Holiday Travel: Safety & Sanity Tips


In just a couple of days from now turkeys will be served over elegant settings, footballs will be tossed around in back yards and millions of people nationwide will travel great distances to join family and friends to give thanks. It’s difficult to believe that this special time of year has “snuck” up on us once again as we head in to the holiday season. Although enjoyable, the holidays can also bring about some unnecessary stress; particularly if you are one of the millions of people taking to the road, air or railway to celebrate these occasions. Sometimes the logistics of our plans are out of our control and we just have to deal with it. However, there are a number of proactive steps we can take to help make our travel as comfortable, efficient and least stressful as possible. The following article provided by the Travel Channel provides “10 Survival Tips for Holiday Travel” that will not only increase your safety but maintain your sanity as well:

If you are a holiday “road warrior” you must be particularly prepared to encounter any number of situations during your travel including angry drivers, uncooperative weather patterns (snow, black ice, rain, fog, etc.), hazardous road conditions, travel fatigue, and anything else that may pose a risk to your well-being. There are a number short videos attached to the following link that will help remind you of some best practices in these situations before turning that ignition over for your long journey:

In an un-related topic to holiday travel, if you are joining the craze of “Black Friday” this year be smart and use common sense. Every year there are a number of unfortunate stories about violence and people being harmed over the purchase of Christmas gifts which contradicts the spirit of the season entirely. You may want to consider “Cyber Monday” as an alternative to fulfill your gift shopping needs this year.

Lastly, the UCI Police Department extends a very Happy Thanksgiving to all students, staff and faculty this holiday weekend.

Campus Search & Rescue (CSAR) Welcomes New Graduates


The UCI Campus Search and Rescue (CSAR) Program wrapped up training series #18 last week; welcoming 29 new graduates to the team.  There are now well over 300 trained faculty and staff members prepared to help support the needs of our campus following a catastrophic earthquake or any other natural or manmade disaster. These individuals receive training on disaster preparedness, hazardous material and fire safety, disaster medical operations, light search and rescue, disaster psychology, terrorism awareness and workplace violence. In addition to now being a resource for the campus, even more importantly, these members are now better prepared to handle crisis situations they may come across in their personal lives as well.

The course is typically held every Fall, meeting twice a week from 12pm-1pm for 9 weeks; however, we may be shifting to a new delivery model in 2015. For more information on this please stay tuned to this blog and like us on Facebook @ More information on this will become available in the New Year.  If you are interested in taking this course, even if the current schedule mentioned above doesn’t align with your availability, please email Anne Widney, Emergency Services Manager, @ to be placed on the interest list. Again, congratulations to the new graduates and thank you for helping us make our campus a more resilient community.


Carbon Monoxide (CO): A Sneaky & Lethal Gas


Any natural or manmade disaster has the potential for knocking out our power infrastructure here in southern California. Whenever this occurs, most households in the U.S. turn to alternative sources of power for cooking, heating, or lighting for days and weeks in the aftermath of the event. These sources often include a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas, charcoal-burning or wood-burning devices. A running vehicle is also a common source of post-disaster fulfillment of basic needs. While all of these can serve a vital role in “disaster living,” they all have one lethal characteristic in common: the production of carbon monoxide (CO).

Often called the “silent killer,” carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless, and colorless gas created when fuels, such as those discussed above, burn incompletely. A person can sustain carbon monoxide poisoning by a small amount of CO over a long period of time or a large amount of CO over a short period of time. The symptoms of CO poisoning can look very similar to those presented by the flu, food poisoning and other illnesses and these are listed below. If you ever suspect that you or somebody else is experiencing CO poisoning it is very important to get fresh air and seek medical attention immediately.

  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Headache

It is important to note that CO poisoning is not specific to just “disaster living” but rather it is just emphasized during these times as people must resort using unconventional means to fulfill their basic needs. Make no mistake about it that CO poisoning can be a hazard in day-to-day living as well. Every year fire departments nationwide respond to tens of thousands of non-fire; CO incidents in which carbon monoxide is detected. Unfortunately, on average, over one-hundred of these calls become fatality responses. In order to avoid CO poisoning, whether in day-to-day living or “disaster living,” the following best practices are high recommended:

  • Operate portable generators and any energy-producing devices outdoors in a well-ventilated location away from windows, doors and vent openings.
  • Never burn charcoal in homes, vehicles, tents or garages.
  • Never use your oven or stove to heat your home.
  • Never place foil on the bottom of a gas oven because it interferes with combustion.
  • Do not run your car inside a garage that is attached to your home, even if the garage door is open to the outside.
  • Ensure that carbon monoxide alarms are installed on every level of your home and outside every sleeping area to provide early warning for any accumulating CO. Treat these alarms as you should fire alarms by testing them every month and replacing the batteries every six months.
  • If your CO alarm sounds, quickly move to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door and call 9-1-1.

