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September 10, 2018 Previous day Next day
As the summer months slowly fade away and we head into fall (and gasp, winter!), our thoughts and actions steer toward the start of school and even the upcoming holidays. But in fact, the fall season is actually a time when hurricanes, thunderstorms, wildfires, and other natural disasters make their impressive mark and affect the way we live our daily lives. If you've seen the news lately, you know that the east coast is currently bracing for Hurricane Florence, and expected to make landfall this week. Did you know that while hurricane season begins May 15 and ends Nov. 30, according to the National Weather Service, most of these storms peak in October? You don’t have to look too far back to remember Superstorm Sandy that hit the east coast in October 2012 to understand how powerful these storms can be.
And it’s not just hurricanes that make the news: Southern California begins experiencing troublesome Santa Ana winds in October, which have been known to increase the intensity of an existing wildfire or turn a small brush fire into an a blaze, and the Plains and Great Lake regions often start their battle with freezing conditions and snow. 
According to the Weather Channel, other memorable storms that have battered the U.S. in October include:
  • October 2013: Winter Storm Atlas hammered the High Plains with blizzard conditions
  • October 2011: The "Snowtober" storm knocked out power to over 3 million in the Northeast.
  • October 2010: The "Octobomb" storm set all-time low pressure records in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and spawned severe thunderstorms and tornadoes in the Ohio Valley and Mid-South.
  • October 2006: Heavy lake-effect snow damages many trees, knocks out power to one million customers in Buffalo, New York.
With National Preparedness Month upon is, it’s incumbent upon all of us who are tasked with protecting people and property from fire, electrical and related hazards to work with each other and with our communities before emergencies affect our areas. Being better prepared for and collaborating during and after an emergency is key to also getting operations back to normal as quickly as possible.
NFPA provides a wealth of information for professionals including building owners and facility managers, first responders, health care facility managers, electrical professionals, and more. The following is a sneak peak of what's available on our website:
  • First responders face many hazards when working with vehicles that have been submerged in water, particularly with hybrid or electrical vehicles. Our newest Submerged Hybrid/Electric Vehicle Bulletin breaks down the safety issues to help keep first responders safe.
  • Electrical professionals are often tasked with equipment maintenance for electrical, electronic and communication systems and equipment found in multi-family residential complexes, industrial plants, and commercial buildings to prevent equipment failures and worker injuries. Chapter 32 of NFPA 70B, Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance, provides a useful framework for recovering electrical equipment and systems after a disaster.
These are just a few of the great resources NFPA provides to help guide you in your emergency preparedness efforts. With so much “weather” happening across the country these days, don’t wait until it’s too late to take advantage of this great material. Let us know how we can help.
For these and other sources of information including related blog posts and articles, visit www.nfpa.org/disaster.

Emergency responders train during an active shooter drill at Missouri State University. Credit: David Hall

 

The threat of an active shooter attack weighs heavily on college and university emergency managers these days—more so than even fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, and crowd control at sporting events, many say. “Even though there is so much planning in place, it’s that unknown human element that is so hard to control,” Alan Sactor, fire marshal at the University of Maryland and assistant director for the university’s Office of Emergency Management, told NFPA Journal. “In my job, the concerns are whether we got people prepared, and how well we handle an event.”

 

“The New Normal” the cover story of the September/October issue of NFPA Journal looks into how preparedness for shooting incidents has become a central focus over the years on university campuses—a trend that has accelerated as of late. Colleges and universities have invested heavily in technology, training, planning, and outreach campaigns. At some schools, incoming freshman are even now being taught at orientation what to do if a person opens fire in a residence hall. A new standard, NFPA 3000™ (PS), Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Program, is starting to gain traction at some schools where it is being used to bolster existing emergency plans.

 

The watershed moment most point to was April 16, 2007, when a student at Virginia Tech University killed 32 people with two semi-automatic pistols, at the time the deadliest mass shooting committed by a lone gunman in U.S. history. Since then, the violence has continued. According to a recent study by Collegiate Times, there have been 172 shootings on college campuses since Virginia Tech (defined as one or more people being shot at a two- or four-year college or university), resulting in 122 deaths and 198 injuries.

 

To learn much more about how this threat has evolved, why protecting campuses is such a daunting task, and the new innovations and tactics being used, read “The New Normal” in the latest issue of NFPA Journal.

Since a gunman took 32 lives on Virginia Tech's campus in 2007, campus safety officials nationwide have worried about the potential for an active shooter event on their campus. Between 2000 and 2017, FBI statistics show there was almost one active shooter attack on a college campus every year. 
Active shooter events in general have become more frequent and more deadly in recent years, prompting campus safety officials to further evaluate their preparedness for such events and conceive new solutions. My colleague, Jesse Roman, explores this topic in the new cover story for NFPA Journal, "The New Normal," which came out last week and coincides with National Campus Safety Awareness Month. 
But shootings aren't the only threat facing campuses. As students flocked to campuses in the past few weeks, two incidents proved fire remains a threat, even in on-campus housing. At the University of North Carolina's Asheville campus, students were barred from moving into five newly built dorms after officials discovered unsafe conditions including wood inside stairwells and elevator shafts and water pipes that hindered egress paths. A couple of weeks later, after students had moved onto Boston University's campus, a fire sparked by a candle forced the evacuation of about 40 students from a dorm. 
A sidebar I wrote for "The New Normal," titled "Old Foe," discusses the threat of fire on college campuses. On average, over 4,000 fires occur on campuses in the United States each year, according to NFPA data that's cited in the piece. Since 2000, 92 of these blazes have been fatal, the vast majority of which have occurred in off-campus housing and Greek housing like frat houses. 
Other sidebars included in "The New Normal" examine emerging threats on campuses, including the introduction of 3D printers and vaping devices. Read it all here.

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