay in your home, to help get the kids through this, set the tents up and pretend you’re on a family camping trip.  Also keep a tarp in your kit as well to help protect from rain or use to keep you off the ground or help move someone who can’t get around on their own.

Blankets/warm clothes – Natural disasters don’t care what time of year it is so be prepared and keep some extra sweatshirts, jackets in the kit along with blankets to those chilly nights.

Make sure to keep an inventory of what’s in your emergency kit along with the expiration dates of those items so you can replace them when needed.  Also, designate a meet area so you know everyone who was in the house or apartment is out.  In the event of an emergency, phone traffic will be crazy as people call 911 for assistance, family members calling to say they’re fine and family members calling to find out if loved ones are fine not to mention the possibility of downed cell towers.  I suggest you designate a family member who lives in another state as the contact person you can call to say you are fine and then let them contact everyone else about your status.  

You can get more information about how to prepare for a natural disaster or other emergencies by going to the FEMA web site at fema.gov and get stuff like an Earthquake Safety Checklist and other great information.  Check it out but don’t wait too long as it’ll be hard to research and prepare when you’re in the middle of a disaster.  Really, do it now!

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