For more information on carbon monoxide hazard mitigation and response please see the following two resources:

Superstorm Sandy Recovery, 2 Years Later


Last Wednesday, October 29th, marked the 2-year anniversary of when Superstorm Sandy made landfall along the eastern seaboard and wreaked havoc in New York and New Jersey; earning every penny of its claim as the second costliest hurricane in U.S. history. Two years later recovery is occurring, although not at the rate that many residents and business owners would hope. Insurance claims are being paid and federal assistance is being issued, although not as much or as effectively as many recipients would like. However, the recovery process for Superstorm Sandy is not unique to the other recovery efforts we’ve witnessed in the U.S. following major disasters. This is because recovery takes time and is a long-term process no matter how you “slice” it. Unfortunately, much of this time waiting for the payout of claims and financial assistance disbursement is spent living under less-than-ideal conditions. The following article discusses some of these recovery frustrations faced by Superstorm Sandy victims two years after its devastation.

Financial recovery, although difficult, is oftentimes not even the primary struggle in one’s recovery efforts but rather just a compound to the loss of loved ones or items of sentimental value that cannot be recovered. This is why every household is encouraged to speak with their loved ones about preparedness, make contingency plans with one another, identify and mitigate hazards, learn CPR/First Aid, prepare supplies, and plan to protect or salvage sentimental items, documents or pictures that you couldn’t bear to lose in a disaster. In spite of the disasters that our country has experienced and collectively responded to, we, as a culture, do not place the value we should on personal preparedness and this is, unfortunately, highlighted when we get in to the recovery efforts of these major disasters as illustrated in the disaster cycle image attached (Preparedness -> Response -> Recovery -> Mitigation).

It’s not a matter of “if” but “when” and “what kind” of disaster will be our Hurricane Katrina or Superstorm Sandy here in southern California. And, while there are some recovery factors that will inevitably be outside your control, much of your recovery and conditions of your recovery in the months and years to follow will be directly influenced by your level of personal preparedness and mitigation efforts you put forth now.

Disaster cycle

Safe Halloween & Time Change Preparedness Reminders


This Friday, October 31st children and adults will be celebrating the Halloween festivities. Some adults will be supervising their children’s Trick-or-Treat activities, others will be at costume parties and social establishments, and everybody will be out and about after dark. The intent of this holiday is to have fun whatever it is you are doing; however, ensuring your safety takes an elevated level of precaution on this particular night. The Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) encourages Trick-or-Treat chaperones to practice the “SAFE HALLOWEEN” tips in addition to providing safety tips for those expecting Trick-or-Treaters or party guests at their home. These can be found at the CDC website @ Another great resource for Halloween safety can be found in this 2-minute video created by Safe Kids Worldwide:

Even if you are not participating in the festivities you can contribute to the safety and well-being of others by driving slower than normal in residential neighborhoods, avoiding distractions in the car like eating or talking on the phone, and merely sustaining a heightened level of ‘driver’s awareness’ for pedestrians and other distracted drivers.

In addition to this being Halloween weekend, it is also the time of year to change your clocks and your batteries. As a reminder, every 6 months (approx.) in accordance with the time changes (Spring & Fall) the UCI Police Department encourages everybody change out the batteries in all smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in the home. These devices save lives and it is important that they are powered with a fresh source of energy whenever we ‘Spring Forward’ & ‘Fall Back’. A comprehensive list of tips related to smoke detector preparedness can be found below:

  • Have smoke alarms on every level in your home, especially outside sleeping area and preferably inside bedrooms as well.
  • Test them at least once a month, and replace batteries when you change your clocks twice per year,
  • Replace all detectors after 10 years.
  • Place smoke alarms according to manufacturer’s directions.
  • Clean the outside ONLY of a smoke alarm by gently going over the cover with the brush attachment of your vacuum cleaner. Never paint a smoke alarm.
  • Whenever a smoke alarm beeps take it seriously. It might just be a false alarm from cooking, temperature changes, or dust-but you can’t afford to ignore the alert. Everyone in the family needs to react immediately.
  • Develop and practice a home escape plan. Make sure your family knows two ways out of each room, a safe meeting place outside, how to call 9-1-1 once they’re out, and why they should NEVER go back in to a burning house.

Another ‘Fall Back’ practice we encourage of all of our students, staff & faculty is to review & update your family’s emergency plan and your emergency supplies/go kits. This is important because contact information changes and many supplies with an expiration date become perishable over time such as food, water, medication, etc. An outdated plan or kit could defeat the purpose of preparing these items in the first place so remember to keep these items current with the time change.

Fall Back 2



Stop, Think, Connect: October Is National Cyber Security Awareness Month


Online and digital systems have become a fundamental way of life for us in America and around most of the globe. If you own a business, go to school, communicate with friends, have a job, take vacations, Christmas shop, read the news, are a member of a club or organization, or virtually (no pun intended) anything else then the odds are that you do so through some sort of online or digital system. There is no doubt that these systems have enabled our society to become more efficient and productive; however, they have also increased our vulnerability to personal information and breaches in security.

Cyber security is so vital to our personal lives as well as critical infrastructures here in the U.S. that October has been dedicated National Cyber Security Awareness Month. The concept of this designated month and the “Stop, Think, Connect” campaign (see is that we can build resilience as individuals and as a nation through awareness and responsible cyber practices. Take a look at the “best practices” below and conduct a self-assessment how many of these practices you currently employ. Challenge yourself to adopt at least a couple of these to further protect yourself and your equipment and contributing to the security of this technology for all. Please visit for more information.

Keep A Clean Machine:

  • Keep Security Software Current: Having the latest security software, web browser, and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware, and other online threats.
  • Automate Software Updates: Many software programs will automatically connect and update to defend against known risks. Turn on automatic updates if that’s an available option.
  • Protect All Devices That Connect to the Internet: Along with computers, smart phones, gaming systems, and other web‐enabled devices also need protection from viruses and malware.
  • Plug & Scan: USBs and other external devices can be infected by viruses and malware. Use your security software to scan them.

Protect Your Personal Information:

  • Secure Your Accounts: Ask for protection beyond passwords. Many account providers now offer additional ways for you verify who you are before you conduct business on that site.
  • Make Passwords Long & Strong: Combine capital and lowercase letters with numbers and symbols to create a more secure password.
  • Unique Account, Unique Password: Separate passwords for every account helps to thwart cybercriminals.
  • Write It Down & Keep It Safe: Everyone can forget a password. Keep a list that’s stored in a safe, secure place away from your computer.
  • Own Your Online Presence: Set the privacy and security settings on websites to your comfort level for information sharing. It’s ok to limit how and with whom you share information.

Connect With Care:

  • When In Doubt, Throw It Out: Links in email, tweets, posts, and online advertising are often the way cybercriminals compromise your computer. If it looks suspicious, even if you know the source, it’s best to delete or if appropriate, mark as junk email.
  • Get Savvy About Wi-Fi Hotspots: Limit the type of business you conduct and adjust the security settings on your device to limit who can access your machine.
  • Protect Your $$:When banking and shopping, check to be sure the sites are security enabled. Look for web addresses with “https://,” which means the site takes extra measures to help secure your information. “Http://” is not secure.

Be Web Wise:

  • Stay Current. Keep Pace With New Ways to Stay Safe Online: Check trusted websites for the latest information, and share with friends, family, and colleagues and encourage them to be web wise.
  • Think Before You Act: Be wary of communications that implores you to act immediately, offers something that sounds too good to be true, or asks for personal information.
  • Back It Up: Protect your valuable work, music, photos, and other digital information by making an electronic copy and storing it safely.

Be A Good Citizen:

  • Safer For Me = More Secure For All: What you do online has the potential to affect everyone – at home, at work and around the world. Practicing good online habits benefits the global digital community.
  • Post only about others as you would have them post about you.
  • Help the Authorities Fight Cybercrime: Report stolen finances, identities and cybercrime to (Internet Crime Complaint Center) and‐complaint (The FTC).

Stop. Think. Connect

The Great ShakeOut 2014


It was less than two weeks ago that UCI proudly received national media attention for the world’s largest pillow fight in history. Now, our campus has yet another opportunity this week to set a world record for the largest number of anteaters to ever shake-it-out together in this year’s annual statewide (and worldwide) earthquake exercise. On Thursday, October 16th at 10:16 a.m. our students, staff and faculty are encouraged to join the 10.1 million other Californians in practicing Drop, Cover, and Hold On for one minute as we simulate responding to a 7.8 magnitude earthquake along the San Andreas Fault.

Most of us know that southern California is “earthquake country” and each October, during the Great ShakeOut, we collectively participate in this opportunity to practice personal safety measures and to spend 60 seconds reflecting on the reality of this risk. This one minute could potentially save your life during a real event. If you think about how many cumulative hours we spend each year practicing other safety precautions such as buckling our seatbelts, waiting at crosswalk signals, locking our doors, clearing fire hazards, paying insurance premiums, etc. it reinforces that this small investment of time is well worth its potential return.

A campus wide zotALERT notification will be sent at 10:16 a.m. reminding everyone to participate. Whether you are in a lab, classroom, or office, Drop, Cover, and Hold On, wherever you are when you receive the alert. If there is no table or desk near you, drop to the ground and then, if possible, move to an inside corner of the room away from any windows. Be in a crawling position to protect yourself and cover your head and neck with your hands and arms. DO NOT move to another location or run outside. Earthquakes occur without any warning and may be so violent that you cannot run or crawl. Visit to learn what to do in other settings. You can also visit for more information about this exercise.

We may not make it in to the Guinness Book for this one but we will be a much safer, prepared and resilient community for it.

National Fire Prevention Week: October 5th – 11th 2014


Fire Prevention Week

In 1920, President Woodrow Wilson issued the first National Fire Prevention Day proclamation, and since 1922, Fire Prevention Week has been observed on the Sunday through Saturday period in which October 9th falls. This is because October 9th 1871 marks two of the most significant fires in American history: The Great Chicago Fire and the Peshtigo Fire of Northeast Wisconsin. The Great Chicago Fire killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 people homeless, and burned more than 17,400 structures and over 2,000 acres. While this fire may be the better-known of the two, the Peshtigo Fire was even more devastating. This fire killed 1,152 people, and scorched 16 towns and 1.2 million acres. Although both fires started on October 8th, their detrimental impacts to these communities soared on October 9th, hence the designated day/week of observance.

We are reminded this week that fire hazards are unique to other types of disasters in that they are not geographically or climate-specific and can occur anywhere. They can be initiated indoors or outdoors, in the cold weather or warm weather, and can be manmade or ignited via natural means. Fire hazards are also unique in that there are a number of preventative and mitigation measures that can be taken against this hazard which can gravely increase one’s chance of survival such as properly functioning and appropriately placed smoke detectors, sprinkler systems, planned evacuation routes, fire extinguishers, etc. In fact, according to FEMA, smoke detectors and sprinkler systems together can reduce the risk of a fatal fire by 82%.

So, what’s the risk to college campuses and student housing when it comes to fires?According to the Center for Campus Fire Safety, there are an estimated 3200 fires annually on U.S. college campuses resulting in an average of 10 fatalities per year. This includes both on and off-campus housing. Cooking causes more than 2/3 of all fire-related injuries followed by careless smoking, arson, unattended candles, and the overloading of extension cords and power strips. The following are some good safety tips for preventing fires on college campuses:

  • Cook only where permitted and never leave cooking unattended.
  • Don’t smoke. UCI is a smoke-free campus.
  • Do not overload electrical outlets.
  • Never leave candles unattended and put them out after each use.
  • Always have a primary and alternate escape plan and practice them.

There can be unique considerations when it comes to fire safety for individuals that live with disabilities or access/functional needs in student housing on campuses and these are discussed in the video clips 6-9 on the following page:

Also, the following link provides an excellent video about 9 fires that took place over the course of three weeks on different U.S. college campuses in 2012 and highlights the seriousness of this issue:

For more information on fire facts and general fire safety/prevention of this annual campaign please visit the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) @ Here you can find information for specific audiences, take a quiz and test your knowledge on fire safety, etc. You can also learn about fire safety procedures specific to UC Irvine @

Remember, working smoke alarms save lives, test yours every month!

Vaccination for the Flu: At A Clinic Near You

Flu Shot

Although the continued warm temperatures have not exactly alluded to a change in season, the fact that classes begin tomorrow lets us know that Fall is officially here. Unfortunately, this also means that nasty virus we know as the flu is upon us as well. The best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccination every year. We’re fortunate here at UCI in that this resource is made widely accessible to students, staff and faculty. The Student Health Center ( is offering several options for their walk-in flu clinics this season. Please see below for the schedule and location:

  • October 6 Monday 10:00am to 4:00pm
  • October 17 Friday 10:00am to 4:00pm
  • October 27 Monday 10:00am to 4:00pm
  • November 10 Monday 10:00am to 4:00pm
  • November 19 Wednesday 10:00am to 4:00pm

Student Health Center

501 Student Health

Irvine, CA 92697

The cost of the flu vaccination is only $25. Students enrolled in the UC Student Health Insurance Plan pay nothing.

Can’t make it to the clinic on campus? Most pharmacies including CVS, Walgreens, and Costco also offer walk-in flu shots. Or visit your primary care physician for the vaccine.

For more information on the 2014-2015 Flu Season visit the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) @

National Preparedness Month, Weeks 4 & 5: “Practice For An Emergency”

Prep Month 1

National Preparedness Month has been observed in September since 2004 and has already reached its 10-year anniversary. The objective of this declared observance is to encourage Americans to take steps to prepare for emergencies in their homes, businesses, schools, and communities. Some of these steps include building emergency supply kits, making a family emergency plan and communications plan, staying informed on disaster information and related risks, and taking advantage of opportunities to get involved in preparedness/response efforts. There are a number of exciting things going on in the preparedness community this month which can be found at

The focus of National Preparedness Month Weeks 4 & 5 is on practicing for an emergency. Hopefully, you have done or will do your homework on gathering information about the hazards and/or potential disasters that could harm you or your family members. Perhaps you’ve taken that crucial step in disaster preparedness by building your emergency kit or “go bag” that was discussed last week (refer to last week’s post). And if you’ve really taken your preparedness seriously then you have probably developed an emergency plan for yourself and/or your family (see But now what? One of the most important things you can do to validate your preparedness efforts is to practice them. So what does this mean exactly? How might you practice them and what elements should you focus on? Consider the following and get creative with it:

1)      Exercise your emergency plan with your family

a.  Identified evacuation routes (travel)

  •          Practice evacuating to the destinations you have identified by taking the routes you have identified in your plan.
  •          Time how long it takes.
  •          Understand traffic/road construction patterns at different times of day.
  •          Think about possible vulnerabilities of these routes and how they may be impassable (under/over bridges, overpasses, etc.) following a large disaster; in particular, for us southern Californians, a large earthquake.
  •           Drive alternate routes to arrive at the same destination.
  •            Ensure that am radio stations are preset in your car to those            stations that will provide  local disaster information; particularly regarding evacuation routes.

b.  Identified evacuation routes (in home)

  •         Practice the evacuation routes with the family to get outside the home.
  •         Make sure that nothing is obstructing these routes and that doors, windows, garage doors, etc. all open and function correctly.
  •         Test everybody’s knowledge of where the primary and backup meeting locations are outside the home and validate that they are still in safe; open places.
  •          Ensure that everybody has close-toed shoes accessible next to or near their bed to avoid walking over sharp objects.
  •           Time how long it takes for the family to evacuate and did they grab the things identified in the emergency plan (i.e. “go bag,” pets, etc.)

c.  Written emergency communications plan (see

  •       Make sure everybody in the family has the contact information for the out-of-area point-of-contact to check-in with following a disaster. Likewise ensure the out-of-area point-of-contact has the contact information for those family members that will be calling. Validate all contact information is up-to-date.
  •       Call this out-of-area contact person and remind them that they are the primary point-of-contact identified in the communications plan. Also, consider identifying a back-up and tertiary. Make sure that you have a conversation with these back up contacts about this plan.
  •        Ensure that everybody knows what information to provide this person following a disaster (i.e. condition, location, needs, reunification status, etc.)
  •       Everybody send each other a “TEST Emergency” text message.


2)      Check your emergency kit or “go bag”:

  •       Pull everything out of you emergency kit and refresh yourself on what’s inside. Many people buy kits pre-packaged which is great but not everybody takes the time to go through it to see what’s inside and understand how everything works.
  •         Make sure others in your home know what’s on the inside and when these supplies might be used.
  •          Check the functionality of these supplies and replace/replenish batteries and anything else that need to be occasionally switched out or that may expire.
  •          Identify any other items that should be added to your kit and fill some of these gaps. The idea is to continuously improve your kit or “go bag” over time.
  •         Put your backpack on your back and wear it or hold it for a little while and get a feel for how heavy it is. Ask yourself whether or not you would be able to carry it for very long.

Testing and exercising the above aspects of your plan and supplies are important but can be made fun at the same time. You may choose to use a disaster scenario of your choice, activate your family’s practice run of this plan without any notice to them, or treat them to ice cream after your family has successfully “survived the zombie apocalypse.” It’s ok to add some humor to it and, in fact, this is one way in which many people learn and retain information the best. It is especially recommended to make these “dry runs” fun if you have small children in the house because this will get them used to and conditioned to some of the actions to be taken in a real emergency.

As we wind down National Preparedness Month, we hope that you go in to the month of October better prepared, even if just a little, for the next unexpected event that could impact you or your family.

Be Smart. Take Part. Prepare.